November 30, 2014

Half-Marathon line-up for 2015

Ever since the last couple of races I've run (the Monroe Half and then the Turkey Trot 10K), I've been thinking of pretty much nothing but racing. I took almost all of 2014 off of racing (the races I did were just for fun, so I wasn't really pushing myself), and running the last couple of races hard felt SO good. It made me want to set all sorts of goals and do a lot of racing next year.

I was toying with the idea of running a half-marathon each month for 2015, so yesterday, I found all the half's that I want to do, and I'm "officially" setting that goal. Here is my half-marathon-per-month plan (which could always change, of course; I'm only actually registered for two of these right now):

January: Rock 'n' Roll Arizona (my friend Sarah and I were born 3 days apart, and she lives in Phoenix. She thought it would be fun for us to do this half for our birthdays this year. She doesn't run, so we're going to walk it.)
February: Ice Cube Half Marathon
March: Rock CF Half
April: Martian Half
May: Indianapolis 500 Festival Mini Marathon (with my Sole Mates!)
June: Lake Cadillac Team Marathon Half
July: Hungry Duck Half
August: Boy Scout Half
September: Brooksie Way Half
October: Heroes on Hines Half
November: Monroe Half
December: Santa Hustle Half

A few of these races are more than a short drive away, so I was thinking that Jerry and I could take the kids and make a short weekend trip out of those ones. Since we went on a big vacation this year to Punta Cana, we don't have plans of a big vacation in 2015; it might be fun to go on a few weekend trips instead. When the kids went with us to Cleveland for my first marathon, they had a blast, and they talked about Melt Bar & Grilled for two years after that ;)

I'm hoping that by May, I'll be under 2:00 for my half marathon time. And then maybe by the end of next year, I'll be able to set a new PR (currently, my PR is 1:52:07). Yesterday, I wrote up a year's training plan to include the races. Instead of alternating between tempo runs, interval runs, and hills, I decided to include the tempo runs in with the long runs (for example, I might run 10 miles for my long run with 4 of those miles at goal race pace); and then on another day, I'll alternate each week between intervals and hills.

I also switched my long runs to Sundays instead of Fridays, because most of the races are on Sundays. Today, I started with an 8-mile long run, with just 1 mile at goal race pace (sub-9:00). It was super nice outside today--55 degrees! I wore long sleeves, but I should have worn a tank, because I was pretty hot after a couple of miles.

I didn't want to do my first mile at my goal pace, because I didn't want my legs to feel very fresh; but I didn't want to wait until the end, either, because it would probably be really hard on tired legs. Instead, I just ran at what felt to be very comfortable for the first few miles. I didn't even glance at my Garmin, and just ran by feel.

About a half-mile in, I saw some hunters walking along the edge of the woods, looking around at the ground. I see hunters around there all the time, so it wasn't anything new. A couple of hundred feet later, I heard a rustling and then a doe ran through the woods along the edge of the field. I must have spooked her as I ran next to the woods, but when I saw her running, my heart dropped. She had a big hole in her side, just behind her rib cage, where I'm assuming she had been shot. My guess is that those hunters knew they shot her, and were looking for her :(

I was so sad for the poor deer, and I hoped that she'd get away. About a mile later, I heard eight gunshots in a row, so I'm guessing they found her. It was upsetting, and I just kept picturing her running from me because she was scared. I know animals in slaughterhouses have it much worse, but it still makes me sad to see people hunting.

Seeing that kind of ruined my run. I tried not to think about it, but I just kept thinking about that poor deer. After I hit mile three, I sped up to a sub-9:00 pace for one mile, and then ran easy for the last four miles. That last few miles, I really tried to enjoy it, because this weather was so nice! It's supposed to get really cold again tomorrow.

My November goal was to stick with riding my bike once a week. In short, I totally failed. It got super cold and snowy/icy, so I didn't do it for the last two weeks.

I've been giving some thought to my December goal, and I've decided to post my daily food logs on my blog--every single day--for December. Whether I'm on track with counting my points or not, or if I binge, or if I overindulge, I want to track it and post it for accountability. I already know that my diet is far from perfect, but I'm hoping that knowing it's going to be posted will help me to make better choices.

I still think it's so hard to believe that tomorrow marks the first day of the last month of 2014!

Don't forget, tomorrow is Motivational Monday, so if you have a photo to share, please email it to me ASAP!

November 29, 2014

Eddie Bauer review and giveaway!

Recently, I was asked to write a sponsored post by Eddie Bauer about some running clothes. I don't do many sponsored posts (i.e. getting paid to write a post) for several reasons, but I'd never tried Eddie Bauer running clothes, so I was genuinely curious. I asked them if I could, instead, do a review and giveaway for my readers, and they generously agreed. They sent me an outfit to review, and in return, I get to give one lucky reader a $100 Eddie Bauer gift card! (So in full disclosure, I was given an outfit, but I am not being paid to review the items. My opinions are honest, as always.)

I've always been very thrifty when it comes to clothes, and my favorite place to shop is at garage sales (followed by Goodwill). BUT, running clothes (and shoes) are my one big splurge. I've learned that you just cannot beat the comfort and quality of GOOD (read: more expensive) running clothes.

I've mentioned way more times than I care to count that I'm a huge fan of Under Armour for my running clothes. I spent a small fortune on the pieces I have (at least compared to my garage sale prices, haha); but I still have the pieces that I bought in 2010 and they are in fantastic shape. I do occasionally buy cheap items from Wal-Mart, but they usually only last a season. I really think that spending the extra money to get good quality running clothes is worth it!

Eddie Bauer sent me the following:

Incendiary Long-Sleeve Crew Shirt
Sandstone Soft Shell Jacket
Women's Movement Leggings

I was super excited to try them out, so naturally, I wore them all at once ;)

My initial impression: I loved everything! The tights were the fit that I like with the Under Armour tights. The waist went up high enough to feel like everything was held in tight (something I always liked before I had skin surgery--the compression kept my loose skin from bouncing and hurting). The fabric felt different than my Under Armour tights--it was really cozy and softer, and I worried that may cause them to slip down or something while running. The crew shirt was super comfy as well--a moisture-wicking fabric, but not at all scratchy (something I hate with cheap clothes). And the jacket was really nice--roomy enough to have a full range of motion, but not baggy or uncomfortable at all.

The jacket has what Eddie Bauer calls a "Storm Repel DWR finish", which means that it beads water so it doesn't soak into the fabric. It just so happened to start raining as I started to run, so it was the perfect opportunity to see how well that worked! It turns out that I was very impressed with it--I didn't get soaked through at all. I even took a picture to show how it "beads" the water:

The crew shirt is now my favorite long-sleeved tech shirt. Again, I love the fit: it's long enough so I don't feel like I have to keep tugging it down, it's fitted but not uncomfortably so, the seams don't cause chafing, and it has thumb holes on the sleeves. The fabric is really soft, but moisture-wicking. The fabric is meant to keep you warm in colder weather, and it certainly does that job well.

