Friday, September 19, 2014

4 Fixes to Get Out of a Running Rut

When we moved to Denver last year I knew it was going to take me a bit of time to get used to running at altitude. A mile above sea level – 5,280 feet higher than NYC – I struggled to catch my breath on many runs those first few months we lived here. And with a lack of oxygen, came a lack of motivation. When each run is a struggle, it can be hard to lace up.

This summer I was struggling a bit too. After I got used to running the path in the beautiful park near our new house, I started getting bored. But before I realized it was boredom, I was just cutting my runs short because I thought my legs were too tired, or I couldn’t breath. And sometimes it was that, but looking back I know I was just bored. I was in a rut.

Until this past Sunday when I got to the end of my 7 mile run and felt like I could easily go another few! That’s when it finally sank in that my runs were clicking again. I’m feeling better now than I have in a long time, and it feels great!

Running In Bend

I know I can’t go all crazy though; I have to be careful about my mileage. When I’m running well I want to run long but I’ve learned that it’s not good for my body. If you’ve been reading along for a while, you likely know that I went through a stretch when I pretty much had one stress fracture after another. My last was October 2011 – almost 3 years ago! What changed is that I drastically reduced my mileage and haven’t run a race longer than a 10k, even though I’d love to run a half marathon.

Bird Camp last month was hugely motivating for me. It gave me that first taste of really feeling good on the run, and wanting to run as much as I could. There was a bit of a letdown right after, when I struggled (again) to get out there – partly because after running trails in Bend, Wash Park was boring, and because Woody was traveling for work and I have definitely grown to rely on my workout buddy.

Thankfully though, that’s behind me now and I’m back on track!

Cheeseman Park

While I’ve been struggling, I’ve also been running some of my fastest times in years this summer – a 24:48 5K in July (although back near sea level), 26:09 in August (at Bird Camp) and 25:31 back at altitude this past Saturday. And when I felt great after 7 miles on Sunday, it was such a fantastic feeling to know that I could keep going (but I was smart and finished there).

After this weekend, I’m feeling pretty confident. So what else should we do but sign up for a 10K in October and a 4 mile turkey trot on Thanksgiving!

Post-Run

Here’s a rundown of 4 key strategies that have been working for me lately. I hope some of these tricks might help you out of a rut or just refresh your running a little:

  • The Problem: Lack of motivation. The Fix: Even though my regular route was beautiful and car-free, I was getting bored & my runs were suffering. So, I  found a new route with similar attributes – a park with gravel paths – but I’m am able to easily change up the route to/from the park each time to keep it fresh. Also, traveling a bit for some real trail running every few weeks really pushes my mind and body. New places to explore!
  • The Problem: That first tough mile of every run is tough on my legs and my mind. The Fix: I’ve incorporated a few activation exercises into my warm-up (which I’ll admit is usually shorter than it should be) and also into my gym workouts to keep my legs and hips light and limber!
  • The Problem: Not enough energy. The Fix: I’m convinced this is somewhat associated to boredom, but also fueling. With 5am weekday workouts, eating beforehand is difficult. I know we’re supposed to eat something before a workout so I’m making a point to do that. Even just a little. So I cut a Picky Bar into quarters and have it on my dresser so I can grab a piece when I’m getting ready to head out for the gym. It’s not much, but it’s more than I was getting before. 
  • The Problem: Tired legs. The Fix: Legs up the wall! Bird Camp made me a believer. After my weekend runs and almost every night before bed, I pull my yoga mat up to the wall, grab a pillow for my head and put my legs up the wall for 5 – 10 minutes. My legs feel fresh and light after each session!

    And as always, having a goal, or some event to look forward to, is hugely important! Pick a race, make plans with a friend to try out an awesome trail you’ve heard of that’s a drive from home or explore a nearby city. Lots of people don’t run races, but there are still great ways to stay motivated, inspired and happy on the run!

    Shoes

    SOUND OFF!

    Have you ever been stuck in a rut with your running? * How do you keep your runs exciting and fun? * What goals are you working towards?

    Oh hey, my friend Grace was chosen to participate in the Asics Editors Challenge and will be running the TCS New York City Marathon for the 3rd time this November! Read about it here!

  • Sunday, September 14, 2014

    Race Report: Blue Shoe Run for Prostate Cancer

    Friday morning, there was snow on the ground; Saturday morning, we were running a 5K race under beautiful blue skies. Fall is here, and with it, comes mostly perfect running weather! Woody and I ran the Blue Shoe Run for Prostate Cancer – an annual 5K run/walk and 1.5 mile family walk. The fifth annual event, which welcomed over 1,200 participants, is produced by and raises funds for, the TUCC Foundation, dedicated to advancing urologic care in the Rocky Mountain region through advocacy, research, education and support.

