Wednesday, October 31, 2012

When Should I Quit Blogging?

When I first started blogging (about 18 months ago) I figured it would be a fun way to pass the time and learn a little more about running. I had just moved to America, I wasn't working and, truth be told, I was bored. I can't express just how grateful I was to find this incredible community and meet (virtually and in person) some fantastic people.

So when does it end? I'm sure you've noticed that I have been blogging a lot less lately. And if you haven't, PAY MORE ATTENTION TO MEEEEEE! In all seriousness, it just hasn't been something I have the desire to do lately. I still read most of my favorite bloggers, comment on far less that I'm happy about, and write periodically. So why is the passion gone?

It's not because nothing is going on in my life. I had an excellent 20 mile run a couple of weeks ago, just ran a 50k race and am ready for a serious PR at Chicakamauga Battlefield Marathon in less than 2 weeks.

Conversely, it's not because I'm TOO busy. Sure, I have busy days, but I don't have kids and I work from home. I sleep 8+ hours every night and watch way too much TV to pull the "I'm busy excuse".

So, then, what it is?

I write. A lot. Pages and pages and pages every single day. Although I love writing and feel lucky to have the opportunity to do this for a living, blogging is basically the last thing I want to do at the end of the day.

So I'm facing this dilemma - when do people QUIT blogging? If you've built up a blog over a period of time, what happens to it? I'm not entirely sure if I should keep blogging, and just write up a post or so a week if I feel so inclined, or if I should quite while I'm ahead.

For the record, I'm not writing this for a barrage of comments saying variations of "OMG! Love this blog, keep writing!" Genuinely, I'm not. In fact, if I see that kind of comment from you, I'll do two things: 1) Assume that you didn't read the whole damn post, and 2) Ignore it. This isn't that kind of post. If you really want to give me compliments, let me direct you to my recent posts about a 50k run and a 5k PR. Compliments welcome there. Let's keep it to actual conversation here.

So, I guess if you want the synopsis of this post, here we go: is it better for a blog to fizzle out slowly or just quit out of the blue? What are some reasons that you might consider quitting your blog? Having children, accepting a high-profile career, getting too busy to actively participate in the blog community?

Friday, October 26, 2012

My New 5k PR!

Saturday was spontaneous race day. Truly, those are the best races. Little to no preparation, no freaking out beforehand and if the weather sucks - hey, I just don't go! Plus, this 5k was less than 15 minutes from home at the Chatsworth Black Bear Festival. There was a one mile option (I think it was a fun run) and a timed 5k. I haven't actually run a 5k distance race since....May of 2011. My PR from that race was 27:10, but I knew that my running had improved quite a bit since then.

The other awesome thing about this race? It started at 1:30 in the afternoon. Hallelujah. When was the last time you woke up on a Saturday for a race without an alarm? Fantastic. Unfortunately, that also meant it was a little warm and the sun was out in full force, but I don't think it ever got above 65 degrees so not much to complain about there.

Tim ran this one with me, which was really great. He hasn't been running much lately, but the opportunity to run a small town race where almost everyone is guaranteed a medal is simply too good of an opportunity to pass up. (Spoiler alert: we both got trophies. Boo-ya.)

This might have been the one that was "not blog approved"

Oh, right. Here's the good one.
 So....the race. I warmed up for about 2 miles with easy jogging and threw a few strides in there because I'm pretty sure I read that once in Runner's World. Clearly it must be important. The race itself was gun-timed (as opposed to having a chip) so I started up pretty close to the front - the row behind the speedy high school cross country boys. There was a high-school aged girl in front of me with a dog, and I immediately tried to classify her.

Was she a girl with a dog going out for a fun jog? Or was she a Kara-esque runner with Peanut, a dog who could outrun me any day of the week? Thankfully, she was the former. Whew. I immediately fell into pace behind the first-place woman, and just tried my hardest not to let her get too far ahead of me. Unfortunately, I let the gap grow, so she finished about 30 seconds ahead of me. But...that means I was second overall woman!

