Wednesday, January 26, 2011

PMS (Post-Marathon Syndrome)

People don't like to talk about PMS - it's one of those taboo subjects that we avoid in polite conversation. But I think it's time we really take an in-depth look at this debilitating condition, as it affects so many runners like me.

Signs and Symptoms

In the first 12 to 16 hours following a marathon, symptoms are generally mild to moderate and may include fatigue, difficulty walking, and stiffness and soreness of the lower extremities. In cases involving a personal record (PR), there may also be severe smiling and excessive elation during this period, which may lessen the perceived severity of the other symptoms. From 16 to 72 hours after a marathon, symptoms often worsen and may include the following:

  • Severe muscle stiffness and soreness
  • Swollen pride
  • Inability to descend stairs
  • Inability to sit down without upper body assistance
  • Excessive medal-wearing
  • Excessive hunger
  • Strong urge to either (a) sign up for another marathon right away or (b) never run marathons ever again; occasionally the patient may fluctuate radically between the two urges.


Post-Marathon Syndrome is caused exclusively by running marathons. There are no other known causes.


If PMS is suspected based on a thorough physical examination, further testing is required to confirm the diagnosis. The most reliable test is the MRR Scan (Marathon Race Results Scan). A qualified medical professional should review the scan to determine if the patient's name is on the results list. If the patient's name does appear, the diagnosis is confirmed.


Preventing PMS involves abstaining from marathons completely. While simple in theory, this can be exceptionally difficult for many marathoners as they may have a serious addiction to marathons and shiny medals.


A patient suffering from PMS will recover more quickly if treated early. Early treatment options include stretching, massage, ice baths, and drinking beer. In some cases, consumption of chocolate chip cookies has also been shown to aid recovery. If PMS is not diagnosed until 16 hours or later following a marathon event, symptoms will be more difficult to treat. The most successful treatments at this stage of the illness are lying in a supine position on a sofa or bed, researching potential future marathons, the use of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications), and drinking more beer. Additionally, purchasing professional marathon photos has also been shown to be helpful in many cases, except those in which the patient does not photograph well. In no case should the patient ever be separated from their medal. To do so could result in injury to the medical professional.


Most cases of PMS can be cleared in less than one week with proper treatment. More aggressive cases, usually brought on by running multiple marathons in rapid succession or by running ultra-marathons, may require a slightly longer recovery time. Mortality is low. PMS is often a recurring condition and it is likely that patients diagnosed with the condition will suffer from it multiple times in their lives. This chronic condition is known as Marathonitis. There is no known cure, but standard PMS treatments will be useful in managing flare-ups.

I hope you have found this educational and useful. Awareness is the key to helping those suffering from PMS. If someone you know is exhibiting symptoms of PMS, the best thing you can do is ask to see their medal and act really impressed. Remember, marathoners are people too.

Peace. Love. Train.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Icebreaker Indoor Marathon: how I told Mother Nature to shove it!

Let us count the many ways that Mother Nature shows her lack of affection for me, shall we?

For my first marathon, Disney World 2007, she called in near-record high temperatures and humidity (in January, for Pete's sake!) and it was an epic battle just to not get picked up by the sag-wagon (finish time 6:23).

For my second marathon, Flying Pig 2010, I walked to the race start in a torrential thunderstorm and then ran the next 5 hours in the pouring rain. At least I had a ton of fun and ran a fabulous PR (5:15).

For my third marathon, Chicago 2010, the city saw record-high temperatures and the course was marked by the Red Flags of Death, indicating that runners should slow down and seek medical attention if they felt dizzy, faint or nauseous. I felt ALL of those things, but I did not want a DNF next to my name, so I pressed on as best I could, finishing with a bittersweet PR of 5:08. Bitter because I really wanted to run sub-5:00. Sweet because it was still a PR.

So when I found out about the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon, with it's temperature-controlled conditions, I thought "What better way to stick it to Mother Nature?" My friend and fellow FASTie, Kristi, agreed with me, and we both signed up.

