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Archive for August, 2012

stack of pancakes with syrup

I could eat this photo by Alicia Solario

You know what the hardest part of a long Saturday run is? It’s not the early morning wake up, the Southern California 76 degree heat even at 7 a.m., the 86 degree heat by the time I finished, the 11 miles on the road, or the smell of exhaust from the lawn mowers and leaf blowers. It’s the smell of pancakes, scrambled eggs and bacon. I don’t even eat bacon, but it smells heavenly when all you’ve had to eat is half a banana and you’re eight miles into a run. There ought to be a law, or at least a principle of honor, that dictates that anyone who makes pancakes on a Saturday morning on a well-traveled running route must set out an extra plate, preferably with a side of real maple syrup. Listen up politicians. Here’s your new campaign slogan, free of charge: Pancakes for Everyone! The world would be a better place.

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Putting my marathon race goals out there for everyone to see intimidates me. I know that saying them out loud makes me no more or less likely to achieve them. I will put in the hard work of training. I will do my best to rest for recovery, eat well, and stay healthy. With a little luck thrown in, I will show up well-trained and injury-free on race day. Then it’s a matter of seeing how the cards fall that morning.

Which of these goals will I achieve? Does it make it any less of an accomplishment if I don’t achieve them all? (Remind self on race day: the answer is no — if you achieve any of these goals, you should be thrilled and proud and ready to strive for the next goal at the next race!)

5. Finish the race. I know all too well that the goal with any race, and particularly a new running race distance, is to finish. No DNS, no DNF = win! An automatic PR! Better yet, finish without injury and you’re golden even without a spot on the podium.

4. Finish in under 4:30. That would be a darn respectable time.

3. Finish in under 4:10. Now we’re talking.

2. Finish in under 4:04. That’s what the McMillan Running Calculator and other pace calculators predict I can do based on my half marathon time — somewhere in the range of 4:04 and 4:02.

1. Sub-4! There’s a big difference between 4:04 and 3:59:59. Some (including the authors of Run Less, Run Faster) would say it’s not wise for me to push the pace and try to break four hours. Perhaps they are right, and “they” can tell me they told me so on race day. I am content to strive for my highest goal. My training thus far proves that the goal is on target. Using the Run Less, Run Faster plan and assuming a marathon pace of 9:06, I am able to meet the prescribed times for the track repeats, tempo runs and long runs. Fingers crossed, knock on wood, I’ve-put-it-out-there-don’t-smite-me-now, I will achieve one or more of my goals at my first marathon less than three months from now!

Do you set one or more goals for yourself for a race? How has that played out for you in past races? I broke 30 minutes in my first 5K as an adult. I completed my first 8K and 10Ks without injury (I set a low bar on those races!), and I reached my highest goal of a sub-2 for my first half marathon.

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Oh my goodness, I am about to bring women everywhere a valuable public service announcement. If you’ve ever wished you could pee standing up, here is your cure for penis envy.

It’s the Shewee, the hilarious yet oh-so-practical female urination device for the athlete on the go! You pull aside your underwear, place the Shewee securely to your body, aim away from your feet, complete your business, shake dry and place the Shewee back in its case or a resealable bag. Here’s the illustration from the company in case you’re having trouble picturing it:

Right off the bat I can see at least three uses for this for female athletes:

1. To avoid having to sit on the nasty seat at the race porta potties.
2. To pee discreetly while on the race course without having to wet oneself or wait in line at an all-too-rare porta potty on the course.
3. To finally be able to write your name in the snow.

Why had I never heard of this before?! Apparently this is only one of several brands of such devices on the market. Another reusable brand folds up compactly, and there are disposable, cardboard versions, too.

So ladies, let’s get down to business. Would you use the Shewee? Have you tried it or something like it? Have you ever squatted in the bushes at a race? Have you ever wet yourself (on purpose) while running, just to save valuable race time? 

