Monthly Archives: March 2015

Right Now: Running, Coaching, Reading

There are only a few hours left in March and that makes it past time I update with March 2015 Edition of Right Now.  Here are a few of my favorite things as the year’s third month draws to a close, including some solid running, rewarding coaching and good reading.

Running:  My Prairie Fire training has been going very well.  Rock n Roll DC was a great run, coachingShamrock was a blast and even though my first 16 miler of the year yesterday was colder than I had hoped at ‘feels like’ 26 degrees with some chilly 10-15 mile-an-hour winds, it was a fantastic run.  The wind wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be and I settled into a comfortable pace that left me quite happy.  You can check out all of my latest thoughts on my goal spring race here.

Coaching:  I have been working with a friend of mine from college who lives in the nice, sunny warmth of Tampa for a few short months.  She doesn’t know I’m writing about her, so this lovely lady will remain anonymous today, but I am very proud of her.  One of the best things about coaching is being a part of someone’s journey to reach their goal, no matter what it is.  This client wanted to shed some unwanted pounds, tone up and run a faster 5k.  Since the beginning of the year, she has successfully finished multiple 5ks, her first 8k, her first 15k and her first 10 miler.  Watching people fall in love with running icoachings another coaching bonus!  She’s looking forward to a RunDisney event soon and I’m excited to be a part of her journey.

Reading:  I love Game of Thrones.  It’s a wonderful show but, as usual, the books eclipse the film.  Because George R.R. Martin is in no hurry to release the next installment in A Song of Ice and Fire, I took the dive into his 300+ page tome, The World of Ice and Fire.  It’s loaded with background information on the various houses of Westeros and even though it has difficult moments (hello, family trees!), the story is worth every second.  It’s a must read for any fan.

Meredith

What are your favorites from the last few months?  Are you involved with any coaching?

Prairie Fire Week 7 Thoughts

My spring goal race is approaching!  It’s Prairie Fire Week 7 and with five weeks to go, I’m through the racing portion of this training cycle.  There are 36 days until I toe the line in Kansas (State 11) for a new PR and it’s solid training until then.  My positive feeling about a PR attempt began two weeks ago with Rock n Roll DC and seems to be sticking around.prairie fire week 7

Rock n Roll DC was a really solid run.  I was 32 seconds slower than my current PR (1:37.24) after intentionally running extra distance, stopping to fix a shoe problem and taking a leisurely walk through the Mile 9 water station.  Did I mention the rain and the hilly course?  They were there to help me get a good workout, too.

I left that race sure I would have hit a new PR that day if I had been mentally ready to push (or skipped the Friday evening cocktails).  I’m attributing that performance to good training that included working on my cadence and improving my mental toughness.   I continued to work on keeping my cadence up while slowing my speed down at Shamrock last Sunday.  Another good long training run, I racked up the 14.5 miles I was looking for through a warm-up, the race and a short cool down.

Prairie Fire Week 7 doesn’t feature any races but I do have my longest run so far this year still waiting for me.  Originally scheduled for yesterday, yucky weather (thunderstorms yesterday and today) led me rearrange my training.  I did some heavy lifting this morning and pushed my first 16 miler of the year to Sunday.  A light recovery run and some core work tomorrow will hopefully send me into that long run feeling fresh.  I tend to go out a little conservatively when I’m pushing my distance and would like finish the run in under 2:10.00, ideally right around 2:05.00.

I’m ready to get Prairie Fire Week 7’s longest run on the books, focus on maintaining my endurance while increasing my speed and rock my new cadence all the way to a new PR.  Stay tuned for my longest run recap early next week and make your travel plans to come PR with me!

Meredith

How do you gauge progress in a training cycle?  Shorter races?  Training races?

2015 Shamrock Half Marathon

The 2015 Shamrock Half Marathon was this past Sunday and it was, again, a wonderful event.  I was looking forward to pacing the 1:52 group even though this is a race I love to actually race.  2015 shamrock half marathonThe weekend began with picking up my packet as early as I could on Friday, hanging out at the Pacer booth for a while then heading home to get ready for Sunday’s race.

