Back to the Basics

Since the New York Marathon last month, I have focused on two things: 1) Making All The Things from Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky’s Run Fast East Slow Cookbook and 2) Getting Stronger. Since eating All The Things hasn’t yet resulted in effortless six minute miles (or any six minute miles for that matter), I must need to focus more on part two.

Like many athletes who have faced injures and multiple visits to the physical therapist’s office, I have a litany of prescribed exercises that I should be doing to correct imbalances, stave off injury and keep my body strong and healthy. Or as Mitt Romney might say, I have binders of exercises. Do I do these exercises on a regular basis? No. I do them when something hurts. And then I focus on that particular area that is speaking to me at the time. Since the body works together as one kinetic chain, however, this is neither a smart nor a workable plan.

I am a flashcard nerd. I always used flashcards to study in school. I used them for tests in high school and college, and I used them to pass the Virginia, Texas and Idaho bar exams. So enter the Physical Therapy Flashcards!

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PT Flashcards

Here is how they work and how you can make your own set of PT Flashcards:

  1. Take one section/color for each body area you want to strengthen and/or maintain. You can see here that I have Core, Hips, Glutes, Legs/Feet and Stretch(ing).
  2. In each section, write your exercises on a different color of flashcards.
  3. Set your timer for a prescribed period of time. I do 15 minutes for the first 4 categories and then 5 for stretching at the end. Total of 20 minutes.
  4. While the timer is running go through your categories pulling an exercise from the front. Do the exercise in the section and then put it in the back of the section.
  5. Do this a few times a week! Enjoy! Get stronger! Run without getting hurt! When you come across a new exercise that you like, add it to your cards!

So far, this has been a great way for me to keep up with a variety of my Physical Therapy exercises, focusing on all areas of my body that need attention. It is my hope that this will be good maintenance exercise (in addition to the lifting/regular strength training I do) which will help prevent injury.

Speaking of preventing injury, if you are looking for a good book to read on the topic or need some exercises for your flashcards, I highly recommend Running Rewired by Jay Dicharry. I went to see Jay in Bend last summer, but now you don’t have to because he wrote it all in this book for you! He is an expert and writes in a straightforward and funny manner. The book has specific exercises and routines with photos and detailed instructions on how to do them. (Bonus: Mel Lawrence is one of the models!) Highly recommend!

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And when you’re done with all of that hard work don’t forget to refuel with some good nutrition from All The Things in Run Fast East Slow. In fact, I think I hear a Superhero Muffin calling my name…

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Let’s Talk About the Beer Mile

Holiday gatherings got you stressed? Worried about keeping up with your running routine? Did someone just bring up politics at the dinner table? I’ve got a solution for all of that. Might I suggest an impromptu beer mile.

This one was not impromptu. This was planned. Which beer should I use? Will I need some La Croix for backup? How ’bout pretzels in case I puke?

I had never tried a beer mile until earlier this year when a few friends of mine and I got together one Friday afternoon for some beer mile shenanigans. A beer mile also serves as a great happy hour and start to the weekend. I will admit, I was nervous about the timing of ours. I was in the throes of marathon training with back to back long runs scheduled for the weekend and questioned the wisdom of trying a beer mile the night before. The good thing about the beer mile is that by beer number two you are no longer concerned with any workouts you might have scheduled for the next day.

So here’s how it works: drink a beer then run 0.25 miles. Then do it again. Then again. One more time. Total of four beers and four 400s for a total of one mile of running. Ideally you do it on a track but the only track we had access to was at our local neighborhood high school so we chose to do laps in the neighborhood. Also, you are supposed to use beer with a minimum alcohol content of 5%. I don’t think any of our beers met that threshold. Next time. I used Coors Light which is 4.2%.

I wasn’t too concerned about the alcohol content of my beer because, I’m ashamed to say, I didn’t think I would be able to do it. I know, I know, if I don’t believe in myself, who will? I need to work on being my own champion. Or maybe I just need to do more beer miles. Either way, my prime drinking days are long behind me and even when I was in tip top drinking shape, much like in running, I was more of an endurance kind of girl. Chugging, like sprinting, was never my forte. Nevertheless, I wanted to give a beer mile the old college try. Because beer. And running. Together!

