Tag Archives: dean karnazes

How I Got to Chicago and Finished the Race

…I took a bunch of steroids.

No, that’s not true.

First things first: some stolen race photos, because heaven knows I will never buy these.

Put me in coach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feeling good!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gloves are off…I think I can, I think I can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

getting closer…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh wait, this is hard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love everyone and everything!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were a number of others, all pretty ugly typical race photos—but the theme is really that I’m smiling in almost all of them. Call me a photo whore, but truthfully I didn’t see most of the cameras along the way. I just had that fan-effing-tastic of a race.

Moving on.

I want to talk a bit about the steps I took in order to both a) get myself to the race and b) finish it. I consider myself lucky that I was able to race after a month of injury, and I do think that some good fortune fell into play in regard to my run-ability. (That, and some very powerful wishful thinking/begging the run gods for a break).

However, there were some very deliberate things I did both pre- and during taper to ensure that I would be able to make it to the finish line last Sunday.

Going into taper was really tricky. I’d only been running a week since taking two full weeks off from running—and now I was supposed to cut down as much as possible. As much as I wanted to run to build my confidence to get through the race—I knew that there were no physical benefits that could come from too much running during taper, so I played it safe. In essence, I did exactly what I would have in a regular taper schedule. Here’s how it looked:

Taper Schedule (Sunday-Saturday):

S: 75 minute yoga

M: 5 m slow run

T: 60 min swim

W: 4 m slow run

T: 60 m swim

F: REST

S: 2.5 m shake out with 3, 30-min strides.

This schedule worked perfectly for me. It was enough activity to keep me from feeling too restless, but it lacked a lot of impact—which is exactly what my legs and ankle needed before taking on a marathon.

In addition to the workouts, I rolled my legs essentially every night—like painful rolling. After Thursday night, I stuck to gentler stretching, but I wanted to make sure that all week I worked out any lingering knots.

I also iced my ankle 2-ish times a day, no matter what. When an injury doesn’t hurt (as my ankle didn’t during taper week), it’s really easy to neglect recovery efforts—but I made sure to keep icing even though there wasn’t any noticeable pain.

I also wore my compression socks around the house whenever possible, and wore them on the plane en route to Chicago.

These things, I believe, all really helped in having a successful race—but perhaps the bigger factors were the way I ran the race and the time I took off when I got hurt.

Having a marathon in sight helped me to buckle down in terms of not pushing it with my injury. Like other runners, I’m prone to working out through an injury (which more often than not makes it worse). Of course, I should never do this—but I think that having a race on the horizon forced me to recognize that R&R were the only means of getting to Chicago. So rest I did, and look at that—I finished, PR’ed, and had the best time—without any ankle pain.

This injury was obviously less serious than others, certainly, which helped with recovering in time for the race—but I’m really trying to take a hint from this experience: if there is one thing that heals an injury, it’s rest.

I hope other runners can see this as a case study of sorts on how rest is a big part of getting you toward your running goals.

It’s not just about the perfect tempos, the multiple 20 milers, or the weekly yoga.

Let’s take a look back: My last 20 miler before Chicago was on August 25, 6 weeks before Chicago. I completely took off 2 weeks of running during what should have been “peak” weeks, and I didn’t run over 12 miles in the month before the race. In other words, the odds were not stacked in my favor.

I’ll stop soon I promise, but I’m reiterating these points to remind everyone that a missed workout, missed mile, or a missed pace goal during marathon training is not the big deal we make it out to be. Sure, it’s not advisable to miss too many workouts or long runs, but I’m realizing there’s way too much stress put on the day-to-day specifics.

It’s just running. When we remove all the accessories that distract us from the simplicity of this sport (gels, garmins, BQs, Yasso 800s, fartleks, rollers, barefoot, not-barefoot, Dean Karnasez, etc.) all of a sudden it becomes a lot more manageableAll those extra things are important, but they are really just details. Kara Goucher has a great quote that puts it in perspective:

“Do the work. Do the analysis. But feel your run. Feel your race. Feel the joy that is running.”

This is how I approached Chicago. All I cared about was feeling the run—enjoying it for the simple act it is, an act I love so very much.

