Recent Read: Teach Yourself How to Run a Marathon

This was one of my most favorite marathon books to read.

It was very snappy, straight forward, and to the point. The content is well structured and the information is poignant. It’s a fantastic resource for the newbie runner and marathoner (like myself).

The content helps get you acquainted with…

  • The time, mental energy, and commitment required for someone to take on such an endeavor
  • How to choose a marathon
  • How to run for a charity
  • How to make the time to train
  • How to keep a training log
  • The importance of rest
  • Gear
  • Stretching
  • Events, clubs, training with others
  • The importance of cross training
  • Nutrition
  • How to fundraise for a charity
  • Race countdown
  • What to do the day of
I would wholly recommend this book to anybody and everybody looking to run their first marathon! What I especially loved about this book was all of the information it provided me in regards to fundraising for charity, and how important it is to use this sport to give back to the community.
Pick it up! My rating: 10/10

 

Giving Blood as an Athlete

A friend invited me to donate blood sometime this week. If you’ve ever been curious about donating blood and how long you’ll need to scale back and for how long, here’s a pretty reasonable answer I found after doing some quick research.

A healthy athlete should be able to recover completely from donating blood in eight weeks, but he may lose some of his ability to train for a few days. Following a donation of one pint, blood volume is reduced by about ten percent and returns to normal in 48 hours. For two days after donating, you should drink lots of fluids and probably exercise at a reduced intensity or not at all. Donating blood markedly reduces competitive performance for three to four weeks as it takes that long for blood hemoglobin levels to return to normal.

You should not donate blood more often than every eight weeks because it takes that long to replace lost nutrients. If you donate blood frequently, you need to make sure to replace the B vitamins and possibly the iron that you lose with the blood. You can meet your needs for iron by eating meat, fish or chicken or by taking iron supplements; and you can meet your needs for the B vitamins with whole grains and diary products. Donating blood at least four times a year may help to prevent heart attacks by lowering blood cholesterol levels significantly and reducing iron levels. Iron in the bloodstream converts LDL cholesterol to oxidized LDL which forms plaques in arteries.

-Dr. Gabe Mirkin
I’ll have to give it some serious thought. I’m on a pretty tight schedule right now! I don’t have any races until September so it shouldn’t effect me too much, but I’m just starting to ramp up my running for my marathon training class so I guess we shall see.

Prepare to Fail if You Fail to Prepare

My boyfriend never lets me forget that I’m a J. (First search result: “ISFJs tend to plan their activities and make decisions early. They derive a sense of control through predictability.”)

I have a pretty set routine when it comes to my running. Not necessarily with routes, although I have a tendency to run the same one again and again out of habit. My routine of preparation has been key to my success. In this case, success is loosely defined as: “showing up on time and running my personal best” and is not locked to a timed performance.

Last week I failed to prepare for my 15K. Hence I essentially prepared to fail. My nutrition and hydration the days leading up to it were off. I was exerting myself in ways that were foreign to me. I didn’t sleep well, nor did I sleep in my own bed. (Aside from traveling to races, which I’ll be doing towards the end of the year, that has been my cardinal rule!) I wasn’t sticking to any semblance of a training schedule but really just training whenever I felt like it and whatever I felt like doing. A ton of no-nos!

I didn’t have anyone to blame but myself. I showed up just a few minutes after the race started. It was a small race, so there weren’t any route signs nor were there street closures. I was half a mile in to the course (or at least what I thought was the course) and couldn’t find any of the runners. I stopped, on a residential street somewhere in Santa Barbara, after a long weekend of anticipation, and started jogging back the way I came in with tears streaming down my face. I was completely disappointed in myself that I hadn’t prepared fully and that I had allowed myself to come that close to a race start again. That’s right, again. I’ve done it a few times before but lucked out. Not this time!

I was very disappointed and disheartened. Spent a few moments that morning with my boyfriend moping around and tearing up but for the most part I’m now over it. He bought me these little silver eagle earrings from a little knick knack shop somewhere on State Street in Santa Barbara and I’ve been wearing them ever since. They remind me that I can be as fast and on top of my game as much as I want to be. All I need to do is take a bird’s eye view and assess the situation.

So, if I must disclose…this is my pre-race routine. I’ll have to be pretty flexible when I go abroad or travel for races but it’s pretty much solid and has worked for me so far.

My 12 steps to successful race/long run preparation:

1. Sleep in my own bed, the night before. Try to sleep for a whole eight hours. I usually only manage 6 since I get nervous and I wake up a few times before the alarm is set to go off.

