What to do During Taper Week

Taper Time is a rough time for many runners. We’ve just spent three months or more ramping up the volume to suddenly cut back, rest, recover, and sit & wait for go time.

It can really suck. It leaves many a runner antsy, fidgety, bored and not sure what to do with themselves.  Morning runs that took up the better part of an hour are now over in half the time. Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out just what to do with all this rest and recovery.

But don’t worry! Here is a handy list of things to do instead of running during your taper period.

  1. Obsessively check the weather. That extended weather tab is there for a reason, people! Even though we all know that any forecast more than 24 hours out is meaningless, just keep refreshing it and slowly lose your sanity.
  2. Pack your running gear. Because the weather forecast isn’t going to be accurate until 5 minutes before you toe the line, you are going to have to pack for every possible climate. Pack aaaaaallllll of the things!
  3. Unpack your bags. Of course packing up all your stuff isn’t a good idea. You’ll still need a pair of shorts for those irritatingly easy runs this week!
  4. Notice the niggles. Your body is suddenly going through all sorts of aches and pains. You’d better open up a new tab in Google (don’t want to lose that weather page!) and check out your symptoms. Be confident in your self-diagnosis of Something-or-other-itis and cancer.
  5. Check out a different weather app because Weather Channel is clearly lying to you.
  6. Draw up a Pros & Cons list regarding racing in underwear.
  7. Commit the course map to memory just in case you actually do outrun the pace car.
  8. Study the elevation profile, begin doubting your mountains worth of hill repeats.
  9. Print off pace bands for your goal time. Then print off ones for your B, C, & D goals. Wear all of them proudly. #runnerfashion
  10. Eat carbs guilt free for the first time since high school. Suck down that pasta like it’s going out of style. Cover your bed in bread slices and roll in it. Bask in the carbohydrate-y goodness.

This should keep you busy until Race Day and maybe distract you from any nerves. Don’t stress; this period seems to crawl by, but you’ll be on your way to 26.2 in no time. YOU GOT THIS!

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How I Hydrate & Why

Stay hydrated! Drink 8 glasses of water a day! If you feel thirsty then it’s already too late!

These are the things we are always told by our doctors, moms, well meaning Internet articles. But how does one hydrate when water is so, well umm, boring? As a runner, of course it is important to stay properly hydrated, but is filling my tumbler 8 times a day at the tap really necessary?

The answer is; It depends.

Annoying, I know, but it really does depend on the individual: how big someone is, how much someone runs, how hot the day is. There is no one-size-fits-all formula when it comes to hydration. But, since I get asked a lot about how & what I drink, I figured I’d hash it all out here. And, being Taper Time, it seems especially poignant to discuss hydration as the marathon approaches.

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This is my basic beverage line-up. I did forget to toss in a can of seltzer water (I usually drink La Croix). I don’t drink soda, so seltzer water is my go-to for bubbles when I’m feeling festive or fun.

I should also note that I don’t consume very much liquid while running or working out. I bring a water bottle to the track, but rarely stop for it, and only bother with my hydration pack on runs longer than 15 miles and only sip at it at the mile marks, consuming a half a liter or less in the course of 20 miles. My hydration (and rehydration) comes before & after running. I do weigh myself before & after long training runs and on hot days to ensure adequate water replacement.

My biggest tips for hydration and beverages would be:
1. Don’t worry calories, but make sure those calories count. I stay away from sugary drinks (no soda, no added sugar in juices, only unsweetened almond milk). It’s okay to drink milk or juice, just make sure it is quality.
2. Read the ingredients. Again, high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, fake colorings, & additives are not healthy and not worth the “flavor”. Stick to real ingredients.
3. Caffeinated and alcoholic beverages should be kept to a minimum.

Every morning I start with a cup of coffee, and if I’m lucky and not distracted too much with animals, chores, or kids, I get to drink it all while it’s still hot. I save it for after a morning run, or make sure to get an hour between the last sip & hitting the pavement to avoid the need to make a pit-stop. I have found that the caffeine doesn’t help with my performance or the wake-up process, but that could be because I am just desensitized to it. I don’t get headaches if I skip it, but I really look forward to the warmth of it after a long run in the cold.

