Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Minimalist Running in Winter

This is the first winter I've really spent much time running when it was very cold.  This is partially because we're having a colder winter than we had the past few years, and partially because in previous years I was a lot less serious about getting out there as often during cold weather.  The biggest question I get from other runners regarding my minimalist shoes is "Don't your feet get cold?"  The answer might surprise you.  Nope!  In fact, generally my feet are one of the warmest parts of my body despite the thinness of the soles of my (well worn) Merrells, along with the thinness of the upper.  My hands tend to be cold when I run in cold weather, but not my feet.  I do wear wool socks to help keep in warmth in case my feet get wet, since the upper extends very close to the ground and there can be some water seeping in if the road is wet or slushy.  So far I've run in 4 degree weather where my legs felt very cold, but my feet were perfectly warm.

The basic concept behind this is that your foot muscles are in use so much more than when they're being supported by arch support and all kinds of padding that you're pumping blood through there much faster.  I don't really have anything to compare with, since I've never run in conventional shoes in wintertime, but I have been hiking in winter boots and had my feet feel extremely cold/numb.  I know my feet are much more muscular than they were before I started running, so it seems to make sense that that's why they're not cold (muscles in use generate heat, right?), but I don't have any specific information on it.  Anyway, just thought I'd share that experience, in case there's people out there wondering how that goes.

Meantime, my Merrell Dash Gloves have over 1000 miles on them and I'm hoping to try out Skoras soon, since Merrell seems to have converted their entire "Barefoot" line to something less minimalist than I'd like to see.  I'll post a review once I've used them for a while.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

12 Ways a Marathon is Like Natural Childbirth

I might be kind of freaking out over my marathon that's coming up so soon, now.   The trepidation I have going on reminds me so much of preparing for labor.  When I was pregnant, planning a natural childbirth, the midwives always told me "labor is like a marathon, you gotta be in it for the long haul and you've got to prepare."  Coming up on my first marathon (omg, in just a couple weeks!!) has me thinking of all the ways that a marathon compares to childbirth.

1. You're preparing for months.  Both for labor and marathon training, you've got to start getting yourself prepared (mentally and physically!) starting months ahead of time.

2. The time leading up to the event is not necessarily comfortable.  There will be aches, there will be pains. You'll grin and bear it.

3.  You can use it as an excuse to eat like a horse!  Come on... we all do it.

4. You know it's going to hurt, but the a big question on how long it's going to hurt for and exactly how much.

5. Along the same lines, there's a big question as to how sore you'll be after.  Could be only a little, could require a wheel chair.

6. You oscillate between being excited and being terrified.  This is a huge life event and a huge accomplishment!  It's going to be so amazing and awesome when it's over... but it's no small feat to get there!

7.  Slight risk of death.  Let's face it:  People die, occasionally, while running marathons or giving birth.  It happens... the chances aren't huge, but it happens.

8. You worry about needing to poop during it.  Yep... during labor or during a marathon.  Mostly you hope to not poop your pants.

9. You need to try to figure out what you can eat and drink to keep your energy up without making you nauseous.  This is probably not something that people delivering at a hospital deal with, but I had two babies at home and we definitely needed to think about this.

10. You know you'll look awful in the pictures, but you still want to see them in all their sweat-soaked glory.

11. You hope you make it through without needing surgery.  Injuries happen.  C-sections happen.  Neither are ideal (for those planning a natural childbirth, at least).

12.  The only way out is through... just keep going.

Obviously having a baby is a bit bigger life event than running a marathon, and not everybody goes through childbirth the way I have, but I've been so amused at the parallels I've been drawing.  Hope you enjoyed them.  Please comment if you can think of more!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Running Stuff I Like

I've been pretty busy lately between marathon training and writer's block (aka, kids), so I thought I'd just drop in quickly and post about things I've been into lately in the running world.