By ridding myself of the stress of perfect training and specific goals, my ankle decided to cooperate with the “go with the flow” mentality and lasted all 26.2 miles in fine condition.

It took me a while to get to this place, have no doubt. I had a lot of anxiety the week before the race about finishing, getting re-injured, etc. It was also very, very hard for me to let go of goals for this race. Admittedly, I know I could have gone sub 3:35 without the training malfunctions—which stings a little. But honestly, I don’t know if a BQ would have felt as good as this “no-goal” race did. By running for the fun of it and instead of obsessing over splits, I remembered just how magical the simple act of running can be.

So am I suddenly a goal-less, no Garmin, hippie runner? Absolutely not. In fact, I have goals that I’m itching to get started on. More on Monday 🙂

However, I’ve realized that running for the love of it can sometimes get you to the finish line just as easily as a flawless 22 miler. Okay, maybe I am turning into more of a hippie, but I truly hope that in a sport that’s full of specifics and details—the basics of putting one foot in front of the other and enjoying the ride isn’t lost on you.

Perhaps my favorite race tee yet.

If you couldn’t already tell, a lot of what I write on this blog is as much for myself as for my readers. So I appreciate you reading my somewhat stream-of-consciousness style of blogging.

Maybe someday I’ll have an agenda or a means of drafting my posts. But for now, these self-therapy sessions will have to do. Thanks for sticking around 🙂

Happy Friday!

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My Running Report Card

Hello, friends!

Okay, so I might have gotten a little overly critical in yesterday’s post in regards to the commercialization of running. The running industry has contributed so much information and research toward the improvement and accessibility of running, and many of the “rules” they’ve come up with are indeed very credible. My point was simply that you shouldn’t presume every new fact, product, and tip that comes out about running directly applies to you. Running is very individualistic (one of the reasons it’s great) and don’t immediately presume that you’re doing something wrong if “groundbreaking” research tells you so.

With that said, there are particular “running rules” that seem to apply to at least the majority of runners. For example, hydration and carbohydrates are two things that I think all runners can agree are must-haves. I’m constantly kind of laughing at myself and shaming myself for the things I think I do very right and very, very wrong in regards to these running “basics.” Truly, there are some things I don’t do stereotypically “right” that I believe has no impact on my progression as a runner. However, there is definitely room for improvement, which is why I’ve decided to do a little analysis of my good and bad habits, in conjunction with the “rules” of being a good runner. The grades I’ve awarded myself are what I believe the whole of the running industry would give me.

 

Rule #1 Thou Shalt Hydrate

Grade: B

I always have the best intentions when it comes to hydrating properly. I carry a Camelback water bottle with me constantly, and I awkwardly ask public places to fill it as often as I can. However, I would say I don’t hydrate as often as should given my activity level. I think I’m hydration-proficient when it comes to the Average Person, however given the excess amounts of sweat I create during the day, I should probably be drinking more water—especially later in the day.

However, I really only ever drink water (and one cup of coffee in the morning), so at least my hydration is coming from the purest source.

Changes Necessary? Yes. I firmly believe that runners should pay a lot of attention to how hydrated they are. I know that above all other factors, if I’m dehydrated on a run it makes the most noticeable difference.

 

Rule #2:Thou Shalt Stretch

Grade: B+

If the “importance of stretching” were limited to pre and post run, I would probably get more of a C in this category. Admittedly, I’m not stellar at stretching immediately after a run, and I hardly ever stretch beforehand. However, I’m a dedicated yogi, and I credit the 2-3 hours I spend a week on my mat toward my stretching grade. This is actually a debatable topic for runners; while many argue for the value of stretching, there are many intense distance runners who claim to never stretch (Dean Karnazes for example…although his “human” credibility is questionable). The science behind the importance of stretching is variable as well, so this is definitely an area where I’d argue to do what works best for you.

Changes Necessary? Not really, BUT that is very dependent on continuing to do things such as yoga and foam rolling. Additionally, BF and I take turns torturing rolling each others’ calves with The Stick (remember that Friday “Favorite”?), which I think helps with our muscle relief. So, I would say my habits are working for me, but the measures I do take to remain stretched and loose must be maintained.