Race morning began when Doug dropped me at work (only three blocks from the Start!) off around 6am.  Getting down to the race was no problem but I know parking does fill up as the Start approaches.  I munched on my breakfast bagel, drank my usual E2, foam rolled and stretched as a few of my fellow pacers, including my 1:52 partner, Kevin, met up with me to stay warm before heading to the Start.  At 6:30, I ran a mile warm-up that included a trip to gear check near the Finish then used my clean, indoor restroom once more before the pacers made for their corrals.

There was a stiff breeze and the temperature was a bit chilly as Kevin and I weaved through thousands of pumped up runners to arrive in Corral 3 with plenty of time to spare.  There were lots of Port-a-Potties near the Start with lines that didn’t seem too bad.  People were excited to see us and it was great to get to know some of the ladies and gents we would hopefully be leading to new PRs.  Things were a bit warmer in the crowd but everyone still wanted the wind to die down as we all fidgeted trying to stay loose.  Moments later we were notified of an emergency of the course as an ambulance drove by.  Luckily any delay that resulted was barely noticed by the adrenaline filled group hanging out with us and before we knew it, we were off for the 2015 Shamrock Half Marathon.

I review the course here and it didn’t change this year.  The 1:52 group rocked and rolled through the first three miles.  The wind had quieted and the chill was barely noticeable once things started moving.  At Mile 3 we hit the course’s first gentle curve heading into the tree lined portion of our run.  During the stretch from Mile 3 to about Mile 5.5, Kevin and I talked with several of our runners about race recommendations, traveling and how they were working towards a new PR at that exact moment.  We passed well staffed and supportive water stops, two DJs and one band before turning right onto the race’s quietest section.  The 3+ miles of flat course running through Fort Story have great views of the Chesapeake Bay and this year lacked the strong headwind of 2014 but there isn’t a ton of crowd support until you get on Atlantic Avenue around Mile 9.5.

It’s here you can start counting down the numbered blocks and really settled into a groove for the last 5k.  Kevin and I got to watch some of our new friends run ahead to hit their goals and we rolled through the final few miles together.  Crowd support was good from 9.5 to 12 but when you hit that last mile and finally turn onto the Boardwalk, it’s exciting.  Coming in a little fast, Kevin and I slowed through the last bit, crossing the Finish a bit early to be greeted by a 2015 shamrock half marathonfew very happy new PR owners.  The gratitude, buzz and joy of those five runners was amazing.  Being a part of their journey is an incredible honor.

We walked through the finish chute to collect our medals, bananas, pretzels, cookies, water, Gatorade, finisher’s hats and awesome finisher beach towels.  Hitting the end of the finisher zone, we were routed out onto the beach where I saw a line waiting to ring this year’s newest Shamrock feature, the PR bell.  Watching the 1:52 runners smile with the bell was better than ringing it myself.  A long trek through the sand back to my gear in VIP left me cold but changing into some dry clothes and devouring a bacon, egg and cheese helped fix things.

After warming up and filling my hungry tummy, I collected my first post-race Yuengling and settled in to chat with other pacers as they finished, J&A ambassadors and the venerable Bart Yasso.  I bounced back and forth to the big party tent to listen to the 2015 shamrock half marathonbands and visit friends before heading back to VIP for a turkey sub and awesome view of the Finish Line for the marathon winner.

Cheering for the next few marathoners and some half marathon walkers, I got to hang out with a bunch of super fast marathon pacers who are all prepping for Boston and spend a little time picking Bart’s brain.  Also in the photo is marathon pacer Ben (3:15!), who I had actually already met on Twitter and connected him to pace this race.  Some serious small runner land stuff.  I saw Tony, my pacer pal from Harbor Lights, and helped him celebrate his birthday with another Yuengling.  I wrapped my 2015 Shamrock Half Marathon with a few more beers, a lot of socializing, tons of fun and a big thank you to J&A Racing for another amazing year. 2015 shamrock half marathon2015 shamrock half marathonThe 2015 Shamrock Half Marathon was a great experience and I hope I get to pace it again in 2016.  Team J&A does an incredible job involving the community, running a timely event and rewarding their participants with graciousness and gratitude.  The course is flat, fast and home to some great scenery.  If you ever have the opportunity, make sure you swing by Virginia Beach and get your ShamRock on!

