Friday, September 28, 2012

Give Your Sole and Win Free Race Entries

Raise your hand if you have a bunch of old running shoes stored in some closet in your house. Me too. It's kind of ridiculous. (Also, you can put your hand down now. You look a little silly.) So when I was contacted by the people on behalf of Allstate Life Insurance and  Give Your Sole, I knew this was a great opportunity to do some good with my old shoes. Give Your Sole has partnered with Allstate® Life Insurance to collect moderately used (read: not falling apart) running shoes at a number of races around the country.



I have a few too many of my own pairs of running shoes at home. And, sadly, after I took this picture I realized I have more. To put this in perspective: 18 months ago I had just ONE pair of running shoes. So for all of you runners who have been running for 5, 10 or 20 years -how many more must you all have?

Most runners will replace their shoes every 350 to 400 miles. For a lot of runners, this means burning through a few pairs a year. When runners stop wearing shoes, it is because they don't fit right, they are starting to cause knee pain on long runs or something similar. However, that doesn't mean they can't be put to good use as casual shoes. Give Your Sole is collecting shoes at the Atlanta 13.1 Marathon® and on the days beforehand. Shoes will be donated to the Gateway Center, which helps homeless individuals in the Atlanta area.

Here's where you can donate shoes next weekend:

--13.1 Marathon® packet pick-up at the West Stride store located at 3517 Northside Parkway on Saturday, Sept. 29 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m

-- Town Brookhaven LA Fitness on Friday, Oct. 5 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 6 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

--At the race itself on Sunday, October 7th. Anyone who donates their shoes on race day can take home a free pair of flip flops.

My ready to be washed and donated shoes

Not in Atlanta? No worries. Give Your Sole will be collecting shoes at several different races in the future, so check HERE to see if they are coming to a race near you.

So...not signed up to run the Atlanta 13.1 Marathon® next weekend? Here's your chance for a free last-minute race! Just leave me a comment on my Facebook page HERE letting me know that you want to be entered for free entry. I'll pick two winners at random on Sunday night at midnight EST!

If you're not quite ready for the half marathon, join in on the 5k "Beat the Bear" sponsored by Karhu. The first ten runners who beats the guy dressed up in the giant bear costume (he'll be pretty easy to spot, I can assume) will get a free pair of Karhu shoes.

What do you do with your old running shoes?
Previously? Nothing. I've always wanted to do something with them, but I didn't know how to go about donating them. (Read: too lazy to figure it out)

What charities are most important to you? 
It's hard to pick one - mostly because then you aren't picking thousands more. Ones that I feel most connected include the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, Amnesty International and Habit for Humanity. Also, any commercial where animals look sad. I can't NOT cry when Sarah McLachlan starts to sing in that animal rescue one.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What's Up With Women Only Races?

Last weekend I ran the Nashville Women's Half Marathon. It was a pretty standard race, but it was all women. Okay, not just women. There were a few men involved. Honestly, that was a little weird. There are only two acceptable ways for a man to run a women's race. They are:

1) Wearing a tutu and running alongside their girlfriend/wife as support

2) Clearly running in support of a women's charity

There were a handful of men who were just....running. Alone. In typical running gear. Odd. Obviously I wouldn't go so far as to say that men aren't ALLOWED to run a women's race (pretty sure that's illegal) but wouldn't you feel uncomfortable running a men's race as a woman? Just strange to me. Oh, and random fact: there are a handful of men's races too. My favorite? Keep Your Eye On The Ball - a race to raise awareness about, well....you can probably guess.

Anyway, I did notice a couple of things about a women's race - so here's a cheat sheet.

-Women like bling. Like, a lot. The medals for this race were upwards of a pound. Not kidding at all, and I think we know where the race fees went to.


So. Heavy. Falling. Over.

-There's a lot of pink.  Yeah, big surprise there. Pink at a women's race. On the plus side, there are very few tiaras and boas, so I think it turned out better than I expected.

-You'll feel faster than normal. My overall place for this race was 192/2,900. I think it's safe to say that if it was a race with equal numbers of men and women, you could add a good 1,000 places to my final placing.