You may think that running around in circles for several hours would be incredibly boring. Well, you'd be wrong. I now present my official Icebreaker Indoor Marathon weekend report. Grab a drink, put your feet up and enjoy the (long) ride.

Indoor 5k, Friday Jan 21

The Icebreaker weekend kicked off on Friday night with the inaugural 5k event. Kristi and I arrived early at the Pettit National Ice Center, which is an indescribably enormous facility, to pick up our race packets. To give you an idea of just how big this place is: the running track is around the outside of the speedskating rink. Inside the speedskating rink are two ice hockey arenas. TWO! Here, I demonstrate my excellent Photoshop skills with a composite panoramic image of the facility (click to see it larger):

The Pettit National Ice Center

Impressive, no? (The facility, I mean, not my excellent Photoshop skills. Although my skills are a force to be reckoned with. Whatever that means.) Between the two red barriers in the foreground of the photo is where the running track lies.

One of the hazards of running/walking around an ice arena is the potential vehicular traffic... in the form of Zamboni. So they have posted this helpful sign to remind everyone of the possible danger. Because apparently Zamboni are faster than they look. I wonder if there's a sign posted for the Zamboni operators that says "Watch for runners crossing".

Zamboni crossing

After picking up our race packets, Kristi and I ran a few warm-up laps around the track. I use the term "warm-up" loosely here, as I was freezing the whole time. The temperature inside the facility is supposed to be a constant 55º, according to the facility website. I think the facility website lies like a dog. To me, it felt more like 45 or 50º. But hey, what do I know?

Race swag - very cute long-sleeved shirt, a nylon backpack, water bottle, veggie seeds, and vitamin chews!

The 5k race was limited to 50 entrants, about 40 of whom showed on race day. We weren't planning to race this event, so we positioned ourselves near the middle-to-back of the pack. The race started a few minutes late, as they worked out some timing system kinks. Soon enough, though, they fired the starting gun and we were off.

I never got warm the entire race. I ran at a pace that was probably close to tempo pace and never even broke a sweat. There was definitely something to this racing-in-an-ice-arena thing. During the race, the announcer would call out the names of people who had 1 or 2 laps to go, which was helpful for those not keeping track (like me). There were also large monitors near the finish area that showed each runner's lap count. If you were still unsure of your lap count, you could ask a race official and they would find out and tell you on your next lap around.

I did encounter one minor annoyance during the 5k, which actually followed me into the marathon as well: I acquired a shadow. A heavy-breathing, chatty shadow. He was just lucky I wasn't racing that 5k. I'm not sure I could've tolerated that at all if I was trying to be "in the zone". I'm sure he was a very nice fellow, but I just really don't like to shoot the breeze with strangers while I'm running a race, even if I'm not running hard. And I absolutely cannot stand having heavy breathers right next to me. I wasn't sure if I should speed up and try to lose him (but risk pushing too hard right before the marathon), or slow down and hope he passed me. I opted to just tough it out. As he chatted (and I pretended to listen), I picked up on a very important tidbit... He said he was running all three races. I hoped to heaven that he wasn't going to shadow me for the marathon, because there was no way I was going to be able to deal with the chattiness and loud breathing for 26 miles. On the last lap of the 5k, he finally broke away from me and I did not try to catch him (imagine that!). I enjoyed the solitude of my final lap.

Me and my shadow, aka ShadowMan.
(Photo by Bill Flaws of Running in the USA)

When we finished up, we were pleasantly surprised to find out that Kristi placed first in her age group. We made our way to the runners' food room where we had the privilege of meeting and chatting with super-awesome race director, Chris Ponteri, and enjoying some home-made sugar cookies and other tasty treats. Kristi even got a shiny medal for her accomplishment. I placed second in my age group, but there were no medals for second place, because if that were the case, everyone would get a medal.

Kristi busting out an award-winning 5k without hardly trying!
(Photo by Bill Flaws of Running in the USA)

Kristi and I were both very thankful that we had opted to run the 5k, because we were able to get a feel for the track and the conditions inside the facility. We both agreed that had we not checked out the facility before the marathon, we both would've shown up way under-dressed. It was definitely quite a bit chillier than we expected.