    I had heard from fellow Oiselle teammate, Laura, that this is a great race. And as the cause has recently become an important one to us, we thought it would be a great 5K to add to our fall racing schedule. After our experience, I can say with certainty that we will make our best efforts to run this race every year!

    Blue Shoe_Crowd

    The race begins and ends right outside the TUCC office building, which is across a large parking lot from Mile High Stadium, home of the Denver Broncos. While the course itself isn’t the most scenic, the race organizers have done a great job creating a unique course that utilizes a lot of low-traffic roads, incorporating unexpected hills and allows for plenty of free, easily accessible parking for participants.

    Blue Shoe_Who

    According to the TUCC Foundation, prostate cancer is now the most diagnosed type of cancer in Colorado, and the 2nd most common cancer among men in the U.S.. Current numbers state that 1 in 6 men will be diagnosed within their lifetime. More than 230,000 American men will be diagnosed this year. That’s a lot of guys. While very serious, there is some good news: the rate of survival for men is very high, especially when caught early. Over the past several years, many new treatments have been developed that are proving successful. There is great hope for men, and the ones who love them, who are diagnosed.

    Blue Shoe_Survivors

    There were a lot of people enjoying the survivors oasis before and after the race. A lot of happy, healthy and strong people.

    Woody and I arrived a bit early so we could do a little warm-up – 1.5 miles, or just over 2 laps around Mile High Stadium. It was very chilly but a beautiful morning. With less than 800 participants in the 5K, the start was a breeze. We walked up, found a spot near the front – ahead of the guy wearing jeans – and a few minutes later we were off. I definitely went out too fast, but didn’t realize until a little too late. I had my Garmin on, but chose not to focus on it. Looking back, I probably should have given it a glance during that first mile, which I ran in 8:01, too fast for me.

    I had heard there was a serious hill, but I wasn’t expecting all the short, but steep hills that came before it. Spectators were far and few between, but the course was well marked and there were police, volunteers, and two bands in just the right spots along the way. I mentioned the view wasn’t the best, but I enjoyed it, and appreciate that it wasn’t a simple out and back.

    The last hill was the serious one. After going past Mile High, we entered onto the highway entrance ramp, going up the on ramp. It was steep. And long. The fact that I went out too fast had caught up with me by this point. I’m pretty good at hills but this one got to me. I couldn’t breath by the time I hit the top, made the turn and saw we kept going up! I will admit it, I walked. Just for 15 seconds, but I simply couldn’t attack this last hill without catching my breath first. I made it to the top, took the turn-around and new it was just a downhill, right turn and straight away sprint to the finish line.

    A lovely volunteer reached out with a bottle of cold water, exactly what I needed, as soon as I could breath again.

    Blue Shoe_KIND Bars

    The post-race festival included several vendors, a massage tent and lots of great food. There were cut bagels with peanut butter and cream cheese, bananas and apples, cups of pretzels, coffee. Jimmy Johns was on hand with sandwiches and cookies. KIND Bars were handing out free bars (I’m addicted, so this was amazing).

    Blue Shoe_Alaskan Brewery

    With food and beers from Alaskan Brewing Co. in hand, we found a table and enjoyed the live band for a bit before the a few presentations from the Foundation staff and a prostate cancer survivor, who was diagnosed in his 30’s.

    Blue Shoe_Post Race

    Woody and I were both happy with our results. He finished in 21:53 – 18th overall and 3rd AG; I finished in 25:31 (38 seconds faster than the 5K in Bend last month!) and 4th AG! Sure, this was definitely a smaller field than many races we do, and one that probably flies under the radar for many, but that aside, I’m thrilled with my time! And after following this race with a 7 mile run the next morning that left me with gas in my tank, it seems things are clicking for me right now when it comes to running!

    If any guys are reading this – please don’t ignore your health. You may be nervous to get the test results, but it’s better than ignorance. And ladies – let the guys you love know that this is important. Early detection increases the likelihood for long, happy and active lives.

    How did you get active this weekend? Did you run a race, run for fun, go hiking or do something else that got your heartbeat up? Let us know!

    Tuesday, August 26, 2014

    What Happens at Running Camp

    Since I returned from Bird Camp, a lot of people have asked me “what did you do at running camp?” It’s a valid question; I wasn’t sure what we were going to do at until I got there! I’ve also been trying to figure out how to recap the experience, and while I’m not convinced that what I’m doing is the best way to do that, here it goes.

    Things started off well when I realized I was carpooling with some really great ladies – Beth, Alicia, Julia, & Jenna. No duds here! (fun fact: Beth & Alicia are also Spartans!)

    Bird Camp Carpool

    A detour to Eugene to visit Hayward Field

    Hayward Field

    We heard from several running experts over four days including a Q&A session with Lauren Fleshman and Linsey Corbin, a professional triathlete and Ironman Champion who lives in Bend, OR.

