Wednesday, November 27, 2013

My Plan to not SCREW UP

Don't Screw Up the Holidays.
Holiday season brings extra festivities,
including FUN RUNS like
the annual Jingle Bell Hell!
It is the start of hibernation pounds for many (myself included). A long stretch of festive celebrating, eating on the go, work parties, family get-togethers and holiday meetups for every social group that you're a member. While the merriment is all fine and dandy, it leaves my jeans a bit tight by New Years. So I have a PLAN to not screw myself quite badly this year. I share it with you as an accountability check...

•  I expertly timed to run a marathon in March. The 16 week training schedule starts Thanksgiving week. Enough said. I'll be running my butt off - starting with a 5 mile Turkey Trot on Thursday morning. Plus I plan on attempting the RW Holiday Streak. This is either an awesome idea or stupid... unsure which yet.

•  I purposely entered a Dietbet contest that ends the week after Thanksgiving. I'm halfway to my goal (to win a share of the $ pot), with 4 more pounds to lose before final weigh-in. It's completely doable, but will require sacrifice of that pumpkin pie and fresh bread (my weaknesses) on Turkey Day. I'm not even a fan of mashed potatoes, gravy, casseroles and all that jazz so it's not terribly difficult for me to stick with just the turkey and veggies. However, my Aunt always has yummy snacks as we watch the football game... and my team usually makes me lose my cool, driving me to munch. It's not a challenge without temptation, right?! As we roll into December, I plan on signing up for another Dietbet. I can't deny it - the investment with money on the line - motivates me to say no to the cookie. I need that to keep my food in check over the holidays.

Don't Screw Up Marathon #6.
My training plan for the Shamrock Marathon started last Monday. I did not. As you may be aware, I was pretty sick this past weekend, so it quickly became a 15 wk training plan. Sigh. It is what it is, and I move forward.

I've finally settled on a training plan that works into my busy life, especially over the holiday season. (I'll share my plan details next week.) Although, I'm still searching for the motivation to train. I love running without a doubt, but training takes the run outside the "fun zone" sometimes. I know some people do, but I don't run full marathons for the fun of it. The only reason I run a full these days is to improve, PR, push my limits. 26.2 is always a big challenge and in the end, a huge high that keeps me coming back more. The distance drives me to push further and faster. To keep me (and you!) accountable to winter training schedules, I will be kicking off the Winter Miles Challenge on January 6... a free 8 week challenge that includes weekly prizes and motivation to keep us from slacking over the snow-riddled winter. More to come on that, so get excited!

Don't Screw Up My Foot. 
No one likes to talk about injuries, but once you suffer one, it's always stewing in the back of your mind. I'm not a very good patient. I don't listen well to the 'rest' philosophy. I have backed off my miles since completing the Marshall Univ Half (where IS that race recap?), but what I really needed was complete REST. My body obviously told me that this past weekend when I was bed-ridden with a fever for three days. It's amazing how your muscles and joints can ache more from laying in bed than running a marathon! I feel so darn stiff. Yoga please! However, after a 0 miles week, I now wake up each morning and walk normal from the get-go. If you've ever had plantar fasciitis (PF), you'll understand what a blessing that is. Therefore, I promise not slack as I pick up miles again. I will continue icing after workouts and my stretching exercises (Trigger Point review coming soon) to prevent another PF flareup. Long may this girl run!

Your turn...
What's your holiday plan? Do you fight it, or just worry about it come January?
Are you a winter runner? Do you have a spring race that you train for over the winter?
What's your current injury?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Runner's Holiday Gift Guide

My Christmas tree has been filled with "running stuff" for several years now. It's my obsession; my hobby... and my family knows it. Besides, who really wants a new vacuum for Christmas? Yes, I need one but that's not much fun, is it? Not everyone in my family is a runner, so sometimes I need to give a little guidance... aka the wish list. Sound familiar? Check out the items below for some great ideas this holiday season. And by all means, share this post with your family to drop some hints!

Marathon Sock by ProCompression
For the distance runner, a good compression sock is an important tool for endurance, recovery and travel. The Marathon is a full-length, graduated compression sock. Using compression technology, the Marathon sock helps to improve blood flow, resulting in better, more consistent performance with less fatigue and faster, more efficient recovery. They also provide support to critical muscles and tendons, helping to reduce inflammation and soreness. If 26.2 is on your agenda this year, the Marathon Sock needs to be on your wish list. Shop here. Use discount code BLG13 for 40% off your order.

