Boston Training Begins! + New Obsessions

Yes, I used the word TRAINING! I officially started training for Boston 2014 on Monday, December 16th.

It’s taken more time to get to this point than I thought it would, but now that I’m here, I’m surprised how easily the miles have come to me the past 4-5 weeks. When I realized that Grand Rapids wasn’t going to happen and that this silly leg was going to throw my plans askew, I (very) slowly worked up the courage to start thinking about giving training another go. And I’m happy to report that I’m back at it and feeling like my normal runnin’ self again. It only seemed appropriate to begin the next training cycle on a gorgeous (warmish) wintery day in Chicago on my birthday. The snow started to fall just as I started my run and it was frigid cold—something I’ll have to get used to again as I put in some hard work over the next 16 weeks.

This fall/winter has been more about courage than I thought it would be. 2013 was a rollercoaster year. Ups and downs and loopty-loops made me happy, sad, elated, and frustrated, but I know that there were more ups than downs. For a year that asked more questions than provided answers, I think I’m stronger now. I wore my Boston 2013 jacket for the first time on my first training run of this training cycle and thought to myself, ‘it’s time to move on’. And so, that’s what I’m doing. Clean slate, open mind, fresh training, and lots of miles ahead of me in 2014.

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All bundled up for Boston 2014 training run #1. My face is freezing and I can’t feel my nose. Standard.

In November, I started to think about what I wanted to change and what I want to accomplish in 2014. And as I usually do, I wrote down some big hairy, scary goals and tucked it away in a place that I’ll be sure to look at it everyday. I’m excited to start working toward a goal again.

So, this is what I’ve been up to. At the beginning of November, the focus was on a bit more rest and then a gradual increase in my weekly miles with all slow, easy miles. I started at 20 miles per week and worked up to 35 miles each week for 5 weeks. Literally all of my these miles were easy recovery pace from 7:45-8:40/mi. No fartlek action, no speed, just MILES. It was slow going in the beginning and it was incredibly difficult to be happy with 20 miles total for the week. But I had to start somewhere after lots of recovery so I focused on keeping up with cross-training. It made me feel good just to be running 4-5 x a week again. I wanted to be able to do that without feeling like my legs were going to fall off. Success!

After 5 weeks of easy base-building, I decided to test the legs a bit. I increased my mileage gradually to 40 miles and added two light “workouts” to the schedule. The first was supposed to be a progressive run of 8 miles (4 easy miles, then 4 miles up tempo — not tempo pace, but a bit of a challenge). That plan flew out the window when I started running and the legs didn’t want to stop. I actually ended up running an 8 miles steady-state at 7:20/mi pace. It was a bit unexpected and, at the time, I kept telling myself that one good run doesn’t mean that my legs are ready for full training mode yet. Then, the second “workout” planned for the week was 8 miles with the last 10 miles fast/moderate. I ran the first 6 comfortably at 7:50-8 min/mi and then the legs were ON. I ran the last 1.5 miles of that workout at 6:40 pace. 6! A 6 hasn’t flashed on my watch in ….3 months? I was giddy and surprised and happy to be able to run a quick pace again.

The week of 12/16 was an awesome step in the right direction. 40 miles, 5 runs, two “workouts”, and a note in my training log that said “MY LEGS ARE BAAAAACK!”. At the end of that week, I knew that I’d be able to start putting speedwork on the schedule on 12/30 (and that’s still the plan this week). I’m also really happy with my cross-training this week. I was really bad about adding cross-training into my schedule in August-September and  I know that it has to be more of a priority this cycle.

To recap: Week of 12/16

Monday: 8 miles, 7:26 average (“workout” #1:progression run turned steady state)

Tuesday: 5 miles, 8:15 average + hip strength routine

Wednesday: 1 hour yoga + ART (Rest Day)

Thursday: 8.8 miles, 7:39 average (+1 hr belated bday massage)

Friday: 1 hour spin 

Saturday: 12 miles, 7:47 average

Sunday: 6 miles, 8:30 average

TOTAL: 40 miles 

Annnnd that brings us to this week! All of that good stuff that happened the previous week? Yep, it just kept rollin’. I ran a total of 44 miles this week. FORTY-FOUR! I like that number. And I especially liked how the legs are feeling considering I haven’t been to PT for ART since Wed, 12/18. I’ve been going about every 5 days so this stretch of 12 days is a good test especially with strong mileage and a slow build to more difficult workouts.