Overall place/bib number/name

-It Felt Very Girl Power-Y. And I liked it. I'm not normally super "you go, girl!" about things, but I actually really enjoyed cheering on the women at the finish line and seeing the first racer pass on an out and back and having it be a female! (She won in 1:25!)

Have you ever run a women's only race? Do you want to?
I don't think I would ever go out of my race to run in a women's only race at all, but it is a lot of fun. 

Would you rather have a giant medal or an awesome tech tee?
Honestly, I like the medals after running a race. It's fun to see them all hung up, so I like that aspect. However, this giant one was so unnecessary. It was almost too big to wear, and it's nearly twice the size of my other medals! While we got a tech tee for this race, it was a little...cheap. I would have preferred an awesome hoodie or long sleeve tee instead.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Half Marathon PR and Blogger Meetup!

The last time I blogged about trying to PR at the half marathon distance and come in under 2 hours,  I puked, got a personal worst (2:18), cried and then hid with a bag of jelly beans for 48 hours. So you can understand why this time around I was a little more shy about the whole ordeal. Thankfully, things went much, much better.

I ran the Women's Half Marathon in Nashville, TN this weekend with three wonderful bloggers: Suz, Beth and Jenny. I also got to meet up briefly with Kelsey at the expo. The only downside was that I kind of didn't take many pictures. No, let me rephrase. I took one picture of someone's headband as an inside joke. In poor lighting. Without proper focus. It's a real winner, but I'll spare you all from it. Thankfully, at least one person in our group was thinking ahead and took a photo. I've completely stolen it from Beth, but here's one pre-race shot. By the way, head over to her blog for a much better recap with TWO (count 'em) photos. Rock star.

Suz, me, Beth and Jenny!
So...I drove up to Nashville on Friday, checked into the swanky hotel downtown (four people in a room  = actually affordable) and got chatting with these ladies. I had met Suz before, but Beth and Jenny were new friends and it was great to get to know them OUTSIDE of their blogs. We ate dinner at the completely reasonable hour of 5pm and then spent all evening talking.

Saturday morning was race day, so I did what all smart people do and tried a completely new breakfast. Genius, right? Two slices of toast (gluten-free) with peanut butter and honey and some black coffee worked though, so I'm sticking with it from now on. We got in the corrals with roughly 90 seconds to spare and I ran right behind Jenny for as long as I could....which was about one minute.

I never know if people like to hear the details of the race itself, but here are my thoughts: it was hilly. Really hilly. Luckily, trail running lately has made that less of a problem for me than it normally is, but I still routinely get passed on uphills. The same group of women were all running with me and I would fall behind on every hill and catch up on every downhill. Clearly, I have some more work to do in that area. The temps were pretty great (about 60 at the start and 70 at the finish) and everything was just....great. Really. I enjoyed myself, I got in a groove after about three miles and I felt strong until about mile 11.5. The last 14 minutes or so was tough, but isn't that how a race is supposed to be?

Final numbers: (Hey all you guys who scrolled down to read this first!) 1:55:39 is my chip time. That's a PR by about 6 minutes and admission to the ever-elusive sub-2 half marathon club, and I will take it gladly.  I didn't run the tangents for a perfect 13.1 miles, but I know that I do better having more space anyway, so that's fine. Jenny had a specific target leading up to her next big race, and she killed it! Suz came close to her PR time on this hilly course, and Beth ran side by side with Suz the whole time. I don't mean to brag, but we were kind of all awesome. I couldn't have asked for a better group of women to experience the race with.

The rest of the day was spent doing what all good bloggers do. We showered, ate lunch, went shopping at Trader Joe's for more food to blog about (holy cow dark chocolate covered ginger was incredible), ate frozen yogurt, went to R.E.I. for future race nutrition needs (AKA yet more to blog about) and then had a great dinner in Nashville. All in all? Successful weekend all around.

To those of you who have met bloggers in real life: was it what you expected?
Yes and no. In some ways, I feel like I know certain bloggers so well without ever meeting them! But heading their voices and/or mannerisms that I don't expect can catch me off guard, too.