  • My new compression socks.  I love these things.  My calves used to feel so, so tired at the end of long runs, but the compression socks keep my legs feeling fresh even at mile 19 (my longest run so far has been 20 miles).  I'm pretty thrilled.  And look how cool they are!  Neon green with crazy pink stars?  Yes, please.  And I got them on sale from  Check them out on facebook, seems they're consistently posting coupon codes, which I especially like because compression socks are pricey!  They have less, er, flamboyant ones, too, if you're into that kind of thing.
  • NUUN in kona cola flavor.  Because I'm low carb, I don't need a ton of fuel, but I do need electrolytes, and for whatever reason at the end of a long run I'm consistently CRAVING COLA, so this is perfect.  I was worried that it'd be kind of nasty-flat-soda-ish, but it's not.  Just don't expect coca-cola because it's not really that either.  Something about the gingery cola flavor really seems to settle my stomach, too.
  • The book "Train Like a Mother".  It's got funny anecdotes and interesting information and it's where my marathon training plan came from.  I'm using the Marathon "Own it" plan and I really like it because they organize it by which runs are completely required and which you can skip if you need to.  Perfect for busy moms.  
  • My garmin watch.  I was so torn on buying this because I ran with my phone with the endomondo app and it seemed to fill that purpose for me, but I so strongly prefer running with my garmin.  If you're on the fence, I'd say go for it.
  • Margarita flavored clif shot blocks.  As I said, I don't do a ton of fueling, but on the 20 milers I'll have a few shot blocks (like maybe 4 or 5 over the course of the 3 1/2 hr run).  I far prefer the margarita ones... they're tasty and not overly gooey-sweet like all the other stuff seems to be.  They have extra salt in them, too, which has been great for me in all this extreme heat and humidity.
  • My Smiths sunglasses.  I've had them for years and they're my best friend on a sunny day.
  • Running along the beach.  Because beach.  Even despite the humidity.

    And with that, I'm out.

    What's your favorite running stuff?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Cleaning the House in 40 Minutes a Day? Or: How Running Made Me a Better Housekeeper.

Behold, the sparkling clean trash can of day 2!
My history with housekeeping has been a long and messy one (ha!). I've never been the greatest housekeeper, though the months we were selling our house, I really kicked it up a notch and pulled through, but BOY was that a lot of work.  I've typically been terrible at following schedules, so all the fly lady stuff never really worked for me.  Especially since her #1 focus seems to be waking up each day and shining your sink.  I just don't care if my sink sparkles, as long as it's not disgusting, I guess. 

I recently stumbled on this thirty day cleaning schedule from Apartment Therapy.  Well, to be honest, I ran across the kitchen one, first.  Twenty minutes per day?  That feels doable!  I decided to start the kitchen cleaning schedule on June 1.  I'm thinking I'm going to do both, though, I just need to catch up on the house cleaning schedule by spending a little extra time today.

This brings me to my first problem: I'm terrible at following schedules (at least, when no one else is specifically counting on me for it).  Here's the thing, though.  After following my half-marathon training plan, following a cleaning plan actually feels like it's no big deal.  I think I can commit to 30 days, and I honestly think I'll be pleased enough with the results that I'll want *WANT* to continue. 

Let's hear it for learning discipline!  This gives me hope of managing to get myself on some kind of homeschooling schedule.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Training Notes

First, I've caught crazy and signed up for a (mini) triathlon.  I don't think it should be too bad, it's only a 250yd swim, 5 mile bike, 2 mile run.  I think I should be done in around 50 minutes.  It's funny because I had put it off for so long because I thought I hated swimming laps.  In the past, every time I swam laps I felt so BORED and just hated it.  I don't know what happened, maybe the kids have really pushed me past my limits and I'm desperate for quiet, or maybe it's just via all the running without music I've gotten used to the silence.  I'm actually enjoying the lap swims!  It's started pretty slow, I couldn't swim more than 50 yds at a time without feeling like I couldn't breathe, but now I'm able to swim 500 and then take a short break and swim 500 more.  I'm pretty pleased with my progress.

Interestingly, the cycling part of the tri training is not so appealing to me. though I had thought I'd enjoy it.  I love riding our tandem bicycle with my husband, but I am not loving riding in town, by myself.  Maybe I would like doing group rides, better.  Hopefully when my kids' evening activities end in a couple weeks, I can start participating in group rides with the local triathlon club.

Second, I've caught double crazy and signed up for a MARATHON in October.  I started marathon training this week.  I'm planning on using this "less is more" training plan from runner's world, basically, except I added a few weeks in the middle because I really want to run a full 26 miles before the race so I know what I'm up against.  I bought the book Run Less, Run Faster by Bill Pierce, Scott Murrand Ray Moss, to try and make sure I am completely up on exactly how much cross training to be doing, and what pace I should be running at, etc. I'm planning to do some cycling, some swimming, and some HIIT-style work outs for cross training, at this point, but we'll see how it goes.  This will be important, I think, because I've signed up for a Super Spartan race, which will be 8+ miles of obstacle course and mud in the beginning of September, and I'll need to have decent upper body strength for that.
My new pace gloves, in funky yellow!

