Friday, February 28, 2014

I love my Garmin...I hate my Garmin

For my birthday last November, I got a snazzy Garmin Forerunner 220.  I had borrowed my husband's old Garmin a couple of times for races and I was excited to get a GPS of my own.  I was looking forward to tracking my distances and paces, observing my heart rate data, and seeing my cadence.  And it's a pretty violet color. 

I've been using it since mid-November, and I can honestly say that I love it.  And I hate it.  I love the data.  I love going to the Garmin Connect dashboard and analyzing a run.  I love it when it tells me I have a new personal record, such as a new longest distance or a new fastest 5k.  I love that it connects with the Garmin Connect app on my phone and enables me to start a LiveTrack session so my husband can see where I am on my run.

And I hate it when I depend on it and it doesn't work like I expect it to.  There was one run where I just couldn't get the satellite signal.  There was another where my fully charged watch kept turning off like it had no charge (and when I plugged it in to the charger I watched it slowly work its way backward from 100 to 0...huh?).  And the latest frustration - the app was updated and now LiveTrack doesn't work.  If you click on the LiveTrack menu you are booted out of the app.  It's been a week and I am impatiently waiting for this critical feature to be restored!

So what have I learned?  Always connect your Garmin to the computer the night/day before a run.  Check for firmware updates and install them.  There was a firmware update waiting for me after the run when I couldn't get a satellite signal, and another one waiting for me after the bizarre downward discharge.  And maybe wait to update your app until a couple of weeks after a major update is released and be sure the reviews are good.  My phone is set to auto-update, which may not be in my best interest when it comes to Garmin app.  If I had read all of the scathing reviews from angry people who installed the update, I would have waited. 

Overall I do love my Garmin.  And when I am careful to maintain the firmware updates and a full charge I love it even more.  And I look forward to the day (which I hope comes very soon) that I can again say that I love the Garmin Connect App.

EDITED: the app fix has been found!  Delete the app from your phone and re-install.  Always good advice for a malfunctioning app and I wish I had thought to do this sooner!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I Finished Last and it feels GREAT!

On Sunday, I finished last.  Dead last.  And it was a wonderfully triumphant feeling that stayed with me throughout the day.  Allow me to explain...

Sunday is the day of the group training long runs.  When I started the group training long runs, it was actually in December, before the Cherry Blossom training had kicked off.  So I was running with people who were training for a half or even full marathon and following a rigorous training plan.  Meanwhile I was just looking to boost my base a bit before Cherry Blossom training began in mid-January. 

I would write on the sign-in/out sheet that I was running 4 miles, that I would be back in an hour.  Meanwhile others were writing 10, 12, even 18 miles on that sheet.  I felt a little bit like a poser who didn't really belong.  I would finish my four miles and sign out on the sheet.  I was the first to sign out.  No one else was back. 

After Cherry Blossom training started, I was more in sync with the rest of the group, since I had a real training plan to follow and my distances were closer to the rest of the group.  I was somewhere in the middle, not the first to sign out, not the last.  I felt a little bit more like I belonged.

This week my beginner training plan called for a long run of 6-8.  After running 7 last week, I was thinking I would like to aim for 8.  But I wasn't sure my body was up for it, so I mentally gave myself permission to run 6 if that was what my body was telling me during the run. 

I was glad to see Karen and looking forward to running with her again.  Karen is following the intermediate plan, however, so her plan called for 4-5.  Why would the intermediate plan call for a shorter run?  This week the intermediate and advanced plans were in a recovery week; the beginner plan doesn't hit recovery until next week.  So I was only going to have Karen's company for part of my run.

We ran 4 miles before stopping for a quick water break.  Those 4 miles were tough for me - my calves were feeling sore and my feet kept going numb.  When we would come to a steep hill, Karen would say "We can *do* this" with such conviction and encouragement. It was motivating!  During the water break we chatted with a couple of folks in our group.  A few were finished.  Most were going back out on the trail. 

We went back out to do Karen's last mile and ended up doing a mile and a half.  I felt much better during that segment of our run.  Was it the quick break?  The chocolate GU?  The camaraderie of our fellow runners?  I didn't know, but I was encouraged to think that I could make it to 8 that morning.  We took another quick break at the water stop, where I said goodbye to Karen and a couple of others from my class.  I told Coach Jodi I was going to head out to finish off my 8 miles.

I felt great for those last miles.  My legs felt fresh, my mind felt confident.  It was hard to believe it was the same body that ran the first four miles with such heaviness and difficulty.  As I ran to the water stop for the final time, I saw Coach Jodi and Coach Jose waiting for me.  I realized if Jose was there too, that there probably wasn't anyone left on the trail running.  Jose had been running on the trail, making sure we were all doing okay. 