Week of 12/23: MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Monday: 8 miles, ~8 min pace. 4 miles easy , 3 at 7:20, and 1 mi cooldown.

Tuesday: 5.5 miles, 7:39 average.

Wednesday: REST + Christmas!

Thursday: 10 miles, 7:37 average. (including 8 x 1 min surges at 6:20-40 pace with 1 min recovery)

Friday: REST – family time

Saturday: 14 miles, 7:29 average pace! Really not sure where that pep in my step came from but this felt GREAT!

Sunday: 6 recovery miles, 8:30 pace.

TOTAL: 44 miles + 2 rest days

I wasn’t confident that my legs would come back so soon after a lot of recovery in September and October. I ran zero miles the week of November 3rd. Since then, I’ve run 21, 23, 30, 35, 29, 40, and 44 miles each consecutive week. 7 weeks of patience is paying off, I think.

Now, the hard work really begins!

New (Gifted) Obsessions:

Roll Recovery + Garmin Forerunner 220

#Runnerd Christmas presents: Roll Recovery & Garmin Forerunner 220.

My family was spot on with the Christmas presents this year. Two gifts that I will use literally almost everyday. The Roll Recovery is a torture/recovery tool that I’ve had my eye on since Hood to Coast when Robyn showed me her torturous ways and encouraged me to inflict pain on myself (all in the name of recovery of course!). It was especially handy in a relay scenario because having the time and space to foam roll is virtually impossible. I do my fair share of foam rolling and I really love the Stick but this thing is the real deal. I’ve been able to trigger point muscles that are pretty difficult to reach with a foam roller. Obsessed!

Garmin Forerunner 220Purtyyyyyyy.

Annnnnd the Forerunner 220. I’ve had the huge BRICK AKA Forerunner 305 on my wrist for 2.5 + years. Mind you, I have tiny wrists and this thing is massive compared to my frame. When I took the 220 out of the box, I couldn’t believe how light it was. I wore it almost the entire day and didn’t really notice it. I fits tighter and because it’s so light, it feels like wearing a normal watch (which would be impossible with the ancient 305). I took the watch out to time the satellite lock on Christmas afternoon and it locked onto a satellite in less than 35 seconds. Before my 14-miler yesterday afternoon, I turned the watch on and, I swear, it locked onto the satellite signal in less than 10 seconds. That’s impressive considering the signal lock seems to be much slower in the city than it is in the suburbs. Just knowing that I won’t have to wait 5-8 minutes for the satellite signal each and every time I run, makes me giddy. I’m sure I’ll have more positive things to say about the 220 the more I use it.

So with a new outlook on training, a newfound sense of courage after a crazy 2013, and some new training tools, I think 2014 is going to be a great year.

Did you get a lot of running specific gifts from friends and family members this year? What are your new obsessions?

Do you find it difficult to start a new training cycle? What are ya training for next?!

-J

Hood to Coast Packing List & My Legs!

Note: this list consists of items that I would *like* to bring, but I have a feeling it will be a rude awakening when I actually try to stuff it into a medium-sized backpack.

On Wednesday morning, I’ll be on my way to Seattle to meet the Nuun teams that will be running this year’s Hood to Coast. I’ve been looking forward to this since they day I returned home from Boston. This will be my first relay and my first relay with strangers. But, let’s be real, runners usually aren’t strangers after chatting for 2 minutes and we definitely won’t be strangers after spending 20+ hours in a van together.

Tentative Packing List:

  • Face mask & ear plugs
  • Ibuprofen & Endurolytes
  • Sweatshirt and warm pants
  • Compression socks
  • Small towel
  • Body/baby wipes
  • 4 running outfits in gallon Ziploc bags
  • Water bottle
  • Gloves + HAT/warm headband
  • Garmin
  • iPod (for sleepin’ tunes)
  • Jacket/hoodie
  • Flip flops
  • 2 pairs running shoes
  • Sunglasses (running + regular)
  • Travel pillow- inflatable!
  • Small blanket
  • Car USB charger for iPhone (dual)
  • Sunscreen
  • All the snacks!
  • Colgate Wisps! (no water needed to brush teeth!)
  • Trigger Point Massage Ball (Tiger Tail will be provided)
  • Extra phone battery- JCrew
  • Safety vest + headlamp (Nuun is supplying these, but Corey was nice enough to let me borrow hers!)

