How Halloween fuels an endurance athlete

How Halloween fuels an endurance athlete

November 1st already. And it feels like winter here in Northeast Illinois. Trick or treating in these parts has been postponed due to the three inches of snow that fell yesterday. So, I guess it’s okay to still write about Halloween.

Having grown up Catholic, the first of November was always a holy day (All Saints Day) and a day off for us Catholic School kids. That meant the opportunity to stay up late sorting and counting our candy haul. For years it was a tradition to sleep over my friend Tracy’s. She lived in the best neighborhood for trick or treating – lots of generous home owners, lots of kids, and streets with only a little traffic.

We grew up in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey – a wealthy suburb of New York City. It’s more recently been the home to The Real Housewives of New Jersey (for the record they are nothing like the people we knew there). It also had one acre zoning. Tracy and I both became endurance athletes, perhaps as a result of being able to navigate that whole neighborhood in just a few hours 40-some years ago!

I didn’t realize what a feat that was until my daughter started trick or treating. We lived in Paramus at the time. The entire neighborhood was quarter acre lots. Theoretically these kids were hitting four houses in the time it took us to hit one! And today’s kids are spoiled! Parents now follow the kids around the neighborhood with a wagon or maybe even the family SUV or minivan stocked to rival an aid station on a marathon course.

Back in the day we just sustained ourselves by eating some candy. I never remember having water. We must have been pretty dehydrated by the end of the night. Thankfully it was cold enough most years that I never remember working up much of a sweat. The one thing I never remember having to contend with was snow.

When my daughter and her friends were finally able to go trick or treating without parental supervision, Halloween (or rather trick or treating) was cancelled two years in a row! The first time for an unusual late-October snow, the second because of Hurricane Sandy. In both cases the area was without power. Understanding, although disappointing.

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All ready but no trick or treaters. Vernon Hills, Illinois.. Halloween 2019.

I was disappointed yesterday. I was looking forward to trick or treaters. I didn’t get many at my apartment last year. This year Kurt said I didn’t get enough candy for what he had seen in past years canvassing his development – townhouses, attached, doors that are very close together, efficient.

Since I was home all day yesterday with the candy and no trick or treaters…yeah, we need more candy for the kids expected tomorrow. I made sure I got my run in this morning. Four miles on the treadmill. Fueled with a few Milky Ways and perhaps a half-dozen Reese’s. Some things about Halloween never change.

Although too slippery for running, it sure was pretty. Vernon Hills, Illinois. October 2019.
Four ways to make the best of the treadmill

Four ways to make the best of the treadmill

This has been a tough week. It’s cold AF in Chicago.

I started a part-time job a week ago at the running retailer Fleet Feet Chicago. Since then we had some sort of snow every day. Plows and salt are barely making a dent. Nothing is melting. The temperature hasn’t risen above freezing in well over a week. This morning it was minus 21. Yes, that’s Fahrenheit. And yes, that’s the actual temperature. The wind chill was said to be about -53.

And yet we run. Read more

The Art of Running in the Rain

The Art of Running in the Rain

It don’t matter if it’s raining
Nothing can phase me
I make my own sunshine
And if you think you can break me
Baby you’re crazy
I make my own sunshine

“I make my own Sunshine” by Alyssa Bonagura, and recorded by Steven Tyler

I have a lot going on right now. My house just went on the market, so there’s lots of people coming through to look at it – and there is of course the constant battle to keep it neat and ready for the next realtor’s call. I’m also getting ready to launch two spring beginner 5k group training programs next week and there’s my own marathon training. Read more

Where heart meets sole

Where heart meets sole

The Surf City Half Marathon last Sunday was better than expected. The last time I ran with my boyfriend it was a six mile training run on the first Saturday in December near his home in Illinois. About two miles in, I stopped laid down on the grass and didn’t want to get up. I did. But I felt it was going to be a long road back. Surf City was only eight weeks away.

