Runner Mama

barely outrunning the pace of life

Five Summer Shoes for Plantar Fasciitis

It’s that time of year again where the Danskos and boots head to the back of the closet and the summer footwear is center stage.  If you are like me and have been plagued with the heel pain too many of us runners know as plantar fasciitis, how quickly I can get a pedicure is not my biggest concern for the summer footwear unveiling.
After a lot of calf stretching, insole wearing (I swear by the PowerStep Pinnacle insole) and rolling my heal over a lacrosse ball, my heel pain is much less than it was a year ago.  This makes me even more motivated not to screw up the healing process by wearing careless summer shoes so needless to say, I have put A LOT of thought and a bit of money as well into creating a summer shoe wardrobe that is both stylish and plantar fasciitis friendly.
Frye Reagan Campus Driver

I was looking for a pair of summer boat shoes and after extensive research on Zappos, I decided to pay a bit more and buy a pair rated for comfort and arch support. I love the vast array of colors these are offered in as well.

Crocs Huarache Flip Flop

 

Crocs have a brand new look in these colorful Mexican-inspired huaraches. With their traditional Crocs squishiness, they are as comfortable as they are cute and colorful.

Terox Flip Flops

 

I came across these shoes at a local shop in downtown Boise. The owner of the shop explained that they are designed and made in Idaho. At first blush I thought the shoes were kind of ugly Croc copycats but I decided to buy a red pair to support the business and because they were so darn comfortable. I have to tell you after having them for three weeks they are truly my favorite pair of shoes to wear around the house. I’m even planning to buy a black or brown pair to leave at work and wear on days I wear heels while I’m standing at my desk (I have a standing desk.) And they are actually quite cute, especially the fun pink, turquoise, orange and red colors. I think of them as my new summer slippers and put them on the minute I get out of bed so my plantar fasciitis doesn’t become aggravated by that first painful step each morning.

Ahnu Karma
I just bought these shoes last week and wore them for the first time on Friday.  They are very comfortable and feel cushy and comfortable with the perfect amount of support for healing heels.  I love all of the color options as well.  One note, I had to send my original pair back because they felt too big and order a half size down.
Keen Rose Sandal
Classic Keen, these are comfortable and cute.  Another pair of my favorites this summer.  I bought the red and am coveting grape.
With this line up and a few other things I am doing for rehabilitation, I expect to conquer my plantar fasciitis rather than aggravate it this summer.
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Vacation Exercise Plan

I had the good fortune of spending two wonderful weeks in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.  In the months before the trip, I had made a valiant effort to get in really good shape working with a personal trainer and attending a circuit classes to improve my strength, continuing to do yoga for strength, peace of mind and flexibility, and adding back in running (post-injury) and biking to round out my exercise regime.

Some time away in paradise was just what the doctor ordered but I also didn’t want to lose the fitness I’d worked so hard to build so I asked my trainer for some ideas about workouts I could do while I was away.  With the extra calories from beach cocktails coupled with the incredible gym our resort ended up having, I was really glad I did as I was able to get in some great workouts that make me feel much less guilty when I ordered my happy hour margarita.

Being that we are entering vacation season, I wanted to post my vacation exercise plan in hopes that you will find it useful to help you stay in shape during your upcoming vacations.  I do not recommend doing any of these for the first time on vacation.  Only do things you already do as part of your normal workout routine.

The plan is for a seven day vacation but double up on some of the days if you are traveling for longer.

Day One: Focus on the Travel

This is a travel day so I never expect having enough left over energy to do a big workout.  While in the airport, skip the people movers and walk.  Wear supportive shoes and spend your layovers exploring the airport on foot.  If you have your family with you, I suggest taking a stroller for younger kids to make exploring the airport with them easier.  Drink lots of water as it is easy to become dehydrated during travel and you want to be ready to go for Day Two’s workout (and vacation, of course.)

Day Two:  Running plus abs

35 – 45 minute run

100 X abs

Now you are probably feeling a mixture of exhaustion from the day of travel coupled with the desire to get back into your exercise routine.  For that reason, I prescribe a cardio-intensive workout with some ab work at the end.  I highly recommend going for a run on the first morning in your temporary location to explore the area and find places you want to check out in more detail with your traveling companions later in the trip.  It’s also a great way to purge your body of the icky feeling of sitting on airplanes and schlepping your stuff through airports and start your vacation feeling great!

