Race Week!

Is it Spring yet? Nope! It snowed this past weekend (AGAIN!), and I’m thoroughly over Winter.
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I’ve spent countless hours on the treadmill over the last two months, and it’s about time for an update now that I’m headed into race season. Race season? THAT’S going to be ugly! This winter has been rough for much of the country, and Ohio was no exception. I used to not-so-lovingly call that torture device in my basement a dreadmill. No more! I love that thing. Without it, I’d be in trouble! My job is also keeping me pretty busy and active. So much to be thankful for!

As you may (or may not) recall, I’m keeping a paper log this year. No fancy online records, though I have been using my watch or phone to record some of these. I’ve really cut down on how much I talk about running online as well, save an occasional post when I think it might motivate others and myself! It’s been long enough…so here it comes…stop reading now if you don’t care, or don’t want to know just how boring my life really is. 20140303-191258.jpg
By the numbers (for the nerds):
January 2014
Running: 130.44mi
Walking: 65.3mi
Total: 195.74mi

February 2014
Running: 134.66mi
Walking: 63mi
Total: 197.66mi

To some, that might not look like much. To others, it’s a lot! I wasn’t sure either way, so I looked up the numbers for January and February 2013. 137.96 and 108.97 respectively, running and walking combined. Sounds good!

This weekend I’m running my first “race” of 2014. A 50k at Mohican. It’s not a timed race, so I’m not nervous at all. Maybe I should be? Nah!

On April 12th, I will have the pleasure of volunteering at a great race…Forget the PR 25k & 50k. You can find the link on my Need a place to race? page. 20140303-191457.jpg
As a favor to his volunteers, the RD holds a Volunteers’ Race before the event, so we can all run the course, earn our shirts and get a buckle. It helps him out as well…to point out any potential issues the trail may have encountered over the harsh winter. Plus, we get lost so on race day you won’t have to! Isn’t that nice!

I plan to run that day with another friend I’ve really missed seeing this winter. I don’t think we’ve run together at all since October. Good thing we’ll have a lot of time to catch up.

I only have one concern: Big Ass Hill…x2! Where is the setting on the treadmill for this? 20140303-191504.jpg

Oh well…Sunday is fast approaching, and there’s nothing I can do about it now. Happy trails!

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Learning to Fall

The last four weeks have been a struggle. Not just with running…with life. I want to write about so many topics, but I’ll stick to my running and recovery for now.

After North Coast, I didn’t want to run. At all. I was told this was normal…part of the healing process after an ultra. After all, I did it. I met all of my goals for the race and got a huge distance PR…way more than I was expecting. It was OK to take some time off. And that’s where the problem came in. I didn’t leave any.
In a week’s time, I’m running the double marathon at Run With Scissors, a trail course through Hinckley Reservation in Northeast Ohio. I know nothing about the course except for the reports of others, and a few Garmin maps. This should be terrifying interesting. 20131019-125040.jpg
A quick recap…
Week 1: Hardly any running. I managed about 10 miles of walking and a little biking. I was all but convinced my foot was broken. Running on the road for 83.5 miles can do some damage. I iced and massaged, but there was no real swelling. A nagging tightness when I rested…but I could walk without pain. I thought if I could just get my foot to crack, I’d feel better. I paced a 4mi race on Friday night without incident.

Week 2: Time to put in a little mileage. More foot stretches. Finally my foot loosened up enough. Crack! So much better. As it turns out, my Cuboid was slightly dislocated, and it likely popped back in on it’s own. I gave the foot some support with tape and compression for a few days while continuing the stretching exercises. I logged about 30 miles this week.

Week 3: Peak Week? Already? Not good. I’m not ready. I put in as many treadmill miles as I could stand. My “long run” was 25 miles…on a treadmill…over two days. It was the only way I could stand the dread. I wasn’t able to get to any trails this week, and worried I wouldn’t be ready. I knew I didn’t have to run a crazy amount of miles. The race is close, and I’m not going to make that many gains at this point. Maintenance. I just have to maintain cardio fitness, put enough stress on the legs to trigger muscle memory. No time for DOMS, boys and girls.

Week 4: Here we are. Motivation is at an all-time low. I have no goals for this race other than “finish.” I don’t care if I’m dead-last, but I’m fairly certain I won’t be. I ran 15 trail miles on Thursday, and that was a big confidence boost. I left the trail feeling positive and refreshed. Not too tired, and no DOMS on Friday. Perfect. Most of Friday was consumed with the Columbus Marathon Expo, and I did a fair amount of walking around Downtown and the event itself. This week my sleep cycle is pretty much non-existent. I’m not sure the last time I got a good 8 hours…or 6 for that matter. It’s been a while. I should be sleeping right now, but my brain is in this hyper-vigilant mode. It’s not a good place for me. I can’t relax. I feel stressed and paranoid all the time. Maybe I just need to run…

The race is next Sunday. 52.4 miles of trails for which I’m not sure I’m ready. I’ll finish. I recently met a gal who is running her first 50+ race, and it seems we have a similar pace and race plan. I’ll do what I can to encourage her, and that will get me through the race. Now I know why people stack events so close together…there’s no time to fall. You’re always racing. Of course, there’s a danger in there as well…the dreaded injury. I think if you play it smart you can keep it up for a while, but eventually you have to take time for rest and recovery.

This will be my last official race of the year. I have a few other long runs planned…a miles for years run around my birthday, and a FA50k in December that I won’t miss. But really, this is it. It makes me feel uneasy without something on the books. Sure…I have race ideas for the spring. But nothing official…yet.

Maybe it’s my time.

Time to learn how to fall.

I’m still here…

Sometimes life gets in the way.

Despite your best attempts at keeping everything moving forward, you fall. Lose touch. Forget.

