27 February 2013


Sean is making our green smoothie for dinner and I am sitting at the counter.

Such a flattering picture of my giant legs right? They aren't really that big.

Yesterday, for the first time ever, my speedwork didn't go well and I didn't complete the workout. I had GI issues at the start and my posterior tib tendon (on the inside of my ankle) was sore. I am trying not to dwell on the fact that I didn't do all my mile repeats. I tried to be smart and stop running before I hurt myself. It was hard to make that call because speed is my favorite. But I've iced and stretched and done some calf raises, so lets hope tomorrow is better!

Here are some random things that are making me happy today:

  • I splurged on 2 new pair of shoes today: Brooks Ravenna 4 and Mizuno Inspire 8 (on sale!). I have struggled a lot with running shoes because my legs are so weird. You can read more about that here. The first run with new shoes is so much fun, and I've got one coming up in less than twelve hours!
  • I like to read people's archives and old race reports, and I loved reading about Green Girl's breakthrough half marathon. This was so inspiring! I know I have a breakthrough in me too.
  • Susan, a fellow athlete with MS, says that dope is her drug of choice. (And it's not about medical marijuana.)
  • Coach Erin wrote recently about the magic secret to becoming a faster runner. If you want to make a big change in your life, forget all this "5 easy ways" crap and just read this.
  • Sean likes to say we are living in a world where people have traded in their souls for self-esteem. I love that. I mean, I wish it weren't so, but I think it's really smart.
  • Tomorrow I'm going to try running at the indoor track at my local high school. The treadmill is starting to drive me crazy.

What's making you happy today?

24 February 2013

Week 2: Being Thankful

Maybe it's the post long run high, but I am so thankful for everything right now. I'm thankful that despite having my third cold of the season, I've had a solid week of training. I even got to run outside yesterday, with Sean! I'm thankful that my husband understands my devotion to running and that he's a runner too. He's gearing up for his first 100-miler this spring. And I thought I was crazy.

I'm thankful I was able to hit all my training paces and run all my miles (28 of them) this week. My speed workout this week was 5x800s, which I did between 7.6 and 7.9 on the flat treadmill. I did a 3-mile tempo run (with 1-mile warmup and cool down) at 7.0, and today I did an 8-miler, around 10:00 pace.

I'm not sure if it's the strength and core work, the 0% incline, or both (or something else) but I think I've conquered the treadmill. I'm able to run day after day without pain. It turns out there are some nice things about treadmills. You can run with people who are slower or faster than you, and you still get to be right next to them the whole time. You don't have to wear tons of clothes or try to avoid slippery patches or run in the road with the Massholes (the terrible Massachusetts drivers). And it's nice to run inside when you're a little bit sick. I never thought I'd say this, but I'm thankful for the damn treadmill.

I'm super thankful for my running partner! I started running with L last year, just once a week or so with a small group of people at work. Now we're training for the same half in April, and we might run a fall marathon together (or at least train together). She has started meeting me in the gym at 6:30am for workouts! Bonus points for her because she lives an hour away. (I only live about 5 minutes from my office, which is where the gym is.) Since we are doing speed and tempo work, we don't talk much when we're running, but it's great to know she's there. She's speedy and will definitely kick my ass at the race, which is fine by me. I'm just glad she likes running with me.

I've been thinking a lot about nutrition lately. Ever since Disney, I've been trying to figure out why I hit the wall at the end of the race. I think pacing was part of it, but I've been having this nagging feeling that I was not eating enough - or maybe not eating the right things. For the past month or so, I've been doing a much better job with my fruit and vegetables (green smoothies every day!), and certain things (bathroom things!) are a lot better. But I still have to fine-tune this diet stuff. I just bought a new book by Matt Fitzgerald, The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition. I've just started reading and it looks promising. When you put this much effort into training, you don't want something like gear or nutrition to bring you down on race day. If I suck, at least I want to know it was actually my fault!

I am thankful that I can stand on one foot to put on socks and shoes. This might not sound like much, but because of some old MS-related balance issues, standing on one foot is a big accomplishment and makes me feel like a rock star. As much as I dislike all those strength and core exercises, they are doing so much for me. My balance is better, nothing is sore, and I feel like a superhero just walking around the house.

