Warning: Posts in Blogosphere May Be Rosier than Reality

MirrosI love blogging and even more, I love reading other running blogs. There’s something about reading someone’s first hand account of training, of racing or even of life as a runner that makes the running community feel even more tight knit. Increasingly, however, I find that reading other blogs causes me to compare myself to other runners and not always in a positive manner. For example, with so many people in my speed-clique running Chicago this year (which is the same weekend as Albany), I’ve found myself anxiously comparing workouts and progress. When I have a bad workout or rough run, it’s not many steps to a total running meltdown. Granted, this can happen on in-person teams too (I see it as a coach all the time), but sometimes I suspect the digital component heightens anxiety and comparison because we just have to believe what people are writing.

I went on a big unfollow streak this week after reading one too many disingenuous and borderline dangerous blog entries from a fairly big name blogger. I never should have followed that blog as long as I did; she complains about extreme exhaustion but keeps hammering 10 miles a day, runs through stress fractures and serious injuries and generally sets a horrible example of what it’s like to be a runner. After unfollowing her blog, I started to go through my Reader and remove other blogs that didn’t feel like brothers or sisters of the road. If you truly love running every single day and always have perfect workouts, my assumption is that you are either lying about them or you aren’t actually doing them. Everyone blows workouts once in a while. Everyone has days where they just really don’t want to fucking run.

Laurel has written about this before, as have others. It’s not that most little bloggers like ourselves try to be cheery all the time, it’s just not as fun to write about bad runs or races and no one wants to be the Debbie Downer of the Interwebs. The reality is, however, that running is hard and sometimes not that fun. We still get out there and do it every day, but we’re not exactly skipping down the sidewalk. As I go forward with this blog, one of my goals is to find the balance between inspiration, motivation and reality.

In the spirit of honesty for anyone else who finds themselves playing the comparison game, last week SUCKED for me. My mid-week workout was slow and I felt like I was dragging concrete pins and on my Sunday long run, I only did one section of tempo running when I was scheduled to do two. At 7 weeks out, it was disheartening and terrifying and I cried to Will more than once that I didn’t know if I wanted to step on the start line in October.

Am I alone in this? Anyone else find their perspectives swayed by what they read on blogs?


Good Eats: Allergy Friendly French Toast and Praline French Toast

I don’t talk about my food allergies often, because allergies are boring and people who constantly dwell on their food allergies are obnoxious. Is it a pain to have to check ingredients and carry an epi-pen? Sure. But there are many other medical conditions that are far more challenging to live with. Also my gluten-free friends, a crouton on your salad will not give you an anaphylactic reaction. It just won’t. It’s science.

Anyway, among my allergies is milk which is the world’s easiest allergy to deal with. In my hunt for delicious breakfast and brunch foods, I started looking for ways to have French Toast without a day long stomach ache and stumbled upon Silk French Toast. My non-dairy milk of choice is Blue Diamond Unsweetened Almond Coconut Milk but I found myself with a half gallon of regular Silk Vanilla so I gave the French Toast a try.

Simple ingredients: faux milk, stale bread and some cinnamon.

Simple ingredients: faux milk, stale bread and some cinnamon.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that it tasted exactly like “regular” french toast and I had no complaints from my dairy loving housemates.

Other Substitutions:

If you can’t do gluten, sub in your favorite GF bread (Udi’s seems to work the best).

If you can’t do eggs, Food Allergy Mama has a recipe that uses honey instead. (Also tons of allergy free recipes).

Assembly line

Assembly line

Caution: Makes WAY more than 6 pieces.

Caution: Makes WAY more than 6 pieces.

Now that I’ve mastered the basic recipe, my next experiment is to make different varieties of delicious. On my list to try are:

  • Bahamas French Toast: Almond Coconut Milk and Lime Zest
  • Harvest French Toast: Vanilla Soy Milk and Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • Chocolate Almond: Chocolate Soy Milk with Almond Extract

I have another brunch classic that I love to make for entertaining, also in the French Toast Family: Overnight Praline French Toast. Any milk replacement will work in place of the 2% milk but I’ve had my best results with Soy.

What’s your breakfast carb of choice? Anyone know how to make stuffed French Toast without making a huge mess?! If you have food allergies, how do you manage your substitutions?