So we set off chugging our beers and running our laps and, as you would imagine, each one got progressively harder. Trying to run on a stomach full of beer is hard. Is there some technique? Like a waddle run?

Woah, we’re half way there! Woah, livin’ on a prayer! Two down, two to go!

My goal going in was to at least complete half. A beer 800 is legit, right? But once I got two down and was still having fun I was determined to do the full mile. Go big or go home! BELIEVE!

Coming in for the win! Who has form this good after four beers? This superstar! Beer mile champ x 2.

After finishing we enjoyed some good laughs and pizza as well as some discussion on strategy and how to improve future beer miling. But mostly pizza.

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Was I really on the ground like this? Because I don’t recall being down on the ground like this. Must’ve been doing some post race stretching. That was smart!

My Garmin clocked me at 16 something for the mile. Jesse Thomas suggests that a mid packer beer mile should be around ten minutes. TEN MINUTES?!?! First of all, that seems super fast. Secondly, I’ve got some work to do. And finally, the off-season is a great time to practice.

So if things start to feel like too much inside over the holidays, grab some beers and Cousin Joe and go outside for some beer mile practice! Even a beer 400 will leave you feeling refreshed, relaxed and able to stay unengaged from political debate. Cheers!

Post beer mile bliss

 

Choosing Happiness: My 2017 TCS New York Marathon Race Report

“So I went to New York City to be born again. It was and remains easy for most Americans to go somewhere else and start anew. …. and when the [train] plunged into a tunnel under New York City, with it’s lining of pipes and wires, I was out of the womb and into the birth canal.” ― Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Like most marathoners, I have a love/hate relationship with the 26.2 distance. I am drawn to it for its elusive nature and unpredictability. As a type A control freak I want to control and dominate the marathon, yet it refuses to be controlled. I come back again trying to control and it will continue to teach me that it cannot be controlled until I let down the walls of perfection, let go, and open my mind to the possibility that perhaps what I had in mind for the race is not what the race had in store for me.  I come out of each marathon a better, more self-aware person.

Prior to the November 5, 2017 TCS New York City Marathon I gave some real thought to the why of the marathon. Why do I do this? Why do I intentionally put myself through this pain and suffering and call it my hobby? Lauren Fleshman says that as runners we are privileged to be able to choose our form of suffering. Not everyone can be so fortunate. For me, being able to go to that place of suffering and to push through to the other side helps me realize that I am stronger than I think I am. There is beauty in the suffering, particularly when it occurs collectively. The struggle offers  the ability to practice coping skills that are needed in real life, and allows me to learn more about myself and about humanity.

New York was marathon number six for me. Marathon number five (California International Marathon in December 2016) did not go as planned. I had trained to run a sub 4-hour marathon and my training went really well – right up until the taper when I started to develop pain in both of my femurs.  As a result I found myself in an MRI just four days before the race. I had some swelling in the bone, but was cleared to run. I rested until the marathon, had a good 22 mile run and was on pace for that sub-4 time, but ended up limping through the last 5k and hobbled over the finish at around 4:22. Aside from the extremely disappointing last 3 miles, it was a good run and I learned a great deal about pacing and positive thinking.

The sub-4 hour marathon time is like that cute, popular boy in high school that would flirt with me but never ask me out on a date. At times the possibility feels so real to me I can taste it, but it has remained just out of my reach. In training for New York, rather than focus on a time goal, my coach had me run fewer miles and less often with the goal of getting me to the start line injury free. Even with this plan, I developed some shin pain in my left leg. With some last minute modifications and physical therapy we accomplished the goal of getting me to the start line feeling healthy, yet I felt under-trained. My mind wanted that sub 4-hour time, but I understood that my body may not be trained for it. All of the stars would have to align just perfectly. And in a race like New York, with the long wait before starting, the crowded course, and the bridges and multiple turns in the second half of the course, I wasn’t sure if I should attempt my BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) on minimal marathon training.  Regardless, it was in the back of my mind.