2. Sleep in some of my race clothes. That way all I have to do is pull on a few items and head out the door.

3. Prepare only 1 serving of Muscle Milk. If I drink 2 I generally have an upset stomach early on in the race.

4. For runs longer than 6 miles, I’ll consume half or one packet of Power Bar Energy Gel Blasts. I’ll also pack out a full Camelbak of water with another energy gel and a bar, just in case I get hungry en route.

5. For runs longer than 6 miles, I wear cushioned running socks. For anything shorter, I’ll wear thin running socks.

6. My hair must be out of my face. One strong elastic band and two bobby pins. Nothing more or my head hurts!

7. Fully charge my iPod shuffle the night before so I’m not bummed if my music quits out halfway. (I’m trying to wean off of the iPod but for now it’s a necessary evil.)

8. Do a very small morning warmup. I usually park a few blocks away from my apartment so the jog to my car is about 3/10ths of a mile. It’s a nice jaunt in the morning before things get hot.

9. Charge my phone during the car ride to the race. Nothing bums me out more than not being able to use RunKeeper while I run!!

10. Wear running clothes that I feel comfortable in running in that day. Being a woman means having to deal with fluctuating sizes during different times of the month, so I make a point not to squeeze into anything too constricting. Function over form prevails.

11. Hydrate on the way to my race…but always making a point to go to the bathroom before the race starts! (Otherwise it’s a disaster…)

12. Never mess with the lacing on my shoes. (I never untie/retie my shoelaces once I get the right fit.) If I find that my shins start hurting the week of the race I’ll order a replacement pair from Zappos since they’ll overnight them to me.

What’s your routine? How do you prepare for your long runs or an important race? Let’s swap some tips!

In the Spirit of Independence…

My longest race EVER is tomorrow morning at 8am in Santa Barbara! I registered for the Santa Barbara Semana Nautical 15K about three months ago hoping to find a midsummer race to keep me motivated through the season. It’s my last mini-race (and by mini I mean magnitude AND cost) until September…which is pretty much the month when everything will be splitting sideways and not stopping until after Thanksgiving, maybe even Christmas.

Independence Day has always been bittersweet for me. I’ve either spent it alone, coercing people into doing things with me, or being coerced into doing things. This year I’ll be spending it running! (I made plans well in advance to prevent the spending it alone, being coerced, or coercing others.) I’m looking forward to running my first 15K in beautiful Santa Barbara, a gorgeous college town I had not ventured into for almost a year now. There’s a few spots I would love to hit before I skip town since I’m doing a turnaround trip — The Blue Agave for dessert, maybe Pierre Lafonde Wine Bistro for breakfast, that cute little game shop on State Street where I found a pint-sized version of Family Business. For sure I want to spend some time near/on the water. Ideally I’d get some open water swimming but that might not be in my cards this time, unless I can rationalize an ocean swim as some sort of post-run shower!

I think that this run is going to be great — it’s so close to the ocean that I’m positive that I’ll be able to catch a glimpse of an ocean vista sometime during the 9.3 miles. This will be my longest race to date, but not quite my longest run. I’ve ran longer, but I’ve been in cross-training mode and have been tapering off my running so that I could add in more cycling and swimming. I miss running but I guess I’m cutting down so that I can balance my training out a bit. Missing my running time makes me tackle my cycling and swimming with more gusto.

In the spirit of Independence Day I hope everyone finds something to celebrate. I hope that somewhere, deep inside, we can all remain independent of the forces around us that we cannot control. I hope that we all find some sort of inner peace that we can rely on to guide us during hard times. Most of all, I hope that we all find motivation to do things that we *wish* we could do. Most of the things we seek are well within reach if we can recognize the willpower and desire within. For me it’s simultaneously tackling my marathon training with more serious dedication, while focusing and balancing my triathlon training. Why I do it is a completely different story, although freeing in of itself!

Dealing with Derailment

Often times things don’t go quite as planned. Actually, let me rephrase that — most times, things don’t go quite as planned.

 

Sometimes you’ve been incredibly meticulous at laying out your schedule and things get in the way. It happens…it’s life! Sometimes, though, you get in your own way, or worse, you allow other people to get in the way. You might make excuses for them or over-rationalize  motives or actions, but what’s the best way to deal with derailment?

1. Being forgiving: Sometimes acceptance and moving on is the best move. If you’ve missed two months of workouts or ten years of brotherhood, sometimes it’s best to forgive yourself, move on, and vow to do better tomorrow. You can’t control what has happened in the past but you can control how you deal with it from now on.