Meredith

Did you Shamrock this year?  What’s your favorite race?  Why?

Fit Friday: Let’s Talk Toenails

I was upset this week to see this article claiming running ruins your feet and all runners because of it have horrible feet.  Start running and kiss your flip flops goodbye.  This piece makes a similar claim.  But, wait!  Not so fast.  I’m a runner.  I run anywhere between 100 and 180 miles a month.  I rotate through three, four or five pairs of shoes each week.  Sometimes I even wear cotton socks (!).  Sometimes it’s raining.  My toenails are just fine and I am keeping my flip flops, thank you.toenails

No fungus.  No ingrowing.  They might be tiny and un-pedicured but they’re perfectly healthy.  As a coach, it’s easy to see how toenails get damaged from being crammed into too small shoes or stuck in damp, sweaty socks.  If you take care of your feet, your toenails will be just as gorgeous as the day you were born.  Here are the ways I keep my toenails, and feet, happy.

Massage them.   I dig into the arch and heel with my finger and thumbs for at least five minutes on each foot a day.  If my hands are tired, I pull out my lacrosse ball and stand on it.  This keeps the circulation in my feet flowing, which is good for my toenails, and helps the muscles in my foot stay loose.  As a bonus, and since the foot connects to all of my other muscles, rubbing them down helps my hamstrings and calves stay loose, too.

Bare them.  I love shoes.  My Asics make me feel fast, my Jimmy Choos make me feel pretty and I leave them all behind as much as I can.  Being barefoot means my toenails aren’t rubbing on the inside of a shoe or trapped in sweaty, fungus friendly socks.  I do most of my gym workouts, the ones without box jumps, rowing or running, sans shoes.  Running barefoot on the beach?  A free spa treatment.  Hello, exfoliation and adios, dead skin.  Spending time apart from my favorite shoes keeps my feet strong and toenails happy.

Dry them.  Feet are home to 125,000 sweat glands a piece and I’m pretty sure mine are overactive.  My feet sweat like crazy, especially when I’m working out.  I admit to running occasionally in cotton socks, mostly for short, easy runs or on laundry day.  I also take them off immediately after I finish, dry my feet with a towel and put on a clean pair if I need to.  Moisture-wicking socks are a staple of my running attire, keeping fungus and blisters at bay.  I make sure to tote a pair of clean socks around with me, which might seem silly but it’s a great way to keep my toenails fungi free.

Running does not have to ruin your feet.  Blisters, fungus and ingrown toenails are all avoidable if you keep your feet in the right socks and give them a little post-run love.  I’m proud to wear my flip flops, work out barefoot and stick my toes in the sand all without thinking twice.  If I never hear sometime say that “running ruins your feet” again, it will be too soon.

Meredith

How do you protect your toenails and take care of your feet?  Ever dealt with blisters and fungus?

Rock n Roll DC: Recap and Review

rock n roll dcRock n Roll DC was my second race of 2015 and in spite of the rain and some killer hills, I was happy to turn in a good performance.   Doug ran this one, too, and both us and the entire Twittersphere spent the week prior dreading Saturday morning’s weather.  Even though I knew the weather wouldn’t be perfect, I was looking forward to getting out there and seeing how my training was paying off.  Rock n Roll DC weekend kicked off with a mid-morning road trip from Virginia Beach to Washington, DC.

Doug and I stayed at Hotel Helix.  Within walking distance of both the expo and Start line, it’s pet friendly, clean, modern and even though the elevators were a bit slow, the complementary wine hour (we missed it) was a nice touch.  We settled into our room then cruised over to the expo.  It was not as crowded as I had worried and we breezed right through packet pick-up.  I had earned Expo Cash through a Rock n Roll DCreferral link, which was a nice way for Competitor Group to say ‘thanks’, and used it to buy a Rock n Roll DC magnet that matches the one I nabbed in Savannah.  Next up we stopped at High Velocity Sports Bar for some Friday afternoon relaxation then it was back to the room for some college basketball and pre-race pizza.

