Saturday, August 20, 2011

Sports Nutrition on the Cheap

For purposes of this discussion, I'm defining "sports nutrition" as food or drink ingested immediately before, while engaging in, or immediately after exercise. I'm no expert, so if it doesn't work for you, try something else.

Also, for purposes of this discussion, I am targeting people like me: the recreational athlete who does all this for personal fitness and fun. If you aspire to elite status or some other greatness, go read Chris Carmichael's blog. That said, here's the skinny.

Pre Workout: Water, water everywhere.

Your body can't work well without water. So drink up. You can't make up for what you didn't drink before a workout during a workout, so your water intake needs to be consistent. There's lots of fancy formulas out there about how much you need to take in based on your body weight, activity level, and all that stuff, but a good rule of thumb is your urine should be pale yellow. Darker? Drink more. Clear? Drink a little less.

Pre Workout: Kiss my Grits.

If you've read Christopher McDougall's Born To Run, he waxes rhapsodic about "pinole," the ancient Native American superfood. Southerners have known about it for a long time. Pinole is a fancy name for grits. Coarse ground nixtamilized corn: yep, that's grits all right. There's something about the nixtamilzation that activates all the good stuff in the corn, so corn meal will be a pale substitute for the real thing. Try them; I like them with a little butter or cheese (like a teaspoon) and some salt (for the sodium you'll need). Yum.

Pre Workout: Monkey Bidness

Also, you'll need potassium before you go. The cheapest and most effective way to do this is to eat a banana. If you can't stomach that, try coconut water; it's a little more expensive (about a buck for a serving) but very high in potassium.

During Workout: Redneck Shot Blocks

Let me first say that you will probably not need to eat during a workout until your workouts begin to exceed an hour. However, if you find that your energy flags or you begin to get irritable about 30 minutes in, it may be a blood sugar issue and a little something-something may help.

You can buy expensive gels, candies, and other stuff that contain a bunch of weird ingredients, and those are fine, but you can get the same effect by taking some cheap jelly candy (gummy bears, those orange slices with the sugar on them, or sour patch kids), lightly dampening them, and rolling them in salt. Let them dry, and you can pop one in your mouth if you are flagging. The salt will help replace the sodium you're losing, and the sugar will help with energy levels.

During Workout: The Army's Solution To Everything

Which is, according to my brother, "Drink More Water." Feeling dizzy? Drink more water. Aching calves? Drink more water. Broken arm? Drink.More.Water.

Not really, but yes, you need to drink if your workout exceeds an hour, and some people (like me) need to drink if the workout exceeds 30 minutes.

Post Workout: Chocolate Milk (Yessssss!!!)

Seriously, even the personal trainers will tell you this is theee recovery drink. Something about the ratio of carbs, protein, and fat, blah blah, but I can tell you, I don't really need an excuse to drink chocolate milk. Yum.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Marissa's Run: The Run That Wasn't

Sweetness and I had planned to do this sweet little 5k trail run last Friday. We'd registered and everything.

Then, my sweetest little stepson said "hey, we're doing that one too!!!" Meaning, of course, the imperial "we," Mommie Dearest.

I am not one to run from an uncomfortable situation. And I have run in her presence before. That said, when given the option, I prefer to avoid unnecessary drama, and it was Date Night, and Date Night is sacred, people. I didn't want anything harshing on my mellow on Date Night.

Additionally, my faith calls me to live at peace with everyone, so far as it depends on me. And in this particular situation, living at peace with Mommie Dearest means I stay away from her.

So instead, Sweetness and I went to the lakefront and ran a 5k all by ourselves. It was great. There was a nice breeze, the lake was beautiful, there was music from the festival. Also, I'd forgotten that way back in my early days, I made a sad attempt at running along one of the piers and got about halfway down one side before throwing in the towel. This time, I ran the entire length up and down, plus two minutes before that and two minutes after. It was a really nice reminder of how far I've come.

Plus, afterward, we had dinner at Whole Foods. I love their salad bar. Sweetness had loaded baked potato pizza, which I will recreate at home in the near future.

Drama avoided. Date Night held sacred. 5k completed. Win. Win. Win.

Review: Go Girl

This one's a life changer, ladies.

Ever get really envious of the men at races while standing in line waiting for a port a potty? Men can get in and out to pee in thirty seconds flat, while we womenfolk must disrobe our lower half, hover over the usually naaaasty seat, wipe, redress, and sanitize our hands. This takes at least three minutes, more for me if I have on compression tights. If you are hit with the urge on the race course, you have to pray that the race organizers strategically placed a port a potty. Men just find a tree.