2. Making a plan: What happened that allowed this problem (the inability to deal) to fester? How will you ensure it won’t happen again? And, what will happen when you  inevitably slip up again? (See #1 for that answer.) How will you stay accountable to others, but ultimately, yourself?

3. Seeing it all the way through: Giving yourself a reasonable timeline proves commitment and the responsibility to yourself to stick to something long enough to make it work. Whether it’s a new workout routine, retraining for a new career, learning a new language, or managing your time better, taking incremental steps towards achieving your goals will result in a sustainable (read: maintainable) change in your life.

4. Being patient: You probably won’t see results overnight, or very quickly, for that matter. Know that everything and anything worth having is worth fighting for. Things that come easy are fleeting. Most importantly, remember that a lot of people make their accomplishments look easy. Know that it’s never as easy as it seems!

I think as a whole, I get more annoyed by myself and others because I have been trained to tell the difference between an excuse and a reason. When I find myself in a losing battle, I come to accept that I played some hand in doing something that caused the failure. I then accept my responsibility and move on. Usually what happens is that I find myself making excuses or rationalizing my unacceptable behavior. Most of the time I think before I speak so I don’t blurt it out, but instead recognize it in my thoughts and communicate my apologies and my suggested course of remedy. If I catch myself doing that in an email or over chat, I just delete it.

Excuses are crutches. They are the lazy man’s way of dealing with disappointment, derailment, or failure. How do you deal with derailment? What are you looking to improve on?

Setting My Sights on Athens Marathon, LA Triathlon

This week marked a number of momentous occasions for me personally.

I finally had the guts to commit to a marathon…the Athens marathon, nonetheless. I’ve registered for the event and I’ve booked my flight. I will be in Greece for 10 days and in Turkey for 1. I have a 24-hour layover that will permit me to leave the airport so I am excited to get to enter another country during my stay. If things work out I might try to add Cairo or Alexandria via ferry during my time there.

I also made the decision to begin training for the LA Triathlon in September. I finally bought some swim gear as well as a bike today, so I’m super stoked to get this show on the road! The last time I rode a bike I was only able to make it one block before falling down. Today was a little different…I made it five blocks (not consecutively) but I didn’t fall down. Apparently when you lower the seat far enough you can still stop with your feet on the ground.

For those of you who don’t follow my tweets or don’t know me very well, I haven’t been able to bike for longer than a city block at a time and I dislike water in my face when swimming…so yeah, this is going to be pretty challenging!

* * *

It took me a long time to get to this point. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately as to why I’ve been on this weird health/wellness kick for the past few months. As with most things in life, there has been a number of things that have happened to me that’s affected me more than I thought it would and patterns in behavior that, in hindsight, are clear.

I used to be a pretty decent swimmer as a child. I took classes at the local YMCA and competed a little bit. I can remember the last time I swam as a child…it was some sort of final round of something related to my swim class, and our test was to jump off of the high board, dive into the pool, and swim to the other end. It seemed simple enough, but as I climbed up that ladder all alone as a wee child I tried to keep my cool. I’d been training for an entire summer for this moment. For some reason I froze on the dive board, petrified of the height and my swim-mates, my instructor, and the pressure of having to perform up to some external expectation rather than just enjoying swimming. (Strange concept, right?) I figured that it was my time to spend anyhow so I took my time getting up the ladder, and took my time getting across the dive board. I stood there for a bit just taking the moment in but apparently that was a bit too slow for my instructor, because it was at that moment that I was ready to dive that she took it upon herself to push me in. Feeling rather demoralized and shocked, not to mention scared, I quit swimming and didn’t start again until I got accepted into the Coast Guard Academy. I’ve since gone swimming here and there with no real consistency. As with the bike riding, I really only rode in circles in my backyard and in my driveway. Plenty of negative reinforcements were there to ensure that I stayed on my bike — cacti in the backyard, a rather steep hill and T intersection near my driveway. I rode for a summer or two and stopped because I outgrew my bike but my parents really couldn’t afford to get me another one.

After dropping out of grad school a few months ago I fell into a pretty bad spell of self-doubt and disappointment. It was a lifelong goal for me to go to grad school and I practically set myself up for failure by packing my schedule and making it impossible for me to complete any of the work. Despite all of the roadblocks I faced — difficult classmates, tedious assignments — there are a lot of things I could’ve done differently. Academia never came easy to me, and juggling my own business with another startup business and a crumbling personal relationship didn’t help. I’m hoping to go back in the near future and finish strong. But for now, I’ve decided to take up these new goals — finishing a marathon and a triathlon — hoping to convince myself that I still have the drive in me to set goals and to see them all the way through.

Here’s to a second wind!