I asked Jodi if I were the last one and she said yes as she signed me out.  I felt such accomplishment and pride!  My run was one of the longer runs for the day!  And I had done it!  As I walked back to the =PR= store with Jodi and Jose, I felt like I belonged.  I was not a poser.  I was a runner.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

RunnerBox - Subscription Box for Runners

Last year I got caught up in the subscription box explosion and the postman started delivering health & wellness boxes, makeup boxes, children's project boxes (and more...) on a generally monthly basis.  I've since simplified and cut way back on my subscriptions, but one that I've held on to is RunnerBox.  RunnerBox comes every other month and costs $20, plus $7 shipping.  It is aimed at runners and anyone leading an active life.  They also make TriBox which is geared towards triathletes.

This is what the box looks like:

And unpacked, this month's box looks like this:

There are also some informational cards and coupons that I didn't take a picture of.  I think this is a fun way to try out new items that I might not know about or notice in the store.  One of my favorite items from a previous box is the Foot Rubz massage ball.  Here is a list of everything in this box from the contents card:
  • Amrita Chocolate Recovery Bar: plant-based nutrition bar
  • Coco Hydro: dehydrated coconut water
  • Earth Balance product: I can't figure out what this matches, so I'm going to guess it is the Eden nut, seed, & dried fruit mix in the front of the picture (which is not listed on the contents card)
  • Health Warrior: chia bar in coconut
  • Honeystinger waffle: thin layer of honey between two waffles
  • i heart keenwah: chocolate sea salt quinoa clusters (I already ate these - yum!)
  • Kay's Naturals: chili nacho cheese protein chips
  • Klitch Footwear Clips: clips sweaty shoes to the outside of your bag, keeping the inside of your bag from getting yucky and your hands free
  • Natural Ice Lip Balm: lip balm with sunscreen
  • PocketFuel Cold Brew Coffee Energy Shots: coffee + coconut milk, vanilla flavor
  • Rani's Yummy: granola pack in lemon flavor
  • True Bar: gluten free bar in coconut cashew
  • Cheribundi: coupon towards 100% cherry juice
  • coupon towards a "create your own" breakfast cereal
  • Push Endurance: coupon towards their sports nutrition products
This particular box is a little heavier on food and lighter on gadgets/gear than other RunnerBoxes that I've received, but I am looking forward to trying these products that are new to me.  I think the Honeystinger waffle is the only thing I've had previously.  If there is anything that you would like a review on, let me know in the comments and I will post a follow-up comment after I've tried it.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Importance of Supporters and Spectators (Belated Marine Corps Marathon Thank Yous)

Last year my husband, Rick, ran the Marine Corps Marathon, which was his first marathon.  It was an exciting event for the whole family and I am very, very proud of his accomplishment.  I am also proud that he ran to support the Semper Fi Fund.  Our friends and family helped us raise $400 and I am belatedly getting around to sending out thank you cards to them.  Thank you, friends and family!   

Here is the front of the card that I designed today on Shutterfly.  I really like the "wear blue: run to remember" shirt that Rick chose to wear.  They are an organization that honors the service and sacrifice of the American Military.  There was an entire mile of the marathon devoted to the fallen and Rick says it was incredibly moving.

On the inside of the card we used a photo taken by Dickson Mercer of Run Washington Magazine. 

photo courtesy of Dickson Mercer

How were we lucky enough to get a photo from Dickson Mercer?  Through the magic of twitter, Dickson was one of the first people I started following.  I didn't really know how twitter worked (um, I still don't), but I happened to see that he was working on a story on the importance of spectators and was looking to connect with a few during the race.  We got to spend much of the race with him which was incredibly fun for Freddy & me.  I think I've re-read that story at least a dozen times.  The magic of having our day captured in Dickson's words and photos is priceless to me.  (And I can't tell you how many of my family and friends have laughed at the predictability of my having a spreadsheet with our predicted timelines for the day.)  Thank you Dickson for preserving our memories in your beautiful story.

photo courtesy of Dickson Mercer

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

7 miles...I ran 7 miles!

My Cherry Blossom Training long run was scheduled for Sunday.  My plan called for 5-7 miles.  I wasn't sure what to aim for.  I've been generally trying to aim for the "upper" end of the beginner plan, which would suggest a target of 7 miles.  But my longest run in the past couple of months had only been 4 miles, which would suggest that going for 7 could be too much and begging for an overuse injury, or at least a world of pain the next day!