FTC disclosure: Amazon.com links support this blog at no cost to you and do not affect the opinion of FitFunMom.

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All summer long I have been working on a fun project that promotes good nutrition, an interest in geography, and a broader world view. See this map?

World Map

World map with flags for recipes from various countries

It’s hanging in my kitchen. Those little yellow flags represent meals I have cooked from countries around the world. My kids get involved in the selection and preparation of the meals (a tip I have found that works wonders for making children more likely to try something new!) My 10-year-old read the Percy Jackson series and asked for a meal from Greece, so we made Greek salad with homemade Greek dressing. Then she read The Red Pyramid also by Rick Riordan and we made koshary from Egypt.

Many of the recipes we’ve made have been inexpensive, vegetarian, and easy to prepare. We’ve made a broad range of recipes using whole foods and a wide variety of spices, which I believe contributes to good health. From the cookbooks The Best Recipes in the World and Extending the Table: A World Community Cookbook, we’ve made pumpkin soup from Venezuela, scalloped corn from Paraguay, African meatballs from Chad, rutabaga pudding from Norway, red curry from Thailand, and outback damper from Australia, just to name a few. Several of the recipes we pulled from Allrecipes.com for free:

Canada: Firefighter’s Meatloaf
China: Steamed Buns with Barbecue Pork, Egg Rolls (I left out the ground beef and MSG, and baked them not fried, and made this Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce for them)
New Zealand: Pavlova
South Africa: Milk Tart, Yellow Rice

Finally, I couldn’t forget our great state of California: California Rolls (we replaced the imitation crab with shredded carrots)

Not everything has been a huge success, but several of the meals have become family favorites. When a child turns her nose up at a meal, she knows the house rules. You don’t have to eat it, you don’t even have to try it, but if you don’t want it, you make yourself your own dinner. Even the four-year-old can pour herself a bowl of cereal and milk or use the toaster with supervision. Dinnertime should not be a battle — it should be fun!

The kids help locate the country or state on the map and push in the flag pins, often on the capital city. If we have time, we look up pictures from the country on the internet. During the meal, we talk about our travels if we have been there, or daydream about the trips we’d like to take some day.

Want to recreate this project? We bought the map on Amazon.com, mounted it with spray glue to three foam core boards, then framed it with molding from Home Depot. Here are some of the products I used: Giant World MegaMap, Large Wall Map, Non-Laminated 48×77, The Best Recipes in the World cookbook, Extending the Table: A World Community Cookbook, Yellow Rectangle Map Push Pins.

Do you have a favorite world recipe?

FTC disclosure: Affiliate links support this blog at no cost to you and do not affect the opinion of FitFunMom.

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Here’s a little running humor to start your week off right:

After three pregnancies, my regular shoe size went up half a size to 9.5. When I bought my first pair of running shoes, they were a size 10.5. Then the manufacturer changed the model for the new year and I needed a — gasp — 11. As I trained for my first triathlons and half marathon, I lost 17 pounds and with those, lost one full bra cup size! Ladies, can any of you relate?

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Last we spoke I was planning to head to Zuma Beach in Malibu in the morning to preview the swim course for the Nautica Malibu Triathlon. That remained the plan this morning, right up to the moment my seven-year-old said, “I don’t feel so good.” Sure enough, the thermometer revealed a temperature of 100.7 degrees Fahrenheit. No beach day for us. I could have gone by myself, but I was following what I consider the first rule of open water swimming: Don’t swim in open water alone. If it were a protected, waveless cove with a lifeguard or a calm, shallow lake where my feet could touch the ground at all times, I might be willing to break that rule. Not in the open Pacific Ocean, without buoys, and with unknown lifeguard coverage. The whole point of going out there was to test the waters with waves and wind, and I wasn’t willing to risk swimming in those conditions alone, in spite of the fact that I am a strong swimmer who has never had a problem. That preview can wait a few more weeks, although the triathlon website helpfully reminds me that there are only 33 days until the event!