Enter the Go Girl, which levels the playing field.

This is made of medical grade silicone, and comes in a cool little tube which would fit in a hydration pack or a SPI belt. Open the tube, and a funnel pops out which contours itself to the female anatomy and drains away urine. A shake, pop it in a ziplock for washing later, and you are good to go.

Concerns I had which were addressed when I tried it: no, it doesn't leak. Yes, you can just pull your pants down slightly like men do or, if you are wearing shorts, just push it into place and guide the end of the funnel out of the bottom. No, there isn't much urine left on the inside. No, if you are careful there won't be urine on your hands, but a tiny bottle of hand sanitizer in your spi belt or hydration pack would resolve the issue. Yes, it's discreet enough that the braver women among us could use it behind a tree. And yes, you will get to discover what it feels like to pee like a man.

More seriously, this is a must have -- MUST HAVE -- for the active woman. Any concerns I had about being away from a bathroom for outdoor activities -- camping, backpacking, hiking, fishing, kayaking -- are now gone. I got mine at amazon for a whopping 4.99. Small price to pay for pees of mind.

Sorry, couldn't help myself there. :D

Friday, August 12, 2011

Franklin Cross Country Two Miler: August 11, 2011

This was a fun family two mile course supporting the Franklin High School cross country team. It was an evening run, which I don't prefer, but the weather was relatively mild and the course was pretty.

I didn't have high hopes for this run, as I don't have a lot of training time in the summer, I was in a three day training MTW, and I had a touch of food poisoning the morning of the run, which meant I was slightly dehydrated. Also, the course was freshly mowed, and I couldn't get a handle on my breathing.

Still and all, I finished in 28:47, which is a little over a 14 minute mile, and less than the 30 minutes I anticipated I'd finish in. So go me! All my kids ran this course, and 2 miles is perfect -- not too long, but not too short. And my husband set himself a PR: 13 minutes and some change. Woot!

Next up, a trail 5k this evening with my husband for "date night." My, how my idea of "fun" has changed.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Don't Compare Your Start To Someone Else's Finish

If one is starting from scratch, as I was when I began my fitness pursuits, it can sometimes be discouraging to be reminded of how . . . well, how SLOW one is. I remember reading about people who could run the blistering speed of 10 minutes per mile and thinking . . . man, is that FAST. I mean, when I started "getting fit" I could barely finish 2 miles on the treadmill at an 18 minute/mile speed without thinking I would die, and I recall thinking . . . how am I ever going to get faster? Will I ever get faster?

The thing is, I didn't realize at the time that the people who could run those ten minute miles had, for the most part, been running for a long, long time. Even assuming natural running talent, running any number of consecutive ten minute miles requires cardiovascular endurance training. This does not happen overnight. In fact, for the average recreational runner, it happens very, very slowly.

My 18 minute miles very quickly became 16, then 15, then 14 minute miles. In fact, tonight I did a 2 mile run at a 13.58 minute pace. My next training goal, which I hope to meet by the end of August, is to run a sub-40 minute 5k. That requires a 13.3 minute per mile pace. It's not a pace I could have imagined 18 months ago. It's also not a pace I intend to stay at for very long. I completed a half-marathon a month ago. I couldn't have imagined that 18 months ago either.

All of this is to say, when you are slogging away at what feels like an interminably slow pace, or when your distance goals are in the single digits, remember: don't compare your beginnings to someone else's middle or end.

Monday, June 13, 2011

South Shore Duathlon: June 12, 2011

My time wasn't spectacular, I didn't have any dramatic difficulties or obstacles in finishing, but the best part of all can be summed up right here:


I used to think this was the "year of me." I now realize it's the year of "God in me."

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Wisconsin Marathon: 13.1 miles, 6 gel packets, 2 toenails

This is billed as "the Cheesiest Marathon." It's actually a really beautiful run course along Kenosha's lakeshore, very flat and good for a first timer.

Here's the thing: despite my last two disastrous training runs, I felt fabulous the entire course, and mostly because I stayed on top of my hydration and nutrition and didn't wear those cursed CW-X pants. I finished a little slower than I would have liked, but I'm good with that since my longest training run was only ten miles or so.

I finished ahead of 25 people, and was third from last in my age group.

I found it spectacularly ironic that the only cheese sponsor was from Vermont.

I crossed the finish with my sweet husband.

I think I may have lost two toenails in the process, but meh. They're only evolutionary vestigials anyhow.

What more is there to say? It was a good day for a run.

Next up: the South Shore Duathlon, 2 mile run/10 mile bike/2 mile run, in June.