The track itself is 443 meters long (slightly longer than 1/4 mile) and two lanes wide. It is a thin layer of rubber over hard concrete, and is definitely an unforgiving surface to run on. However, I think it's much more forgiving than the tiny tracks we have been training on, simply because the turns are fewer and larger. The turns are so gentle, in fact, that I didn't really "feel" them the same way I feel turns on smaller tracks.

Indoor Half-Marathon, Saturday Jan 22

Saturday's events included two half-marathons and a marathon relay. Some friends of mine, who I met from the Runner's World Challenge for the Flying Pig 2010, were running the later half-marathon. So Kristi and I went to watch that event unfold. When we arrived at the Pettit Center, the race was already in full-swing. Tony and Pam had about 6 laps of a total 48 already done. They both looked strong through the whole event.

Go Tony! And watch out, ShadowMan is right behind you!
(Photo by Bill Flaws of Running in the USA)

Tony was hoping to break 2 hours, and he was right on target to do it. But... the announcer butchered his last name so badly at the end of the race, that he didn't realize he had two laps to go, not one. So he stopped a full lap short without realizing it! He had even gone so far as to remove his timing chip and get his medal, when the announcer came back on the loudspeaker to say he had one lap to go still. Tony grabbed his timing chip back out of the box, gave his medal back, and ran around the track one more time at warp speed, finishing less than two minutes OVER 2 hours. So close! We all agree that it was a sub-2-hour race in spirit. If not for the announcing snafu, it's quite possible he would've met his goal.

And regardless of the lap count conundrum, Tony and Pam both achieved half-marathon PR's. It was very cool to watch them both do that.

Pre-Marathon Carb Loading

No marathon race report would be complete without a thorough discussion of fueling strategy. My fueling strategy for pre-race carb-loading was simple: it better be delicious. And delicious it was! I did a bunch of research on Yelp, looking for the perfect pasta place and decided on Il Mito Trattoria e Enoteca, because of it's excellent reviews and mouthwatering menu. I made reservations for our group (me, Kristi, Kristi's husband Steve, Tony and Pam), and when we arrived at the restaurant I was very glad I had made reservations. It was packed already.

The restaurant's head chef, Chef Feker, also runs a cooking school which is attached to the restaurant. We had the distinct privilege of being seated in the cooking school side of the building. It was a privilege because while we were eating, Chef Feker was actually teaching a cooking class and it was incredibly fascinating. It also made me hungrier, despite the fact that I was eating.

I regret to inform you all that I was so delirious with hunger that evening, that I forgot to take a picture of my entree. *collective gasp from readers* I know, I know. This is unprecedented. I always take pictures of VIF (very important food)! I ordered the Mezzaluna di Zucca (pumpkin ravioli) and it was outstanding. I don't think a picture could've done it justice anyway. The only way for you all to truly appreciate it is to go to Milwaukee and try it for yourselves. Go. Now. No, wait! Finish reading this blog post and then go.

Indoor Marathon, Sunday Jan 23

Ah, yes, the pièce de résistance. The marathon itself was truly the highlight of the weekend events. I was worried I wouldn't sleep well the night before the marathon because there was, and I swear I'm not making this up, a cheerleading convention going on in my hotel and the entire hotel had been taken over by loud, giggly, teenage girls. But, for whatever reason, they were pretty quiet on Saturday night, so I got some good sleep. I woke up at 5:45 and headed down to the breakfast buffet. I got there just in the nick of time, because 5 minutes after I sat down with my oatmeal and cup of tea, a hoard of hungry cheerleaders showed up and raided the buffet, stripping it of every last item of food. Okay, I may be exaggerating slightly. But only slightly!

Kristi and I left the hotel at 7am, knowing that the marathon started at 8, and it was about a 15 minute drive to get there. That would give us plenty of time to get our timing chips, figure out the aid station logistics, and take a few deep breaths before embarking on our long-yet-stationary journey.