*Items in bold were added to the list gradually- based on tips and suggestions from Hood to Coast veterans!

This doesn’t seem like a lot to pack to me but I know I’ll feel differently when I start putting it in a bag. I took a lot of tips from Oiselle’s and Portland Running Company‘s packing lists + many suggestions from friends that have run Hood to Coast before (thanks friends!)

2 pairs of shoes can take up a lot of space but I think it will be worth it. I’m oddly more concerned about what to pack for the 2 days that we’ll be in Seattle than the comfy running apparel I’ll spend most of my time in.

On Wednesday, we arrive, spend time exploring Seattle, and go bowling that night. On Thursday, we visit Oiselle HQ (eeeps!) and run around Green Lake, ride a duck boat (!), and decorate the vans in the evening. And, FRIDAY, we drive and start runnin’ runnin’ runnin’! And, of course, I’m excited for ALL THE BEER in Seaside on Saturday before heading back to Chicago on Sunday afternoon. Dude. It’s going to be a crazy 5 days!

My Leg Assignments:

After my switch from Team Lemonade to Team Cherry Limeade, I’m officially assigned as Runner 4 in Van 1. I will be running a total of 15+ miles which works perfectly with marathon training (especially because I’ll be running on tired legs by the end!)

Leg #1

Hood to Coast Leg 4

7.18 miles with a steady gradual downhill along paved shoulder on Highway 26. The closest thing to this that I’ve run on in the past few months is Cricket Hill in Chicago (ha.) I’m going to keep telling myself that the downhill sections of Boston prepared me for this at least a wee bit. According to our projected paces, I should be running this around 3:30 PM.

Leg #2

Hood to Coast Leg 16

3.78 miles on gently rolling highway, paved shoulder just like the first leg. I’m gonna ROCK this thing. I’ll run this leg around 11 PM so that should be fun (happy that my legs are at relatively ‘normal’ times!)

Leg #3

Hood to Coast Leg 28

4.20 miles, gradual uphill on paved road (narrow highway with limited shoulder). Considering this is my only uphill leg, I think I got lucky [or they were very wise and put the flatland runner on some of the easiest legs. More likely!) This will feel more difficult that it would on fresh legs of course but I’ll be read to bust out those 4+ miles like it’s my job. I’ll be running this leg around 6 AM, so again–normal for my schedule!

Alright, what am I missing people? What else would you pack? How would you save room in your backpack?

Any vets that have run as Runner 4 in the past? Give me all your tips! Tell me all of your stories!

-J

#NuunHTC & Some Free Tubes!

Rock ‘n Roll Chi is just days away now, but I’m really excited about some of my other races this cycle.

And one of those races is Hood to Coast with Nuun! FORTY DAYS AWAY, DUDES!

Hood to Coast with Nuun!

I fell in love with Nuun after seeing several people tweet about it when I first started running regularly. I was training for my first marathon and knew I needed something with more electrolytes during the hot summer. The small tubes are easy to throw in your gym bag or purse. And adding a tablet to a glass of water and waiting for it to fizz is fun. I bought my first few tubes at Fleet Feet and gave them a try, without realizing how addictive they’d be. I’m pretty sure it would be impossible for me to be dehydrated during my training this summer because I can’t go a day without it (it’s that tasty.) I’m not a particularly “salty sweater” but I know it’s important to keep my electrolytes balanced while training in the heat.

I had a tough workout on Tuesday morning. 1 mile repeats in 93% humidity and 72 degrees at 6 AM (it wouldn’t have been much better if I ran at 4 AM or 5 AM…). I’m not sure how I managed to do this but I ran 4 x 1 mile faster than I did during my last training cycle. 6:19, 6:26, 6:21, 6:20….in those conditions. I managed to end each mile near a water fountain to splash cold water on my face but I was struggling even during the cooldown to hold it together.

Nuun Hydration after 1 Mile Repeats

I felt like I might has well have gone swimming instead of running because it was so muggy out there. (And if you saw me afterward, you probably would have though I did go swimming!)

Within 3 hours post-workout, I drank at least 36 ounces of water and Nuun. No rest for the weary!