The last month has been a dark place for me. And though my running has been progressing with much success, my writing has fallen by the wayside.

I don’t feel inspired to say anything.

I just wanted to let you know that I’m still here. Still alive. Still training. I started my taper for the 24hr race this week. That means a break for my body. That also means my mind is racing all hours of the night.

Is it enough? Am I ready? Does it matter at this point?
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The support I thought I would have on race day…the faces I thought I’d see…won’t be there. I’m disappointed. Again. I do have some wonderful friends that have stepped in, but I’m still left with a sadness I can’t escape. I thought I was someone I’m not. I thought I had a place…that I mattered. I don’t. Not to some anyway. Not to those that who I chose to matter to me. I was wrong.

I’m working on a training wrap-up. I hope to have it posted before the weekend. Until then…

There are no hills in Ohio!

That’s right. I said it. No hills. Not in the Columbus area anyway.

Yeah. Yeah. There “hills” at the Cliffs of Insanity (Highbanks Metro Park). You can find one or two at Sharon Woods or the Trails of Terror (Alum Creek Phase 2 MTB trail).

If you’ve never travelled outside of Columbus, OH, you might actually think those are hills. Mountains even.

You’d be wrong.

If you drive to Hocking Hills, Mohican, or Great Seal you can find some sizable hills. My Ragnar team found some beauties, most of which were grossly mislabeled, between Chattanooga and Nashville, TN.

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Here’s the thing…I like running hills. Yup. I’m certifiable. I’d rather run up a hill than a flat surface any day.
It’s no surprise I’m not a sprinter. One look at me would tell you that. But one thing I have is leg power. And I can bust up a hill!

Hill repeats are speed work in disguise. They make you faster. And stronger. When the road is flat, it will be easier because you trained on hills. And when it’s hilly…you’re prepared. So I set some incline intervals, and ran. I’m going to have to tweak the plan to make it harder over time, but you can get a great hill workout on the treadmill!

Why do I need hill training anyway? I have two half marathons planned in April: one in Xenia, OH and the other in Washington DC…neither of which necessitate the kind of hill training I’m proposing. I do, however, have a few friends running the Flying Pig Marathon this year, and from what I hear and know about Cincinnati, they’ll need the hill practice. I’m willing to come along for the ride.

Tomorrow’s news: January by the Numbers

Motivation: Nike+ FuelBand Review

It’s amazing what a little motivation can do. You’ve been on a streak for the last 44 days…you can’t quit now! Must. Keep. Moving.

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When I first saw the Nike+ FuelBand on the wrist of a colleague, I thought it looked cool.

Actually, I barely noticed he was wearing anything other than what I thought was one of those silicone “cause” bracelets.

And then he pressed the almost imperceptible button, and it came to life.

I’ve worn a pedometer for years. I like to know how active I am during the day, especially when I’m not specifically “exercising.” My reasoning was this…I needed to know why on some days I was exceedingly lazy tired by 5pm, and the next day I’d be up all night.

So I tracked. And tracked. And tracked.

The results were pretty telling. Those days when I was “too tired to work out?” I was more active doing normal everyday tasks during the morning. But I wasn’t always walking, so the data from the standard pedometer often didn’t match up.

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Enter the Nike+ FuelBand. 

First, I must say, this is not a replacement for a GPS watch or a HeartRate Monitor.

Because it doesn’t do either.

It estimates steps based on arm swing.

Arm swing? What good does that do?

Well for walking, not a whole lot more than a standard pedometer. But if you stand in one place and move your arms, the standard version won’t register any movement. That’s where the FuelBand takes over. Movement by the arm wearing the Band will be recorded, and translated into NikeFuel (an arbitrary number “invented” by Nike that corresponds to activity/motion).

The device also estimates calories burned based on the height/weight you enter, and a rough estimation of how far you travel based on steps.

But these features are not the best part of the device. The secret is all in the motivation.

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The FuelBand syncs up to your Nike+ account, similar to the GPS watch. You have the option of plugging the device in your PC/Mac’s USB port, or you can sync wirelessly via Bluetooth through the App (currently available on the App Store and Google play)

Basically you set a goal each day, and aim to hit it. After 3 consecutive days of hitting your goal, you’re on a streak. And it continues until you don’t. Then you start again.

It tracks when during the day you move the most. You can also see your best days, weeks, and months.

So great. Does it work?

My experience with the FuelBand has been great. It’s super light, and after an hour I barely noticed I was wearing it.

Like anything else, there is a learning curve. Forgetting to charge your FuelBand, or in my case, leaving it on the bathroom counter after a shower, will certainly derail your streak…without some make-up work anyway.

There is nothing more disappointing than getting back from a great run, attempting to sync your FuelBand, only to find out you didn’t wear it, or that the battery is dead. Luckily, the device lasts roughly 3-4 days of “average wear.”

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And as far as the motivation goes…it has plenty.

Many nights I’ve looked at my FuelBand only to find I have 300-500 Fuel to hit my goal, and that has prompted a run, cycle, or strength workout. Realize because it only works with arm movement, you’ll have to attach the band to your shoe or ankle for cycling. And since it’s calibrated for running/walking, the data won’t be even close for cycling. But that doesn’t mean it won’t register Fuel. Just track your distance another way.

I had to request a replacement band after a month of use. It still worked, but it had battery issue which necessitated charging every night! I was disappointed, until I spoke with a rep from Nike.

Best customer service ever!

They sent me a new one, and when I received it sent my defective one back, minus charging cradle (they don’t require you send back accessories). No days missed…streak continued!

So check it out. Or ask me more questions.

What tools motivate you?

*I received no compensation for the above review. All material and opinions are my own.

Tomorrow’s News: Anticipation