Cue disbelief. I know you're all thinking it. I'm proud of how I've gotten faster over the last couple of years, but I'm no second place finisher, right? SMALL TOWN RACES. It's amazing. For $20, I got a really nice long-sleeved shirt and a freaking trophy. And a PR. All in all? Not a bad day.

Final time: 24:30
Splits---Mile 1: 7:33, Mile 2: 7:58, Mile 3:7:55 Final 0.1 Mile: 1:04 (Garmin ran a little long)

Overall, I'm really happy with this race. I know that having someone faster in front of me to chase really helped - she came in about 30 seconds ahead of me, but I know I pushed myself more because of her. I plugged my recent half-marathon PR into a few calculators to see what my estimated time should be, and it said around 25 minutes - so I count it as a success to be faster than the prediction!

Do you always register in advance for races, or do you just show up the day of for smaller events?
I like to always register in advance, but I really hate paying for a race and then backing out of it for whatever reason. So for smaller races, I'm happier to just show up on the day and pay right there. 

Have you ever used race time predictors? (Like this ONE?) Have they been accurate for you?
They have been a pretty accurate guide for me, but obviously they don't take everything into account. I'm especially curious because when I enter some times (like my recent half marathon time) it says I could run a 4:03 marathon - and that would be freaking amazing.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Should We Sue Chobani?

I love me some Greek Yogurt. If this is news to you, you probably haven't been reading all that long. And after trying Chobani for the first time, I was sold. I don't eat Chobani because it's the healthiest food around (although it's higher in protein than traditional yogurt), but because I like the taste.

Now, full disclaimer here. Chobani has been good to me. They have sent me yogurt to review in the past, and I even went to the Chomobile when it was at a race expo in Atlanta. Lest I am labeled as a "Chobani-ho" (do you guys think that will catch on?), I wanted to share an interesting article that Tim forwarded to me earlier today.

Read it if you're so inclined, but the premise is that an attorney who once focused on bringing down the tobacco industry is now focusing on unhealthy foods. The stock photo at the top of the article was a bowl of potato chips - pretty much standard "junk food", in my opinion. But as I read on, I realized one of the foods most targeted as being "misleading" and full of "hidden sugars" was...Chobani Greek yogurt.

I realized pretty quickly that they weren't specifically talking about the plain yogurts, but instead about my favorites like pineapple and black cherry. Chobani lists "evaporated cane juice" as an ingredient, and this particular attorney believes that that is misleading terminology and should be called, straight-up, SUGAR instead.

Healthy snack or mislabeled junk food?
 So it looks like there are two issues at play here.
1) Is evaporated cane juice the same thing as sugar?
2) Should companies need to follow clearer labeling instructions?

I did a little research and it looks like: evaporated cane juice, since it less processed than refined sugar, has slightly more riboflavin. That's it. Calories, etc. are the same. So there's the first question answered.

As far as companies being misleading by including evaporated cane juice on their labels, I'm not convinced it's a big deal. People who are interested in reading labels and eating more natural foods will probably already know about differences and similarities between evaporated cane juice, brown rice syrup, sugar and high fructose corn syrup. And really, are kids in America getting obese because they're eating too much fruit-flavored Greek yogurt?

Do you prefer/avoid foods that contain certain types of sweeteners? Or are you on the sugar-free bandwagon?
I typically try to avoid high-fructose corn syrup. And I admit I get swayed into thinking foods are "better" or "natural" when the ingredients say evaporated cane juice or brown rice syrup instead of SUGAR, which is probably a mistake on my part.

Do you think that lawsuits against certain foods, labeling practices and the like are ever justified?
I'm torn on this one. I think a lot of good can come from holding companies accountable for what they are selling and how they are marketing it. BUT...I'm not entirely convinced that some sweetened, high-protein, low-fat yogurt is the problem here.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Reversing the Taper

I'm sure most people reading this blog are familiar with the idea of a taper before a race. If not, it's essentially a reduction in workout/running mileage before a big race. In the week before my 50k, it looked like this:

Monday: REST
Tuesday: 3 mile run
Wednesday: REST
Thursday: 4 mile run (moderate pace)
Friday: REST
Saturday: 50k race
Sunday: 45 minute EASY walk

I know there are conflicting thoughts on this kind of taper, and I think that everyone is different, but I wanted to share my opinion. I was worried I would feel stiff, but in actuality my legs felt very fresh, especially after a few miles of running. Of course I got antsy and was eager to be running prior to the race, but I think I would have had race anxiety no matter what. Overall? Success, for me. I'll probably stick to a really conservative mileage week like this before marathon distances (or longer) in the future.