The leggings are what surprised me the most. I've always raved about Under Armour Cold Gear tights, but I have to admit, I like the Eddie Bauer tights better. Because the fabric feels so soft, I worried it wouldn't wick moisture like the UA ones do, but they worked very well to keep me feeling dry. The seams are virtually unnoticeable, so I didn't have any problems with chafing. The biggest test was to see if I had to keep tugging on them to keep them pulled up. I went through the entire run without having to readjust or tug on the pants at all.

I liked the outfit so much that I actually decided to wear it for the Monroe Half Marathon I ran, and then I wore the leggings for the Turkey Trot on Thursday. So comfy! (By the way, I found the fit to be pretty true-to-size. My leggings are a small and the shirt and jacket are both size medium.) Normally, when I review a product, I try to write positives AND negatives--but I honestly couldn't think of any negatives about these clothes. Maybe just the price? They are expensive, but I think the quality is worth it.

As I mentioned, Eddie Bauer was kind enough to offer a $100 gift card to give away! To enter the giveaway, just fill out the form below. I'll close entries and randomly select a winner on Tuesday, December 2, 2014 at 2:00 PM EST. Good luck!

(I wanted to get this post up today, because is having a Black Friday sale until Monday--you get 30% off your entire purchase plus free shipping and returns if you use code FROSTY.)

November 27, 2014

Detroit Turkey Trot Drumstick Double race reports

Last night, there was a last minute change of plans to our race this morning, which made things a little interesting! Nathan (my younger brother) called me to say that Brian (my older brother) and Becky (Brian's wife) decided to bail on the Turkey Trot. They were already registered, and when Jerry heard they weren't going to run, he decided to run in Brian's place.

Brian was registered for the Drumstick Double (10K followed by 5K), and Jerry hasn't run it at least a month. I told him it was a bad idea, but he really wanted to do it, so that was the plan. We realized he didn't have any cold weather running clothes, so we made a last-minute trip to Dunham's last night to get him some running tights.

We got up at 4:30 this morning to get ready and leave by 5:30. We were supposed to meet Nathan, Kendall (his girlfriend), and Trish (his friend) at 5:45 to drive up to Detroit. We got to Detroit at 6:15, and there was no traffic on the expressway. But as soon as we tried to get to the parking garage at Cobo Center, it was a HUGE mess of cars. Drivers were being really aggressive, and even though I had tried to prepare myself for how crowded it would be, I just felt stressed before we even parked.

We ended up finding a different garage to park in, and then made our way to Cobo where the packet pick-up was. It was a huge center, and we didn't see any signs directing us where to go or anything, so we just kept walking and hoped to find it. We finally got our packets and took a picture before making our way to the starting line.

Me, Jerry, Kendall, Nathan, and Trish
It took us a long time to find our way back out to the street, and by that time, it was already 7:25 (the race started at 7:30). When we got to the starting line, we were supposed to go to the blue corral because we were doing the Drumstick Double (except Kendall, who was doing the 5K). The sidewalks were so crowded, and they already sent off the first wave of people. We couldn't find anywhere to get through the gates into the corrals, so the guys hopped over them while Trish and I squeezed through the bars.

I had turned on my Garmin at around 7:00, but it STILL hadn't found satellites. I was starting to stress over that, because I was really hoping to aim for a 55:00 finish time, and I didn't want to do it blindly. I turned it off and then back on, and the blue wave started. We started walking toward the starting line, and literally about 30 seconds before we crossed it, my Garmin picked up satellites. Woo hoo! If I hadn't had a goal, I wouldn't have worried about it so much, but I needed my Garmin ;)

Nathan told me he'd pace me, so we stuck together. And Trish was with us most of the way as well. Jerry's only goal was to finish, so he ran alone. When we crossed the starting line, it was impossible to run the pace I wanted, because of all the people. I was trying to pass people, but there really wasn't room to do that. I was aiming for an 8:50 pace, but the first two miles were 9:05 and 9:00. I mentally just readjusted my goal to be sub-9:16 miles, which was my "B" goal (it was what the McMillan calculator had predicted).

There was an out-and-back section about a mile long, and a couple of minutes after we made the turn, I suggested we start looking for Jerry to run past us. We could see the people who were approaching the turn-around, so I figured he'd be about five minutes behind us. I looked and looked, but never saw him. I wasn't sure if I should be worried, but then I figured we probably just missed him in the crowd.

As we approached the skyline, it was really pretty! I had to take a picture as I ran:

You can see Nathan and Trish on the left of the picture. I spent the last three miles just trying to keep up with them! My third mile was 9:04, and then after the crowd wasn't so crowded, I was able to dip into the 8:00's. Miles 4 and 5 were 8:46 and 8:50. I was REALLY getting tired around mile 5, and I was hoping there was a water station, but I never did see one on the course (I later learned there were two--but Nathan and I both missed them).

At mile 5.5, I happened to glance just ahead and to my right, and there was Jerry! I was SO shocked to see him. I was busting my ass to hit pace, and he, who rarely runs, was ahead of us the whole time?! He must have started at the front of the wave, because his pace was a little slower (9:10), but he ran that 10K like a champ. I briefly thought of slowing to finish with him, but my average pace was at an 8:56 at that moment, so I was going to try to finish with a sub-9:00 pace. I kept going with Nathan.

He asked me if I had anything left to give, because if I did, I could still finish under 55:00. In my head, I had tried doing the math to see if it was possible to finish under 55:00, but I was thinking it just couldn't happen at that point. I'd have to make up a lot of seconds in a short amount of time. I just told him no, that I was doing all I could.

When I could see the finish line, Nathan said I had about 14 seconds, and I could do it. I sprinted with what little energy was left in my legs, but I knew it wasn't going to happen. I crossed the finish line in 55:07--just 7 seconds from my goal! Hahaha, if I had known it would be THAT close, there are so many things I would have done differently (like maybe not take pictures while running?).

Anyway, I really felt I gave it my best, considering the crowded course and feeling stressed before the race. We waited for Jerry, and he crossed in 57:49. Then we all started walking quickly to the starting line again for the 5K. It was about a half-mile, and then we discovered we were locked out of the corrals again. We started searching for a spot to crawl through, and just as I was about to, a girl on the inside of the corral pointed out where there was an opening. Then she said, "By the way, I love your blog!" Hahaha, small world :) The 5K had already started, so we made our way to the opening, but there were way too many people standing outside of it for us to get through. Once the crowd started moving, we wormed our way in and walked toward the starting line.

This was Kendall's first 5K, and she expected to run about an 11:00-11:30 pace, so I planned to stick with her (I knew I'd be tired after that 10K!) and Nathan stayed with us as well. Running at that pace was much more enjoyable, and I actually took a few pictures.

This was the out-and-back portion

Comerica Park

Nathan and Kendall
As we were running the out-and-back portion, I heard someone on the other side going past yell, "Runs for Cookies!" I yelled back, but I was taken off guard so I'm not sure if she heard. (If you're reading, hi! Hope you had a great race!)