For your 100 ab exercises, choose from any of your favorite ab exercises, those from The Best Ab Workout Ever or the 8-minute abs on youtube.   Feel free to do more than 100.  I personally like to go for 200 if I’m feeling good, but think of 100 as your minimum.

Day Three: Cardio plus strength training

30 minutes of cardio

15 – 20 minutes of strength training

The cardio is obviously going to vary depending on access to a gym.  Inside of a gym, a stair machine, rowing machine or stationary bike are great cardio options.  When there is no gym available, running, power walking, renting a bicycle or swimming in the hotel pool work great.  If you need to stay in the room to watch kids or for safety reasons, jumping jacks, burpees, or running in place will do the trick, although I have to admit, I don’t think I could keep doing those for 30 minutes straight.

The key to this day is really doing the strength training.   I like this routine from tribesports that I found on twitter a few months ago.  It incorporates a bit of cardio with the jumping jacks as well.  Don’t forget to repeat the sequence three times.

 

By the end of the third wall squat, your legs should be shaking and burning but just keep thinking about the poolside margarita that awaits you.

 

Day Four:  Yoga

When I am at home, I try and do yoga two or three days a week.  It keeps me strong, flexible and sane.  If I go an entire week without yoga, I will survive, but I’m pretty sure I won’t feel as good as when I am able to do yoga.  For this reason, on all of my recent trips, both business and pleasure, I’ve made a point of fitting in a yoga practice or two.

If you are in a location that has a yoga class, sign yourself up!  That is not always possible so another option is to find an online class.  I’ve recently discovered My Yoga Online where you can stream classes directly to your internet connected device as well as purchase and download classes ahead of your trip if you will not have an internet connection.

If you don’t have a computer or smart phone with internet access with you, a last resort is to follow a class routine from memory, which is what I ended up doing in Mexico.  We went on a family-oriented tour to a remote location called Las Caletas.  There were a lot of different activity options including yoga, however the class didn’t end up happening for some reason.  I borrowed a yoga mat and did my “hot yoga” routine I do multiple times a week back home.

Las Caletas

In the event you do not have a yoga routine programmed in memory, pick some of your favorite poses or just start doing sun salutations on repeat.

Day Five: Run or Workout DVD

Another great day for a run or if you are not up for it, I like to bring along a workout DVD like the vintage TaeBo or my recent favorite, 30 Day Shred.  I’ve found such DVDs especially convenient in locations like secluded beaches where there is not a lot of running room and I don’t feel comfortable enough running in the middle of the jungle by myself or on a busy road, especially in a foreign country.

A note on converting DVDs.  Unless I am traveling for work, I don’t typically carry a computer that has a CD/DVD ROM drive.  When on a family vacation, we bring a combination of iPad, MacBook Air, Nook, Nexus 7, Chromebook, Kindle (we have all types of devices at our house, it is really quite ridiculous!) none of which have a CD/DVD ROM drive.  To convert physical DVDs to digital files you can store on your DVD ROM-less devices, I usually Google how to do it as the technologies  change.  Here is a link with the latest instructions.

Day Six:  Cardio Cross Training plus strength training

If you do not have access to a gym with weights, you probably want to repeat Day Three, although there will be a few things you can incorporate from the exercises below.  Depending on how much time you have, start with 10 – 30 minutes of running, biking, elliptical, rowing, swimming, jumping jacks or whatever you prefer.  It is vacation, afterall, so choose what you enjoy most.

Once you  warmed up, its time for some strength training.  Choose three exercises each of arms, legs and core (at medium weight when applicable) and create three sets of a combination of each.  So, for example,

Set 1:

Arm Exercise x 15

Legs Exercise x 15

Core Exercise x 15

Arm Exercise x 15

Legs Exercise x 15

Core Exercise x 15

Arm Exercise x 15

Legs Exercise x 15

Core Exercise x 15

Then for Sets 2 and 3 choose different exercises for each of arms, legs and core.

