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spring training

27 Mar

I really wish this post was about a great trip I took to Florida to watch my favorite MN Twins during spring training.

Yes, that would be Flat Stanley.

It is not. We were not there. Maybe next year?

Nope, I’m talking about training for a spring race.

If you are keeping score at home, you know that I am currently training for the Lake Minnetonka Half Marathon on May 1st.

When I planned out my races for the year, I really liked the idea of doing a spring half marathon and a fall half marathon.  Apparently I was thinking of how great our weather was last spring. By this time last year, I had already been running and biking outdoors – in shorts! That is so not the case this year. Yesterday on our long run, it was 20 degrees and I was layered up in all sorts of gear and had frozen snot on my face when I finished. It’s a very attractive look.

It is because of our super loooong winter and many other things that I’ve come to a conclusion about training for a spring marathon.

It stinks.

I don’t mean to be all negative nelly on the blog, but I’ve been kind of down about  this round of training. Here’s why I’m not digging it.

  • The aforementioned weather. Because of the cold and most importantly, the ice, I’ve only been able to do 5 of my 19 official training runs and 33 total runs in 2011 outside. I don’t really mind the treadmill for some of the speedwork and the shorter runs, but it’s really getting old. The treadmill is not the same. In fact, I’m finding it much easier than my outdoor runs and that does not bode well as the actual race…is outside. One of the things I love about running is being outside. I find it very stress relieving and I normally feel refreshed afterward. I don’t look forward to running on the treadmill so my overall mental outlook isn’t as good and many times, I feel far from refreshed when I’m done.
  • Sickness. I’m known to get a couple of colds a year and they usually happen during season changes. I was hit by a nasty bug a few weeks back. In fact, most of the state was hit with the same thing. My congestion and cough hung around for two weeks. I missed a few runs and my comeback runs were slow and not that fun. It put a major downer on my attitude and I can’t help buy worry about the affect it had on my overall training.
  • Injury. Now, this doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the time of year, but it’s something that is currently bugging me. I have a new leg pain. I’ll likely devote an entire post to it as it’s gotten to be quite the mystery. In short, I have a weird pain behind my knee that can shoot up my hamstring and down my calf. It doesn’t hurt when I run, but it will hurt later and on numerous occasions it has woken me up during the night to unbearable pain. It’s not awesome. Someday, I would like to know what it’s like to train for an event without having some sort of painful issue. That would be really nice.
  • Lack of improvement. I’m not a speed demon and I never will be. I’m okay with that. However, I’ve been progressively getting faster and becoming a stronger runner over the past 2 years. I don’t feel like that is happening during this training cycle.  In fact, I’m worried that I’m going to be super slow at this half. I’m sure this is due to the factors listed above. Maybe I took to much of a break between my last race and training for this one. Maybe it’s because of the full moon. I know I’m not going to be winning any races and I’m not competitive with other people when it comes to running. However, I am competitive with myself. I want to be getting stronger and improving my speed. So not seeing it happening has me down a bit.

So, would you like to hear the good news?

The good news is that I’m training for this race with Willa which makes it so much more bearable. Our longs runs are the highlight of my week. She got me through 6 miles on the treadmill when I was sicker than a dog (and probably shouldn’t have run) and she got me through 8 miles the next week when I was trying to make my comeback from getting sick. I know I couldn’t have done it without her and her ability to start singing the Rocky theme song at just the right time.

I realize this is not the most positive post, but it’s where I’m at with training. I haven’t set my official goals for this event, but one of the things I want to focus on is actually enjoying the event. I will set a time goal, but I’m going to set some non time goals as well.

I’m curious, do you find training for an event at a particular time of year easier than others? Why?

If you live in the fine state of MN like I do, what are you doing to beat this weather?

I cannot wait for the farmer’s market to open and for my favorite Saturday morning routine to start again!

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The Ride of a Lifetime…

17 Mar

What up folks? It’s me, Meghan.

Did the Ride of a Lifetime on March 6 and it was… well… DOPE! Perfect way to spend a chilly Sunday morning. The ROAL, because I am already sick of typing the whole thing out, is an event put on by Life Time Fitness billed as the world’s largest cycling class. Last year was the first year and apparently they broke a Guinness Book of World Record. Who knew there was such a record?

Pre-ride

It was a two-hour indoor spin class held at the St. Paul River Center with more than 1,000 sexy people in spandex. Okay, okay, the sexy part is debatable but you get the point. It was decked out. Banners everywhere, fruit and coffee aplenty, coat check, and the best part… 1,000 stationary bikes fully equipped with clean towels and a brandy new free water bottle. Suh-weet!