Kendall was doing awesome, and managed splits of 11:32, 11:13, and 10:34. We crossed the finish line in 35:16. The finish line was a mess of people, and the Drumstick Doublers were told to go inside the building for our medals. It took us a while (and a lot of asking) to find where to go, but we finally got our medals. The food line was ridiculously long, and even though I was super thirsty, I didn't want to wait.

They had some stuff for sale, and when I saw this particular hoodie, I just HAD to have it:

It has an INSULATED beer holder pocket on the front, along with an attached bottle opener! I had no money with me, because I just don't carry it when I run; but Trish offered to lend me the money to buy it (she got one too). As chaotic and unorganized as the race was, buying this shirt was totally worth it all ;)

Overall, I am VERY happy with my 10K today--even though I didn't hit my goal, I did run hard and I came very close. Running Kendall's first 5K with her was awesome. And I bought a really fun hoodie. While I'll never do this Turkey Trot again (just too unorganized for me) but I'm glad I did it. I earned a TON of Weight Watchers PointsPlus for my dinner tonight! And it was a great way to start Thanksgiving :)

November 26, 2014

Training for a hilly race

I was SO busy yesterday; by the time I sat down to start writing a blog post, it was already after 9:00, so I just decided not to write. While the kids were in school, I spent literally the entire time deep-cleaning both bathrooms. My least favorite chore is scrubbing the shower and bath tubs because it takes so long. But the bathrooms are now super clean. I'm going to try and deep-clean all the rooms of the house over the next week or two.

After the kids got home from school, we went to my parents' house for dinner. Also there were: my older brother, Brian; his wife, Becky; Becky's parents, visiting from Minneosta; my younger brother, Nathan; two of my uncles and one aunt; and Jerry. None of it was even planned until yesterday morning, but it was fun.

My glutes were really sore yesterday from my hill workout on Monday. The Shamrock Run that I'm doing in Portland is SUPER hilly, even by the standards of people that regularly run hills. Thomas has mentioned it enough times that it was starting to scare me, and make me wonder why I signed up for the race. I don't have any hills to train on here, and even doing intervals on an expressway overpass isn't enough to prepare me for the race.

So on Monday morning, I looked up the elevation profile of the race, and decided to calculate the hill grade percentages to come up with a hill workout that will hopefully help me train. There were six major hills that I could see in the chart:

Some of them are short and steep, but also, the first 5 miles are basically uphill. So using the feet climbed and the distance in miles, I plugged the numbers into this calculator that then gives the grade percentages. Here is what it came up with:

Hill #1: Mile 2.13 to 3.91 climbs 382 feet
Hill #2: Mile 4.18 to 4.31 climbs 85 feet
Hill #3: Mile 4.54 to 4.71 climbs 139 feet
Hill #4: Mile 4.98 to 5.60 climbs 167 feet
Hill #5: Mile 5.74 to 5.87 climbs 62 feet
Hill #6: Mile 6.67 to 6.94 climbs 47 feet

And translated into grade percentages, this was my treadmill workout:

My treadmill only goes up to 12%, so I couldn't even get it high enough for the third hill--that's very steep! Surprisingly, I did okay for the first hill. I set the speed pretty slow (5.5 mph, a 10:54 pace). I certainly felt like I was going uphill, but it wasn't terrible. I started thinking how I was going to tell Thomas that this was a piece of cake. After each hill, I took a 2-minute rest (I don't like to lower the incline to 0% between hills for a recovery jog, because it takes too long to lower it and then increase it again, so it's simpler to just hop off the treadmill and take a short rest).

The second hill was no joke. I kept the speed where it was, but at 12% incline, I was counting down the distance until I could hop off. During the third hill, I was cursing Thomas, and it was all I could do to finish that short 0.17-mile segment. Normally, 5% incline is tough, but after doing that third hill, the fourth one felt easy. And then the sixth hill, at 3.3%, didn't even feel like a hill at all at that point.

Overall, it was a tough workout, and I'm definitely going to repeat it several times before March. In looking at the elevation profile again, I think I'm going to break the first hill into two separate ones, because it starts out as a long, gradual incline and then sharply goes up toward the end. By splitting it up, it looks like this:

Hill #1: 1.47 miles at a 2.2% grade immediately followed by 0.31 miles at 13% grade. I'd say that's a pretty significant hill!

A lot of newer treadmills now have the ability to automatically adjust incline based on a certain course. You can map out a course on Google Maps and then when you run it, the incline adjusts to what it would actually feel like. That would be really convenient to train for a race like Shamrock, because I just don't have the hills around here to mock that course. My treadmill is getting old, and it's starting to sound kind of rickety. I think I'm going to start saving up for a new one, and maybe by summertime I'll get one (I use the treadmill in the summer quite a bit because the kids are home from school).

I had been planning on rotating a hill workout with tempo runs and intervals, so I'd only be doing it every third week; but I think I may rearrange my running schedule to fit in two of the harder workouts per week, so that I can do the hill workout every week. Because my legs (and butt) were sore from this workout, I can feel that it's definitely using different muscles--always a good thing!

Jessica called me yesterday after reading my blog post about my goal for the Turkey Trot. She's done the race for the past several years, and said that it's definitely not a race to have a time goal for. It's extremely crowded, especially during the 5K, and she said there is just no way to get around people. I told her I was worried about getting to the 5K starting line on time after running the 10K, and she said that it's not even an issue. She ran the 10K in 1:00:xx last year, and then walked a half mile to the 5K, but there were still tons of people starting the 5K at that time. She basically said it's a big cluster, but a lot of fun.

So, that made me feel relieved that I don't have to worry about getting to the 5K starting line by 8:30 (the 10K starts at 7:30). I'm still going to try and aim for an 8:50 pace, but I'm also not going to get bent out of shape if it's just not happening, either. Nathan, Brian, and Becky are going to run the Drumstick Double, too, and Kendall (Nathan's girlfriend) is running the 5K as her first race! We are going to be heading up to Detroit at around 5:30 tomorrow, so it'll be an early start to the day--but it should be fun. Then later, we're going to my parents' house for turkey dinner.

Have a happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

November 24, 2014

Motivational Monday #88

Happy Motivational Monday, Friends! Can you believe that Thanksgiving is in three days? I just feel like this year has gone by crazy fast. So far, 2015 is looking like it's going to be a good year, so I'm not complaining ;)

This week, I think my proudest moment was yesterday, when I ran my four-miler. I had a goal of sub-9:00 miles, but I honestly really didn't think I could do it. I gave it my best, and I nailed it! Completing that run made me feel SO good, and just excited to work on being a faster runner again. I'm looking forward to working hard to get my speed back.

I have quite a few stories to share today for Motivational Monday, so I'll get right to it!