I left my hotel room at 5:20 a.m. and took an Uber to meet my friend and teammate Sarah in midtown Manhattan. We waited in a very long line that wrapped around several blocks to catch a bus out to Staten Island.

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On the 90 minute bus out to Staten Island

Once we arrived in Staten Island we went through a security check (thanks NYPD for keeping us safe!) and then waded through the masses at the start village to find our starting waves. Sarah was wave 1 green and I was wave 2 orange.

My friend Jessica was also wave 2 orange so we had the pleasure of waiting in the corrals and starting together!

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At the start!

I will never forget standing at the start line and hearing and feeling the thunderous boom of the start cannon followed by “New York, New York” and thousands of runners climbing the Verrazano bridge to begin their 26.2 mile journey through New York’s five boroughs. It brought tears to my eyes.

As we started our run, a light rain began to fall. The first mile is a gradual uphill to the crest of the bridge with the second mile being a gradual downhill to the bottom of the bridge. This is the greatest elevation change of the entire race. My first mile was around a 9:30 something and my second mile was around an 8:30 something. My coach and I had discussed anywhere between 8:45-9:15 as a suggested marathon pace and I was trying to feel out what was comfortable, while keeping the pace reigned it. I did not want to run under a 9 minute per mile pace (with the exception of the downhill mile). I ran comfortably through Brooklyn and tried to relax and follow the runners in front of me while enjoying the crowds and the neighborhoods.

The day before the race I had the honor of hearing Meb Keflezighi speak. Before Meb spoke, Mary Wittenberg, the former race director for the New York City Marathon, also spoke. She gave a great overview of the course and some wonderful tips on course strategy. But the piece of advice that she gave that really stuck with me was this: “When I was the race director I used to always tell people to keep their heads down and run. But then I ran the race.” (Wittenberg did not actually run the New York Marathon until after her time as a race director.) “Now I tell people the exact opposite. The crowds are what make this race. Enjoy every moment. High five every child, every police officer.”

There are three start waves in the New York Marathon: orange, blue and green. The three colors run a slightly different course until mile eight in Brooklyn when all three colors merge. The merging caused a large bottleneck which was exacerbated by enthusiastic spectators that were migrating onto the race course. To make matters worse, the rain had picked up slightly making the roads slick. Suddenly, I was unable to run even a 9:30 pace without significant weaving or throwing elbows.

I tried to keep close to a 9 minute per mile pace in a effort to stay on track to finish in around 4 hours, but I found it extremely difficult. I was having to zig-zag in and out of runners, I slipped slightly on a GU packet, and ran up suddenly on a wheelchair participant that I was unable to see due to the crowds. I was also elbowed by another runner trying to jostle his way through the pack and witnessed a curse word laden fight between two runners, one of whom believed she had been wrongly shoved. It was not a pretty scene and it was not how I wanted the next 18 miles to play out. I could feel the frustration growing inside of me as my pace began slowing. And then I made a choice.

For the month prior to the marathon, I had struggled with finding happiness in my running. Filled with paranoia of recurring injury and fear of being too “slow,” my workouts had been marred with feelings of unworthiness and doubt. Instead of congratulating myself for showing up, I would beat myself up for not being good enough. This led to two of my workouts being cut short in the month leading up to the marathon due to my anxiety while running. Both my coach and my mental health therapist had expressed concerns to me about going into a race in the mental state I was in. I was not confident in my ability, not confident in my body’s health, and I was constantly beating myself up. I would try to relax and do positive visualization in the week prior to the marathon and end up in a panic. It was not good.

Before leaving for New York, I had written down all of my negative feelings about my running and the race and given them to my coach to destroy. I did not want them anymore. And in mile 8 in Brooklyn, I chose happiness. I chose running to build myself up, not beat myself down. I took Mary Wittenberg’s advice to heart. I high five’d all of the kids, thanked the police officers and volunteers and tapped on the signs in the crowd that said “Tap Here for Power!” When I saw my husband at mile 17, I stopped and gave him a big sweaty hug. After all, I was running THE NEW YORK CITY MARATHON! I would never again have this chance in my life, so I better enjoy it and get the most out of it!

