Tag Archives: fitness

Half marathon training update

9 Mar

So my half marathon training was going well. Note my use of the past tense.

But it really was going well. Despite a busy work schedule and hectic bedroom renovation drama, I stuck with my training plan. There was only a handful of times that I questioned why I chose Higdon’s intermediate plan instead of the beginner, but I ticked off every long run, even when it got up to two long runs a week.

I was in week 10 of the 12-week program when I could feel the beginnings of a cold coming on. I had a bit of a cough and itchy eyes. Despite having never had a cough from allergies in the past, I convinced myself it was allergies and that my new pack of allergy pills just weren’t working. Despite not feeling 100%, I still went to the gym for my 11-mile long run. And surprisingly, it was one of my best runs yet! The time flew by (relatively), and I took minimal walking breaks. I felt like I glided home afterward, I was on cloud nine. I wasn’t even sore the next day — I went out and ran 5 miles.

And then it hit me that night. Fever, congestion, chills, cough.

cartman cough.gif

I didn’t have allergies. I had the flu.

I can’t remember the last time I got the flu. I always considered myself low risk since I work from home and lead a healthy lifestyle. I never bothered to get a flu shot or jab. But this one hit me hard. Forget running, I couldn’t even work the day I had it worst. (And I can work from my bed, so that’s really saying something)

It’s been over a week now, so I’m definitely feeling better, but I still have this cough. This all-consuming cough that won’t let me go 5 minutes without reminding me that it’s here. I tried cough syrup for dry coughs. I tried cough syrup for chesty coughs. I tried taking both at the same time. I tried googling “what is the best cough syrup?” only to find out that no cough syrups really work and you just have to give a cough time.

zoolander black lung.gif

Except that’s not really something I have now, time. The half marathon is in 8 days. I already took 8 days off from running. I went for an easy run on the treadmill a couple days ago just to see how I would fare. For the most part I was fine, but the cough was still there. This morning Stephen and I did our usual 4-mile route. I forgot to use my inhaler before I left, so I’m not sure how much of my struggle was from my sports-induced asthma or the cough. I survived though, and it wasn’t as rough as I feared it would be.

I’ve googled every combination of “cough running sick” and found a common theme: runners are crazy. I probably didn’t need to tell you that. I found everything from “running while sick is actually good for you” to “if you run while sick, you will die.” The general rule of thumb is that if your symptoms are above the neck — a runny nose, stuffiness, or sneezing — you can still run, but if they’re below the neck, you should rest. I knew I needed rest when I had a fever and aches, but now I feel fine except for this cough. It’s not one of those deep “oh god, there’s so much mucus, I am definitely sick” cough, but rather one or two productive coughs followed by “hey, we heard we were into coughing now, so let’s make a habit of it and do it every 5 minutes even if there isn’t anything to cough up” coughs. Which worries me because I know my coughing is irritating my airways, which in turn is making me cough more, and I don’t want to be stuck in this vicious cycle.

But now I’m not sure what to do. I’m pretty sure jumping back into my training plan and attempting to tackle a 12 miler would not be wise. But should I continue to try easy runs? Sit out from running completely until this cough is gone, knowing that could be weeks, meaning I’d miss the half? Or just rest until the half and attempt the race after not having run for two+ weeks?

I know I should follow the most common advice I read: listen to your body. Take things one day at a time. I think my plan will be to attempt some easy runs next week and continue to monitor how I feel. I would hate to have done all this training and paid the money and not be able to run the half, but I would hate it even more if I hurt myself attempting it because my body wasn’t up to it. Runners are crazy, but I’m not that crazy!

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I caved and joined a gym

23 Jan

I resisted for a while. “Why should I pay to run on a treadmill when running in London’s gorgeous parks is free?” I always thought. But the one thing I didn’t think about when I signed up for a half marathon in March is that my training would take place in January and February, the coldest months of the year. While London’s “cold” is nowhere near Midwest and East Coast America cold, I still didn’t want to do my long runs in 30-degree weather. That, and we are finally starting renovations on the master bedroom next week (something we’ve been talking about for more than 2 years now), and I don’t want to run and shower while the builder is here, and don’t want to run when it’s dark after he leaves.

So I joined a gym.

I chose the gym nearest to me, which also happens to be the cheapest. It’s cheap because it’s no frills — there’s no pool or sauna, there’s not even someone to check you in. When you sign up online they email you a code, and you type that code into a keypad before you enter the glass chamber that permits you entrance to The Gym. That wasn’t a Trumpsque bout of random capitalization syndrome, that’s its actual name — The Gym.