The aid station setup was simple enough. Each runner was to supply their own bottles of *insert fluid of choice here* and fuel of choice (gels, shot blocks, beans, etc), and those items were to be marked with the runner's bib number and placed in a designated location on the aid station tables. When a runner wanted water, Gatorade or fuel, they need only tell one of the aid station volunteers what they wanted and their bib number, and the volunteer would have it ready for them to grab on the next lap. I had one bottle of plain water (which they refilled as needed), and 4 bags of Sport Beans. My plan was to take water every 8 laps from the start, and to take beans every 8 laps starting at lap 16. This plan worked out wonderfully, because I knew that every 8 laps, I would get a bit of a break (because I can't run and eat beans at the same time - I have to walk, lest I choke to death). It was only a short walk to eat those beans (less than 1/4 lap), but it was enough that it was something I really looked forward to in those later miles.

As the race start neared, Kristi and I lined up and noticed far too many people lining up behind us. Perhaps it was our FAST shirts making us appear speedier than we really were?

Looking speedy in red FAST shirts!

We tried to assure everyone in the vicinity that we weren't actually fast, but rather, were members of a running team called FAST. They looked unconvinced. Well, Kristi is fast, but since she is recovering from a stress fracture, she wasn't planning on running a marathon PR in this particular race. I, on the other hand, am never fast, and I'm not recovering from anything. I'm just naturally moderately-paced. Call it a gift. I, however, was secretly hoping to PR in this race. It wasn't my ultimate goal, and I knew I wouldn't be overly disappointed if I didn't PR (unlike Chicago, where I was bummed for a week afterward), but a PR would be icing on the proverbial cake. I felt well-trained for it. Time would tell whether or not all that hard training would come through for me.

My primary goal was to have fun. I, of course, use the term "fun" loosely, because running 26.2 miles always starts to lose it's innate fun-ness after about Mile 16-18. After that, the mental part of marathon running kicks in and it becomes a battle to just keep moving forward. But I digress....

The race started in the same way as the 5k - with a countdown and a gunshot. There were a lot more runners in this race than the 5k (about 105 in total), so the track was a bit more crowded, but for me, it was never problematic because I was rarely passing anyone during the first half of the race. The rule, which was repeated many times over by the announcer, was that you should stay in the outside lane and only use the inside lane for passing. Most runners did a good job of sticking to this rule, so the flow seemed pretty unrestricted from my vantage point. I suspect it is a little hairier for the really fast runners, who are constantly passing people, and trying to pass people who are passing people.

Headphones and MP3 players were strictly prohibited in all of the weekend's events. Anyone caught using such a device was to be tarred and feathered according to the unofficial rules. Instead, they played music over the PA system, and all of the songs were chosen by the runners. One of the race registration questions was to suggest three favorite running songs. And the race organizers took all these favorite running songs and compiled them into one big scary playlist, which, despite having a few awful songs on it, provided great entertainment. It's fascinating to hear the sorts of songs that get other runners pumped up. Hall and Oates? Really???

Also during the race, the announcer would read off interesting facts about each runner. This was also a question from our race registration forms. My interesting fact was that I write a super-awesome blog (as you all already know). The announcer pronounced it "sweet like a pig", so I'm not sure I'll be getting any extra page hits as a result of my shameless advertising, but hey, I tried. (As a side note, the announcer also pronounced flag as "flayg" and bag as "bayg". Wisconsinites are strange.)

The race organizers also made back bibs available to the runners. These were blank bibs that the runners could write whatever they wanted on, such as their name, interesting facts about themselves, etc. This allowed the runners to get to know each other as they passed each other on the track. It was interesting to meet people who had, for example, been smoke-free for 22 years, or were 4-year brain cancer survivors, or had run 30 marathons in 30 states. In what other race can you get to know your fellow runners like that? By Mile 16, I was on a first-name basis with several other runners (Lori, Dick, Heather, Bob - way to go!).