 

Rule #3 Thou Shalt Cross-Train

Grade: A

I have to say I’m proud of myself for this one. I never, ever used to think that anything other than running was a viable workout. I thought a sweat was wasted if it wasn’t spent on a run, so it definitely took me a while to really learn to appreciate (and love!) a cross-training routine. And truthfully, I was kind of forced to—when I got hurt almost a year ago (due to excessive running) cross training was my only exercise option for a solid three months. And I’m actually grateful for it, because now I not only enjoy other activities other than running, I definitely think they make me a stronger and smarter runner. I 100% believe spinning has helped my speed, swimming has helped my recovery and cardio strength, and yoga has helped quicken my muscle repair.

This is actually another debatable point in terms of “proper” running training. Many people vouch for it, however there is a large number of people who think the only way to be a better runner is to run, and that’s all. I definitely see both sides, and while there are days I’d much rather run than anything else—I know my body really thrives most when there’s variety in my workout routine.

Changes Necessary? Not right now. If there is a time when I’m really looking to amp up my training (either for increased speed or increased race length) then maybe I’ll need to tone down the cross-training, but for now I think that as long as I’m getting my marathon-prep miles in, there’s no reason to cut out the cross training.

 

Rule #4Thou Shalt Fuel

Grade(s):

Pre-run: B, Mid-run: D, Post-run: A

So, I’ll leave the debate of what to fuel with for another discussion, but in general I would say that the grades above are pretty much how the running industry would rate my fueling abilities. If I have a long run in the morning, I’m better about pre-run fueling for sure, but for just an every-day run I normally only have a handful of cereal and a few sips of water. It could be better for sure, but it does work for me and I have a persnickety digestive system to begin with, so I don’t really care to experiment.

As I mentioned in Monday’s post, I’m really bad at fueling during my runs. Honestly, I’ve tried the whole gummies/gels/etc gunk, and all it does is make my stomach hurt. I wish they worked, and I think I might be able to condition myself to stomach them a bit better, but I really prefer a sports drink instead. That said, I only actually bring fuel on a run if it’s a really long run—another reason for my D grade.

As for post run re-fueling, I think I’m pretty good about the whole “carb-to-protien” ratio or whatever it is we’re supposed to do. I almost always eat within an hour of running, and I make sure that it’s something at least marginally substantial. I can really only credit my voracious appetite to my skills in this category, in that it only takes about 20 minutes after a run to set my appetite a-flame.

Oh, and in terms of calorie replacement after a long run—I have no issues there. See: My addiction to cookies.

Changes Necessary? Some. I would like to be a better mid-run fueler, and I think that as my marathon training increases, I’m not going to have a choice but to get used to the gummy energy thingers—unless I want to feel like total crap by the end. Also, I’ve started to get hungry during my runs more frequently, so I’m thinking I’m going to try adding something a little more substantial beforehand.

 

Rule #5 Thou Shalt Take Rest Days

Grade: C-

I am really, really trying to get better at this—and I think I am, but as I’ve said it’s not in my nature to intentionally take rest days. I know I justify my lack of rest days with cross-training… as in: well, I’m not running—therefore it’s okay. And actually, there are days where I’ll only do yoga or a light swim, but overall I would say I must be more programmed to completely let my body regroup and relax.

Changes Necessary? Yes, and it’s a work in progress—I promise!

 

So there you have it. Five very basic rules that I would say the majority of the running world agrees upon. I didn’t even get into shoe replacement, speed work, and proper training plans, because there’s way too much variety and—again—I don’t think there’s one right answer. I actually don’t believe there’s necessarily a “right” answer for the rules I’ve stated.

However, my goal is to show you that sure, there are some guidelines to this whole running thing, and as an active distance runner, I’m both sub par and exceptional for different ones. The point is that while I’ve acknowledged the areas I could improve upon, there are certain nuances that I don’t abide by and it’s no big deal. Not that my running career is scientific proof of anything (English major folks, and a liberal arts school one at that), BUT I hope that I’ve shown the importance of analyzing what works best for you.

So listen to the experts, read the studies, and buy the books, but remember that the most credible source of information is your own body. It knows better than anyone else what does and doesn’t work for you as a runner—and in the end that’s who you should be abiding by.