Race morning dawned gloomy.  No surprise but it was kind enough to subside to an intermittent drizzle while we trekked a mile and change to the Start.  I had to go past Corral 2 for a while to get to the Port-a-Potties where Doug and I separated then even further to the M-O last name truck (#15!). As I made my way back towards my corral, I realized I will never understand why RnR doesn’t do gear check by numbers.  All of the extra walking drives me crazy.  The drizzle dried up while I ran as 1200M warm-up and settled into my corral for the National Anthem.  The Start went off right on time, unlike in Arizona, and I went out for my training run.rock n roll dc

A little weaving in Mile 1 was expected and I had planned on running a fairly loose line for the entire race, picking up some extra mileage when I could.  The course turned through the city and as we came up to a bridge spanning the Potomac, it was neat to see the leaders returning in the opposite direction.  A light, constant rain started again around Mile 2 and there were some minor hills as I cruised through Mile 4 feeling good.  I noticed as the Mile 5 marker appeared that my shoes were officially soaked and avoiding puddles was now pointless.  Crossing into Mile 5, I noticed I was approaching the 3:10 marathon pacer.  Uh-oh, I thought, slow down.  I didn’t mentally feel ready to PR, especially knowing there were some tough spots coming but my body felt great.  I thought a PR would be great, but wasn’t going to push things and kept moving along at a 7:15 pace.

Then we hit Calvert Hill at Mile 6.  As the long, steep climb began I was moving right along with short, quick steps at a slower but consistent pace.  About halfway up, I felt a my foot start to slide around in my 100% saturated shoes and knew a nasty blister was on its way.  I pulled over and retied my left shoe before finishing the tough climb and rolling on.  I was very happy to be on flat ground at the 10k mark and glad to know the toughest hill was behind me.  The course continued over a few more rolling hills through Miles 7 and 8.  I strolled through a water stop at Mile 9 and noticed my watch.  I was roughly 25 seconds behind my PR pace.  A few more gentle hills and I just kept cruising.  A PR would be great on a challenging course in heavy, wet shoes, but I wasn’t too worried about it.

Comparatively, Miles 10 and 11 were pretty flat.  A slow climb welcomed Rock n Roll DC runners to Mile 12 before a nice easy downhill trip to the Finish line.  I missed my PR by 32 seconds, running a 1:37.56 on a difficult course in bad weather.  I have never been so happy to not hit a PR.  With a 10M stroll through a water stop, a shoelace problem and super heavy shoes, Rock n Roll DC’s finish left me feeling ready to rock at Prairie Fire in May.  Walking through the finish chute, I collected my medal, bottled water, PowerBar, pretzels, chocolate milk, skipped the chips and Gatorade then made for my dry clothes at Truck #15.

It was only when I stopped running I noticed how awful the weather had become.  It was raining harder than it had all morning and I swear it was colder.  My core temperature dropped and fingers went numb before I even got to my gear.  Huddled under the metro bridge with a few hundred other suffering runners, I changed into dry tops, socks and shoes.  The socks and shoes ended up being pointless but it was nice to have dry feet for even just a minute while I waited for Doug.  I was glad I had signed up for runner tracking and knew I had some time to stay dry hanging out under cover before heading to meet him at the Finish.  As his expected finish time approached, I made my way back out into the rain to stand near the chute.  My hands were still numb but I could hear the text alert when he crossed the line and I was very happy to be that much closer to a warm shower.

Except we weren’t.  We had to wait in a big crowd, in the rain, to even enter the metro station.  The mass of bodies was warm, however.  Then there was a lengthy line to buy a metro card (note: definitely do this in advance) and another one to get on a train.  We could have driven and bought parking passes in advance through Rock n Roll but figured mass transit would be cheaper.  Anyway, at least it wasn’t raining rock n roll DCin there.  When we finally got on the train it was nice to sit down, get a little blood moving back into my fingers and chat with our fellow Rock n Roll DC finishers.  We finally arrived back at our hotel around noon for hot showers, snacks, Jordy walking and foam rolling before getting on the road for home.

Rock n Roll DC was wet and cold.  I didn’t notice as many bands on the course as usual but Competitor Group did another good job.  It was also a great training run and left me feeling very positive about the direction my Prairie Fire training is taking.  I’ll be pacing Shamrock next weekend then getting into a few more hard long runs before a late April taper.