After workouts, and after the coffee, I make sure my big 22oz Ninja Tumbler gets filled up with fresh water and cucumbers. Sometimes I do lemon slices or berries, but usually just a few rounds of cucumber. I have found that I drink far more water if there is stuff in it. I’ll refill this bad boy two or three more times (fruit can be reused throughout the day without the flavor being altered) before the day is through. If it is a particularly hot day, a long run, or an intense workout, I’ll refill my very well-loved sports bottle with Emergen-C Electro-Mix powder and a liter of water. I love this stuff! Unlike Gatorade or PowerAde, it doesn’t have weird coloring or flavors. It has a slight lemon taste – that’s it! It contains potassium, magnesium, and calcium, but not the sugars and garbage of other sports drinks. This is my go-to for electrolyte replacement and I drink it every other day during taper week, the night before a marathon and half of the bottle before the start of a race. Because it doesn’t have sugars (i.e. fuel), I wouldn’t recommend using it in place of typical sports drinks during a marathon. I have used it successfully on very long runs, but always use the drink available on race courses because they contain carbohydrates.

With my lunch I go with a green juice. I like the VitaLife brand because I can get it at Aldi. It has all the veggies and then some and makes me feel like I’m doing something good for myself. I am aware that it is probably just a placebo effect, but I do think that since beginning my regimen of 8oz a day of green juice that I’ve done fairly well in not catching colds. Plus, I really like the taste. And, kind of like a multivitamin, I think it helps to fill in any gaps I may have missed nutritionally that day.

In the late afternoons, around the time the bus drops the kids off, I sometimes feel the need for a warm pick-me-up. I like to take about 15-20 minutes to just sit in the last few moments of quiet and meditate with a warm beverage. Sometimes I’ll make a latte, but if I’m not feeling the espresso I’ll go for my favorite; Teavana’s Matcha Green Tea. I like to make mine as a latte with steamed almond milk and a tiny pinch of sugar. The ritual of stirring the tea along with the comfort of holding on to a warm mug is a wonderful way to ground oneself. Plus it’s loaded with antioxidants, boosts my immune system, and gives me a little energy push.

In the evening, after the kids are in bed and everything has been cleaned up and I finally get to sit down and veg out in front of the TV, I make cup (or two) of peppermint tea. I started drinking peppermint tea to combat my acne (switching to almond milk from cow’s milk wasn’t quite cutting it). The tea made a huge difference within a week as well as helping me calm down at night and sleep better. But I also noticed that the persistent calf cramping went away once I began the tea regimen and soon discovered that peppermint is highly recommended for athletes. It improves heart rate, respiratory function, and blood pressure. It enhances mood and concentration. It works as an anti-inflammatory. It also helps tame irritable bowel syndrome. I will be adding this green gem to my morning routine as well in place of coffee. I also look forward to drinking it iced in the summer.

I consume roughly 82-100 oz of liquid a day (more in the warmer months), but as you can see it is not all just plain, boring water. And it has all become a bit of a ritual for me with certain beverages at certain times throughout the day. All liquid counts! I attempted the 8 8oz glasses of water a day as an experiment last fall and simply felt bloated and constantly ran to the toilet. Plus it was mentally hard to push through and drink that much water. But when I sat back and looked at what I actually did drink, I decided not to worry so much. I am definitely hitting the hydration benchmarks, and you probably are too. Don’t stress about what you are drinking and just keep a beverage at hand.

Fixing Saggy Leggings

I have a problem with keeping my pants up. It’s really annoying. So many of my runs are spent dragging my running tights back up. Only my Nike Pro leggings are okay and stay most of the way up most of the time. But they are fleece lined and I only can wear them on the coldest of days (plus they are an absolutely hideous pattern). And sometimes they are just in the wash. And they are expensive, so I haven’t been able to bring myself to buy another pair (the ones I have were a gift). Instead I’ve spent way too much money on cheaper stuff trying to find something that works.

I’ve been wanting leggings with pockets for ages so I could carry gels on long runs in the winter. I found a beautiful blue pair in T.J. Maxx and bought them against my better judgement. I’ve never been happy with athletic wear from discount stores like T.J. Maxx and just try to avoid it altogether – but I was in retail therapy mode & just really liked them. I jogged in place in the fitting room. I did squats & jumps & all sorts of contortions and felt they’d be fine. But, of course on my first run they began to sag less than a half mile in. I love the pants, they are pretty, functional, and so comfortable, but I’d never be able to do a long run in them without showing off my hiney.20180217_161910147586714.jpg

Why can’t I find leggings that stay up?! I’ve tried different material, different sizes, different styles & brands. It’s always the same story; the material starts sliding down, bunching  up at the knees and ankles with a saggy crotch. It’s uncomfortable and distracting – no way to get through a 2+ hour long run!

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I was getting ready to toss these in the “not for running” pile when I started thinking of ways to fix them. Putting more elastic in the waist band seemed like a lot of effort. I wasn’t convinced that taking in the sides would do much good. But a draw string might do the trick.