 

NOW YOU! What grades would you give yourself for these running “rules”?

 

 

 

Reading and Running

Hello!

I hope your Monday has been a little bit more action-packed than mine. Unless you count sitting on the couch at home working, absorbing heat from your laptop, and eating your body weight in peppermint bark as action-packed—and in that case I have been pro-duc-tive!

NOT.

It’s alright…Monday tends to be slow and steady for me anyway.

Today, I wanted to talk a bit about a recent addition to my passion for running—one that has not only helped get me out on the roads but has inspired my overall mentality and purpose behind running: Reading about running!

It sounds somewhat simplistic, however I honestly had not thought to read words from other runners until one of my friends ended up shoving a book in my face, proclaiming that I “HAD” to read it.

Now, mind you when I first started reading books about running, I was still very much injured and pretty bitter toward anyone who had the mobility of their legs.

Too much? Yes. At the time, though, I was going through some serious running withdrawls, and I was jealous of anyone who had the capacity to run even one mile without their hip searing in pain (this was me for three months).

However, I wanted to feel like I was still a part of the running community, and the only way to do that was the bit the bullet and keep up with those in the running world.

This is when I discovered Dean Karnazes. Specifically, his book Ultramarathon Man.

Dean has been featured in every media channel possible; magazines, television, movies, newspapers, etc.—they all want to tell a piece of Dean’s story. Those of you who have never heard of him, I’ll give you a brief synopsis of this ultramarathon man:

He’s one of the most incredible athletes in the world, he has inspired thousands of runners and non runners to reach further than they ever thought possible, and he is certifiably and positively NUTS.

This dude has run 50 marathons, in 50 states, in 50 days in a row. He has run a marathon to the South Pole, he has done the Badwater ultra multiple times (the hardest footrace on earth), and he has run across the United States stopping only for brief naps along the way. Additionally, he has done every crazy/inhuman running race imaginable, and he continues to come up with new ways in which to challenge the potential of the human body.

And all because of one small, simple fact: He loves to run.

Despite the fame that Dean’s acquired through all of his coverage, it is a genuine love of human endurance that keeps his endeavors alive. Reading his books is addicting; certainly, his stories and adventures defy all logic in terms of athletic accomplishment—but to me the most engaging parts of his writing are just how possible he makes it all sound.

Sure, his resting HR and running form may rank in the superior range, however for the most part he is just an average guy who found something that he loved and went after it. Reading about the feats he takes on, absurd as they may be, he makes the goal of doing a marathon or even a 50k seem, well, do-able.

When I first started reading Dean’s books, I was convinced that I was a half-marathoner through and through, and if I were ever to try and do a full marathon it would be years away and a one-shot type of deal.

After being so inspired by his accomplishments and humble story-telling, I was not only motivated to complete a full marathon, but I actually believed that I could do it. I was done with being an injured, reckless runner who limited herself to only one distance. No, I was going to take the next step, throw my doubts aside, and go for the beast of all races.

And here I am, 5 months after recovery and not only have I completed one marathon, I’m planning my next year around the next marathons I want to do.

Okay, I realize how obnoxiously cocky this all might sound—but I promise I have a point. While my inspiration came from a variety of sources, I really believe that reading about running was and is one of the most effective means to achieving my goals as a runner. These goals can be as big as running a marathon or as small as getting out of bed in the morning for a short run, but I have come to fully appreciate the power of words as a runner.

One of the best things about runners is their unwavering ability to provide their wisdom, experiences, and support to other runners. This is why I believe runners love to read books, magazines, blogs, and even Twitter feeds about running. Running is a sport that forces us to be humble, patient, and smart—but it also yields an intangible amount of glory, peace, and feeling of accomplishment. The dichotomy of these two facets of running makes runners eager and willing to share their experiences with others and also incredibly receptive to hearing stories from others.

There’s a reason why the familiar “runner’s nod” is so genuine no matter where you are.

I love this about running, and frankly I can’t get enough of reading the words of other runners. There is no “right” way to run, and therefore reading about what works for some gives a multidimensional guise to this sport that is so simple in principle.

