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Archive for the ‘Women’ Category

First, some quick updates:

  1. Boston: An American Running Story. Lots of people have expressed disappointment that they missed the premiere screening of Boston: An American Running Story (read my review here) and have asked where they can see it. Screenings were just announced for May 15 and 21 in select theaters in Canada, and the producers are working on additional screenings and potential deals for streaming of the movie on sites like Netflix. The best way to hear news of viewing opportunities seems to be through the Facebook page for the movie.
  2. StrideBox. If my review of the StrideBox subscription service piqued your interest, you can use my discount code 5FFM417 through May 15, 2017, to get $5 off your first box when you sign up for a monthly StrideBox subscription.
  3. Podcasts. I recently recommended the Run to the Top Podcast on my list of favorite running podcasts, mainly because of the fabulous job Tina Muir did as the podcast host. She has since moved on to start her own podcast, and I highly recommend you check it out: The Running for Real Podcast. I enjoyed her recent episodes with Matt Fitzgerald (author of the books The Endurance Diet and How Bad Do You Want It? among many others) and James Dunne (check out his strength and stability tips and videos at Kinetic Revolution).

Okay, now for the topic I wanted to discuss: How can you tell if it’s running burnout or something else? After I qualified for Boston 2016 at the Phoenix Marathon in 2015, I decided to run Boston “just for fun” and not for time. It had taken me several hard training cycles to qualify for Boston with enough of a margin to meet the cutoff to actually register (I first qualified at the Santa Rosa Marathon but did not meet the cutoff to register for Boston 2015). I was feeling a little run down (no pun intended) and decided to cut back my training by following an intermediate marathon training plan instead of an advanced marathon training plan.

Even though I ran Boston for fun and not for time, my finishing time at Boston was still a little disappointing to me. I blamed that on the heat that year. Then I focused on helping my daughter and husband train to run their first half marathons at the Fontana Days Run in June 2016. I enjoyed training for a half marathon instead of a full. But when I tried to pick my training back up over the summer, I found that my motivation was low and I just wasn’t getting that feeling of satisfaction that I usually got after a workout. I felt like I was hanging on to my fitness by my fingernails. I figured I was simply burned out after years of chasing that Boston Marathon qualifier, and maybe I had overtrained. I also blamed the stress of my going back to work for the first time in many years. As we all know, emotional stress can take a physical toll, so I tried to cut myself some slack if a workout didn’t go quite as planned.

Then I ran the Death Valley Marathon in a time that was 51 minutes off my PR. I hit the wall at mile 16 and struggled simply to finish the race. And it only went downhill from there. In the days after the marathon, even the easy runs were hard. I started to slow to a walk at some point during every run. Now, I am all for a run/walk plan if that’s what works for you. I wasn’t planning on walking though, and needing to walk during an easy run was very unusual for me. Then I started to feel short of breath. That was the final straw. I knew it wasn’t just a simple case of burnout or overtraining. Something was wrong. At my next appointment with the endocrinologist (I go at least annually to make sure my thyroid levels are normal), I agreed to have some blood work done. Lo and behold, my iron level and white blood cell counts were low. My doctor diagnosed me with iron-deficiency anemia and put me on daily iron and B-12 supplements. It’s been a month and my levels are back to normal again (low normal — I’ll still be taking a reduced dose of iron for another two months at least, and we’re still working on addressing why I was anemic in the first place). I’ve just now gotten back to running 4-6 miles without stopping, and I nearly cheered out loud when I hit 20 miles total for the week last week. I don’t have another marathon on my calendar yet, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

So, the moral of my story is: listen to your body. As runners, we are very in tune with our bodies, and our instincts will tell us when something is really wrong. If you’re feeling burned out, there’s no harm in getting a simple blood panel done to see if there’s a medical reason for it.

Have you ever felt run down and burned out on running? Have you experienced anemia as a runner? I’d love to hear how others overcame a health setback in running and got back on track, so to speak.

