Thursday, March 29, 2012

Table for pity, party of 1, and a plan

I don't quit. Not ever. Not in life and certainly not in running.

That was, until last night.

I had 5x800 on the plan, and I spent the entire day oddly excited to go home and get working. I was going to run alone - alone alone. The sun was shining. And, I had a genius plan: I mapped a 0.85-mile loop in my neighborhood so that I could leave my water in the driveway and make a pit stop after each repeat.

I managed to get off work early and I bounded into the house, throwing on a pair of shorts and a tank, my sassy new Brooks hat and my MOTOACTV. Finally, I was going to get to do it.

I started off with a slow half-mile warmup before getting into the workout. The warmup was a bit heavy but that was to be expected. I was sure that my legs would loosen up by the time I got going. Even though I could set up a workout, I opted to just keep an eye on my watch. When it said 0.50 mile, I was off.

Sort of.

It was hard. Harder than I expected. After a quarter-mile, I just wanted to be done. When I reached my house a bit earlier than anticipated, I took a break for water/caught my breath. I finished the repeat and followed it with a quarter-mile recovery jog. I tried to pump myself up, thinking that I just needed one repeat to get going.  And before I knew it, I was off on repeat two.

For the sake of brevity, I am going to interrupt this post to tell you that repeats two and three didn't go any better and repeats four and five never happened. I quit. Quit, quit, quit. Instead, I opted to just do five miles (I was at 2.5). The remainder of the run was a battle of mind and body, and no one won.

When I got home, I couldn't stop myself from being upset, frustrated and a bit melodramatic. I have become so jealous of other mother-runners who blog about PRs and marathons, and I can't even do a track workout. I am not making significant gains in speed and my base doesn't feel strong. "What am I doing wrong?" I asked myself over and over as I cleaned up. "All I want to do is become a better runner."

Ding, ding, ding!

"The only way to get better at running is to run," a wise man told me just after my first half marathon. I was working on an article for work, and I had inquired whether second-time half marathoners should incorporate speed work. He was a bit hesitant and instead suggested adding mileage. I was a bit deflated - I wanted to go to the track - but I listened to what he said. I switched up my schedule, making my "bonus" run a mid-week long run. It went from 3 miles to a 10K and my weekly mileage went from 20 to 25+ miles. In three months (not even), I ran a 5K PR and cut 15+ minutes off my half time. With no speedwork.

So that's what I'm going to do. I am going to quit the defeating repeats and tempo runs, and I am going to add more miles. Instead of doing strength work on "Mommy needs alone time" night, I'll be doing longer runs with the dog. (Don't worry - I'm still going to do strength but more than likely it will be a Jillian DVD after Miles goes to bed.) I am going to focus on 25-mile weeks (as life permits), getting strong and see where it takes me.

While the plan isn't magic, I feel refreshed that I will be making strides (hah! strides!) in what I think will be the right direction.

Do you re-evaluate training plans? When do you incorporate speed work?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

There goes my hero: A giveaway

Can you feel it?

The heat.
 The heat from you tearing up the Hero Rush course.

Hero Rush is a race through a 5k+ course of heroic (and unique!) obstacles — slide, climb, get wet, get lost, get WETTER, make some saves and a ton more.

Or, as I like to think, it's the next thing to come to adventure racing. (Note: I am not sure if the term "adventure racing" is correct as I just made it up. But I like it. Feel free to use it.)

The race, which is in its inaugural year, will be making stops all across the country. Minnesota, Texas, Los Angeles, Oregon, Illinois, Florida. Heck, there's even one in my neck of the woods. With each stop, participants will get the chance to take on:

  • Dispatch Descent When the bell rings, the Rush is on .. head up to the top of the pole and take a slide down, it’s time to Respond!
  • Mazed and Confused It’s dark, surrounded by cries for help (and more), will you escape?
  • Dummy Draggin’ You’ve got the victim, now get ‘em out just like a real hero!
  • Stretcher Evac Find a buddy for this one (unless you’re super strong), save the day and get ‘em to the Chopper M*A*S*H style! (* Actual helicopter not included)
  • Hose Advancin’ Can you stretch the line quick enough to make an impact?
  • Foam Adventure You’re gonna get a little sloppy on this one
  • Towerin’ Inferno – Raining Stairs A surprise obstacle that will test your up and over skills to the max
  • HazMat Zone Could be slimy, could be smelly, could be a combination!
  • Fire Truck Tackle Fire trucks may block your path, how you gonna get through to save the day?
  • Smoke Jumper The next best thing to jumping out of an airplane into the inferno
  • Entanglement One of the biggest dangers to real firefighters — getting caught and not being able to get out.
There's also a Midway, where you and your crew can be a Hero and practice their firefighter skills on fiery obstacles (14 and older only), live demonstrations and experiences, and kid’s course options. There’s also music, food and drinks and shopping. Oh, and the opportunity of seeing some fine men in uniform. Or at least I hope.

And you get to enjoy it all ... for free. Well, one of you. The folks at Hero Rush are kindly offering one Healthy Strides reader a free entry. To any one of the races.