    Linsey Corbin and Lauren Fleshman

    Physical Therapist Jay Dicharry, who works with pro athletes – including Little Wing – is a certified coach, has competed in several sports on a national level and so much more. He took us through exercises to focus on our posture and form and talked about the importance of mobility, stability, strength and power for runners and how we should all work at least one strength and stability session into our week. You can read his blog HERE.

    Bird Camp Jay Dicharry

    Photo Credit: Thomas and Velo Photography

    Steph Howe, winner of Western States who’s working towards a Masters in Nutrition & Exercise Physiology and focuses on bridging nutrition & performance, presented a session on nutrition for female runners. She has a very sensible and realistic view of nutrition, which I found very refreshing, emphasizing the need for female athletes to focus on getting enough calories in order to stay healthy. Check out her blog HERE.

    Bird Camp Steph Howe

    Photo Credit: Thomas and Velo Photography

    Lauren, who lives in Bend and graciously welcomed us to her town, spoke about goal setting. This was a very frank discussion as she talked about having to adjust her goals after injury – the need to be realistic and recalibrate. One of my favorite things she said was: “The best gift you can give yourself is to disregard what other people see ass success and name it for yourself.”

    Bird Camp Steph Lauren Jay Lesko

    Photo Credit: Thomas and Velo Photography

    A Pro Panel with Kate Grace, Steph Howe, Lauren, and (not pictured) Kara Goucher via Skype. They covered everything from what they eat each day, to how they overcome disappointments and their best race experiences.

    Bird Camp Pro Panel

    Sally took us through the process of developing a line, from inspiration board to developing a color pallet, choosing fabric, finding manufacturers. It was really interesting and enlightening to learn about the various steps that go into creating the clothes we wear on the run!

    Oiselle Inspiration Board

    Bird Camp line

    Photo Credit: Thomas and Velo Photography

    About 40 minutes away is Smith Rock, a really incredible state park with tough trails and beautiful views. We spent a morning here with a choice of hiking or trail running. I opted for the hike which took us to the top of the rock. Lauren gave us the low down on our options.

    Lauren at Smith Rock

    Smith Rock View

    Smith Rock

    There was also, a lot of great food. I suppose it wouldn’t be very much fun if we were all hungry the whole time, so Oiselle set us up with tons of food for our Condos, snacks in the conference center, great meals and non-stop delicious Nuun. I really wanted to take home the Wild Friends Almond Butter – it was amazing – but was too nervous it would leak all over my bag on the flight. If you see this stuff, try it!

    Bird Food

    And of course, we did a lot of running – basically as much running as we wanted to do, we could do. One of the great things about the resort where we stayed – beyond the full kitchen in each condo – is that you literally could walk out your door and be on the Deschutes River Trail within a minute. To say this trail was beautiful is an understatement. I was worried about how I’d do with so much running, but my muscles were rarely sore and I was always excited to get out for more miles!

    Deschutes River Trail

    Bird Camp Run with Leana

    Running with Ironman athlete, Leana

    Coinciding with our camp was the Twilight 5K put on by Deschutes Brewery right down the road from the resort. While it was pretty awesome to see so many women in Oiselle singlet's, my favorite part of the race was passing Kate Grace just after the 2 mile mark! Okay, so she was jogging, but still, I’ll take it.

    Bird Camp 5k

    Photo Credit: Thomas and Velo Photography

    NY Birds Race

    Reunited with two of my favorite NYC birds – Amanda & Jenna

    Beyond trail running, we also did activation exercises (below), form drills and #TheDozen (as demonstrated by Lesko two down). All new to me, I’m planning to incorporate these into my training moving forward.

    Bird Camp Activation

    Photo Credit: Thomas and Velo Photography

    Bird Camp The Dozen

    Photo Credit: Thomas and Velo Photography

    The meditation sessions and yoga with Jasyoga were amazing – legs up the wall and “I am here now” is my new favorite way to relax and let go.

    Bird Camp legs up the wall

    Photo Credit: Thomas and Velo Photography

    I had an absolutely fantastic time meeting incredible and strong women, getting to know myself a bit better and learning new techniques that will make me a stronger person and runner.

    Bird Camp Roommates

    With my fantastic roommates, Katie and Michelle (We look tired because we were! this was before morning meditation!)

    Bird Party

    Fearless women of Oiselle – Sally, Kristin, and Lauren

    Bird Camp Party

    What would Oregon be without dancing to an awesome band outside on a beautiful night?

    Bird Camp Cheer

    Photo Credit: Thomas and Velo Photography

    If you take anything from this really long post (so sorry!), I hope it’s that by taking chances, trying new things, building bonds and exploring new places, there’s no end to what you can learn about yourself and no limits to what you can do!

    Also, it turns out, you’re never too old for camp!

    Thank you to women at Oiselle HQ and Little Wing for bringing us all together for a great weekend, and to Heidi & Andrea at Thomas and Velo Photography for all the beautiful photos they took and are letting us use!