Running Beads from Milestones Jewelry
For the runner who likes to fashion her sport well after the workout is done, a shiny piece of jewelry will make her stocking sparkle! These beautiful European style beads are custom designed especially for Milestones. Featuring solid sterling silver, they beads are compatible with the ever-so-popular Pandora, Zable, Troll, Chamilia, Biagi bracelets and necklaces. Shop here.

CX3 Neopop Socks from Fitsok
Keep your runner feet looking as fast as they feel with the new CX3 Neopop sock. These colorful low-profile socks are constructed with Coolmax® to provide paramount moisture wicking and cooling technology. Built as a lightweight compression sock, the CX3 sock ensures an anatomically snug fit while spun Coolmax offers a super-soft hand to promote comfort. Each three-pack comes with an assortment of neon yellow, orange and green.  Shop here. Use discount code THEBESTTHINGSINLIFE in the Fitsok Shop to receive 15% off!

SoftFlask from Hydrapak
The new 12 oz, 17 oz and 25 oz SoftFlasks are an ideal gift choice for the outdoor enthusiast and traveling runner. Unlike a bulky bottle, the SoftFlask's durable and flexible RF welded polyurethane material allows it to be easily collapsed, rolled up and stashed. The versatile, easily-compressed and stored SoftFlask is perfect for multi-sport users - from runners, hikers and all the winter sports. These SoftFlask bottles make it convenient to travel and hydrate for a race. Shop here.

Protein Pancake Mix from FlapJacked
For the foodie runner on your list, FlapJacked pancakes mixes are the perfect breakfast before or after a big training run. Ingredients are 100% natural - no GMO, no preservatives, no artificial color or flavoring - just the finest whole grains like quinoa, whole oats and cinnamon to name a few. These pancakes are sure to refuel a runner's body with proper carbs to stay healthy and feeling great on the run. Just 200 calories with 15-17g protein, 4-7g fiber and 21g net carbs in three delicious flavors - Banana Hazelnut, Buttermilk, and Apple Cinnamon! Shop here.

Flat Out Sox from 110% Play Harder
The Flat Out Sox boost circulation and stabilize muscles for optimal performance and maximum recovery. The bold graphics create compression zones for extra stability during tough workouts. Outrageously comfortable, Flat Out Sox deliver the benefits of kinesiology tape without the hassle in a compression sock that looks as good as it feels. Shop here.

Sparkle Skirt by
Sparkle up your races and events with "the most comfortable athletic skirt in the world," (according to customers!)  SparkleTech skirts feature guaranteed anti-ride undershorts with longer inseams than most athletic skirts, and three HUGE pockets to carry your gear. Dozens of styles, (sparkly or non-sparkly) and sizes XS to 3XL (with 4XL by special order.)  Made in the USA! Shop here.

What's on YOUR holiday wish list this year?

• • • 12 Days of Christmas Gifts : Dec. 12-23 • • •
• • •  Winter Miles Challenge : Jan.6 - Mar.2  • • •

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Three Things Thursday

ONE - Tornado Aftermath
It's been an emotional week here in central Illinois, with much of our outlining community in ruins after the tornado. People are whirling into action, donating so many items that the storage facilities are full. In fact, they can't even accept more until the current piles are sorted and opened up to victims. I'm heading down to the ballpark this morning to help organize. As an expert garage saler, it's the one thing I'm pretty darn good at!

Power has now been restored to the non-demolished parts of the city. The boil order on water was lifted yesterday. School will resume on Monday for Washington, IL. Families were able to get into disaster zones yesterday to shift thru what's left of their homes. Unfortunately, despite security checks, so have looters... stealing from the homeless.  Seriously, what is wrong with people?!?

My runner friend Paula, whose home
a tornado ripped apart, was just happy
to be safe and amongst friends for dinner!
My running group Sole Sisters had a social gathering for dinner/drinks after our evening run. It had already been pre-planned to celebrate Hug-A-Runner Day. Perfect timing because we needed a hug session! It was refreshing to sit around a table with women that I feel so close to (runner friends are just like that) and hash out the events of the week. One of our Sisters that lost her home in the tornado even came out to join us. She needed this more than anyone! We showered her with gift cards, love, support, food and drinks. On the drive home, I didn't know whether to cry or smile. Somehow runners make the most unique and special friendships. I am truly blessed to know and have these women in my life. They make me proud.

