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Posts from the ‘marathon training’ Category

Race Day Tomorrow

Tomorrow by this time I hope to be fat, happy, and asleep in my bed. The race starts at 7am and honestly, I have no idea what time I’ll be finished. I missed probably the most important part of my training so tomorrow will be an adventure/experience to say the least. In my mind, I have the race broken down into three parts: the first 10 miles where there will be lots of crowd support, the next 14 miles on the greenway which are the hilliest and loneliest, and the last two miles coming off the greenway and running to the finish line. As with most marathons, the middle part will be the hardest. Read more

Improving on the Hills – Ben Greenfield’s Advice

First and foremost, HAPPY FRIDAY! Today is my last Friday before the students come back to school.  By 4:00 pm today, I finally felt like I was ready for 96 smiling faces Monday morning. And as with most Fridays, I spent the afternoon thinking about my run for the weekend.  I have 15 miles scheduled and to be quite honset, I’m not sure if I’m going to do it.  My peroneal tendon has been bothering me, and I don’t know if it’s worth risking an injury.  But in my perfect world where I do run tomorrow, I have to make the decision where to go – a nice flat trail to get in the distance & maybe some tempo miles or the hills of downtown Raleigh, which are also the hills of my race in November. Decisions, decisions.

I think a lot about the hills in the City of Oaks Marathon.  Mainly because I remember how painful they were when I did the race a few years ago.  In addition to visualizing me attacking the hills and hill repeats, I’m still constantly searching for other suggestions. This afternoon I was reading the transcript from one of Ben Greenfield’s podcasts and as luck would have, he shares three of his recommendations for dealing with the hills.  Behold, new advice…. I can’t wait to try suggestions #3.

His first recommendation is plyometrics – single leg jumps, stepping off a platform & then explosively jumping up again, and counter jumps where you are dipping down and jumping up again.  Lucky for me, I LOVE jumps like this and do them quite a bit.  I’ll just need to incorporate more platforms starting next week.  His second recommendation is strength training and in particular single leg squats, lunges, reverse lunges, deadlifts, and squats.  Recently, I’ve been aiming to do single leg squats twice a week at the gym.  I also do almost twice as many on my right leg since it’s actually 3/4″ smaller than my left.  Definitely a muscle imbalance going on there. Ben Greenfield’s last recommendation is Lydiard hill drills.  Here is a description of the work out.  Basically, instead of continually sprinting up the hill and jogging back down, you bound up the hill, not focusing on speed but instead on relaxation and springing off the ball of your foot. Then you jog back down and down and do a hard effort sprint 4-5 times (50-200 meters). There is a great hill that is also part of the marathon course where I love to do my hill repeats.  If I am going to do my bounding/sprinting, I think I’ll make sure it’s early in the morning. It is a pretty busy street here in Raleigh.

On a side note, my meditation is going quite well. I found a great podcast this morning to lead me through my meditations.  It definitely helps to have someone talk me through the process instead of me trying to do it on my own. It is making me much more aware and now I have to ride to work in silence. The radio really bothers me and I prefer to be in my own thoughts. It’s crazy what can happen in only 5 short days.

I hope everyone has a great weekend and runs lots of happy miles.

Sending many happy running thoughts your way,


Luckily, these are NOT the hills I have to run 🙂
Photo Source: Alex Bibins, Wikimedia Commons

Blue Lips

First I would like to give a huge THANK YOU to the two girls selling lemonade along the Tobacco Trail this morning.  If it weren’t for them, I’m sure I would have slowly been walking back to my car.  You see, it was hot today and I didn’t refill my bottle with enough fluids.  Therefore, around mile 17 when I was about to run out of my GU electrolyte drink, I thought I might start begging strangers for water.  🙂  Luckily two sisters along with their mom were selling lemonade and cookies at mile 17.9.  Although I didn’t have any money with me, they filled up my bottle with the coldest, most delicious lemonade ever. I immediately felt like I came back to life and when I got to my car, I drove back to where the girls were to pay them.  They’ve got a good thing going and I’m going to start carrying a little cash with me from now on.  Next time I might want a cookie!