I made my first visit to The Gym yesterday as a bit of a trial run before my 8-mile long run today. I am in week 5 of the Hidgon Half Marathon plan, which means my long run this week needs to be 8 miles. I didn’t want to just hop on a treadmill and bang it out, I wanted to ease myself into treadmill running, so I thought I’d knock off the easy 3-mile run in this week’s plan. I successfully entered The Gym through the almost claustrophobic chamber and immediately hopped on the first treadmill I saw. I didn’t want to be seen wandering with that newbie look in my eyes, I wanted it to seem like I belonged there. I started walking as a warmup and put on my new favorite podcast to run to, My Favorite Murder. It got me through last week’s 7-mile long run, so I figured it would make these 3 miles blow by.

I didn’t want my walking time to affect my distance and pace measurements, so I started a new session when I was ready to run. I figured I’d start at a 10-min mile pace, then slowly increase and bang out these 3 miles in less than 30 minutes. I set the distance to miles and the pace to 6. I started running, allowing Karen and Georgia to regale me with the tale of Rebecca Zahau’s murder… except it wasn’t working.

I watched the boxing class happening in front of me. I watched the people walking by outside through the window. But mostly I just watched the numbers on the screen in front of me.

Has it really only been 2 minutes? I wondered.

Then my thoughts began to wander. I needed to pick up mushrooms at the store on my way home. Maybe I should get broccoli too. I wonder who convinced the sheriff that Rebecca Zahau’s death was a suicide when she was so clearly murdered? Why do people tamper with dead bodies instead of immediately calling the police? I bet broccoli would be good in my new air fryer. I bet it’s been at least 5 minutes now.

14 seconds had passed.

I had forgotten how mind-numbly boring treadmill running was. Outside it was so easy to escape into my podcast or music and Pokemon Go, but here I couldn’t stop obsessing over the time and distance. Which, by the way, I realized suddenly wasn’t adding up. 10 minutes had passed and I hadn’t run 1 mile yet — not even close. I slowly increased my speed of 6 to 8.5. It said my pace was 7 something. “I am really flying!” I thought. “Treadmill running is easier than I thought! Now the miles will really fly by!”

Except they didn’t. I was still running slower than a 10-min mile pace. I googled treadmill pace cheat sheets and couldn’t figure out why my numbers weren’t lining up. What unit of measurement was 6 or 8.5 if not mph? Just “speed”?

30 speed

I could think of only one reason why the distance wasn’t displaying correctly — the treadmill was broken! It was a cheap gym with cheap machines that were obviously not calibrated correctly. After the treadmill clock hit 30 minutes I started the cool down. I had probably run 3 miles even if the display didn’t show it. I hopped off and decided to explore downstairs, which I just discovered existed.

It was a lot more crowded than the upstairs, so I reasoned that was where the good machines were. I would do my 8 miles on a treadmill down here tomorrow.

The next day (today), I headed straight downstairs. I knew podcasts and music weren’t going to cut it for essentially an hour and 20 minutes of running in place, so I came armed with my iPad loaded with Netflix shows. I hopped on a treadmill that reeked slightly of body odor, so it had been used recently and at least wasn’t broken, and decided to do a little experiment. This thought occurred to me yesterday while I was running, but it didn’t seem right so I didn’t test it out. What if the distance was in miles, but the speed was actually in kilometers? So if I wanted to run 6 mph, I had to set the speed to 10 kmph. I tried it for 10 minutes, and sure enough my distance was 1 mile. Which meant that whole time I thought I was running fast yesterday, I was actually running really slowly. I knew it felt a little too easy, but I chalked it up to all my training. I settled in at 10 kmph, which is slower than I was hoping to run the half, yet still somehow felt strenuous. Man, I hate treadmill running. My iPad at least covered the screen so I couldn’t watch the time and miles tick by, even though I lifted it up to check every 5 or 2 minutes. I watched the first episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which I was hoping could become my new favorite running show, but I didn’t love the musical aspect of it (and I love Broadway and West End musicals, I know). It helped me kill 45 minutes though, and then I switched to The Great British Bake Off. I’m still deciding if watching a show about delicious desserts while you’re burning calories is the best or worst idea ever, but it helped distract me so I could power through. I ate Jelly Babies for fuel at miles 5 and 7 and pretended they were made of Victoria Sponge and not just cornstarch-dusted glucose. And I did it. I ran 8 miles on a treadmill!

