Thursday, June 30, 2016

What's in a (bike's) name?

What do you say? Want to help me name my bike?

Why does my bike need a name? Because just calling it "my bike" is pretty boring.

I'm not really into boring...have you ever seen me with a plain pony tail? Or all in black? Or in white shoes?

Here's my's a Mongoose mountain bike. Nothing fancy, but it's been working great for me.

In chatting with various (biker) friends recently, I have noticed several have named their bikes (affectionately and otherwise). One friend, Kelli, owns several bikes...and each bike has a distinct  name. Another fiend, Paula, has never named any of her bikes (though she did challenge me, asking if I've named any of my running shoes).

There are five compelling reasons this may sound totally crazy...

1--I'm not really that much into cycling, but I am in to cross-training. My running is my first love (fitness-wise), but I know to become a better runner I need to do more than just run. Cycling is a great activity... not only for cardio, but also for strengthening your legs.

2--I don't have all the extra gear, but I do have the basic necessities...a bike and helmet. I'm not yet convinced gloves are needed (anyone care to chime in on that?). The padded shorts not only look dorky (#unfashionable), but eeewwwww. Doesn't it feel like a thick diaper when you're not sitting "in the saddle?" And biking shoes.....that's just an accident waiting to happen.

3--I don't have time for long rides, but (somehow) I am able to make time for long runs. I suppose it's a matter of priority. I have only done one competitive cycling endeavor(a duathlon...recap HERE), so I don't have much experience with what even constitutes an effective cycling workout. An hour long? Hills? Speed? Some of everything?

4--I don't know much for bike maintenance. I've never changed a tire (or even pumped air into them). I have played around with the height of my seat, though. I'm still trying to figure out gear-shifting, and how it plays into cadence. Pathetic, huh!

5--I have only been consistently riding my bike for a few years, although I have owned it a long time. That's right...I rode my bike now and then when I first got it (nearly 10 years ago), but then it got put in storage for the winter and I never took it back out until a few years ago.

I guess one could say my bike and me have had a bit of a rocky relationship. After all, there is not much love lost when I chose my running shoes over a ride.

I am starting to appreciate what my bike can do for me, though. There's a bike trail (about a mile from my house) that goes out to a state park. It's an approximate 15-mile round trip, and it's very hilly. I have run the route many times, and it's tough. But it's a very different experience doing it on wheels, especially on a windy day. It's a substantial conquest to make it all the way over those hills (and back!) without having to dismount and walk!

Those same tires that stubbornly fight the uphills also thoroughly enjoy the downhills. Also, riding allows for intermittent coasting, which gives the legs (and lungs) some much-earned we make our way to the next incline.

It's no secret the Mongoose and I have been spending more time together....I might as well give it a name and make it official. Any suggestions?

Do you cross-train on a bike? Ever done a duathlon? Does your bike have a name?

 I'm linking up with Courtney from Eat Pray Run DC, Mar from Mar on the Run!, and Cynthia from You signed up for WHAT?! for the Friday Five. Head over, check out their blogs and also all the other linked blogs for some great reading!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Hills. Heat. Humidity. UGH.

Well, another week with not a lot of (running) action, but all is good.

Seriously. I may be a runner, but there are other ways to stay fit, active, and in motion.This week's theme: Hills. Heat. Humidity. Ugh.

For example, Monday was a short day at the office for me. I worked until noon, and had the afternoon to myself. I mounted the Mongoose (I really need to give it a name...Mongy? Mongie? Goosie? ), and set out for a ride.  Mind you, the temps were pretty warm and there was a 'gentle" breeze, so I naively waited until mid-afternoon to begin this endeavor.