When I got home today, I noticed the same thing I notice every time after a run longer than 15 miles – my lips are blue.  It never fails.  I’ll never forget the first time I saw this back in 2005 – I was so concerned.  But then after a shower and lots of fluid, they returned to normal.  However, I still do not know why I get them and it still makes me a little worried.  I spent some time reading today about what others have to say about the cause of blue lips.  Here are some things I found:


Blue lips may represent a type of cyanosis caused by a lower level of circulating oxygen in the red blood cells. It may also represent a high level of an abnormal form of hemoglobin in the circulation. If normal color returns upon warming and/or massage, the cause is due to the body part not getting enough blood supply due to cold, constriction (of the tissues or the blood vessels that supply the tissues) or some other reason. If the lips remain blue, then there may be an underlying disease or structural abnormality interfering with the body’s ability to deliver oxygenated red blood to the body.

Julie Boehlke, Livestrong:

If you are experiencing symptoms such as blue fingers, fingernail beds, lips or skin when you exercise or overexert yourself, this could be a sign of a serious medical condition. If you have a pre-existing medical condition which affects your oxygen levels, you may notice the bluish tint, which is called cyanosis.

Severe Dehydration: All of the signs of mild and moderate dehydration, plus: blue lips, blotchy skin, confusion, lethargy, lack of sweating, cold hands and feet, rapid breathing, rapid and weak pulse, low blood pressure, dizziness, fainting, high fever, little or no urination

Dacia Rivers, Livestrong:

After a cold run…

If you look in a mirror, you might also notice that you look paler than normal. Your lips might even look blue because of the cold and exertion. In general, you don’t have to worry about cold hands and feet and even blue lips at the end of your run, as long as you feel fine otherwise.


For me. I’m going with my blue lips are due to dehydration. As Dr. Timothy Noakes suggests, drink to thirst. Well I was super thirsty and had nothing to drink. Therefore, I was probably a little more dehydrated than I should have been.  Perhaps lack of oxygen might have something to do with it also, but I’m not sure how to determine that one. Either way, I feel fine now so as long as they keep returning to a normal color, I’m not going to worry too much.

I’m considering shortening my out and backs so I can refill more frequently to try and avoid the really thirsty situation again.  Once I got that amazing lemonade, I felt like I had just started running.  It was amazing.  Something to keep in mind for next Saturday…

And check out my delicious lunch this afternoon: An organic bison burger with guacamole and sweet potato fries.  It was amazing!

I ate every last bite. Yum!


Happy Trails and Happy Running,


Sweet Potatoes

Today is Friday and that means a 20 mile long run tomorrow.  For the past two weeks I have been thinking about what I am going to eat afterwards… a delicious turkey burger ( or MAYBE an actual burger – I’m not sure if I can make that leap), sweet potato fries, and an IPA to replenish fluids 🙂 I can’t wait! However tonight I had to make sure to eat the right stuff to get me through tomorrow.  One of my favorite pre long run dinners is salmon with sweet potatoes.  I really do love the sweet potato.  I know it is highly recommended to eat them before a long run because of their nutritional benefits.  Well I wanted to know exactly what are all of their nutritional benefits so I decided to look into this tonight after dinner…

Zoe Glass:

Your body burns glycogen from carbohydrates to fuel your workouts — if you do not eat sufficient carbs your body starts burning muscle tissue as fuel, notes the “BTEC First Sport Student Book.” This causes you to lose strength and fitness. Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of complex carbs. According to the USDA, a medium sweet potato has 24 g of carbohydrate, including 4 g of fiber.

In addition to complex carbs, they are also extremely high in vitamin A which has antioxidant properties, potassium, and vitamin E. Sweet potatoes are actually one of the top three food sources of potassium. Add that to tart cherry juice and you should be set. Also, because sweet potatoes are a complex carb, they are great at regulating blood sugar. I found this recipe for a sweet potato recovery smoothie and it looks amazing! If I still had any sweet potatoes left, I would make it when I got home tomorrow morning.

