Sunday, July 26, 2015

Workouts - July 27, 2015

Well, I am back from the mountains.  I wish I could have packed up the cool mountain air in a little box to carry with me on this week's runs!

Monday: 7 miles on dirt singletrack on our last day in Flagstaff, 9:21 pace.  I did a farewell lap through Buffalo Park and remembered all the many happy years of running I did there.  *sniff*

Goodbye Buffalo Park loop, even though you can be an unforgiving slog at altitude. 

Goodbye Switzer Canyon deer, even though you like to steal gel packets from the back of my pants.

Goodbye $5 Los Altos vegeterian burrito the size of my head, even though...well, there's no downside here.

Tuesday: Guess what?  Rest.  Well, if you count seven hours of travel time with a toddler to be a "restful" experience.  Because I don't.

Wednesday: More rest, just to drive the point home.

Thursday: 5.5 miles on Lakeshore Trail, 9:40 pace, cursing the humidity the entire time.

Returning to the Deep South be all like...sorry, I took this when I was pretty much hallucinating.  I know it's ugly, and the best part is the crusted gel on my lip.  You're welcome. 

Friday: 5 miles around Downtown, 9:07 pace.  Yay, I did not miss the invigorating catcalls of home. 

Saturday: No running!  I took my family to Oak Mountain, because my husband ran the Hotter 'n Hell Trail Race, which is part of a year-long series that ends with a 50k.  He came in seventh overall in the nine-mile race!

Hanging at the trailhead with the other ultra groupies and widows.

Taken moments before the start, and probably 15 minutes before W decided to shout "WUN WUN WACE" and run right into the creek head first.  Good times.

Sunday: I found some other degenerates who had skipped the Birmingham Track Club Saturday long run, and we met at 5:30 am to do what most people call the "ten mile loop."  But for whatever reason, it's more like 9.2 miles.  The guys I ran with are very strict about pace, and we ran 9:30 for the whole thing.  My buddy Michael was nice enough to put out a cooler full of iced Gatorade at the halfway mark before we got started, and he is my hero.  Incidentally, this was the fourth day in a row where my weather app said "100% humidity."  I just can't anymore. 

Totals:  Exactly 27 miles of running, split into four runs.  No cross training or weight training.  I'll be back in the routine come next week.

See you then!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Major Sideye for "Popular Running Culture"

I am in a very curmudgeonly mood today.  Most likely because a running acquaintance of mine recently looked at my Strava data and said, "huh, you look like you'd be much faster."  LOOOOOL!

I've spent the past few days catching up on running blogs, and there are some things that I am just DYING to complain about.  Ready?  Yeah, me neither.

1.  I hate how half marathons are feminized.  

I've mentioned this before, but I hate how half marathons are marketed as the girls' version of the manly marathon.  I hate all the See Girls Run and Nutella tie-ins and wine races and things that are meant to attract groups of girl friends.  I wouldn't be caught dead at a Disney Princess potluck, much less a road race.  I don't want paint thrown on me while I run.  Past a certain point, it just seems like things are being dumbed down for the silly li'l' ladies with their delicate lady bodies.  As my old swim coach would say, "suck it up, buttercup."  You can run the whole damn marathon.  Just try it. 

But then I see flyers like this and think maybe I DO want to put on my sexiest heels and "spur on my training" with two of my closest galfrans and our evening clutches.  Wait, still no.

2.  I hate the culture of "race bling."

If you are racing specifically for a medal, you should maybe stop and ask yourself when your life became so unfulfilling.


At the Mercedes Marathon, a volunteer at the finish line forcibly handed me a medal, which resulted in some pretty self-conscious and cringeworthy photos.  I mean, am I the only one?  Not to be all Debbie Downer here, but aren't there better ways to spend race entry fees?  Like more money to charity or more bananas or something?

3.  I hate everything about the marketing of "easy" races.  

You guys!  This race has a faster average finish time than Boston!   Six out of ten runners set new PRs!  It has a net elevation loss of 2700 feet!  This race is so crazy fast, your face will literally melt off!  You can go ahead and buy your ticket to Boston!  But act now, supplies are limited and this race WILL.  SELL.  OUT.

Again, you maybe need to ask yourself some hard questions.  Mostly, "Why do I run?" and "How old am I, again?"  There's a lot of evidence these "fast courses" don't really improve times much anyway.  Maybe you should work on becoming a better runner, and not so much on gaming the system.  And if you are running for a personal challenge (and not to set world records, as I'm assuming most of you are my fellow recreational runners), then wouldn't a difficult course be more rewarding?  Just asking. 

