Wednesday, January 18, 2017

How to Make Your First Race a Great Race

My first race of 2017 is coming up in less than two weeks and while this is definitely not my first ever race, a lot of New Years resolutions were made at the start of the month to get in shape, start running, and run a race. There are so many reasons to make this commitment in 2017, and I'm cheering for you all the way if you did!

So as someone who has run too many races to count over the past decade (and lord, I do not want to know how much money I've spent on them!), I thought I might share a thing or two about how to have a great race day. Sure, there are a lot of things out of our control - like the weather - but there are a few things we can do to help make the experience a great one.

Plan Ahead. Sign up for the race with plenty of time to train, psych yourself up, and maybe enlist someone to join you. Don't wait till the last minute to look at the details - where the start line is, what time the race starts, what the course is like, when/where to pick up your bib, where to park. If family or friends are coming to cheer for you, take a look at the map and plan in advance where they'll spectate from. I can't stress enough how much easier your race morning will be if you take these simple - but often overlooked - steps.

Mile High Turkey Trot start line

Do a dress rehearsal. Pick a training run a few weeks in advance and wear what you're going to wear on race day. Chafing during a race does not make for a good experience. And if you're jumping in the deep end and picked a longer race for your first, be sure to test out your fuel to make sure it doesn't disagree with your stomach! The fewer pit stops on course, the better. Doing this a few weeks in advance will give you time to make adjustments and try again if you need to. Also, if you're lucky you'll get a chance to train in the rain or snow. I say you're "lucky" because you never know what race day will throw at you and if the weather isn't perfect, you'll feel much more prepared if you already have a rainy run under your belt.

Set a Goal. And then another. There is nothing wrong with setting an ambitious goal for your first race. In fact, that's awesome! But it's good to have a B Goal in your pocket because there are a lot of things out of your control on race day, including how your legs are going to feel. Having a B Goal can keep you from feeling discouraged after your first race and push you to keep going after that original goal. Remember, it's your first!

Grace and Lisa before the Mini 10K NYC

Approach it as "Race Week." Don't let race day be an island on itself in your life. You'll set yourself up for a great race day if you're preparing for it all week. Eat well. Stay hydrated.  Don't overdue it on the miles. Stretch each day and put your legs up the wall. Get lots of sleep. It's common for even the most experienced runner to have trouble sleeping the night before a race, but the sleep before the sleep before the race, is the most important. The day before, lay everything out that you'll need the next morning so it's all there when you need it.

Stay positive and have fun! It's all about the attitude. You might be nervous the morning of, and that's okay. Finding a place to park, dealing with the porta-potty line, and waiting around for the gun to go off can be a bit nerve wracking. Don't let little things get to you and don't put too much pressure on yourself. Instead, go with the flow and talk with other runners. Do your warm-up, breathe deep, get your music going (if that's your thing) and go for it! Enjoy the cheering spectators, the view, and the awesome thing you're accomplishing.

Oiselle Volee Colfax Relay team 2016

Celebrate. You've done something awesome for yourself. No matter what distance you traveled or how long it took you, you did it and that is something worth celebrating. Be proud!

Do you have any favorite race day tips to share with newbies? * What races are on your calendar for 2017?

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Love at first Bite: Baking from "Run Fast. Eat Slow."

Alright now, don't get too excited. I'm not sharing any recipes from the New York Times best selling book, you'll have to buy it yourself. Or borrow it from a friend or the library.

When a Oiselle teammate gifted me Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kkopecky's cookbook, Run Fast. Eat Slow., in our holiday gift exchange, I was thrilled. I'd been hearing rave reviews from many runners over the past several months and two of our teammates brought baked goods from the book to our team holiday party that were both delicious. After one bite of the sweet potato breakfast cookie, I knew it would be one of the first recipes I'd make.

While I won't be able to try all the recipes, there are a good number that are vegan or can be altered slightly to be so. I do love that the book focuses on whole foods that naturally provide the nutrients we need as runners and athletes through tasty dishes. It proves once again that healthy food and delicious food are not mutually exclusive!

Before they get into the recipes, there's a section that provides information on foods we should all have in our pantries and eat often - with explanations of why the food is good for us and tips on how to select and/or store it, which is really important. Another section called "Runner's Remedies" is devoted to looking at different issues runners face and how food can help us deal with them. As someone who believes strongly in the idea that "we are what we eat" I believe that how we eat has a direct impact on how we feel and that many ailments can be addressed - at least in part - by focusing on our diet.