But what about AFTER the race? Usually I take a day or two off from running and then ease into it, but in this case it is really important to me that I recover fully and don't let myself run more than I should. So I decided to go for the "reverse taper", which is essentially your taper week in reverse. (It's a clever name, isn't it?) So here's how the past week went post-50k:

Couch time and cat cuddles are vital to recovery!

Monday: 30 minute easy spin (no resistance)
Tuesday: 4 miles of flat, easy running
Wednesday: 1 hour of spin
Thursday: 4 miles easy running
Friday: REST
Saturday: 1 hour, 15 minutes spin
Sunday: 10 mile run

My body is pretty much happy with this plan. So far I feel like I came out without injuries or pain (knock on wood) and next week I should feel well enough to tackle a 20 miler as the final long run to preparation for my marathon on November 10th.

I'm curious to hear about how other people recover from longer races. Do you have a set plan that you stick to - i.e. no running for 5 days - or do you just listen to your body and take it day by day?
 In theory I would just "listen to my body," but I know that I have a habit of enjoying a run and going maybe a little longer or harder than I should. I think mentally I'm so amped after a great race that I just want to keep going!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

So What's Next?

Over the past couple of months a lot of my time and effort has gone into training for the StumpJump 50k race. Now that it's over, I feel a

I get like that a lot after a big event. Birthdays, Christmas, races, etc. I wish it wasn't true, but I feel a big letdown that all the excitement is over.  The same rule applies to Sunday nights. How ridiculous is it that I get grumpy and pick fights on a Sunday night? (Especially since I work from home. Seriously.) But it's because I dread the weekend ending and Monday morning beginning.

"The weekend is over already?"

I have figured out that aside from getting over myself and appreciating the great times AND the regular, average, everyday times, I need to plan ahead. I always like to have something on the horizon to plan for and look forward to, even if it's a year away.  So here are some things I'm excited about in the future....

Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon: Yeah, all my whining and I have a huge freaking race to look forward to on November 10th. I ran this last year as my first (and only) marathon, and I loved it. It's like a trail race with faster times - it's mostly paved, but the course is empty, there are few spectators and you get to enjoy nature as you go. I'm hoping to beat my PR (4:37) and I have good feelings about it...

Silver Bell Sprint 5k: I wanted to run this last year and ended up being injured, but it is supposed to be a really fun small-town event once the Christmas lights and decor go up in the downtown area. Plus, I have only raced ONE road 5k....ever. (I think?) And that was about 17 months ago. So I feel confident that I can snag another PR barring some crazy injury.

Christmas Holidays: Although we weren't expecting it, Tim and I have some plans to see family at Christmas. Last year was really special for us because it was our first Christmas together in our house in America, but I'll admit it was a little lonely. I'm used to bigger, family-oriented celebrations. So I'm excited to share the holidays with some loved ones this year :)

Christmas at home last year

 The Vacation Maybe Sometime: This one is in the works. But a girl can dream, right? Believe it or not, Tim and I have never taken an overnight holiday ALONE - with the exception of one night in a hotel after our wedding. We have so many wonderful friends and family to see it's hard to justify spending the money on a trip JUST for us. It's something I'm eager to do, so for now I'm researching completely plausible trips like private villas in Bora Bora and month-long hiking adventures in Central America. Don't squash my dreams, please.

Does anyone else feel a "letdown" after big events? How do you deal with it?
I like to think I'm getting better about it, but maybe I'm not. Honestly, sometimes I can be in tears the day after something special because I'm so genuinely distraught that it's over! Maybe that makes me a big baby. Who knows?

What's the next big thing you have to look forward to?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

StumpJump 50k Race Report!

