Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sunday Sweats 40: Marathon Training Week 14

September 28–October 4
Newtons' first ride | Old reliables getting me through the rain | Saturday's a rugby day | All taped up and everywhere to go
Monday: happy hippy flow (20 minutes)
After spending about 15 hours in the car since yesterday morning, two things were true: running wasn't going to happen, and my hips needed some SERIOUS attention.

Tuesday: studio yoga class (75 minutes) + 2.07 mile run (8:53 pace)
No, this was not my scheduled 5 mile run. But too much to do and too little time meant it was either short or not at all tonight, so I took my new Newtons out for their first ride. It was cool (73ยบ) but post-thunderstorm humid (ugh, 90%) but my legs were movin'. Felt good, and I think I'm really going to like running in Newtons.

Wednesday: 8.22 mile run (9:49 pace)
Nice and cool tonight but still a little humid and windy as all get-out—Hurricane Joaquin is coming, or maybe not, but it feels like it. We're expecting rain for the rest of the week though, so there was no avoiding an icky evening. Regardless of the gusts hitting me right in the chest, this run felt good and my legs felt happy. Definitely felt the difference running in my Sauconys after an outing in Newtons. Don't hold me to it yet, but I think I found my new shoe brand.

Thursday: rest
Planned to get some yoga in after work, but ended up running a ton of errands and the rain made it take way longer than necessary. Then I celebrated the fact that I learned at 4:45 that I didn't have to come back to the office Friday with a glass of wine and that was the end of Thursday.

Friday: 5.01 mile run (8:48 pace)
Today was going to be the 20-miler. But I made a logical decision and after furiously checking the weather every minute, I decided I could run 5 miles in the today's rainstorm. But not 20. So I swapped today's miles for Sunday's and had flashbacks to RnR but luckily there was no two-hour wait for a train/cab/Uber before I could get a hot shower post-run.

This run was hard in the best way. Weather aside, it was me pushing me, and daring myself to get it done the way I wanted to do it. No surprise, marathon daydreams were in my head the entire time. I started out really fast (8:24—much faster than I'd usually go for a 5-miler!) and while my splits were a bit uneven (mostly due to hills and changes in rain and wind speed/direction) at 8:24 / 8:45 / 9:11 / 9:07 / 8:34, they were some of the fastest miles I've managed to run in a loooong time. And they were fast enough for me to PR the crap out of my unofficial 5-miler. How's that for an awesome feeling right when I could have used one?

Saturday: rest
Yeah, I've been lazy. After my friend's rugby game this morning (where I stood in the rain/cold/wind for a few hours) (I'm such a good friend) I was all about curling up on the couch under a blanket binge-watching a TV show I'm embarrassed to admit to and listening to the wind howl outside. I thought I might get some yoga in, but aside from some isolated stretches, there was no flow.

Sunday: pre-run yoga (30 minutes) + 10 mile run (10:12 pace)
Warmed up with legs up the wall and some good deep hip and hamstring movements before the run I've been eager and terrified for for months now.

And then I got out there, felt a little adventurous and daring on a new route...and then my body completely fell apart, and my mind followed. It wasn't the weather. It was my body. I couldn't make myself run a single step more. My hip was killing me, even with layers of KT tape. My stomach was growling, and the gels that usually power me weren't doing anything to help me feel full. And honestly, I probably ruined this run for myself before I even laced up, so panicked have I been over it for weeks. I'll try again next week.

Weekly Totals
Running: 25.92 miles
Yoga: 125 minutes

Marathon Training Week 14 Reflections:
Marathon training has been one of the most grueling experiences of my entire life, but I've loved it. Even when I haven't loved every run or every step, I've loved the fact that I decided to throw myself into this challenge, full steam ahead. Chiefly because it has helped me to learn a LOT about myself. One of those things I've learned is that I don't do well with loopholes. Most people train to 20 miles for their marathon, and then taper. I decided to train for 20 and 22 before tapering, because I thought 22 would help me feel more prepared and that getting into the 20s more than once before race day would calm my nerves. But this experience, in conjunction with previous race experiences (specifically my first and second half marathons) has helped me to learn that under pressure is where I show up best. If I had attempted this run knowing a taper was up next, or that I wouldn't have a shot at redemption next weekend, I'm almost positive it would have gone differently.