So, a monkey wrench got thrown into my workout plans. That brings me to what I consider an athlete’s most important quality. It’s not talent, speed, strength, or agility — it’s dedication. How dedicated was I to getting in a workout today? Could I bounce back and switch mental gears for a new plan? I had a choice to make. I could (1) scratch today’s workout altogether, (2) swim at the Y (an option until a friend helpfully texted the warning that the pool was closed “til further notice”), (3) pay a few dollars to swim at another outdoor pool facility, or (4) brave the heat wave and go for my regular Sunday long bike ride. It seems Southern California has a fever too:

Car external thermometer readout

My car’s external thermometer readout at the bike trailhead parking lot.

I hit the bike trail for an easy 10.3 miles with a few speed intervals thrown in. The 100-degree heat posed no problem as long as I stopped at the drinking fountains for a water bottle refill. The only issue was that the first water station was surrounded by about 30 homeless people. I was less worried about my safety or my water needs and more worried about the people who had to bear the dry, relentless heat we have been experiencing here. Thank goodness on the return route I saw that the reason so many people were gathered in that area was that the food truck arrived to serve an afternoon meal. I looked to see if I could spot a name on the truck so I could donate to that organization. Sadly I couldn’t see it and I wasn’t willing to stop because I already had a homeless guy joking with me that he wanted to hitch a ride on my aero bars! I smiled and rode on.

I love the Santa Ana River Trail and I have never felt unsafe there. Many homeless people live under the bridge underpasses but I have never had an issue with them. I won’t run west toward the beach by myself in the early morning, but I’d ride my bike no problem, and I’d run later in the day without worrying. The route east toward the wealthier suburbs are fine at any time. The trail is well enough used that it’s not a cause for concern. I’m cautious and smart and I listen to my female, internal warning system. (Don’t worry Mom and Dad! I know you’re reading this!) Bad things can happen anywhere no matter how smart and cautious you are, and I think of Sherri Arnold often, but more often than not I think of my getting out there as a small honor to her.

At any rate, today’s bike ride proved fun and uneventful. I approached Angel Stadium and the Honda Center in Anaheim:

Santa Ana River Trail view of Anaheim Stadium and Honda Center

Santa Ana River Trail view of Anaheim Stadium and the Honda Center

and eventually stood right under this:

The A at Angel Stadium

The A at Angel Stadium as viewed from the Santa Ana River Trail

Heavenly.

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Perhaps you have heard the following inspirational quote by Eleanor Roosevelt:

Do one thing every day that scares you.

It’s the mantra that got me through much of my early triathlon training. Learn to ride with bike shoes and clipless pedals. Scary, but check. Get back on the bike after once falling over on a hill with my feet still clipped in to the pedals’ cleats. Double scary, but check! Master the fine art of pelagic swimming. Check. Use the word “pelagic” in a sentence. Check for today! (Note that no triathlete I know calls it pelagic swimming, it’s just open water swimming. But I wanted to sound smart compliments of the Dictionary.com Word of the Day — “Pelagic: of or pertaining to the open seas and oceans.”) Speaking of which, I will be practicing my open water swimming skills tomorrow as I preview the course for the Nautica Malibu Triathlon. Pictures to follow! In the meantime, enjoy this photo of the one thing that scared me yesterday:

My husband and I singing “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones at karaoke night.

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I only wish I were there to see the London 2012 Olympics! Photo credit: JP Photography

Okay fine. It’s a slight exaggeration to say I did speedwork with the Jamaican sprinter and Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt. Just a tiny bit misleading. It would be more accurate to say that I did Tuesday’s speed workout on the treadmill at the gym while I watched Usain Bolt qualify for the Men’s 200m in the semifinals of the London 2012 Olympics. Nearly as inspirational and motivational, right?