When I made that choice there was a small voice in the back of my head that wondered if I was somehow giving up, if I was making an excuse not to try my best, or if my coach would be disappointed in me. I quickly quieted that negativity and told those voices that choosing happiness is the best choice, the stronger choice. Mental strength is so important in running and in life and I was making a choice that would not only get me to the finish line healthy, but would also help me enjoy the experience along the way. Having a mind that can stay relaxed, focused and positive will help me post faster times when my body is physically ready.

I smiled my way through Brooklyn and Queens, enjoying the crowds and going with the flow. I enjoyed seeing the different neighborhoods, reading signs, listening to music. Running over the Queensboro Bridge was amazing: going from the silence, solitude and camaraderie with other runners to the loud cheering on First Avenue is something I will never forget. Around Mile 21 runners cross the Madison Avenue Bridge from the Bronx back into Manhattan. When I crossed it there were two people at the top of the bridge with signs reading “Last Damn Bridge” and shouting “Really! It is!” It gave me a good laugh at a point during the race when I really needed one. I so appreciated all of the spectators who came out to cheer in the rain!

At Mile 22 I started to feel something tightening in my hip flexor. This is the point in the race and the point in my body when things started going south in my last marathon. I took a deep breath, reminded myself that this was not my story any longer, that I had left my fear and negativity with my coach, and continued running. Before I knew it, my mind drifted on to to the fact that I was running towards Central Park and towards the finish line! Turning into Central Park and the last two miles of the course in the park were probably my favorite part of the race. At that point, I knew I would finish, and finish running strong! Being able to run across the finish line and run across the finish line of New York — the same one that Meb, Shalane and Stephanie Bruce had crossed just a couple hours earlier — was absolutely amazing.

I crossed the finish line in 4 hours, 18 minutes and 44 seconds. That’s 4 hours, 18 minutes and 44 seconds of not beating myself up mentally. Four hours, 18 minutes and 44 seconds of choosing to race happy. Do I still want that sub-4? You bet I do! And when I get it, which I will, I will enjoy every bit of it. I will not feel disappointment because I ran a 3:59 and not a 3:57. I won’t get there by beating myself down. I will only get there by building myself up. One good choice at a time.

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Run Strong, Run Happy

I love sarcasm. I practically speak it as a second language. Just ask my children. My sarcastic nature was forced on them at an early age. “Mom, you’re not serious are you?” “Mom, you don’t really mean that. — Do you?” But there is a place and time for it.

Yesterday runner and writer Matt Fitzgerald posted this sarcastic tweet:

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Now, he was joking. He does not think he needs to lose weight. However, just the posting of this photo and the joking around about weight rubbed me the wrong way. Perhaps it is because I am sensitive about this issue that I was unable to find the humor in his joke.

I would like to back up and say that I am generally a fan of Matt Fitzgerald. I have read and learned from many of his books, I follow him on social media, and I think that he has done a lot of good for runners and the running community. However, some of his commentary, particularly those in regard to Racing Weight have led me personally down a dangerous path, and I believe they could do the same for other runners as well.

As runners it is easy to get caught up in the idea that less weight equals faster times. Indeed, this is often true. However, it can also equal injury, long term health problems, eating disorders, unhappiness, and all sorts of negative things that you do not want in your life. And you know what weighs a lot that you do want on your body? MUSCLE. So I love you Matt Fitzgerald, but I reject your Racing Weight idea and everything that goes along with it. I think our energy is better focused on Racing Strong and Racing Happy.

Rather than focus on a magical number that may or may not be attainable, work on getting stronger. Work on muscular imbalance. Work on your mental game. Read Matt Fitzgerald’s book How Bad Do you Want It? which is full of stories where runners gave up mentally long before their bodies physically gave up.