I have never used my GPS watch for anything other than running, but I wore it for this ride to track my mileage and splits. The first two miles were in the city limits, the third mile took me to the far edge of town, and miles 4-9 were on the open road. Things went well until right before my turn-around. A pickup passed me with a huge 2x4 (?) in the bed, flopping and bouncing...a short ways later (like a mere 100 feet!), the board flew out of the truck and landed in a heap on the shoulder. Ummmm....had that happened a mere 100 yards earlier, that board would have landed on me! The dude pulled over, and I passed him as he was retrieving his lost board. A minute later, he passed me again, with that same board flopping and I hastily made my turn-around and headed back to town. What an idiot (the dude, not me).

My ride all went downhill (NOT literally) from there. As soon as I turned around (and was then going west), I was met with a fierce NW wind that I would have to battle for the next several miles until I got back to the main road (and would be able to turn and go north). Ugh. This road has a few mild, rolling hills...but they feel pretty steep and wicked when coupled with that angry headwind in the heat of the day. Le's' just say there was no coasting permitted and it felt like I was pedaling in place.

I made it back to the main road, and made my turn.....only the wind felt even worse as I headed north (What the WHAT?). Once I made it back to the city limits, it got better....but not much. At least I had some shade for the final two miles, but I was beat. I truly felt like I had just finished a tough foot race. I got back to my house and promptly went inside and grabbed more water (I had drained my 20oz. water bottle from my bike holster). Then I realized it was Monday....and in keeping with my #nevermissaMonday I had that 1-miler looming over my head. Granted, the world would not have ended had I skipped the run, but a brief 1-mile run is not too much to do (even with tired legs from a tough bike ride). So, after a quick water break, I headed back out and ran my mile, slowly.

Don't mind the helmet-hair...the #nevermissaMonday run is done
And then I stopped, dropped, and knocked out some push-ups as well.

sweaty hands on a brick paver path = dirt and grit everywhere
Not much on Tuesday, except for some planking and push-ups. I was still feeling pretty worn-out from that crazy bike ride (and near-death experience).

starting the day with a few planks...
Wednesday,we were plagued (again) with hot and humid weather. Seriously, Momma N, can you cut us a break? Pretty please? Granted, I have chosen to live in a place that has extreme weather, but a periodic cool day would be appreciated. (rant over)

Anyways, I waited until the evening hours to go running. Although I have been honoring the Respect The Recovery thing, I still want (and need) to log a few miles. I headed out around 8:00PM, not sure how far I should go. I decided to do my usual 5K route and, depending on how I felt, I could call it good or run a few more miles. The temps were still very hot and humid. Ugh (have I said that before?).

The wonky heel held up fine, but the chic side-pony tail? Not so much. There was a bit of stiffness in the first mile, but that all was minimized shortly thereafter. I finished the three miles and decided to be done. My heel felt fine, and I didn't want to overdo it.

Thursday was a full day at the office, and the evening roster included moving the recent college graduate out of her apartment. Cross-training at it's finest! Dresser squats (check). Sofa lunges (done). Loveseat dips (ditto). Mattress/boxprings hoists (double ditto). And, let's not forget numerous stair climbs in between each set. There may have been a plank (or several) when we were all done.
Yes, I'm not too proud to plank in a parking lot
Friday was a true day of rest. My work day ended at noon, and I went with the oldest daughter to her followup appointment with the oral surgeon (wisdom teeth extraction a week prior). We also may have gotten pedicures. I'm pretty diligent about pampering my feet at home, but it's nice to sit back and have someone else do it for you once in awhile. On a funny note, the daughter was the one who got asked if she was a runner...not me LOL (apparently, I'm doing a good job on my own with the pedi-maintenance).

pretty in pink
Saturday, I had plans to do a somewhat long run. The problem is, all of my late nights caught up with me and bit my tired buttocks that morning. I over-snoozed, and didn't find my way out of the confines of my mattress until after 8:30. Yikes. After the requisite chai latte' (and morning plank), I was able to finally get myself out the door just before 10:00.

Ugh, it was hot and humid. My ultimate goal was eight miles, but I decided on a five-mile route, loop back to my house for a water break, and (depending on how I was feeling), I could do a few more miles or call it good. The heel felt a bit stiff, but that was only for a short while. I made it through the first few miles and felt good, despite the weather. I did pause a few times to wipe my face with my (already) saturated shirt.