After trying almost all of their flavors, my favorites are citrus fruit and watermelon. (I have yet to try the caffeinated Cherry Limeade! I’ll be making a purchase soon…) I consistently drank Nuun before my first marathon and didn’t have any hydration issues despite high temps the last 10 miles or so. I will take Nuun over Gatorade any day, especially because you don’t have to deal with that lingering sugary taste in your mouth. Nuun sells single tubes or 4-packs.

Hood to Coast will be my first official relay.

I’m already having visions of naps in vans, makeshift showers (AKA baby wipes), and handoffs with my teammates.


NuunHTC Leg Assignments

I’m Runner 11 in Van #2 for Team Lemonade, so I’ll run a total of 16+ miles (which will be perfect to slot into my marathon training cycle). Jesica D will hand off to me and I’ll hand off to Holly.

{For those of who you have run Hood to Coast before, what tips do you have for me? Which leg was most difficult for you? Is there anything you would have done to make your experience more enjoyable?}

Have you tried Nuun before? Have you struggled with hydration in your training? What’s your favorite Nuun flavor?

FREE TUBES! 4 Pack Giveaway

Nuun is providing a 4-pack of any flavor to the winner of the giveaway. Just a click away! (and you can enter to win everyday until July 18th when a winner is chosen!)

If you don’t see “Enter Here” above, you can enter by clicking this link—>  a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can continue to enter the giveaway until Friday, July 19th. I’ll be contacting the winner by Saturday, July 20th! 

And if you don’t want to bother with the giveaway or you want to buy some this instant, Nuun is offering a 15% discount with Code: hydrateHTC valid on all purchases (so you can use it multiple times) through September. All product information and flavors are here!

Nuun is providing the 4-pack free of charge to the winner of the giveaway. All opinions are my own.
 
 
-J 

A Serious, Long-Term Relationship With a Running Shoe

The first step is admitting that you have a problem, right? Alright guys. I’m addicted and have been for a few years now. The Saucony Kinvara certainly hasn’t been the only shoe to carry me in the past 2 years but let’s just say it’s been there for me through thick and thin. I bought my first pair in April or May 2011 when I started training for my first marathon. After a short transition period, they quickly became my favorite shoe. And they’ve remained a constant in my shoe rotation ever since.

My Addiction. Illustrated in race pictures….

Chicago Kinvara

First marathon. Kinvaras.

rnr dc

Rock ‘n Roll DC 2012. Kinvaras.

carmel 2012

Carmel, IN Half 2012. Kinvaras.

Bayshore_4

Bayshore Half 2012. Kinvaras.

batavia10

Batavia Half 2012. Kinvaras.

Twin Cities

Twin Cities 2012. Kinvaras.

Boston14Full

Boston Marathon 2013. Kinvara 4s!

Saucony was generous enough to provide me with the newest version of the Kinvara before it’s officially released on May 1st. I received them in the mail 2 weeks before Boston and was anxious to see if they could be my race shoe for the marathon.

So far, the Kinvara 2 had been my favorite version. When they released the Kinvara 3 last year, I quickly realized that I wouldn’t be able to wear them. The 3rd version had a higher ankle rise and it rubbed my achilles raw during a 12 mile run. I have a very short period to break in a fresh pair of Kinvaras because my feet and legs are so accustomed to them. But I knew that it was trouble if they bothered me on a relatively short distance run. [More details if you’re curious about the differences between the Kinvara 2 and 3!]. Luckily, I was able to stockpile a few pairs of Kinvara 2s and track down a few more pairs with the help of Saucony when I could no longer find them online (super nice of them!). I guess you’re truly addicted with a shoe when you have to solicit the aid of the brand to find it…

The Kinvara 2s provided enough cushion and stability for my first marathon and I haven’t ventured too far from them since then. (The other shoes in my rotation lately have been the Saucony Fastwitch 5 and New Balance RC 1600s). Beyond the achilles issue, the Kinvara 3 was much more firm and didn’t respond to the ground the way I was hoping.

But my love affair continues….Loving the Kinvara 4! 