We are all unique and strong and capable, just as we are. There is no magical Racing Weight number, and if we go searching trying to find it we are wasting precious energy and perhaps setting ourselves down a path to injury and unwellness. Instead, work on unlocking the strength and power that is already within you.

My First Cycling Race: Bogus Basin Hill Climb

Those of you who know me know that I have a love hate relationship with my bike. Love the cross training benefits. Lots of anxiety surrounding the whole balancing on two skinny wheels while traveling at high speeds with my feet clipped in part. Coordination has not historically been my strong suit. I like triathlon because it motivates me to cross train and forces me to become a more well rounded athlete, and since most of a triathlon is spent on the bike, I must confront my cycling anxiety.

My friend Barb has helped me confront my fears head on this summer. Through practice, repetition, and finding a pedal system that works better for me (Thank you, Barb!) I was able to gain a bit more confidence on the bike. One of the training rides I like to do is up Bogus Basin Road, a 16.5 mile winding road that leads to our local ski hill. The total ride has about 4000 feet of elevation gain. At the end of August there is a race to the top called the Bogus Basin Hill Climb. I had never ridden my bike all the way to the top (the furthest I had gone in training was to mile marker 13) nor had I ever done a cycling race, but this year my husband and I decided to do it. My coach Gretchen also signed up.

There were three options on signup: the dirt race (you can get to the top via approximately 20 miles of mountain biking trails as well), the non-competitive road race (which is not timed), and the competitive road race (which is timed). I looked at the times from last years’ race and approximated my time based on my training rides. Based on my projected time, I would finish squarely in the bottom 25%. Nevertheless, if I was going to do a cycling race, I wanted a number and proof on the interwebs that I had done a cycling race! Competitive race it is!

On the morning of the race, my husband and I rode our bikes to the start. The weather was nice: not too hot or cold and no wind. We assessed the group and lined up behind the group of junior high and high school kids. After about 4 or 5 miles of hard climbing, my legs started to feel tired. While I had done long or hard rides before, I had never done a cycling specific workout outside and I was wondering if signing up for a cycling race had been a bad idea. During long or hard rides I would stop and get a drink or a snack. I was not planning to do that during this race. I had a Camelbak on my back and was just planning to drink from that and keep going. I wondered if I was last or close to last, but noticed a few riders behind me. I pushed my doubts aside and kept pedaling.

Once I got out of my head and to the second half, I felt much better. I was enjoying the ride, occasionally passing a person or two, and appreciating the tree coverage that the higher elevation brought. I even noticed that when I would sip from my Camelbak I would continue to pedal with one hand off of my bars. I must be getting more comfortable on the bike! Before I knew it I was just a couple of miles from the top. I finished the ride in 1 hours and 35 minutes, well under my projected finish time of 2 hours.

My husband, coach and I enjoyed the post race beer, tacos and music and then headed back down the mountain. For me, riding back down was just as hard (if not harder!) than riding up. By that point in the day the wind had picked up a bit making the downhill a bit scary for me. Nevertheless, I made it home in one piece very proud of my almost 40 mile round trip up and down the mountain!

 

 

Date Night (Spudman Race Report)

Most couples go out to dinner and a move on date night. My husband and I do that occasionally too. Lately, however, we’ve been hiring babysitters so that we can go on bike rides and open water swims together in order to train for our first Olympic Distance Triathlon. We were training for Onionman in Walla Walla, but due to my father-in-law’s illness (he’s fine now) we had to cancel at the last minute and did Spudman in Burley instead.

This was a big race, consisting of about 2,000 triathletes. We set up our transitions the night before, which helped alleviate some of the anxiety on race morning. Nevertheless, we arrived at the start only a few minutes prior to my husband’s start time. My wave started 30 minutes later so I had some additional time to visit the port-a-potty and survey the swim. The 1.5k swim was in the snake river and was current aided. I got in the water a few minutes before my start time and noticed that I had to actively swim backwards in order to keep from drifting ahead of the start buoy. Finally, the gun for my wave went off and I was able to stop wasting energy on staying behind the start line.