I don't love that about myself, and it feels weirdly gloaty to say I do best when the pressure is on—even if I'm the only one cranking it. But I think ignoring that has led me to be unrealistic about myself during this training program and it hasn't done me any favors. That doesn't mean I should just stop now and wing it on race day, or that I don't need to prepare traditionally. But I think it would serve me well moving forward to really reflect on what will make me feel prepared, rather than relying solely on what other people say makes them do better on race day. I'm not running their race; I'm running mine.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Cleveland Rocks

On Friday, I went to happy hour with my coworkers from my former job. I missed them so much, and it was great to spend a few hours catching up. At one point, one of the girls mentioned her boyfriend's band—End of an Era, check them out!—who I've seen perform before was wrapping up a pretty cool touring opportunity this past weekend. They'd spent a couple of weeks opening for a U.K. band called Pop Will Eat Itself, and three of the members of End of an Era (including said boyfriend in question) were actually filling in as band members of PWEI during their American voyage. Anyway, J really wanted to be there for her guy's last show on this tour, but there was this little matter of the state of Pennsylvania standing between them. Their closing show was at the historic Agora Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio, a solid seven hours away from North Jersey.
She asked—jokingly at first, I'm sure—if I wanted to ride to Ohio with her Sunday night, catch the show, and head back Monday. I don't think she was expecting me to say yes, but I totally did.

I had Monday and Tuesday off from work—happy holidays to any Jewish readers celebrating, if that's even an appropriate sentiment to share; I apologize for my ignorance if it isn't—and have been pondering the whole purpose of life lately. I'm not exaggerating though. See, I know work is a necessity. I've mentioned that before: I know I have to work to live, but whatever combination of science and magic that put me on this earth certainly could not have intended for me waste away in an office with bad florescent lighting for the majority of my existence, with little else of merit to speak of. What I'm trying to say is, no one is put on this earth to be a real estate lawyer, SEO strategist, web content writer, or bank teller. That's just what we do while we while away the days. But what is the purpose of life if not to experience it?
I was already over budget for the month of September. I'm not entirely positive how I'm going to pay the bills in a month or two. Since I got my financial act together a few years ago, I have never been careless with money—a BBW or Ulta sale here and there notwithstanding. We would have to drive there (in her little Toyota, which is luckily fabulous on gas), get lodging for the night, purchase tickets to the show, and spend a little money on a drink or snack here and there to round out the whole experience. I had a to-do list a mile long and planned to use Sunday and Monday to get a lot done, including a 14-mile training run on my road to the marathon. I considered all that—and I mean it, I really thought it all through—and I still said yes.

What is the purpose of life if not to experience it?
On this adventure, I set foot in Ohio for the first time ever (a step forward in my goal to see all 50 states), saw Lake Eerie (and possibly the firs Great Lake I've ever seen, if I'm not mistaken) for the first time ever, stayed in an Airbnb for the first time ever, went to the historic Agora Theatre for the first time ever, and didn't torture myself for shirking responsibilities for the first time ever. After 14 hours in a car over two days, five hours spent standing and screaming on a ballroom floor, and 15 late-night, hunger-struck minutes waiting for Rally's (also for the first time ever) in a city that apparently always sleeps (I mean really Cleveland, I know it was a Sunday, but the place was a ghost town by 7 p.m. My suburban NJ town is more poppin' on a Sunday evening!), I'm still glad I went and would do it again.
This adventure was a small one in the grand scheme of things—like, say, compared to my brother's solo European travels or my fabulous blog friends' epic adventures—but an adventure nonetheless. And when life is usually by default so lacking in adventure and spur-of-the-moment dismissal of tasks and to dos, yet heavy with contemplation and obligation, every little step toward a life of reckless calculated (hey, I'm still me) abandon counts for something. Because what is the purpose of life if not to experience it—every little bit of it?