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My eyes are welling with tears as I write this post. You see, today marks five years to the day since I started running and tracking my progress on MapMyRun. You can see my first entry here:

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 7.00.17 PM

Does a three-mile-per-hour pace count as a run? You bet it does when you’re pushing a 2.5-year-old in a jogging stroller over 180 feet in elevation gain for your first run in five years! I’m just as proud of that first mile in 20:23 as the mile I raced in 6:34 a few years later! I had made a decision that I wanted to be “fit at 40” after having the last of my three children. I was on the higher end of a healthy weight and I felt I could stand to lose about 10 pounds. So I got out there for nine runs that first March and logged a total of 24.9 miles.

I quickly got hooked on running and the sense of accomplishment that comes with every workout. My confidence grew over the summer and I added biking and swimming into the mix. Eight months after that first run, I took on my first sprint triathlon at SheROX San Diego in November 2011. And heck, that went so well, I took on an Olympic distance triathlon at HITS Palm Springs the next month! Fast forward through my first half marathon at the OC Half Marathon in May 2012 to my first full marathon at the Santa Barbara International Marathon in November 2012. Somehow in just 18 months I’d gone from 1.67 miles at a 20:23 pace to 26.2 miles at a 9:16 pace (4:02:39.5 for those trying to do the math). And that was at age 41 no less. Proof that you’re never too old to start running or challenging yourself with big goals. Five marathons later if you ask me which is my favorite marathon, I’ll say Santa Barbara, not because it was the easiest course (it wasn’t — my goodness I still remember that hill at mile 23) but because I ran that whole race with such joy and appreciation for what my body could do.

The next several races I chased a Boston Qualifying time, a sub-3:45 for Women 40-44.

Mountains2Beach Marathon, May 2013, age 41, 3:58:29 (race recap)

Long Beach Marathon, October 2013 age 42, 3:52:42 (race recap)

and finally my first BQ at Santa Rosa, August 2014, age 42, 3:44:26 (race recap). Then came the crushing news that a BQ minus 34 seconds was actually not fast enough to meet the registration cutoff for Boston 2015. So I set my sights on the Phoenix Marathon in February 2015 and came in at my current PR time of 3:36:58 (race recap), a BQ minus 8:02 at age 43 for Boston 2016. I tried to top that time at REVEL Canyon City in November 2015 and came in a little slower at 3:39:08 at age 44 on what I now consider a difficult downhill course (race recap). Fortunately there’s a benefit to the Boston Marathon qualifying math, and at age 44 I had bumped up to the 45-49 age group for Boston 2017 with a 3:55 qualifying standard, so that time was a BQ minus 15:52.

Now with just six weeks to go until my first Boston Marathon race on April 18, 2016, I’m savoring the opportunity to race on such hallowed ground. I’m training hard so that I have a good race, but I’m in this one for the experience, not the time on the clock. So I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on about this historic race. On my bookshelf right now:

IMG_2990

I’m loving Marathon Woman by Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run Boston with an official bib and a major player in the push to get the women’s marathon into the Olympics in 1984. (Such a #runnerd, I’m tearing up again thinking about it!) Let’s all just take a moment, man or woman, to thank those before us who have helped advance the sport of running. And of course, one of those people is Boston Marathon director Dave McGillivray, author of The Last Pick. I’ve listened to him speak on a few podcasts and found his stories to be very inspiring, so I can hardly wait to read his book.

The next two on the list are The Boston Marathon: A Century of Blood, Sweat, and Cheers and 26.2 Miles to Boston: A Journey Into The Heart Of The Boston Marathon.

Any other books you suggest as recommended reading about the Boston Marathon? Have you run the race before? Tell me about it! And feel free to link to any blog posts or race recaps of yours or anyone else’s that you think we all might enjoy reading.

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My family stays active through a wide variety of activities. Take Mondays for example. My marathon training plan usually calls for an easy 3-4 mile run that day. My husband and oldest daughter practice tennis together for a couple of hours in the evening. My middle daughter attends ballet class, and my youngest goes to her pre-competitive swimming lesson. I love it! But you know what I don’t love? The laundry that goes with it all. With five sets of regular clothes and five sets of workout outfits and towels, I do an average of two loads of laundry a day (much of which is technical gear that has to be hung to dry!) Often my family members end up pulling clean clothes from the laundry bins before we even get a chance to sort them and put them away. And can you guess what the number one most sought after item is? A matched pair of workout socks. I am constantly in competition with my husband and eldest daughter for those darn socks. I have tried everything – buying multiple pairs of plain white socks, buying each person a unique brand and color of socks, it doesn’t matter. Those socks are in such high demand that every matched pair is fair game.