In preparation for this stuff, I've bought a few things.  New shoes, of course, though I kept with the same shoe (Merrell Dash Gloves) I've been running in all year (though I got myself a new pair of the Pace Gloves, too).  Also, I bought a pair of compression calf sleeves since during my recent half marathon training I was getting some calf soreness.  Hopefully they'll help me side-step that during marathon training.  ALSO, I'm super excited that my husband has bought me the Garmin Forerunner 910xt watch!  WOOT!  Hoping it's as awesome as it seems like it will be... and now I won't have to worry about bringing my ginormous phone everywhere with me (previously, I've used the endomondo app), and I can use it to track my swims!

So, here we go!  

Saturday, May 25, 2013

My Grand Experiment

Just before the finish line of my most recent half marathon.
     I've been basically conducting my own little experiment with running and diet since the beginning of the year.  Let's just say my dietary choices were pretty out of control over the holiday season and I gained 10 lbs in the space of about two months.  Something had to be done!  I needed to get back to basics for paleo/primal.  I started looking into options that were on the paleo spectrum but also helpful for endurance athletes.  I looked into Loren Cordain's Paleo Diet for Athletes but it seemed like more carbs than I could reasonably function on.  Every time my carb levels go up, I gain weight.  I tried doing their program during my training for my first half marathon last fall and gained fat.  It'd be nice to be able to say it was muscle, but my pants got tighter and I got more of a belly.
So, in my googling, I found a few discussions referring to The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance by Jeff Volek and Steve Phinney.  Their research on low carbohydrate diets actually enhancing performance for endurance athletes (after up to a 6 week transition period) was fascinating to me, so I figured I'd try it out for a while.  I highly recommend reading it to see what they say before anyone starts criticizing it.  Recently, for instance, a low carb athlete won the Western States 100 race!  

Low and behold I started dropping pounds (like most people do on a low carb diet), despite not having yet picked up my mileage for my half marathon.  Volek and Phinney do recommend use of non-caloric sweeteners, but I just cut out sweets aside from occasional berries.  I ate nuts and lots of veggies and lots of fatty meat and dairy.  Honestly, I think I should probably cut the dairy out, too, because I think it is related to some of my problems like acne, but I just haven't gotten there yet (or maybe ever).

The first couple weeks were tough, cutting back that much, but after that it felt normal and I didn't mind not having the sweets that I used to crave, though  I did eat the occasional piece of dark chocolate.  I kept track of my diet for the first few weeks on sparkpeople.  It was really enlightening how many incidental carbs I was getting without realizing it.  A lot of people end up with "carb flu" starting any kind of low carb diet, but I didn't - presumably owing to my somewhat low carb diet in the past following paleo/primal.

I was training for the Greater Binghamton Bridge Run Half-marathon, which was beginning of May.  Once I acclimated to the diet, my running was just fine, though I did bring some "bonk-protection" (a bit of sugary something-or other) and drank coconut water on my longer runs, but even my 13 mile training run, which was over 2 hrs of running, I felt completely fine and did not have to break out the emergency sugar.

My results:

 I'm pleased with this diet and how functional I am as an athlete on it, but recently I've read more about super low carb and cortisol, so now I'm not exactly sure what to do.  I've struggled with adrenal fatigue (aka overtraining, except mine was just from stress in life, not stress from exercise) in the past and am not overly interested in hitting that again. It was fascinating that I didn't really get hungry ever, though, and found my "full" response.  I would get through half of what I normally wanted to eat and just be... done.  That never happened before with my regular old paleo/primal diet.

In terms of my running performance, I PR'd by 10 minutes (1:54:06), which was awesome, but I'll admit that I trained much better for this race than I had for my last. 

Overall, I'd recommend people try this for a couple months and see how you feel.  Maybe it'll be great!  Maybe you won't notice much of a difference.  Definitely read the book, though, because the research is FASCINATING!  It really put a twist on my thinking about the need for carb loading, etc.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Bumble Bee: A Free Knitting Pattern

For some reason, knitting for boys always feels difficult to me.  My boys aren't into sports teams and little boys don't seem to care much about the craftsmanship in lovely cabled hats.  They want pictures of their favorite things. They want snips and snails. If only I loved doing intarsia, so they could have all the things!

I set out on this hat pattern with the plan of making it reminiscent enough of a bumble bee for my son's approval, but also cozy and warm enough to satisfy my tastes.  For toddlers I strongly prefer earflap hats with ties so that it stays put and keeps little ears warm.  I also included instructions for just making a typical no-earflap style for both the toddler and kid sizes.  Knitted in a super bulky weight yarn, this hat knits up quickly, just in time for holiday giving.

