Thursday, November 30, 2006

Base training: here I come!

Today was my first day back in the gym. I haven't taken three days in a row off....pretty much ever, since I started getting in shape.

However, I highly recommend it. For the first time after a major event, my first workout back felt good! I felt strong and happy, not miserable and barely able to breathe.

So what's different? I am beginning a formal period of base training, to last until March.

I reset my HR monitor so that it beeps when my heart rate gets over 138 bpm. For me, that's nothing - I can breathe through my nose at that HR!

The idea here is the Maffetone protocol. Basically, every workout is done with a completely aerobic heart rate - for me, I'm sticking to 65% of max or less. It says that if you follow this protocol over time, you'll get faster WITHOUT any interval or puke-inducing type work.

It also says you're not to do weight-lifting during this period. I am continuing my weight-training, but not working muscles to true fatigue and doing a whole lot of balance and core work - general strength, not muscular development.

Finally, I'm working on my diet. I'm back to using FitDay, though right now just trying to keep the calories reasonable. I'm still thinking about whether I can cut out all dairy, beans, and whole grains. I know I'll see immediate weight-loss benefit if I do, but I know I won't stick to that kind of diet for the rest of my life, so maybe I should practice healthy eating in general every day. I don't know, I'm still deciding.

Anyway, today I did Danielle's circuit training class. I was successful in keeping my HR where it belonged, but in doing so, only burned 250 calories. I think that will be the hardest part of base training - how do I deal with the lower calorie burn?

Answer: Eat less and lose weight so it no longer matters! Easier said than done...but here we go!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


I was tired yesterday, so I left work at 4:15. I wasn't sure I could make it home without coffee, so I went through the drive-through Starbucks.

It was my mistake. My normally 30-minute commute at that time of day took an hour and 20 minutes - and then, as soon as I got to the kids' school to pick them up, the snow started.

It was POURING snow. Seriously. I've never seen so much snow come down at once - and I lived in Massachusetts and the East Coast for 21 years, then when I moved here, where it rarely snows, I started snowboarding and spending as much of the winter as possible in the mountains. Yesterday was amazing.

One mile from my house, with three kids (my two plus the neighbor's) in the back seat, my car decided it would no longer go up my hill. I was stranded.

To make a long story short, after a harrowing half hour in the car and a tow by some guy who didn't know what he was doing, my car was left at a parking lot half a mile from home with a broken transmission and the kids and I got a ride with some friends.

So clearly today I didn't go to work; school was closed, so we walked for about a mile or so in the snow (I had to carry Camille most of it) and played outside.

This is all a really long way to say I didn't do any formal exercise, but I did walk and play with the kids, and my body pretty much feels about as normal as it did Saturday - before I did the marathon.

A few people have asked me how I can do three marathons in two months. Well, Dean Karnazes did 50 marathons in less than two months, but that's a goofy answer. The real answer is I'm in excellent shape and I didn't "race" any of these runs. I ran them fairly comfortably; on the Endurance 50 marathon I was uncomfortable because my calves cramped, but was otherwise okay; on New York I felt pretty good the whole way; and on Seattle, I only felt bad when I forgot to eat. I think had I raced and pushed myself for a PR, I would not have been able to run as many.

And that's a reasonable trade-off, I think - I could be the fastest possible and really need tapering and recovery time and proper nutrition every day, or I could just enjoy what I can do at whatever pace I'm feeling at the time and do it as much as I feel like. It's a valid way to be.

That said, I'd like to qualify to run Boston, which means I need to be able to run 26.2 8-minute miles. That will take weight-loss and a heck of a lot of hard work. And some day, I'll be ready to focus on that and get that done.

But for now, I can look back at this marathon season and say Wow! I had a lot more fun than I expect to when my focus is going fast, not enjoying the experience and being with my friends.

Monday, November 27, 2006

In desperate need of recovery

I'm done.

Done with saying I need to recover and not doing it. Done with adding races to my schedule. Done with increasing workout duration and intensity just because I feel like it.

Everything hurts and I'm exhausted and I just want to sleep.

And develop an addiction to Tylenol PM. (Okay not really; it's not physically addictive anyway, but it does create a nice groggy sleepy feeling.)

Tomorrow I start back on an appropriate diet; today I feel like I still need to eat a little more than usual, so I'm doing that.

I've asked my husband to support me in this; to remind me that I'm not supposed to work out for more than an hour a day (not including weights, which I won't start back on this week at all) and to help me keep the bad foods out of our house.