4.  I especially hate how female running clothing is all pink, purple, and pink.  

Especially since my watch band is red.  That is all.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Workouts - July 20 and Scenes from our Arizona Trip

Monday: 5.3 miles on Lakeshore, with intervals (1.5 miles warmup, 4x800 at 80%, 1.5 miles cool down), ended up being 8:30 pace overall and the fastest interval was 6:45 pace
Tuesday: Rest, spent the whole day traveling
Wednesday: Walked a few miles around downtown, then hiked about 6 in a National Park
Thursday: 5.7 miles of running on dirt singletrack trails, 9:37 pace
Friday: About 8 miles of hiking in another National Park
Saturday: 6.1 miles of running on dirt singletrack trails, 9:36 pace, probably 5ish miles of hiking after
Sunday: Not a thing besides snacking and pushing a stroller around town

You can probably tell it's been an odd week, but it's been amazing. 

We took advantage of a summer deal from Southwest, and headed out to Flagstaff, Arizona, the town where I went to university and lived for many years.  Here are some of the (hundreds of) photos we have taken so far:

Monday, July 13, 2015

Workouts - July 13, 2015 and Scenes from Camping and my 36th

Workouts - July 6 through July 12
Monday: 3.7 miles in the park, legs still heavy from the race, didn't look at my watch, 9:58 pace
Tuesday: Rest, left on our camping trip
Wednesday: 4 miles on some back roads near our campsite, 9:37 pace
Thursday: full body weight training circuit
Friday: 5.3 miles on Lakeshore Trail, 9:05 pace
Saturday: 12.2 hilly miles with the track club, 9:20 pace
Sunday: Rest, took my son to the pool, 111 F outside!

Cheesing before the long run.  I really need some more attractive sports bras. 

We also had a fantastic few days this week on a very glamorous camping (glamping?) trip with family.  The four of us stayed in our own tiny house in the woods.  The days were filled with swimming, hugging, playing in the dirt, and eating special treats.  So here are way too many photos:

Once we got home, these two took me out for a birthday dinner at a local pub. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Race Report: Peavine Falls Run, 8.2 Mile Trail Combo on July 4, 2015, Oak Mountain, Alabama (1:15:16)

The Peavine Falls Run is the third one of four in the Birmingham Track Club Series, which includes a 10-miler, a 15k, an 8.2-mile trail combo race, and a 10k.  The club offers one entry price for all four races, and the price is astonishingly low ($65!).  I signed up for this race along with all the others because...hey, might as well.  Peavine is an 8.2-mile trail combo race that goes up and back down the gravel road to the Peavine Falls overlook at Oak Mountain State Park, with some singletrack thrown in for good measure.

My single decent race photo, for reasons that will become obvious later in this post. 

Last time I raced at Oak Mountain, it was in delightful early spring weather, I was in marathon shape, and I won second overall female.  This race was a bit different, in that I am still coming back from a spring injury that required about six weeks of physical therapy and rehab.  (You can go ahead and skip the rest of this paragraph if that kind of thing bores or bums you out, sorry!)  Although the injury itself was progressive, the moment I realized I was well and truly hurt came on March 21.  The next week, I managed two miles total, a lot of swimming, and a referral to an orthopedic sports clinic.  I started PT on May 4.  After that, I was pretty much on the treadmill for some short and flat runs, in the pool, working PT like it was my second job, and taking some tentative weekly "test runs" on outdoor routes.  On May 16, I finally had a decent eight-mile outdoor run at a snail's pace and decided I would start building mileage back up.  All of that takes me to...


After I sat out (and volunteered at) my club's famous Statute2Statue 15k, I decided that I would do whatever it took to be able to run Peavine Falls from start to finish without pain.  Seven weeks out, I decided to just work on building total weekly mileage, do everything my PT told me to, and listen to my body.  That's it.  The seven weeks before the race looked like this:

Week 1: 12 miles (4 treadmill, 8 outdoor), 2 weight training sessions
Week 2: 21.9 miles (4.2 treadmill, 17.7 outdoor), 1 weight training session, cycling class
Week 3: 25.3 miles (5 treadmill, 20.3 outdoor), 1 weight training session
Week 4: 23.5 miles (5 treadmill, 18.5 outdoor), 1 weight trainins session, cycling class
Week 5: 26.9 miles (all outdoor), cycling class
Week 6: 24.6 miles (all outdoor), 3 weight training sessions, cycling class
Week 7: 25 miles (9.2 treadmill, 15.8 outdoor), 1 weight training session after the race

I see the greatest improvements in my pace when I focus on building mileage, especially in the form of longer aerobic runs.  And I found myself in a place where I desperately needed to rebuild aerobic capacity.  So that's all I focused on.  My longest "long" run prior to the race was 11.6 miles on June 20.  I didn't go into the race expecting to race hard, win my age group, or even appear reasonably fit to the other runners around me.  My goals were to 1) run as much of the race as possible, 2) at or close to a 9:15 pace, 3) with my hip intact, and 4) be prepared to shut it down at the first sign of pain.