My plans were further complicated by the fact that our usual stomping grounds were covered with snow and ice, so we were relocating to a neighborhood that was relatively clear.  And said neighborhood is adjacent to my neighborhood.  Our meeting spot was 1.3 miles from my house.  I was excited to consider the possibility that I could run to our training spot!  No car was needed.  I could really depend on my own body to get me where I needed to go. 

I did some math in my head, if I ran there and back that was 2.6 miles.  So I would need to do at least 2.4 to hit the 5 mile mark, and 4.4 to hit 7.  I decided to wing it and see how I felt when I was actually running.  I also made sure my husband knew he might have to come pick me up in case I had overestimated my capabilities!

I took off on foot Sunday morning, remembering to start the "live track" on the garmin app on my phone so my husband could track my location.  Unfortunately I forgot to actually hit the start button on the garmin, so 3/10 of a mile into my run it beeped at me and told me it was 30 seconds from shutting off due to inactivity.  Oops!  I hit the start button.

That first mile was tough.  My calves felt achy and my mind was full of doubt.  I figured I would be lucky to make it to 5.  I wondered how I would ever run 10 miles during the race.  I reached the school and talked with Coach Jodi about my calves while we were waiting for the group to assemble.  We decided that I should have warmed up and done some dynamic stretches.  I know this, but I don't always do it.  And it really does make a difference.  Mental resolution - make the time to warm up!

I started off on my own, but fell into step with Karen when I stopped to navigate some ice.  That ice was quite fortuitous, because Karen was an excellent running partner.  We had a similar pace and she had lots to share on prior Cherry Blossom racing and some half marathons she had run.  My calves felt fine and my mind was pleasantly distracted by our conversation.  I reached the decision point of 2.4 miles, and decided to keep going.  We ran another 2.1 together, and then I made the turn for home.

My last mile was the fastest of all.  There is something about running to something, especially running to home, that can really stoke your engine.  I crossed the bridge close to my home feeling proud and amazed.  I thought about how I had felt discouraged and achy not two hours before when I was crossing it in the other direction.  How quickly things can change.  How big a role our mind plays in our perceptions and attitudes.  I arrived home, having just run 7.1 miles! 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Cherry Blossom Training: In-Person vs. Virtual Training Programs

I am training for the Cherry Blossom 10-miler though the =PR= in-person training program.  At some point I must have also signed-up for the virtual-training program, because I receive a daily e-mail about my workout for the day, along with some tips.  I thought folks might be interested in some of the similarities & differences between the programs.

The biggest difference, of course, is that the in-person program is IN-PERSON.  I run my long runs with a group and our coaches on Sundays and we also have in-person track sessions on Tuesdays.  It is nice to have the motivation of running with others and easy access to our coaches for all kinds of questions.

Another big difference is price.  The virtual program is completely free. The in-person training is $99, which includes a New Balance long-sleeve shirt or half-zip and a $10 gift certificate to Potomac River Running stores.  It also includes the =PR= training program (which is very different from the virtual program) and special discounts for the =PR= store and races.  There is also a premium version of the program that costs $209 - it also includes a bib for the race (great for anyone who didn't get into the lottery) and a voucher for a pair of New Balance Shoes.

The training programs are quite different.  The =PR= program is distance based, while the virtual program is time-based.  You also get the entire 10-week =PR= program up front and for all three levels - beginner, intermediate, advanced.  With the virtual program I seem to only see one week and one level at a time. 

My =PR= beginner program for this week included four workouts (this is a proprietary program and I will not share additional details beyond this snapshot):
  • 2-4 miles very easy (on my own)
  • 2-3 miles very easy (on my own)
  • Long run of 5-7 miles (with the training group)
  • (optional) track workout: 1200-800-400 steady pace w/ 1-2 min recovery jog between (with the training group) 
The virtual beginner program for this week looked like this (again, a proprietary program and I will not share additional details beyond this snapshot):
  • Monday: rest day
  • Tuesday: 40 minutes - walk 1 min, run 4 min (8 times)
  • Wednesday: 28 minutes - walk 1 min, run 6 min (4 times)
  • Thursday: 42 minutes - walk 1 min, run 5 min (7 times)
  • Friday: rest day
  • Saturday: 42 minutes - walk 1 min, run 6 min (6 times)
  • Sunday: 32 minutes - walk 1 min, run 7 min (4 times)
Both programs include coaches tips/inspiration.  For the in-person program, I receive a weekly email with any information about the week's program, and it includes a "topic" of the week.  This week's topic focused on incorporating races into your training schedule, which was very timely for me.  For the virtual program, many of my daily emails have a "tip" included with them.  This week's virtual program tips included:
  • the importance of the rest day
  • a shout-out to New Balance's new "fresh foam" shoes
  • a reminder about road safety when running
  • an assurance that it is okay if you find you need more sleep after starting a vigorous exercise program
  • a suggestion to train with what will be available on the course (i.e., Gatorade Endurance Formula)
  • a reminder about the importance of stretching
I love having information from both programs available to me - I can never get enough tips as I prepare for this challenge!  Both programs have excellent information and will prepare you for the race.  For me, however, nothing beats the in-person component - it is invaluable to me to run with others and see my coaches in-person!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Run Your Heart Out 5k Recap