Mara just celebrated the three-month anniversary of when she started losing weight! A few days ago, she reached "ONEderland" (anyone who has been over 200 pounds knows that "ONEderland" is being back in the 100's, haha) for the first time in years. Yesterday, just for fun, she decided to run an unofficial 10K to see if she could finish under 60 minutes. She did it! She ran 6.26 miles in 58:45, and even ran her two fastest miles to date: 8:04 and 8:15. She's also lost 41 pounds since she started her journey!

Emily just completed her first half-marathon! This was actually the third half-marathon that she signed up for over the years, but she didn't train or make it to the starting line of the first two. This time, she trained for the Rock 'n' Roll St. Louis Half--and she finished in a great time of 2:11:15! Her only goal was to finish, but she secretly hoped to finish under 2:30. She crushed that goal!

Kasey (on left in photo) just completed her first half-marathon! When she signed up, she decided to do it regardless of whether she walked or ran. She had two goals: 1) Don't get picked up by the SAG wagon and 2) Finish under 2:30. And she completed both of those--she jog/walked the race, and crossing the finish line in 2:28! She's now working on her ultimate goal of running an entire half.

Erin and her husband live in South Korea, where the winters are very icy. Two winters ago, Erin slipped on the ice while walking her dog, and broke her leg. It was broken so badly that her doctor told her to quit running. Two years later, she was pining for it--10 pounds heavier, and not as healthy as she was when she was running. So she decided to work up to it again, and four months later, she and her husband ran the Son Kee Chung Peace Half-Marathon. She PR'ed her time, finishing in 2:11, and best of all, she was pain-free! She now has her sights on the Seoul Marathon (her first full) in March.

Cheri injured her wrist early this year, which really set back the progress she had made in weight loss and running. She stopped working out, and gained back all the weight she had lost. Two months ago, she was talked into participating in a strength and nutrition program. Her goal wasn't weight loss this time, but rather building strength and eating well to be fast and strong. She focused on improving her lifts, and halfway through, they tested her to learn that all of them had improved! Her back squat was the best, at 165 pounds. On Friday, she tested her lifts again, and blew the previous numbers out of the water. Everything is back to where she was before the injury or better, and her back lift is a new PR of 185 pounds!

Renee just started her third half-marathon training three weeks ago, and she has already more than doubled her mileage from the summer! Her race is in April, and her goal is to be able to run the entire race. This weekend, she ran five miles straight without walking--something she hasn't done since last spring! (Renee's blog)

You can check out more stories on the Motivational Monday Facebook post!

November 23, 2014

A huge confidence-boost

After signing up for the Turkey Trot yesterday, and worrying about whether I'd be able to finish in the required amount of time, I decided to do a "test run" today. I had four miles on the schedule, so instead of doing them at an easy pace, I wanted to try to run 8:50-ish per mile. That's the pace I would need to hold for a sub-55:00 10K.

Looking back on my training for the year, about 99% of my mileage was "easy". Even the races I did were just for fun, or pacing someone slower than me. The only race that I really ran hard was the Martian Meteor 5K in April. It was my younger brother's first 5K, and he just said he wanted to aim for sub-9:00's. I assumed that meant close to 8:59, but he made it challenging ;) I did my best to keep up with him, and finished in 26:11 (8:25/mi pace). Nowhere near a PR, but that was the last race that I really gave a lot of effort.

I am so glad I took a break from racing for 2014, becauseI just felt sort of burnt out after training so hard for the Chicago Marathon. On the other hand, I think one of the reasons I backed off of racing hard was because I knew a PR was out of reach. Having gained weight, my pace slowed from what it was 2013; and even running my best, I knew that I wouldn't PR. So rather than trying my best, I just took it easy instead. Not the smartest attitude to have, but it wasn't something I did consciously.

Recently, I have gotten really fired up to race hard again. I know that I won't be setting PR's right now, but I set some short term and long term racing goals that I'd like to aim for. Reaching those will feel almost as good as a PR. It feels almost like being a new runner again, which is a great feeling, because you see so much progress!

So today, I had a goal of sub-9:00 splits, but I was really hoping to hit 8:50's. I figured if I could hit 8:50 for 4 miles, then I *should* be able to hit 9:00-ish for the 10K on Thursday. Today was the perfect running weather! It was 45 degrees, overcast, and drizzling. If I could choose my running weather, that would be exactly what I would choose.

I went outside, thought, "Here goes nothing!", and started running. It always takes me a quarter- to a half-mile to get a good pace; I usually start out too fast, then my pace drops too slow because I'm recovering from starting too fast, and then I find a good balance. That's exactly what happened today. Once I settled into pace, my Garmin read 8:40. That was faster than I'd planned, but I just went with it anyway, figuring I'd slow down for sure after a mile or two.

I was really uncomfortable running at that pace, but that's how it's supposed to feel when you're racing (I was treating this as a mock-race in a way). My legs felt really good, but my breathing was tough. So I just tried to focus on the principles of the "Running On Air" book I mentioned--inhale for 3 steps, exhale for 2. I also tried to remember the running form tips that I learned from Golden (founder of Altra shoes). I was trying to focus on anything other than how uncomfortable I felt!

My first two splits were almost dead-even: 8:39.6 and 8:39.2. After I turned around (I was doing an out-and-back route), I kept focusing on just making it to mile three. Once I hit mile three, I knew that mentally, it would be a whole lot easier. Knowing I would have just a mile left would help me get through it. I hit mile three just a tad faster, at 8:37.6. I knew then that I would finish, but that last mile was so hard! I reached my house just as my Garmin beeped, and saw my last mile was 8:34.3.

I can't even explain how excited I was to have done it! This run wasn't an actual race, it wasn't a PR for distance or speed, it wasn't anything special at all--but I just felt really excited that I'd reached (what I knew would be) a really difficult goal at this point.

A run worthy of a Jerry-face ;)

When I got my fastest in early 2013, that was exactly how it started--just setting small goals for each individual run, getting a little faster each time.

It was the same with my weight loss--I would set my sights on all sorts of mini-milestones (my pre-pregnancy weight, my college weight, under 200, my high school weight, etc.). I'm going to try to have the same mindset with my weight loss as I do with the running right now. I want to get excited about each milestone again, instead of thinking about how much I gained this year, or how far I have to go until my goal.

Right now I just feel really excited to race again! This Thursday, I'm going to aim for sub-55:00 at the 10K. It's a super crowded race, so that may hinder my goal--but even if I don't hit that goal now, I'll just try again until I do. The weather was perfect today, but that may not be the case for Thursday (right now it shows cold and snowing), so we'll see what happens. But today was a HUGE confidence-booster in what I can do! I really needed that. :)

Don't forget, tomorrow is Motivational Monday, so if you have something to share, please email it to me ASAP :)

November 22, 2014

Turkey Trot plans

I completely forgot to mention this yesterday, but Renee told me about a little encounter she had at the airport. She ran the NYC Marathon a few weeks ago, and while she was at La Guardia airport, she happened to bump into her high school cross country coach. She didn't think he'd remember her, but she stopped and chatted with him.