By the time I was nearing the end of the fifth mile, I knew this would be it. I really should have gotten up and out the door at least three hours prior. I walked a few more times in that final mile, and decided to white flag it. I would not be doing myself any favors by pressing on in the heat with my already compromised form and gait. I was pleasantly surprised to see the stats for my splits...10:19, 10;41, 10;41, 10:45 and 11:23. Not bad for running easy and "simply" by feel.  (I also went for an hour-long bike ride later in the evening).

I'm thankful I had the sense to braid my hair...2-inch stumps are much easier to comb out than a full pony
I have been craving a "sunrise" run forever, so I had every intention to rise and shine early on Sunday morning. Except Momma N (again) decided to play with my plans (and my mind) and gave us some major rainfall and storms at 5:00AM. Seriously. When I finally got up, around 7:30, all was calm outside and I was able to get dressed and out the door by 8:15.

But, ugh. Even though the temps were a bit cooler, the humidity was still over the top. My plans were to only do a simple 5K, so it was not a big deal. My heel felt fine (I could really get used to this!), and I took it slow and easy and enjoyed the scenery. In my opinion, any run outside trumps a run inside on the 'mill. Although I was a major hot and sweaty mess (again!), I was happy and thankful to be outside, starting my day in my running shoes.

In other news:

My heel has been feeling good! I'm taping the arch/heel periodically, and wearing my "comfy" shoes more often than my "pretty sandals." I'm also treating the tape as a fashion accessory...why not?

The planking and push-up challenge continues. Although Max thinks he's my coach, he doesn't get the concept of the timer on my phone.

 And the first rose bloom of the season has graced my garden!

What do you think...should I give my bike a name? Any suggestions? How's your weather? you do them yourself or let someone else pamper you?

As always, I'm linking up with my gals Holly from HoHo Runs and Tricia from MissSippiPiddlin  for the Weekly Wrap. Do head over, check out their blogs as well as all the other blogs there. You will not be disappointed!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Runfessing my Situation

So, yeah, there's a few things I need to confess.....actually, let's just go ahead and runfess them, since they're all running related anyways.

First and foremost.....I've been dealing with a wonky heel for the past month or so. I could tell something was up (in the middle of May). My right heel felt like my left heel did a year ago....kind of "ouchy" after running. Plantar Fasciitis? Heel spur? Just a routine pain in the heel? It didn't hurt much when I was running, but it definitely had some aches and pains while walking.

The timing was not ideal for this (seriously, is the timing ever perfect for such an issue?), but I must runfess, it really hasn't been that big of a deal. My mileage has been dramatically scaled back to the bare minimum, but I was able to do two half marathons on back-to-back weekends without needing a wheel chair (or a stretcher).


Upper left, Dam to Dam on June 4th, and above, Grinnell Games on June 11th
So far, so good on the heel feeling better. It's not cured, and it will not be back to "normal" for awhile, but I think I have it under control. I have some stiffness (usually first thing in the morning), but it's not painful. I'm wearing my "comfort" shoes more often than my "sparkly sandals" and I am not over-doing it with my running. Most of my runs are fairly short during the week, and my "long" runs on the weekends (with the exception of my two half marathons) have not been longer than 10 miles.

I have a slew of events coming up in July, one of which is an ultra. As mentioned, I have been dealing with an unexpected drop in mileage (due to the unexpected wonky heel) in recent weeks. And, my ultra is happening in the evening hours (start time is 11:00PM). Let's not forget July is (historically and otherwise) a pretty hot & humid month in the Midwest. Oh, did I mention my ultra is a 12-hour event with no specific finish line, just a continuous 1-mile route we keep running (and repeating) until time runs out?

And guess what?