And you know what else was really awesome? The spectators. There weren't a lot of them, but the ones who were there were nonstop enthusiastic. They watched the same people run around in circles for over 95 laps, but their excitement never waned. I high-fived the same group of children at least 70 times. And a group of teenage girls cheered for me by name at least 50 times. "Yeah Emily, you're looking great!" Every lap. Another group of girls had brought a dry erase board with them, and they changed their cheering sign every few laps. They were there to cheer for their brother, mostly, but their signs were very entertaining to read. "#14 is single, ladies!" Then there was the dancing lady, who was in the stands getting funky to every song that came on the PA system. She probably burned as many calories dancing as we burned running. She cheered for me and Kristi a lot - "Yeah FAST girls! Lookin' good!" Why yes, we were lookin' good.

Lookin' good in the marathon. Oh and lookie, it's ShadowMan again - and this time he has a friend!
(Photo by Bill Flaws of Running in the USA)

Yes, ShadowMan found me in the marathon and tried his darndest to hang on to me. But when I took my sport bean break at Lap 16 and started to walk, he got all whiny and said "You can't do that! You're our pacer!" Apparently both of those guys behind me were using me as a pacer. Funny, I don't remember signing up for that job. I was happy to let them pass me. It's hard enough work just pacing myself - I don't want to worry about anyone else's pace. He actually caught up to me at a couple other points in the race (I could hear him breathing loudly behind me), but he didn't stick around for long, which was a relief.

Between the amazing facility, the constant course entertainment, the enthusiastic spectators and the friendly and encouraging runners, it was already shaping up to be an incredible marathon experience. But when you add the outstanding volunteers to the mix, you get a truly world-class event. The volunteers kept all of us runners running. Without them, I don't think most of us would have met our goals. I can't imagine what a difficult job it is to man the aid station, and to have dozens of runners shouting at you at once, asking for all sorts of different things. But the volunteers never missed a beat. When I asked for water, they had my water ready on the next lap. When I asked for beans, they had my beans ready.

Aid station volunteers working hard (and the one in the brown hoodie is Tony!)
(Photo by Bill Flaws of Running in the USA)

Toward the end of my race, when there weren't very many runners left on the track and I'm sure I was looking pretty drained, the volunteers cheered as loud as the other spectators.

I would say I felt pretty darn good for the first 16 miles. After that, I started feeling the fatigue, both mental and physical, of running around in circles on a hard concrete surface. There was also a sort of mental fatigue in hearing the names of runners who had already finished being called out. I wished I could be finished! Incidentally, I had the unique experience of being less than 2 yards behind the winner of the marathon as he crossed the finish line. That's certainly never happened to me in any other race before!

My legs were getting tired and my feet were starting to hurt as the miles ticked on. But I was also vaguely aware that my pace was picking up a bit. I logged my lap splits with my Garmin, but didn't check my split times on every lap. I just knew that at the beginning of the race, my laps were about 3:05-3:07 per lap, and toward the end, they were more like 2:59-3:02. That's excluding my fueling laps, which took more like 3:20 due to my brief walk break.

As the miles ticked away, I began a mental lap countdown. Lap 80? Just 16 more laps to go. Lap 86, just 10 more. I can do 10 more laps. Lap 90, I'm in the home stretch. There were some new spectators at this point, and their enthusiasm really got my through those last grueling laps. They high-fived me every time, even when I barely had the energy to high-five. When the announcer finally called out "Emily Boggs, you have just one lap to go!" I could hardly believe it. 95 laps ago, the end seemed so far away even though it was always within sight. Now, here I was, cruising to a victory. Kristi had finished her marathon about 3 laps ahead of me, and at this point she was on the sidelines cheering for me. "You've got this, Emily!" Oh yes, I had it. I gave as much of a final kick as I could (which wasn't much - I was pretty fried) and as I crossed the finish, I saw 4:53 on the clock.

I had done it. I had finally broken 5 hours. Not only that, but I PR'd by 15 minutes. Officially, my time was 4:53:38. Me = pleased as punch. I mean, like, toothy-grin, giddy-as-a-schoolboy, can't-shut-up happy.

Pace graph. Notice the gradual overall increase - negative splits are how I roll.