The swim was fast, fun, and in a straight line down the river. I couldn’t believe when I saw T1 on the horizon. I got out, searched for my bike, and started fumbling with my wetsuit. I am always amazed by the elite athletes that can breeze through the transitions like Houdini. I feel like a teenage boy trying to take a bra off. After I finally got my wetsuit off of my ankles I had to sit down to don my socks for fear of falling over. I finally got myself all situated and headed out on my bike. I am not yet coordinated enough to drink from water bottles so I decided to try a Camelbak. However, I accidentally brought by daughter’s bladder. It seemed to fit in my Camelbak okay though.

The 25k bike is fast and flat with only a few turns. I pass people on fat tires like they aren’t moving and people on fancy tri bikes pass me like I am not moving. I notice several people who appear to be riding in groups. I am fairly new to the sport of triathlon but I thought that drafting was strictly prohibited and even penalized. It kind of annoyed me but I tried to focus on my own ride and doing the best I could. I tried to take a sip of water. Nothing would come out. I tried again. Still nothing. After several attempts I decided there must be a kink in the hose and gave up. I tried not to panic that I would not have any hydration on the bike and told myself it would be good practice for something not going as planned on race day. And since it was my daughter’s bladder in my pack I imagined it was her hand on my back pushing me along. I found out after the race that her valve was just switched to the off position. Won’t make that mistake again!

I came into T2 ready for the run, but with such a large transition area I had a bit of trouble locating my stuff. I definitely see why people use helium balloons. I found my setup after a minute and headed out for the run. There was a spectator at the start offering smoked ribs to runners. Doesn’t that sound exactly like what you would want at that point in a race? He didn’t have any takers, but he got a good laugh out of me.

The 10k run starts with a steep hill. I walked up it and used the time to eat and drink, since I wasn’t able to on the bike. Then I settled in to my pace for the remainder of the run. It was hot, but several spectators were kind enough to set up sprinklers along the course. I thought I might catch my husband on the run, but he was waiting for me at the finish. It was a fun race and a successful first Olympic distance triathlon for both of us. I will definitely be back for more!

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lululemon does law school

I wear many hats. Mom, wife, friend, runner, wannabe cyclist and blogger. In a former life I was a full-time practicing attorney, and I teach part-time at a law school. The first time I walked into a classroom of law students I was struck by the air of idealism in the room. I wanted to harness the positive energy and catapult it into the community, immediately putting all of that idealism to good use. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. Turning the dream into reality requires planning, action and consistency. This is why I use lululemon’s goal setting worksheets in some of my classes, including the interns I taught this summer.

On a warm afternoon earlier this summer as students trickled into class after a long day of working at their internships, I prepared to speak to them about goal setting and creating a business plan. Some students rushed in just before the start of class still wearing suits, others strolled in at a more casual pace, having had time to change into more comfortable attire. Living their lives from semester to semester as most students do, not many take the time to think about a five or ten year plan. Survival through exams until the next break is more the name of the game.

Planning is important, however, to ensure that the steps we take today are taking us towards the life that we want. In the areas of health, personal, and career, these worksheets invite you to envision your future, examine what you want and don’t want in it, and then help you create a ten, five and one year plan. You create ten year goals, working backwards to the one year goal and even to what you can be doing today to help you make progress towards that goal.

I first used these worksheets at a goal setting workshop hosted by my coach and found them incredibly helpful in creating a vision for my own future. Every time I ask my students to complete these worksheets, I complete them with my students, and every time I complete them my goals and vision change slightly. And that’s okay. Just because you write it down doesn’t mean it’s written in stone. But writing down a goal is an important part of the process.  Gary Blair said, “A goal is created three times. First as a mental picture. Second, when written down to add clarity and dimension. And third, when you take action towards its achievement.” I encourage you to give these worksheets a try to help add clarity and dimension to your goals. These are not just worksheets for yogis or runners, but for anyone who wants to create a happier and more fulfilling life. That includes law students!