I need to runfess that I'm not having any anxiety about it. Last year, I ran the 6-hour endurance race at the same event, also with a "healing heel." It wasn't an easy quest, but it was not impossible either. And, it actually was fun conquering that finish line in spite of my less-than-ideal training (due to last year's wonky heel situation). Even with my recent slump in mileage, I feel stronger and in better shape than I was last year.

One of my secret weapons for strength and endurance? Planking... anywhere and everywhere
 Of course, a 12-hour ultra is a different ball game than a 6-hour ultra. Even though I only have one ultra under my belt, I do know the training (and the race itself) are very different than a typical road race. With ultra's, it's more about the endurance and not the speed. It's not only about energy, proper fueling, hydration and strength, but also fatigue...and being able to recognize the early signs of all of these factors and staying ahead of them.

Christmas in July 2015
I will runfess, though, that this is one race I'm not the least bit hopeful to run the entire time (ha ha ha ha ha), but I hope to run as much as possible in the first six hours. I know I will need walk breaks, and I will need to to stop periodically for food and fuel. As mentioned, this is a 1-mile loop, so I won't need to carry anything with me, because I can stop at the aid station every mile if I want to (but I will probably try to go 3-4 miles at a  time). Am I being over confident? Naive? Or just a little crazy? (Probably all of the above)

Even though the wonky heel has altered my training a bit, I must runfess that's it's been kind of fun playing and experimenting with different taping techniques for my heel and arch (even though my arch feels fine, I'm taping it as a means of prevention). Sometimes, I'm able to match my clothing to the tape. Since I'm wearing it anyways, why not make the tape a fashion accessory?

Lastly, I'll just runfess it....I do not think it's a coincidence this wonky heel happened when it did. Typically, I'm not a high-mileage runner. I don't thrive on triple digit monthly mileage. For me, it's more of quest to excel with my running without the wear and tear of numerous miles. My miles for May wound up at the century mark, and that has not happened in over a year. My body has proven (repeatedly) that it does great with moderate mileage and doesn't need the high mileage numbers to maintain its endurance. Lesson learned.

Have you ever gone into a race (slightly) under-trained? Ever done an ultra? How do you feel about mileage...high or moderate?

I'm linking up with Marcia at Marcia's Healthy Slice  for the monthly Runfessions. Gosh, it feels good to get that stuff off my chest and out in the open. Whew! Head over and see what everyone else is Runfessing....

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Not Rushing the Recovery

Another week spent in recovery mode, and I'm pretty proud how well it went for me. Theme? I'm going with, "Not Rushing the Recovery."

There were not many miles in the running shoes this past week, and I'm quite alright with that. After doing back-to-back half marathons (Dam to Dam on June 4th and Grinnell Games on June 11th), my wonky heel was ready for some down time. Oddly, it actually was less "achy-breaky" after the second race than it was following the first one (no complaints on that paradox). None the less, I had absolutely nothing to gain (and further injury at bay) if I didn't give it some rest.

Monday, I decided to head to the lake and do an easy mile on the trail. So far, I'm batting 1000 on my #nevermissaMonday's. The weather was balmy and there was not much of a breeze. I rode my bike out there, ran a lap and decided to walk another...and half way around the lake, it started to rain. Ha! I probably could have run the remainder of that second lap, but the rain actually felt refreshing (and I was already wet from sweat).
Photobombed by Max and getting caught in the happens
Tuesday, not much to report, but I did stay active with planks and push-ups. The planks are a daily occurrence anyways, but it's been a fun challenge adding 20-40 daily push-ups to the mix. I have done other push-up challenges before, but this time I can really see and feel a difference in my form. I'm actually doing them in increments of 10-20, which allows me to go much deeper because my arms/chest don't get as fatigued as when I'm trying to knock out 40+ at a time.

Also, since the foot was feeling so good, I tore off the sports tape and felt a huge surge of freedom and liberation. I am still taping the heel (and arch) periodically, as a means of maintenance/prevention, but I don't think I need the support 24/7 anymore. Stay tuned...that may change.