I collected my medal, which the awesome volunteer actually placed around my neck (rather than handing it to me and brushing me out of the way like in so many other races), and I hobbled very slowly over to catch up with Kristi and Steve. Turns out, she was hobbling very slowly too so she was fairly easy to catch. We both looked like... well... like we had just run a marathon! But she was also pleased as punch for having survived it after so recently suffering a stress fracture.

Exhausted but victorious!

We made our way (gingerly) to the runners' food room and enjoyed some of the many treats - bananas, chocolate milk, cookies, bread, muffins, donuts... you name it, they had it. (Except, regrettably, beer) Unfortunately, we couldn't stick around long because our hotel checkout time was 2pm and it was already well after 1 o'clock. So we thanked the race director and any of the other volunteers we happened to see on our way out, and bid a very fond adieu to the Pettit Center.

The silver medal was awarded to all marathon finishers.

Will we run that marathon again? Yes, and no. Kristi and I have already decided that next year we will be back for the Icebreaker, but we will run the marathon relay instead of the full marathon. So... we need two more relay runners for our team. Who's in?!

Peace. Love. Train.

Friday, January 21, 2011

How solving one dilemma creates a whole new dilemma

You all will be happy to know that after my minor panic attack brought on by lack of preparation for my upcoming marathon, that I did solve the most serious dilemma: finding a suitable pre-marathon carb-loading establishment. After much grueling in-depth research, I finally decided on Il Mito Trattoria and Enoteca after reading many positive reviews, and glancing through their mouth-watering menu.

But I am now faced with a new dilemma...

What should I order??? *panics*

I mean, just listen to these delectable choices:

Capelli d’Angelo Primavera
Angel hair pasta tossed with an ingredient-based sauce of artichoke, asparagus, peas, tomatoes and Growing Power basil. Complemented with arugula, spinach, e.v.o.o and sliced garlic. This is all about the cuisine of an Enoteca: no camouflaging here, I use nature and the highest quality ingredients as my guide, with the help of my friend Will Allen from Growing Power. WOW! Try my organic sauvignon Blanc with this one.

Mezzaluna di Zucca
Half-Moon pumpkin Raviolis complemented by a creamy sage sauce. Topped with toasted walnuts, Imported Parmesan cheese, and extra virgin olive oil.

Homemade tortelloni stuffed with roasted shiitake, crimini, porcini mushrooms and whipped ricotta. Served in a creamy mushroom sauce and topped with grated Parmesan and extra virgin olive oil.

Pizza Foresti
Shiitake, crimini and portobello mushrooms, caramelized onions, Asiago cheese and ripe tomatoes.

Pizza Napolitana
Fresh mozzarella, grilled roma tomatoes, fresh basil, cracked pepper and basil pesto.

Insalata di Mozzarella Genovese
Fresh mozzarella, oven-roasted roma tomatoes, grilled eggplant, basil pesto, caramelized onion, balsamic. reduction and extra virgin olive oil atop mixed greens.

Insalata di Funghi

A Piedmonte specialty of three different mushrooms — crimini, white and porcini — plus Chef Feker’s addition of shiitake mushrooms, roasted to perfection and tossed with shaved Parmesan cheese, fresh thyme and lemon zest. Served atop mesclun and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon juice.

*drools uncontrollably*

So, as you can see, I need your help! The whole menu is drool-worthy. What should I order?! And because I know how you all are, I will state right now that "Everything!" is not a valid option. Although I could order a salad and a pasta dish, or a salad and a pizza... theoretically. So, please limit your recommendations to no more than two items. I need your votes by 6pm Saturday night.

Ready? GO!

Peace. Love. Train.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Too Busy for Madness? Never!

I don't know if you all remember, but I have a marathon coming up. You know, that whole crazy indoor marathon thing where 160 people run around in circles for a few hours? Yeah, it's this weekend. Five days from today. That's alarmingly soon, and yet, I do not feel alarmed. I probably should feel alarmed. I don't consider myself a good enough runner to not feel alarmed before attempting to run 26.2 miles. But the fact is, I've just been so busy with work and getting my personal trainer certification (that's a blog post for another day) and putting together a Hood To Coast relay team (also another blog post for another day), that I haven't had time to feel alarmed.