Next goal: a sub-40 minute 5k.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How Not To Train For A Half Marathon

Okay, so my half marathon is in (gulp) five days. My training walk/runs were going exceptionally well until mile 10.5/11. At which point they promptly fell apart.

But not because I'm "not built for it." No. And not because "I'm not fit." No. Double no. My long training walk/runs fell apart because . . . I violated the cardinal rule of training. Which is, DON'T CHANGE ANYTHING YOU'RE DOING IF IT'S WORKING.

Let me repeat that.


Lemme 'splain. For my long training runs, I would prepare thusly:

1) the night before, hydrate well and not drink alcohol in any form.
2) Wake up, eat well, dress in a singlet and compression tights or capris and my shoes and toe socks, fill my hydration pack and add Nuun or Hammer Endurolytes, fill my gel flask with Clif double espresso and chocolate cherry gel, and warm up walk 5 minutes, run 2/walk 2 for 4 reps, then walk 10 minutes, and rinse/repeat until I reached my destination on paved, well groomed roads.

Well. Apparently if I change ANY ONE of those factors, I promptly fall apart at about mile 10.

First try, I tried to cut out 5 minutes of the walk time between intervals, and I wore my brand spanky new CW-X compression capris that were supposed to be miraculous. Major big fail. IT band tightened at mile 10. Stopped at mile 10.5.

Second try, I tried a different gel brand, didn't eat very well, drank a beer the night before, and wore the CW-X pants again on a not very well groomed trail with nary a water stop. Also, lost one of my two gel flasks along the route. Major, MAJOR big fail. IT band and knee tightened at mile 7. Fell apart at mile 10. Had to stop and be rescued by my husband at mile 10.8.

All this as a public service announcement. Test yer gear and nutrition on short runs first.

Hello, It's Me

I've thought about it for a long, long time . . . (name that tune and artist).

April was the best of times, it was the worst of times. In April I:

1) decided to homeschool one of my kids for the rest of the school year
2) argued a case in front of the state Supreme Court
3) tried and failed twice to run 12 miles
4) got the same kid into a Montessori school for the fall, and
5) watched my husband go through an enormously difficult personal matter.

All in the span of a month. By the end of it I was thoroughly exhausted, more mentally than physically. I learned a lot about endurance, and preparation, and how despite the best of intentions, plans go terribly awry sometimes. And how endurance and preparation, given the right other conditions, can sometimes lead to a positive outcome.

I'll be back to posting more in the next month, simply because I need to. Thanks for being patient.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

It's Not About the Scale

It shouldn't be, anyway, if you intend to be an athlete. Here's why.

1) MUSCLE IS MORE DENSE THAN FAT. Yes, it's true. A pound of lean muscle mass takes up less space than a pound of body fat. This means a couple of things. First, it means that to the extent body mass index is ever an accurate measure of obesity in individuals (which is to say, it isn't at all, as it was designed to measure obesity in populations) it is even less accurate for athletes, because athletes have more muscle and therefore will weigh more than a similarly built sedentary person. Second, it means that if you are beginning an exercise program from a sedentary lifestyle, you will be building muscle, and since muscle is more dense than body fat, any weight reduction from fat loss will likely be offset by the weight gained from muscle mass.

2) WATER AND BONE MASS ARE IMPORTANT PARTS OF THE EQUATION. This has to do with the size of your skeletal frame and your hydration level. Yes, you can lose water weight, and no, it isn't a good idea (with some medical conditions excepted). The better hydrated you are, the better your body can operate. You don't want to be too hydrated -- that can lead to a condition called hyponatremia -- but for purposes of this post, if you hear sloshing in your stomach when you walk, stop drinking. If your pee is darker than lemonade, drink some more. In terms of bone density, denser bones are heavier bones but they are also stronger bones, which means they are less likely to cause you problems with stress fractures. So if you (read:I) happen to be a 5 foot 9 woman with a large bone structure and you are well hydrated and muscular, you will not, I repeat NOT, ever weigh what the BMI says is a "normal" weight for you, barring cancer, anorexia, or some other wasting disease.

3) FITNESS METRICS ARE FAR MORE IMPORTANT THAN WEIGHT AS A MEASURE OF FITNESS. This seems elemental, but I'm always surprised at how many people don't get this. Size and fitness are not necessarily correlated (although they can be). Nor, for that matter, is speed and fitness (although, again, they can be). An example: at my 8k run, I was dead last. My pace was approximately 16 minutes per mile. The woman who finished before me had a pace of about 15 minutes per mile. I would estimate she was about 5'2" and weighed probably 225 pounds. Not thin, and by many people's measure, she'd be considered "fat." But she finished before me. Why? In part because she'd been working on her fitness for longer than I had. She'd walked a marathon at a 15.5 minute mile pace the previous fall. Did she weigh more than I did? Maybe. Was she more fit than I was? Maybe. That day, she was faster than I was. Fitness is a linear progression, not an end point; metrics are just one point on the line. If you are moving longer, faster, more efficiently than the last time you moved, congratulations. You're headed in the right direction. Ignore the scale.