Our running group had four ladies who were devastated by Sunday's tornados. If you feel moved to directly help a fellow runner, please click the donate button below - knowing 100% will be turned into gift cards for a fellow runner to rebuild their families' lives. Thank you.

TWO - Sports
Sarcasm, but not too far from the truth.
This week at my children's school, it is "Support Week". Each day they pay $1 to participate in something fun with all the money going towards the tornado relief efforts. Tuesday was Hat Day. Yesterday was Wacky Mismatch Wednesday. Today is Sports Day. As a sports enthusiast myself, I was excited to help my girls pick out their outfits for the day. However, I quickly noticed they were not. When I inquired what was wrong, my daughter responded, "It's not fun to wear our sports shirts to school. People are mean. They tell me I suck."

Sometimes I hate the conversations I have to have with my kids. What I want to say is... Some people are a$$holes. Their parents didn't teach them how to be decent human beings. But instead, we talk about sportsmanship... how to be nice to your opponent - when you win and when you lose... how to cheer for your team without putting down the other... how to have a fun rivalry without being mean. Clearly a trait that even grown adults lack.

THREE - My Run
Since finishing the Marshall University Half on Nov. 10 (race recap still coming, I promise!), I've backed off the RUN to give my foot some healing time before marathon training begins. To keep the cardio up, I've been Spinning... a lot. However, I get bugs now and then to hit the pavement. I ran an 8 miler the other morning. It was an amazing run that I dedicated to the tornado victims... and I'm also delighted to say my PF did not react. Promising sign.

I've been wearing my UNBREAKABLE bracelet to show strength and support for my community as we rebuild from the tornado. Sometimes I feel so helpless, the only thing that feels right... is to run.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Tornados rip thru my town

It's hard to think about anything but the destructive tornados that ripped through our community yesterday. I'll admit, despite "all the warnings", I had no idea it was coming. We were out of town Friday and all day Saturday. We rolled back into town late Saturday night and went right to bed. I woke up Sunday and headed straight to the gym to teach the morning Spin class. Hubby and the kids watched a DVD movie, so they didn't catch the warnings either.

The tornado's path was wide and dangerous.
Classified as an EF-4 with winds up to 200mph.
Once I was back home, it started to sprinkle and I thought, "Nice, I could really go for a rainy day at home..." The winds picked up and we ran outside to tie down the swinging chair (that bangs against our house during every storm) and gather a few things. I made pancakes for everyone as the storm began. By golly, just as the last pancake left the pan, our power went out. I still thought nothing (serious) of it. Suddenly, the winds got insanely wicked and the sky was a really eery darkness. We live on a long dead-end street. Everyone's garbage (large sheets of drywall!) were flying down the street and slamming into the end house. It was raining so hard that our road looked like a raging river. The local sirens started to flare... from every direction. We shuffled the kids downstairs, and gathered up candles and flashlights.

It was the worst storm I've ever seen... also the shortest. Within 15 minutes, the sun was peeking out and everything was calm. Neighbors were outside gathering thrown debris. Kids were excited, running around and riding up and down the street on their bikes. In just 10 minutes, the sky grew dark again, the wind changed direction and picked up speed. A second round of sirens went off. It was craziness as everyone jetted back into their houses. By now, I heard tornados had touched down in the vicinity. In addition to the rain, huge hail began pounding the house. The kids and I were scared this time. Thankfully for us, it was over quickly with virtually no damage.

Still without power, hubby and I were exhausting our phones trying to figure out what happened in the larger community. (Picture us sitting in our cars, charging phones, listening to the radio reports.) The Illinois River divides the greater Peoria area. We live on the west side; the east side seems to be tornado valley... and yesterday was no exception.
Tornado touchdowns as reported by NPR, with the worst destruction in Washington. 

As photos appeared and destruction reports came in, my heart sank. The seriousness of this storm was real. I slowly learned all my friends and their families were safe, but the damage devistating. The photos are surreal, unable to recognize familiar locations... just widespread rubble. I began to remember the stories my mother shared of the 1974 Oshkosh tornado (my hometown just months before I was born), the destruction, and all the work that went into cleaning/rebuilding that area.

Neighborhoods completely wiped out

Tornados were always something that happened somewhere else.
Today, it hits home.