I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. I mean, maybe it's good that I'm not driving myself bonkers with thoughts of "what if...", or imagining injuries that aren't really there. On the other hand, a healthy dose of fear before a big race can make for a stronger performance. I should at least be a little worried about this marathon. No, I don't care that much about my time. And yes, I am doing this primarily for fun. (I sense that many of you are questioning my definition of fun. Rest assured, your concerns are valid.) But 26.2 miles is a long way whether you care about your finish time or not, and a lot can still go wrong. The last time I tried to run 26.2 miles, it didn't go at all like I planned. Given that miserable experience, shouldn't I be quaking in my Nikes with anxiety for this upcoming race?

Well, chances are, I will be before Sunday rolls around. Part of the problem is that this marathon still seems surreal to me. I mean, I haven't even calculated my target lap splits yet! And I haven't assembled my fueling supplies, packed my pre-run breakfast, or decided on my running outfit. For the love of Pete, I HAVEN'T EVEN RESEARCHED RESTAURANTS FOR MY PRE-MARATHON CARB-LOADING FEAST!!! *collective gasp from audience*

Suddenly, I feel alarmed. How could I have let all these things slide until the very last minute? Clearly, there is much to be done, and so little time left to do it. So why the hell am I sitting here typing up blog posts for you people when I should be on Yelp researching pasta restaurants in the Greater Milwaukee area, and whipping out my calculator to figure out my lap splits, and trying on different running outfits until I find the perfect one???

*flings papers and running clothes and bags of sport beans around wildly*

Out of my way, people! I'm on a mission of madness!!!

Peace. Love. Train.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

It's the most wonderful time of marathon training!

Everybody sing with me!

It's the most wonderful time of marathon training!
With the toe blisters healing

and leg muscles feeling

hardly any straining,

It's the most wonderful time of marathon training!

It's the hap-happiest three weeks of all!
I can sleep in on Sundays
and enjoy my long run days
without hitting the wall!
It's the hap-happiest three weeks of all!!!!

Yes, indeedy, folks! It's that most wonderful time of marathon training: TAPER TIME! I'm happy about it now because this is the first week of it. I know I'll probably start to go mad in a week or so... but it's good to enjoy the taper while I still have my sanity.

Coach Brad has given Kristi and me quite a reprieve already, and for that we are thankful. You should see the workout the regular Black Group members had to do last night! Allow me to show you:

1 mile warm-up
3 x 2 miles with 5 minutes rest between
1 mile cooldown

Now, I'm no mathematician (or mathmagician, as fellow FASTie, Jose says), but that looks like it adds up to 8 miles. EIGHT MILES! If I had been expected to do that workout, I would have been there until midnight trying to get all that done.

Fortunately, Kristi and I got a special workout designed just for us. See?

We were doing the Happy Taper Dance of Joy (yes, that's a real dance!) that we didn't have to do the Black Group workout. Instead, our workout ended up being just shy of 6 miles and it was a plenty good workout, thankyouverymuch. As you can see, we had some ab work thrown in there as well, and Coach Maggie didn't give us any breaks on that. Apparently tapering does not extend to core work. Hmph!

In order to thank Coach Brad for his kindness and generosity in allowing us to taper, Kristi and I would like to present him with a token of our appreciation:

Coach Maggie still made us do the same crazy dynamic warm-up and core work as everyone else, so she does not get any Rolos. Sorry, Maggie! But it's not too late to redeem yourself - we still have two more weeks of taper left! *waves Rolos under Maggie's nose*

Peace. Love. Train.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Year in Review and A Year of Goals, SLAP-style!

Happy New Year from Sweat Like A Pig! I wish you all the very best for 2011! I also hope your hangover isn't so bad that you can't read this blog post.

(A random aside: I just now realized, after authoring this blog for nearly 10 months, that Sweat Like A Pig has the acronym SLAP (I know, I'm slow). I think it's rather appropriate, don't you? I know I've been SLAP'ed into shape!)

