Sunday, January 27, 2013

Gear Report: Yurbuds

I really love having a bird for a pet. Archie is endlessly entertaining, but the things that make him so cute are also the things that cause him to be a nuisance. Case in point, our curious little birdie recently chewed through the cord of my earbuds. Not all the way through, but just enough that the wires poke through the plastic coating and scratch my neck. Enough that it causes a distraction that messes with my run.

Oh yeah, he LOOKS innocent all right.
This was before the Naples Half, so I wore a pair of M's earbuds for that race. They hurt my ears, were too loud, and fell out once I started sweating. I knew I needed a new pair. I really love the earbuds that come with iPods, but I may be in the minority there. Anyway, Apple has come out with their new version, and I wasn't sure if I'd like them. For $30, I wanted to be sure I was getting headphones I really loved.
Left and Right are clearly labeled.
So I did some research, and decided to get a pair of Yurbuds. I'd heard from other runners that these are excellent for all kinds of reasons. For one thing, they're specially designed to lock into your ear so they don't jiggle. The enhancers are medical-grade silicone, removable for easy washing, and designed to lock into place without putting pressure on sensitive spots in the ear.

On top of all that, they allow ambient noise to be clearly heard while still delivering excellent sound-quality. (This was important to me, because I like to be able to hear cars - or other runners - when I'm running.)

They're the same price as the Apple earbuds, so I picked up a pair in blue. (They come in pink, green, yellow, orange...and multiple other color choices. Target carried them all.) The first run I had with them had me hooked. They did not bounce at all. Even the wires didn't pull or twist; I didn't have to readjust any part of them during the entire run. This is a big deal, since I wear my earphone wires inside my shirt, and I'm usually caught groping around midway into a run to rearrange the cord as it migrates. They were super-comfy. I could hear passing cars and M's conversation even while listening to my music. I almost felt like I wasn't wearing anything in my ears at all!

But wait, there's more! The company guarantees a perfect fit. If your Yurbuds don't fit, you can take a picture of yourself wearing them and they'll create a specialty-fit enhancer just for you, free of charge.
I mean...this is just awesome.
I'm sold on these. I got the Inspire for Women; the box comes with two sizes of enhancers, and the smaller size fits my ears really well. They carry tons of choices, including over-the-ear styles and styles equipped for iPhones, complete with water-resistant microphone.

And did I mention that the more expensive options feature cloth-covered cords so they'll never tangle, and other crazy features? Check out their website here for more details.

So if you're looking for a new pair of earbuds, I highly recommend these. They come in a variety of colors, they're comfortable, they enhance your safety because they allow ambient noise, they provide great sound-quality, and they're sweat and water-resistant. They're worth every penny, especially when you compare them to what I was using before. I can't wait to wear these in a race!


Wednesday, January 23, 2013


If there's a such thing as a link-hoarder, I am definitely one of them. I click anything that looks remotely interesting, and often keep the window open until I feel I've really learned the information or have shared the article around with enough people. Right now I have 10 tabs open in Firefox, and many of them are days old.

The good news is that many of these are running links. I don't want to close them in case I can't find them again and am in desperate need. How will I ever know where I filed that article on the Seven Most Common Running Injuries? My bookmarks are cluttered and unmanageable. Once I bookmark an article, it's gone. Out of sight, out of mind.

So to remedy this situation, I bring you a kind of potpourri of a post. It will set my mind - and my browser - at ease, and have the added benefit of sharing a bunch of stuff I think needs sharing.

To begin, I'm keeping a few blogs open that I've been following semi-religiously.  Shut Up + Run has been around what seems like forever. SUAR is funny, blunt, and not afraid to let it all hang out. If you want an uplifting running-related read daily (and aren't afraid to hear the gross side of running), definitely check it out. (Two of her most-viewed posts are "How to Not Crap Yourself on the Run" and "20 Things No One Tells You About Running". She also occasionally does give-aways of great running gear.)

Hungry Runner Girl is another lighthearted blog run (no pun intended) by a seasoned distance runner (and new mom). I like that her posts always touch on running, but also include non-running daily-life stuff. (This blog makes me wish I had an iPhone to run with, or a tiny running-friendly camera...Oh, and mountains. It makes me wish I had mountains.)