As for which exercises to choose from, here are some of my favorites for each:

Arms:

o   Tricep overhead presses
§  Keep elbows close (frame your face), chest up
o   Dips on bench
§  Keep bum close to bench – knees out or bent under hips.  This is a great one that you can even do from your hotel room using a coffee table or couch.
o   Step ups with overhead press
§  Slow & controlled – lower down as slowly as possible.  You can step up on a weight bench or other elevated step.  This one can count for both Arms and Legs.
o   Chest press on large ball
§  Feet wide, hips can sit at tabletop or let them sink down so your back is arched around ball – weights stay @ bra line (not neck)

Legs:

o   Step lunges with bicep hammer curl (**weight stays vertical)
§  Knees 90-90; step forward & lunge straight down, strong core to hammer curl
o   Straight leg deadlifts with dumbbells
§  Keep knees locked, push bum back behind your ankles – chest up & shoulders back — **lead with your chest**)
o   Squats
§  Feel free to hold some weight to your chest if you are feeling really ambitious.  Make sure your weight is in your heels as you squat.

Core:

§  Bicycles (think shoulder to knee – keep elbows wide)
§  V-ups
Day Seven:  Travel

Repeat Day One in reverse and revel in the fact that you didn’t lose any fitness while on vacation.

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Me Time

I decided to deal with my injuries even though it meant taking six weeks off of running. I’m happy to say I ran for six minutes today and I *think* I didn’t do any damage. Hopefully I’m on the path to being back on both the running and writing about running trains. It’s been a long time since I felt good on a run and I long for that carefree feeling only a run can provide.

I was reading one of my favorite blogs, Here’s Where I Have Landed, and Justine did an amazing job articulating the feeling I am longing for again. She stops in for a guest post today. Thanks Justine!

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The girls are down – one in her room, the other in mine – for their nap. After a hectic morning that involved breakfast with a guest at our place and a birthday party at the Exploritorium, they’re ready to crash. Actually, I am ready to crash. And I try.

With every room in the house taken – My Guy is in his office, also our third bedroom, catching up on some work – I am left with the couch in our living room. I tuck myself under a pile of throw blankets and prepare to rest.

But Kayli, my ginger cat, immediately begins her afternoon ritual of aggressively meowing and purring, clawing for attention while the girls are in their respective spots, safely kept away from her. She’s the scaredy cat that never comes out while they’re up, so this is her chance.

Despite multiple attempts to push her away, she comes back, adamant for some love. Exhausted myself, I am not feeling particularly generous with my affection. I just want a nap. I keep thwarting her attempts, and just when I think I’m finally getting through to her, my other cat, Macavity, jumps on the couch to watch me. He’s a snuggler, and he’s eyeing a spot for himself.

Frickin’ cats.

I don’t nap well with things that move, so I try to shoo him off as well. By this time, my lethargy is giving way to irritation, and I’m starting to get worked up. When I finally have the cats under control, I settle back in and try to breathe evenly, hoping to erase my agitation from the last few minutes. It almost goes back to normal before I hear Little Miss calling for me from my bedroom, “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!”

Exasperated, I attend to her: “What?” I say, with a little more annoyance in my voice than I intended. I find her in my bathroom.

“Can you wipe me please? I pooped.”
“What? You wipe yourself all the time. Why are you calling me now?” At this point, there’s no hiding my displeasure.
“I did, but the toilet paper got stuck to my butt.”
“Are you kidding me?” She isn’t. I start to look for hidden cameras from some stupid prank show because real life can’t be this ridiculous. Seriously.

After handling the situation and pleading with my four-year-old to just give me an hour of peace, I go back to my couch only to find a cat in my spot!

Then I hear Thumper fussing on the monitor. She has been doing that at naptime for the past couple of weeks before settling herself back down for the rest of her nap. Even when I know this ends in two minutes, it is still impossible for me to relax and fall asleep with a crying baby blaring from the monitor.

Frickin’ kids.

I give up. This nap is just not in the cards for me. It feels like everyone wants something from me, and I just don’t have it in me, at least not right then, to share. In that state of fatigue, I barely have enough of me for myself!

