New Shoes, A New Goal and a Difficult Run

My new Asics!

Good news everyone!  I bought new shoes. You can see them in the header, along with my other two pair, and here is an even better look at them. Aren’t they… um… Well, I’m sure plenty of people think they’re pretty. For my friends who are currently looking at them with confusion, yes I realize they are pink. Pink really isn’t my color, generally. I bristle at the “pink for girls” thing, but this blog isn’t about politics. It’s about running, so I won’t really go into the whole pink issue other than to say that there are more important things to consider when picking out running shoes. Also, some time ago a gentleman on Fitocracy mentioned disliking the color of his new shoes and other Fitocrats advised him that the best thing to do when you think your shoes are ugly is to go out and run in them and get them dirty! So that is what I will do.

These new Asics are my first road shoes. My two previous pair were somewhere between a trail shoe and a road shoe. Hybrid, if you will. I initially made the choice to go with those shoes because I was used to walking in trail shoes and found them comfortable. When I bought the Mizunos, I was looking for a shoe that was as similar to those Asics as possible, because I meant to be switching between them during my marathon training and didn’t want shoes that were too different. Now that I have some time before any big races, I feel that it’s time to try out a road shoe. The other problem I’m having is that the Mizunos aren’t quite right for me. I’m told that on paper they’re a nearly identical shoe to those first Asics, but there is something about them that isn’t working out for me. I can wear them on a short run or two each week, but any more than that and my calves start to get really tight. I honestly don’t understand how or why that is happening, but last weekend I switched back into the old Asics just to see if it would make a difference and it did. So when I saw a post on Facebook that Runner’s Edge was having a “garage sale” I knew I had to go down and try to find a new shoe. I even followed my own advice, and brought both of my other pair with me and asked for help picking out a new pair. Now, to be clear, I am in NO way suggesting that Mizunos aren’t a great shoe. That particular pair just isn’t right for me, at least not for heavy use and longer runs.

That said, I still think that the Mizunos will be the right shoe for my next race. I’ve registered for the Sentinel Hill Climb race on November 4th. It’s a short race, but still very challenging. A friend sent me the information after we chatted about how difficult it can be to get motivated to run hills. Since I plan to do the Pengelly Double Dip next year, I need to start doing a lot of hill work. The Sentinel Hill Climb is going to motivate me to get started. Being someone who accepts her slowness, I seek a different sort of challenge. I don’t need to run fast. I don’t even need to win my age group. I race to challenge myself, to stay motivated and to have fun. So for me, since I don’t really plan to get much faster, my challenges lay in running farther and in running more difficult races with lots of elevation gain.

Finally, I will say that I had a rough run yesterday. I slept in, so I missed the breakfast run and went out on my own later in the morning. I was determined to do a 13 mile run, so I plotted a course, created a playlist that was part music and part podcast and off I went. I started out slow and easy but I just couldn’t find my groove. Being alone, I think I spent a lot more time paying too much attention to myself and over-thinking things. I just was not feeling it and could not seem to pick up the pace. At about 12.3 miles I did get a boost, however, as that was when Eye of the Tiger came on my iPod. Maybe it’s a generational thing, but I don’t know too many people who aren’t pumped up by that song. I’m thinking I should download the Rocky Theme and put it toward the beginning of my playlist, with Eye of the Tiger toward the end, so that I can get pumped up by both of them.

There are more “Tips for New Runners” posts coming. I’ve just been very busy this last week or two. There’s also a blog-roundup post coming about other running blogs that I like. So keep checking back or subscribe to my rss feed and I’ll keep telling you about my experiences. Happy running!

Tips for New Runners – Nutrition Before & During the Long Run

When you start training for a long distance run, start testing out the foods you want to eat before and during the race early on.  Long runs can make our guts a lot more sensitive than they normally are, so the last thing you want to do is eat strange foods or drink strange drinks on race day. That could be a one-way ticket to a miserable time in the porta-potty or really embarrassing streaks down your legs. You may also choose to eat a very low fiber diet the day before your long run, for the same reason. I found that to be a very effective strategy while I trained for the marathon. Also, due to the laxative effects, stay away from coffee the morning of a long run. If you need the caffeine, green or black tea should help wake you up without causing you any intestinal troubles.