The Course
The race is run primarily on the old gravel road up to the Peavine Falls overlook on Oak Mountain.  It starts at the Dogwood Picnic Pavilion, which has a lot of parking, a large playground, a covered patio, and bathrooms.  As with most of the Birmingham Track Club-sponsored events, there is race day registration, and a huge number of people show up and register at the last minute.  The race starts at 7:00am, and runners head directly up the winding Peavine Falls Road, which is older asphalt and pea gravel. 

Plan view from Strava.

The steepest section begins about 1.2 miles in, and there is an aid station 1.8 miles from the start.  The turnaround point is at 3.7 miles, where there is a second aid station and runners are directed down the same way they came up.  At about mile 6.5, the course turns onto a section of singletrack trail that covers some rolling terrain back to the pavilion.

Elevation profile, my pace superimposed.

The Race

You can view my race on Strava if you'd like.   I finished in 1:15:16, which was good enough for 28/178 women and 5th in my age group.  It's probably apparent that this race was poorly attended by women in the 30+ age groups. 

The night before the race, one of my track club buddies texted me and said he had decided to run the race, and had managed to snag a bib from another (female) runner.  We made loose plans to meet near the start and look for a few other friends.  As I debated whether to wear a full shimmel or just a bra top, I saw the rainy weather forecast for the first time.  I left my house around 5:45 to drive the 20 miles to Oak Mountain. The moment I pulled out of my garage, I knew the weather was going to be a problem.

As I drove over Red Mountain, there was a torrential downpour and I had to pull over under an overpass.  My phone started alarming with a National Weather Service advisory for all-day flash flooding in the area.  I just kept driving and hoping for the best.  By the time I parked, it had turned into a steady, light rain.  I found my friends and said my hellos while we waited for the start.  There was some debate about where we should line up, as this is a gun-timed race with no starting mat.  We found a compromise about four rows back and I started up my music.  The weather was looking wet but decent as the gun went off. 

Photo from

1)   8:41 (+16 feet) 
2)   10:09 (+287 feet)
3)   9:54 (+141 feet)
4)   9:18 (-38 feet)
5)   9:06 (-2 feet)
6)   8:10 (-248 feet)
7)   9:07 (-101 feet)
8)   10:12 (-54 feet)

For the first mile, I ran a comfortable pace with my friends and didn't check my watch.  Once the climb started, I found my own pace and worked to maintain a very steady and controlled stride.  I ran past the first aid station just as the rain started to pick up.  Once my watch said 2.2 miles, I really started to feel the incline.

Then, just past mile three, another downpour began.  The sky was black, and it was like buckets of water were being dumped over our heads.  At that same moment, I saw the very fastest guys hit the turnaround point and start bombing back down toward us.  The rain had become so completely ridiculous by that point that I felt actual jealousy that they were able to run away from the heavier rain at the top of the mountain while I had to run deeper and deeper into the storm.

I finally saw the top, along with the track club photographer who snapped the photo at the top of this post.  Apparently, I was still running with a smile on my face, and I believe that is an excellent representation of some major flaws in my character.  My shoes were full of rainwater, my shorts had become plastered to my body in an extremely revealing manner, and my headphones were shorting out.  At the turnaround, I reached into the baggie of candy corn I was carrying in my front pocket and found just a plastic pouch full of syrupy orange rainwater and grit.  After slowing only long enough to chug a cup of Powerade, I took off back down the hill.  I quickly developed some additional goals for the race:  5) don't get hit by lightning, 6) don't slip and fall, and 7) don't let that woman in the Hokas pass me. 

Survival: a visual representation with heart rate data.

I went into this race having read some blogs and Strava comments about the fact that Peavine Falls is a major cardiovascular challenge.  A few of my Strava buddies have logged their highest recorded heart rates during this race.  Once I downloaded my watch data, I was pleased to see that my heart spent the front half of the race in Burn The Bitch Down mode (a/k/a 183-190 BPM).  I can't say it felt amazing, but I feel like I was able to stay relaxed and in control.  I still had enough juice left to regain my composure and head back down the hill.