Then I choose to do something that seems counterintuitive for someone so desperately in need of a break: I dress myself and get out the door. The sun is shining, the temperature’s just above freezing, and the sidewalks are clear from ice or snow. It is the perfect time to run.

The moment the sun hit my face, I know I made the right decision. I feel my frustrations vanish with each step, and by mile two, it feels pretty fantastic.

This is my time. Finally.

I don’t have to share. I don’t have to make room. I am neither needed nor feel the need to be. I am free to follow my feet as I please. I am free to push myself as hard as I can. I listen only to my body, which, at this moment, is telling me to go, go, go. And I do, with pleasure and gratitude.

I feel myself recharging with each breath. This is where I find my strength and my peace. This is where I go to get back to center. The crumbled, unraveled parts of my exhausted self realign and form a whole again. Unlike napping, I can’t close my eyes to rest when I’m running, but I’m rejuvenated all the same. Different means, same end.

I hope to run for an hour and get back to my family, who’ll be waiting for me so we can go to the grocery store for our week’s shopping. When I see that I’m already at the halfway point between my house and the store, without breaking my stride, I call home and ask My Guy to meet me there. He doesn’t question me.

Over six miles later (the store’s only 4.5 miles from my house, but I run around the block a few times to get an hour’s worth), I’m at our destination a few minutes before they arrive. My cart is already filled with produce, meat, and the all-important chocolate milk for my post-run sustenance, as recommended by seasoned runners. I hear Thumper’s excited voice, “Mommy! Mommy!” and see her precariously dodging carts to run to me in her navy ruffled skirt. I scoop my little one into my arms and kiss her.

My Guy and Little Miss smile and wave from their cart. At my request, he purchases the half-gallon chocolate milk and hands it to me while we’re still shopping. I break the seal and chug it from the container, much to my girls’ surprise and absolute delight. (And the other shoppers’ horror, probably.)

“My turn! My turn!” they both yell, reaching for the jug in my hand, and I help them to it.

Once again, I am happy to share.

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Meridian Gold Rush Race

Hi Everyone,

My good friend, Jen, asked me to help spread the word about an awesome race here in the Boise area.

Great route!  Great sponsors!  Great cause!  It should be a great race!  We hope you can join.

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Hot Yoga Convert

It all started with a Groupon.  Thirty-five dollars for ten sessions of hot yoga.  I pressed “Purchase” from my iPhone and then proceeded to forget about hot yoga for a couple of weeks.  I finally gave it a try at noon in mid-July, not the ideal time to create a hot yoga convert.

It was over 90 degrees outside so stepping foot inside a 104-degree room wasn’t exactly refreshing.  The class seemed excruciatingly long and I asked myself after each pose, “How much longer can I stay in this room?”

I fumbled with my towel that was too small for my yoga mat and nearly fell over on more than one balancing pose.  I rationed my water like a vagabond lost in the desert and managed to somehow survive the class, even attempting every pose.

Afterwards, I made a beeline for the locker room and took a cold shower then sat in my car with the air conditioner blasting for 15 minutes before returning to work.  Back in the office, more than one person asked me if something was wrong with me.  The most appropriate reply would have been, “Clearly yes since I just went and sat in a hot room for 80 minutes when it is already roasting outside.”

I returned to the class very sporadically throughout the summer and early fall but then everything changed when the temperature dropped.  Suddenly getting up early to exercise in a 104-degree room sounded a lot better than running outside where it was below freezing.  These sentiments were amplified by a realization that all of my aches and pains from years of running were steadily disappearing with each downward facing dog and drop of sweat.  Slowly but surely, I became a hot yoga convert.

At the moment, I am spending more time in a 104-degree yoga studio than I am pounding the pavement or treadmill.  I feel a little guilty about turning my back from running but I quickly forget about this guilt when I look in the mirror and see toned arms and legs and then bend over and touch my toes, which is something I was unable to do three months ago.

 

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The Vitamins Women Need

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I had my yearly OB appointment last week.  As always, my doctor was a wealth of information both in diagnosing postpartum issues that have been lingering as well as with general health maintenance.  He seems to have an answer for everything.