Kinvara 4 Blue

I put about 25 miles on the Kinvara 4s the week leading up to Boston. (I know, I know.  “Never try something new so close to a race”.) But they seriously felt like a glove and I had no issues with the achilles rubbing in the back. The longest run in them before Boston was 12 miles and they felt great. The biggest difference that I can feel between the Kinvara 2 & 4 is the cushioning in the heel (due to the PowerGrid in the new version). The ride seems to be a bit smoother because of it. I pretty much consistently land on the midfoot and there seems to be less “bulk” in the 4s. Overall, they’re super responsive and light as a feather (just as they always have been). If you want more details on the specific changes Saucony made to the shoe, check out their dedicated Kinvara site.

Kinvara 4- Left. Kinvara 2- Right.

2013-05-02 19.04.43

Saucony stripped away a lot of the soft padding from the K2s but I haven’t had any issue with the achilles rubbing on the K4s. The heel is flexible enough that it bends when I flex my foot forward.

I couldn’t help snatching up a pair of the Limited Edition Boston Kinvara 4s before Boston a few weeks ago [SEE?! I AM ADDICTED!] I know they’ll always be a special pair…

kinvara 4 boston

Looking forward to an early Cinco De Mayo celebration and the Kinvara 4 Launch party at Fleet Feet on Friday, May 1st. [If you’re in Chicago and want to attend, be sure to RSVP so they have enough food and drinks for the crowd!]

AND IF I HAVEN’T CONVINCED YOU OF THE SEVERITY OF MY ADDICTION…

I thought I only had a few pairs to donate but after rummaging around in my “shoe closet” (AKA underneath my bed) for a few minutes, I found more than a few pairs to donate to Step Into My Sole….

2013-04-30 15.14.51

-J

Saucony Kinvara 4s: Sneak Peek!

IMG_2497

 

Aren’t they pretty?
 

Guys guys guys! They arrived! Last week, I came home from an easy run to a happy piece of mail (among other pieces of mail that involved people asking me for money). Saucony was generous enough to provide me with the newest version of the Kinvara before it’s officially released on May 1st. I’ve been wearing this shoe for over 2 years. I think I bought my first pair in April or May 2011 when I started training for my first marathon. After a short transition period, they quickly became my favorite shoe. And they’ve remained a constant in my shoe rotation ever since then. At this point, I’m not exactly sure how many pairs I’ve owned, but it’s likely over 10-12 pairs (I usually log around 350 miles on each pair.)

The Kinvara 2 has been my favorite version. When they released the Kinvara 3 last year I was bummed that the rise at the back of the heel rubbed my achilles a bit more than I’d like. Luckily, I was able to stockpile a few pairs of Kinvara 2s and track down a few more pairs with the help of Saucony when I could no longer find them online (super nice of them!).

I went for my first run in the Kinvara 4s last night even though it was supposed to be a rest day. I can’t resist a new pair of shoes especially when: a) they’re my favorite shoe by far b) the colors are badass c) they have the potential of being my Boston race shoe! and d) it’s a gorgeous spring evening (now that it’s finally warming up in Chi). Coach approved a short jaunt to test the shoes and I was all too happy to take advantage. I took them out for a quick 3.5 miles.

I’ll decide by this weekend if the Kinvara 4s will be my Boston race shoe but it’s certainly looking positive at this point! 

I’ll post a full review of the Kinvara 4s soon (hopefully before race day!).

What’s your favorite shoe? Do you have a lot of different brands in your shoe closet or do you stick to a certain brand?

-J

My Fall/Winter Wishlist…Because why not?

Since racing Twin Cities and receiving my confirmation for Boston 2013, I’ve quickly come to the realization that I will need to stock up on fall/winter running gear in the very near future. I’ve never committed to a marathon training cycle during the winter, as both of my marathons have been in the fall. I wouldn’t exactly say I’m a complete wuss when it comes to the cold, but ask me again in February or March when I’m battling the Chicago wind chill along the lake or getting creative with my training just to avoid the cold.

I already have some favorite winter running gear, but I don’t have nearly enough to go a week without doing a load of laundry dedicated to running clothes. So, if budget weren’t an issue and I could buy anything I want to get my through this next training cycle, I’d choose these items:

Saucony Women’s NMD Jacket $110

I haven’t invested in a nice running jacket and I think it’s about time I did. I typically layer a Saucony ViziPro half zip with other lighter long sleeve shirts, but I have a feeling the wind is going to be a big factor this winter.

