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Monthly Archives: December 2012

So You’re Going to Run a Half Marathon Part 3 – Acquiring the Gear

I’m really excited about this week’s post because it has to do with shopping for your running gear.  Keep in mind, I am a bargain shopper and love it when I score a great deal so I’ll include some money saving tips too! 

Since I had never run before, I needed EVERYTHING.  And I mean everything…Shoes, socks, clothes, music, apps, bras, a hat, sunglasses, a fanny pack (are they still called fanny packs, or is that totally ‘80’s?), a watch, and so on.  I started with nothing and by the time I ran my first half marathon, I had the perfect selection of gear that helped me cross the finish line.

Here are the prized possessions I purchased during my half marathon training journey:

  • SHOES – First things first…You need real running shoes.  The step aerobic shoes that are in your closet will not do.  When I bought my first pair of running shoes, I did everything I should not have done.   I went to a big sports outlet type store and picked out a pair of running shoes because they were deeply discounted ($69) and they seemed to feel good.   I didn’t ask for help, didn’t research the shoes, I just bought them and ran a half marathon in them.  Thankfully, it all worked out, but if I had to do it all over again (which I did after the half), I would go to a running store and have the pros assess my situation.   After the half, I rewarded myself with  new pair of running shoes.  This time I did it the right way…I went to a local running store and had the sales rep analyze my feet, my running and what shoe would work best for me.  I ended up paying more money on my second pair of shoes ($110) but it was money well spent.   The pros informed me that I actually needed shoes that were one half size larger than what I had purchased on my own!  Good info to know!  Go with the pros on this purchase.  Here’s a great article from about.com on how to buy the right running shoes.
  • SPORTS BRAS (guys, you can skip this part) –  The sports bra is the other item I would not skimp on.  Keep the girls comfy, ladies.  Like I said, I love a great deal, but some things are worth the extra money.  The running bra that I found to be amazing and worked well for me was by Moving Comfort.  The style I picked was Fiona ($46).  I tried some cheaper brands that I found at T.J. Maxx but they did not do the job like the Moving Comfort bra did.  There were support issues, chafing issues, comfort issues, etc.  Many running stores will carry the Moving Comfort brand and the sales reps should be well educated on the various styles and what will work for you…don’t be afraid to pick their brains!
  • RUNNING SHORTS – OK, here’s where I did some bargain shopping.  I bought my shorts from the aforementioned T.J. Maxx because they have a crazy selection at decent prices.  You’ll need quite a few pairs of shorts so try out different styles to see what works for you.  There’s the underwear-built-into-the-short style, the underwear-not-built-into-the-short style, the lovely spandex short-short, mid-thigh length, capri length and full length.  Experiment during your training until you find what works great for you.  DO NOT (I repeat DO NOT) experiment the day of the half marathon.  On that day, stick with what you know works!!!  Trust me!
  • RUNNING SHIRTS – This is an item  you need to pay close attention to because there is a thing called ‘wicking’.  Moisture wicking material allows moisture to evaporate quickly.  When you run, you sweat (or you should anyway).  When you sweat, your shirt gets wet.  Wet is not good when running, it can cause chafing.  Chafing is bad and causes skin irritation.  Skin irritation is bad because it’s distracting and painful.  Moral of the story:  Buy moisture wicking shirts (and shorts and socks for that matter).  The shirt I found that I LOVE and wore during the half marathon was the Icebreaker GT 150 Ultralite which is made from Merino wool.  It’s a soft, comfortable material that keeps you cool when it’s warm and keeps you warm when it’s cool.  It’s the best!  I bought it from Title Nine but waited for it to go on sale because full price ($78 dollars or so) was out of my price range.  At the end of summer when it was 50% off, I bought two…SCORE!
  • RUNNING SOCKS –  Seems weird but not all socks are created equal.  Buy some socks that are made for runners.  That would be a lovely moisture wicking sock.  I bought an expensive pair of running socks that I ended up hating and then I bought a 12 pack of running socks from Costco that I ended up loving.  So, more expensive is not always the best bet when it comes to socks.  Again, try out different socks and stick with what works for you.  Just don’t go with 100% cotton – there’s no moisture wicking going on with cotton and you don’t want to run with wet socks…yuck.
  • HAT – Buy a hat for running.  Personally, I like to wear a hat to protect my face from the sun.  I grew up on the beaches of California and have had some skin cancer to prove it.  So, I now wear a hat all summer long when outdoors.  I know I sound like a broken record but you don’t want to wear your non-running cap because you will…say it with me…SWEAT.  A specially made running cap/hat (with lots of tiny holes in the cap) will allow your head to breathe.  You want your head to breathe, trust me.
  • OTHER STUFF – Have a pair of light-weight sunglasses that won’t slip down your nose when you SWEAT.  Make sure you have a running belt to hold your water and other essentials like snacks, tissue, chapstick and car key.  My absolute favorite is the iFitness brand which is made of neoprene so there is no slipping around with this bad boy.  I added 2 water bottle holders and I also bought the holder for my iPhone and I was ready to freakin’ rock and roll on half marathon day.   I needed a watch to time myself.  I did Jeff Galloway’s run-walk-run method so I wanted to keep track of my time.   Music is very important to me while I run so I searched my CD collection for some great running songs and also downloaded some songs that I would normally not download (Michael Jackson, Eminem, Kelly Clarkson, FloRida to name a few).  Running is a great way to expand your music collection!