Jeff Galloway has some involved recommendations for how & what to eat the day before the run. I’ll admit that I didn’t really follow his recommendations before the marathon, or the marathon-length training run, but they were in the back of my mind and did moderate my eating a bit.

If at all possible, find out what sports drinks and gels will be provided during your goal race and try them out on your long training runs. That way, you’ll know how they’ll affect you on race day and whether or not you can consume them. I was not able to test out the sports drink provided by the Missoula Marathon, so I did not consume any of it. And the gels were not labeled as gluten free, which is an issue for me, so I just carried my own.

Some runners get hungry during long runs. I don’t. This may be due to what I eat for my breakfast (see below), or it just may be how I work. On runs of 15 miles or more, I do take nutrition with me. As mentioned before, I use the Honey Stinger Gels, mixed into my water, and the Stinger Gummies. Both are gluten free and they got me through my marathon training and the race quite well. And to be fair, on my long Saturday runs of around 13 miles, I do stop to have a snack and coffee around mile 11 when my group run is over but before I run home, so it’s fair to say that I use some sort of nutrition on runs over 10 miles, even if it’s just a quarter of a banana and cup of coffee. Check out your local running and athletic stores for other ideas, as well. They may have quite a selection of things for you to try, both in solid and gel form.

If you get hungry during your runs or if you’re going to be running really long runs you may need something that is more like actual food. Some folks take pretzels or nuts along, and I’ve even heard of people carrying sandwiches. It really just depends on how sensitive your guts will get, and what your needs are. Experimenting during training is the way to figure out what will best get you through the race.

So, if you’re wondering what I eat before long runs, let me tell you. I’m a gluten free eater due to some digestive troubles and oatmeal causes me troubles too. So finding something to eat before my long runs was a bit of a challenge at first. Eventually I settled on socca with peanut butter & honey on it and a couple eggs. There are some carbs in there, to get me going, and a fair amount of protein, fat and fiber as well, which could be why I don’t get hungry during my long runs.

Socca is a flatbread made from chickpea flour, water and olive oil. I find that using warm (not hot) water and covering the bowl tightly can shorten the amount of time you need to rest the batter, but always let it sit at least 30 minutes. Recently I have found a recipe for chickpea flour pancakes that I really like, and may use it in place of the socca, as it is easier to make and doesn’t heat up the house as much in the summer. I will also try out these coconut flour & almond flour pancakes as pre-race fuel, because they are really delicious and the recipe yields exactly the right amount of batter for just me.

So to recap the important points:

  • The day before a long run, try out a low fiber diet.
  • The morning of a long run, stay away from coffee. Green or black tea may help.
  • Try out the food and drink you plan to eat on race day, during your long training runs.
  • If at all possible, try out the gels and sports drinks that will be offered during the race,  on your long training runs.

Finding the right nutrition for you can be tricky, but it can sure save you a lot of discomfort and trouble on race day.

Happy running!

Tips for New Runners – IT Band and Feet

This post is a part of my series, Tips for New Runners. It is based entirely on my own experiences as a new runner and may be missing a lot of information. This series is intended to help my readers find what works for them by sharing what worked or didn’t work for me.

I am very fortunate that in the short time I’ve been a runner I have yet to experience a serious injury. I firmly believe that following the Galloway method was largely responsible for that, but my own caution and attitude certainly helped. The two problems I have had were some minor foot pain and a minor to moderate issue with my right IT Band. Both were fairly easy to manage.

My feet, but especially my right foot, tend to stiffen up and become painful. They’ve always been this way and I’ve found that wearing good shoes with lots of arch support makes a big difference. When I started running, however, it became a little more pressing of an issue until a friend of mine recommended that I get a Foot Rubz ball. It’s a very firm little ball with nubbins protruding from it that you put it on the floor & roll back and forth under your foot. If you haven’t used it, or if you’ve tried a squishier version, you’d be surprised at just how effective it is. I usually wait a while after my long runs for the swelling in my feet to go down, and then I set it down and use it to work the stiffness out of my feet. My right foot usually pops several times, accompanied by a sensation of extreme relief. I keep my Foot Rubz ball in my purse or bag and use it any time my feet start to stiffen up, usually 5 out of every 7 days. My local running store sells these delightful little items for about $7 and it was worth every penny and then some.