Life Time Fitness CEO, Bahram Akradi led the majority of the “class” along with four of his best spin instructors in the country. Not the annoying instructors who pick the worst music possible… The ones who basically make you angry just listening to them talk… The ones you are stuck with because it is the only class that fits in your schedule. These were four of his top spin instructors in the entire country! Again I say, dope.

On to the ride…

Once you get past your typical “How we feeling? I can’t here you! I said how we feeling?” crap and of course the obligatory “when I say hey, you say ho” hoopla the ROAL was yep, you guessed it, dope. What? A live DJ? Okay I guess that is kinda cool. Oh and now you wanna spin Michael Jackson, Prince and a lil Janet all while the live drummer next to you goes to town on his sick bongo set. Oh okay, I guess that is average. Oh, and what is that? All I have to do is sit here and listen to you tell me what to do for two hours, watch you have a blast on stage and in turn I burn 1,200 calories? And then as if that isn’t enough, you have dozens of volunteers running around with clean towels, fruit, energy gels and they want to refill my water bottle for me? BRING IT ON!

The event cost me $50. That $50 earned me a Life Time Fitness cycling club jersey and all of the aforementioned goodies plus the extra water bottle I snagged on the way out for good measure. Next year it will only cost me $20 because now I own the jersey. Totally worth it.

Look at all those bikers!

If you live in Minnesota you are painfully aware that we still have a bit of winter to endure and these next few weeks are among the toughest to get through because it should just be spring already – for the love of god! Are there any fun random things like this in your neck of the woods? What are you doing to keep your sanity during these indoor training months? Can I come?

Day. Night. Day. Night. Day. Night. Day…

3 Mar

At 5:00 a.m. my alarm sounds and I promptly pounce out of bed. I won’t claim that I am always raring to go but I am generally awake and ready to start my day. My snooze button is definitely neglected. I have always preferred to plan ahead and squeak out every moment of sound, continuous sleep.

I love to sleep. I am really good at sleeping. This is no joke; just ask my husband or my parents. I can practically fall asleep on command. Furthermore, I am a sound sleeper. I just prefer to sleep during very specific hours that allow me to maximize my time during the day. It is rare that I want to just lounge around in bed. I want to be up, doing stuff, getting things done.

I admit that winter mornings are tough.  Actually, that might be the understatement of the year. Really, I never look forward to facing sub-zero temperatures and the pitch-black sky in the morning. The early sun rise and warm summer weather make it infinitely easier to get out of bed. Nonetheless, the alarm will be set and I will get up.

One of the main reasons for my early rise is to workout. I love going to the gym in the morning. It is empty. I can park near the door (this is really important in Minnesota in February). Simply put, I get it done.

I always feel like I have so much more time in my day when I workout in the morning. I can run errands after work. I can meet a friend for coffee. I can make a lovely dinner to share with my husband.

Then, I go to bed at 9:00 p.m.

Here lies the dilemma that I debate with myself constantly. If I workout in the morning, it limits what I can do in the evening because I want to go to bed early in order to be prepared for the next day. Not everyone goes to bed at 9:00 p.m. I get that. You might be thinking, “Well, just sleep less.” I have thought of that too and I deplore the idea. Remember, I love to sleep. I feel best when I sleep 8 hours.

If I workout in the evening, well, it limits what I can do in the evening too. It doesn’t leave me with enough time for errands. It is also really hard to workout and then go home to make a balanced dinner. I am a very grumpy hungry person. The likelihood that I will make it to the gym also drops exponentially. There are always a million things that need to be done that somehow seem to take precedence over my workout. Just like everyone else, I am searching for that 25th hour in the day.

I do not like to flip-flop my schedule. I am really an all or nothing kind of girl. This means that I have to decide on a schedule and stick with it.

To a certain extent, we are hardwired for different schedules. I am not a lark but more of an early rising humming-bird. I can adapt to a later schedule if the overall benefit is greater. Determination and preparation are significant factors as well. If I am determined and prepared to workout in the afternoon, I will workout in the afternoon.

Are you a lark, night owl, or a humming-bird? How do you fit everything into your day and what is most likely to go to the wayside?

race recap: valentine’s day TC 5k

17 Feb

This past Saturday, my niece (who happens to my god-daughter), Kate, ran her first 5k.
And I got to be there.