Linking up with my lady Kels for the return of the Secret Blogger Club.
The Blonder Side of Life

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Yoga for Runners Part II: 5 More Poses for Pre- and Post-Run

Happy one year anniversary, Training for Tuesday! Since the traditional gift for one year is made of paper, I decided to write this blog post and encourage you to print it out and hang it on your fridge. Except maybe don't do that at all, because it contains pictures of me that may or may not be flattering.
On a brief serious note, thank you to my cohost Tracy for collaborating with me to host this linkup for every one of the past 12 months. This monthly check-in was really born out of a great idea of her's sometime last summer, and I'm just happy she let me do my usual butting in and running with things. Secondly, thanks to each and every one of you who have linked up, whether you've joined us every month or like to pop in every once in a while. We hope this linkup has given you a positive outlet and, even moreso, a strong community to turn to with all the many topics we talk about here. Here's to many more.

I believe—surprise, surprise—that the combination of running and yoga is a beautiful fitness, wellness, exercise, and emotional self-care regimen. I've talked enough about both things enough on this blog to probably explain why, but you can find plenty of reasons for both here and here. Throughout these last few months of marathon training, there's been a pretty noticeable shift in my yoga practice focus to hip and hamstring-treating poses.

Sometime last year I shared a couple of yoga postures that I think are a great complement to a runner's fitness routine. Here's another batch to add to your pre- and/or post-run flow to target common runner problems and pains, and that have been worked into nearly all of my home practice sessions this summer.
Disclaimer: I am not (yet, but soon!) a licensed yoga instructor and, as with any physical activity, yoga may pose a certain amount of risk. Be careful performing any of the following poses and don't hesitate to seek the care of a medical professional if they result in any bodily injury.

Dolphin Pose
Like downward facing dog, this pose offers a deep calf and hamstring stretch in a really natural way. Dolphin pose takes the stretch even deeper by lowering your top body to the ground, and goes the extra mile of opening your shoulders and heart space to promote airflow to the lungs and encourage good posture while running and in general. Bonus: it's great prep for pincha (forearm stand)!

Runners Lunge Series
I love this little dancing series or transition between this modified low lunge and the runners lunge. Both poses open up the hamstrings and work the external rotation of the hip and thigh. In this low lunge modification, the reach for the back foot adds in a deep quad stretch and heart opener. The runners lunge helps you breathe into the outer hip flexor of the extended leg and works the psoas muscles on the inside of the hip.

Bound Angle Pose (a.k.a. Cobblers Pose)
I try to do this pose every single day, and very often end my long practices with shavasana meditation in reclined bound angle. I hear a lot of people say the farther out your feet are from your body, the "easier" this pose is. I disagree. If you extend your feet farther out, you can bend as deeply as you'd like, and you'll feel the work in your outer hip flexors. Bring your feet closer, and you'll feel the stretch on the inner hip muscles—and they both deserve some love. Take the pose to a more relaxing place by reclining, and if you recline without using your hands you'll get some core work in the mix as well.

Reclined Hero Pose
Warning: this pose can be tough on tender knees, so enter into it very gently and slowly. The rotation of your outer hip in this pose is deep and constant, and I find that it works that joint in a way very few other stretches are capable of. When you're reclined, you'll feel a deep and delicious quad stretch from hip to knee, plus some serious work on the IT band and sartorius muscle, the latter of which can be difficult to target otherwise.

Happy Baby Pose
I know, I know. There's no way to look cute in this pose. Luckily when it comes around in class everyone's on their backs so you've got an upside-down turtle situation and all anyone can see is the ceiling or their own feet. Anyway. While all the other poses I mentioned are more stretch-focused, this pose is a fantastic hip opener to really release a lot of tension that builds up in your hip flexors while running (and cycling, and sitting, and walking, and standing, and basically existing as an able-bodied human). But you get the hamstring stretch too, and toss in a few rocks back and forth to each side and you'll enjoy a low back massage and some sacrum love.

There you have them. What are your favorite ways to warm up and cool down the body after a workout? Any favorite yoga poses or other stretches? I'd love to hear about them!
And don't forget to grab your button and link up your Training for Tuesday post below! Make sure you jump around and get inspired by the rest of the great group of ladies we have sharing their training and trying stories this month. Happy training, and happy anniversary!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sunday Sweats 39: Marathon Training Week 13

September 21–27

Monday: restorative yoga (25 minutes)
I can't wait till I'm back to being funemployed and hopefully sleeping again. Missed another morning practice but squeezed in a few poses before bed. And by "bed," I mean lying awake for hours in the dark.