I am not going to go into all of the details of the diagnosis portion of our appointment but instead focus on the preventative health maintenance as it is much more relevant to the greater population.

From an exercise point of view, he recommends women do the row machine as is targets all of those troubled areas we all have: thighs, butt, triceps and core.  I’m not dying to go jump on a row machine but it is good to know that it provides so much benefit.  From a core perspective, if you have the postpartum issue I do, where your stomach muscles have not completely come back together, he recommends avoiding any types of ab exercises that cause the stomach to pooch out and focus on those that pull it all in.  By now, I have  read extensively about ways to recreate my stomach girdle, so if I ever get my stomach back to a state I am proud of how it looks, I will do a post on what I did.

Finally, and actually the point of this post is a recommended cocktail of vitamins.  My doctor recommends the following combination of vitamins to ensure women are getting everything we need: Flintstones Complete Multivitamin, Kroger-brand Calcium Chews and MegaRed.

He has always been a proponent of Flintstones Complete even as a prenatal vitamin as it provides the necessary vitamins along with folic acid and tastes good.  Add to it MegaRed to get all of the Omega-3′s.  MegaRed is essentially krill oil which is packed with Omega-3.  Krill are what salmon eat to make salmon have Omega-3.  The only area of my yearly checkup for my insurance I didn’t pass with flying colors this year was due to insufficient Omega-3 in my diet so I am thrilled to get the recommendation for MegaRed.  Finally for Calcium and Vitamin D, he recommends the Kroger brand Calcium Chew because of the Vitamin D it provides.  He used to recommend Viactiv, which I have been taking for a couple of years, but apparently between now and the last time I saw him, he found this other brand and is giddy to recommend it since it has the extra Vitamin D.

The only other vitamin I still sometimes take in addition to these is a Vitamin C, especially this time of year when the nasty germs are rampant.  I love the Natural Factors brand, which I buy at the Boise Co-Op because it tastes delicious.

Voilà.  According to him, this gives you absolutely everything you need in two small pills and a tasty chew.  Start out the new year with all of the vitamins and minerals you need.

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Plop Plop Fizz Fizz

The weekend before last, I ran the Healdsburg Half Marathon in Sonoma County, California.  The race course was incredible, winding along wine country farming roads past vineyards and olive trees.  Running in beautiful outdoor settings, like the wine country, seem to fill me with energy almost as if the beautiful outdoors is emanating it for me to absorb.

Wine country marathon

I also had the pleasure of running with a good friend who I had not talked with in ages.  We spent the first few miles trying to make sure that our pace was not too fast as neither of us had completed training runs longer than nine miles so we didn’t want to overdo the first part of the race and find ourselves walking at the end.  This turned out to be a good plan and we conserved enough energy and managed to keep a pretty decent pace the entire race.  I was happy to finish in 1:53 especially since I barely trained for the race.

Literally seconds after I crossed the finish line, I pulled out a package with two Alka-Seltzer tablets.  I quickly found the tent distributing post-race water and placed each Alka-Seltzer into a separate four-ounce cup and watched the tablets dissolve.  A minute later, I downed both drinks and found my husband who had concluded the race about ten minutes earlier with the same ritual.

A couple of months ago, a friend of ours completed the Jungfrau Marathon in the Swiss Alps.  If you are not familiar with the race, it is notorious for being extremely difficult climbing up steep mountains.  To give you an idea of how hard it is, the course record for women is 3:21:03.  If marathon times don’t mean anything to you, this might help drive home my point.

It’s hard!  I haven’t run the race but we have hiked in that area and let me just say that I cannot even imagine running it.  Anyway, our friend, Gustavo, did run the race and when my husband, Andy, was asking him about it, he told him about how he took Alka-Seltzer after the race and recovered so much more quickly and felt incredible after the race and the next day, when you usually feel like, well, crap.

Even though we were only doing a mostly flat half-marathon at sea level, we thought it was worth a try so we both took the Alka-Seltzer after the race.  We had a lot of wine tasting ahead of us so we figured anything we could do to replenish our depleted electrolyes might be a good thing.

The result was amazing!  We both felt great after the race and even started wine tasting at the finish line as it is one of the perks of running one of the wine country races.