In an attempt to defeat the sock pilferers, I ordered up a pair of performance socks that would be mine, all mine, not only due to the pink and white color (defeating the teen who claims to hate pink) but also due to the awesome female empowerment message on them (take that dear husband)!

She Believed She Could Socks

So She Did Socks

I hid the socks away until I could try them out on a short run. The first thing I noticed is that they are super soft and feel great on my feet. They come in one-size-fits-all which suits my rather large feet well (size 9.5 regular shoe, 11 running shoe). I also like that the ankle height is higher than the average running sock which means that they don’t get pulled below the tongue of the shoe in front or rub on the heel in back.

The one thing to be careful with these socks is that the weave is looser than normal, which I discovered when I snagged my ring on it as I took them off after my run. But they’ve held up well after two more washings and dryings, and — did you see this one coming? — two more wears by my teenager! Yup, she stole these socks too and she likes them! (My husband has yet to steal them but I wouldn’t put it past him. He has gorgeous long hair and is often mistaken for a woman when waiters come up behind him at restaurants. And can you guess who he’s going as for Halloween? Caitlyn Jenner.)

I finally managed to steal the socks back again from the clean laundry and I wore them on the perfect occasion — my ballerina’s “parent participation night” at the ballet studio. Now, parent participation night was fun and easy when my daughter was in Ballet 2 and we did all the most basic moves. But this time she is in Ballet 4 and I got a real taste of the athleticism of these girls! With all the running I do I’ve got some pretty tight muscles and it was quite a challenge to do the barre work and the floor moves. As I lined up with the two other brave mothers to do a series of leaps across the room, I flashed them my socks. Remember ladies, “She believed she could, so she did!”

So if you’ve got a female best running friend or an athlete in the family, these socks would make a thoughtful gift before a big race or a great stocking stuffer at Christmas. Or treat yourself to a pair as a motivation or a reward, just beware the sock pilferers in your own home!

Hooray for Made in the USA

Hooray for Made in the USA

These Socrates performance socks retail for $8.99 at GoneForaRun.com. I received a free pair of socks for review purposes but was not compensated for my honest review.

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I just realized I left out the best part of my Spring Blast Half Marathon race recap! Mike and my three girls often cheer me on at races and act as my support crew by handing me replacement bottles of sports drink along the course. For last Saturday’s half marathon though, I brought my own bottle of sports drink to grab at the aid station at the halfway mark, and left Mike and the kids sleeping at home. By the time I got home after the race, my girls were out playing in the yard and they ran up to the car in the garage. I rolled down the window and my 8-year-old exclaimed,

There’s our champion!

It makes me well up just to think about it now! Such a wonderful, sweet thing to say!

We all went in the house and my 4-year-old presented me with a picture she had drawn for me while I was gone:

Rainbow over heart flowers

Rainbow over heart flowers

My 11-year-old asked me how the race went and gave me a hug, and my husband made me a plate of scrambled eggs with a side of fruit and a mug of hot chocolate! I am so thankful for my amazing support crew!

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Play along with me and let me believe that you actually were wondering about the answers to the following questions and that you appreciate this Friday Follow-up.

1. Hey Angela, how did you do on those Before the End of the Year Resolutions? Did you clean out the linen cabinets like you said you would? Why yes I did, thank you for asking!

Dear IRS, This photo constitutes evidence of my sizable charitable donation. Too bad I didn't get it in before the end of the 2012 tax year.

Dear IRS: This photo constitutes evidence of my sizable charitable donation.

Mike and I took a few hours to conquer the cabinets together. We did do it before the end of the year, however we were not quite organized enough to then get the bags donated to charity before the end of the year. I think my 2012 tax return wept a little at that mistake.

Tip: When you organize your linens (once every billion years like I do), organize the bed linen sets by putting the folded top sheet and fitted sheet inside the matching pillowcase. That way it’s super easy to grab a new set of sheets when it’s time to change the bed linens (once every quarter-billion years like I do).