So we'll see how things go. I don't plan to run this week. And I'm not letting my heart rate get over 138 at all until 2007 (unless I'm snowboarding, in which case I can do whatever I want).

I'm just so tired. I've never felt this worn out before.

But recovery will make me come back stronger, right?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Seattle Marathon Race Report

I'm going to try to be brief, because this was Aleks' day, so you can read her race report for the details.

It was snowing when Aleks picked me up this morning, and it's snowing (and accumulating!) now. In between, we had rain with a few breaks, and one point when we thought the sun might try to sneak out, but it didn't.

Obviously, it was cold. But at least it wasn't windy.

The marathon went pretty much as I expected it to. I didn't feel perfect even from the start, but my heart rate was right where it belonged for the distance and really stayed there all day, with little spikes for the hills. My legs felt heavy, especially my quads (which was weird, since my hamstrings hurt from snowboarding. Maybe there's some compensation going on there), and the top of each foot going into each leg hurt from just a few miles in until...well, they still hurt. I can't flex my feet or toes.

But all the pains I woke up with - hamstrings, the usual pain in my right foot, the bruise on my left foot - disappeared when we started running.

Aleks and I both wore our pink running jackets, so we got the "Go Pink!" yells throughout the course.

I brought with me Aleks' music and an external speaker so we could play it and sing along during the boring out-and-back parts of the marathon and a piece of paper - which thankfully didn't get so wet that the ink blurred - with all of Aleks' friends good wishes. (That includes Jessi, Kate, and Wes from the blogging world - Aleks was so excited to hear from you guys as well as her running partners and roommates!)

I think the best thing we had, though, was Latosha at three different points on the course to cheer us (and everyone else) around. Just the sight of her green hat perked us both up - what an amazing friend to come out and cheer on such an awful day!

We finished in 4:39 - 9 minutes slower than Aleks had hoped, but given the conditions and how tough the course really is, I think it was great. I know I had a really good time...although now I'm really tired.

Oh, one other thing I need to remember for future races: I need to have a better eating plan than "bring some food and eat it sometimes." I started to really lose it around mile 23 - after being perky and happy for hours before. I had a GU. Five minutes later, I was back to myself. But in those 10 or 15 minutes before the GU kicked in, oh my goodness. I was miserable. I don't need a lot of calories while running, but I do need them - and regularly. Eating when I remember to isn't good enough!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Exit expectations

10 or so hours from now, I'll be starting my fourth marathon - third this fall.

Except there's something different this time. I'm calm. I'm completely unconcerned about what may or may not happen tomorrow.

I have every reason to be concerned; I have a bruise on the top of my left foot, a pain in the top of my right foot that I've had since Sept. 16 (yes I will see a podiatrist soon), sore hamstrings from snowboarding yesterday, and a groggy kind of I-ate-too-much-during-holidays feeling.

But I'm not worried about any of that.

It's like the time I interviewed for my current job. I had a great job. I didn't care one way or the other if I were offered the job at Microsoft. So I was relaxed and calm and passed the full day of interviews with flying colors.

I don't expect that I'll pass tomorrow with flying colors. The weather isn't looking great and my body isn't in perfect shape for this.

But tomorrow isn't about me. It's about Aleks. And I think that by dropping my expectations, I can help her meet hers.

And that's what will be so incredibly satisfying about tomorrow.

Bring it on!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Some people have it...

And some people don't.

"It" in this case is a natural grace while snowboarding.

I started my weight-loss in February of 2004, and once I started, I don't think I got back up on the slopes at all. That wasn't a great season, and I was really focused on working out in the gym.

Due to a horrible season, I didn't board much until last winter. At that time, I decided that certain things - like pushing my board on the snow with one foot out, tightening my bindings, hopping through flat parts of runs - were a lot easier with me weighing a lot less. But other things - like actually snowboarding - was pretty much the same - and that is to say, my skills are mediocre to fair.

I was pretty disappointed that suddenly I wasn't awesome. I honestly thought I would be.

And then today, something odd happened. I brought the wrong snow pants for my hubby - a pair that he's gained too much weight to fit into. So that was annoying, but he switched pants with a friend and was good to go. But it made him feel kind of bad.

When he snowboarded, though, he still looked so graceful and effortless. He glided through snow carving perfect turns, never losing his balance. He has a distinctive style, so I can always recognize him coming down the mountain. And he looks exactly as he did eight years ago when he first took me snowboarding. (Seriously, I know this is my husband and all, but it's really hot. He looks great when boarding.)