Women’s Vertis Ex Hoody $90

I don’t think I’d wear this during a run, but it looks nice and snuggly for a post-run afternoon on the couch.

Saucony DryLete Loose Fit Beanie $22

I almost bought this hat last year and I honestly don’t know why I didn’t press ‘purchase’ and check out immediately. Looks comfy and I actually like that it’s a looser option, unlike my other more ‘snug’ hats.

Nike Element Half Zip $60

I’m a fan of half-zips for temperature control during the winter. Think “V neck”, not crew neck.

SmartWool Neck Gaiter $25

Ok, this seriously made me laugh out loud. And, for some strange reason, Running Warehouse thinks all neckwarmers or gaiters are only men’s products because they only had one listed in the women’s merchandise. This one looks small enough that I could comfortably wear it around my neck while running or flip it up onto my head to look like a hooligan.

Sugoi Women’s SubZero Zap Tight $80

The warmest tights I own are the standard Nike Thermal tights so I’ll definitely need to get some tights that are meant for really cold temperatures. These look comfy and I actually like the contrast piping.

Zoot ThermoMegaHeat Tight $85

Again, these look really comfortable. And both tights say they’re meant for temperatures below 30 degrees. That should do it for me, right?

What’s your favorite running gear? Do you have anything on your wishlist that I should add to mine for fall/winter running? This “cold weather wuss” (kinda) needs your help!

Bastille Day 5k Prep

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Getting excited for the 5k tonight! It’s not as hot as it has been in Chicago lately and I’m feeling strong and ready for a good race. Be on the lookout for a short recap post tomorrow!

Race Recap: Bayshore Half Marathon

I ran my 8th Half Marathon on May 26th in Traverse City, MI. This spring has been all about focusing on the half marathon. Last year, my focus was solely on the Chicago Marathon as it was my debut marathon and I was determined to have  a good experience. As part of my training, I ran several half marathons (probably more than were necessary) but the final clock time was never the ultimate goal. In fact, I usually would run a few miles to warm up, run the half marathon, and run a few miles to cool down and contribute to my ‘long run’ of the weekend. It just so happened that I continuously ran personal records while also committing to these training runs.

So, this spring I decided speed was going to be a focus. I have been really happy with my progress since January. The Carmel Half was my “A” race of the season and I pulled off a time that I wasn’t even dreaming about a year ago: 1:36:08. So when I started to anticipate the Bayshore Half, I had mixed feelings. To be honest, my whole heart wasn’t in it. Some last-minute changes prevented my brother (and Coach) from running the race himself. Work had been crazy that week and I didn’t prepare myself mentally (or as much as I would have liked). I made a last ditch effort to get myself psyched for the race by buying a new race outfit at Sports Authority on Friday before catching the train.

I knew that sleep was going to be a factor in my performance. As I don’t have a car in the city, I took the train to Michigan City, IN and my mom picked me up to drive the remaining 4 hours to Traverse City. [My mom is really good at ditching everything and heading to Michigan whenever someone even mentions it in passing. She loves MI and I knew she’d jump at the opportunity. Thanks for the ride, Mom!]. I took a short nap in the car as it became dark and we arrived at the hotel at midnight. I finally made it to bed at 12:30 after eating a snack and drinking some water, only to be woken up by my 4:30 AM alarm.

Yup, you read that right. 4:30 AM.

The half marathon course is beautiful, as it runs the entire length of Old Mission Peninsula, with Traverse City in the bay to the south. But the half starts at the northern tip and all racers have to take a shuttle from the marathon start line up to the tip of the peninsula by 6:15, with a start time of 7:30. I took a shuttle from the airport to the Traverse City High School at 5 am, when I drank my coffee and ate my cup of oatmeal in the dark. I went to the old school gym, got my bib and race shirt (thank goodness for race day packet pickup!!!), and sat quietly before heading to the shuttle. I got in line for the shuttle at 5:45 and arrived at the half start by 6:15, which gave me over an hour to go to the bathroom, stretch, and warm-up.

2012 Bayshore coursemap

I was tired even before the race began, considering how little sleep I got the night before and the travel time on race morning.