And of course, you knew this was coming, I am so thankful for running. I feel good, I'm in good shape, I'm not depressed, and I haven't had any MS symptoms in months. That's cause for celebration. Pizza!

18 February 2013

Week 1 (26 miles)

This has been a great week.

On Monday, I started training for the Fool's Dual Half Marathon on April 7th. It was my first week with my coach, and I'm so happy that I pursued getting a coach and that I chose Erin! All of my runs this week went perfectly, and the little niggles that I've had in the past few weeks are gone. I attribute that to the smart strength and core work I've been doing, as well as an amazing little routine called Myrtl, all of which were suggested by my coach. Those Myrtl hip circles have changed my life! I love finding another piece to the staying-injury-free puzzle.

All my runs rocked this week, but the best part of the week wasn't physical. I noticed a significant shift in my attitude. I'm worrying and beating myself up less, and relaxing more and feeling more satisfied with my running. When you don't have a coach, you are coaching yourself, and it's a lot of work, especially when you don't know shit about being an athlete. You learn as you go, and that's great, but there's a lot of second-guessing that goes on. Anyway, it's probably too soon to make proclamations, but I really think I picked the right coach for me. She's encouraging and knowledgable and straight-shooting. I should have done this before!

I'm going to try something new this week. Instead of writing about all my runs (boooor-ing!), I'm going to write just about the hard runs; the "workouts". Hopefully this will make for a less boring blog post. You tell me.

My key workouts this week were:
  • Speed: 8x400 (5 miles total)
  • Tempo: 2 miles (4 miles total)
  • Long: 7 miles


I did my long run yesterday morning in Bennington, Vermont. The ground was dry and not slippery at all, so I was determined to run outside, despite the weather. It was 16 degrees with 50 mph wind gusts. I've never run in Bennington before, so I mapped out an out-and-back route from our hotel. The maps app on my iPad doesn't show elevation, so I had no idea that my little 7-mile jaunt was going to be an eyeball freezing 760-foot climb of death. There was a fair bit of moaning, a tiny bit of walking, and much freezing of the aforementioned eyeballs, but I finished with a respectable 10:14 average pace. (My goal pace for long runs is anything between 9:55 and 11:10.)

Another reason the long run was so tough was that I did all my other runs on the treadmill this week. I run between 6 and 7am, when it’s still really cold and icy outside. Since I'm really scared of falling, I've taken to the treadmill. Most folks suggest running at 1% incline to get the equivalent of running outside, but since my ankles hate incline, Erin said to keep it flat and just bump up the speed a bit to get an equivalent workout. That was smart because I've had five great treadmill runs in a row this week, and usually I can't do more than two in a row without pain. And even then I'm beating myself up for lowering the incline to 0% at the end.

I also found a treadmill pace equivalency chart which gives effective pace at different inclines. Did you know that if you leave the treadmill flat, you are actually not doing as much work as your pace would suggest? Well, if you believe in this pace chart anyway. For example, the chart suggests that an 8:00 pace on a flat treadmill is equivalent to 8:20 pace outside on flat ground. They say it has to do with the lack of wind resistance, but it seems to me that belt’s movement must make the treadmill a bit easier to run on. You can just sort of plop your foot down and then pick it up again, which seems easier than pushing the ground back. I'm not sure what to believe, but I am increasing my paces a bit on the ’mill.


Tempo runs are my Achilles heel. Groan! When I saw that I had a two-mile tempo run on the schedule this week, I was excited instead of scared. Two miles seems really manageable, and I rocked it. Now I have more confidence than usual going into my next (three mile) tempo run.


As I mentioned before, I love speedwork. My 400s were great on Tuesday, but afterwards I was worried that I felt a little too great. Like maybe I didn't work hard enough. I asked Erin about this and she said that I shouldn't feel completely spent unless I had just crossed a finish line. Now how much sense does that make? Sean has told me this before too, but I have a habit of not believing anything he says until someone else says it; someone who isn't 90% motivated by not wanting me to cry.

Erin also said two more smart things. She said that 8x400 is not quite a full set of 400s, which means I will be more tired later when I do 10 or 12 of them at the same pace. She also said that you should always feel like you could do another repeat at the end of your speedwork. I was starting to beat myself up for not running harder, but I decided to trust her wisdom, stop stressing, and move on with my life. I never would have thought that having a coach would give me this kind of freedom!