It was my birthday present to her for her 16th birthday.

I know – I made the poor kid run a 5k for her birthday? What kind of godmother am I?

Well, in my defense, she started it. Back when she came to watch me run the Mankato Marathon, she put out into the universe that she wanted to run a 5K and I took it and ran.

We were suppose to run one back in December, which ended up being the race that wasn’t. Stupid weather.

So we decided to celebrate her sweet 16 by getting our sweat on while running the Valentine’s Day TC 5k.

Kate came down the night before so I could feed her pasta with pesto, salad, and a brownie. The girl must be properly fueled. I made her go to bed early. This is mainly due the fact that I’m out like a light by 9 p.m. on most Friday nights.

On Saturday morning, we were gifted some warm weather. Warm is relative in MN. It was 25 degrees at the race start. Considering that the highs for the preceding week were between 0-5, 25 was a dang heat wave!

The race was a classic 5k around Lake Harriet and organized well by the folks at Twin Cities in Motion. They handed out great gear – long sleeve tech tee’s (with a women’s fit!), socks and a hat. Score. They also had signs you could pin on your back to signify your status – Single, Taken or It’s Complicated. I believe there was a meet and greet after the race if you wanted to connect with someone you met on the course. How fun is that?

Like most of the 5k’s around this lake, the start was pretty congested. We weren’t looking to set speed records so this all worked out fine. Slow and steady.

Kate’s goal? Run the whole thing. I was under strict instructions to not let her stop. I was also trying to keep a steady pace so she didn’t start to fast as her wise Aunt is known to do.

Kate was great! We chatted until she couldn’t talk. Then I just talked. Best part? She had to listen. I took the opportunity to share all sorts of wisdom and life lessons. I only received a few eye-rolls.

We also checked out this wedding party that was running. The bride and groom were leading the crew and they were literally getting married later that evening. How cute are their shirts?

There were a few moments where she wanted to stop, but instead we slowed down a little and just kept on trucking. Then she beat me in the sprint to the finish. The little rascal. She finished well under what she had been training at. According to my Garmin, we finished in 38 minutes. She was thrilled and therefore, so was I.

I cannot tell you how proud I am of her. I wish I had the forethought when I was 16 to be proactive about being in shape. She wants to continue to run, do a couple more 5ks, a 10k or two and maybe some day,  a half marathon. I cannot wait to run more with her.

Oh, did I mention she was going to go to 2 formal dances that evening? How many kids run a 5k and then go to a formal dance?  Seriously. She’s pretty awesome.

Okay, I must stop gushing. It’s just so much fun seeing someone get excited about a sport that I’m passionate about.

Thanks Kate. You inspire me.

Who’s inspiring you lately?

kicking off the 2011 training plan

7 Feb

Today is the start of my official training for the Lake Minnetonka Half Marathon on May 1st. This is the first big event of my 2011 race schedule. Isn’t it crazy to think that 12 weeks from now is May? There is hope that this winter will one day be over!  That is one of the reasons I’m super excited to start training. It means I can start counting down the days until warmer weather. This snow and cold is really getting to me. Anyone else?

So ready to look like this again!

The training program I’m using for the race looks very similar to the plan I used for the Mankato Half Marathon. I followed a tweaked version of Hal Higdon’s intermediate plan. The change I’m making this time is to incorporate specific cross training and strength work. Because I’m doing a duathlon a few weeks after the half, I wanted to make sure I was getting in some bike training as well. I also did not want to ignore strength training. I know that is so helpful to prevent injury and that it will make me a stronger runner. Plus, I’ve been strength training regularly since November and I don’t want to lose the progress I’ve made. I also wanted to incorporate at least one day of yoga. I found yoga so helpful during training this summer. Plus I really enjoy it.  With all of the variety in my plan, it should help prevent burnout.

So, how do I fit everything in and include a rest day?

Here’s what the week will look like:

Monday – Bike (either spin or bike outside) and strength

Tuesday – Speedwork. This alternates between 400’s (starting with 5 and working my way to 10 at the end of training) and tempo runs (ranging from 30-45 minutes). Definitions of

Wednesday – Bike (either spin or bike outside) and strength

Thursday – run (ranging from 3-5 miles as training progresses). Every other week will include hill repeats. On the other week, I’ll run at race pace.

Friday –  yoga or rest day

Saturday – long run. These range from 5-12 miles. however, my first Saturday will be a 5K race to make up for the race that wasn’t.