2. How are the posterior shin splints on the left leg and the strained adductor magnus on the right upper back thigh butt crease thingamabob? Much better, thanks! The shin splints are history and the adductor magnus has gone from screaming at me to whimpering occasionally. I credit the improvement to stretching the calf muscles, running in moderation, and massaging the sore spots.

3. So if you’re not injured anymore, are you training for the Mountains to Beach Marathon yet? I got an email from the M2B people the other day that said “19 days until marathon training begins” and my heart leapt into my throat! I knew it was coming of course, but my training plan does not officially start until February 3. It’s a 16-week plan from Run Less, Run Faster and right now it’s week 19. It’s been hard to know what to do in this down time. I’ve focused on healing from the injuries and easing back into speed work and long runs and I will be ready to start the plan when the time comes.

4. So here’s what I really want to know but am too embarrassed to ask…. Do you actually like the Instead Softcup feminine protection product or did you just say that because the company sponsored your first marathon? After several cycles I can say I still like it! I love it! I simply love the ability to, um, “fix it and forget it” (as the crockpot recipe people would say) — I love that the product can be worn for 12 hours at a time. I’m not going back to any other method.

5. Speaking of products, how do you like that Costco women’s running jacket you bought the other day? Another winner! The “mittens” are the best. I’ve worn the jacket for two cold weather runs and it’s great to be able to tuck my hands inside the covers until they start to roast, and then let them out when I want them to cool off. The thumb-holes are a good compromise too. The only thing that confused me on the jacket for a minute is that it has two zippers, one that zips the jacket up, and one that lets you leave the top of the jacket zipped up while you unzip the bottom of the jacket. I am assuming this feature is there to allow you to put your fuel belt on underneath the jacket and still access it. Or maybe people get hot on their bellies? Not me! Take a look at these photos of my cold rash from recent runs. Perhaps I need to add yet another layer to my top and bottom?

That's mah belleh! Still working on that six pack....

That’s mah belleh! Still working on that six pack….

Is it wrong to post this next one?

Do not adjust your screen. That is not a ham hock. That is a cold rash on what my kids and I call my buttoxes.

Do not adjust your screen. That is not a ham hock. That is a cold rash on what my kids and I call my hip and “buttoxes.”

The cold rash went away in about 15 minutes. In the meantime we enjoyed playing that game where you try to decide what the shape looks like. I think it looks like a bat spread its wings and flew into me at full speed.

Do you ever get a cold rash? Have I answered all your burning questions? Ask away in the comments.

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You know that moment when the hair stands up on the back of your neck and you just know something is wrong with the situation you’re in? It happened to me on a recent long run. I had no reason to believe I was running at an unsafe hour or location. But I had a simple flash of fear, a recognition of the possibility of being in danger. The moment passed and I ran on in safety, but I’ve taken the incident to heart as a sobering reminder that personal safety needs to be the top priority on every run.

Warning bells were going off in my head. Photo credit: Michael & Christa Richert

Warning bells were going off in my head. Photo credit: Michael & Christa Richert

The Signs of Danger, as I Observed Them

1. The van cruised the street near me at 10 miles per hour in a 25 mile per hour zone.
2. The nondescript white van had no business markings on it, meaning that the driver had no “business” in the area.
3. The van had no side windows, except for the driver’s window.
4. The driver’s window was rolled down in spite of the fact that the outside temperature was in the 40s.
5. The driver was wearing a black hoodie with the hood up.
6. The van paused too long at the stop sign as I ran by on the other side of the street.
7. The van slowly continued down the street next to me.
8. The van lingered at the next intersection as if the driver was waiting to see which way I would go (I was planning on going straight and made no indication that I wanted to cross the street. There was no stop sign at that intersection. There was no reason for the driver to slow).

In that instant, my Spidey-sense was on high alert. I looked at the driver so that he knew that I saw him, I picked up my pace, and I made a sudden turn to the left, preparing myself to run to the nearest home and ring the doorbell if the man in the van followed me. At that point, the man appeared to make a decision and he turned away in the other direction.