For another blog that follows that tendency, Go Crow Go! is a mostly-running-but-sometimes-not blog that is more about personal growth and the journey. It's akin to my blog, and I like seeing inside someone else's head as they take the highs and lows of running in stride. Run Fat Boy! Run! is another such blog. His story, personal struggles, love for his family, and amazing endurance in the face of difficulties makes this blog worth the read.

I recently read this article on Yasso 800s and their magical ability to predict marathon time. I wish I could post the video straight to this post, but if you're interested, follow the link. It's an awesome concept and a workout I definitely want to try over summer.
Finally, I watched this TEDxTalks video featuring a long-distance runner/cardiologist with some interesting theories on running speeds and distances. Data seems to show that running is beneficial, but moderation is key. This isn't going to get me to stop running long distances, and the point isn't to tell us not to run marathons. But when it comes to running and health, this 18-minute video shares a lot of useful knowledge.


On a final note (I mean it this time), I woke up today with absolutely no muscle soreness and without any knee pain. Using my foam roller and flat-band have really helped my ITBS. I am so excited to start training again this week. I will definitely post some awkward photos of my new exercise/recovery techniques sometime soon. For the greater good, of course, and because I love a little public humiliation.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Naples Daily News Half Marathon 2013

Well, the first race of the year is out of the way. That's quite a way to think of it, huh? K and I arrived early, which was good because it gave us time to do a warmup lap and use the porta-potties before it got busy. Hurray, toilet paper!

We found A, another one of our running friends, and her sister and husband. Her sister runs closer to my pace, so while A was aiming for a PR and K wanted to come in under 2:00, A's sister and I were able to run at a more comfortable pace together for the first five miles or so.

The course map.
The weather was pretty nice. Mid-to-high 60s, overcast. It was a little humid, and I found early on that I was dehydrated. I hadn't had enough water throughout the week, I think. Anyway, one of my old students was handing out water at the first water station where we stopped; it was fun to give him a little wave as we went by. I love knowing my old students are still involved in sports and community outreach.

I was feeling pretty good up to about mile 8. Then, some back pain set in. My knees were absolutely perfect during the race. My ITBS stretches have really been paying off; I'll make a post about them for those that are interested. But I must have been neglecting my core, because my shoulders and lower back were really tight and achy.

Because of the humidity, I stopped at each water station to drink. This definitely slowed down my pace. If I had been able to skip a couple, I think I would have come in around 2:20, which was my unofficial goal. However, pausing for water, and then slowing my pace afterward to avoid cramping up, paired with the long course (close to 14 according to my Nike+) really took a toll. I ended up feeling defeated and sluggish in the last mile.
R and K had my back as I finished up!

But finally, finally, I was at the quarter mile mark. K and her oldest daughter (my G-ddaughter) met me at the last corner and began running with me. Little R is just shy of three years old, and she kept shouting, "Look, I'm running!" Of course a million people wanted to take pictures of this and kept exclaiming how cute she was. (She tends to get that reaction a lot.)

At that corner, M and K's husband were taking photos/video, so I plastered on a smile and waved. I didn't have it in me for a final sprint.
I made it!

My time was 2:37:41. Not nearly my best, but this is only my third Half, and the first time I ran this race my time was 2:56, so I'm happy with the improvement. It's weird, because the course is tree-lined, flat, paved, and really lovely. It should be an easy race.

As much as I love the price of this race, especially for the amenities, I think it’s too quiet to keep my energy high. The main problem seems to be the time of year. After the holidays and the break for New Years, it’s hard to get back into real training. I didn’t feel prepared for this race, and it definitely showed. The lack of motivation to keep my running going bit me in the butt.

All done!
I’m glad I did better than last time we ran this course, but I’m not happy with my results. I don’t know if I’ll plan to run this one again. There seems to be too much working against me. Maybe my January race for 2014 needs to be just a 5k...but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Overall, I'm feeling happy with the race and to have another medal to add to my collection.

Here are my lowly stats: age group: 81/109, gender group: 670/896.

I have a whole year to show improvement. I'm not too bummed about the results, because over the weekend I decided to just take this race as what it was: the first of the year. I'm looking forward to the rest of 2013.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Great Expectations

I've been mentally fixated on this one thing for a couple weeks now, and I think it's time to finally bring it into the light.

I am petrified of my Half on Sunday.

I want to put all this into words so that it will stop clanging around in my head, but there's so much there that it's hard to explain. I guess I'll start with a list to keep myself organized.