IT Band Issues are no fun. Many, many runners have IT band problems at some point during their training and some get so bad that they have to take a break from training for a while. Not everyone seems to experience IT Band pain in exactly the same way, so if you’re having knee or leg pain and aren’t sure what it is, see your doctor or PT as soon as you can. In my case it was pretty obvious to me, from the way my knee felt like it was being pulled upward, that my IT Band was the trouble.

I did some reading and experimenting, and tried out the foam roller at our running store and bought one lickety-split. From that point forward I rolled my IT Band pretty frequently. At first it hurt like the dickens, but the more I rolled it, the less it hurt. I started to roll knots out of the fronts of my thighs as well, and that also seemed to help quite a bit. One day, I had the weirdest experience. As I lay on my foam roller, the knot just above my knee began to loosen as normal and then just suddenly melted completely. It felt SO weird! Afterward, my leg felt looser and better than it had in ages. I’m really, really glad I started using my foam roller when I did. I am not sure I would have finished my marathon training without it.

After buying my foam roller, I found Youtube to be a great resource for figuring out how to use it. Search for whichever type of rolling or stretching you’re looking for and check out multiple videos on that technique. Not all of the videos for rolling the IT band mention that once you find a knot you should stop rolling and sit on that knot for a while (recommendations vary from 10 to 60 seconds). It can be pretty painful to do that, but that pain is a sign that you really need to release that knot.

The night before the marathon I learned about a possible contributor to my IT Band problems. That night, Jeff Galloway, who was in town to run the Missoula Marathon, held a special motivational talk just for those of us who had taken the Galloway class. A number of runners mentioned IT Band issues and it was actually his wife who spoke up to ask us if we always ran on the same side of the road, which we all agreed was pretty accurate. It turns out that the camber of the road can contribute to IT Band problems and that one solution is to stop always running on the same side of the road. Oddly enough, the next day as I ran the marathon itself, I realized that the course kept us mostly on the side of the road I generally didn’t run on. Afterwards, my IT Band was not nearly as tight as it was after most of my training runs. Now I try to switch sides and vary the surfaces I run on and I haven’t been having much trouble at all.

If you’re having any sort of recurring pain that doesn’t go away, do some research and consider visiting your doctor. While it’s very true that new runners will have little aches and pains as their muscles grow and become stronger, other times the pain indicates a more serious issue. Don’t take too long ignoring it or trying to figure it out on your own before you see a doctor or PT. As I mentioned before, including information about those little pains in your blog posts or journal entries can help you to keep better track of them so that when you do go see the doctor or PT, you can give them the best information about what’s going on, as well as being helpful to yourself and other new runners.

Take good care of yourself and run happy!

Running to Finish vs. a Time Goal, Which is Right for You?

This post is a part of my series, Tips for New Runners. It is based entirely on my own experiences as a new runner and may be missing a lot of information. This series is intended to help my readers find what works for them by sharing what worked or didn’t work for me.

During the Galloway Marathon Training class that I took, we got some very different advice on the “time goal.” Jeff Galloway is adamant that a first time marathoner should run to finish. Our class leaders also adhered to this approach. Several of our expert guest speakers, however, disagreed.

Ultimately you have to decide for yourself whether a time goal is right for you for your first race or any race you run. Some runners and run/walkers find that they gain motivation from the time goal. They are competing against others, or perhaps just against themselves and their own limits. Having a goal keeps them on track in their training and pushes them onward during the race. On the other hand, pushing yourself too much can make you more likely to become injured. So in that regard, it depends on your priority. How important is it to you to make it through your training and finish the race healthy enough to continue running afterwards, vs. how important is it that you run your race in a certain amount of time? Only you can make that determination.

I am not a competitive runner at all. I didn’t even start run/walking until age 37. I’m not fast and I don’t anticipate being fast enough to even win my age group any time soon, if ever. What I do want is to keep run/walking for the rest of my life. So for me, avoiding injury is much more important than any time goal.