Tuesday: 5.13 mile run (9:30 pace) + studio yoga class (75 minutes)
Short day at the office meant almost napping this afternoon away on the couch (guess who didn't sleep again last night). But I rallied and got a cool 5 in before class, wearing—ready?—capris! and short sleeves! Sure, I was sweating like crazy and could have been fine in shorts, but oh, fall. Also, I wore this to class because it was the happiest mail day in all the land:
(Want yours? Shop Bad Yogi! Use my super special link and I'll be eternally grateful!)

Wednesday: 5.08 mile run (10:25 pace) + arm balance flow (10 minutes)
I should have known from the achy walk up to my starting point that this run was doomed.
First interruption was the NBC News van parked outside Yogi Berra's house (he lived on my run route and was a serious institution in my area. My alma mater was home to his memorabilia museum and a stadium named in his honor. Rest in peace, Yogi <3) and reporters asking if I knew him or had a Yogi story to share.
Second interruption was a traffic stop that seemed to last 10 times longer than necessary.
Third was a stomach flip flop that made me take a quick sit down, during which my body was like NOPE WE'RE DONE HERE YOU MUST BE IN PAIN NOW and that's how an 8-miler gets swapped for the week's fiver. Just as well, because these legs were dead.

Then I went ahead and ignored the fact that my body was tired and decided to work on some arm balances ...ya know, for funsies. (I mean, arm balancing is super fun.)

Thursday: rest
Nothing. Just...absolutely nothing. I think the ship has sailed on my a.m. yoga time since I can't manage to get enough sleep to not feel like I've been hit by a bus every morning when I wake up a half hour after my alarm goes off. At least, until this job assignment is over next Friday. And then the evening looked something like this: traffic, chiropractor, traffic, traffic, quick catch-up with a friend, clean apartment, reply to emails, send out resumes, edit articles, write an article, edit articles, lie awake in bed with my eyes closed for two hours. (I'll be fine.)

Friday: rest
Original plan was to run my 8 miles before meeting my favorite ladies (coworkers from my last job) for happy hour. But because of a combination of the pope in NYC and people driving like idiots, I didn't have time. And then we ended up being out later than I planned, but I don't care because I love them and needed to enjoy happy hour with them.

Saturday: 8.34 mile run (10:06 pace)
Overall my miles were pretty on point (~9:30-9:40) but I went rogue and ran about 2.5 miles through a brand new neighborhood (I seriously didn't even know it existed and I've driven past the turn-off roughly one million times) and up a VERY big hill (basically Everest), hence the final average pace. Legs felt good and light, chest open and breathing easy. My bad knee was really bad by the end of it, but I'll chalk that up to shoddy KT tape work after an intense training cycle. I did run 18 miles just six days ago...

Sunday: quick start morning yoga (20 minutes)
The plan had been to work in my 14-miler today. But an alternate plan arose: hop in the car with a sweet friend and drive to Ohio so she could surprise her boyfriend at his show and we could have ourselves a proper spontaneous adventure. Sucks to miss another mid-distance run, but it was worth it.

Weekly Totals:
Running: 18.55 miles
Yoga: 130 minutes

Marathon Training Week 13 Reflections: 
I'm probably too close to the race to be jumping into cars with friends and ordering another round at happy hour, but I'm currently, as you know, having a weird time at life. Right now, given the choice between emotional/mental wellness and peak physical fitness, apparently I'm choosing the former. Ask me on November 2nd if I regret that decision, but for now, the answer is an easy no.

I could be entirely wrong, because I've never run a marathon before and what the hell do I know, but at this stage of the game, with 20- and 22-mile runs being the only uncharted territory left on my schedule (I've run 14 miles or very, very close to it more than half a dozen times by now; I know my body can do it), I feel like what's more important is being physically and mentally strong enough to push through and reach those next levels. As I've mentioned enough times on this blog to sound like a broken record, I have not been sleeping lately. I have been cramming too much into every day and I'm physically and mentally exhausted. I'm nearing a point where I want race day to get here just so it's over already. (For clarity, I don't regret signing up and I'm still looking forward to completing my first marathon. I just have a pessimistic side.) It doesn't feel worth it to keep wearing out my body and mind on the runs I don't feel are as important. I know every step is a big one in the process of becoming a marathoner, but since this was supposed to be a drop back anyway, it would probably be best if I came out of it with some semblance of feeling rested, right? I sure hope so.