The iPad definitely helped, but I still think treadmill running is the worst, especially on a treadmill that measures distance in miles and speed in kmph. Next week the long run on the schedule is only 6 miles, which I’ll be doing outdoors racing the London Winter Run. I run a 10K on Thanksgiving in Cincinnati every year, but I’ve never actually raced a 10K in London. I’m actually a little excited for it and pray the weather holds up. There’s no iPad and treadmill option for races!

Wipeout deja vu

9 Dec

Lately I’ve been entertaining the thought of running another half marathon. Heck, I even let the thought of running a full marathon enter my mind. My hip and knee injuries from the Thanksgiving Day Race have all but healed. I’ve even been keeping up with my running in the treacherous weather. This morning I did what all the running blogs and magazines say to do and laid out my kit the night before. I got dressed the minute I woke up, before I had a chance to talk myself out of it. It was freezing outside — literally, the temperature was in the 20s. Even Pokemon Go warned me that it was extreme weather conditions and I should be careful. But I still ran. I was actually feeling pretty good given the conditions. I ran a decent mile. And then my headphones battery died. And then my fingers started to go numb through my two pairs of gloves.

And then I wiped out.

Again.

corgi tripping.gif

In the very same manner I did in the race, ripping open the very same wound on my knee that was finally getting better. I laid back on the sidewalk and actually screamed out “Really?! Again?!” It didn’t seem possible, but the pain in my knee was very real and all too familiar. I contemplated how long I could lay there before one of my parents’ neighbors would see me. When I finally stood up I noticed the woman across the street getting into her car — did she witness the whole thing? If she did she didn’t seem at all concerned. I thought about shaking it off and running home, but I wasn’t in a race anymore. Instead of an adrenaline rush I was feeling anger and frustration. How did this happen? Does cold weather somehow change my gait? Did I step on a sidewalk crack and mess up my knee instead of my mother’s back? Was it because I was wearing the same shirt and socks I did during the race, and hadn’t worn since? That last one is a bit ridiculous. But I can’t help but wonder what’s going on considering I went a good three years in between running wipeouts, and suddenly I have two within weeks.

I know one thing’s for sure — I need to take some time off from running to let my knee heal (again). I have a lot of work to do before I go to Chicago and Milwaukee next weekend, and I want to be able to focus on spending time with my friends instead of racking up the miles. I’m pretty sure my knee is just skinned and bruised, so hopefully I can get back to running (without falling!) in a week or two.

2017 Thanksgiving Day Race recap

4 Dec

2017 thanksgiving day race.jpgI did not have high expectations for this year’s Thanksgiving Day Race. Thanks to Pokemon Go, I hadn’t trained as hard as previous years. My A goal was a PR, but I would settle for a B goal of finishing in under an hour. And after I did a 2-mile shakeout run the day before to test my new trainers and thermal compression shirt, a C goal of just finishing seemed more attainable. I was used to running on the flat park paths of London in 50-degree weather. The forecast for 9am on race day was 26 degrees Fahrenheit (-3 C).

In the past we’ve always gotten to the race too early with nothing to do but stand around and shiver, so we left later this year, only to find they really do close the roads at 8am, so it was nearly impossible to find parking. My parents dropped me off near the stadium while they searched for a spot. I had just enough time to queue for the loo (can I say that in America?) before I walked to the start. I was feeling ambitious and lined up with the 9-minute mile crew. I took two puffs of my inhaler and soon we were off.

The problem with the Thanksgiving Day Race (and a lot of other races that aren’t serious marathons) is that no one takes the timing corrals seriously. Immediately after I crossed the starting line I was boxed in by a crew of walkers, only to get around them and encounter slow runners. All my runs on tourist-infested Regent Street and Piccadilly Circus prepared me for this, so I maneuvered around them effortlessly, hopping up on the sidewalk, then down on the road, then back on the sidewalk. I was feeling good. I had my music blasting, my two pairs of gloves were keeping my hands warm, my new thermal compression top was doing its job, and I let myself think that maybe — just maybe — I had a personal best in me after all.

frenchie tripping.gif

And then I was on the ground. It happened so suddenly, but at the same time felt like slow motion. I could feel myself falling, but couldn’t do anything to stop it. My right knee and left hip hit the sidewalk hard and my brand new iPhone went flying. (The fact that it didn’t get damaged is a testament to my Speck case!) Runners around me stopped to make sure I was OK. I quickly got up and gave a little kick to make sure my leg wasn’t seriously injured. I was so close to the starting line that I could easily have called it quits and walked back. I decided I would try running for a minute and if it didn’t hurt, I’d continue on. I quickly discovered that a pain-masking adrenaline rush is a very real thing, and I felt faster and stronger than ever. It was also so cold out that it probably had the same effect as icing my knee. So when Britney came through my headphones and told me to “get to work,” I took off, as if the spectacular wipe out never happened.