I don’t care whether anyone thinks I was being overly dramatic or paranoid. My only concern is for my personal safety. That man was not looking for a street address. That man was not looking for a lost dog. That man was looking for trouble.

I was prepared to scream at him to go away. I was prepared to pound on doors and ring doorbells. I was prepared to call 9-1-1 on my cell phone. If I hadn’t been concerned for my immediate safety, I would have stopped and used to my phone to take a picture of the man and the vehicle. I would have had no qualms about calling the local police and asking them to drive by in search of the van. Instead though, I ensured my safety, and the whole “incident” was over in seconds.

It’s a sad reminder to us all. Keep your wits about you. Look alert. Trust your instincts. Be prepared to take evasive action. Don’t be afraid to do what it takes to stay safe.

The good news is that I finished my run safely on a busy street and a public track. And in spite of that unsettling incident, I put in 11.5 glorious miles at a 9:43 pace and it was the best run I’ve had in two months.

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Listen up ladies, this one is for you! After three years of blogging about breastfeeding, I can now talk about any body part and bodily function with ease. My three girls know the proper names for all their body parts, and the older two watched their baby sister be born. We’re not shy about our bodies, is what I’m saying. It’s that kind of openness that allows me to review the Instead Softcup. It’s a menstrual period protection product (say that three times fast!) that you use instead of a tampon, pad or other kind of protection. It’s a natural fit (no pun intended) for endurance athletes like runners and triathletes as it offers 12-hour protection. As part of the Instead Softcup Challenge, I received 14 disposable softcups to try out.

Instead Softcup

Why yes, I photograph all my feminine protection products in my backyard.

Let’s just say that little box arrived in the nick of time, and I got down to business reading the instructions and watching the video tutorial on how to insert and remove the softcup.

I have to say, when I first tore open the individual wrapper and saw the size of the flexible pink ring, I was a little . . . intimidated. I should not have feared, it was super easy to pinch the sides of the ring together into a long, thin shape that’s not at all uncomfortable to use. First try for the win! Immediately I was happy that I could not even tell I was wearing the softcup. I went for several training runs during my period and had no problems with the softcup.

Cons?

– Takes a bit of practice for some people to get the hang of it.
– It’s not biodegradable or reusable (although the reviews on Amazon tell another story — I will leave it at that). There is also a “reusable” Instead Softcup that can be reused for one menstrual cycle. In the past I’ve used a different type of silicone menstrual cup which can be reused for more than one cycle. I also liked that one but I can tell you that since I’ve had three kids, the Instead Softcup fits better and works better for me.
– The logistics can be a little tricky when you’re using a public restroom. You might choose to take a water bottle or hand wipe into the stall with you to clean your hands again before coming out of the stall. However, that likely will not be an issue for many women given that you can put in the softcup at home in the morning and forget about it until you get home at night!

One thing I cannot comment on is how well the softcup works for heavy flow. I used to have horribly heavy periods, to the point that I needed iron supplements due to the blood loss. My guess is that I would have loved to use the softcup, especially at night when I used to have to get up once or twice to change tampons.

Pros?

– Very easy and quick to use once you’ve mastered the technique, and I found that that did not take long at all.
– Individually wrapped and easy to store in your purse or bag.
– The price per use is comparable to tampons, given that you can wear these for up to 12 hours.
– Love that you can safely wear it overnight without risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome.
– It can be worn during physical activity (perfect for my swimming, biking and running) and even during sex (Fit Fun Mom tested, husband approved. The lengths I will go to for this blog!)
– Comfortable to the point that you forget it’s there. If it’s not comfortable, try again until you get it right.
– Best of all — it can be worn for several hours at a time, making it ideal for endurance events. Nice not to have to worry about it for a long race!

So, would I recommend the Instead Softcup? Absolutely! Will I use it again? Yes! I found that I very quickly got used to the benefit of putting in the softcup in the morning and forgetting about it for the rest of the day.

As part of the Instead Softcup Challenge, I received one free box of Instead Softcups and sponsorship of my race entry fee for the Santa Barbara International Marathon. This review is 100% my own opinion and believe me, I would tell you if I didn’t like the product (or more likely, I wouldn’t review it if I really didn’t believe in it).

What do you think ladies? Have you ever tried a softcup?

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