Although I think I may be legally obligated to say that my wedding day was the best day of my life (don't worry baby, it was!), I think I can safely say that yesterday was the second best day ever. I raced the StumpJump 50k in Signal Mountain, Chattanooga.

Honestly, I had an amazing time. Was it hard? Of course. Did I get hurt? Sure. But it was still the most fun I've had with my clothes on. So how do you go about recapping something so enormous? Here's my attempt at summarizing the 50k (31.1 miles), which took 7 hours, 29 minutes and 16 seconds. (And I thought recapping a four and a half hour marathon was tough. )

Pre-Race: The whole past week I was basically "getting ready" for this race. I only did a one-week taper, but it was a grand total of 7.5 miles, (3 miles Tuesday, 4.5 miles Wednesday) so I was eager to start running on Saturday morning. I slept a pretty solid 6 hours on Friday night, had carbo-loaded the day before and had everything packed. And then we started driving.

Freaking out in the rain pre-race.

The rain came slowly, completely eliminating all the work I had done over the past 10 days on How does 10% chance of percipiation turn into "rainy all morning"? You tell me.

SO excited to run in the race. Really.

Race Time: I started out right in the middle of the pack, which immediately split into two groups - there was also an 11 mile run that day. After less than half a mile we were covered from the rain and on the trail. The first 4 miles are basically a nice, wide trail that is completely runnable, with rolling hills but very manageable terrain. We all moved along at a nice, slow pace. I told myself that the rule for the first few hours was just DON'T BREATHE HEAVILY. That's it. Ignore pace, ignore everyone else, and just run nice and easy without ever getting out of breath.

After the aid station at "Mushroom Rock", things got interesting. A steep, technical descent, a swinging bridge, and plenty of water crossings. Around mile 7, there were a bunch of screams and someone yelled, "Yellowjackets!" Everyone around me got stung, but they missed me entirely. (Side note: all I thought when this happened was TRACKER JACKERS!)

At mile 10, I had my only real fall for the day. I was crossing a creek and trying to basically hug a rock to get over the water when I slipped. Someone actually hopped into the water and caught my head so it wouldn't smash into the rock, but I still had some minor scrapes/bumps. It was all fine, but all the aid station workers thought I was bad ass because of the blood. I did not correct them.

Around the 5 hour mark by knee buckled and I actually screamed - it was incredibly painful. Oddly, it only hurt when I stepped up or down onto a rock/step. I took some ibuprofen and it was gone almost right away. Other than that...there wasn't much excitement or drama on the course. I say that as a good thing. I met some fellow runners, chatting through tough spots on the course, but I also spent a lot of time on my own. That, honestly, was the best part. I got lost twice, but both times I was with someone else and we caught the mistake within a minute or two.

Aid Stations: These were great. I've only ever run trail half marathons before, so I don't really need to stop for snacks and I have my own water. This time, I brought along my Camelbak full of snacks and filled it up with nuun. But I still enjoyed snacks at the aid stations and they were kind enough to refill my backpack with water too. Over the 7+ hours I ate jelly beans, gummy bears, lots of peanut m&m's, boiled potatoes with salt, coke (I had no idea it was going to be that delicious, but it was), shot blocks and a KIND bar. I was aiming for around 150-200 calories per hour, but I think I ended up at the lower end of this scale overall. I drank about 120 ounces of water and added 4 nuun tabs overall.  I never hit the proverbial "wall", felt dehydrated or cramped up, so I say SUCCESS!

Camlbak with snacks!

 The Course: I have very few complaints about the actual course. It was very challenging, with 5,000 feet of elevation gain and lots of boulders, a mile long "rock garden," where there was little trail and you just hopped from from boulder to boulder, but that is what made this run so much fun. The scenery was incredible, and there were tons of awesome rock formations along the way.  The rain did leave everything muddy and slippery, and there were some spots that were dangerous as a result. But there's not much race directors can do about that. 