I am new to speedwork. When I trained this past spring for my first half marathon, I ran with a running group whose plan avoided speedwork altogether. We did one long run on Saturdays and four more easy or medium efforts during the week. The coaches thought the best strategy to get us to race day well-trained and injury-free was to have us put in the mileage with four months of steady running. I can see the wisdom in that and it indeed got me to race day healthy and helped me achieve my goal of a sub-2 half.

This time around, I am following a marathon training plan from Runner’s World Run Less, Run Faster, Revised Edition: Become a Faster, Stronger Runner with the Revolutionary 3-Run-a-Week Training Program. The plan incorporates one speed workout, one tempo run, and one long run, plus at least two days of cross-training. Perfect for this triathlete!

The Run Less, Run Faster plan tailors each workout based on the runner’s previous race times (for me, my half marathon time of 1:55:10). Tuesday’s speed workout called for the following:

Warmup at 10:00 pace, 6 mph*
1200m at 7:29, 8.02 mph
1000m at 7:28, 8.04 mph
800m at 7:22, 8.14 mph
600m at 7:17, 8.23 mph
400m at 7:12, 8.33 mph
RI** 200m (for me, done at a gasping walk!)
Cooldown at 10:00, 6 mph

* I mention the miles per hour for people like me who are pace-challenged. For the record, I am also direction-challenged (never ask me if we’re heading north on a trail) and spatial-relations-challenged (it’s a wonder I haven’t tripped over my own feet yet).
** Rest Interval in between each drill.

I find that I love speedwork. I feel a huge sense of accomplishment when I finish. I never get bored, which is saying a lot when I have to run on the treadmill. Even more important, it gives me a physical boost and the mental confidence to know that I am working toward hitting my goal pace on race day.

Do you incorporate speedwork into your running workouts? What’s your favorite track repeat? Do you find the Olympics as inspiring and motivating as I do?!

FTC disclosure: Affiliate links support this blog at no cost to you and do not affect the opinion of FitFunMom.

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For a long time, I had babies on the brain. I was either pregnant or nursing (sometimes both) for nine amazing years! I kept up my fitness during that time with long walks with a baby in a sling, a jogger or a backpack carrier, and bike rides with a baby seat on the back. Now that my youngest is four (sob, how did that happen, time flies etc. etc.), I’ve kicked it up a notch.

Me and my preschooler after a hike at Irvine Ranch. She must have wanted to revisit the womb or the baby sling!

Instead of babies on the brain, I have marathon on my mind. The thing is, though, I have far fewer friends who want to swap running tips than wanted to commiserate over diaper duty and sleepless nights. Even my husband tires of me talking about how much I love the cycle/sculpt class at the Y. How much? THIS MUCH! (In all fairness to my husband, he listens very patiently but only barely suppresses his here-she-goes-again laugh. It’s not easy being the spouse of a triathlete).

Enter: this blog. Here I can ramble on to my heart’s content about running, biking, swimming, fitness and nutrition. Even better, I can hear from others who share the same passion! Hit me with what’s on your mind!

P.S. The title of this post is a not-so-subtle homage to Haruki Murakami and his fantastic memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.

Do you have a race coming up? Does it consume not only your training time but also your mind space? Leave a comment and share your passion!

FTC disclosure: Affiliate links support this blog at no cost to you and do not affect the opinion of FitFunMom.

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I confess, I am not super speedy. That means that the 5K is not my favorite race distance. I’m just hitting my stride by the time a 3.1-mile race is over! Plus, for a 5K, the race-fee to race-distance ratio is too high! I want some more mileage for my money. Even 8K is not long enough for me. I am an endurance runner. That being said, I found the half marathon to be quite challenging and not exactly what I would call “fun.” Satisfying? Yes. Rewarding? Yes. Challenging? YES! My favorite? No.

What’s your favorite running race distance so far? Are you training for your first or are you a race veteran who loves a particular distance? Take the poll and leave a comment with your favorite running distance and why!

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