Sunday – yoga or rest day

The days that include both a bike session and a strength session will be a longer workout, but I’m okay with that. I plan to do 30-45 minutes of strength work followed by a spin class. Hopefully come April, I’ll be able to swap the spin classes for outdoor bike sessions.

So sunny and warm!

Depending on my schedule for the week and how I’m feeling will depict which day I take as a rest day and which day I take yoga.

I am very excited to start training. I’m thrilled that my running buddy, Willa, will be training with me again. It’s so much fun to be able to support each other and to have someone to share the ups and downs of training.

I have not set specific goals for the race yet, but have some strong ideas. I’ll see how the first month or so of training goes before I make them public. :)

What’s going on in your fitness life? Are you training for something? What’s the next thing you’re working towards?

Note: Definitions of 400’s, tempo runs, race pace and long runs can be found here.

miles by feet

18 Jan

The following is a guest post by my awesome running partner, Willa. She’s got toe issues and it’s fascinating.

It was Saturday, October 16th, the day of our final long training run before the Mankato Half Marathon. Excruciating pain forced me to utter words that no runner wants to say, especially one week before your first half marathon, “You go ahead without me; I have to stop.” My toes were throbbing intensely. They felt like they were going to burst, or fall off, or both. I liken the experience to being outside in the extreme cold and then going into a warming house—you know that tight oh-my-toes-are-on fire hurt. I managed to feebly run/walk the remaining 4 miles of our slated 12 mile run and then proceeded to get lost on my way back to Jen’s, tacking on another rough mile to my already lovely run.

This wasn’t my first toe-throbbing experience. In fact, I had been running through numbness and pain for a few months by this point. I knew it was getting worse, but I was baffled as to what was causing the problem and, moreover, how to fix it. It was embarrassing to tell people that my toes hurt.

Somewhat early on, I bought new shoes, thinking that my Mizuno Wave Riders had seen better days. Maybe they weren’t wide enough for my feet. My toes did feel like they were curling under during runs but the toe box was plenty wide and long. Maybe the shoes had just lost their magic. Unfortunately, my symptoms were unchanged even in my new kicks.

Next, I went the high fashion route, sporting compression socks, hoping that it would improve the circulation in my feet. This was also to no avail. It was elevated feet, ice city for me, with no resolution in sight.

Only a few days stood between me and the Mankato Half Marathon that we had been so diligently training for, and I was in a panic. I called Jen and she wisely convinced me to run the race in the Saucony shoes that I had been using and to load-up on ibuprofen. Post race, I was to make an appointment with Wendi at Gear West for a Gait Analysis. You might already know from Jen’s post that I ran a great, steady race, hitting my goal on the nose. Nonetheless, the pain remained.

The holidays have come and gone, and training for our spring half marathon is looming. I presumed that after a few months of light to no running that the pain would have subsided, if not disappeared altogether. Regrettably, the opposite is true. It used to flare-up around 4 or 5 miles, now it is 2 or 3 miles. It was high time that I made my way to Gear West to meet Wendi. Both Jen and Brette had met with Wendi for a Gait Analysis and highly recommend her, calling her the “shoe whisperer.”

My visit with Wendi at Gear West is likely one of the most important experiences in my running career. Within a few minutes of conversation, she confirmed my suspicions that I have Morton’s Neuroma (a thickening of nerve tissue between the toes). All of the causes and symptoms are present:

  • A second toe that is longer than the first
  • Tingling, burning, or numbness
  • Pain
  • A feeling that something is inside the ball of the foot, like a bunched-up sock
  • Heavy calluses on the bottom and side of the foot
  • The start of hammer toes (gross and painful)

My simplified explanation: my second toe is longer than my first toe and I have a relatively high arch. Essentially, when I walk, or run, I push-off of my second and third toes instead of my big toe. My body thinks, “Oh no, there is a drop off there—nothing to push-off of, no more big toe.” This has led to extreme pressure on the nerves between my toes and on the tendon in the arch of my foot. Not good. It has resulted in extreme pain in my toes as well as a twist in my overall body alignment.

After much observation, numerous exercises and jogging up and down a hallway, Wendi got me into the proper inserts and shoes. She instructed me to wear the shoes all of the time and advised that the next few months are going to be uncomfortable. I am basically teaching my body how to walk and run all over again.