Meredith

Are you running Shamrock?  How do you deal with bad weather races?

My New Favorite At Home Nachos

Nachos are, hands down, one of my favorite bar foods.  They come in all varieties and I prefer the chicken nachos some places but the chilli nachos at others.  As much as I enjoy munching on a big plate full of cheesy, chili-ed chips while watching a game and sipping on a cocktail with a few dozen of my closest friends, I know they’re not the most healthy meal out there.  I have tried to make healthy nachos at home and it’s been a mixed bag.  Until now.  This more dip/chili style recipe is less greasy (runny) than some of my other experiments, makes great leftovers and is a happy healthy medium while tasting great.

My New Favorite Nachos
Servings: 8
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients
1 lb 97% lean ground beef
1 cup diced sweet pepper
1 cup diced sweet onion
1 cup frozen corn
1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup monterey or cheddar jack cheese
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon taco seasoning
A few sprinkles of cayenne pepper

Instructions
1.  In large frying pan, saute onions and peppers in olive oil
until onions begin to brown, then move to large pot.
2.  Add ground beef to same frying pan and brown.
3.  While beef is browning, add tomatoes, corn, cheese and seasonings to large pot with onions and peppers.
4.  Drain beef and add to large pot.
5.  Heat beef mixture over medium flame until warm throughout and cheese is melted.
6.  Serve with nacho chips.favorite nachos

I’m not a big fan of super spicy food but feel free to throw in your as much cayenne, ghost pepper or diced jalapeno as you want.  I hope you will enjoy my new favorite nachos as much as I do!

Meredith

What’s your go-to bar snack?  Do you have a favorite nacho recipe? 

RnR DC + Race Schedule

It’s RnR DC Race Week!  I got things rolling with an easy barefoot two mile shakeout run in the sand on a gorgeous day.  Sunshine, 65 degrees and a stiff breeze made it feel like spring and I am definitely ready to run in fewer layers.  rnr dcNext Saturday’s half marathon isn’t a target race but I’m excited to get out there and see how it goes after working on my cadence.  The work I’ve been doing seemed to pay off with yesterday’s 12 miler.  It was happily better than expected and left me excited for my second ‘race’ of the year.

RnR DC comes in week five of my spring target race training schedule.  The weather is looking a little rainy but I’m hoping that will change.  Good weather would be a plus in week six, as well.  It’s home to the Shamrock Half Marathon, where I’ll be pacing the 1:52 group and has been a little chilly and windy the last two years.  After the Shamrock, it’s down to business for six more weeks heading to my goal race, the Prairie Fire Half Marathon.  I’ll be checking Kansas off my 50 States list the first week in May and kicking off a busy month of racing.  Six short days later I’ll roll into the EquiKids 5k and on 16 May I’ll be toeing the line at the St. Michael’s Half Marathon in Maryland.  Three races in three states in three weeks, phew!

After that busy stretch in May, I’ll get a few weeks to rest and play before starting a mileage build for the fall that includes Rock n Roll Chicago.  Even though it’ll be a hot one, I’m excited to see the city in a new different way as I check Illinois off my 50 states list and complete the third race of my 2015 Rock n Roll 3 Pack Tour Pass series (RnR AZ and RnR DC are the other two).  After Chicago in July, my race calendar is wide open.  I have a few ideas for fall events but haven’t committed to any yet.

Here are a few potential fall races for me:  Smuttynose Half, Newport Half, Hartford Half, Baystate Half, Morgantown Half and Freedom’s Run Half.

Meredith

Are you running RnR DC?  What’s on your fall schedule?