I took a shoelace out of an old pair of running shoes to use as the draw string (a ribbon or string from an old hoodie or pair of sweat pants would work great too) and snipped some holes on the inside of the waist band. My shoelace had plastic ends so it was easy to thread through. If you are using a different type of string or ribbon I suggest using a safety pin on the end to be able to feel it & push it through.

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Voila! Easy peasy and completely solved my saggy legging problem. I think this may just have saved my whole winter running wardrobe.

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2017 Year in Review

2017 has had it’s ups and downs and has been a seriously tough year.  However, my running year has been fantastic.  While getting the time to run has been tricky at times, I’ve been pretty good at being consistent, getting the hard work done, and staying focused.

I didn’t run a lot of races this year, instead I focused on a select few and put my all into them.  I completed one 5K, two 10Ks, a 5 miler, a half marathon, and two marathons.  Each race that I did run was a personal best, from the 5k to the marathon. I just kept getting faster & faster all year.  While some of the distances were improved while on training runs or in a marathon, here are my new PRs for the open races:

5K:  4/9/2017 Chicken Run 5k, 20:01 – 6:30 min/mile
10K: 8/5/2017 Hop River Run, 41:32 – 6:36 min/mile
5M: 10/8/2017 Andover Lake Race, 33:01 – 6:32 min/mile
1/2 marathon: 2/25/2017 Colchester Half, 1:39.35 – 7:34 min/mile
Marathon: 10/22/2017 Atlantic City, 3:18.23 – 7:32 min/mile

Garmin Connect has given me a whole bunch of other awesome data for the year as well.  In 2017 I ran a total of 1668.73 miles (that’s like running just over 538 local 5Ks).  That ended up being 237 hours, 55 minutes, and 49 seconds on my feet (almost 10 solid days of running).  I made good use of my time too, averaging 7.0 mph (or 8:34 min/mile).  I also climbed a total of 58,253 feet of elevation.  That’s like climbing Mount Everest twice!

This year I also started using Strava & utilizing some of the data on their site as well as connecting with some wonderful running friends.  I’ve learned a lot about running this year, and learned how to be a better runner and be more patient with the marathon distance.  This growth as gained me two Boston qualifiers.  I met one of my idols, Kathryn Switzer, and have plowed through a handful of books.  Despite some of the hard stuff (living separate from my husband and flying solo with the kids, illness, moving, and making it a whole year without anxiety meds!) I have had one awesome year.  And, with all my new PRs, experience, and mojo, I am really looking forward to seeing what I can pull off in 2018!

I hope you had a great 2017 and I hope you have an even better 2018.  Happy New Year!!

Not According to Plan

I’ve learned something over the last couple of weeks: marathon training and moving don’t go well together.  We finally closed on the house on the first, which was a major feat in and of itself.  We’ve had one set back after another regarding this move, but we weren’t about to give up.  I was barely getting over an illness when it was time to get going.  I had done little packing in the week before the papers were signed, in fact, I did little of anything other than lay in bed with a fever begging for Death to take me quickly.

We started moving boxes and some of the furniture right away.  Hubs even took the following Monday off to make trips back and forth, to spend endless hours in Home Depot, and scrambling to get the water in the kitchen to stop pouring all over the floor.  This wasn’t our moving plan at all.  We figured we’d have several days to get the new house deep cleaned, repaired, and possibly some paint on the walls before we started hauling our belongings in.  We also had planned on using the four day weekend during Thanksgiving to do most of the heavy lifting and multiple trips.  We had planned on doing this all in a nice orderly fashion on a fairly reasonable timeline.

But things don’t always go according to plan.  The bank had their issues, our lawyer was hard to get ahold of (and even out of the country when it was time to close!), and our closing didn’t line up at the beginning of the week but at the end of one.  We had to roll with the punches and just make it work.

Between illness and moving, my running has been all over the place.  I’ve missed some long runs, I’ve taken extra days off, I’ve done hodgepodge workouts on what should have been rest days.  I have decided to follow the BAA’s marathon training plan, and am currently in the Base Phase, but my plan has all but derailed.  However, I have no other choice but to roll with it and just make it work.  With illness behind me (nothing more than a few sniffles now), I know that things will settle down soon and I’ll be right on track once it’s time to put some serious work in on the roads.  I’m following the plan as best I can, but also listening to my body and taking a rest or an easy day if I feel I need it.  It’s more important to stay healthy & get the mileage in than it is to be strict about plans & pacing.  So, I suppose I am more on track than I’ve given myself credit for.  If the plan is to run, be happy, and stay healthy, I would say that I’m doing just that.