Week in Review 8.18.14 to 8.24.14

This was just one of those weeks where I did not feel like a runner. In fact, I felt a lot more like this baby horse trying to stand up every time I tried to walk.

Monday: 9.35 mile run. Tried to do my workout and it just wasn’t going to happen.

Tuesday: 8 mile run plus lifted arms.

Wednesday AM: 1.5 miles with the Girls for the Relay.

Wednesday PM: 7.4 miles with some shakeout strides.

Thursday: 9.55 miles with 7 by 5 minutes at T pace. Still felt clunky and awkward. Lifted legs afterward.

Friday: 8 mile recovery run out in Underhill.

Saturday: 4.5 mile easy run just to move, out of miles for the week!

Sunday: 17 mile long run in the heat with 20 minutes at T pace. Felt horrible from the start so just glad to get through it.

Total Miles: 65.3

Arm Lift, Leg Lift

Plank Set every night.

I’m hoping that this funky week passes and my legs feel better through this week. I’m hoping for a Wednesday workout which gives me plenty of time to recover before my race on Sunday even in the midst of an 80 mile week.

How was your week of training? Anyone else have the mid-cycle blues?


Prorating Miles and Training Load

I’ve had two questions in the last week about how I structure my training cycles, one very nice from Ryan and one not so nice. I can guarantee that this blog makes me feel the opposite of impressive. Exposed and vulnerable maybe, but not impressive.

Yep, just boosting my self esteem.

Yep, just boosting my self esteem.

What does it mean to “prorate” an off day and why do I do it? The short answer is that I prorate to make sure that my daily volume is accurate for whatever week I’m in. From a physiological perspective, our legs don’t know that it’s Monday, Tuesday or Thursday. They respond to a cumulative load over a period of time. I run on a 4 week microcycle with 3 weeks at volume (75 to 80 miles a week right now) with 1 adaptation week (85% of volume, so 66.6 miles). I also take two full off days a month, giving me 28 to 29 days of training a month depending on the month.

For volume weeks, I take 80 miles, subtract my long run distance for the week (say 18) and divide the remainder by 6, which leaves me a daily volume of 10.3 miles. I do the same for adaptation weeks, but start with 66 miles instead, which reduces my daily volume to 8. When I have an off day, I just record the day as equal to the mileage I would have run that day. If I miss an unscheduled day (like I did after the Great Desert Adventure of 2014), it goes in as a zero.

Could I leave planned rest days as zeroes? Sure. I used to do that but found that it was harder to look at cumulative work when I had to always go back and figure out if that week was one with a rest day or if I had messed up my mileage. For example, if I drop out my prorated days from the last month, my miles would have been 68.6, 79, 51.8, 78.8. It’s easier for me (and my coach) to watch patterns when it’s 78.1, 79, 59.4, 78.8 (Volume, Volume, Adaptation, Volume).

How do you plan out your rest days? What kind of a mileage cycle are you on?

Recently Read: Mistakes, Proper Arm Form, Faking Confidence and Do I Need a Coach?

This cracked me up this week. I hope this isn't my purpose on the planet.

This cracked me up. I hope this isn’t my purpose on the planet.

In the perennial debate of how should we run, another study concludes that the “best” form is basically whatever you do naturally. This conclusion is one we’re seeing more and more as running becomes extremely mainstream and “form coaches” attempt to make money off the shufflers, the T-rexers and the paddlers. Yes, some form quirks are highly inefficient but we should all aim for small adjustments, not total overhauls.

Pacing matters. We’re all guilty of getting overexcited at the start of a race or chasing someone down a sidewalk on a recovery day. Appropriate pace and correct perception of pace, however, is critical to top performance. One of my big foci this training cycle is to be more attuned to effort; I’m doing this by using my GPS, my own RPE and a heart rate monitor to compare what I feel to what my body is reporting that I feel.

This TED talk really deserves it’s own post but I don’t know enough about the psychology of body language and don’t have time right now to delve into it. That being said, it’s just a beautiful clip with actionable suggestions to help you on the starting line, in the board room or basically anywhere where you need confidence but are likely to lack it. It’s something we’ll be working on as a team this fall and I’m so looking forward to seeing the results.