Having a coach is amazing. Especially when you're a basket case.

12 February 2013


Speedwork is the most satisfying type of hard running work there is, for me. Today I got my speed on for the first time in THREE MONTHS! Imagine anything you really love, and then imagine not doing it for THREE MONTHS. And then you do it and it feels amazing. Wait, what was I talking about? Right. Speedwork. All day I was on an intense speedwork high.

Today's workout was 8x400. This is a really fun workout to do on the track because each repeat is just one lap. There's no mental drama with one lap; it's over before you can really get uncomfortable. There's no time to do calculations about how far you have to go. Since the blizzard (or not-quite-blizzard) put the track out of commission, I rode the 'mill this morning. Speedwork on the treadmill isn't quite as much fun, but I still get the benefit of feeling amazing afterwards. Plus I get to watch dumb TV, which has its own charm.

I was up at 5 and at the gym by 6, after some kukicha tea and a packet of instant oatmeal. I brought some nuun water and a canister of Hammer Perpetuem Solids, which I had high hopes for. Hardly anyone was at the gym that early so I had my choice of the six treadmills. I warmed up at 10:20 pace for a half-mile, then started the 400s. I slowly increased the treadmill over the 8 repeats from 7.5 (8:00) to 8.0 (7:30), jogging at about 10:30 pace in between.

After the fourth repeat (halfway!), I tried a Perpetuem Solid. Nope, not gonna work for me. They seemed to expand the more I chewed them, they were the consistency of styrofoam, and they ended up stuck to my teeth until I brushed them after the workout. I still haven't found anything better than gels, but they don't taste very good. I want to experiment with making my own mashed potato gels before my next marathon.

I love getting nervous at the beginning of a speed workout about how many repeats I have to do, then feeling more and more confident as they tick by. I love getting to the halfway point, then two more left, then the last one and I know it's almost in the books. I love wondering if I've started out too fast or not fast enough, and trying to pace it so that I expend enough (but not too much) energy, per repeat and over the course of the whole workout. I love how the first few seconds of effort feels really tough, before I settle in and my heart rate drops a bit.

After I was done with today's repeats, I cooled down for half a mile at my recovery pace, about 11:20. Then I went home and launched myself into my day, full of energy and happy that after a month off from training, I can still throw down a little speed.

10 February 2013

Coming Up: Week 1

I am very much looking forward to this week! After four weeks of not-training, I'm ready for higher mileage, a schedule, and serious workouts. Speedwork! I would be looking forward to a new training cycle anyway, but this time it's really exciting because I am working with my new coach, Erin. Having a coach means more to me than just having someone give me workouts and paces. It means I am taking myself seriously as a runner. I am a runner! And now I have a coach who I trust to help me improve.

You know how people go on great journeys to find themselves? I tried that. I hiked (most of) the Appalachian Trail, went on a solo road trip across the country, and lived for a year on top of a mountain with no electricity. Those were all great experiences - really sweet escapes - and I learned something about myself each time. To some extent I was saying "no" then, to an outdated version of myself, to notions of what people thought I should do or be. Saying "no" is an important part of claiming yourself. But running? That's when I started saying "yes" to myself. Running exposes me to myself, shows me what I need to improve on, and gives me a way to break through and be a better version of myself. Oh and it cures depression too.

You might think running could only help you be a better runner, but that isn't true, at least not for me. I think the same processes that make you a better runner can make you a better person. I should write about that later.

My schedule for this week isn't too scary: some 400s, a short tempo run, a not-too-long long run, and three easy runs. Because of the blizzard, I'll be doing most of my running on the treadmill at work, at least until these 25 inches of snow melt. It's tough to run outside right now. There are no sidewalks (they are covered with 4-5 feet of plowed snow), and Bostonians are entitled, shitty drivers (Massholes!) when the weather is good. I saw a woman running down the middle of the road today. Good for her, I hope she stays safe, but I don't think I could do it. I'm a mom! And a wimp.

07 February 2013

Better Fuel

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm trying to eat better. We're drinking green smoothies every day and eating vegetables with every dinner. I avoid wheat for two meals a day, and I'm only doing dairy once a week (pizza is still one of my core food groups). I eat fruit and raw veggies for most of my snacks, and with all these changes, my gut is definitely happier. I still haven't mastered no-need-to-poop-while-running, but there is improvement. I haven't had an accident in weeks! I wish I were kidding.