On Saturday afternoon I laid all of my gear out for the next morning's "Run Your Heart Out 5k".  We had some snow flurries in the afternoon, although nothing was sticking.  There was a chance of snow during the night, a possibility of rain during the race.  But as the hours ticked by, the forecast was looking better, although chilly.
We woke to no rain or snow (yay), and mid-20s (boo).  At the race we met up with my brother Josh, who was going to pace me.  He helped me set my goal time of sub-35 minutes, with a stretch goal of sub-34.  While waiting for the race to start we found my friends Gina and Katy, and chatted about working at Hechinger back in the 80s.  It was a fun but brief reunion.  I also saw several friends from my running class -  Lynn, Shawn, and Kelli. 

We were lining up for the race when I saw my neighbor, Glenn.  Glenn has been running since Labor Day and has lost a lot of weight along the way.  This was his first race, and he is prepping for the Shamrock Marathon next month.  I have no doubt that he will accomplish his goal.

Before the race, Josh suggested I give him my Garmin so I wouldn't be obsessing over how we were doing.  I could just trust him to guide me and run.  Sacrificing my GPS system was a little tough, but I knew it was the right call.  Before I knew it, we were off!  No turning back now.

The next few pictures are all from the Potomac River Running Website.  They take amazing professional photos of their races, upload them super-quick, and let you download them for free.  They are AWESOME.  The photo below is at the start of the race on the track.  Josh & I are in the middle (I'm the second pink top from the left).
(photo courtesy of Potomac River Running)
After leaving the track, the race goes into the (paved) trails of Reston.  It is a very hilly course.  For the first mile we were caught in a densely congested pack of runners and there wasn't much room to pass.  I didn't know  how we were doing since I didn't have my Garmin on, but I now know that the first mile was much slower than Josh planned due to the crush of people, 11:44.  He made a mental note that sub-34 looked unlikely, and aimed for sub-35.

Soon the mass of runners thinned out and we were able to pass people and pick up the pace.  Mile 2 was completed in 10:33, which I did not know.  All I knew was my calves were aching and I was breathing too hard to talk much.  Josh distracted me by telling me about the to-do list systems he was currently using.  Yes, I am a geek and this was an effective distraction.  We hit a steep hill and I walked for a few moments to catch my breath.  At the top of the hill Josh started running again - he was not going to let me walk.  He said reassuringly, "just keep running." 
(photo courtesy of Potomac River Running)

The picture above was taken just before the final steep hill, the one that brings you out of the woods and back to the high school.  I may be smiling, but that is only because I see my favorite photographer in front of me, the one that always seems to get a good shot of me no matter how miserable I feel.  And at this moment, I was feeling pretty rough.  As we approached the hill, I heard Freddy and Rick cheering us on from the top of the hill.  Josh wisely said to me, "Don't let Freddy see you walk up this hill."  As much as I wanted to walk, there was no way I was going to do it in front of my little boy.  So up we ran.  I thought I might throw up.  But I was okay. 

We reached the track, where I had less than a quarter mile to go.  I mentally told myself it was just like last Tuesday at track practice, I just had a little ways to go around the track.  We passed the 3-mile marker.  I still did not know the time, but Josh knew we were deeper into negative splits territory, having just completed a 10:07 mile.  We rounded the last curve.  I wanted to speed up but felt like I couldn't.  Josh later told me I did speed up and I just couldn't tell.  I couldn't make out the clock until we were almost at the finish line.  My face lit up with shock and elation.
(photo courtesy of Potomac River Running)

I had just run 32:56!  A PR and more than a minute faster than my stretch goal!  I was truly stunned.  I wouldn't have been able to push myself that consistently for the duration of the race without my brother's guidance.  I am so very grateful to him for helping me achieve this milestone.  I will need to make some mental adjustments to learn how to do it next time when I'm on my own.  I felt so proud!  We took a post-race celebratory picture with Freddy and Gina - hooray!