Increasing My Cadence + Skipping Taper

After last weekend’s Crossfit Endurance seminar, I’ve been working on increasing my cadence when I run.  It sounds pretty simple.  Move my feet faster.  Spend less time in contact with the ground.  But my legs aren’t used to turning over quickly unless I’m running at some faster paces.  When I run at an easy pace I take big, slow strides.  Now is the time to change that!increasing my cadence

So far, I’ve used drills we learned at the seminar to work on increasing my cadence as well as an interval session yesterday.  The workout started with a mile warm up with a few strides and lots of thinking about how my legs were moving.  Next up was 15 x 1 minute at 10k pace, 1 minute a HM+10 seconds with the metronome.  The first few repeats were messy.  I was on the beat, off the beat, on it, off it, especially during the recovery minutes.  In spite of struggling to stay with the beat in the beginning, I got a good grip on how to keep my cadence up while moving at a slower pace by reps seven and eight.  I turned off the metronome for reps 11-15 to see how I doing with increasing my cadence on my own.  I did well!  I kept my ankles and calves relaxed, stayed in a rhythm and used my lean instead of my stride length to control my speed.  To finish the day, I jogged a 400M cool down, did 150 sit-ups and foam rolled like crazy.  It was easier to move at a faster pace during this workout, even if it was only for short bursts, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what I have at Rock n Roll DC.

Speaking of RnR DC, it’s part of my 12 week training cycle for the Prairie Fire Half Marathon.  It comes in week five and should give me a good idea how well of I’m adjusting to increasing my cadence and how long I can keep it together.  Even though RnR DC isn’t my goal race, I had planned a little bonus rest before next week’s event but with the changes I’m making, more practice is better.  I’ll be skipping any kind of taper for RnR DC, moving my feet fast and spending more quality time increasing my cadence with metronome drills heading into race day.

Meredith

Have you ever run with a metronome or cadence trainer?  How did it go?

Crossfit Endurance + Tour Pass

Happy Monday!  I hope everyone had a great weekend.  I spent mine at a Crossfit Endurance Trainer Seminar learning a ton of great things.  Created by Brian MacKenzie, Crossfit Endurance is a Crossfit based system of training for single or multisport endurance events (10k to Ironman to 100 miler, you name it).  I was excited for the course to not only improve my own running but become a better coach.

As part of my course prep, I read materials and watched lots of MacKenzie’s videos.  After watching the videos, my treadmill run Friday night before the seminar was eye opening.  One of the goals of changing running form is to make it more efficient, meaning use your energy to go forward rather than up and down.  I’ve always known I was an up-and-down, bouncy runner but doing treadmill 800M repeats in front of a mirror Friday, I crossfit endurancenoticed my bounce went away during the fast portions of my workout.  Being able to see this and actually have it mean something heading into the weekend’s seminar was a big plus for me.

Ready to learn and improve, I settled in for class Saturday morning.  There were nine of us in the class and our instructor, John, was fantastic.  The day kicked off with lectures on running mechanics and injury prevention then we were video taped running.  Next up we learned and practiced running form drills both inside and outdoors.  After lunch, there were nutrition and fueling lectures, another round of drills, an evaluation of our running from the morning’s video and Saturday wrapped up with team WOD.

Sunday began with mobility and SMR work then moved into programming lectures before cadence drills and another taping session.  I could definitely feel a difference between how I ran before drills and how I ran after them.  Just like it did on the treadmill, how fast my feet moved made all the difference in the world.  John agreed that as soon as my cadence increased, all of my issues went away.  Got it!  Just run fast all the time!  If only it were that simple, right?  Can I run every mile for the rest of my life at my 800M repeat pace?  No.  I need to figure out how to balance cadence and speed then I’ll be good to go.  It was also very valuable to see how other people’s form changed and how John corrected it from Day One to Day Two because you never know what a client will crossfit endurancecome to you with.

I’m excited to work on the cadence/speed balance with some room to run today.  I’ll be taking my metronome along to help me keep that cadence up to see what happens how great it is.  I know I’ll be a better, more efficient and faster runner when I become proficient at moving my lazy feet and after a weekend with Crossfit Endurance, I’m definitely a better coach.

Hopefully I can master getting my legs get to turnover quickly without John or the treadmill’s help soon because I have Rock n Roll DC coming up in 12 short days.  This will be my second race of the year and also the second race of my Tour Pass Three Pack series.  It’s not a goal race (really) which will give me lots of opportunity to relax, think about how I’m moving and work on getting it right as I move towards my Spring PR attempt at Prairie Fire.

Meredith

How was your weekend?  How do you continue learning?