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Our friend, Lindsay, ran the marathon and despite getting sick at mile 25, she even felt good post-race, post-Alka-Seltzer, after she had a little time to recover.

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For the next race on your calendar, I highly recommend giving Alka-Seltzer a try.  According to Gustavo, the key is to take it almost immediately after finishing the race so that is what I would recommend as well.  And if you don’t have a race on the calendar, might I suggest one in the wine country.  There are a bunch of them, and I would venture to guess they are all amazing.

Cheers!

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Choose Goals Wisely

I cannot believe it is August!  This summer has flown by, but not without a lot of adventures and some awesome workouts.  I am still on the road to recovery from injuries that I believe are all tied to childbirth and pregnancy.  After months of hard work, my core is stronger, my groin muscle is rehabed, things are getting better in the running department, but needless to say running is not my favorite workout endeavor at the moment.  I know, I know, this is a blog about running and I should be talking it up like it is the greatest thing ever, and it is, but something about 100 degree heat and hip pain and planter fasciitis and achilles pain has made me gravitate towards other sports as well, namely mountain biking.  I still am getting runs in and am feeling closer and closer to being 100% again, but as of late, mountain biking has been my go-to fun workout.

We Can Do It!

Just as I was starting to feel as if I am ignoring the fact that I need to train for an October half marathon in Napa Valley (which I signed up more for the wine than the race) and subsequently feeling guilty about all of the biking I have been doing (instead of running), a friend asked me to do a mountain bike duathlon with her.  I quickly agreed and in mid-September, will be competing in a race consisting of a 5K run, an 8-mile bike followed by another 5K run.

Stacked Rock

Suddenly I have a reason to do the sport I am most enjoying at the moment.  Friday I went for a gorgeous mountain bike ride at lunch.  Saturday I did my first brick in years, a 10-mile mountain bike ride followed by an almost three-mile run.  Today, I went up to our local ski resort and did a new mountain bike trail with my dad.  It was cooler up there, beautiful and fun to try out a new trail.

My Dad @ Stacked Rock

As I was riding along today, I pondered how signing up for the duathlon had immediately motivated me to mountain bike more and it struck me the importance of choosing goals that incorporate activities you enjoy doing.

Oftentimes, we choose goals because we think we SHOULD be doing something not because we actually WANT to be doing that something.  When I am not motivated to run, I sign up for a running race.  It doesn’t really make sense when you think about it.

Being the goal-oriented person I am, I will push myself towards whatever my goal of the moment is and while this is typically effective, it also causes me not to listen to what I really want to be doing at the moment.  Therefore, I am learning, I need to choose my goals wisely and not give up what I currently enjoy most just to pursue a goal.

This duathlon, while a whim, is turning out to be the perfect goal for me at the moment.  It is a great excuse/motivation to both mountain bike and continue my road to uninjured running once again.

 

I want to know from you, how do you choose your goals?  What is your athletic goal of the moment?

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Middle Chainring

This time of year I still enjoy running but cycling becomes my focus.  The minute the first rider leaves the starting gate and begins the prologue time trial in the Tour de France, I am sucked in for three weeks of exciting racing.  Watching cycling every day inspires me to get out on my bike more as well.  With the warm, gorgeous weather, I find myself more inclined to velcro on my bike shoes and jump on my mountain bike then lace up my running shoes.  Luckily, it’s all a good workout and my body is in dire need of some cross-training anyway.

Besides the Tour de France, another cycling inspiration is my father in-law who organizes a weekly ride half-way up to our local ski resort each Sunday.  A group of us, mostly family, meet at our house each Sunday morning and caravan to the 9-mile-mark.  Yesterday we embarked on the journey and I had it in mind I really wanted to break the 1-hour mark to the top.  It was a little hard to gauge if I was on track to make the time since my bike computer has not been installed properly for three years (long story, but let me just summarize I have been busy with pregnancy/babies and have not applied needed focus to remedy the situation) so instead I powered along as fast as I could.  Eventually, my husband and our friend were within striking distance and I was perplexed by how I was catching up to them.  It’s not that I didn’t think that I had the ability to do so, I just wasn’t make a concentrated effort to catch up.  After a little while of gaining on them, I realized I was riding in my middle chainring in front, which is harder to push but also makes you go faster.