I spy with my little eye....NO tape!!!!
Wednesday, my heel was feeling (almost) fully recovered. My work day ended around lunch time, so I mounted the Mongoose and went for an hour-long ride. I rode out south of town in the mid-afternoon, so the temps were pretty warm. All felt great until I turned around and was hit with a fierce head-on wind for most of the return trip. UGH. As flat as Iowa seems, that blasted wind makes it feel like anything but flat. Trust me, there was ZERO coasting until the final mile or so when I was back in town and had some wind (and sun) relief.

That would be 2 (count 'em, 2!) sweaty miles following several sweaty miles on the bike
Later, I met up with my friend, Barb, and we ran a couple easy miles.The heel felt a little stiff for the first mile or so, then I could tell it was loosening up...but I decided to call it good at two miles and not force it.

Thursday, I decided it was time to test the waters and wear some different shoes (aka-pretty sandals!!) to work. I'm a color gal, and I like my funky summer sandals. Although my Alegria's and Oofoos are extremely comfortable, I was bored out my mind wearing the same shoes almost every day for the past three weeks. The experiment was deemed a success, and my heel felt fine. I do plan to continue wearing the "comfort shoes" intermittently, though, to keep up with the TLC for my still-recovering foot. Even though my heel is feeling much better, I realize it probably still has some additional recovering to do.

Ahhhh, back in the pretty sandals (thumbs UP!)
Friday morning started on the floor, doing my daily (morning) 2:30 plank. I didn't have much else on the roster (other than an easy hour-long bike ride), so I decided to knock out another plank... and was able to hold it for 5 minutes. I routinely do 5-minute planks (all in the same, continuous position), but it had been a few weeks since I'd done the last one. I don't do the long, extended planks very often, but once in awhile it's fun to stop, drop, and see if I still got it in me.

Planking for five minutes...why not?
Saturday, Barb and I met up to do a semi-long run. Although my heel had been feeling good, I was a little hesitant to go too far, We decided on five miles. The heel felt a little stiff and "off" for most of the run, but was feeling better by the time we finished. Again, I probably could have pressed on and done another couple miles...but there was nothing to gain by doing so.

Feeling victorious for those five miles on Saturday morning
So, how am I feeling? For the most part, all is well. My heel feels better, but still has some residual stiffness and occasional discomfort first thing in the morning. Although it definitely feels like it's on the road to recovery, I suspect I will be dealing with some (minimal) discomfort for several months. Don't forget, I have that 12-hour Ultra happening in four weeks (YIKES), and shortly after that, I will be diving into training mode for the Route 66 Marathon. I need to take things easy now to ensure all of these other things will happen (with minimal problems) later. In short, I still consider myself to be in recovery mode (and here's how I'm coping: Recovery tips ).

In other news:

The red lilies were showing signs of blooming "any day now..."

...and, just like that, they bloomed!

I have seen much improvement with my push-ups!

Max is my noon-time walking companion. Technically, I'm the one taking HIM for the walk...but I let him think otherwise.

And, I'm so thankful for the wonderful role model my father has been (and continues to be) in my life. Happy Father's Day to him and all dads everywhere!!

Have you ever dealt with injury and had to resist the temptation and NOT run? Any biking happening for you? Planks? Push-ups? Favorite summer flowers in bloom?

As usual, I'm linking up with the lovely ladies, Holly (from HoHo Runs ) and Tricia (from MissSippiPiddlin ) for the Weekly Wrap. Please, head over and check out their great blogs and while you're there, read the other blogs as well.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Respect the Recovery

If there's one thing runners LOVE to do, it's run (and most of us like to run often).

If there's a second thing runners love to do, it's ignore injuries.

It's not that we're necessarily in denial, but we certainly do like to test the waters. (It's not an injury, it's just an issue I've been having. I bet it'll feel better after I do a few miles and "loosen it up." This stupid hilly route ALWAYS makes me hurt.) Yadda Yadda Yadda. Excuses aplenty.