1. The NDN in 2011 was my first half marathon. I ran it without preparation. My time was 2:56. I finished with an injury, put my running on hold, and felt completely demoralized.

2. My half on Sunday is the same race, two years later. Since then, I've become a much stronger runner. I ran my November Half exactly as I wanted, loved every moment of it, and thought I'd lifted a weight from my shoulders by conquering it.

Nearing the end of NDN Half 2011
3. I know that in the past two weeks, I've slacked off more than I should have. (Self-defeating attitude, anyone?) I also know that since the November half, I've cut my mileage due to recovery and scheduling conflicts.

So where does this lead me? I guess I'm in that place where it's like, if I don't try, it doesn't say anything about me that I've failed. That's an attitude I sometimes cop when it comes to running, and it's one I try to destroy anytime I see it in others - namely, my students. So how can I say to them that failing shows you tried, and that's what counts, yet when it comes to myself, practice the exact thing I preach against?

I want so badly for this half to go better in 2013 than it did in 2011, and realistically there is NO WAY it could be worse. I also want this half to at least be comparable to the one in November, but that's unlikely. Am I aiming for a new PR? No. But I want to come in under 2:30, I want to run the entire thing, and I want to be uninjured at the finish line.

I was trying to explain all this to M and quickly dissolved into a fit of emotion that he simply couldn't comprehend. How can a single race be so stressful? How can I be looking forward to it while simultaneously trembling at the thought of running it? Why is all this mental baggage so. damn. heavy?

Whoever said running is 90% mental is right. Here I am, apprehensive of what Sunday will bring, yet also feeling strangely confident and excited. I think it's because my brain has become a battle ground. My body is ready for the run. I may not be in the shape I was in in November, but I can definitely run 13.1 miles as long as I set my own pace and have fun. (I've got a new playlist ready to go, put together with the help of, and I'm really itching for a good workout and a lovely, flat, beautiful course.) I've had multiple pain-free runs lately, I've been using my foam roller and flat-band religiously, and I'm doing all my hip stretches and core exercises. I'm also feeling more and more confident in my ability to run a full sometime this year.

So physically, I'm feeling okay. Good, even. But my stupid chatterbox brain won't shut up. Self-doubt is a runner-killer. I need to let my body brainwash my mind. I need to repeat over and over that I am capable, ready, and excited.

This is the first race of 2013, and I haven't run a race since November. Part of my anxiety is stemming from there. If I take this race as what it is - the first of the year - and put aside any expectations, I should be fine.

Now, I just have to convince my brain to play along.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Sunday, January 13, 2013

It's the Most Difficult Time of the Year...

I was mentally unprepared for obstacles I would be facing these last couple months. The race I trained all year for came and went, the holidays proved to be challenge that completely blindsided me, and three weeks off from school did something to my dedication.

Getting back into the grind is more difficult in January than it is after summer break. I think the main reason for this has to be that I was running all summer. I was still in my routine. But the holidays are a different challenge. You have free time, sure, but it's eaten up by a million commitments; you're dealing with pure exhaustion from the classroom sprint from Dec. 1 to Dec. 21. Three weeks off (17 days, technically) is enough time to begin to feel relaxed but not enough time to really get back into a good groove of calmed nerves and mental clarity. On top of that, you're dealing with holiday indulgences that make running difficult. 6 miles after a decadent pecan pie? A long run on the morning following a five-course Christmas feast? Yeah, right.

And bad food habits tend to snowball. Leftovers build up to a point where you're simply craving all that sugary, carby, buttery food - it flips a switch in your head that tells you that you need more more more. Well, at least, that's how it is with me.

So these past couple months, I've been over-indulging and under-training. Add to that the beginning of second semester and the return of 4:10am wakeups for morning runs, and you've got a recipe for disaster...or at least a recipe for utmost laziness. I've been too lackadaisical about my weekly miles. I've been almost in denial about this Half I have next weekend.

A big part of me thinks, well, hey, I know I can do it. I may not hit 2:15, but I'll be able to finish it. But I'm not really looking forward to running a really awesome race, because I just don't think I'm going to have one. (And since I still carry some baggage regarding this race, I think maybe I'm self-sabotaging. This Half is the same one I ran in 2011 that was so awful, and maybe I just feel, I don't know, defeated already?)