Well, it turns out that her high school cross country coach was Kevin Hanson--as in "Hansons Marathon Method"! I've been raving about the Hansons Marathon Method a year and a half, and I'd talked to Renee about it several times. She'd never realized that the "Hanson" part of the method was in reference to her high school cross country coach!

Yesterday, Nathan came over to pick up his pie. I was glad to get it out of the house! But he mentioned that he's going to do the Thanksgiving day Turkey Trot in Detroit, and asked if I would be interested in doing it, too. I've never actually done a turkey trot! Jerry is off work that day, so it would be easy for me to get away (not having to worry about child care).

Nathan said he's doing the "Drumstick Double", which is a 10K followed by a 5K. You get three medals for doing it--one for each race, plus one for doing both. I was tempted, until he told me that the 5K starts exactly one hour after the 10K starts. That means I'd have to run the 10K and make it to the starting line of the 5K in under an hour.

A year ago, that wouldn't have been a problem at all! But my pace is so iffy right now, and I haven't actually raced a 10K in a long time, so I have no idea what I could do. But there really is no bigger motivator to run fast than knowing I have to finish in a certain amount of time so I can do the next race. So I ended up registering for the Drumstick Double this morning.

I'm really nervous! I'm not worried about the 5K, or the number of miles--but my pace for the 10K is what concerns me. To finish under 60 minutes, I'd have to run a 9:39/mi pace. I'm sure I can do that, because my recent half-marathon pace was 9:44; and when I just ran 5.5 miles with Dean, our pace was 9:24. But I need a few minutes as a cushion in order to walk from the finish line to the starting line of the 5K. Ideally, I would finish in about 55:00, which is a pace of 8:51. Possible? Perhaps. Likely? Not really.

According to the McMillan race calculator, and based on my most recent half-marathon time, I should be able to run the 10K in 57:33 (a 9:16 pace). McMillan has always been pretty spot-on for predicting my times with races half-marathon-distance and under. So this is probably what I should aim for.

Even though I'm nervous, I like having this challenge. I kind of miss racing (where I actually push myself hard), so this will be a good indicator of where I'm at. I'm going to try my very best to hit sub-9:00's, and if not that, I'll aim for 9:16. I think I should be okay as long as I hit 9:30's or so. I'm sure the 10K is going to take everything out of me, so it's likely my 5K time will be very slow. ;)

I really like the idea of kicking off Thanksgiving with a Turkey Trot! Thanksgiving dinner has never really been a huge temptation for me (except for the sweet potato casserole--love that stuff!), but I am planning to make a pecan pie to bring to my mom's. Pecan pie has about a million points per slice, so running 9.3 miles that morning should cover some of it!

Anyone else running a race on Thanksgiving morning?

November 21, 2014

A long run with extra mileage

First off, let me announce the winners of the 500 Festival Mini Marathon registration giveaway:

Kara R. and Mindy K.--Congrats! I've sent each of you an email. If you've changed your mind, or aren't able to make it to the race, please let me know so I can pick a new winner. I hope you love the race as much as I do!

This morning, I had plans to do a long run with Stephanie. I had 8 miles on the schedule, and that's what she was planning to run, too. Normally, she works on Fridays, but she happened to have today off, so it worked out well to get together. It was cold this morning, but not as cold or windy as it's been all week:

When walking the kids to their bus stops this morning, I was really second guessing whether I wanted to run outside. It felt a lot colder than 14 degrees! I put on Under Armour Cold Gear tights, and then another pair of tights over them. I wore a Cold Gear shirt and a jacket over that. I put Aquaphor on my cheeks, and then put on a hat and gloves, and I was ready.

Stephanie picked me up, and when she got here, she realized she'd forgotten her hydration belt. Since I never use my belt, I told her she could use it today. We drove to the State park to run from there. I let Stephanie set the pace--she usually runs about 11:30/mi for her long runs--and we headed out. My hands were so cold at first! I started thinking I should probably have brought warmer gloves. They eventually warmed up, of course.

I was worried about it being icy, but it wasn't--the path had a lot of snow, but it was the "sticky" kind of snow that wasn't hard to run on at all.

We took a right and went around the lake, and then headed out of the park until we reached four miles. When we hit the four mile mark to turn around, Stephanie discovered that she'd forgotten the water bottle. She had the belt on, but she had taken a drink of water in the car, and realized she must have forgotten to put it back in the belt.

We went back the way we came, but when we got to the lake, we stayed to the right and went around the opposite side of the lake. We reached 8 miles just as we got back to the car. It was a great run!

When Stephanie opened the car to get the water bottle, it wasn't there. We discovered that she must have had the water bottle in the belt, but it fell out along the route. Since the route was (mostly) out and back, we would have seen it on the way back. But since we chose to go around the lake from the other side, there was a stretch of about 1.5 miles where it could possibly be.

I hated to leave it, because the hydration belt was expensive; but on the other hand, I never use it, so it's not really a big loss. But since I knew it had to be within that 1.5 mile section, I decided to go look for it. Stephanie was going to come walk with me, but I volunteered to run it. It was too cold to walk in my sweaty clothes, so I figured running would keep me warmer.

Once I started running, I started my Garmin. If I was going to run, I wanted it to count! ;)  We had only seen two other people at the park, because it was so cold, so I was confident I'd find the bottle. I can't imagine why anyone would want to take it! I just kept hoping it would be closer to the car rather than farther. There is no road access along that whole stretch, so the only way to look is on foot.

I ran until I got to the turn that led out of the park, and there was no sign of the water bottle. So either someone had taken it, or we just didn't see it along the route on our way back. On the bright side, I got in an extra 2.6 miles, making my total run 10.6 miles today :)

This is not November weather!

I did great getting back on track today. I had plans to get together with Renee for wine, but she sent me a text to see if I'd want to go out to dinner instead. I didn't want to let that voice of "just one more day of being off track!" start playing in my head, so I looked up the menu to plan out what I was going to have. I actually decided on a Michigan salad--which is strange, because I never order salads, but it sounded really good! Once I got to the restaurant, however, I changed my mind. Renee told me that the Vegetarian Hash was really good, and I was in the mood for something warm. The hash dish was sweet potatoes, onions, and bell peppers topped with two eggs.

I ate both eggs and about 2/3 of the hash, plus half a slice of dry toast. I'm estimating what I ate to be 14 PointsPlus. Since I'd earned so many Activity PP on my run today, I had plenty for wine, too. It was really nice catching up with Renee. She's had a ton of stuff going on this year!

Now, I'm going to try and read the entire Mockingjay book this weekend. It's been a long time since I read it, but I want to read it again before watching the movie. I'm hoping to go see the movie this weekend! If not, then maybe early next week.

November 20, 2014

Moving on after a bad day (or two) of eating...

Yesterday turned out not to be a very good food day for me. And unfortunately, I let it carry over into today, which I hate doing!