When I started running over twenty years ago I liked the solitude of it. It was an escape of sorts. “Me” time.  Find a training partner is advice often given to new runners because the idea is that if you know someone is waiting for you, you’ll get up and out, not wishing to let them down. Or maybe, as my mother would say, “misery loves company.” Regardless, it’s not bad advice. The camaraderie among fellow runners certainly provides motivation. I always recommend that new runners join a beginner group training program* because of the motivation created by being part of something bigger than yourself. When I started out, however, I was a loner and that suited me just fine. Then.

Everyone starts running for a variety of reasons, the least of which is that any of us actually liked to run. I have found that we are mostly running away from something or to something. A lot of runners I know are former addicts. Many are avoiding difficult relationships. Almost everyone starts running as a means to cope with some sort of stress or anxiety. When I started running I needed to be alone. Some people do better as part of a group. Others don’t. It probably depends a lot on your personality plus the reason you’re running.

I joined a running club about 15 years ago. I didn’t start participating in any of the group runs until much later however. One winter they started a Saturday morning group run of various distances and paces. Knowing that there were people I could run with got me up and out almost every weekend during those cold months. I began to see the advantages of training partners and running friends. I remember being glad that my mother died on a Tuesday morning because that was the day of my club’s summer evening workout and I needed to be with supportive people and to run off the hurt. I have found races to be more fun when there are others that care about my results almost as much as I do. Running, I found, could be a team sport and those relationships have become some of my most rewarding and most cherished.

No surprise then that I would now find myself in a romantic relationship with a fellow runner. As runners, he and I understand one another on a level that those who came before could not. Running together, we are completely in sync. Running, even when living and training 800 miles apart, is a bond that motivates us everyday. Although there are a million and one reasons why I’m connected so fully to this wonderful man, he has become the motivation for why running continues to figure so prominently in my life everyday. Because there is someone I want to be accountable to about my training, because I want to be able to run with him, because I know he’ll be there at my side for those long runs (literally and figuratively), and lastly because he signs us up for races months in advance, so I have no choice but to keep training. 🙂

There are runners who have amazingly successful partnerships with people who don’t run. So I’m not saying that can’t work. There’s a magnitude of reasons we connect with the people we do; successful relationships are not one-dimensional.  That said, it’s important for us to surround ourselves with people that motivate us to be better. If you want to be a runner, or a better runner, or a more motivated runner, spend some time regularly with other runners.

“Who you hang out with determines what you dream about and what you collide with. And the collisions and the dream lead to your changes. And the changes are what you become. Change the outcome by changing your circle.” – Seth Godin

After that weekend in early December when I crashed and burned on a six mile run, I got motivated. He was so understanding. He acknowledged my difficultly and reminded me of all that I had been able to achieve in the past and encouraged me to keep going. I did the training I needed to do to get to the start – and the finish – of the Surf City Half Marathon. I ran strong. Every step in sync with him. And the road back wasn’t as long as I thought it was going to be because I had never really abandoned my training completely. With another runner figuring so prominetly in my life, I just couldn’t. At the very least, I’d still have to talk about running.

img_5869Huntington Beach, California. Home of the Surf City Marathon and Half. February 2017.

Looking for something for your Runner Valentine? I found a really cute, and super comfortable running top at the Surf City Expo from AEVOK APPAREL. To get yours and see what they have for men, go to AEVOK.COM. (and no they didn’t pay me or even give me a discount for this endorsement. Just some really nice people making some really cool stuff).

 

 

*If you are in the Bergen County, New Jersey area, my running club has an awesome Beginner to Finisher 5k program that begins on March 18. Click here for more information.

 

 

The Plan

The Plan

So, have you been working out? Or are you still struggling to get into a good routine? I will confess, I’ve been struggling. Not with sticking to my workout schedule; but rather sticking to my blogging schedule! Thankfully I started a workout routine just after Thanksgiving and it’s now a habit. It’s that with everything going on in our country and the world, I’ve found it a little difficult to sit down this week to write about training. It seems at times, trivial. I remembered however, that we need to workout to keep our stress levels manageable – regardless of where you stand on the issues.