At work I sometimes get procrastination-hungry. You know, where you would rather find a snack in a faraway snack machine than start on that next PowerPoint. But part of this new healthy eating path is visiting-the-snack-machine-less. Fewer Pop-Tarts! Will I live? Yes I will, especially since I found out about Graze.

Graze is a web-based service that sends you an adorable and very tasty "nibblebox" once a week for $5. You can specify special diets or foods to avoid, and you can rate the snacks on their website, which by the way is awesomely usable and cute. I got my second box today, which you can see below, and I'm really excited to try everything. I already ate one of the snacks, which were spicy crackers that got a "love" rating immediately after I inhaled them. If you get something you don't like, you can just "trash" it and you'll never see it again. So far everything I've tried has been either "like" or "love". They have these granola bar things they call flapjack, which I would give a "marry" if I could.

Graze isn't available to just-anyone yet, but if you are feeling extra-special (and hungry), you can sign up using my code, THY5ZF5T. Your first box is free, and I get $1 off my next box too, lucky me. I have no affiliation with Graze, I just love it and thought you might too!

So far in 2013 I have visited the snack machine exactly once, for Fritos. Sometimes you just need some greasy salty corn. But most of the time it's fruit, veggies, and Graze.

02 February 2013

Enjoying In-Between

Since New Year's fell right at the end of my marathon training, I put off thinking about goals and plans for 2013 until after the marathon. Then I went and got the flu (or maybe a ridiculous cold, my doctor wasn't sure), which put any thoughts of 2013 out of my mind. This past week I finally had a chance to start thinking about what I want for myself this year, and it was so much fun to think about. I'm in a great place right now: happy with my family and my job, healthy and grateful for it, and hopeful and excited about running.

While I was lying in bed for a week, it occurred to me that it’s time to find a coach. I want to take it to the next level with my running. I thought about all the coaches I know of, from twitter, blogs, and word-of-mouth, and I started talking to Sean about them. After about three minutes, I had figured out who I wanted to coach me. I emailed Erin right away and she emailed me back even faster. I thought I'd shop around and talk to different people and think about it for a week or so, but when I got that email I knew right away that I didn't need to look any further.

After 20 months of running on my own, I have a coach! I am so excited about working with Erin. She's been where I am, running-wise, in the not-too-distant past. She understands having other commitments besides running (she has 12 kids!). She's one of the most positive people I've ever encountered, online or off. And she knows about working hard and improving, which is exactly what I want to do. I can't wait to start my training with her!

The second thing I thought about after getting a coach was food. I eat like crap. I'm vegetarian and I don't think I eat too much or too little, but I eat mostly white, yellow, and brown foods. Hardly any veggies or fruit. Almost all starch, and mostly wheat. I understand the concept of eating well, but it seems like too much work and not enough fun. But if I want to take my running to the next level, I know I need to eat better. More green smoothies! Less bread and potatoes!

The next thing I started thinking about was racing. My long-term goal is to qualify for Boston, and in the short term, I want to PR in the 5k, the mile, and the half marathon this year. The Boston thing seems far away given my current marathon PR of 4:23 and the fact that I'm a 37-year-old new runner who has zero in the way of talent, but this goal is about the journey. I love training more than I love racing (although I do like racing a lot), and I know that running has been really good for my MS and my health in general. So even if I never actually qualify for Boston, it will be worthwhile to try.

So far I've registered for a 5k in March and a half in April. I'm looking forward to running shorter distances and working with my coach to improve my speed. I thought I wouldn't want to run another marathon in 2013 when I finished Disney, but I'm starting to think a fall marathon might be reasonable...

So what's happening with running now? After Disney, I took two full weeks off. The first week I did some light cross training; the second week I had the flu. Last week I started recovering and running again. On Monday, I ran a really easy 3 on the treadmill. It felt really hard because of the long break and because I was still sick, and I was really proud to finish that little run.

Tuesday brought another easy 3, and Wednesday I planned 4 but only made it 2 miles on slushy, slippery sidewalks. On Thursday I took the day off, and yesterday and today I ran 3+ around 9:00 and 9:10 pace respectively. I'm starting to feel like a runner again, and I'm looking forward to the hard work that's coming.