Athletic Running/Walking Wear for Athenas

If I had to hazard a guess, I would say larger women (and by larger I mean women whose BMI would classify them as overweight/obese) who shun exercise do so because it can be so dadgum uncomfortable. I speak from painful personal experience; over a year ago, when I began exercising, I could not walk more than 2 miles at a 20 minute/mile pace on a treadmill, I could not pedal my bike up a 15% grade hill even in my granny gear, and five minutes on the elliptical was my max. More to the point, I had parts that bounced so violently as to cause bruising, I lived in fear of chafing, and at the end of a workout my hair and body were completely soaked with sweat. (And this was in February).

The long and short of the matter is, it really doesn't have to be that way. Good exercise gear goes a long way toward making you comfortable and getting yourself out of your own way. I have some recommendations, based on my own experiences. Here they are, in order of importance.

1) A GOOD SPORTS BRA. I am a 36DDD, so I speak from experience here. This is a must, and it will make an enormous difference in your comfort level. "Good" depends entirely on the sport. For anything at all high impact, such as running or tennis, there's only one word: ENELL. Yes, they are hella expensive, ugly, and hard to put on, but once you do, NOTHING MOVES. Yep, it's true. For lower impact sports like cycling, yoga, racewalking, and such, I love Moving Comfort. I love Moving Comfort so much, I wear them for everyday undergarments. These two companies took me from painful bruising to not thinking about my boobs at all during exercise. If that isn't a ringing endorsement I don't know what is.

2) SHOES THAT FIT YOUR PERSONAL FEET. For the love of all that is holy, please. Do NOT go to a discount shoe store and stick your feet in the cushiest shoes you can find. Do NOT go to your local mall's Lady Foot Locker. Those people know bupkis. Instead, go immediately to your local running store and tell them what you intend to do with your feet (walk a 5k? run a trail marathon? skip to the grocery store three times a week?). If they don't assess your gait, find a store that does. Once they've listened to you and watched you walk or run, they should bring out a number of different shoes and let you try them on and do your thing in each of them. If they don't, find a store that does. Then, pick the shoes that feel the best on your feet out of the ones they've recommended. Buy them; price should not be an issue, as good shoes will make or break you. Once you've found your shoe, buy new ones every few hundred miles.

3) DRY WICKING SOCKS. Do you know how much sweat your feet put out daily? About two tablespoons. If you wear cotton socks, that water will stay near your feet, keeping them cold, damp, and prone to blisters. Do NOT wear cotton socks. Get some socks with dry wicking capability.

4) COMPRESSION CAPRIS OR TIGHTS. Now, I know what you're thinking. "Spandex? On my ass? No thank you." I ask you to reconsider. There is nothing worse than shorts creep. Except for maybe chafing between your thighs. Neither is pleasant, you'd agree. I have yet to have a problem with either since I invested in compression running capris. C9 by Champion (available at Target) are reasonably priced (twenty bucks) and work reasonably well for the novice run/walker. Again, no cotton. Cotton kills. If you live in fear of people seeing your butt jiggle, layer shorts over compression capris or tights if you must. Me? I don't give a rip.

5) TECHNICAL TEE. What's wrong with an old cotton tee? Go walk/run ten miles in one in 70degree weather and then get back to me. They get clammy and heavy and the seams can cause underarm chafing. (Ask me how I know). Technical tees are available for not much money (ten bucks) at Target. They make you so much more comfortable. Consider it an investment in yourself.

6) HYDRATION SYSTEM. This can be as simple as a handheld bottle with a handstrap (2 bucks at WalMart) or as complex as a hydration waistpack (fifty plus bucks), but you will need to replace fluids. As they say in the Army, "hydrate or die."

Really, that's what you need to avoid unnecessary pain and suffering while exercising as an Athena.

Metrics: March 27, 2011

10.2 miles, 15.10 minute/mile. Tired. Tiiiiired. But now that I'm in the double digits, it's all good from here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Metrics: March 13, 2011

8.4 miles, 2:12. 15.40 min/mile.

weight: 199.6. WOOT!!!!

half mary in 8 weeks.

first ride on the new bike. man is that thing fast. and I didn't even clip in yet.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Metrics: March 3, 2011

2 miles, 29 minutes. 14.5 minute/mile.