Clearly sweet potato fries are not the healthiest form of this food, but I am super excited to eat them tomorrow.  The perfect pre-run, post-run, and any other type of run food. Yummy!

Happy Trails and Happy Running,


I won’t eat all of this tomorrow but it sure does look delicious! Add a turkey burger to that and an IPA, and I’ll be one happy runner.
Photo Source: Sanjay Acharya, Wikimedia Commons

Mental Mind Tricks

I have to admit that one of my least favorite workouts is the tempo run.  Intervals I can handle because they are shorter.  Long runs aren’t so bad because they are at an easier pace (and the turkey burger reward afterwards always helps too).  But tempo runs? 40+ minutes at a comfortably hard pace = no fun.  However, I know they are super important so I did my run today with a smile, as I imagined Meb would.

During my run I was struggling mentally.  Forty minutes at a comfortably hard pace is kind of a long time to be uncomfortable.  And after 5 minutes in when all you can think is I have 35 more minutes, you know it’s going to be a tough run.  Today I started by focusing a lot on my form, then staring straight ahead, then singing along to my iPod, but after a while I needed something else.  I decided to cut my music off and really try and get inside my head.  This may sound weird but I tried to visualize separating my head from my body.  If I could limit the pain to my body and make my mind separate, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. Then I started counting with each step 1-2-3-4-5, 1-2-3-4-5, and even though I was only counting to 5, it really helped me.  Eventually I was done and had a nice easy cool down.  Phew, thank God that was over.  BUT it got me wondering what are some other mental tricks to get through the pain.  If I want to achieve my running goals, I am going to have to become very familiar with pain and learn how to deal with.

Christopher Collier: 

As runners propel themselves forward, some measure of discomfort is normal (provided it’s not a sign of a serious issue). Muscles burn. Joints ache. Exhaustion sets in. However, research suggests that our pain threshold is not set at an unmovable level—that the mind can, to some extent, control it. “When I tell an athlete that they can adjust their pain level by using mental techniques, they’re amazed,” says Raymond J. Petras, Ph. D., a sports psychologist in Scottsdale, Arizona. “They often find that their performance increases dramatically.” 

Here is an interesting article from on 6 mental tricks to help push through the pain.  A few I have tried before but I need to remember them when it’s really important.  This blog post from The Feel Good Lifestyle has a few Jedi mind tricks to try as well. 🙂  It reminds me of one of my all time favorite quotes: “Do or do not. There is no try” – Yoda. .  I also really enjoyed this article titled Ironman Mental Strength: the Fifth Discipline.  The mental toughness to complete an Ironman is not even comparable to what I need for my little tempo run.  I can only imagine…

I feel like over the past month I have learned so much about the power of the mind and not just with my athletic endeavors, but with life in general.  In all aspects of life knowing your thoughts, controlling your thoughts, and mastering your thoughts can help you to achiever whatever it is you want to achieve.  I continue to tell myself everyday, you always have a choice, you just have to make the right one.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,



Long Run Pace

Long run pace is something I always struggle with.  According to my goal marathon time, I should be doing my long runs anywhere from 8:37 to 9:44 min/mile.  The last time I ran a long run at 8:37 was the 11 miler I did the day after the 5 mile race that I won. 🙂 Other than that, I’m always running faster and I know I need to slow down.  Mentally though, I find it very difficult to slow down that much.

The weekend after my Boston disaster. I decided to tackle my long run a little differently.  I did an easy 11 miles at around 8:35/mile, then 7 miles at 7:25/mile and then 4 miles at 8:40/mile.  It really was the best 22 miler I had ever done.  Having that easy start with those tougher miles in the middle followed by a cool down made it go by so much quicker and I loved it.  In preparation for my 18 miler this weekend, I wanted to look into what other people had to say about the long run pace.  Today, I’m going to focus on what Jack Daniels (not the liquor) has to say…

Jack Daniels:

When you do your long (L) runs, you should run at a pace which is very close to (E) (easy-run) velocity, which is about 70% of V02max. Long runs (L), improve cell adaptation, and lead to glycogen depletion and fluid loss (important considerations for distance runners), but should not be demanding in terms of the intensity (pace) being utilized.