In fact, I find that trying to have a time goal causes me stress. Toward the end of our marathon training class a particularly persuasive guest speaker told us how important it was to have a time goal in order to stay motivated during the race. Since I was completely inexperienced at running races, I took her advice to heart and tried to set a time goal for myself based on Jeff Galloway’s Magic Mile prediction formula. Whenever I looked at the difference between my suggested training pace (13:46) and race pace (11:46) it started to freak me out. I couldn’t figure out how I was supposed to run 26.2 miles 2 minutes faster per mile than I was used to. Other runners advised me that races are different and I’d get a boost from the adrenaline and race energy and go faster without even realizing it, but I had my doubts. I actually found myself having bad dreams about it.

As the day of the race approached, much was made about how hot it would be that day, and how we needed to slow down to protect ourselves from the heat. I think that all the concern about the heat saved me from a lot of stress. As I once again let go of the idea of having a time goal, not really knowing what to expect from the heat, I suddenly felt much better about race day. My attitude turned from dread back to excitement.

The morning of the race, my pace group buddies and I chatted about what we wanted and agreed to run a conservative race and focus on having a good time. I am so pleased with that decision. We ended up running  very close to my training pace and the truth is, I had a great race that I will always be able to look back on with pride. It doesn’t matter to me that my finish time is just barely under six hours. What is important to me is that I finished a marathon and I had a great time doing it. It makes me want to run the marathon again next year. If I’d tried to speed it up 2 minutes per mile I probably would have had a very different race, and I suspect that I wouldn’t have come across the finish line as excited and happy as I did. I know myself well enough to know that if I’d hurt myself in the process, it might have discouraged me from running at all after that.

So when you are deciding whether or not to have a time goal, consider what is best for you. Will you be motivated by it? Will it help you get stronger and faster and be a positive force in your training? Or, will it cause you unnecessary stress and take your focus away from finishing and having fun? Your friends, other runners, teachers and experts can tell you what they think, but they can’t see inside your head and know what is best for you. Just do be careful about choosing your time goals at first. Make sure you’re not setting yourself up for disappointment. Be conservative. It’s probably better to set a conservative goal and meet or surpass it. At least, that’s what I think.

Happy Running!

The Sweathouse Half Marathon

The Sweathouse Half Marathon follows a really gorgeous course through the woods and fields outside Victor, MT. It was a hazy day, smoky day thanks to all the forest fire smoke, so the cellphone pictures I took are even a bit worse than they would have otherwise been. I need a decent little camera, I think.  Nevertheless, here is a little peek at the course.

I ran the race with an awesome lady who was in my pace group during the Galloway class and who I run with often on Saturdays. Running with a buddy really makes so much difference, especially when you have someone smart and interesting to chat with. Periodically we were also joined by a gentleman who trained for the Missoula Half with our class, as he was working on finding his best pace. Looking at the posts in our Facebook group this morning there appears to be a strong sentiment that running with a buddy is the way to go. I know a lot of folks like to run solo and find it really relaxing and refreshing to do so. But for many of us, running with a friend helps keep us motivated, entertained and gets us through the rough patches. I am still surprised that I prefer running with others to running on my own. In so many other aspects of my life I’m an introvert and often prefer solitude. The lesson there is, don’t assume you will like or dislike running with others based on your attitude towards the rest of life, at least for me.

Prior to the race I’d been told by a few people that there were only two or three hills of significance, of which one was quite steep but also quite short so I was mentally prepared for that as much as I could be without having run the course before. The steep, short hill is right around mile 10 and was exactly as described. It’s a challenging little hill, but thankfully quite short and very satisfying to conquer.

The course was very, very well marked with orange and green spray painted arrows, and little bits of encouragement as well. I wish I’d taken a few pictures in places where they’d painted things like, “1/2 way! Woo hoo!” or “It’s a short hill! You got this!” but I doubt they would have come out.

My goal for the race was to have fun and run happy, and I think I knocked it out of the park in that regard. I don’t have an official time yet, and I managed to forget to stop my watch until I’d been standing around a little bit at the end, but I believe that my time was very close to 2 hours and 45 minutes. It seems that the 12 minute, 45 second pace is where I am most comfortable at the moment. Interestingly, based on my Magic Miles from earlier in the year, that is exactly what my training pace for a half marathon should be. Given that I’m running to have fun and finish rather than running to compete, it’s not surprising that I am sticking to my training pace. My marathon finishing time was less than two minutes short of the predicted finish at my training pace, so it would seem that Galloway’s predictions are quite accurate for me, once I take into account my total lack of competitiveness and focus on the training pace column.