30 pounds down. WOOT!

resting heart rate: 62

blood pressure: 118/72

recommendation from doctor: "if you want to lose more for looks, fine. if not, don't worry about the scale. your numbers are great. keep doing what you're doing."

bike: 2007 Specialized Dolce Sport, carbon fork and seatpost, Look clipless pedals, Cateye computer with cadence monitor, Specialized shoes. $580. (everything I ever wanted I found on Craigslist).

first duathlon of the season: June 12, 2011. South Shore Duathlon. run 2 mi/bike 10mi/run 2mi. Time goal TBD, but I think it will be 1:30.

My Husband: or, Why I Can Go Farther Than I Think I Can

Last Sunday was a training "run" for my half marathon in May. (Note: I do not anticipate running the entire time, but am training to complete the distance before the time cutoff. I know there are people out there who don't believe this "counts." They can kiss my grits.) I needed to do seven miles. This is the longest I've ever run/walked, and I wasn't sure that I could do it without considerable pain and suffering.

Ah, but I forgot my secret weapon: my dear Sweetness.

My intervals were thusly: 5 minute warm up walk, 90 seconds run/90 seconds walk, 2 minutes run/2 minutes walk. Rinse, repeat, ad nauseum. He was right there with me the whole time, even after mile 6, when I was pulling it out of somewhere I didn't know I had. He told me my form was good, how much I'd improved, how impressed he was with my ability to run through to the end of the interval, navigate the snow and ice piles, hills, whatnot. And when my mp3 player ran out of juice, he cued my walk/run intervals.

I did seven miles in a little less than 2 hours. Ran the last stretch into the driveway. Felt really good at the end.

And couldn't have done it without him.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Steve Cullen Healthy Heart 8k, February 12, 2011

8k is 4.97 miles. It's very funny, they put a 5 mile marker just a few steps past the finish so you can do a "five miler."

This was a great run. It's put on by the Badgerland Striders. While warming up, I met a nice lady from Shorewood who beautifully summed up the atmosphere at a Striders event: "the normal people run here, not the high tech really fast people at the RACC races."

She was right. All kinds of people, not a lot of competition. Mostly just a good excuse to drink beer and eat chili at the end.

Again it was unseasonably warm, about 36 degrees. I wore tights, a singlet and a long sleeve shirt over it, and Injinjis and the Brooks Wondershoes, and wished I hadn't worn the singlet about a mile in. My first and last miles were slow (18 and 19, respectively, the first because I got stuck behind some people and was horsing around with my mp3 player, the last because I was tired and it was uphill), but miles 2-4 were at a nice 13-14 minute/mile pace. Sweetness came back to find me (he finished in less than 50, that speed demon) and finished with me.

I was the last official finisher, but there were three unofficial behind me. Not that it matters. The lady who finished right before me was a walk-runner too, and very nice. I'm sure I'll see her around at other events.

After, Sweetness treated me to coffee and a seven layer bar. OOOoooh, I hadn't had one of those in years. Yum.

And then, I went home and registered for the half marathon in Kenosha in May. Y'know, just to keep myself moving.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

February Is Freeze Yer Buns Off Month

Apparently. It's so cold my nose hairs freeze when I walk outside. Brrrr.

Sweetness tells me that the weather forecast for our 8K on Saturday is 34 and sunny. Dang, I hope so!

Also up for the weekend: Candlelight snowshoeing at Pike Lake State Park, followed by what I am almost certain will be an embarrassment of marginally nutritive food eaten. But hey, I eat all my Weight Watcher points, snowshoeing for 2 hours earns me more than I can usually eat in a day . . AND I lose a pound to a pound and a half per week. So there.

A couple of non-scale victories: new undergarments in a smaller band and cup size, and new running jackets, size large (down from XXL just a few short years ago). My "skinny" jeans are getting loose. Buying "all new" is not my forte, I just don't like dropping a huge bunch of cash all at once, but Sweetness says it's all good, and my trip to the outlet mall with my bestie helped.

Speaking of my bestie, her birthday's tomorrow, and I have to get her present. Peace out.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Milwaukee Multisport Expo 2011: Top Ten

Before snowshoeing, Sweetness and I had total fun at the Multisport Expo. Lots of race event organizers, vendors, and cool stuff to see, do, and buy. The top ten:

(10) The sweet little 6 month old baby at the TriWisconsin booth. Baby toes!

(9) Meeting the folks at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes booth. Am seriously eyeing their Headsweats visor for springtime running. Plus, what a great way to minister to athletes.