I've gotten specific requests from several friends of items needed, so today I'll be collecting what I can to donate. It will be a long road back to recovery for these families. Right now, it's so overwhelming. Some can't even get back into their neighborhoods. It's difficult to even know what they need when they've lost everything.

Remember when I bought my new PURPLE Garmin Forerunner 10? I had a perfectly fine green one, but I wanted the color purple. So my friend Vicky bought the used green running watch from me. Sadly, her house is now gone. An attempt at humor, I asked, "What about the green Garmin?" Yes, it's gone too. I can only hope it is found in the rubble, but if not, I'm totally buying her a new one! 

I know many times I see catastrophes on the news and want to help. Sometimes I feel like my small donations to big charities are "lost" and insignificant. I feel the need to help someone more directly. If you feel the same, please consider donating below.
~ Runners Helping Runners ~
100% of Donations made here will be turned into gift cards - specifically for my running friends,
fellow Sole Sisters, whose homes were demolished in the tornado's path on Sunday morning.

Thank You! 
And please continue to pray for all the families
across the Midwest who were hit by the November tornados.

Will you dedicate your RUN MILES today?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Recap & Winners: #RideOutCancer

Every October for the past several years, I've hosted the Cupcake Classic virtual run to fight breast cancer. The "cupcake run" idea has now been duplicated more times than I can count, so this year, I decided to change it up. Tapping into my other passion (cycling), I organized a #RideOutCancer that incorporated several elements.

First was the Spin for the Cure on Oct. 5, a local event at the gym where I instruct Spinning. It was an amazing night with a packed Spin room. If you missed my recap, check it out here.

Secondly, I sold tank tops and t-shirts with the #RideOutCancer emblem on the front. The proceeds from shirt sales were donated to my neighbor Amanda, who is currently fighting breast cancer. When I walked down the street to deliver the donation, she was actually in Houston receiving another round of treatments. The $300 raised will help in a small way to offset their travel costs for these important medical trips. Thank you to everyone who purchased a shirt!

Thirdly, I partnered with BondiBand, my favorite athletic headbands (and winter running hat!). I sold headbands left and right, with proceeds donated towards my fundraising in the Komen Promise Run.

Lastly was the VIRTUAL 50K RIDE... This was free participation, raising awareness for breast cancer... on the bike, putting in the miles to honor those we've lost, those who survived and those still fighting. There was a finisher's medal available and those sold out quickly. Again, all proceeds benefitted our local Komen for the Cure Peoria Memorial via my race fundraising.

Total Raised: $1473

SPECIAL THANK YOU to these generous sponsors who donated above and beyond to make these breast cancer fundraising possible. The holidays are approaching... please consider doing some shopping with these companies. They have great stuff!

I finished my personal 50K ride on October 9. It was a challenging ride for me, as I've been putting in less miles on the road bike versus the Spin room. Hills are much harder in 'real life'. But it was a gorgeous day and whenever it got difficult, I remembered who I was riding for...

From the moment the finisher's medals arrived at my door, my 7 year old daughter wanted one. I explained to her what they were for (and they're not free). She was adamant that she wanted to earn one. In fact, she even pulled out her piggy bank to pay for it herself. So I told her, "If you ride the miles - without me having to force you - then I will buy the medal for you." By golly, that girl has definitely got my persistence. From day one, she was constantly asking if we could go for a bike ride. We had a spattering of bad weather and busy schedules in the early part of the month, so her miles came down to the wire. On Halloween night, between the rain, she got it done... with the whole family at the end of the driveway cheering her on.  I was one proud momma.

 Over 300 people across the country participated in the #RideOutCancer virtual ride. I have enjoyed reading your stories and seeing your finish line photos. Thank you for your participation and dedication to the fight against breast cancer. You are ALL Winners!