It all started innocently enough. I haven't been eating a ton of sweets lately, and I seem to be doing fine with just having a piece or two of chocolate now and then. So yesterday, I thought I'd be fine to make some fudge (in retrospect, I should have seen in coming! haha). I made the fudge, cut it into a whole bunch of little pieces (3 PointsPlus each), and then promptly ate way too many of them. So much for my plan of having a piece for dessert each night!

I had already put a healthy dinner in the Crock Pot (Split Pea Soup), so I decided to just play it off like the fudge hadn't happened, and continue on with my day. After Eli got home from school, the kids were really excited to eat the soup. As strange as it sounds, my kids' very favorite food that I cook is Split Pea Soup!

I gave the soup a stir, and thought, "Wow, this isn't even close to done! The peas still seem hard." Sure enough, I had the Crock Pot turned on all day, but it was UNPLUGGED. I had been burning a new candle all day as well, so I had just thought the lack of "yummy soup smell" was because the candle was overpowering it.

I was so frustrated. I plugged in the Crock Pot to cook the soup then, but knew that wouldn't be done until at least 10:00 pm, so I started thinking of just ordering pizza for dinner. I felt like the day was already shot, so might as well. Instead, though, I just looked through the pantry and decided on Ramen noodles. It was freezing cold outside, and Ramen noodles actually sounded better than pizza anyway. Ramen isn't exactly healthy, of course, but it was a little more Points-friendly than pizza was. The soup situation felt like it mentally messed me up all evening--I had a handful of Goldfish here, and a handful of dried cherries there.

Today, I decided to cut my losses with the fudge and evening snacking, and just get right back on plan. I was doing really well, too--until I got a phone call from the school asking me to come pick up the pies that Noah had sold. Noah had a fundraiser several weeks ago, and he sold four pies--I let the kids pick one out to buy, and then my parents ordered one, my sister ordered one, and my younger brother ordered one. When I sent Nathan a text telling him he could pick up his pie (Oreo), he told me that I could take some of it if I wanted. He'd only ordered it because Noah had asked him to, and he wouldn't mind if it wasn't all there. Such a nice brother! ;)

Nathan's Oreo pie

After lunch, it was like without even thinking it through, I just opened up the box and cut a slice. I was hoping it would be terrible, but it was actually really good. Since it was Nathan's pie, though, I left the rest alone. When Noah got home, he really wanted to try the pie that he and Eli had picked out (Peanut Butter Cup!). So I cut a slice for him, and then even though I knew better, I cut a slice for myself as well. We sat down and ate it together, and Noah kept saying how delicious it was. I shouldn't have taken any, because after the Oreo pie earlier, it honestly just didn't sound good. But since I was on a roll, I guess I just figured I might as well (I wish I could cut that habit, I really do!).

I'm sure it would have tasted much better if I had been hungry for it, but it was just really rich and I didn't even finish the piece. But of course I was mad at myself for taking it when I didn't *really* want it.

Peanut Butter Cup pie

Anyway, that's how one bad day turns into two. And if I'm not careful, it can turn into three, or a week, or a month! So I thought I'd write a little of how I get back on plan after a day or two of going (way) over my PointsPlus. A lot of people ask me how I count the PointsPlus if I know that I've gone way over--do I try to eat my minimum target for the rest of the week? Pretend it didn't happen? Count it and keep a negative balance?

It can go one of several ways. If I add up all those PointsPlus I spent on the fudge and the pies and other stuff I ate, I would have been way over my allotted PointsPlus for the day AND the week. I get 49 PP per week to use whenever I'd like, but those would be gone, leaving me with nothing until my week resets on Wednesday. In the past, when I've done that, it almost inevitably leads to a binge. I can't live on 26 PP per day! I get too hungry, and I just say "Screw it!"

The worst scenario would be to just ride out the rest of the week without counting anything, and feeling like, "I already blew it, might as well just eat whatever I want until my week starts over on Wednesday." This has never turned out well, and is definitely not a solution!

What I find works best for me in this situation is to look at the entire week as 7 separate days (instead of as a week as a whole). So for me, I get 26 PP per day, every day, no matter what. I also get any activity PointsPlus that I earn. AND, I get 49 PointsPlus per WEEK (which would average out to 7 per day). So if I was to break that down into days, I would get 26 daily PP + 7 weekly PP + activity PP earned that day. Instead of letting those two days ruin my entire week, what I like to do is just discount those two days by treating them as if I'd eaten 26 PP + 7 PP + the activity PP I'd earned.

So yesterday, for example, I earned 3 activity PP. So I would count yesterday's points as 26 daily + 3 activity + 7 weekly = 36 PP. I know that I ate much more than that, because of the fudge, Goldfish, and a couple of other snacks here and there, but for the sake of keeping my sanity and really working hard to get back on track, I just count that day as done and over with at 36 PP. I just tend to think of it as a 6-day week instead of a 7-day week. If I try to make up for the excess fudge and pie and whatever else, I find that I just get frustrated and overwhelmed and I try to "wait until Wednesday" to start fresh for the week.

It probably doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and sometimes I'll end up with a weight gain, but I know that it would be much worse if I just stopped counting until the new week. If I was having way more bad days than good days, this wouldn't work. But I've found that when I'm on track for most of the time (say, 12 or 13 out of 14 days), that one day doesn't matter so much.

I dumped the rest of the fudge in the garbage today, and I'm not even tempted by the pies anymore. Tomorrow, I will continue to count my PointsPlus, eating all 26 daily PP, my activity PP, and if I want to use any of my remaining weekly. Today, I had my heathy Split Pea Soup for dinner, so I at least ended the day on the right note! ;)

I have plans to meet up with Stephanie tomorrow morning to do a long run together (yay company! But it's going to be a super cold run.) And tomorrow evening, I have plans to go to Renee's for wine. I haven't sat and had a conversation with her in a long time! I think since February-ish. This whole year is just going by so quickly. Anyway, tomorrow should be a good day :)

Jen, a long-time reader of mine, recently interviewed me for her blog. You can check it out here, if you'd like! I feel honored that she asked me, because she's interviewed some pretty great people recently--Bart Yasso, Jeff Galloway, Mark Remy, and others.

Finally, last chance to enter the giveaway for the Indy 500 Festival Mini Marathon registration! I'll be pulling two winners tomorrow. Good luck!

November 18, 2014

Goal or Skydiving

You could say it was just a tad bit chilly this November morning, even for Michigan:

When I walked Noah to the bus stop at 6:45, I felt like my face was going to freeze off! The average high this time of year is 48, and low is 33, so this cold and wind is definitely not the norm.

Yesterday, the roads were actually pretty bad in the morning. They were really icy when I walked the kids to the bus stop, and since I had speed work on the schedule, I decided to do it on the treadmill. A few people mentioned using Yak Trax or IceSpikes on the ice--my IceSpikes work well when the roads are covered in ice or in packed snow, but I hate using them on dry ground. So for now, with icy patches, the IceSpikes are just more of a nuisance. After last winter, I actually really started to enjoy the treadmill, and I honestly don't mind using it. Besides, I do my fastest speed work on the treadmill, and I think that was a big factor in helping me get my PR's last year.