I don't know. This is my first real race season where I was completely busy and fully-scheduled for the entire duration. I think as a novice runner, I wasn't completely ready to be on top of training for a full six months. I'm finally seeing what being a year-round runner means, and it's tough.

This week was not a good one; I let myself miss too many runs. My Half being this coming weekend, I should have really used this week to my advantage, and now I'm wondering if the deficit in miles will have a negative impact on my race.

Nothing I can do about it now. Hoping this week is better, the weather cools down (85 in January, what the heck?!), and the race is solid and doesn't leave me feeling completely dejected.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Worth Its Weight

A friend of mine recently posted this article on the 25 Golden Rules of Running to my facebook, and boy am I glad she did! The "rules" in the column range from the practical (what to wear in certain weather) to the technical (how pace adjusts for different distances). While some of the information is common sense for me as a runner at this point, some of it was exactly what I needed. Here are some of the main things I found useful; I highly recommend checking out the full article.

The Seven Year Rule: Apparently, runners tend to plateau after they've been at the sport for seven years. This means that I still have three or four years of solid improvement ahead of me before I can really decide I've reached my peak. Does this mean I could someday be running races at a pace in the low-9s, or even the 8s? Here's hoping!

The Sleep Rule: For every mile you run a week, add a minute to your sleep-schedule. (Weeks I run 20 miles, I should be getting an extra 20 minutes of sleep a night.)

The 10-Degree Rule: For someone who constantly questions what to wear on a run, this was so helpful. Dress as though the temperature is ten degrees warmer than it says. That is, dress for your mid-run "feels-like" temperature. I overheat so easily, but seeing 40 on the thermometer (, since no one uses a thermometer anymore) freaks me out, but if I'm wearing long sleeves and running tights in that weather, I'll be boiling by the time I'm a mile in, and then my run suffers. Here's a handy chart from the article that I plan to commit to memory:

Click image to enlarge
The Long-Run Pace Rule: I was happy to read this rule because it makes me feel better about running 6+ miles at a snail's pace. Apparently it's recommended to add three minutes per-mile to your usual 5k pace to determine your long run pace. Now, I'd be running at 13:00+ if I did that, but running a long-run at 10:20 doesn't sound so bad now. PLUS, that tells me I could run my 5ks much faster than I have been if I just put my fear of having to stop and walk aside.

The article also included a pace prediction chart I absolutely love:

Click to enlarge.
I am most familiar with my 5k time, so looking at my usual 29-minutes, I can predict my other race times. According to this, if I really actually planned to run a full, I could get away with it in 4:34 (h:m) or so. Even more interesting? If I ran just a single mile, I could do so in 8:37ish (m:s). That's really quite something for me to read, because I never run such a short distance, and now I'm kind of interested to see how fast I could run it if I were planning to just gun it and go. I can't go full-throttle on the first mile of a 4-miler, but maybe if I planned to just run a single mile, I could test out what I'm really capable of.

The rest of the article touches on all kinds of things runners may like to look at, such as how to determine speedwork pace, when and how to start breaking in a new pair of shoes, and rules about recovery post-race or post-injury. Seriously, check it out.

I'm glad I did.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

2012 Year End Report

2012 was a roaring success. I'm so happy DailyMile sends out these yearly reports, because it puts things in perspective. My original definition of running more "consistently" meant I'd see no more blank months. Clearly, that worked. My two lowest mileage months - May and June - were both months during which I traveled.

Mileage went way up once I started running in the mornings (early August).

I can't complain. Here's to 2013!

Not too shabby!
I don't like to give myself a yearly mileage goal, so my 2013 resolutions stand as they are. I'd just like to have another active, successful year.


Monday, January 7, 2013

Weekly Report: December 31 - January 6

Only three runs and almost 18 miles? That tells you a little bit about distance, I guess! While this wasn't a great week, I was very pleased with my long run this weekend. It wasn't my fastest or strongest, but it was the first long run I've ever had where I experienced zero knee pain (and I didn't even wear my brace!), ran it pretty much solo (K and I did the first mile together and she waited for me at the end), and was able to complete the run despite forgetting to take my asthma medicine before I went. Plus, I had no residual muscle stiffness/soreness after, even though I had some (normal) quad soreness toward the end of the run.