Without knowing what the difference was for me between boarding fat and boarding thin, he said that even though he's gained maybe 20 pounds, boarding is just as easy, but the other stuff - the same stuff I found easier when I lost weight - was what was hard for him now.

I guess I should take some lessons if I really want to improve. But natural grace and ability? They don't come for free just because you lost weight.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

An open letter to Aleks, 5 days and counting

Dear Aleks,

I just read your most recent blog post, and feel compelled to respond.

In your post, you discussed goals - and how you're throwing away the numbers and focusing on "the experience" - since at the Seafair Half Marathon, you met your time goal but didn't "experience" the race.

Well, let me tell you this: Seafair, though it's a fabulously-run event, is not a race to experience. It takes you through ugly, boring parts of Bellevue and there really is nothing to focus on except your running.

And what I am reading between the lines of your most recent post is FEAR.

I think you know you don't have to be afraid of your friends thinking less of you if you don't meet whatever arbitrary time goal you set or we believe you can achieve.

I think you're afraid of how you feel about yourself if you don't meet your own high standard.

But remember this: You have trained well. You look incredibly strong - even when you say you don't feel strong. Your natural pace is quite a bit faster than 10-minute miles, and though I'm going to try to keep you around 10s for the sake of comfort and "the experience" I am confident that under good circumstances, 4:22 or even faster is completely within your grasp.

That said, there is much that's completely out of your control. The weather, other runners, the course, availability of water and fuel along the course, and random things your body may just decide to do the day of your race. You've dealt with all kinds of obstacles and issues during your training; hopefully those things will prepare you for the unexpected. But I am sure the unexpected will happen, and it could be things that help or hurt your race. Who knows.

Take comfort in how well you've trained and how strong you are. Remind yourself that you are indeed a distance runner now - you don't need a marathon under your belt to prove it.

One of the things Danielle always does for me when we run or ride together is point out parts of "the experience" - rabbits on the side of the road, a pretty flower, a cool pair of shoes on another runner. I'll be doing that for you.

I will also provide you with mile split times if you want them (meaning, you ask for them) and keep my mouth completely shut about times and numbers if you don't. I'll even run up ahead at the two places on the course where they have clocks and cover them so you don't see if you just want to run on RPE (rate of perceived exertion - my recommended method, not that I've actually taken this advice and done it myself).

And I've got a few surprises up my sleeve as well; you will not be able to help enjoying "the experience" - whether you're out there for four hours, five hours, or six hours.

I meant it this morning when we were running and you were pulling away from the group (as usual) that you are a stronger runner than me. You have an efficient stride, a strong pace and best of all, a great attitude. I think you could use some more self-confidence, but I'm guessing this marathon will help provide that to you the way it did for me last year.

You're so ready - let's rock this Seattle Marathon course!

(By the way, my blog reader friends: yeah. I'm running the Seattle Marathon to support Aleks. Yay!)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Do you need a coach for 2007?

So, any regular reader of my blog knows that Danielle rocks. Seriously. Here's why:

Do you know why she's smiling like that? It's not because she just met her Danskin goal. It's because just ahead of her, out of the camera's eye, was one of her athletes, crossing the finish line in a full-on sprint - meeting HER Danskin goal. Look how happy she is, and how proud.

Now who wouldn't want someone like that on their side (or, more commonly, by their side)!

Danielle has a degree in exercise physiology and is a USAT Level 1 Triathlon Coach, plus she has a bunch of certifications in fitness instructing, personal training, and yoga. She can custom-design a training plan for you, provide ongoing e-mail and in-person support and lead group and individual workouts. Seriously, without her, I would not have been this confident and successful.

So, if you want to contact her, you can email her at dw.mail @ comcast. net - or email me and I'll give you her phone number.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A couple of quick updates

Yesterday I had complete and total diet rebellion. If it is food, or somewhat resembled food, I ate it.

That said, my weight was normal this morning. Whatever.

Also yesterday, I had a fabulous run! I finally felt good again - we did just about 5.5 miles, but man, what a difference from Sunday!

Today I did indoor cycling with Danielle and I think it was the best class ever. Great music, great fun, and I worked really, really hard. So I'm feeling pretty rockin' right now!

Work is getting crazy-busy, which leaves me much less time to blog or read other people's blogs. However, next week I'm completely off of work, which means skiing and exercising as much as I want. Yay!