It's taken me quite awhile (like, 11+ years of lacing up) to learn when to run and when to sit it out . Rest and recovery are not just  necessary evils, they are a crucial part of the plan. None of us are robots, and all of our bodies will break down if we don't take it easy once in awhile.

So, what's to enjoy about the (often times dreaded) R and R?
Here's my top 5: 

*Treat it as a mini vacation
 Give yourself a pedicure (and be thankful the nail polish will actually stay intact for more than a few days).

Try to enjoy some couch time (with a running magazine close keep you entertained).

*Take time to languish in all of your accomplishments
You've probably had a lot of great races and training runs (some of which may be responsible for your current state of injury). Pat yourself on the back for having the commitment to train even when it didn't come easy. Be thankful for all of the finish lines you've crossed. I have said it more than once, "Running is a gift." I'm thankful and incredibly blessed to be a runner.

*Have faith that in doing less of what you love, you'll be able to do it longer
How's that for irony? Sometimes, the things we love not only bring us the most satisfaction, but also can lead to heartache. This is true not only in life and love, but especially true with running.

I have often wondered if each of us are given an XX number of miles that we'll be able to run in a lifetime. If we speed through them too fast, they'll be gone forever. If we over-indulge (or in runners' terms: over-train), we may use up our allotment much sooner than someone who runs fewer miles or less often. WHO knows? I'm not willing to make that gamble. I choose to err on the side of caution. I'd rather be side-lined by choice than due to injury.

*This is a great opportunity to focus on cross-training (which your body needs anyways)
If you're forced to stay off your feet, there are plenty of other things to do that will help maintain your fitness. My favorite happens to be strength-training. I do not consider myself a body-builder (nor do I aspire to be one), but I have come to appreciate being "overall fit" and not "just a runner." Some other favorite options are planking (core work), yoga (balance, strength, flexibility) and cycling (legs and cardio).

*Use the down-time to analyze (as objectively as possible) what may have lead to the injury, and map out a plan to avoid it happening in the future
This may be a good time to consult with a personal trainer, sports medicine doctor, or a physical therapist. An objective professional will be able to access your situation, and recommend a regimen either for rehabilitation or future training. And, for crying out loud, please do as they tell you.

Some questions to ask yourself:
Is it a recurring injury? (If so, when was the last time it happened?)
Were you in the midst of a challenging training cycle, or is it a random "bad luck" incident (twisted/sprained ankle, for example)?
Is it a result of over-training?
Or, conversely, were you under-trained for a particularly challenging endurance event?

My recent "injury" (which, at the moment, seems more like "just an issue") feels like it's on the way out (you can read more about it HERE). I felt it coming on a week or so before it fully erupted, so I was able to get a head start on treating it. There's been a lot of icing, compression, massaging, and stretching...several times each day. I've experimented with different taping techniques as well.

And guess what? After almost two weeks of minimal mileage (before, during, and after back-to-back half marathons), the wonky heel is feeling great. It's still a little stiff, but my gimpy walk is MIA. And, on Wednesday, I did a 2-miler on an especially hot and humid summer evening, and all went well.

So, onward!! I'm going to ease back into my mileage plan (did you know I have an Ultra happening in four weeks?). It's a 12-hour endurance run, and it's in my best interest to adjust my goals for the event. I wasn't planning on running fast anyways, but there will definitely be a lot more walking involved. This event also has a 6-hour option (which I did last year...recap HERE), depending on how well my heel (as well as my entire foot) holds up, I may consider that as a last resort. I have options aplenty, and quite a bit of time remaining for continued recovery. Stay tuned, this ain't over yet.

How do you respond when an injury hits you? Do you hit the couch, or press onward?

I'm linking up with the ladies from the DC Trifecta for the Friday Five. A big Thank You to Mar from Mar on the Run, Courtney from Eat Pray Run, DC, and Cynthia from You Signed Up for What?!