I loved every moment of the cool, drippy fog and overcast skies. I had a brief rendezvous with a lamppost to stretch my hips at mile 7.5, but otherwise ran the entire thing keeping my posture in check. (I really wanted to try Chi Running but have no clue what it really is yet, so I was just kind of trying to lean forward from my hip joints instead of my waist, while keeping my torso straight.)

Anyway, fair week. Today was our first day back to work from winter break. The NDN Half is in 13 days. Yikes! Only one long run to go!

I think I'm finally feeling motivated again :o)


Friday, January 4, 2013

2013 Resolutions...Finally

Nice to get in a good run after I struggled so much earlier this week. Once again I see how much the sun affects me, both mentally and physically. I had a great nighttime tempo run with M, and am officially feeling back on track and ready for 2013. So, without further ado...

I have a very good reason for posting my 2013 new year's resolutions approximately a week late. Studies have shown that you are more likely to keep a resolution if you put time and thought into crafting it. No drunken "I'M GOING TO TRAVEL THE WORLD!" proclamations will do. As such, I usually begin thinking about my resolutions post-Christmas but don't finalize them until the new year has had a chance to set in. That way, I feel ready to let go of the old and welcome the new.

In my goodbye-2012 post, I looked back at my resolutions and summed up how far I'd gotten. I'm mostly pleased with this year's accomplishments, but for some reason I feel let down. Maybe because my last big hurrah of the year was so late in the year - my major goal was set for November, and when I met it, all the wind went out of my sails. That leaves an almost anti-climatic feeling in regard to the final month of 2012, and it's time to shake that. How? Why, by setting in stone (or at least, computer background) the next batch of resolutions!

My 2013 resolutions are detailed this year. I try to steer clear of that because the more detailed I am, the higher my chance of falling short. I like to meet my resolutions…so, the actual goals are numbered; the lettered detail(s) beneath those are my “go the extra mile” goals that I’d like to reach, but I've decided in advance to go easy on myself if I miss them. Seems like I maybe went too in-depth here, but I'm planning to have a really great year to look forward to.

2013 computer way to keep my eye on the prize!

1. This one will be, I think, the hardest. I'm not really in running for speed, and lately I've gotten a lot more out of my relaxed runs than the ones where I'm trying to improve on something. Still, I've been in the 29s for two years now. I'd like to see the 28s.

2. I already have two or three lined up this year, so barring any unforeseen circumstances, this one should be easy. I'm aiming for 2:10, but if I can break 2:10 this year I'd be really pleased. It's much faster than I'm comfortable with, but a fair goal to try for.

3. Same as last year...summer races not included because, of course, when race season ends, it's hard to find actual races. If I can find races in June/July/August, I'll plan to sign up.

4. I think this one is self-explanatory. I'm playing with the idea of running a full marathon either in November 2013 or sometime in 2014, and a super-long-run will help me figure out if I'm feeling ready.

5. This may be the hardest goal to keep. I want to avoid getting bogged down. I love training for races - it keeps me motivated and having fun. Still, I need to focus on where I personally want to see growth and on what makes me a happy runner. And yes, of course I'm not going to give up the blog just because 2012 is over!

(I now realize #5 is the only one I ended with a period. Because this annoys me, I had to share the grammatical error so that I'm not alone in my annoyance. You're welcome.)

So far my 2013 race season looks like this: 

January: Naples Half Marathon
February: FGCU 10k and Edison Festival of Light 5k
March: Hooters Half Marathon, Race for the Cure 5k, and the Fast and the Furriest 5k
April: 10k Run for the Music (Naples)
May: Turtle Trot 5k (Lover's Key)
November: Fort Myers Beach Half (or full) Marathon

(List compiled by K at her resolutions post and stolen by yours truly.)

...Obviously I'm still getting the details worked out. Hey, I can only commit to races that have been set up at this point!

Okay, so that's that. My new year starts...NOW.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Weekly Report: Dec. 24 - 30

I only got two runs in, which makes sense since this was Christmas-week. Not bad mileage for two measly runs, and this week included my beautiful and calming Christmas morning run.

I was visiting my sister early this week, and needed some time off because of the terrible run I had the other day. A packet of antibiotics later and some time to heal some emotional wounds, and I'm feeling ready for some good running for the remainder of the week. Less than 18 days until my next Half, and I still need to really plan out my resolutions for 2013. Post upcoming on that. Promise!