I no longer feel like a crazy woman talking about obscure toe pain. Wendi not only knew of the condition, but had been recovering from it too. There are numerous running stores in the Twin Cities area; most of them are well-staffed with avid runners who know the ins-and-outs of running shoe design, but they don’t all come with physical therapy backgrounds. Wendi introduced me to an entirely new and comprehensive way to look at running shoe fit and the importance of inserts.

Most running books and magazines will tell you that running is a convenient sport that does not require a lot of technical gear (I might argue with that point as I think the technical gear makes a tremendous difference and provides huge motivation to hit the pavement). They do all say to invest in a properly fitted pair of shoes. It seems so obvious and fundamental to a healthy and successful running career—buy shoes (and inserts) that are right for your feet and body alignment. Yet, my visit with Wendi has caused me to wonder how many people are running in the wrong shoes, exacerbating problems and perhaps leading to irrevocable conditions?

Now, I am on the road to recovery. Wendi is optimistic that I will be able to resolve my pain without surgery or cortisone injections. Per her explicit instructions, I am going to wear my new shoes as much as possible. She even joked about wearing them to bed. My feet definitely felt different within a few hours of wear. I am an instant believer.

Obviously, I will run in them too. Last night was my first run in my new shoes. I am incredibly happy to report that I ran 3 miles without any pain or numbness in my toes or the balls of my feet. My big toes and arches are a little sore, but in a good way. It is akin to the soreness you might feel after lifting weights for the first time. Now that is a funny thought—my big toe doing dumbbell curls.

If anything, I’ve learned the importance of knowing and listening to my body (and, furthermore, my feet). It also helps to have athletic friends who recommend great resources. Have you had a similar experience? I’d love to hear about it.

*If you are experiencing pain you should visit your doctor. I am not making any recommendations but rather relaying my experience and decisions.


a relaxing sunday massage?

9 Jan

I just got home from a massage.

Doesn’t that sound like a fabulous way to end the weekend?

I love the sound of it, but my massages are very rarely relaxing.  Don’t get my wrong, they are awesome and my massage therapist is the best there is, but the massages are more painful for me than they are soothing.

Let me back up.

I started seeing a massage therapist on a fairly regular basis a few years ago. I believe it started during my training for my first half-marathon. I’ve had massages previously, but pretty sporadically (does anyone else think of Clueless every time they use this word?). Occasionally I would receive one as a gift or treat myself after a big event. Once I started training for the half, I decided to see someone who specialized in dealing with athletes. I friend highly recommended someone who was trained in myofascial release. Mysofascial release is where they press on the problem areas and work them out with some pretty intense pressure. That’s when I found Stephanie and she’s been helping me through various races and bike tours ever since. When I get done with a massage, I feel like I’ve had a workout and often times I’m sore the next day. There have been two times that I have come very close to crying. Today was one of those days.

I have been experiencing some pain in my upper back and neck area the past few weeks. This is one of my ‘problem’ areas that Stephanie always spends a lot of time on. Today it was the only area she spent time on.  I knew it was bad when I she started saying, “Woah.”  “Good god.” and “What did you do?”. I wish I knew! This area is where I carry any ounce of stress I have, but I don’t feel like I’ve been particularly stressed lately. Maybe I slept on it wrong? Turned funny? Lifted too heavy of weights (I have been lifting more lately, but let’s be honest – nothing super heavy)?

After an hour of work on the area, I’m in some pretty decent pain. I left with homework. First, I need to ice the area as it is extremely inflamed. That’s going to be tough because the thought of icing when it’s below zero outside is not super exciting. I will do it though! The other big thing she said was that I was clearly dehydrated based on the amount of twitching going on in my muscles. I’m on strict orders to drink water like it’s my job. As you may remember, this is not my strong point. I’m determined to master this whole hydration thing.

So, I’m going back to some of your comments on that post about how to drink more water. My water bottle is coming with me everywhere and I’m vowing to not leave work until I have finished 64 ounces.  Maybe I need a reward for the days I complete this. Any thoughts?

Please don’t mis-understand me on this massage thing. I think they are extremely helpful especially if you put your body through things like running, biking or any other sport on a serious level. I think getting a massage just to relax is also wonderful. I think they should be mandatory actually. :)

Any other tips or tricks that you use to keep hydrated? Anyone else struggle with this when it’s so blasted cold outside?

Do any of you get regular massage? It is relaxing or uncomfortable?

Note: Stephanie is starting at a new massage center next Sunday. Check out Epic Bodyworks. If you are in need of some “work”, I would highly recommend Stephanie.