And don't forget to join us this week for the first fall edition of Training for Tuesday! Grab your button, get the deets here, and Tracy and I can't wait to see you then.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Ten Things I Know Right Now

Because of reasons, I decided to end a contract assignment I've been working on for the past two-ish months. I still don't have a full-time job lined up. After next Friday, I don't know where my next paycheck will come from. A lot of people will probably agree that I made a massive mistake and that I should have stuck it out through whatever made me leave this contract position.

But they're wrong. And I have a very long list of reasons why I made the right choice. Again. But that's another post for another day.

It can be scary—especially for a Type A planner obsessed with her spreadsheets and physically dependent on her lists—to have so many things fall under the "don't know," "not sure," and "ask again later." And not little things, either. Big things, the answers to which impact my livelihood, stability, security, and wellness. It's a wonder I'm doing so well right now. (You can decide whether I'm being sarcastic or not.)

I don't know when I'll get a job again, or enough freelance work to feel as comfortable as I would with a full-time job. I'm running my body into the ground training for the marathon, and I have no idea how I'll feel on race day or how well my training will pay off. I don't know how much sleep I'll get tonight or tomorrow or the rest of the week, or how long this game of waking up exhausted and lying awake in bed for hours will continue. I don't know where I'll be a month from now, a year from now, and I haven't the faintest idea what my life will look like in five more years.

I can't really do anything to hurry those answers up. But while I'm waiting for them, I can find comfort in these ten things I do know right now:
Reading a book you love for the second or hundredth time is kind of like coming home.
Especially if it's been a while since you read it, and you don't quite remember all the lines but they sound familiar when you read them to yourself. It's like nostalgia but without a trace of sadness.

You don't have to be perfect to be amazing.
Amazing isn't without flaw. Amazing doesn't happen when everything goes off as if it were scripted. Amazing is when greatness occurs against the odds, when perseverance wins, and when bravery strikes in the face of fear.

Something fancy is sometimes nice, but good old vanilla can be a sweet escape too.
Yes, I'm specifically talking about Talenti's Tahitian Vanilla gelato. But it applies elsewhere. A swanky restaurant is great when it's called for, but when it's sweatpants and takeout sushi you really need, nothing else will do.

You won't always know beforehand when it's the last time, even if it's something you choose.
I recently met with someone I've known for a long time, and it was almost as if we were going through motions of this regular kind of meet-up. It wasn't really until the day after we went our separate ways that I knew we had run our course, and that that would be the last time. It wasn't sad, and it wasn't a fight, and I'm not mad. It just is, and now it was, and I wouldn't have known it was time to say goodbye if it weren't for the last day we spent together.

Habits happen for a reason.
Either there's something good there, or there's nothing better elsewhere.

Not everyone will understand what you're really worth. Don't let them convince you you're worth any less.
Be honest in determining what you deserve: in relationships, in business, and in life. You set the rules for how people treat you. Hold everyone to the same rules—including yourself.

Being busy can only distract you for so long. Sooner or later, you have to confront your troubles.
Losing yourself in tasks may keep your mind off something you can't let yourself think about too much or for too long. But you can't schedule yourself out of real life. And if you're not careful, your busy-ness can become a trouble in and of itself too.

You can't always know what will happen before you leap. You should leap anyway.
It would be great to always see the potential outcome of a big decision, but the truth is, most of the time you won't know where you'll end up until you set out on the path. This is where gut instinct, trust in yourself, and faith in your journey come in.

If your body isn't doing what it should be able to, something isn't right.
If you can't sleep, something's wrong. If your appetite has vanished, something's wrong. If moving from the bed to the couch is the most activity you can manage, something's wrong. I'm not suggesting this and this alone means you should be popping antidepressants, but your body knows when and where to pull back. It's telling you something. Shut up and listen.

Drink more water. 
This one doesn't come with a life lesson. It's just true.