The rain actually let up a bit as I started back down.  From the turnaround to the trailhead, I ran a comfortable-hard pace.  The decline of the road was begging me to take the turns wide, get sloppy, overstride, or slow down.  I ran the inside of all the turns and used my upper body strength to control my running form.  Every time someone tried to pass me, I just pushed a little harder and used the downgrade to pull me ahead.  I passed about ten people this way and felt comfortable the whole time.

Taken near the end by Suman at

Once we hit the beginning of the trail, the rain had reached flash flood levels once again.  There was immediately a huge backlog of people unprepared for running on the flooded singletrack who were trying to get their footing in the comparatively dark woods.  I fixed my eyes on the ground and carefully made my way around all of them until I was running comfortably behind some guys who were moving swiftly and steadily down the trail.  My eyes were completely filled with water, and I fell against a tree on a tight turn.  In some places, the trail was flooded to ankle or midcalf level.  I saw lightning ground strikes above and below me.  By the time I saw the opening at the trailhead, I was just clipping along.  I say all of this for the express purpose of telling you that it was the most fun I have ever had during a race. 

I crossed the finish with 1:15:16 on the clock, 1:15:05 by my watch.  I hung around long enough to see the official results and my place on the race monitors, eat a banana, and regain my composure.  I watched a few of my track club friends cross the finish line, and we all chatted about how insane the weather had become.  The storm passed over, but the staging area was flooded and washed out, and volunteers were scrambling to protect the generators and power supply cables.

I traded my shoes for some dry sport sandals in the back of my car and drove home sitting on a beach towel.  I arrived to find my own building had flooded, shorting out the central electrical system that powers the elevators and hot water heaters.  So I ended my morning with seven flights of stairs and a cold shower. Yay?

Overall, this race had a lot of lessons to teach me.  I love trail running and I need to get back into it.  I am a lot stronger now than I was six months ago, especially on hills, and I want to keep up with the weight training and cross training.  So far, slowly building mileage and running "how I feel" has been a good strategy for regaining fitness.  Most of all, I am so thankful to be running strong and pain free again.  

As a final note, this race has my new favorite race tshirt.  It's cotton, gender specific, and a gorgeous blue color.  The front is just the elevation/distance profile for the race.  Love it.

Taken as I am writing this post.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Workouts - July 6, 2015

Here is the weekly workouts update.  I'm squeezing this in between some pretty intense work negotiations that have stretched over from last week (yes, through the weekend) and packing for a little camping trip.

This week has been a little off.  I caught a head cold from my son, and it's really made me feel lousy.  I felt almost completely better on Saturday morning, before heading out for a brutally steep 8-mile race in a downpour.  I came home to find no hot water in the building, and I just haven't felt the same since.  Without further ado:

Monday: 5 miles on Lakeshore Trail, 8:41 pace
Tuesday: Rest (not planned, just felt very run down)
Wednesday: 2.7 miles in the park, 8:29 pace
Thursday: 4 miles on the treadmill, 8:45 pace
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Peavine Falls Run, an 8.2- mile trail combo classic at Oak Mountain, I ran 1:15:16
Sunday: Unexpected treadmill run, 5.2 miles at 10:00 pace, 20-minute upper body weight circuit

I woke up Monday morning and the temperature had magically dropped 15 degrees overnight.  I was so excited that I hit the running trail immediately and went a lot faster than I intended.  It felt good.  By Tuesday, I was feeling the effects of the cold, so I just took it easy.  On Wednesday, I decided to take a quick spin in the park.  I was trying for cadence runs this week, and cutting out my normal strength training, in an effort to improve my performance at Saturday's race.  Thursday got very busy, and I did a home treadmill workout in the afternoon.  Friday was a rest day, like usual.

The race on Saturday was AMAZING and I had a lot of fun.  As it turns out, I haven't lost too much fitness since my spring injury, and I am feeling very encouraged about the fall.  I am planning to write a separate race recap, but I'm waiting until I have the nice "official" photos from the track club.  They are going to be pretty badass, because of the rain and flooding.  Here's a little preview of the finish:

Yes, exactly.
 Catch you guys later. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Diet Part II: Breakfast

I'm breaking these up because, like I said, I have a lot of food photos and a lot of food thoughts.  You can read Part I right here if you're not caught up.

A Bradley Method midwife convinced me to keep a food "journal" by taking phone photos and adding them to a private Pinterest board.  It's probably the laziest way ever to track diet.  I don't log things in any other way, I don't count calories or macronutrients, and for the most part I never look back. 