I had a 35 minute tempo run on the schedule--a 5-minute warm-up, then 25 minutes at tempo pace, and then a 5-minute cool down. I was hoping to be able to hit 8:27-8:41 for a my tempo pace, but that pace sounds scarily fast to me right now. I figured I'd try it, and hope for the best, but I could slow down if needed.

I did my 5-minute warm-up at 6.0 mph (10:00/mi pace), and then switched to 7.0 mph (8:34/mi pace). I was watching Season 4 of Pretty Little Liars on Netflix, which helped the time go by faster. The pace felt good for a tempo run--not too hard to sustain, but definitely not easy. My Garmin was showing a pace much faster than the treadmill was showing, but I was sure I wasn't running an 8:00/mi pace, so I suspected the foot pod calibration that had worked so well on the track wasn't working on the treadmill.

I noticed that I had accidentally selected the wrong tempo workout (30 minutes instead of 35), so when the Garmin beeped to alert me to cool down, I had to keep running at tempo pace for 5 more minutes (which is why my splits don't reflect a cool down).

I knew there was no way that I ran 25 minutes at a sub-8:00 pace, so I decided to try to see how accurate my treadmill was.

First, I measured the belt of the treadmill all the way around, which was 124.5 inches. Then came the tedious part--counting the rotations. I sat on the floor to count how many times the word "EPIC" on the belt passed by a little white piece of lint on the side of the 'mill.

I set the treadmill at 6.0 mph and started counting. I counted 200 rotations (about as long as I could stand it) and then stopped the treadmill. I multiplied the 200 rotations by 124.5 inches, which gave me 24,900 inches (.393 miles). The treadmill showed 0.398 miles, so based on my super scientific experiment, I'd say that the treadmill is pretty darn accurate (or close enough).

Needless to say, I'm bummed that I wasn't actually running a sub-8:00 mile pace, but I expected that ;)

Today, even though I would have loved to run in "Real Feel -9* F" (ha!), I decided to do my easy run on the treadmill to calibrate the food pod to the treadmill. I took a guess at the calibration factor and set it at 93.0%. It ended up being fairly close! I ran three miles at 6.2 mph (a 9:40/mi pace), and this is what it showed:

I stopped running after mile 3, but forgot to turn off my Garmin
for 10 seconds, so you can ignore the fourth split.
It showed about a 9:46-ish pace, so it was showing my pace to be just slightly slower than the treadmill. After my run, I used the calibration formula (actual distance divided by displayed distance x current calibration factor)... 3.03 / 3.00 x 0.930=0.9393. So that gives me a calibration factor of 93.9%. I'll try that next time and see how close it is. When I'm at the track, I'll have to set the calibration factor to one number, and then change it for the treadmill. I'm not sure why the numbers are so different.

When running on the treadmill, my heart rate tends to be quite a bit lower than when running outside, so I may adjust my pace goals when I run inside. Today, I probably could have done a 9:15/mi pace and still have kept my heart rate in the "easy" zone.

I'm getting kind of excited to set goals for next year. Today, I was toying with the idea of maybe running a half-marathon once a month for all of 2015. My biggest goal right now is to hit sub-2:00 for Indy, and I certainly think that's possible. Depending on where I'm at in February, I may even try to aim for a PR (currently 1:52:07). I'll list all my running goals and post them next month--I have a couple of big ones.

As for my weight, of course I'm still working on that (will it ever end?! ha). I'm still hopeful of being back at my goal by the time I go to Portland in March. It's kind of funny; I was texting Thomas about it a few days ago, and he dropped this bomb:

HAHAHA, that made me laugh so hard, because if there is ONE thing I can say with 100% certainty, it is that I will NEVER go skydiving (and he knows that). You couldn't pay me $10 million to jump out of an airplane! Of course Thomas was just joking when he said that, but if there was any way that he could actually enforce the skydiving threat, there is no question that I would be at goal LONG before I go to Portland. I would have no problem saying no to any ice cream, wine, cookies, etc ;)

Can you imagine if there was some sort of company whose job it was to enforce your worst nightmare if you couldn't reach a goal? You would work as hard as possible to get to that goal. It made me really think about how much of this struggle is mental. If you take the mental part out of the equation, it would be easy! I'm probably not explaining this very well, but I just think that with the right motivation (i.e. doing everything in my power NOT to have to skydive), I could reach pretty much any goal I want. On one hand, I'm so glad that Thomas can't enforce the threat to go skydiving; on the other hand, all of my food decisions would be easy ones if he could! Haha

November 17, 2014

Motivational Monday #87

Happy Motivational Monday! I don't know what I was thinking, but I totally spaced out that today was Monday until I went to write my blog post. It feels like it should be Sunday, but my kids went to school, so that doesn't really make sense. We got a couple of inches of snow yesterday, and it was so pretty outside today! It was actually the perfect day for being lazy and watching movies. Jerry was off work, so that's exactly what we did :)

I'm still counting my Weight Watchers points, but this week I've had a few moments that were extremely difficult. It took every ounce of willpower I had not to binge! The thing that has helped me to stay on track the best has been looking through my "motivation" photo folder on my phone. Seeing the photos of me at my goal weight last year make me really motivated to get back to that place!

I can't really think of anything about my week that makes me exceptionally proud. A couple of days ago, I was having a particularly week moment, and was very close to bingeing. Instead, I posted on Instagram a few screenshot photos from a video taken last year while I was trying to pogo-stick with the kids. I was at (or very close to) my goal weight in that video, and seeing those screen shots gave me the push I needed to avoid bingeing. So I guess that was a proud moment for me!

Here are a couple of motivating stories to start the week off:

When Megan (on the right in photo) was born, there was never any hope that she'd one day be able to run. Her right hip wasn't fully developed, so she had to wear a brace that kept her knees to her chest for the first year of her life. Her tendons would also become hyper extended, which caused her a lot of difficulty with standing for more than 30 minutes or so at a time. She ended up needing steel braces on her legs just to be able to walk. After six surgeries over the years, her surgeon told her that it may have worked. She could walk normally, but would probably need another surgery later on in life. She stopped living in fear, and started working on being more active. Since then, she's lost 50 pounds, run her first 5K in 30:11, and signed up for her first half-marathon... all things that she believes are truly miracles of God. She has two active little boys, and she is happy to be able to set a good example for them.