I thought about it for a bit.  At this point in the ride, I am always in my little chainring and going slower.  Why was I suddenly able to push my middle chainring?  I decided to stay in the gear and quickly caught up to the guys and even passed them for a second since my acceleration was greater than their pace.  They caught up to me and made some comment about how fast I was going.  I explained that I had discovered my middle chainring.  Andy, my husband, commented that things would never be the same.  He doesn’t have a small chainring so he has no choice but to push a bigger gear, so he was speaking from experience.

Our friend went ahead at mile 8, but Andy and I rode together until almost the top.  Then he called me out and said, “Let’s see what you’ve got.” challenging me to sprint to the 9-mile marker.  He sped up.  I wasn’t dying to speed up but I couldn’t let him beat me.  I accelerated and he almost immediately cracked and I breezed passed him to the “finish.”  I thought he had let me win but he later explained that he had absolutely nothing left in his legs.  I felt great.  Strange…

Throughout the day, Andy kept making comments about how I don’t realize my power and my cycling potential.  After thinking about it for a little while, I think he is right.  Had I not accidentally gone up the road in my middle chainring, I would have continued to go slowly up the mountain week after week.  Now I know that I can push myself to new levels, if I so desire…and I think I do.

In your workouts, think about what is holding you back and how can you step it up by finding your middle chainring.  I guarantee you are capable of much more than you have ever considered.  Find that middle chainring and go for it!

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Portland Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon

Sunday morning I ran the inaugural Portland Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon.

My mom, daughter, sister in-law and I made the six hour drive from Boise on Friday and then hit the race expo immediately after arriving in the city.  The expo was extremely well organized and offered the latest in running fashion, gadgets and nutrition.  We tried on some cute shirts from Brooks and ultimately ended up buying a couple.  I pretty much never regret buying cute attire from race expos from the larger races.  I remember going crazy at the New York City marathon and I still wear everything I bought there.

Rock & Roll 1/2 Marathon in Portland

When we arrived we met up with some other friends running the race, my good friends Becca and Lindsay and Becca’s husband, Ryan.  They had all traveled over with their families as well and the only reason my husband and oldest daughter were not there as well was because my daughter had woken up with a fever on Friday morning so we decided it was best if she stay home, especially since Hand, Food and Mouth was going around her daycare and we didn’t want to expose the other kids (including our youngest) if that was, in fact, what was causing her fever.

Portland was a perfect venue for a destination race because there is so much to do, all within walking distance.  We stayed in the Embassy Suites near the waterfront and walking distance from the race start, the Saturday market, Powell’s amazing bookstore, dozens of incredible restaurants and food carts, Pioneer Square mall, amazing coffee, dessert and pretty much anything you can wish for.  My mom, daughter and I spent the Saturday shopping, sightseeing, napping, eating and enjoying every minute of it.  We met up with our friends for dinner at an amazing little tratorria called Mama Mia for carbo loading and conversation.

All Saturday I expended very little grey matter on mentally preparing for the race.  I thought about it occasionally but I was having a hard time coming up with a race strategy because I had no idea how bad my leg was going to hurt, how I was going to feel and subsequently, how fast I would be able to run.  I had trained at about an 8-9:30 minute pace depending on the day, who I was running with and other variables like temperature and time of day. At dinner, Becca asked me if I wanted to run with her and her friend from college.  My response was, “Yes, if I can keep up.”  In theory I was trained, tapered, carbo-loaded and hydrated so anything was possible…it just felt like a crap shoot because of some injuries I have been dealing with.

Race day came a little early with my daughter crying from the crib ready to be nursed.  After she was milk drunk, I put her back into the crib for a few additional z’s.  I tried to go back to sleep myself but the pre-race jitters had already kicked in so I eventually got up and started my pre-race rituals of stretching, drinking water, bathroom trips and getting dressed.

Go time!