House Limbo

We are still in the limbo phase of trying to move & “frustrating” isn’t even the half of it.  The lender is coming up with one silly (and seemingly unethical) issue after another.  Last week they were demanding an explanation of deposits in Hubs’ mother’s bank account.  Nope, she’s not a co-signer.  Nope, they don’t even have the same last name.  Nope, there is no reason for them to even care about what’s in her account.  This week they are claiming that the hard water in the house is inadequate (despite the water tests coming back & specifically stating that the water is perfectly fine for human consumption) and the sellers need to install a specific water softener before they will clear the loan.  Our broker keeps telling us ‘one more week!’, and that was five weeks ago!

I’ve got the kids’ new school hounding the old school for records and the old school hounding me for a release date.  Someone from somewhere called their school today trying to find out where they were…which led to a series of phone calls to verify that they really should be in the classrooms that they are currently in.

Half of our belongings (including all of the books and winter coats!) are in storage and I’m surrounded by stacks of boxes.  We had agreed to take a friend’s dog because his work had him traveling constantly & wouldn’t be able to care for him any longer.  We all assumed we’d be moved in time for his Vegas trip, but sadly, are still stuck in our apartment with a no-dogs-allowed lease.  Thankfully he’s a quiet dog, however the landlord is on his way over to pick up the rent check! Yikes, here’s hoping we don’t get busted.

I’m feeling a bit lost & overwhelmed myself.  We are scraping together as much money as possible for the down payment, the rental truck, and whatever repairs & cleaning fees we may encounter when the move finally does happen.  This means we’ve been eating super cheap (read: not very healthy), avoiding spending of all kinds (nope, not getting those new running shoes just yet), and trying to stay close to home (not registering or committing to any races for the time being).  And, I just don’t really know what to do with myself.  I’d love to go get a part time job since everyone is looking to hire holiday help, but I don’t know if I may close in the next week & move to the other side of the state.  Or I could end up staying here another 2 or 3 months twiddling my thumbs.  I’m recovered from my marathon, but don’t have anything to train for & I’m bored with base mileage already.  I’ve pretty much run out of “non-essentials” to pack, and can’t risk shopping for gifts just yet.  Home ownership is tough & we still don’t even own anything!

I’m hoping to throw in a few 5Ks & 10Ks next month, and of course, hopefully that means we’ll be settled into our new digs, but, like always, I need to be prepared to change the plan.  Things don’t always go the way you want them to, and sometimes there’s no forcing a situation.  You have to just ride it out (or run it out), recover, and get ready for the next one.  While the situation is stressful, we are trying to make the best of it and are super grateful for the people around us that are making it easier, like our landlord that is letting us go month to month & week to week, my parents who have counselled us through the process, & the fire department that pushed my husband’s paperwork ahead & voted on his acceptance early.  We know we will get to our dream home, the journey just might take a little longer than planned.  I know we’ll be moved & settled at some point, I know I won’t be living out of boxes forever, but it’s hard to stay optimistic when there is such little progress.

I must be addicted…

I haven’t run in 4 days & I’m starting to get cranky about it. I had intended to run every other day for a week or two as I recovered from the marathon, but that plan hasn’t worked out so well. The last time I ran was Thursday morning.

On Friday afternoon I managed to fall down the cement stairs from my house to the driveway. I dunno, I lost my balance somehow on my way back to the car to unload groceries. I went flying down the bottom four steps, hit the side on my head on the stone wall, landed squarely on my right knee cap, and slid on my outstretched hands across the gravel. The pain was unreal and is still holding me back. (Oh hello hip pain!) The day following the fall was significantly worse, so I opted for a second rest day & Ibuprofen.

Sunday showed up with intense wind & rain. Roads flooded, trees fell, and power outages covered the state. I opted to stay inside. Rest day number 3.

I looked forward to today being Monday. The kids would go to school, I’d have time to run, peace & quiet to do some work on the house, & do the finishing touches on Halloween costumes. But an early morning call from the school said otherwise. Due to all the storm damage there would be no school! Agk! Four days off! The wind & rain was so bad this morning that Wal-Mart last power twice while we were getting costume supplies. And, it turns out my trail is a bit flooded.

Fingers crossed that tomorrow works out. The kids have their Harvest Day Celebration & Parade and are looking forward to wearing their costumes to school. I’m also looking forward to getting in a little run time, even if it means muddy shoes! Unfortunately, not enough of the town’s power has been restored, so it’s still uncertain what’s going to happen.

This is where I’d even be tolerant of a treadmill…