Monday, November 13, 2006

My season, by the numbers

I haven't posted a season wrap-up, because my season hasn't felt over yet.

But now that I'm just exercising, not training, I guess it is over. So here are some numbers from the season, probably only interesting to me. At some point I'll probably post actual learnings from the season, and goals for next year and beyond.

Races: 11
Half marathons: 5, including two for half-Ironman triathlons
Triathlons: 6
Marathons: 2
Organized bike rides: 4

Percent of training completed, Feb - Nov. 5: 101
Average hours of training per week: 12.2
Max hours in one week: 18.25
Minimum hours in one week: 8
Hours swimming: 44
Hours biking: 227
Miles ridden (on bicycle, doesn't include in spinning classes): 2800
Hours running: 158
Miles run: 1,000 (approx)
Total hours trained, Feb. 6 through Nov. 5: 429
Calories burned: 193,050 (approx)

Best result in a triathlon: 2nd place in AG, Lake Sammamish, August 26
Times I ranked "13" in a race: 5 (Cascade's Edge age group, Lake Stevens age group, Danskin age group, Lake Sammamish overall women, Black Diamond age group)
Fastest 5K run: 24:40
Fastest bike split: Danskin, 21.3 mph average - 12.4 miles

Long run, hungry girl

Yesterday the girls and I ran somewhere between 12 and 13 miles. I thought I could stick to the eating plan I've been doing so well with - after all, I even stuck with it Saturday night when I went out to eat with my friends and I got a chicken breast and a salad! But no. Participating in endurance events and attempting to diet DO NOT MIX.

So, pretty much, I ended up eating a couple of bad things in an attempt to stave off my hunger, and then I had book club last night and ate whatever I wanted. So when the scale said 140.4 this morning, there was no surprise.

However, it's okay. Today I'm back to the plan.

Fruit. Vegetables. Healthy fats. Protein. I'm going to allow myself a tiny bit of dairy in the form of milk in my coffee (though if non-dairy creamer is available, I'll prefer that). And this plan goes from now until Thanksgiving. And then it takes a break for Thanksgiving day, Saturday night before Thanksgiving (pasta feed at my house prior to the Seattle Marathon) and Seattle Marathon day. Then I'm back. 135 pounds (consistently!), here I come!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Winter Pineapple Classic 5K "Race" Report

They gave us timing chips.

We all laughed. What's the point of a timing chip when...

Two people on your team are recovering from a marathon?
One person on your team hasn't run in months (okay fine except once six weeks ago)?
There are "unknown obstacles" along the way?
The reason for doing this event was to dress up, act silly, and hang out with friends?

But we dutifully put the timing chips on our shoes anyway.

My friends and I fielded two teams today: Princess Power, consisting of Danielle, Latosha, Aleks, and Regan, and HodgePodge, consisting of Wendy, her husband Eric, my husband John, and me. The race was allegedly 5K, but we all thought it felt shorter, with obstacles your team has to get through together.

It took a long time to get started; this is the first year this event has been done, and the race bottlenecked at the final big obstacle. Race organizers did as good a job as they could have under the circumstances, but we started probably 40 minutes after our start time (team start times were staggered to prevent bottlenecks) and even so, had to wait more than 20 minutes at the final obstacle. But who cares? I might look up our times when they're posted, but it will be out of curiosity, not because we were competitive.

And as I said to Wendy at the end (and she told me I had to blog this), I wish there had been more obstacle and less course. Running was okay...nothing hurt, per se...but the first mile felt just like a seventh or eighth mile on a regular day. Nothing hurts, nothing is too terribly tired yet, but the legs don't quite feel fresh.

We had fun, though. We ran by some girls with pom-poms right at the beginning, and I yelled to John (who took off on a sprint - he's not so good at pacing himself yet), "Watch out for those cheerleaders! They're the first obstacle, trying to sucker you off-course!"

We had to crawl through tires, run around cones and ladders on the ground, and jump through tires. Pretty fun. Then we got to a cool obstacle: there were two walls we had to scale, only using our bodies to do it. The first wall was low enough to grab the top and kind of haul ourselves over, but the second was taller than me (5'3"). So somehow John throws himself over, then Eric made a little step with his hands for me and pushed me up and I got myself the rest of the way over. Wendy used the same method as me, then Eric levitated or something to get over.