The Finish: The last 1/3 of a mile or so is on road, and as soon as I emerged from the trail Tim was waiting there - and had been for an hour. Love that man, and I love that he was standing there (in the cold!) waiting for me to finish. THANK YOU! I had a surge and was able to sprint to the finish, coming in at 7 hours, 29 minutes and 16 seconds. That put me at 41/90 women, and I'm more than happy with that time.

2 minutes from the finish
Post-Race: Today (Sunday) is so much harder than the actual race itself. Everything aches. EVERYTHING. I walked for about 45 minutes and that was more than enough. Sleep, food and movies are the agenda today and tonight. I'm still waiting for my celebratory wine - I think I may FINALLY be hydrated enough to start properly dehydrating myself.

I really want to thank everyone who sent encouragement, support and congratulations through Facebook, Twitter, text, etc. I really appreciate it so much. It means a lot to me!

What's the one thing that has helped recovery after a long race for you? I'll take all the advice I can get!
I didn't do much yesterday that I maybe should have - I drank, ate and slept. I wish I had taken an ice bath or gone for a walk in the evening, but I was just too exhausted. Hopefully the walk today will help get rid of some stiffness by tomorrow!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

I Saw My Race Flash Before My Eyes

I am a self-proclaimed klutz. When I was younger, I could fall over for no reason at all. Just because my legs would decide to stop working. I no longer wear a watch, because I would bang and eventually break the watch face every single time I walked through a door frame, just due to a complete lack of physical self awareness.

So it should really not come as a surprise that last night while standing in front of the thermostat (not changing it, just....looking?) I did some weird stretch thing with my leg and then fell to the ground. I know I can be a little overly dramatic at times, but I swear - my butt broke. There was little pull and then - there it was.
This photo is like a year old, but it's applicable here. 

You know how people say that when they get in a serious accident their life flashes before their eyes? Well, for me something else flashed before my eyes. The 50k race. I swear to you, that is the first and only thing that crossed my mind.  For the record, today it's sore but not bad at all - I ran 4 miles on it and there's barely any pain at all, so I think it was a little strain from me being generally awkward and it should be fine for Saturday.

In other potentially life-altering news, I feel the need to share will you all just how "out there" I live. The biggest news in town? Some black bears are chilling by the local school so no one can go outside and play during recess. So far authorities keep hitting them with rubber bullets and they keep coming back. Typically, these bears would be shot with sedatives and relocated, but we can't do that here. Why not? Because it's almost bear season, and authorities are afraid that someone will shoot the sedated bear and eat it in the coming weeks.

The local mascot outside the school. (SOURCE)
I really don't know what's worse - the fact that there are bears roughly 50 feet from where I grocery shop, or the fact that people in my town eat bears.

Have you ever been in a bad accident? If so, have you ever had "your life flash before you eyes?"
That's a no for me on both counts. I'm curious about it though. It is something made up for movies as a cliched line or is it true?

What freaks you out more: having black bears around in an urban setting or having neighbors and that shoot and eat said black bears?
Definitely the wild bears. I can deal with a little bit of hillbilly, but wild bears freak me out. Plus, these ones are a mama and two cubs. Protective mama bears do not sound friendly.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

It's Running, Not Heroin

It's taper week at my house. Alternative titles for the phrase "taper week" can include:
-Eat everything you can see week
-Bitch and complain week
-Freak out about running 50k week
-Restless Leg Syndrome Week

I totally understand the point of tapering, especially leading up to a longer race like a 50k. It's good for your muscles, you store up some extra glycogen, you stay hydrated, etc. But damn it, I'm antsy and I just want to get out there and run this already:
What causes anxiety for me? Big races. What relieves anxiety? Running. What can't I do before a big race? (Do you see where I'm going with this?)

I searched online for some variation of "how to taper without being a bitch" and discovered way more responses for methadone than I did for running. Oh. Maybe I should reevaluate my "problems," huh?

It got me thinking, though. Am I addicted to running? Can someone even BE addicted to running?


I could go a day without running, but I don't like it. Two days? Forget about it. 
A few miles used to be enough, but now nothing under 5 miles gives me the same feeling. 
I almost feel relieved after a good run. 
Without running, I get grumpy and irritable.
Tim is clearly my enabler. "Baby, just go for a run already!"
OD'ing is common....and leads to overuse injuries. 
I'm a pusher who wants everyone else to start running too.