New years often mean new goals, but not necessarily in the form of resolutions (which I honestly hate because they are so often abandoned by February). No, I mean goals for the entire year. Goals that may have several sub-goals, and take months to achieve, but are specific and realistic enough that you won't give up on them.

Though you all know me best as a super-awesome ninja-runner, I am actually an engineer by day. At my job, I am expected to set goals at the beginning of the year, and then my boss measures my performance at the end of the year based on how well I achieved those goals. I can't just say something like "Design lots of tractor parts", because (1) what constitutes "lots"? and (2) is there really any value in designing lots of tractor parts? Only if they are actually manufactured and get used on tractors! We are expected to use a very specific formula for goal-setting, known as SMART. That is, the goal should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and have a well-defined Time-frame for completion. As you can see, "Design lots of tractor parts" doesn't really meet any of the SMART criteria. A more appropriate goal would be "Complete validation of a new tractor part design on 200 tractors by November 2011". And for the record (in case my boss is reading this by some strange chance), I'm not actually committing to that goal!

In the same way "Design lots of tractor parts" doesn't meet SMART goal criteria, neither do "Lose weight" or "Run a marathon" or "Get organized" or any of the other things people typically come up with for resolutions. So if you must make "resolutions", I encourage you to make them in the form of a SMART goal.

I already have a few running-related goals in mind for 2011, but today I want to look back on the accomplishments (and failures) of 2010 because that will help me figure out what I want to focus on this year. Fortunately, I have a lot of nicely-organized data and results (hey, I told you I was an engineer!).

So let's start with the summary of my Garmin data for 2010. Survey says...

I ran 1,417 miles (that's like running from my house to Yellowstone National Park!)

I ran 226 times (that's 62% of the days of 2010)

I ran for 265 hours, 48 minutes and 53 seconds (that's over 11 solid days of running!)

I burned 127,273 calories just from running (that's 1,178 Toll House Cookies!)

For the record, I did not eat 1,178 cookies. But I could have if I wanted to, and that's what matters!

Additionally, my average run speed increased from 5.1 mph in January to 5.7 mph in December, while my average heart rate dropped from 157 bpm to 155 bpm. What does this mean in plain English? It means I can run faster without having to work as hard.

My race results also show huge improvements. In 2010, I set 12 new PR's in 6 different race distances (I broke my 5k PR 4 times)! I ran a total of 18 races in 2010, which means that I PR'd in 67% of the races I ran. I also brought home 3 age-group awards, including one 1st place trophy. First place! ME!

Yes, 2010 was a very good year for running - I achieved things I never dreamed I could achieve. I owe a lot to FAST for keeping me challenged and motivated. I couldn't have done any of this without my incredible coaches and amazing teammates.

So how can I possibly top that in 2011? Well, I don't really expect to top it. 2010 was a breakthrough year - I figured out what I am truly capable of and I pushed myself to the limit. I expect improvements in 2011 to become less profound, and be fewer and farther between. But that doesn't mean I won't set new goals and keep pushing. To the contrary.

Here are a couple of goals I have right now: I would like to run a sub-25:00 5k and a sub-2:10 half-marathon. I suspect I will have plenty of chances to meet that 5k goal; there is no shortage of 5k races in this area in the warmer months. The half-marathon goal is a little trickier, as I haven't yet identified a target race (I am running the Flying Pig half and the Indy Mini-Marathon, but not planning to race them since they are on consecutive weekends). So, help me out, friends! Help me pick a good half-marathon (preferably one within driving distance of central Illinois) to meet my sub-2:10 goal!

I would also like to eat 1,178 cookies in 2011. It's a pretty lofty goal, I know, but if I work really hard, I think I can do it. I will have to eat over 3 cookies a day to reach this goal. I have not had any cookies yet today, so I'm already off to a bad start.

It's pretty likely that as the year progresses, I will come up with new goals. And that's the way it should be. One shouldn't only set goals on New Year's Day. Goal-setting should be an ongoing, never-ending activity. When you meet a goal, set a new one! If you have a SMART goal and you work hard, I have no doubt you can achieve it.

And by the way, I was kidding about the cookie-eating goal. Sort of.

Peace. Love. Train.