I ever started to get cocky around mile 3. I opened Pokemon Go and started spinning stops for items as I ran. I even placed a Pokemon in a gym along the course. MapMyRun was telling me my pace was around 9 minutes a mile, which I knew wasn’t right, but I still felt like maybe my shot at a PR wasn’t lost. And then the final bridge came. I didn’t walk it, but it definitely slowed me down. The last mile of a race always seems to go on forever. I sprinted the last bit, but it wasn’t enough. I crossed the finish line in under an hour, but a minute slower than my time from two years ago. Not too shabby considering I wiped out in the first mile and almost didn’t continue.

By the time I met up with my parents and Cherry and collected my swag, the reality of my injuries started to kick in and really hurt. Blood was seeping through my two layers of pants. My hip didn’t begin to hurt until days later, but my knee was extraordinarily bruised and beat up. I spent the rest of the morning icing it while watching the parade. It’s now 11 days later and it’s still bruised and scabbed. I’m quite fortunate that I wasn’t seriously injured and that it only hurts now when Cherry jumps up on me or I forget and slam a cabinet shut with my knee. My hip was really bothering me last week to the point that I almost went to the doctor, but I tried some stretches I read about online and it really made a difference.This whole week I’ve felt 30 going on 70 complaining about my hip and knee pain. Getting old is the worst. I thought running was supposed to keep me young and healthy?

What does healthy eating even mean?

8 Nov

It’s hard to eat healthily. Not just because unhealthy things like cake, french fries and pizza are so delicious, but because it’s hard to define what actually is “healthy.”

Is “healthy” just about losing weight? If so, technically you should be able to eat whatever you want as long as you maintain a calorie deficit, as this nutrition profession’s junk food diet showed.

Is healthy about getting the most nutrients, vitamins and minerals in order to lower cholesterol, avoid disease and prolong life?

According to the popular paleo diet, eating healthily is emulating the diet of our hunter-gatherer ancestors — which means eating grass-fed meats, fish, vegetables, fruits, eggs, nuts and seeds. Grains, beans and legumes are a big no-no, as are processed foods and sugar — there were no Oreos or Doritos in paleolithic times, after all.

Celebrity fitness trainer Vinnie Tortorich claims you can lose weight and eat as much as you want as long as you follow his NSNG philosophy — no sugar no grains. He also calls it being a “Carnivorous Vegan.” Load up on the eggs, red meat, full-fat dairy products and butter! Just as long as you stay away from the candy, bread and oatmeal. And watch the fruit, as he says your body does not know the difference between fructose from an apple or high fructose corn syrup. (Definitely no fruit juice, even if it’s fresh and “green.”)

The Netflix documentary What the Health says sugar is OK in moderation — it’s actually meat that’s increasing your risk of diabetes! According to the movie, if you want to reduce your risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease and be a super strong Ninja Warrior, you should follow a vegan, plant-based diet. No meat, fish, eggs or dairy (sorry, Vinnie!). Whole grains, beans and legumes are actually OK and encouraged (take that, paleo hunter-gather ancestors!).

And then there’s the Mediterranean diet, touted for its heart-healthy benefits. The Mediterranean diet, contrary to the pizza, pasta and gelato diet I followed in the Mediterranean, focuses on eating whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables, plus healthy fats like fish, nuts and olive oil. Red meat should be kept to a minimum, but grains and beans are fair game.

It seems like the only thing every diet can agree on is that vegetables are good for you.

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But wait… I forgot to mention Tom Brady’s diet! The superstar quarterback’s diet consists of 80% organic veggies and whole grains like quinoa, millet and beans, then 20% grass-fed organic lean meats like steak, wild salmon, duck and chicken. Though he eats a lot of vegetables, he doesn’t eat nightshades like tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms or eggplants, because they’re not anti-inflammatory.

So we can’t even agree that all vegetables are good for you?!