I did a little research, and I think it's important to note that while this post might be a little tongue-in-cheek, (I have a runner's "high", better not report me to the cops! Tee-hee!) running addictions are real. Here's an interesting article from the NY Times about exercise addiction.

So, what's your take? Is running a real addiction? If it is, is it bad? Would you consider yourself addicted to running or exercise in general?
If I say no, does that mean I'm in denial? Honestly, I can't imagine not being able to run. Even when injured, I feel the need to do SOMETHING to get sweaty and keep active. Do I think exercise addictions are bad? Yes, they can be. Running 20 miles a day to get a "runner's high" doesn't sound all that healthy in the long run.

Also - help me out. What do you do when tapering?
This week I am scheduled for two different three mile runs and three days of rest. Blargh. I need new non-physical hobbies.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Wine, Dr. Seuss Style

Usually when someone offers you wine, the selection is typically between red and white. Next time you are offered green wine, don't assume it's some weird St. Patrick's Day cocktail or some Dr. Seuss invention. Vinho Verde, or green wine, is a typical drink in Portugal. Unfortunately, it's pretty difficult to find outside of Portugal, Brazil or Macau. I haven't had any in years, but I recently found some at Trader Joe's, of all places.

Believe it or not, this was $4.50. Per bottle. It's seriously amazing. I'm only disappointed that I found it in September, because it is the perfect summer drink. Although the name does literally translate to green wine, it's not really green. The name refers to the age of the wine, meaning it's very young. (AKA - don't hide this in your pantry and think the value will increase. It will most certainly not.) It's really refreshing, a little bit sparkling, very light, has a slightly apply taste and has a lower alcohol content than typical wines - 9% to the standard 14%. Which is great, because it makes drinking the entire bottle a real possibility.  As in, good luck not drinking the whole bottle.

Even though this is definitely a warm weather wine that pairs well with salads and fish, it was kind of chilly here this weekend. And rainy. And blah. I wanted to eat something hearty, warm and substantial to counteract the terrible weather. I ended up making Caldo Verde - green soup.

This Portuguese soup is a classic dish for chilly weather, and it can actually be made into an incredibly healthy meal. To make it authentically, you would add in chorizo sausage (I used chicken and turkey sausage). Here's how I made it:

3-4 sausages
6 cups of chicken broth
4 new potatoes (small), roughly chopped
1 whole sweet potato, roughly chopped
4 cups of shredded kale
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 whole onion, diced
6 cloves of garlic, diced

-Brown the sausages whole in a hot pan with olive oil, searing all sides. Set aside.
-Place chopped onions in a hot pot with more olive oil and cook for five minutes.
-Add garlic to the onion mixture and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes.
-Add all 6 cups of chicken broth, salt, red pepper flakes, black pepper and potatoes and cook for 20 minutes on medium heat, or until potatoes are soft.
-Use a potato masher or an immersion blender to smash potatoes and create a thicker, starchier broth. (Don't make the soup smooth, as the rustic look with pieces is the desired result. )
-Slice the sausages into oval pieces and add to the soup for 5 minutes.
-Add the kale (with stems removed) to the broth and cook for an additional 5 minutes or until kale is soft.

Serve and enjoy! It's best with a slice of bread or a roll to sop up the goodness - Tim and I went through lots of bread (gluten-free for me!) when eating this. It was delicious and the perfect autumn dish.

Have you ever had Portuguese food? What's your favorite dish/drink?
I've never been to Portugal, but I have had some pretty authentic food from Macau (a former Portuguese colony in China). I love the little Portuguese egg custard tarts, but I really hate the salted cod that seems to be typical in Portuguese cuisine. Really not a fan.
(Side note: The middle picture of me in the header with wine and bread is from a Portuguese restaurant! )

Do you shop at Trader Joe's?
I haven't been in years, but I went last week in Nashville and got hooked! I went again this week and managed to find one pretty close to me (an hour, but it's worth it!)