(photos from iFitnessinc.com)

BlackBlack iPhone/iPod Window Armband

My best advice when acquiring your gear is to try out different things during your training and when you find something that works, STICK WITH IT  and use/wear it during your half marathon.  Do NOT try something new on your race day.  Only go with what you know!  Don’t buy a super cute, never worn before outfit because you want to look adorable crossing the finish line.  Wear what has proven to work during your training…ESPECIALLY your long runs!

Next post will be about the mental stuff.  This will be deep folks!

So You’re Going to Run a Half Marathon Part 2 – The Training Plan

Last week I doled out some unsolicited running advice to my sister, Amy, who will be running her first half marathon next year.   Hopefully, she read it.  The post was about researching your first half marathon.  This week’s post is about coming up with your training plan.  The training plan is critical so listen up little sister.

At the start of 2012, I hated running and would laugh at the idea of going for a run.  Run?  Really?  That would make me all sweaty and gross and probably sore.  Besides, a leisurely walk is perfectly fine, thank you.  Then the half marathon idea came up in late January and I was determined to figure out how to get my sorry butt to cross a half marathon finish line in October.

I had heard of training books called, “Couch to 5K” and “Couch to 10K” which sounded really great but I decided NOT to read those because truth be told, I did not consider the ‘couch’ as my starting point.  My book would need to be called something like, “Upstairs, in bed, under the covers with the electric blanket on to 5K.”  That’s a better description of my state of mind (and body) prior to training for a half.

My sister, Andrea, who has run a couple of half marathons, recommended I look into Jeff Galloway’s run-walk-run method.  Well, geez, when you put the word ‘walk’ in a running training plan, count me in, sister!  I went to Jeff’s website and read up on his half marathon training plan.  I knew immediately, this was for me.  I was a new runner, a slow runner, an out of shape runner and I did not want to get injured during the training process.

Jeff, an Olympian and record-setting, world class athlete, incorporates walk breaks into the training plan.   He states that, “Most runners will record significantly faster times when they take walk breaks because they don’t slow down at the end of a long run.”  Personally, I need walk breaks.  By the time I ran my half in October, I was running 2-3 minutes then walking 1 minute.  That was my gig.  That’s what I could handle.

Jeff also breaks down the training program into 2 different categories:  1) For runners and walkers who just want to finish a half marathon and 2) For runners and walkers who are trying for a time-goal.  I fell into category #1.  I just wanted to finish the darn thing.

The schedule Jeff puts together is extremely do-able which is another reason I went with his training.  His minimum recommended training looks something like this (this is category 1):

  • Monday off
  • Tuesday run 30 minutes
  • Wednesday off
  • Thursday run 30 minutes
  • Friday easy walk
  • Saturday off
  • Sunday long run.  These long runs vary week to week and your mileage gradually builds up as the half marathon approaches.
  • During the off days, you can cross-train

You should really check out his website for the nitty gritty details which you will find immensely educational.  I pretty much followed his minimum training plan, because that’s what worked for me.  Remember, I was in this to finish the half…that’s all.  Just finish!

When I did my first timed ‘run’ on the treadmill in January, my pace was 16:08…yes, it took me 16 minutes and 8 seconds to ‘run’ a mile.   I know that’s slow  thankyouverymuch.  Then my averages started to look like this (month, avg. pace, total miles I ran for the month):

  • February – 14:35 (39.35 total miles)
  • March – 14:11 (37.81 total miles)
  • April – 13:06 (52.26 total miles)
  • May – 12:44 (37.24 total miles)
  • June – 12:42 (43.28 total miles)
  • July – 12:12 (46.01 total miles)
  • August – 11:37 (43.04 total miles)
  • September – 11:43 (45.27 total miles)

These numbers will not blow anyone away because they are not that mind-blowing…I don’t call myself  Slow Girl for nothing.   The point is, I got faster as time went on and I didn’t have to run hundreds of miles each month to make improvements.  AND, I completed months of training and a half marathon injury free!!!  AND, I could tell my body was getting stronger and stronger which was an added bonus!