Okay, back to the sweet potato breakfast cookies...

Early Morning Run - Sweet Potato Breakfast Cookies

I've been known to eat cold sweet potatoes with nut butter on early morning flights, so the idea of sweet potato in a cookie recipe sounds genius to me. They're packed with vitamins and fiber and, in my opinion, are simply delicious. Here they naturally add a sweetness to the cookies.

The recipe is pretty easy but you do have to plan ahead since baking the sweet potato and giving it some time to cool is important. It always take me longer the first time or two that I make a recipe because I read the instructions and measurements about a million times to make sure I don't mess anything up (I've done it before). Thankfully it still didn't take too long because I'd not a big fan of overly complicated recipes that take a long time to prep.

Early Morning Run - Run Fast Eat Slow recipe

Mine turned out a bit different from the ones I tasted at our holiday party, but both versions were delicious. The recipe calls for 11 ingredients, most of which are probably in your pantry and there are no refined sugars. With the benefits of sweet potato and ginger, these are delicious and healthy.

While not highlighted in the name, these cookies are vegan. A major benefit of vegan cookies is that it's perfectly fine to eat the raw cookie dough left on the spoon!

Early Morning Run - Run Fast Eat Slow recipe

I hope you give the book a try - if you haven't already. If for no other reason than it's always good to switch things up and try new recipes once in a while.

If you have the Run Fast. Eat Slow. cookbook, what's your favorite recipe? * Do you prefer to bake or cook?

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Holiday Packing Tips for Runners

A lot of us will be packing up and traveling this week for the holidays. I recently read an article listing the 10 things not to pack when you go on a trip and about halfway down the list was "workout clothes." I get it, there are probably people out there who pack workout gear thinking vacation is the perfect time to start a workout routine, but these aren't our type of people.

Approximately half the space in my suitcase is devoted to running gear when I travel. You get me, right?

Like many other things however, running and packing to go running tends to be a bit more complicated when traveling for the holidays. Winter weather is likely to require more gear than during other times of the year and running shoes, watches, and sweat wicking clothes compete for space with holiday gifts, winter boots, and big wool sweaters.

Here are a few of my holiday packing tips for those of us who will be running this week away from home:
1. Double duty. A lot of running clothes are nice enough to wear out to coffee with friends or when visiting family. So wear them for holiday activities one day and the next for your run. You're just going to get sweaty anyway, so does it really matter if you wore for a few hours already? 
2. If you're staying with family and can use their laundry machine, take advantage. This way you only need to pack enough gear to wear for a portion of the days you'll be gone since you can wear, wash, and wear again! 
3. And to that point, if your host has it, don't take it. If you usually roll out after your run (which you should do), ask your host if they have a foam roller or even a tennis ball or softball, which I find work well as a replacement. You can also spend a few minutes with your legs up the wall after your run to help with recovery too. You'll save major room in your luggage and still keep your legs fresh!

4. Use a bag to corral your hats, mittens, buffs and other gear. A spike bag or even a plastic shopping bag will do and it'll save you time when you're trying to get out the door and get your miles in before the rest of your family wakes up. Everything will be in one place, easy to find.
5. Don't forget to check the weather forecast before you leave and think about what it really means where you're going. The dry atmosphere and intense sun in Colorado means 30 degrees here feels very different from 30 degrees in Michigan where the sun rarely comes out between December and April. Having the right gear means you'll be more likely to get out there. 
6. Be sure to take one day's worth of gear and your shoes in your carry-on just in case your luggage ends up in a different city. Especially important if you're on a run streak like me and don't want the airline to dictate when it ends.
7. And of course, take snacks with you! If you rely on Picky Bars or HoneyStinger waffles before or during a run, don't count on having time to find them when you're away from home. Pack what you're going to need. You'll have a little more room for gifts on your way home since you'll have eaten them because you went running!
Bonus tip: If you think the weather might keep you from running and you want to get that workout in, put Google to work and see what gyms are close to where you're staying. Find out in advance if they have drop-in rates and what the hours are so you aren't trying to figure it out at 9:30pm the night before you want to go. (From experience, I can say it's not very fun.)
I hope you enjoy the holidays, eat great food, laugh a lot, travel safely and find some time to run a few miles and reflect on all you have to be thankful for and all the amazing adventures ahead in 2017!

What are you most looking forward to over the holidays?