So I don’t want to let you down if you’ve come here looking for motivation. If you haven’t gotten going yet, not to worry. Do not throw in the towel on your goals because you didn’t exactly stick to your New Year’s resolution. That’s what I hate about New Year’s Resolutions. Too often people feel it’s all or nothing. Every day is a new day, so if you haven’t started yet, you still can. If you have, good for you!

The best way to get into a routine, is to have a plan. Let’s start there. Creating and/or following a training plan provides easy to follow step by step instructions. You wouldn’t prepare a holiday meal without a menu and recipes, would you? You wouldn’t manage a big project at work without planning it out first either. You’d probably create a timeline, too. That’s exactly where to start with a training plan.

If you are new to running or getting back after a long break or injury, start slowly.  For me, this is a building year. My ultimate goal is a Boston Marathon Qualifying Time at the NJ Marathon next year. This year, I have a spring goal race and a fall goal race. Both Half Marathons. So right now, I’m only looking at the spring goal. Your goal should be determined by your previous experience, current training/fitness level, how much time you have to dedicate to training, and how much time you have until the goal race. Will you have enough time for the appropriate amount of training? And a training rule worth sticking to is the 10% rule. Meaning that each week, you shouldn’t add more than 10% on to what you did last week.

Designing my training plan, I work backwards. Goal race is April 30. The 16-week training plan began the 2nd week in January. It involves a weekly long run designed to gradually build my endurance for the distance of my goal race, a speed session, and a “threshold” run or two (that’s a run of about 85-90% of max heart rate or “comfortably hard”), and a recovery (slower) run.  I typically only run 4 days a week. And there is value in recovery and rest days! I also cross train – for me, swimming. I also try to working in a few sessions of Pilates, yoga and/or strength training each week. Maintaining core strength and flexibility is a key factor in preventing injuries, as is doing a solid warm-up at the beginning of each work-out and a stretching routine afterwards.

I’ve been running for over 20 years. I am a certified running coach and I’ve worked with a coach. I know what, in theory, works. I also know through years of trial and error what specifically works for me. So where do you, as a beginner or novice, go for a training plan for your specific goal race? If you are a beginner, you should look no further than a local “beginner to finisher” or “couch to 5k” program. First, as a beginner, I strongly urge you not to tackle a first race longer than a 5k. A beginner group will give you the organized plan, the benefits of having a coach, and the company of others. To find a group near you, Google “beginner run group” to see what comes up or leave a comment below and I will try to help. If you’re a walker who is new to running, you might find some helpful tips in this article, published recently on Sparkpeople.com, in which I am quoted: 9 Real-World Tips from Walkers Who Became Runners.

If you’ve already run your first race and are ready to work on increasing speed or distance, there are a ton of books out there, as well an abundance of online resources, including apps. Hal Higdon is probably one of the most popular and well respected (www.halhigdon.com). His training plans offer something for every distance and every level. Runner’s World (runnersworld.com) besides offering lots of useful information in their monthly publication also has training plans designed to meet a specific goal like weight loss, maintaining fitness, tackling a new distance or faster time. Lastly, (but of course not at all least of the options), hire a coach. A coach provides the accountability, and real-time feedback that you can’t get from a book, website or app. A coach can also make adjustments throughout your training based on how you are responding. To find a certified coach visit Road Runners Club of America or USA Track & Field websites.

Regardless of what plan you use, sticking to it builds discipline and focus…and certainly a sense of accomplishment, which will boost self-esteem.  Exercising clears the head and relieves stress. I would add that getting outside for a run (rather than the treadmill all winter), if you can, is best. I have found lately that running on the treadmill at the gym in front of the morning news might elevate my heart rate a little too much.

img_5691Saddle River County Park, Dunkerhook Area, Paramus, New Jersey. January 2017.