Finally, although there should be an enormous caveat to vet anyone claiming to be a coach, this article is a good example of how coaching can help athletes of all levels. With the proliferation of free online plans, I’ve also observed a proliferation of injuries from plans that don’t (and couldn’t) accommodate individual needs. Can you complete events without a coach? Absolutely and many do (I did for years). Can you maximize your potential without a coach? I’m not so sure about that.

Product Review: Nuun Active Hydration

I finally did it. After listening to everyone rant and rave about how Nuun changed their lives and made them look younger and run faster, I had to temporarily get on board with the Angry Birds and try it out. Because it comes in many different varieties, I took my time testing it out. I used it on runs. I used it after runs. I even used it after a night where I had one too many craft beers and acquired a serious morning headache.

Most recent trial flavors, Orange and Pink Lemonade

Most recent trial flavors, Orange and Pink Lemonade

The Claims: Nuun is an “electrolyte enhanced drink” that promises to “alleviate cramps, help muscles function, communicate and burn energy efficiently.” Unless I failed biochemistry (which I didn’t), that’s a enhanced interpretation of the role of electrolytes. In general, we think of electrolytes (Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Chloride and Bicarb) as being critical mediators of the electrical function of our cells. Of the above claims, alleviation of cramps and muscle function are the most scientifically supported. Also in general, it’s difficult to deplete these to the point of loss of function without an underlying medical condition. Most of us on normal runs, in normal temperatures are at a very low risk of depleting electrolytes. The environments where electrolyte depletion is likely are long events or events in extreme heat or humidity.

Each Nuun Tablet has 360 mg Sodium, 50 mg Potassium, 25 mg Magnesium and 13 mg Calcium.

So if I’m skeptical, why did I try Nuun? First, because everyone else is and I like to know what’s on the market. Second, because I don’t drink enough water and welcome things that help me increase my intake daily. Third, because it’s summer and I regularly do 90+ minute runs in hot conditions. Because I’m asking a lot of my body over the summer months, it’s worth it to make sure the electrolyte gas tank is topped off before my next big effort.

What I Found: I tried four flavors of Nuun Active Hydration: TriBerry, Lemon Lime, Orange and Pink Lemonade. I’m waiting on a tube of Watermelon Nuun to arrive. Once I got used to the flavor (a little chalky, despite being a fluid) and the waiting (you need 2 minutes for the tab to dissolve), I found that I really liked drinking Nuun after my runs. It is more interesting than water and I found it easier to get 20 ounces down than I usually do. As for the flavors…

TriBerry: Blech, my first trial and not for me. Reminded me of medicine as a kid.

Lemon Lime: Okay. Not a strong flavor, a lot like watered down Yellow Gatorade.

Orange: Good, subtle flavor but totally palatable.

Pink Lemonade: My favorite and one I will definitely use again.

In conclusion, although Nuun didn’t make me younger, it does make my post-run routine more exciting and I’m more willing to drink water and generally rehydrate myself. It doesn’t have sufficient carbohydrates for use alone during a marathon, but could be combined with gels or other food items.

Have you tried Nuun? What’s your favorite flavor?

Week in Review 8.11.14 to 8.17.14

Late getting this out because we were up at Derby House this weekend! The team is still there through Wednesday but I had to leave paradise to come back to start my second year. Sigh. The next two weeks is Orthopedics, however, so I’m at least inherently interested in the topic.

I had another solid week of training and feel like I clicked up another level in fitness. This coming week is an adaptation week even though I’ve only had two weeks of “up” mileage because I need to make sure my “final” taper is perfect. Ah! It’s amazing to be talking about taper already…

Monday: 9.6 miles easy

Tuesday: Shake It Out Fartlek for a total of 10.1 miles.

Wednesday: Scheduled off day, prorated 9.5 miles.

Thursday: 10.8 mile recovery run.

Friday: 20.4 mile long run.

Saturday: 7.5 mile hill work with the team. 8 reps at varying paces, two of which were soul crushing to try to beat the boys.

Sunday AM: 7.2 mile easy run with the girls.

Sunday PM: 3 mile run.

Total Miles: 78 miles

My biggest anxiety for this week is remembering how to balance school, running, coaching and family. An adaptation week will help, as will my team being gone (sob) until Friday.