Bottom line is – Training is crucial so it is very important to find a training plan that is a match for you, your running level and your lifestyle.  You might end up trying two or three plans before figuring out which one works for you and that’s ok.  Remember, I’m no expert.  This post is just a recap of my experiences as a novice runner and what has worked for me this past year.  If you have friends or family members who are experienced runners, you should pick their brains…like I picked my sister, Andrea’s, brain…thanks Andrea!

Experienced runners – do you have any advice for newbie runners?  If so, please share!

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Blings

One of my favorite things about Christmas is bringing out all of our Christmas tree ornaments (also called “tree bling”).   Every Christmas my husband, son and I give each other an ornament…it’s our little family tradition.  We started this when my son was born 12 years ago and now he has quite an awesome ornament collection with some seriously nice (read expensive) ornaments.  I decided that when he is 34 years old, I will relinquish the collection to him.  I figure that’s a good, safe, responsible age.

Each year after we pick out our Christmas tree at the Christmas Tree Farm, we pull out all of the boxes full of tree bling and start decorating the tree.  Almost every ornament holds a special memory or reminds us of a funny story.  Some ornaments have been banished to the “Don’t even THINK about going on the tree” box.  Like the ornament I gave to my husband when we first started dating.  I bought this corny ornament and had it engraved with “Mike and Wendy”…pretty brave, huh?  I’m still shocked he did not run far, far away.   While that ornament does not go on our tree (EVER), I keep it because it is sentimental.  Here are some other favorites:

  1. This was my son’s first ornament.  We call it the Elephant Ornament but this year my son informed me it was a Heffalump….?   Gotta love a little Christmas controversy. elephantornament
  2. The Duck in Stocking ornament was purchased when my husband and I visited Greece*.  It is a hand blown glass ornament and is my husband’s favorite.   I love the candy cane!  *Correction…this is from Venice (see comments).greeceornament
  3. This is the Reindeer with a Martini ornament.  Guess who that belongs to…ME!  It’s one of my favorites because my husband gave it to me and it makes me smile every time I see it.  martinireindeer
  4. This is the Bee ornament.  It is delicate and beautiful and the bee’s wings sparkle with glittery goodness.  I want to keep it out all year but can’t stand the thought of it breaking and never being able to hang it on a tree again. beeornament
  5. The back of the Magical Snowman ornament says, “It’s the most magical time of the year.”  I love this one because it reminds me of my Grandma.  When my family was together this time last year for my Grandma’s funeral, my mom and stepdad had my sisters and me pick out an ornament that reminded us Grandma.  I picked this one.snowmanornament

6.  Whoops…someone escaped the Easter box and got into the Christmas box.chick

Do your ornaments have special meaning?  Do you have a box of “reject” ornaments that  just don’t make the cut?

Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday!

So You’re Going to Run a Half Marathon–Part 1

My youngest sister, Amy, recently announced she would be running her first half marathon in 2013.  Since I ran my first one this past October, I thought it would only be appropriate for me to offer some sisterly running advice.  After all, I have been running one whole year and I did live through my first half.   Disclaimer:  Seriously, I have only been running one year, so I only know so much.  I’m not a pro, an expert, or a genius in this field and I don’t claim to be.  If I do make that claim, it is dripping with sarcasm.   Read at your own risk.

There are a lot of topics to cover and I don’t want this to be an ultra long post so I will break this up into a little blog posts and the topics will include:

  • Researching your first half marathon
  • Getting a training plan in place
  • Acquiring the necessary gear
  • The mental stuff
  • The day of the race
  • When the race is over

Ok, here we go…………

Step 1 – Research.  Do a little research on running, races in your area, running groups in your area, that kind of thing.

RUNNING RESEARCH

Check out some books from the library about running.  One that I read and enjoyed was “The Nonrunner’s Marathon Guide for Women:  Get Off Your Butt and On With Your Training” by Dawn Dais.  She’s funny, honest and is not a runner so it was very easy for me to relate to what she was saying.  Sure she wrote about her marathon training experiences but I just took half of her advice and applied it to a half marathon. Worked beautifully.  If you’re a guy, skip this book unless you want to learn about running bras and other girly running things.

I also read some books about extreme runners because I thought their athleticism, drive, dedication and touch of insanity were very inspiring.  I would think to myself, “If these guys can run for hundreds of miles in a bazillion degree heat, I can run 13.1 in 62 degree weather.”