I've been out of the blogging world for a little bit (nothing exciting, I promise) so fill me in: anything exciting happen in the past 2 weeks?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

26.2 Miles on the Trails - Alone!

Part of my 50k training involves running for 26 miles one day. So, news flash, I've only done that one other time before any it involved a lot of crowd support and a nice medal at the end to encourage me along. To say I was scared to tackle that distance on my own was an understatement.

On Sunday, the conditions were phenomenal. The low most days has been about 70 degrees over the past few months, but on Sunday it was a glorious 50.  I took Saturday off from exercie completely, my legs felt great and I was really inspired. Plus, I bought a new hydration pack and needed an excuse to test it out. So at 7:30 sharp, I was at the trailhead of Almadhy Trail at Carter's Lake and ready to go.

I could not have asked for a better run. Perfect temperatures, incredible scenery and an empty trail meant that I had the time of my life. After five hours, I was around 25.8 miles and thought about calling it quits. But no. I was that girl running a tiny little out and back to ensure that I had run a full 26.2 miles. Really, at that point you need to just run the whole damn thing.

 

Final Time: 26.2 miles in 5 hours, 16 minutes. That evens out to about a 12 minute mile average, which sends my Garmin-watching mind into a tailspin. Then I breathe, remember that trails have elevation gains and water crossings and rough terrain, and get over myself.

I started the run at 7:30 with a super sleepy grin and plenty of nerves:



And then I finished around 1pm with an even bigger grin and a blank stare in my eyes. But the best part was that I felt fine. Sure, I was tired, but I wasn't dehydrated, sore or carrying around any aches or pains.



I want to attribute my quick recovery (I ran 5.5 miles the day after and felt fine the day after that - but rested) to my awesome compression socks and impeccable nuun/candy corn fueling, but I have a feeling it had more to do with a slow, even pace and running on trails instead of road. It's amazing how much better my knees/ankles/feet feel after running on dirt or gravel instead of pavement/asphalt!

So....second marathon (unofficially) on the books. No crowds, no medal and no water stations, but I did have some of the best scenery around and I was completely alone on the trails for the first three and half hours. Without headphones or talking to distract me, I got to really think and clear my head. I absolutely feel prepared now for the StumpJump 50k, and I'm super excited to tackle the Nashville Half Marathon next weekend as well!

What do you think about when you have a long run?
First I think about how daunting the run is, especially if it's a longer run. Then I start thinking about stupid details - what to make for dinner, work, etc. Then I start planning some amazing recovery food, and round it all out with how awesome I am and how cool it will be to PR, etc. 

Do you prefer to run alone or with a partner/group?
On the whole I would rather run alone, but it is nice sometimes to have a buddy. For long runs, I usually enjoy the time to myself to think and reflect rather than talking and using up energy.  

Friday, September 7, 2012

EASY Coconut Chicken Curry

Coconuts are one of my favorite things ever. When I lived in Hawaii as a kid, I would find them on the beach and spend hours peeling them, poking a hole in the top for the juice and then cracking them open to eat the meat. I'll eat dried coconut by the handful, and coconut water to me is magic unicorn juice.

But those things are all sweet. I like sweet, and branching out beyond that is tough for me. A few weeks ago I decided to make a savory coconut curry, and it's my new favorite dish. It's a coconut-spinach-ginger curry, which sounds like it would be complicated. It's not.



A recipe is almost too much, honestly. It's easy.

What You'll Need:
One can of coconut milk
6-8 diced raw chicken breasts
One bag of frozen spinach, defrosted
Two tablespoons of coconut or olive oil
One tablespoon of fresh diced ginger
4-5 cloves of diced garlic
Red pepper flakes, black pepper and honey to taste*

*How much does it piss you off when recipes say "to taste"? Damn it, I don't read recipes for suggestions! I want facts! For this, just add what you want, really. Like it spicy? One teaspoon of red pepper flakes is good. I still like a little hint of sweetness, so I put in a tablespoon of honey to balance it all out.