(8) The delightful lady plugging the MS 150 ride. We'd do it this year, but we're already booked that weekend. However, next year . . . .

(7) The "irunlikeagirl" tech tee I got for my daughter.

(6) Dirtygirl. Hmmmmm . . . . .

(5) I needed Moving Comfort sport bras in the next size down. The good people at Fleet Feet obliged, at half off, plus pitched in a gel pack for free. Sweet!

(4) The indoor bouncy house to entertain children, which is also used as part of the obstacle course for the Madison Mud Run. Sweetness and I briefly considered playing on it as part of his training for the Mud Run, then thought better of it.

(3) Watching grown men and women cycle to nowhere on trainers for an indoor time trial. Man, I love biking, but I'm not sure I love it that much.

(2) The cool pop up privacy tents the vendors were using as fitting rooms.

and . . .

(1) Watching my Sweetness pump out 20 push ups on a balance board in exchange for a free bag of Sport Beans.

Snowshoeing for Dummies

So let me first tell you how much I love snowshoeing. It is, bar none, my favorite winter sport. (I do not count drinking spiked egg nog and eating Christmas cookies a sport, alas). There are a couple of reasons. First, it is great for your lower body muscles and your core. Second, because of reason one, you seriously torch calories while snowshoeing. Like, I can't eat the number of calories I burn, seriously burn calories. Read that last sentence again. With me now? Good. Third, and finally, it is a stable form of winter sport. By this I mean the things I strap on to my feet are wider than my feet, unlike skiing and skating, and does not require rapid rates of speed going downhill, like snowboarding or skiing.

So first, you need snowshoes. The old wooden and rope snowshoes are no more. Now they make lovely (relatively) lightweight metal shoes with plastic bindings and settings. Basically, you buckle in once you've adjusted your setting and you are off. While these shoes are relatively light, they do add weight (thus the major calorie burn). Also, they will change your gait to a slightly wider one, and the muscles on your inner thighs will feel it.

Second, you really would love trekking poles. You can snowshoe without them, but they do add more of an upper body workout to the snowshoe experience and, if the terrain is uneven, they can help with balance.

Third, gear. Your base body temp, as with any other high intensity workout, will rise, and you will get hot, so dress in synthetic layers that can be "vented" (also known as zippered up and down). Yesterday, I went against conventional wisdom and wore jeans and a cotton turtleneck as my "base layers," then added a lightweight running jacket and a windproof jacket over that. Ten minutes in, I was hot and the outer jacket was unzipped. For footwear, I had on Sorel snow boots and wool hiking socks from Costco. I also had a headband on, and thermal gloves. I was fine. You would also do well to bring along sunglasses to protect your eyes from the winter glare (I didn't).

Finally, hydration and nutrition. I treat snowshoeing the same as any other high intensity workout -- about 30 minutes in I will need simple sugars and need water throughout, so I wore my Camelbak hydration waistpack and tried out my gel flask. I diluted a Clif shot, mocha flavor, with water. It tasted almost (but not quite) like a bottled Starbucks frappuccino. I tolerated it well. I wonder if chocolate, diluted, would taste like YooHoo. Hmmmmm.

Anyhow, besides the many health benefits of snowshoeing, you get to see places other people only see from afar. We shoed along the shoreline of Lake Michigan at Grant Park. It was tough to get a sense of how deep the snow was, and where we were on the terrain, but at places we were trekking past tree tops. We also were very close to the shoreline at one point, and may have been on top of the built up snow and ice formations at the edge of the lake. Cool.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday Five: Back in the Game Edition

(1) After a completely crazy December and January, culminating in a week of no exercise whatsoever, this week has been a relief. I've been kicking back, not working all that much, and getting back in the exercise groove.

(2) Speaking of the exercise groove, Sweetness and I are going snowshoeing this weekend. Two years ago we each got a set of Yukon Charlies with trekking poles at Costco and have gone whenever the accumulation and the kid schedule allows. Last year, it wasn't much, and so far this year it hasn't been either. But on Saturday we're headed out to Grant Park on the south side of Milwaukee -- nice wooded areas along Lake Michigan. Can't wait.

(3) Before the snowshoes, we're going to the Milwaukee Multisport Expo. (Yes, this is what we married people with children call a "date." If you add in Papa Murphy's pizza and a glass of wine, the statistical probabilities for Sweetness become very, very good, if you know what I mean. nudge, nudge). Anyhoo, I'm looking forward to finding all sorts of new gear tidbits to look at and drool over.

(4) Speaking of gear, I'm stoked about using my hydration pack and gel flask at my 8k in 3 weeks. The hydration pack has been indoor tested on the treadmill with excellent results. Yes, I'm sure I look like a complete doofus, and no, I really don't care.