A couple of books I thoroughly enjoyed reading include:  “Run! 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss” by Ultra marathoner Dean Karnazes  and “Born to Run:  A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen” by Christopher McDougall.  If your running or training ever start to get you down, read these books and you will walk away inspired and ready to run!

RESEARCH RACES IN YOUR AREA

There are some great websites out there that can help you find races in your area.  I would encourage you to sign up for at least a 5K, or a 10K later in your training, so that you go through the race experience.

Here are some sites that I found helpful:  www.active.com – This site helps you find, register and learn about events in your area. www.runningintheusa.com is another good one and lets you narrow your search by region and race type.  Also, Runner’s World Race Finder is a great site and is easy to use and very helpful.

When deciding which half marathon to sign up for, read the description of the race.  If it says “For advanced runners” or something along those lines, maybe skip that race this time around.  If I read the description of my first half, I would have read the words ‘hills’ and ‘hilly’ and ‘challenging’.  But, no, I did not read the description.  I found out a month before the day of the race that I needed to incorporate some hill training in my master training plan.  Rookie move.  My next half marathon is described with these words: “Flat, scenic, fast, ideal for setting personal records.”  Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!

Pay attention to the date of the half marathon…don’t sign up for a race that is a month from now…give yourself time to train.

RESEARCH RUNNING GROUPS IN YOUR AREA

I will admit…I am a bit of a running loner.  I did not seek out a running group.  I was (am) so slow that I did not feel like embarrassing myself in front of strangers.  There was also the fact that after 5 minutes of “running” I would be huffing and puffing, sweating profusely and my heart rate was through the roof.  It was so pathetic I actually went to a cardiologist to make sure it was ok for me to run.  He cleared me saying my heart was fine…just a little out of shape.   Side note:  Like the pros say, if you start a new exercise program, get your doctor’s clearance.  The one thing that did for me was eliminate an excuse to not run!

Back to running groups, I think they are a great for staying motivated, being held accountable and providing running companionship.  It’s definitely worth looking into and finding out if it would be beneficial to your overall training.  Turns out, it just wasn’t my cup of tea, that’s all.

So, there is topic one….nothing riveting but still important:  RESEARCH!

Next topic:  Getting a Training Plan in Place

Will My Whippet Puppy Ever Grow Into His Face?

This post was supposed to be about running and it was to be dedicated to my sister, Amy, who will be running her first half marathon next year.  But I must take a detour because my whippet puppy, Finn, has some serious issues going on with his face that I must address.

Last night I hopped into bed and right behind me was Finn (yes, we let our dogs sleep in jump on our bed).  It had been awhile since I took a good, long look at Finn so when face to face with the little guy, I couldn’t stop laughing at what I saw:

whippetsmile

I saw a little 5 month old puppy with a mouth full of brand-spanking new, over-sized adult dog teeth.  I should have known he’d be getting some grown up teeth when I started finding his puppy teeth around the house…I just didn’t realize the new teeth would be so huge!

No matter what angle I looked at him, I thought he looked hysterical and I could not stop laughing at the little fella.  What the hell happened to my adorable pup?  He looks like a total dork now.

And the dorkiness does not stop with his sparkling smile.  Anyone who knows a whippet puppy understands they have these enormous whippet ears that can stand at attention like no one’s business.  Well, Finn’s got a nice set of those too!  They are RIDICULOUS:

whippetears

I guess that, like babies, puppies go through stages and I believe that’s what is happening to Finn…he is going though an awkward stage.  Fingers crossed it won’t take long for him to grow into his face.

In the meantime, Finn may look like a dork dog, but he is my dork dog.

Getting My Run Back On

2012 was the year I decided to take up running, train for a half marathon, finish the half marathon and do it all injury free.  I am proud to say I accomplished all of these goals.  However, a week after completing the half marathon and a day after purchasing my new running shoes, I was walking to my car, fell on the wet pavement and sprained my ankle.  It was one mishap in a series of many that I attributed to post-race focus capacity issues, which you can read about here.  

As it turns out, I was unable to do much of anything while my ankle healed.  I couldn’t run, couldn’t do yoga, Pilates, barre, you name it.  I was, however, able to eat so I did a lot of that.  I’m not talking healthy stuff here, folks.  This was around Halloween and Thanksgiving so the many, many temptations were….well, tempting.  I was not surprised when the few pounds and inches I lost during training found their way back to me…this was not a reunion I was excited about!

Once my ankle felt strong enough to start running again (almost 6 weeks later), I was surprised how conflicted I was about getting back out there.  On one hand I couldn’t wait to run, sweat and get my heart rate up and on the other hand, I had this lazy bones mentality.  I even considered waiting until January 2013 to pick up where I left off this fall (no pun intended). 