I’ve run races on little sleep before. I even reminded myself that I had run my previous 5 min PR at the Rock ‘n Roll DC Half in April the day after flying in from Madrid from a business trip. If I could do that, I could run a race on 4 hours of sleep–or so I told myself. I ran a 1 mile warm-up before getting in line at the start. The race only accommodates less than 2500 runners in the half so it felt like a tiny hometown race, compared to the other races I’ve competed in this past year. No corrals–just a sign for different pace groups.

My strategy for this race is just as it was for Carmel–but faster. I divide the race into 5k intervals and try to focus on a certain pace for each segment, gradually increasing the pace every 5k. First, 7:40. Second, 7:30. Third, 7:20–>7:10. Fourth, 7:05—> as fast as I can possibly run! I wasn’t very comfortable in these times going into the race. I normally use my race strategy and the course map to visualize when I’ll arrive at each mile marker, but I was short on time and unfocused.

Notice anything? Yep, went out way too fast. Miles 1-3 should have been at 7:40 and Miles 4-6 should have been at 7:30. From there, the pace was to gradually increase. Instead, it stayed steady about 7:15 until I lost it at mile 12 when a blister that had been forming on the pad of my right foot popped and I walked for 20 seconds. It was really, really uncomfortable but I knew the adrenaline would kick in and it would probably hurt just as bad (or worse) to walk than it would to run on it.

I had an ambitious goal for this race. 1:35:00 is FAST. 

This was the first consecutive half marathon that I have not run a personal record. It’s a weird feeling and it led to a lot of disappointment in the week following the race. Slowly, I’ve come around and realized that not every race is going to be exciting and I can’t expect my body to perform perfectly each time. I will get to 1:35 eventually and I will be incredibly happy when I do. For now, I’m just happy that I’ve been able to cut down my half marathon time by over 7 minutes this spring alone!!! I also placed 3rd in my age group at Bayshore, which was an added bonus.

Now, I’m trying to figure out what I want to get out of the rest of this year. I’ve already decided that June is going to be full of rest and cross-training. I want running to remain FUN and rewarding. And the only way I can do that right now is to enjoy what my body has given me and take the time to enjoy doing other things. July, August, and September will be focused on training for the Twin Cities Marathon. I haven’t finalized any races leading up to it, but there are a few small ones on my radar. Looking ahead to the future…

-J

Kinvara 2 v. Kinvara 3

If you’ve read at least 2 of my blog posts in the past year, you’ll know that I’m a huge Saucony Kinvara fanatic. I started wearing the Kinvara in the spring last year and have already accumulated 6 pairs (and they’ve been so great about making enough colors so that I don’t have to buy the same color a second time!). I was really excited when a Saucony rep. reached out to me and let me know that I’d been selected as part of the 2nd “early tester” wave to provide feedback and generate hype for the new version of the shoe. I had a long day at work and arrived home to find a fresh white, yellow, and pink pair of Kinvaras waiting for me. I snapped a few photos of the new shoe in comparison to the Kinvara 2s for you to check out. (Their website does a great job of outlining the differences between the versions. I’m just adding my own take on it!)

The Flexifilm structure is completely different than previous models.

The lacing structure is classic on the K3s. I prefer the structure on the K2s, mostly because I have narrow feet.

Saucony kept the triangle lug structure, but changed the lugs on the outer rim.

The heel structure is probably the most striking on the bottom of the shoe.

All in all, I’m happy with the Kinvara 3s. I only have 40 miles on the new model, but each run has felt better and better. When I first laced them up and went out for a few miles to break them in, I immediately noticed that they are much firmer than the previous model. I’ve talked with a few runners who have decided not to wear the K2s because they are ‘squishy’ as compared to other ‘minimalist’ models. I wouldn’t necessarily call them squishy but I can understand why some runners may not like the soft feel. I assume Saucony took this feedback seriously and made the new model more firm because of it.

The other difference that has caused a bit of discomfort for me is the structure near the Achilles portion of the heel. The fabric and the structure in this area is soft and has a low rise on the K2s. The new version has a firm structure that doesn’t allow the foot to flex up and down (as if you were pointing your toe or pulling it back toward your shin). I’m not a fan of shoes that have a high rise near the ankle and the back structure of the Kinvara 3s have rubbed skin raw on long runs. [Note: I typically wear normal gold-toe ankle socks in the Kinvara 2s as opposed to ‘running socks’. I probably wouldn’t have had these rubbing issues in the Kinvara 3s if I wore running socks that have a tab on the back.]