(5) You may ask "Why on earth would you need gel for a five mile run?" And the answer will be this: about 30-40 minutes in to any run, I get cranky. Simple sugars help this problem immensely. And five miles takes me about 80 minutes, give or take a few. I plan to do the gel flask with one packet gel, diluted, and take half 30 minutes in and the other half 60 minutes in. I'm also going to be giving Nuun a try for electrolyte replacement, though my tough guy Army Ranger sergeant brother says Camelbak makes the best electrolyte tabs, and seeing as he's made it through 4 tours in Iraq and 60 days on the ground with just the pack on his back, I trust his judgment and I'll be trying that soon too.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Winged Shoes

Or something. Did 2 miles at a 15:30 pace in the new kicks. No hotspots, no blisters, nada. While I'm sick, even. Amazing.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mama Needs a New Pair of Shoes

This, from the Barefoot Athena.

Fivefinger Bikilas rule. However, they have their limitations. One of these limitations is that they suck up water like a sponge, and in the winter, any snow whatsoever becomes snowjam between my toes and immediately makes my toes cold. A dry cold, no probs. Any precipitation on the ground, we're in frostbite city.

SO, I meandered over to Performance Running Outfitters, where the lovely Ann put me on the treadmill and proceeded to inform me of a few crucial pieces of info. First, my right foot overpronates, meaning that it rolls inward slightly too much. Second, my left foot compensates for the overpronation on the right, and this is probably what causes the blistering and hot spots on my left foot, and a mild stability shoe would correct it. Third, since I have not injured myself with the Bikila, with slow increases in speed and distance, I am likely to avoid injury in another minimalist shoe, whether or not I correct the overpronation on the right foot. Fourth, I have very good forefoot running form. And fifth, my foot requires a curved footbed (where the footbed actually looks like a "c") as opposed to a straight footbed.

This might be a good place for me to say that I will never go to another running store again. The knowledge base at Performance is amazing.

So, I tried on a number of minimalist and forefoot shoes, including Newtons (too bulky), Mizunos (too stiff), and Saucony (too tight in the toe box) before finding the perrrrrfect outdoor running shoe for me, a pair of racing flats (HA!) made by the fine folks at Brooks. They feel like bedroom slippers, but I can put on Yaktrax and my toes won't get wet. AND, they were only 67 bucks.

I'll be taking my lovely nine year old daughter to meet Ann soon, so that we can get her square for running in the springtime. She wants to do her first run this year.

Metrics: January 25, 2011

3 miles, 16.10 minute/mile.

three weeks until my 8k.

15.6 pounds off. that's approximately 62 sticks of butter, give or take a few tablespoons.

my 15 pound goal reward: a gel flask with a clip for attaching to my hydration pack.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday Five: Complete Lack of Exercise Edition

(1) This massive appellate brief business, having taken the lion's share of my attention and time this week, has meant that I have not gotten to the gym at all, and only spent half an hour at a leisurely pace on the treadmill in the basement, which I hate doing for a number of reasons, not the least of which is I have to stare at unwashed laundry and assorted kid and husband clutter to do it.

(2) This complete lack of exercise has translated into a complete lack of energy and patience on my part. I have also noticed the physical symptoms of stress more acutely than usual, like a tight back and shoulders and headaches.

(3) I miss the gym. Mark this day in history. I miss it because I miss having time to myself in a place where noone bothers me, and I can take a shower in peace, with warm towels to dry off with, and I can focus on myself and my needs.

(4) On a positive note, I've been eating well and sticking to my plan and haven't dived head first into a vat of chocolate, even with the massive stress I've been under.

(5) This brief is due on Tuesday, but it's close to being done, and if I can swing it I'll be shipping it out before then, because I need to run, or bike, or elliptical, or row, or something.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday Five: Fatigue Edition

(1) The intervals in the Bingham plan are good; four days a week plus two days a week cross training are not. I feel like I've been run over by a Mack truck. I think I'll ramp back to three days a week of run/walking.

(2) I'll probably do three days of cross training (bike, rowing, and elliptical probably) and see if that helps. If not, I'll drop back to 2 cross training days and have 2 rest days.

(3) Depending on how (1) and (2) go, I may be reassessing my spring schedule. It seemed a little ambitious on paper to do a half by May, and that may prove to be doubly so in reality. Also, a very good friend of mine from church wants to step outside her comfort zone and complete a sprint duathlon in June; she wants me to do it with her and I can't think of a better way to spend a spring day.