I did have a short rough patch around mile eleven, but it passed quickly. I think I’ve gotten really used to my Saturday morning routine, which includes a coffee break around that point, after the breakfast run, before I run home. I was also quite a bit hungrier after the race than I usually am after a 13ish mile Saturday morning breakfast run. I am wondering how much of that was mental. A local business, Cowboy Troy’s generously provided free pizza and beer after the race, but sadly wheat and I are not friends so I had to pass. We also received a black cotton event t-shirt and a finishers medal.

My Missoula Marathon 2012 medal on the left and my Sweathouse Half Marathon 2012 medal on the right.

As The Accidental Athlete pointed out recently, it’s not really a collection until you have more than one, so I have now officially begun my race medal collection. I hope to get many, many more.

Nearly all the races coming up in my area for the next several months are 5k races. Even though 5ks don’t spark my interest, I may have to run a few just to keep my head in the game, as they say. And if a good opportunity comes up to travel to a not-too-distant half marathon, I still plan to stay ready to do that without having to train up for it.

The next Missoula Marathon is over 307 days away, but I still plan to be there and be ready to have fun and run happy.  I’ll be back to my Tips for New Runners series in the next day or two, so keep an eye out for that. Happy running!

Tips for New Runners – Toenails

This post is a part of my blog flash series, Tips for New Runners. It is based entirely on my own experiences as a new runner and may be missing a lot of information. This series is intended to help my readers find what works for them by sharing what worked or didn’t work for me.

This will probably the shortest post in the entire Tips for New Runners series, but I actually think it’s an issue worthy of its own post.

If you are going to go on a run that constitutes a long run for you, trim your toenails. I learned this lesson the hard way and I rather wish I hadn’t. As you run, your toes & toenails rub and bash against the insides of your shoes. Also, as I’ve mentioned quite a few times already, your feet may swell, increasing the amount of rubbing and bashing that your toenails are doing.

I don’t tend to notice the pain during my run. It’s always afterwards that I realize my toenails were too long. For several days after a long run with too-long toenails, my toes will be tender and sore. The slightest rub against shoes, socks or slippers can by oddly painful. I dislike wearing open toed shoes, though I suppose they would help considerably on those days when my toes are sore, so that may be a good option for you.

If you’re prone to ingrown toenails, be cautious as you trim them, so as not to cause yourself even worse problems. Otherwise, trim them as short as you reasonably can. Over time, you should find the happy medium that works for you.

I’ll be running in the Sweathouse Half Marathon tomorrow and am really looking forward to it. I don’t have a time goal for the race. My goal is to have fun and run happy. I’m not sure if I’ll have time to blog after the race tomorrow, as I have plans for the late afternoon & evening, so check back for my race report on Sunday.

Happy running!

Tips for New Runners – Dark Shorts

Running shorts and pants can be expensive, but if you find them on sale or at the second hand store they might be a bit easier on the wallet. Breathable, wicking fabric really makes a difference when you’re dealing with runs more than 3 or 4 miles, or warmer/cooler temperatures. There are lined and unlined shorts and pants. There are shorts and pants with compression, and even running skirts with compression shorts underneath. Some have pockets, others do not. My favorite shorts are lined, but not at all tight and I’ve never had any discomfort or chafing from them. Check with the folks at the running store for advice if you need help choosing the right style for you.

One consideration that may not come to mind when you go shopping is how dark colors might be better at times. You may first choose colors that best match your other running gear, and that’s fine. However, one thing that nobody may have mentioned to you yet is that runners, particularly distance runners sometimes have digestive difficulties and obviously, many lady runners menstruate. Because of these two situations, I do recommend dark shorts and pants that won’t advertise any accidents to those who see you run by.

Bust out the pink shorts with the purple sparkles when you’re comfortable that you don’t have anything to worry about, but have dark pairs handy for longer runs or runs during that part of your cycle. And besides, black goes with everything, right? Right.

Happy running!