What You'll Do:
In a large saucepan, sear the chicken and garlic in the oil. Don't worry about cooking it through, just make sure that the chicken is white on the outside. Then, pour in the coconut milk and add in the ginger, spinach, red pepper, black pepper and honey. Stir, if you feel fancy. Let it simmer for 30 minutes and check to ensure that chicken is cooked thoroughly. Serve over rice. This recipe makes about four hearty servings.



Alright, so there's one problem with this dish. It actually contains no curry spices, and therefore isn't a curry. It tastes like a Thai dish, though, and is so rich and hearty and delicious. I love it. And if you're into eating clean, well, it's clean. If you're into Paleo, it's that too. Maybe skip the rice. Heck, it's gluten free, soy free and dairy free too. I'm surprised there's anything left.

Are you a fan of coconut?
So very much. Want to know something that really isn't Paleo? When you have just a little bit of Nutella in the bottom of the jar, add some shredded dried coconut and some chopped almonds. Stir. Devour with spoon and/or fingers. 


Anyone have any good uses for coconut milk?
Sweet recipes, I have aplenty. One great one is to pour a few tablespoons over frozen fruit chunks. So amazing.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

DIY Treadmill Desk

Working from home has its perks. Sure, my social interaction skills are deteriorating rapidly and casual dress Fridays now include those old ratty boxers and that one race shirt with the hole, but I also get to enjoy things like eating lunch at 10:30 because I feel like it and deciding where I want to work. Like on the treadmill.

DIY Treadmill Desk


Between working at my desk all day, using my computer for fun and then sitting on the couch watching television most nights for an hour or two, it's safe to say I sit on my ass a lot. And yep, that's not so great for you. Even though I work out 6 days a week, I hate that I spend easily 75% of my waking hours sitting.

On a whim, I asked Tim if he could build me a treadmill desk. I've seen these massive contraptions to make treadmill desks, but they basically transform it into a full-time desk, and I still want to use my treadmill for running (sans desk) as well. Magic carpenter man took a few measurements and brought me in a prototype by lunchtime. Have I mentioned yet that I love him? I really do.

For the past week I have been using my treadmill desk during the day, and I absolutely love it. I feel like I have less lower back pain, and I actually feel a little more productive as well. However, I'm not busting out 15 miles a day on this thing, you guys. Far from it.



Want to know how fast I walk while working? A whopping ONE mile per hour. That's a 60 minute mile. I don't breathe heavily, I don't sweat and I can talk completely normally. Plus, I'm only on it for a few hours a day - either the morning or the afternoon. I would definitely recommend using a treadmill desk if you can, but don't think of it as a workout, because it's not.



Do you have a sit-all-day type of job? Love it or hate it?
Love the job, not such a fan of sitting all day. For the record, if I was on my feet all day I would complain about that too. I like the 50/50 split best, though.

If you sit all day for work, do you do anything to counteract it?
I try to take breaks and stretch, stand up, etc. when I'm at my desk, but sometimes I forget and get all hunched over on the computer for far too long.
  

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

24 Hours. 1 Treadmill. 131 Miles.

That title? That's totally my plan for the weekend. 131 miles, no biggie.

Oh, no. Wait. That's crazy. Only people much, much stronger than I can take on that challenge. Like this guy:

Gregg= the guy running in black

The mileage count when I ran - 124 miles so far


That's Gregg, a member of my local running club and a pretty incredible person. Over the last few years, he has taken on a number of endurance challenges to raise money for Carter Hope Center,  an addiction/drug treatment facility in the local area. This past weekend, Gregg decided he would try to run 131 miles in 24 hours. On a treadmill. In a seriously hot gym.



Now, I've been to that gym before. I used to workout there about a year ago, and the place it stinking hot. Even with a fan placed right in front of his treadmill, it must have been 70 degrees and some serious humidity. I was complaining for the HOUR I ran. Never mind 24 hours. And you guys, I actually like running on a treadmill. This is how excited I was to get one for my own house about a year ago:



Anyway, while I was being a baby and complaining about a little sweat, Gregg was killing it. He started running on Friday night at 5 pm and continued until the same time on Saturday. Tim and I signed up to run with him for just a short portion of that time - an hour on Saturday afternoon. It was so incredibly inspiring to see him at this stage of the game.