(4) The other thing I'm realizing is that I probably need fewer races in the spring/summer/fall to keep me motivated. I've been exercising 3-4 times per week for almost a year now, and I think that's become a permanent habit. I don't think I'll need as much external motivation.

(5) Yes, I've been eating enough and hydrating well.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Metrics: January 9, 2011

5 miles.

80.30 minutes.

16.05 minute/mile.

13.6 pounds gone.

9.7 pounds until my 10% body weight goal.

1.6 pounds per week average loss.

6 weeks until I meet my 10% body weight goal.

$387.50 in the road bike fund.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Three Things Thursday

(1) I've settled on a training plan for the St. Jude Marathon. It's from "Marathoning for Mortals" by John Bingham, affectionately known as The Penguin for his slow pace and penguinlike stride. Since Mr. Bingham has lost 80 pounds, written many books, and was a long time columnist for Runner Magazine, it seems clear that speed or lack thereof is no deterrent to being known for your athletic tendencies.

(2) I'm combining the plan from John Bingham with a bunch of stuff I learned from Danny Dreyer's book ChiRunning. At first, the idea sounds a little woo-woo, but the idea is to basically be a mindful runner, land on the forefoot with a slight forward lean, and focus on form first, then distance, then speed. It seems to be working.

(3) I'm down 5 percent of my body weight. In about 4 weeks, I should be down 10 percent of my starting body weight. I should also be in a size twelve jeans. I think the last time I wore a size 12 was in college. No, I know the last time I wore a size 12 was in college. Also, I can feel my abdominal muscles under my pudge for the first time -- hm, since I was pregnant and I had baby feet pushing against my uterus. Before that? How about never.

(4) Yes, I know it's Three Things Thursday, cut me some slack, I'm chatty today. I'm a big believer in celebrating small successes along the way to a big goal. In the past, I'd celebrate with food. Now, I celebrate by treating myself to something that will encourage me a little closer to my big goal. My treat for my first 5k was a Camelbak Alterra hydration waistpack. I already had a hydration backpack, but it does not fit particularly well over my ample bosom. Sweetness loved his, and so now I have one. There are benefits to having a gear junkie for a husband.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Today, the weather is more genuinely Wisconsin: bitter cold with a biting wind. If 2010 was out like a lamb, 2011 is in like a lion -- a really mad lion.

Speaking of change, I worked really hard on it in 2010 and anticipate more of the same in 2011. It's interesting, though, how change will ripple and spread into places one doesn't expect.

In 2010, I got really tired of being tired. My doctor thought it had a lot to do with weight (too much) and exercise (too little) . I decided I'd work on the exercise piece and the weight thing would fix itself. But it didn't work that way, and it never will, because the same voice that tells you "it's just one muffin" will also add loudly that "you JUST RAN THREE MILES." After eight months of vigorous exercise, I got really REALLY mad that the scale number wasn't going down, and realized I was going to have to (sigh) watch what I eat.

So I joined Weight Watchers. At first, the plan emphasized calorie counting, and just about the time that I was gonna throw in the towel and resign myself to being a slow, chunky fit person, they changed the plan to encourage more whole foods, discourage artificial and processed foods, and basically made fruit and veggies not count for purposes of tracking your food. This made all the difference in my ability to think I could stick to the plan long term, and since I joined I've lost ten pounds and maintained over the holidays. Today I'm back on the bandwagon, and anticipate that I'll be down to my goal weight by summertime.

This brings me to two points. One, given my height (five nine) and my overall build (big boned and muscular), even my goal weight will exceed my husband's weight, and I will never look "willowy" or "lithe" nor will I ever leave the athletic category designed for big women: Athena. While there's something cool about being in the same category as the Greek goddess of war and strategy, I must admit it's discouraging to know that a healthy weight for me would still classify me as "fat" among athletes.

Which brings me to my next point, which is, I don't know if it's the nature of being me or the nature of being human, but it seems that when I decided to change myself, to set boundaries and goals for myself, to do things in my own best interest, I get encouragement from people I don't expect (which is great) but I also catch a lot of flack from people I don't expect (which stinks). As a woman, it's hard to do the right thing for yourself, to set goals and meet them, to run farther and faster than you ever have in your life, and then learn that people (especially other women) are threatened by it, want to sabotage you, or question your motivations, or even your sanity, and then, on top of THAT, to know that even when you meet your goal, you'll still . . . well, weigh more than the average man. To know that you can also probably chick the average man is kind of cold comfort.

I know that names have meaning, and I don't think that there could be a better name for a class of big, strong, and athletic women than Athena. I am honored to be one. I guess I just wish I had Athena's self-assurance too.