A little before 7, I headed to the hotel’s continental breakfast and ate oatmeal with raisins and some lowfat yogurt.  In my hand I was also carrying some Shotbloks to be used for additional calories during the race.  At 7:15 ,we left the hotel and walked the short distance to the race start.  We quickly realized we could have left a lot later as we had almost 40 minutes to kill before the race started.  Like everyone around us, we attempted to loosen up through nervous dynamic stretching coupled with conversation.  Fifteen minutes before the start, we found the starting corrals we were each assigned to.  Lindsay was in Corral 1 as she was shooting for a 1:30.  Ryan was in Corral 3 and Becca and I 6.  Becca’s and my goal, especially both being a year or less postpartum was sub-2 hours but more than anything to finish and have fun.

Portland Rock & Roll Half Marathon 2012

After what seemed like much longer than 40 minutes, we could hear the elite runners were allowed to start.  One by one, corral by corral, the race was started over and over again.  About 8:15, we were finally off in a large group running along the waterfront.  Dodging other runners, we weaved our ways back and forth through the heart of downtown before crossing a bridge and entering a different quadrant of the city.  It felt good to be running and the race atmosphere was light and jovial due to the sheer number of runners with a sense of humor surrounding us.  I had chosen not to run with a watch so I had no idea what our pace was, but things were good.

A little after the first mile marker, the first of 11 bands was playing on a street corner.  It was very energizing to hear live rock and roll out on the course.  We picked up our pace.  By mile 3, we had got into a routine of looking for mile markers, bands and water stations, all of which happened about every mile.  As we passed the 3-mile marker, Becca started her watch so within a mile we figured out we were running somewhere around and 8:15 pace.  With this information I was both proud of us but also worried a bit that I would regret it later in the race.  Oh well, I decided.  Let’s just go with it and see what happens.

The Portland Rock ’n’ Roll ½ Marathon was a well-supported, sold out race and it certainly was living up to the well-deserved hype of the Rock ’n’ Roll series.  The miles clipped off much quicker than any other half-marathon I can remember.  There were constantly people around us, both runners and supporters.

We ran through quaint neighborhoods with neighborhood restaurants and vintage theatres and beautiful homes.  The only surprise was the number of hills on the course.  Luckily we had incorporated some hills into our weekly runs so they were no problem for anything except our pace.  On the non-hilly miles, we were still running in the 8:15 -8:30 range.

Becca’s friend who we were also running with had not run longer than six or so miles in her training and it began to show after about mile 8.  Simultaneously I realized my body was both getting tired but I still felt strong.  I sped up.  If I slowed down, it was going to hurt and it might get really ugly quickly.  Becca and her friend stayed with me for awhile and I could tell Becca was urging her friend on.  A bit later, I pulled away from them again knowing that if I didn’t speed up, I was going to slow way down and either way I would be running alone.  There were less than four miles left in the race so I picked it up.

Since I was now running solo sans conversation, I relied even more heavlily on the momentum from the local bands every mile or so.  When it started to feel harder or hurt, I picked up the pace.  I had no idea how fast I was running but after the race, someone who was following me online said I negative split the race and was running 7:45 miles the last few miles.  The only thing I was thinking was KEEP RUNNING.

We crossed a bridge and reentered our home quadrant of the city.  The rain picked up and I was briefly sheltered by an elevated roadway and then a mere mile from the finish the legs of a giant inflatable rock star straddling the road.  I kept going and wondered how long the final mile could possibly take.  The row of spectators along the side of the road thickened and eventually stood behind a barricade.

The finish line was 100 meters away so I picked up the pace as my competitive spirit pushed me past past a couple fellow rock ‘n’ roll runners.  I finished in 1:50, much quicker than I was anticipating!  I attribute my time to a really good day coupled with a fun, well-run race. 

By the time I reached the finish it was raining pretty hard.  I gathered and consumed the water, Gatorade, chocolate milk, Snickers Marathon bar, bagel and fruit cup.  I picked up my medal and most importantly the space blanket and met up with my friends to eventually walk back to the hotel where my mom and daughter were waiting for me.  After standing around in wet running clothes with only a space blanket for warmth, I couldn’t wait to get into a hot shower.

All and all it was a great race in a beautiful city!  I am a Rock & Roll race convert!  I would gladly do another one of their races in the future. 

Wanna join me? :)

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