I think the firm Kinvara 3s will help to make me a stronger runner and lead to some more PRs throughout the rest of 2012.

…maybe even this weekend at the Bayshore Half!

My Favorite Running Gear

Have you ever seen an inspirational running quote that you disagreed with? Everyone has their own opinion and outlook on what makes a runner a “runner” and what the sport or activity provides them in their personal/professional lives, to be sure. I hear this statement from runners and non-runners—and each time someone mentions it, I stop and think about whether or not it’s true.

Anyone can be a runner because all you need is a pair of shoes.

Ok, I get it. At the bare minimum, you need a solid pair of shoes that are appropriate for your body frame. Grab some shorts, a shirt, (a bra if you’re a lady) and strap those shoes onto your feet. You’re all set. But if you’re an avid runner, you have likely discovered that the right gear can make all the difference. In reality, these are just little things we get for ourselves that make us more comfortable and happy.

I’m not an extravagant “I need all the newest, coolest gear out there” kind of runner. But I have invested a pretty penny on shorts, a Garmin, vitamins, singlets, etc. in the past year or so.

Here are my favorites:

Saucony Kinvaras. I’ve raved about these shoes several times in the past 10 months or so. I have 6 pairs of them (all in different colors) and really don’t anticipate removing them from my small rotation anytime soon. They’re ideal for my bodyframe and stride; I’ve been able to log well over 300 miles on each pair and won’t have a problem adding more to the pairs I currently own. I recently bought the Saucony Mirage for a little additional support when I need it, but haven’t really relied on them much. Keep in mind that it has a 4 mm heel-to-toe drop. If you’re transitioning into a shoe like the Kinvara, do so gradually so that you don’t add extra strain to your lower leg. [ALSO: Keep an eye out for a Kinvara 3 review from me in the next week or so!]


Nuun Hydration. I fell in love with Nuun after seeing several people tweet about it. Running consistently through a hot Chicago summer means hydrating properly and I’m glad I found Nuun. The small tubes are easy to throw in your gym bag, briefcase, or purse. And adding them to a glass of water and waiting for them to fizz is fun. After trying almost all of their flavors, I can honestly all delicious (although tropical fruit could be improved). My favorite is Citrus Fruit. I consistently drank Nuun before my first marathon and didn’t have any hydration issues despite high temps the last 10 miles or so. I will take Nuun over Gatorade any day. Nuun sells single tubes or 4-packs depending on the flavors you want.

Nike Phantom Training Shorts. I bought these 2 days before the 2011 Chicago Marathon and loved them on race day (yes I broke the classic rule of changing gear on race day!). They have a thin compression short layer underneath the outer lining, which makes them super comfy. They also wicked away plenty of sweat during the race, PLUS they come in fun contrasting colors. (Confession?: I may or may not have peed my pants in them that day…)

TruMoo Chocolate Milk. It’s chocolate milk. And it’s delicious. And it’s the appropriate protein-carb ratio for recovery after a tough run. ‘Nuff said.

Trigger Point Foam Roller. I have a love/hate relationship with Mr. Foam Roller. But at least he makes me feel good. He doesn’t always treat me right, but then again I probably don’t treat him right either. I told you it was complicated. But in all seriousness, this foam roller is the best. I’ve tried some other brands’ models and they don’t compare. The inner structure is so strong that I doubt I’ll have to buy a new foam roller at any point in the next 10 years. It hurts so good! (Tip: search YouTube for the proper use of a foam roller so that you know the appropriate positions to focus on certain muscle groups OR just get creative about how you use it!)

Hammer Endurolytes. In addition to drinking Nuun throughout the summer, I also relied on Endurolytes to get my through long runs on hot days. They come in either pill or powder form, but I’ve taken the pills with water (or Nuun) a few hours before a race in order to avoid dehydration. Taking salt tabs doesn’t interest me much for some reason, but popping two Endurolytes before a long run or race is easy.

Pretzel Dipping Sticks and Nutella. Ok, so these items are clearly not ‘gear’, but they make me and my stomach happy. Paired with some TruMoo Chocolate Milk, it’s a great recipe for recovery on the couch. 🙂

What gear can you NOT live without as a runner? What do you splurge on? Do you agree with the statement, “anyone can run because all they need is a good pair of shoes?”

-J