You can see why I’m struggling. All my favorite “healthy” food — oatmeal, salmon, chickpeas, edamame, mushrooms, eggplants — could be considered “bad” if I followed any of the above diets. The only one that doesn’t forbid any of those things is the Mediterranean diet. I’d say what I eat falls mostly into that diet, but I don’t want to pigeonhole myself. In fact, for the past six weeks now I’ve been pescatarian — basically a vegetarian who also eats fish, but no other meat. But I’m not sure I want to commit to the label or lifestyle either. Because as much as I want to “eat healthily,” I never want to be THAT person at a party or gathering — the “I can’t eat that” person. I may have severely cut back on my meat intake, but on Thanksgiving I’m going to have turkey. I’ve also cut out sugar, but I’m going to eat some Christmas cookies when I bake them, and on my birthday I’m going to have cake. And as much as I want to say I’ve given up processed foods, I can’t kick my Quest protein bar habit, especially now that they’ve released a birthday cake flavor!

Apparently there’s a term for this diet — flexitarianism, or as The Guardian describes it, “vegetarianism with cheating.” (“A solitary pack of bacon in a fridge full of beans and tofu.”) I eat what makes me feel good, which is usually whole, plant-based foods. But sometimes I want a birthday cake protein bar. Or actual birthday cake. Or meat. And that’s OK.

One year later

18 Sep

Exactly a year ago today I ran 13.1 miles. I remember the overwhelming sense of accomplishment I felt immediately after finishing the half marathon, followed quickly by an overwhelming sense of exhaustion, then — after a big meal and a nap — an overwhelming sense of pain. I thought I’d never be able to walk, run or use the toilet pain-free again, and yet eventually the achiness vanished… along with my long distance running motivation.

Yesterday I struggled through our usual 4 miles. Who knew taking two weeks off running and fueling your body with gelato, gnocchi and truffle oil could be detrimental? I foolishly brought my running gear on holiday too, not even realizing that none of our accommodations had gyms. We did manage to rent bikes one day and cycle around the beautiful walls of Lucca, Italy.

lucca bike rental.pngAnd one day we managed to seemingly walk the entirety of Budapest, logging 21,324 steps and 9.3 miles on my Fitbit. But now it’s time to get back on track. The Cincinnati Thanksgiving 10K is just over 2 months away. It’d be nice to get another PR, but realistically it’d just be nice to actually run 6 miles again without stopping.

Though as I reflect on my experience training for and running the Richmond Half, I wonder if I have another one in me. Should I keep trying to get into the Royal Parks Half, or sign up for a different one in England… or Cincinnati. And even crazier — if I miraculously am allotted a spot in the full London marathon, should I give it a go? For the moment I should probably focus on acing that 10K and running a mile without stopping, wheezing or catching a Pokemon. But the race bug really is contagious!

Recovering from London Syndrome

15 May

According to a recent AskReddit thread, there’s a term for what I was suffering from before I came back to the states: London Syndrome.

london syndrome.jpg

I think it’s all but cleared up now, thanks to some quality time with friends and family in Milwaukee, Chicago, Cincinnati and Cleveland, plus the vast areas of emptiness that you can only find in rural and suburban America. When I run here, I’m lucky if I run into one other human being (though I am obligated to wave and smile at them, of course). The European stereotype of Americans is that we’re loud, fat and friendly, and I always forget how true that last one is. I was riding the lift (I’m sorry, elevator) in my hotel in Chicago and this guy just started… talking to me. As far as I know he wasn’t trying to pick me up, he was just being friendly. It happens at the grocery store all the time too. My mom and I were at Aldi talking about how much cheaper everything was than at Kroger, and this stranger just joined in the conversation like it was a completely normal thing to do. As an anti-social introvert who has apparently lived abroad for too long, I’m not sure I’ll ever feel comfortable about that aspect of suburban American life, though as far as American stereotypes go, it’s certainly not a bad one.

My running has been suffering since I’ve been back, though if I’m being honest, it’s been suffering since Pokemon Go came out last July. At first it was too rainy, now it’s too hot. My lungs have been suffering when I go more than 2 miles, and I’m not sure why. Am I coming down with something? Am I just choking on that sweet taste of freedom and unpolluted air? I was keen to do a local 5K this weekend, but now I’m thinking I’ll do the one in two weeks instead. When did running 3.1 miles become a struggle for me? And in light of that, why did I think this was a good idea?!:
London marathon.png
(I just entered the lottery. And if my luck is anything like my Royal Parks Half luck, I will not be allotted a spot. Though I have no idea what I will do if I actually am allotted one — could I really run 26.2 miles in April 2018?!)