He was clearly in pain, but there was no way he was stopping. His friends and family members had been up all night cheering him on, and countless people stopped by to run, spin or use the elliptical all night, each minute being a dollar that got donated to the Carpet Hope Center. In the end, he was able to raise more than $25,000!

Although I can't imagine running for 24 hours straight, I imagine at some point it gets entirely mental. I hope one day I can tap into that and push through to the next stage, the next level of running.

What's the longest you have even run/hiked/cycled?
My marathon was 4 hours and 37 minutes, so that's the longest so far. I have probably hiked longer, but I'm pretty sure stopping to take pictures and eat snacks makes that less intense. 

Can you imagine every tackling a 24 hour endurance event like this? What would it take?
I think I border on the JUST crazy enough to tackle something like that. I wouldn't just do it for myself - but if it was a way to raise money, I might think about it. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Free Shoes For You, Him and Me

Barefoot running has always intrigued me. Maybe intrigue isn't the right word. I've always been curious, but in a kind of, "did you guys know that they make real shoes?" kind of way. Sure, I would be interested in trying a pair of minimalist shoes just to see what the fuss was about, but I wasn't about to pay $100+ just to relearn how to run.

And then I was contacted by OnlineShoes.com, who offered me the chance to try out a pair of minimalist shoes from Merrell. Oh, they're free? Then, yes. Yes, I'm interested. I tried out the Merrell Bare Access Arc in the very fancy color of Adriatic. Um, that's blue for you people who don't speak Crayola 64.  They have a 0mm heel to toe drop (AKA, no chunky heel) and they weigh less than five ounces. That's really, really noticeable. They are incredibly light to hold in your hand and to wear on your feet.



My first reaction was that they looked a little...not fast. Yeah, I know, I'm far from the epitome of fast and shouldn't be talking. But they have a rounded front that is not at all what I expected, so aesthetically I wasn't impressed. I know it's not supposed to be about how the running shoes LOOK, but there you go.



I was tempted to just toss them on and go for a run, but then I remembered that that's the worst idea ever. I read up on how to transition to barefoot running. I'm not going to pretend to be an expert, but I will say that my first run in them was half a mile, and it took me a while to transition to beyond a full mile. If you are interested in the transition, here are some expert links: Active, Huff Post and Harvard.

Final opinion of the shoe: I would not recommend them unless you are dealing with chronic injuries that you haven't had success treating any other way, or maybe if you want to gain some speed in short distances. Honestly, I can't imagine wearing these for a long run. Even after a long, slow transition, I still get slight pains in the Achilles tendon area after frequent use. But, I look forward to trying them out for an upcoming mile race or maybe even a 5k. Since they force you to run on the ball of your foot, it feels natural to get into that sprinting mentality and pick up the pace.



So, free shoes? I got mine. Want a pair too? Head over to this voting contest - your vote will be your entry into the contest for a free pair of Merrell shoes (up to $110 value).

Now, um....I hate to influence your vote here. No, I'm lying. The point of writing this is to influence your opinion. If you have ever read the very funny Detroit Runner, then you might want to vote for him! There are only four people in this contest (for who best lives the Merrell lifestyle) and I'd love him to win. So, go over there and do your good deed for the day. If it nets you a free pair of shoes, so be it, right?



Have you ever tried barefoot running? Anyone have any tips to share about the transition?
Before this, I had never tried it. Honestly, I'm happy I gave it a try but I'm not sure that it made much of a difference for me, primarily because I didn't have any stride issues, knee pain, etc. to start with.

Do you wear the same shoes for all your runs?
Right now, yes. I always have. I rarely have more than one kind of shoe on the go, and if I do it's two of the same pair. However, I felt faster in these (probably because they are so light) and I think I'll make it a habit of wearing a lighter shoe for these short races - although not necessarily a minimalist shoe.

I received a pair of Merrell running shoes for free courtesy of Onlineshoes.com, but the review is my own. Got that, FTC? Good.