Erin just completed her first half-marathon after battling breast cancer--twice. She's a mom of four kids, and she was diagnosed with breast cancer at 29 and again at 34 years old. She has remained cancer-free for several years now, and after recovering from a 12-hour reconstructive surgery, she decided to start running. She signed up for the Indy Monumental Half-Marathon, and despite the 18-degree weather that day, she exceeded her expectations! She assumed she'd finish in around 3:30, but she ended up crossing the finish line in 3:22. She's looking forward to beating that time at her next race ;)

If you have a photo of an accomplishment that you'd like to share, you can email it to me at Katie (at) runsforcookies (dot) com, subject: Motivational Monday, along with a brief description, and I may include it on a future MM post!

November 16, 2014

My Favorite Gift Ideas for Runners

I know that pretty much everyone with a blog writes a post of gift ideas this time of year. I've never done one of those posts before (at least that I can remember!), so I thought it would be fun to compile a list of my favorite running items that I think would make great gifts for others.

A few of the items on this list are items that I had received for a review; but I am not an ambassador for anyone, nor am I on any of these companies' payroll, so I have nothing to gain from recommending these things. (Some of the links are Amazon Affiliate links, however--so if you were to buy them through the link, I may get a small commission from Amazon.)

These are all just items that I found I truly love, and think others will as well!

1) A race registration. Perhaps the runner you're hoping to get a gift for has been running for as long as you can remember, and they have everything there is to have related to running. You can never go wrong with a race registration! I would make a handmade "coupon" to give them, saying that it's good for one race registration of his/her choice. Unless you know someone really well, I wouldn't recommend just choosing a race and registering that person without talking about it first, however. The cost of this varies enormously, so I'm not going to put a number on it.

2) A subscription to Runner's World magazine. When I first started running, this magazine was SO helpful. I learned all sorts of running terms that I'd never heard before, read inspiring stories that kept me motivated, and got lots of tips for training. I was a huge fan of this magazine long before I was featured in the April 2014 issue ;) DiscountMags has a sale today for $5/year. It's very rare to find it that cheap! The $5 sale usually only lasts a day or two. Through Runner's World or Amazon, it's $20 per year.

I look this excited every single time I get RW in the mail!
Just kidding. But I do immediately start reading it.

3) Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner book by Dean Karnazes. This book is a very entertaining read for any runner! I don't do ultramarathons, but I loved reading about Dean's races. My brother and sister read it and loved it as well. $9.34 for paperback on Amazon.

4) Balega socks. I was never brand-loyal for any socks until I tried the Balega socks. I have five pairs now, and I rotate them as quickly as I can wash them. They fit very well, don't have annoying seams that can cause blisters on my toes, and are very comfy! $9-12/pair on Amazon

5) My Life on the Run: The Wit, Wisdom, and Insights of a Road Racing Icon book by Bart Yasso. I was very fortunate to have met Bart a couple of times at Runner's World events, and I was amazed at the running stories he has from years of experience. He's seen and done it all, it seems! His book shares some stories of notable races, and it's very entertaining. $12.96 for paperback on Amazon.

6) Yurbuds Inspire Sport Earphones I don't listen to music when I run, but I know lots of runners do. I've tried several earbuds, including some fancy schmancy blutooth ones, but the yurbuds are my favorite. I use them when I go for walks to listen to podcasts, or to hear movies when I'm traveling by plane. I wrote a more detailed review of them here. $18.92 on Amazon.

7) Hydraform Handheld Ergo-Lite water bottle by Amphipod. When I do short runs during the summer, and don't need nearly as much water as the Camelbak holds, I prefer to carry a handheld bottle. I bought this particular bottle from Amphipod, and I'm very happy with it. It holds 10.5 ounces (also available in 16 oz), which is great for a short run (or if you have places to refill). It fits very comfortable in my palm, it's not heavy, and there is even a little pocket that you can fit something small (a key or a Gu). $22.50 on Amazon.

8) FlipBelt I've tried several running belts (including the popular SPIbelt) to store things (keys, Gu, Shotbloks, my iPhone, etc), and the FlipBelt is, hands down, the best one I've tried. It's very comfortable, it doesn't bounce at all, and when "flipped", nothing will budge out of it. I wore this for the first time during the Chicago Marathon, and now I wear it during just about every run that I do. I always like to carry my phone with me, and the FlipBelt easily holds it. $28.99 on Amazon. (I've found that if you are between sizes, it's best to go with the smaller size--just FYI)

I know that looks like me, but it's not. Honest. (photo source)

9) Black Diamond Sprinter Headlamp. I hate running in the dark, but during the times when I do it (like during a Ragnar Relay), I adore this headlamp! It's pricey when compared to several others, but it's well worth it. It's ridiculously bright, rechargeable, and best of all--it doesn't bounce. When I ran Ragnar Florida Keys (through the Everglades, mind you!), I had a headlamp that bounced terribly, wasn't very bright at all, and drove me crazy the entire time. As soon as I got home, I started researching headlamps, and ended up buying this Black Diamond one. I wore it for Ragnar SoCal, and I was in love. $55.70 on Amazon.

Thomas is wincing because he's blinded by the brightness of my headlamp.
Or maybe because he just ran 6 miles at 5:00 a.m. 

10) CamelBak Marathoner Hydration Vest. (ETA 8/2/19): The "Marathoner I'm wearing below is no longer being produced, but the link above is one that is very similar). I received one of these for review, and I fully expected that I wasn't going to like it. I thought it would be heavy, hot, and cause chafing. I was blown away at how much I loved it! I prefer this to a hydration belt any day. I wore a belt when training for my first marathon, and it hurt my back after a while. But I trained for Chicago with this CamelBak, and I was very happy with it. Here is a link to my (more detailed) review. $76 on Amazon.

11) Hire someone to turn the runner's race shirts into a quilt. This is something you would either have to ask about beforehand, or give a "coupon" for, because you could risk making some really angry if you cut up his/her shirts! It's also very expensive because of the labor involved, but it's such a special gift. I cut up my shirts and made a quilt top out of them. My sister-in-law and her mom did the quilting for me, and I should have it back next week! A lot of runners have more race shirts than they know what to do with, and putting them into a quilt is an awesome way to preserve those memories. Sarah, a reader of mine, takes orders for handmade quilts. You can check out her blog and pricing here. Upwards of $200 + supplies.

This is my quilt top. Sarah's work looks much better!

12) GARMIN Forerunner 220. I saved my very favorite gadget for last. Very basically, a Garmin Forerunner is a GPS watch that gives you "real time" data of your distance, time, pace, etc. While I have the FR 620 model, I actually wouldn't recommend that one. The FR 220 is nearly identical, and it's a couple hundred dollars cheaper! If I were to go back in time, I would have bought the 220 instead. The 620 gives a few extra pieces of information that the 220 does not; but the extra information is stuff that I found to be pretty useless (how many milliseconds your foot touches the ground when running; how high your body bounces; how long you "should" spend recovering before running again). Without the heart rate monitor, it's $239.99. With the heart rate monitor, it's $286.22 on Amazon. I love using my heart rate monitor, and would recommend spending the extra $50-ish to get that option.

Hopefully this gives you some ideas! If there are any products that YOU love, feel free to share them in the comments.

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