Daniels’ popularized running formula is used to calculate your VDOT and from there, you can determine your pace for certain workouts as well as projected finish times for other races.  I’m more focused on the long run but you can read more about his formula here and here.  Daniels, along with other running experts suggest running the first part of your long run at your easy pace and then gradually accelerate to marathon pace over the last 8-10 miles.  I found this awesome (and very detailed) calculator that uses Daniels’ running formula to plan your long runs.  The long runs include miles at an easy pace, miles at marathon pace, and miles at tempo pace.  Luckily this isn’t for every long run, but instead for every other long run – depending on which plan you follow.  I need something like this to break up the long run.  It helps me so much mentally and I think I would do well following this type of workout.  Assuming that I still stick to doing other long runs at a steady easy pace…

I’d love to know if anyone else has used Daniels’ running formula to train for a race or if you have any other long run pace suggestions.  Until then, I’m looking forward to changing things up this Saturday.

Sending many happy running thoughts your way,


Check out my green smoothie from this morning… it’s so green!! But it was delicious and it helped me to have a fabulous hill workout.



Forgive me in advance if this is TMI, but after my long run this morning, I need to address this chafing issue.  I have Bodyglide.  I use it before every long run and have it in my car just in case I need to reapply.  However, when the humidity is over 90%, the sweat just sticks to me and weighs me down.  This of course leads to some very uncomfortable chafing.  My sports bra is what gives me the most problems (and it’s a nice running one from lululemon).  After today’s run, I told Mario I looked like I had been clawed by an angry cheetah.  My back was chafed, my collarbone, under my arms – it was awful! And I won’t even repeat what I said yelled when I took a shower. Forgive me neighbors. 🙂 It’s always worse during the hot and humid summer months, but my skin can’t take this anymore.  What do I do???

Christine Luff:

To prevent chafing, wear running attire made of synthetic materials such as CoolMax that wick moisture away. Don’t wear cotton clothing because once it gets wet, it stays wet. In addition, cotton is a rough material and when it’s constantly moving against your skin, it can rub your skin raw.

Ok, I wear synthetic materials, and with this humidity, they’re soaked in about 30 minutes.  Any other suggestions?

Since chafing can be caused by loose running clothing, it’s better to wear running clothes that are snug. Some runners prefer to wear spandex bike shorts to prevent chafing between their legs.

This I can do! My cool pink Under Armour shorts will have to go away for now.  Bike shorts it is.  I don’t know what to do about the sports bra issue except to buy one of every kind and see which one works best.  I wonder if I can convince Mario this is good research and development?

I did find an article on what to do after I’ve rubbed all the wrong places.  And I also learned there is an Anti Chafe for Her by Bodyglide.  Other than the pink top and powdery scent, I’m not sure how it’s that much different than normal Bodyglide.  Always worth a try though.

Does anybody have any fabulous ideas on  how to deal with this issue?  For some reason, I feel like it happens more to me than to other athletes.  Maybe I’m crazy, but I welcome any input!!


I wonder if this guy had any chafing issues after running in fishnets?
Photo courtesy of Hojosaram, Wikimedia Commons


Happy Trails and Happy Running,




Running a Hilly Race

I signed up for the City of Oaks Marathon on November 4th.  I’ve run it before and swore I would never do it again.  It was incredibly hilly, pouring down rain, and freezing cold.  I think it took me about 2 months to fully recover.  Well anyway, in the name of a new challenge I signed up for it again.  After all, the website says it’s a “flatter course.”