To enter the giveaway, like Hero Rush on Facebook and leave me a comment that you did so.

Giveaway runs from March 27 to April 3, ending at midnight EST.   Entries after that will be considered null. The winner will be chosen via and will be announced Wednesday April 4. Winner is responsible for contacting me hlthystrides at gmail dot com by Monday, April 9, or a new winner will be chosen.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Supper in a cinch

6 p.m.: Get home

6:01 p.m.: Kiss Miles

6:01.5 p.m.: Kiss Mark

6:02 p.m. Mark asks when dinner will be ready.

And that's him being polite because, truth be told, by the time I get home from work we're both starving. He's spent the afternoon coaching track and feeding Miles his cereal with hummus and hasn't had time for a snack. As for me, I usually run out of snacks by 3 p.m. and find myself counting the seconds till I'm home.

While I'd love to make an elaborate dinner, ones like I did before Miles, it's just not in the cards. We need something fast and easy. (Insert joke here). Oh, and healthy.

Salsa Verde Enchiladas

I made these just before I went to New Orleans. One pan for while I was gone, and one pan in the freezer for later. Later as in last night. I took the pan out of the freezer in the morning, putting it in the fridge to thaw. When Mark got home, he threw it in the oven at 350 degrees.

And you know what? Dinner was served 15 minutes after I got home.

Fat-free refried beans on the side for me, Spanish rice for him. All of it for Miles. Well, some chicken, beans and rice.

Note: I made the enchiladas using tortillas I had on hand - white flour for him and Tumaro's whole-wheat for me - as well as slow cooker shredded chicken. I cannot stress enough how easy a few pounds of chicken breast in the slow cooker on low for 8 hours can make your life. The chicken shreds super easy, freezes awesome and can be used in anything from Buffalo Chicken Tacos to Chicken Caesar Sandwiches.

"Rotisserie Chicken" and vegetables

Another slow cooker dish for the win. I put in chicken thighs (skin and all - I'm so bad), 10 red potatoes (halved), 5 carrots (peeled and chunked) and 6 ribs celery (cleaned and chunked) with a sprinkle of time and a hearty splash of chicken stock. I let it cook on low for 8 hours ... and, yeah, that's it. Dinner's ready the minute you walk in the door. If you have 15 minutes, make some of those  "so bad they're good"

The chicken falls off the bone and the carrots and celery are oh so good, reminding me of my grandma's famous pressure cooker pot roast.

The greatest part of the meal, though, might have been that it was something Miles (and his FIVE teeth) could enjoy. I just cut it all up in tiny pieces and gave him his own plate. He loved it. Seriously - he was shoveling it by the handful into his mouth.

Some of our other go-to weeknight meals:

*Grilled pork chops with - I'll admit it - shells and cheese. The 2% version, of course.
*Repurposed leftovers, such as pork loin turned into Cuban sandwiches and spaghetti and meatballs into meatball subs.
*Burgers. I'll make homemade veggie burger and freeze them so I can take out a patty whenever I want, and I will make Mark a beef patty.
*Casseroles, such as shepherd's pie and lasagna, that I can make before work and Mark can throw in the freezer before I get home.
*Quesadillas/tacos. If I have chicken ready (ala the slow cooker method above), these come together in a few minutes. Our favorite combos: BBQ Chicken with red onions and cheddar cheese; Greek style with feta, tomato-cucumber salad and kalamata olives; and Cebolla-style with pico de gallo inside and mounded with guac.

What are your quick and easy dinner ideas?

MOTOACTV: A follow up

It's the little things in the life.

A sunny day at the park with my lil man.

A post-race martini (or two).

And learning that one of your running idols has one of the same gadgets as you.

Eric, who manages the local running store and placed second at this weekend's 20K (on the left), is training for the Boston marathon. A 2:35 Boston marathon. He's been chronicling his training on a Tumblr page - the good runs (5:38 pace) and the bad ones (7:21 pace), all of which make me feel slow and in awe.

This week's training highlights included that 20K and the fact that he has a MOTOACTV. You know, the same thing that I have. While I've been in love with the device, I felt sort of uncool for shunning the Garmin. Eric using it - and liking it - validates my love all the more.

"But, why?" you ask. "Why do you love it so much?"

Here are some things that I didn't get to in my first post:

*Instant, easy to read stats. When you end your workout, it gives you a summary. There are the basics, of course - duration and distance - but if you "scroll" down, you can see splits. I find this to be especially helpful after a race when I'm not going to immediately sync my workout.

*User friendly. If you are at all familiar with an iPad, iPod, iThing, you can easily figure out how to use the device. Yes, there's a learning curve but it takes about a week. With my Garmin, after two years, I was still trying to figure out how to find things.

*Cross training. The Garmin is great if you are a triathlete but not everyone swims and/or bikes. Some of us like Zumba. Or try to like it. With a new software update, there are 40 trackable activities - everything from yoga to yard work, pilates to punching. Oh, and Zumba.