I have linked to the techniques I used for increases and decreases.

Bumble Bee Hat

Yarn: Lamb's Pride Bulky 1 skein of "wild mustard" colorway and one skein of "onyx".  Keep in mind that this is actually a super bulky weight yarn, if using a substitution.

Needles: 10 1/2 circular needles or size for appropriate gauge.  I use 40 inch and magic loop method, but you could use 16 in and dpns for the top, if you prefer.  TAKE TIME TO CHECK YOUR GAUGE.

Gauge: 15 stitches and 21 rows per 4 inches in circular stockinette
Sizes: Toddler (Child)
(for non-earflap style, skip the instructions for the earflap and start  in appropriate section marked with ***)

Earflaps: Starting with black yarn, CO 5 (for both sizes)
   row 1: K across
   row 2 (and every even row): P across
   row 3: K1, M1L, K to last stitch, M1R, K1 (7 stitches)
   row 5: increase as row 3 (9 stitches)
   row 7: FOR CHILD SIZE ONLY increase once more as row 3, you should now have 11 stitches.  For toddler size, K across.

Continue in stockinette stitch until earflap measures 2 (2 1/2) inches, ending with an even (purl) row.  Cut yarn and place all stitches on a stitch holder.  Work second earflap as first, but DO NOT cut yarn.  Knit back across.  Using knitted cast on, cast on 24(26) stitches, knit across other earflap (from stitch holder), then cast on 14 (16) more.  You should now have 56 (64) stitches.  Join, being careful not to twist, and marking beginning of round.  Knit 1 1/2 inches from front brim.

***  for non-earflap-style hat, start here, if doing earflap hat, ignore the portion between the *:  Cast on 56 (64 stitches) using black yarn, then join, being careful not to twist.  Work k2 p2 rib for until work is 1 1/2 in long.**

Switch to yellow yarn.  You will be working three (four) yellow stripes (and  consequently two (three) black stripes).  Each needs to be 3 rounds wide.  Please keep in mind color changes every three rounds while working the next steps.  I should have used a jog-less jog but didn't.  You can see where the change-over is on the hat.  I'm pleased with it anyway (and so is my son... though ecstatic might be more accurate for how he feels about it) but you may prefer to use one.  After last yellow stripe, remember to cut the yarn so you can weave it in.

Work until hat is 4 1/2 (4 3/4) inches from the front brim.  Work one round.

Next rnd: *K5(6), K2tog.  Repeat from * around (48(56) stitches remain)
K next two rounds.
Next rnd: *K4(5), K2tog.  Repeat from * around (40(48) stitches)
K next two rounds.
Next round: *K3(4), K2tog.  Repeat from * around (32(40) stitches)
K one round
Next round: *K2(3), K2tog.  Repeat from * around (24(32) stitches)
K one round
Next round *K1(2), K2tog. Repeat from * around (16(24) stitches)

CHILD SIZE ONLY: knit one round then next round *K1, K2tog repeat from * around (16 stitches) t


Both sizes should now have 16 stitches.  The rest of the instructions for the hat are the same for both sizes (except the finishing).

Knit two rounds.

Next round: *K2tog.  Repeat from * around (8 stitches remain)
Knit two more rounds.
Next round: *K2tog.  Repeat from * around (4 stitches remain)
Knit two more rounds, then cut yarn and pull through all stitches.

Finishing: (earflap style only) Pick up 68 (76) stitches spread evenly around entire brim and around earflaps.  Cast off.  Weave in ends.

For ties, I used the twisted cord method:  I took a long length of yarn (I didn't cut it from the skein until I had made the cord), maybe 2 ft or so, and folded it back so it was 4 ft of yarn forming a loop that I would be twisted together.  I didn't do multiple like in the linked video because I didn't want it too thick, especially since the yarn is so thick already.  I twisted the "loop" end while holding tight to the end of the yarn and where it was folded back to until it was twisting up on itself.  Instead of tying off at this point as in the linked video, I used a crochet hook to pull the loop end through the bottom of the earflap, and folded the twisted portion in half and held the loop end and the other end together.  Then I just held it up and let the hat spin until it was well twisted then tied it off.  Repeat on the other side trying to make them the same length.

As an alternative, you could just do a simple braided tie or an i-cord tie. 

Happy knitting!