I have the fortune of living right along the course so I checked out the map this morning, and planned out my tempo run. I might as well become as familiar as possible with the course since I have the opportunity. I did my two mile warm up and then started my tempo pace, 7:05/mile.  Yeah, that was not happening. I couldn’t make myself hit that pace no matter how hard I tried. Why? Because after every small stretch of flat road, there was a long ascending climb.  Not to mention it was over 80 degrees and near 100% humidity.  I thought to myself, oh my, what have I gotten myself into?  But then I came to a realization. I can run these hills every single day if I want.  I can master them. They are right out my front door so just embrace them.

Did you know…

Physiologically speaking, hill running…
1) Increases your aerobic capacity that enables you to use less oxygen at increasingly longer distances.
2) Improves your running economy that enables you to use less oxygen to run at a faster pace.
3) Increases your stamina that enables you to run farther at a given pace.
4) Builds strength in your gluteals (buttock), quadriceps (front of thigh), gastrocnemius (upper calf), and soleus (lower calf) muscles.

Biomechanically speaking, hill running…
1) Improves your stride length (from uphill running) and your stride frequency (from downhill running).
2) Increases your ankle flexion that enables you to “pop” off the ground more quickly, so that you can spend less time on the ground and more time in the air.
3) Teaches you how to run relaxed.

-Mindy Solkin

This article has three great hill workouts as well as exercises to strengthen your calves and hamstrings. It’s super important to strengthen these muscles because hill running causes them to fatigue quickly.  (In my opinion, hills cause the entire body to fatigue a little more quickly, but that’s just me.)

I’m actually very thankful that I live right along the course and can do my long runs on these hills.  Not only will it help prepare me physically, but it will also help me mentally.  If I know what to expect, I can run a smarter race.  Here’s to the hills – may I run them, love them, and master them!


My sister cheering me on during the 2009 City of Oaks Marathon. She runs in heels!



Happy Trails and Happy Running,


Side Stitches

Running was never my thing in elementary or middle school.  In fact, I got caught once cutting across the field so I wouldn’t have to do the entire last lap of the mile.  It’s not like I was super slow.  I would just get the dreaded side stitch and it would hurt too much to want to continue.  That dang side stitch… I was talking with a family member last night, and she has been having problems with side stitches for a while.  She has been running quite a bit since January, but is still getting that nagging pain after months of running.  Why is this still happening to her? I told her I would look into this for a blog entry, so that is what brings me here today.

We are all susceptible to the annoying side stitch and I still get one every so often.  Therefore, today I ask…

What is a side stitch?  What causes it and what do you do once you have one?

A side stitch, or “exercise-related transient abdominal pain” (ETAP), is a stabbing pain that occurs right under the rib cage.  It is believed that this pain is caused by a cramp in the diaphragm, although no one is exactly sure why this happens.  There are several theories I read about including eating, bouncing organs, and too much air pushing on the diaphragm.  Allow me to explain in a little more detail…

Some believe that the consumption of food too close to exercise can cause ETAP.  One study has suggested that consuming fruit juices and beverages high in carbohydrates, either just before or during exercise, triggered the onset of a stitch.  Consuming wheat or dairy products too close to exercise is also believed by some to trigger a side stitch.  It is recommended to eat no later than one hour before exercise to avoid a possible ETAP.

Another side stitch theory is that the two ligaments, which connect the diaphragm to the liver, are being stretched from the bouncing of the running motion.  This happens by a person exhaling (when the diaphragm is at its highest and tightest position) at the same time the right foot is landing.  The liver is pulling down while the diaphragm, which assists in breathing, is pulling up. This tugging, some believe, is what causes the diaphragm to spasm.

Other theories about side stitches include decreased blood flow to the diaphragm because of increased exercise, resulting in spasms.  Or perhaps air is getting into the lungs much easier than it is leaving. Therefore, the increased buildup of air can cause pushing of the diaphragm from underneath.  Another theory suggests that ETAP can happen when gas is trapped in the large intestine.  As exercise increases intestinal contractions and pushes gas towards the end of the colon, if the intestine is blocked, cramping can occur.