I spent time reading the blogs of fellow runners (Athlete in Me, quick as molasses, Confessions of a Caffeinated Mother Runner, Ch’i Journey to name a few), took some quick measurements around my waist  and was quickly inspired to make the right decision.  For the last week or two I have been back on the treadmill taking it slow (slower than my usual slow) and I’m very relieved that my ankle is feeling good.  I have been using KT Tape which is awesome for ankle stability and other types of injuries.  Not only has it helped my ankle when I run, it comes in really cool colors that match my new running shoes AND when I wear it, I look like a freaking hard core athlete! Winking smile

So, with my trusty tape and new running shoes, I’m back at it.  I have signed up for my second half marathon on May 19th, 2013 and will start working on my training plan so I can take that race by storm.  I will once again follow Jeff Galloway’s run-walk method since that was right up my alley and, I believe, the reason I remained uninjured this year (other than the falling incident).   One thing I learned this year is this:  If I have a solid training plan in place, I will stick to it and if I don’t have a plan in place, I’m screwed.  So, with that nugget of information, I will be breaking out the calendars, spreadsheets, highlighters, running apps and getting this training party started!

Other exciting news…I just found out that my youngest sister will be running her first half marathon in 2013 so I will be a good big sister and lead by example by training hard.  In fact, I think I will write my next post just for her.  Being the older, wiser sister and runner of one whole year, I will give her some unsolicited advice about training for and running a half marathon because that’s what big sisters do!  Stay tuned, Amy.  Great advice coming your way!  Actually, I don’t think she reads my blog.  Will one of my other blog-reading family members get Amy on the blog train, please?  I’d do it myself but I want to save my bossiness for my next blog post!

Life as a Christmas Tree on a Christmas Tree Farm

Today was the day the family went on our annual hunt for a Christmas Tree.  We don’t go to the grocery store parking lot where the pre-cut trees are for sale.  No, we go out to the “country” and explore the wonders of the Christmas Tree Farm.  We go tree hunting.  Yes, we stalk all of the poor, poor Christmas trees until we find the one we want.  When we find “The One” we carefully, and with much thanks to the Christmas Tree gods, kill said tree and haul it off to our home.  What must those poor trees think?  OK, I know and you know trees don’t think, but for the sake of this post, please play along.

huckaba

Armed with a farm provided saw, my husband, son and I wandered up and down the rows and rows of trees.  There were  Grand Firs, Fraser Firs, Blue Spruces, White Pines, Noble Firs, you name it.  If it was Christmas tree material, it was there.  When we go Christmas tree hunting, usually one of two things happen:

  1. We find a tree within five minutes of setting foot on the farm but we feel too guilty taking that tree because, after all, we drove quite a distance and it would be a pity for our family excursion to end so abruptly.
  2. It takes us for-freaking-ever to find our tree.  These are the years when it is usually sub-freezing temperatures, one family member has pneumonia, one has frozen snot stuck on their nose and the other is just plain miserable. 

This year, we found “The One” within a half hour and there wasn’t any snow on the ground, no one was sick and we all were actually enjoying the day.  Yes, it was a good day.

I believe that on the farm the trees are divided into two camps:   The trees of camp #1 don’t want to die and the trees of camp #2 can’t wait to get out of Christmas Tree Farm Hell.  The ‘I don’t want to die’ trees see you coming and start acting all invisible.  They chant softly to themselves, “Don’t pick me.  Don’t pick me.  Don’t pick me.”  If they’re lucky you will walk right past them.  Of course, there is always that one tree whose strategy is just let’s itself totally go to hell.  Like this beauty:

badtree

I’m thinking this was the farm’s crack whore tree.  It looks like a piece of crap tree and it’s not going ANYWHERE any time soon.  Seriously, who would want that thing in their home?  Even Santa thought this tree was tragic:

santasdown

Then there are the trees who believe the world is going to end soon so they want their last days to be warm and toasty in someone’s home where they will be blinged out with shiny ornaments and will have presents piled as high as  possible under the lowest branch.  They will leave this earth bringing joy and happiness to humans like only a Christmas tree can.  They know they were carefully selected out of all the other trees and they feel special.  Our family seeks out trees  with this tree mentality.  Here’s a picture of my son and I with our happy tree-mate:

gandmexmastree

While hundreds of trees were spared today, our family found a cooperative tree from camp #2…or should I say, our tree found us?  So far the holiday season is heading in the right direction.   I spent a great day with my great family and we found a great tree!  Does your family have any fun holiday traditions?