Saturday, February 8, 2014

What Happens at Track Practice?

This past Tuesday I finally made it to track practice.  Even though I've been in PR Training since December, this is only the second one I've been to.  We've had crazy snow/ice on multiple Tuesdays, Christmas Eve & New Year's Eve fell on Tuesdays, and I had to work in our downtown office on a few Tuesdays.  So I haven't been to Track Tuesday since December 17!

So what happens at track practice?  We meet at the local high school track at 6:30.  For those first 15 minutes, you warm up on your own.  Easy laps around the track, dynamic stretching, whatever your personal routine is.  At 6:45 the coaches remind us of the various workouts that we are doing.  There were ten groups this past Tuesday - beginner, intermediate, advanced Cherry Blossom, the same three groups for half marathon training that started in December, three more for the marathon training that started in December, and finally the begin/build/base program.  A couple of groups had the same workout, so the coaches reviewed 8 different workouts with us.

We all receive spreadsheets at the beginning of the training with our workouts for the whole program.  And we get weekly emails that remind us about our training for the week.  So you might think we would all know what we are doing...but there seems to be a certain amount of confusion each week regardless! 

My workout for the week was 4 to 6 repeats of 400 meters at tempo pace (e.g., comfortably hard) followed by a two minute recovery jog.  400 meters is one lap around the track, and roughly 1/4 of a mile. I thought I might only do 4 repeats since I started practice feeling a little tired, but I rallied about halfway through and ended up doing all 6.  My favorite part was the recovery jog (which turned into a recovery walk for me).  The recovery jog is in the outside lane, up and back.  So while you are going up in the outside lane, most everyone else is doing their running in the 2 inside lanes and there is lots of waving and smiling when people pass each other, which makes track practice that much more fun.  The running community is so friendly!

After practice a bunch of us chatted for a few minutes about the upcoming Run Your Heart Out 5k on Sunday which many of us will be running.  I picked my race packet up this morning, and the shirt looks a nice valentine-y red.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Earning Rewards for Working Out

I've been a proud owner of a fitbit for over two years now.  It has helped me increase my activity and lose weight.  I will devote a future blog post to my beloved fitbit.  Today, I'm focusing on how fitbit helped me discover that I can earn rewards for working out.  You can, too!

Fitbit partners with all kinds of health and wellness sites.  Two of them are rewards sites, Earndit and EveryMove. These sites both partner with many different fitness trackers like fitbit and apps like runkeeper.  You get points for your activities and can turn those points into rewards.  Today I earned a really nice shirt from EveryMove and Mondetta Performance Gear.


Over the past couple of years I've earned charity rewards, high-value coupons towards fitness apparel and nutrition items, and discounted health and wellness boxes like bulu box and klutchclub.  I even won an Earndit challenge and got a fancy sports bra from Bodyrock.

I have friends on both sites that help motivate me to exercise more and earn more points.  You also earn badges for various achievements, which is always fun.  And all of this is effortless for me - my fitbit automatically sends both sites information on how many steps I've taken which gets translated into points.  All I need do is sign up for new challenges when they interest me and pick out the rewards I want.  Win-win, right?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Setting a 5k Time Goal

Next weekend I will be doing the Run Your Heart Out 5k (as long as mother nature doesn't dump a whole lot of snow on us again).  I am setting a time goal, which is new for me.

For the past couple of years my 5k goals have been along the lines of:
  • have fun
  • finish the race
  • walk for less of the race
  • run the whole race
  • have fun
Having achieved all of the above, it's time to think about my pace.  My best 5k race time last year was 36:40, during last year's Run Your Heart Out 5k.  Two things helped make that my best time - (1) the course seems to be a smidge short based on garmin GPS tracking and (2) my brother Josh ran with me and helped keep me on pace and distracted from my discomfort.

If all goes well with Josh's schedule (and mother nature doesn't dump a whole lot of snow on us again), he will be able to pace me again this year.  We have set 35 as my goal, with 34 as the stretch goal.  It will be a whole different experience to run with a particular time in mind.  Hopefully it doesn't interfere with my primary goal - "have fun".

Fortunately I have a secret weapon in my "have fun" arsenal for this race.  My friends Katy McMahon and Gina Welc will be running the race, too.  We all worked together at Hechinger back in the 80s so it will be a fun reunion.  Gina and I have run a couple of races together in the last few months, but this will be our first opportunity to see Katy since we all reconnected on facebook.

Keep your fingers crossed for no snow!