Now imagine, for whichever reason it may be, that you do get a side stitch while running.  What can you do? Here are some suggestions I found:

1) Breathe deep and from the belly, making sure to expand the upper chest
2) Grunt.  Yes, grunt.  As you exhale, try to make a grunting sound.  This is thought to get the diaphragm out of its taught “exhale” position
3) Slow down until the pain stops.
4) Stop running
5) Gently massage the area with your hands.  This will relax the muscles and increase blood flow to the area.
6) Poke and Blow.  Or in other words, push your fingers deeply into your belly and then purse your lips tightly and blow out as hard as you can.

Some tips for preventing side stitches are to avoid shallow breathing, avoid eating too close to exercise, and periodically purse your lips and blow out hard while running.  Also, be sure to warm up before exercise and try exhaling when your left foot hits the ground (this keeps the ligaments between the liver and diaphragm from stretching as much).

Side stitches are never any fun and yet we have all suffered from the pain.  None of us want to run with the pain of a side stitch or be forced to stop running because the pain is too much.  Hopefully by knowing and understanding a little more about ETAP, we can prevent and successfully deal with the pain.  I just hope if I get one and decide to try the grunting remedy, nobody is around to hear me. That would be embarrassing.

I hope everyone is enjoying this beautiful Sunday!

Happy Trails and Happy Running,

A Study says Extreme Exercise is Bad – Grrrr….

Today I came across an article titled “Extreme Exercise Hurts the Heart, Study Finds”.  Being that I like the more extreme side of running, I quickly became frustrated and defensive (mainly with the computer because Mario wasn’t home).  Who would say such blasphemy? The article goes on to say that while exercise in moderation has its benefits, extreme exercise can “turn against you.”  I wonder what the author’s definition of extreme is?  It then goes on to say that the problem is an increase in the enzyme troponin.  Apparently this enzyme is released when the heart is in distress or being damaged.  Well it’s been a while since I studied my enzymes, so now I need to know…

What is this pesky enzyme troponin?  And how significant is the increase of troponin in endurance athletes?

Troponin can be defined as:

  • A globular protein complex involved in muscle contraction. It occurs with tropomyosin in the thin filaments of muscle tissue (Google)
  • A complex of three regulatory proteins that is integral to muscle contraction in skeletal and cardiac muscle, but not smooth muscle. (Wikipedia)
  • Proteins found in heart muscle that leak into the circulation during a heart attack or other heart injury. (Harvard)
  • an enzyme that may be measured in the blood. It is released by damage to the heart. (IRAD Online)

Ok, I admit, upon reading all of these definitions, it sounds a little scary.  If troponins are released when there is damage to the heart and (according to this article), there is an increase in troponins after an endurance event, does that mean I’m on my way to a heart attack?

Being that I only have a few hours to research a topic and blog about it, I clearly did not read through the hundreds of studies that are out there about troponin and exercise.  So please keep that in mind.  However I did find a few studies, and after consulting a dictionary of medical of terminology, I think I am able to understand what the studies concluded.  First, one study suggests that release of troponin and damage to the heart are not directly associated with one another.  Instead, that they are two separate phenomena.  The study also suggests that minor increases in troponin after endurance exercise may be compensatory and irreversible.  In other words, your body is trying to adapt and the cardiomyocyte membrane damage can be undone.  Another study, which was actually a study of other studies (that sounds confusing), found that there was an exercise induced release of troponin in almost half of the athletes, in particular heavier athletes.  But as many other articles and studies stated, it remains unclear whether increases of troponin were indicative of significant acute heart damage and of course, more research must be done.

As a few of my awesome Google+ friends pointed out, the article was written in simple language, without giving any background of the study.  What is the demographic of the participants?  What is the definition of extreme?  Personally, I felt like the article was meant to scare people away from endurance events.  But for me, long distance running has taught me so much about life, hard work, dedication, discipline, failure, and success.  There is no way I am going to give this up for a possible correlation.  I’ll keep running and for a lonnnnnnnnnng distance.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,