And finally the PRIZE winners...
Michelle Valentine - jewelry from Milestones Sports Jewelry
Jana McCutchan - jewelry from Milestones Sports Jewelry
Angie Rodgers - jewelry from Milestones Sports Jewelry
Amber Drake - jewelry from Milestones Sports Jewelry
Nicola Rutherford - jewelry from Milestones Sports Jewelry
Lindsay Barnes - prize package from Tough Chik
Samuel Stepp - prize package from CLICK Espresso Protein Drink
Amanda Carey - cyclist tumbler from Runner Decals
Lily McMullin - bicyclist bracelet from Shape Up Shenanigans
Deanna Metzloff - bicycle necklace
Melissa Butler - bicycle necklace
Brady Tadisch - helmet mirror

Congratulations to everyone! Big THANKS for your participation!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Race Recap: The EDGE 10K

You all know I'm a Half Junkie. By far, 13.1 is my favorite distance, but I must admit, the 10K is pretty fun and challenging too. The more I run 10K's, the more I like it. It's a short enough distance to dial up the speed, but long enough to be a productive workout for me. On Sunday, I laced up for the inaugural EDGE 10K in my town of Peoria, IL.

The sole reason I signed up for this race was because my good friend Colleen was the race director - her first go at the job and I wanted to support her. Knowing her as I do, I knew the race would be well-organized, great communication and smooth running. She delivered on all fronts. For $35, I received a chip-timed race bib and a royal blue hoodie sweatshirt. (There was also a 5K option.)

Unfortunately, on race morning, I wasn't feeling the best. I had used that 'extra hour' from Daylight Savings in an odd puke session during the wee hours of the morning. I finally got back to sleep, but the damage was done. I felt tired and weak when my alarm sounded. And my tummy was touchy... I managed a 1/2 cereal bar, but it just didn't feel right.

Hubby was working, so I ran my kiddos over to the in-laws to hang for the morning. I arrived downtown Peoria with plenty of time to chat it up with my Sole Sisters before the race... and visit the toilet two more times. Oh, my poor tummy...

Alas, the call to lineup! As always, I am blessed with a body that perks up (or shuts down) at race time. The excitement and adrenaline took over... and I didn't have a problem the rest of the race. It was a perfect morning to run in the chilly 30's with bright sunshine. I started with Heather and Deanna. We're all a similar pace during our group runs, but today Heather went out quick. Our first mile popped off at 8:57. I haven't done that in awhile, but it didn't feel too bad!

Photo from my friend Andrew at Open Skies Photography

The first two miles were fairly flat, and then we entered Springdale Cemetery. Springdale is known for its natural beauty and big trees, but also for its challenging hills. I tried to keep my mind on the pretty scenery. Fall colors were absolutely perfect today and the leaves were gently trickling down around us. I ran without my phone today so I have zero photos to show off of this pretty scene.

We hit the big hill shortly after the mile 2 marker. With a turn, we zig-zagged up and up. It would even out and then climb again. My pace plummeted, but I just kept running - one knee lift at a time. It was here that I hooked up with "blue shirt". (Afterward, I looked up her name in the results - Judy.) I would pass her on the climbs and then she's pass me back on the declines. This seems to be my M.O. lately in races.

As we exited the pretty cemetery in mile 4, the field of runners had spread out quite a bit. (There was over 300 in the event, but only 80 in the 10K distance.)  I was struggling to keep up with "blue shirt", now roughly 25 yards in front of me. Each little incline, I would close the gap just a little bit and then we'd spread out again.

Photo from my friend Andrew at Open Skies Photography

As we hit the straightaway that was the home stretch, I was feeling weak. I haven't run sub-9 pace in a long time. My focus was to just "beat the blue shirt". There were times when I had a second wind, and then other times when I just wanted to ask her what age group she was in... I mean really, was it worth the fight?

I was banking on my finish kick, but then I thought, "Maybe she has one too..." So with a 1/2 mile to go, I pushed my effort and drove the pace home. I passed her before the turn, and there was no catching me. (Garmin says my last 0.2 was a 7:20 pace!)  I weaved thru the bunches of walkers that were now finishing the 5K and gave it a final sprint.

Photo courtesy of RC Race Management

Official Chip Time 55:41
average pace 8:58 min/mile
Overall #36 out of 83
Females # 16 out of 57
F35-39  #2 out of 6

Immediately after the finish, I turned to give "blue shirt" a high five and thank her for providing that push today. Evidently, I had done the same for her. Every once in awhile when I run a race, I find a good partner out of a complete stranger. I like that about runners.

My time was good enough for a 2nd place medal in my age group! Thank you small races for making us mediocre runners a WINNER once in awhile. There was a nice food spread, but I just sipped my coffee to warm up. The awards ceremony was so fun with many of my Sole Sisters earning an award. We were hoot and hollering like crazy. An incredibly FUN morning!

Sole Sisters after the awards ceremony... look at all those medals!