*Battery life. I had heard a lot of negative feedback about the MOTOACTV's battery life before I said "yes" to the device but a software upgrade fixed many concerns. I'm able to use the device for my weekday runs without charging - and that's even when I forget to turn it off and it "sleeps" for a day.

With anything, there are some things I'd change.

*Elevation. I can see the minimum elevation, the max and net change but I'd love to see an elevation chart when I log on to the MOTOACTV website. Especially after the weekend's hilly 20K. Update/clarification: You can do this - I just hadn't figured it out. When looking at workout details, click on "Select Metric" and choose elevation.

 From Saturday's 20K

*Daily Mile. You can share your workouts on Facebook and Twitter but not Daily Mile. I like to log my miles on that site as there are a few "friends" I only have there.

*Reports. I like that Daily Mile sends me reports each week that includes my mileage and pace. It would be great to see something like that.

*Online milestone reports. The MOTOACTV will congratulate you when you end a workout if you've done something new or awesome - ran your fastest mile, burned more calories than ever before, worked out for the longest period of time or ran the farthest. However, there's no way that I know of to see those benchmarks on the site.

Have you tried the MOTOACTV? What do you think? Or, are you scared to try something new?

Disclosure: As you know, I received the MOTOACTV device for free but all opinions and suggestions are my own.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Hills, country lanes and bread: A race recap

A training run – that’s all it was. Or that’s what I kept telling myself.


The Fort Wayne Track Club hosted its 32 annual NutriRun on Saturday, and many racers use it as a training run for spring half-marathons, usually the Indy mini or Cincinnati’s Flying Pig. As I’m just three weeks out from the Martian half, the 20K was a perfect way to get in a long run – sans stroller, at that. My only hope for the race was to properly pace myself.

The race started at 11 a.m., which has worked in years past because the average high for this time of year is in the upper 40s and last year, it wasn’t even 30 degrees on race day. This year, it was high 60s and overcast, which turned out to be perfect.


The course starts in a tony neighborhood just outside of city limits. It was quite beautiful with the redbud trees blooming and green grass – a good thing, too, because this was the most difficult part of the course. I had heard that it was hilly but I didn’t understand just how hilly it was. For 2.5 miles, it was up and down, up and down. It was tough, and I tried to focus on not wasting energy on the uphills … or the downhills. I had a ways to go.

Mile 1: 9:09

Mile 2: 9:35

Mile 3: 9:39

Just after the 2.5-mile mark, the 20Kers split from those running the 5-milers. Our turn took us down an L-shaped out and back down country roads. The road wasn’t gravel but it wasn’t asphalt either – if that makes any sense – and it felt a bit better on the legs. What didn’t feel good was the headwind. I tried to find someone to “draft” but I was sort of alone. All except for Tommy ... or Jeff … or Jemmy … or Toff. We’ll call him Some Dude. I passed Some Dude not to long after the split, and I was sure I was going to drop him. HIs breathing was labored and his stride a bit weird – had a kick to it.  But for 3 miles, I heard him say hi to people who had made the turnaround and people say hi to Some Dude. I swear he knew everyone.

Mile 4: 10:01

Mile 5: 9:56

Mile 6: 9:28

We turned around just after the 10K mark and, from there, Some Dude and I found ourselves running together. He’s doing the Indy Mini in May and will do Chicago for the second time in October. We complained about the hills and the wind, and I kept waiting for a turn. And water. There had been three water stops in the first 4 miles and I didn’t get another one until mile 9. Some dude had offered me some Gatorade but I never do anything but water and didn’t want to tempt the stomach gods. I should have taken the Gatorade, though, because around 8.5, I got a wicked stitch and I had to let Some Dude drop me.

Mile 7: 9:24

Mile 8: 9:32

Mile 9: 10:07

I walked through the water stop at mile 9 and from there tried to focus on being steady, reminding myself that I wasn’t racing – I was training. I did something I hadn’t done in a long time, too, picturing my dad riding his bike alongside me. I used to do this on hard tempo runs but being sort of alone on the country road, it just felt right.

“We” turned back onto the 5-mile course and headed down a secondary road with lots of additions attached. I started to see a few runners struggling and thought it wasn’t my goal to pass them, I did want to catch up. Slowly but surely, I started gaining on one woman, who had to walk quite a few times in the last mile.

Mile 10: 9:44

Mile 11: 10:01

Mile 12: 10:01

On the homestretch, I caught her. And passed her. I always feel bad about doing this but I have a good kick and kick I wanted to.

100_2863100_2863_1100_2864 100_2866

Last 0.4: 3:22 (8:45 pace)

Time: 2:00:05, 9:40 pace

The race celebrates nutrition month so the race “swag” included a loaf of bread from Panera and a glass for smoothies inside.


I loved the bread, especially because ours at home was moldy, and the glass instead of a T-shirt. Miles, well, he loved sharing Mommy’s smoothie. Spectating is hard work!

As for the race, I’m pretty happy. I wish I would have executed better and ran negative splits but I’m happy with my time and, more importantly, I had fun at another race with my girls.