One of the primary reasons I started my blog was because I became so hooked on reading other blogs about running. I stumbled upon Ali on the Run, a NYC based runner and writer, and from there I found an entire network of females my age who loved all the same things I do—namely, running.

I got enamored with reading all their stories of training, successes, failures, and everything in between that makes up the lives of runners. I loved the idea of combining two of my greatest passions—running and writing—into one single space, and this is how Run Birdie Run was born.

I want to highly encourage anyone in search of some motivation, inspiration, or simply entertainment to try out the stories of runners. We are a group of people who seek nothing from our sport other than personal success and endorphin-induced happiness, and somehow we can’t seem to talk enough about it.

Here are some suggestions (both print and web) I have if you’re interested in some good running reads:

-Dean Karnazes’ Ultramarathon Man, Run!, and 50/50

-Kristin Armstrong’s Mile Markers book and blog

Runner’s World Magazine 

-Running blogs. They are all over, and once you find a few you love—you’ll be visiting them daily!

I’m in the midst of acquiring Soul Sisters, Running on Empty, and Chi of Running as my next running-based reads.

What kind of running reading do you do? Suggestions? Does reading about running keep you inspired, or does it overwhelm you?

Running for Fun

I think it was Dean Karnazes who said in one of his books, “Running isn’t fun. It’s too hard to be fun.” He explains that it feels good, it’s refreshing, and the end result is worth the work; however, even for the most devoted runners, “fun” is never really associated with our sport.

As I was on my weekly long run yesterday, I began thinking about this notion of having fun while running. Sure, I often get “cravings” to be out running, and I always feel accomplished and content after I’ve finished a run.

But what about having fun while running?

As I brought this to the front of my mind, I decided that since I spend 2+ hours out of my Sunday running, maybe I should try to focus on the actual time itself instead of the before and after. I find that with running, we can get so consumed with all the things we do before (fueling, hydrating, getting enough sleep, proper attire, etc.) and after (re-fueling, stretching, relaxing) that sometimes the actual act of running itself gets lost. I believe wholly in preparing and debriefing a run properly, however I’m realizing that these specifics lose their significance if we don’t take time during our run to be present.

Kara Goucher, professional runner and all-around bad ass chick, has a fantastic quote that really resonates with me:

“Do the work. Do the analysis. But feel your run. Feel your race. Feel the joy that is running.”

I love this. Running, particularly competitive running, needs to be about numbers and analysis and scrutiny. However, in order for these specifics to be worthwhile and satisfying, we must recognize the momentary joys of running. Sometimes it’s as simple as listening to our own breath and dropping all other thoughts from our heads. I know personally I am prone to concentrating on tons of other things while on runs. My thoughts normally go something like this:

This pace feels fast…I wonder if I should slow down? I’ll see how long I can keep it up. But wait, I don’t want to get injured. Well, let’s see how I continue to feel. A fast run will warrant a good breakfast too. Hmm what should I have? And what should we make for dinner? I should probably go grocery shopping today. What all should go on the list…? Ah list! I have to finish yesterday’s to-do list. If I don’t send that check today it’s going to be late. Why’s that so hard for me to remember? I should be better about staying on top of things. There’s definitely parts of me that are Type A, but I don’t really want to totally be Type A. What do I normally say in interviews again about personality type?

Does this sound familiar?

Honestly, there’s nothing wrong necessarily with these types of mind distractions. Sometimes it’s helpful to concentrate on other thoughts, however I am starting to see this random back-and-forth way of thinking as a waste of a run. It sounds a bit cheesy and perhaps elitist, but I’ve realized that running provides a great opportunity for both mental clarity and serenity. Rarely do we get an opportunity away from our cars, tvs, computers, and smartphones where our only source of stimulation is our brains (and sometimes an iPod). We spend all day sorting through the busy thoughts that constantly fill up our brain space, so why should we let that clutter enter our running time?

I’m starting to think that if I’m able to push aside the heaviness of the daily grind while I’m running and focus on the present moment, the act and simplicity of running itself, then running just may become fun. I think it’s easy for us to simply say that running is our “me” time and our stress-reliever, however unless we consciously make an effort to relish, savor, and bask in our time spent running, we will not be able to fully appreciate the glories a run can hold.