Okay, breakfast.  Breakfast is a meal where I feel like I actually do okay.  I'm generally more alert in the mornings, so I can make good decisions.  My son is usually behaving, and none of the day's insanity has crept up on me yet.  I also have total control over the menu and I try to keep it consistent from day to day.

I actually didn't always eat breakfast.  For most of my adult life, I skipped it.  I would wake up feeling groggy and dehydrated but not hungry, so I'd go ahead and get started with my or hit the gym, get dressed, have coffee, go to the office.  Around 10:00 or 11:00 I would start looking for a light meal or just give up and decide to wait until noon.

Smuggling a 9-pound baby under my shirt, at 39 weeks. 

It was pregnancy that completely changed these habits.  Almost as soon as I knew I was pregnant, I had crippling all-day nausea and I learned that I couldn't let myself get too hungry without throwing up.  I started eating small meals all day long, starting with breakfast.  It was weird to "learn how" to eat breakfast, but I loved making breakfasts for myself.  Especially just normal things like toast with jelly, grits, oatmeal, and bowls of cereal.  Once I started breastfeeding, I ate one or two breakfasts a day, usually oatmeal with butter and fruit.  All of that got me in the habit of eating breakfast, and I never stopped.   

These days, breakfasts take one of three forms:

The "Normal" Breakfast

Sometimes, I feel like I have no "typical" days.  But that's life with a toddler and an all-hours job.  This is how I eat breakfast on the days that I just wake up and eat with my family.  I just grab a bowl and fill it with breakfast-y things (again with the laziness, I know).  We belong to a CSA, and we are lucky enough that Alabama's long growing season gives us fresh fruits for most of the year.  We also shop in bulk for a lot of our groceries (like the oats and sunflower seeds here).

Each typical morning also includes at least one cup of French pressed coffee.  Depending on the quality of the coffee and my mood, I'll either have it black or with raw sugar and whole milk.  I should also add that I don't eat any artificial sweeteners or reduced fat dairy.  I don't see a point, when the real stuff tastes so much better.  

Raw oats, filmj√∂lk, peach, and sunflower seeds. 

Cottage cheese, strawberries, and sunflower seeds. 

Cooked oats, whole milk, strawberries, and honey.  Plus coffee.  Always coffee. 

Raw oats, cottage cheese, blueberries, and sunflower seeds.

The Early Run Breakfast

On mornings when I run early (the norm during summer), I always eat something before I head out the door.   I think I'm a freak runner, because I never really have stomach problems from running, and I can eat moments before running, while running, etc.  I don't know...maybe it's a high pain tolerance?  Sometimes I even have coffee beforehand, depending on how I feel and how long the run is.  I really need it for anything over 90 minutes.  I just save some leftover coffee from the day before and heat it up while I get dressed (I know, I know). 

A lighter pre-run breakfast: Larabar on the nightstand, no coffee.

A pre-run breakfast for a very long run: Clif bar, fruit, and coffee with extra sugar. 

The hotel gym version: banana, peanut butter, sugary coffee.

(Bonus: The Second Breakfast) 

If I run for more than 90 minutes or so, I have another breakfast after I get done.  I usually just make something brunch-y that seems like it will satisfy my hunger.  I love the combination of fried eggs and a sweet beverage like orange juice or hot cocoa.

A meal like this generally happens only once or twice a week, on a weekend day and after my son is napping and the house is calm.  

Scrambled eggs with pico de gallo, toasted whole wheat bagel with cheese, hot cocoa, and water.

Sourdough toast with butter, ugly microwaved eggs, dilute orange juice, and water.

And the hot-weather version: sweetened coffee and a sludgy green smoothie (whey protein powder, Green Superfood powder, frozen banana, hemp milk, peanut butter).

The Family Breakfast

Finally!  (This post is taking forever, by the way.)  My husband is home all day for a few days a week, and he likes to get up and make a more formal family breakfast.  I really love these meals, and we get them at least once a week.  I don't have to do anything but wake up and walk to the table.  And yes, I have been know to get directly back up from the table and go running.  I am a freak of nature, I guess. 

Two scrambled eggs with Sriracha, broiled toast, and sweetened coffee. 

French toast with Earth Balance and lingonberries, sweetened coffee.

So, overall I think I do okay with breakfast.  It has been a good exercise for me to look back through older photos and see the good and bad trends in them.  Now that it's all said and done, these are the things I am going to work on: 

1. Some form of protein with each meal.
2. Less added sugar, unless I really need the carbs for a planned long run.

3. Whole grain bread instead of white slices.
4. Stick to a single cup of coffee.
5.  Always eat something healthful after working out (part of my overall goals for this project).