The final obstacle, where the racers got backed up, was a rope ladder thing to climb (like something you'd see on a playground). We had to climb up, get ourselves over, then climb down. I went first. It looked deceptively easy, but once I was climbing, I realized I had to hold on tight and keep my balance. Then getting over the top was really scary - I got that feeling in the pit of my stomach like I was going to fall. And when I did get over and was on the way down, I was really close to the middle of the grid, which is more wobbly. I was glad to be done. Both Eric and John flipped themselves over at the top and said they felt no fear. Men!

I didn't get to see Princess Power run - since the obstacles were secret, the race organizers kept the teams waiting for the start inside a building. But it was cool to hang out in the morning with the gals. They wore cute purple-and-pink plaid skirts and tiaras, of course. The boys with Wendy and me said no pink and no tiaras, so we wore blue, red, and green leis instead (the event had a Hawaiian theme).

In other news, my weight this morning was 136.2 and I successfully resisted temptation twice today: Aleks brought bagels this morning and I only had a small piece of John's, and after the race we went to Starbucks and I didn't get a peppermint mocha. (I did have milk in my americano, but only a little. I know I said no dairy, but Starbucks doesn't have non-dairy creamer.) So I'm on my way to 130 pounds! Life will be perfect then.

Oh wait. It pretty much is now. :-)

Friday, November 10, 2006

Green tea latte or espresso latte?

My friend Kathy, who reads this blog, sent me a diet question a few weeks ago. I thought I'd post the question and my reply here.

Kathy asked: Which drink is better at Starbucks: A tall non-fat green tea latte, or a double tall non-fat espresso latte?

The green-tea latte breaks down like this:

130 calories
27 g carbs (26 of sugar)
6 g protein
0 g fat

The espresso latte* breaks down like this:
114 calories
18 g carbs (16 of sugar)
11 g protein
0 g fat

* Starbucks doesn't provide info for a double latte; to get the exact breakdown, I subtracted the data for one ounce of milk and replaced it with one ounce of espresso, the typical size of a shot.

So, assuming the caffeine content is the same (I have absolutely no idea if it is, but Kathy's friend told her it was; she had switched to green tea lattes thinking it was healthier, then learned it may not be), the choice is the espresso latte.

Now, obviously there's a 16 calorie difference here. But that's not really the reason why the espresso latte is better. You can burn 16 calories by parking further away at the grocery store or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. (Of course, if you always add 16 calories to what you're eating, eventually it adds up - but pretty much it's negligible for most people.)

The espresso latte is better because of the source of the calories. There are almost twice as many calories from protein in the espresso latte, and more than one-third fewer calories from sugar. Sure, I know that the way to lose weight is to consume fewer calories than you burn - and that's regardless of the source of those calories - but you also have to take into account the effect the calories will have on your body.

Carbohydrates spike your blood sugar. Your body produces insulin in response to it, and your blood sugar drops. This is why you feel a surge of energy from sugar, but then you crash. I know a lot of people here at work who operate on this cycle: go to the kitchen. Get a Coke. Drink it. Go back to the office. Code for half an hour. Return to the kitchen, feeling hungry. Find a cookie. Eat. Return to coding. It's interval training for weight gain!

But there's a fine line to walk here. Our bodies need carbohydrates - the brain needs sugar to operate! (Trust me on this one. I've seen my poor diabetic husband have hypoglycemic seizures due to low blood sugar. Not pretty.) So to stave off that feeling of hunger, we can combine carbohydrates with protein and fat.

Both protein and fats have a longer cycle - you don't peak, because they don't really raise your blood sugar, and your body takes longer to process them. So even after the carb rush has come and gone, protein and fat stay in your system and keep you satiated.

I have a rule: no carbs without protein. That even goes for the worst-possible carbs - banana bread, cake, ice cream, etc. It really helps to stop the sugar high/sugar crash cycle. It may seem somewhat counter-intuitive - I eat EXTRA calories when I eat the bad calories - but it's to prevent me from feeling starving an hour later and saying something like, "Hey. I ate ice cream today. The day is ruined. Might as well eat a brownie now!"

(Which everyone who knows me knows I actually have said before, but presumably less often than I would have had I not had the carbs + protein rule.)

So honestly, the best possible thing for Kathy to do with her espresso latte might even be to not do the non-fat milk thing and instead go for 1%. That way she gets a little more fat for just a few more calories, and she'll be even less likely to crash and need more sugar. Plus, it tastes better!

Thursday, November 09, 2006



I guess this is typical of me. I do a race, and all I can think about is the next race.

So in part it's good that New York was a pretty long trip for me; I couldn't work out Monday (though walking all over the American Museum of Natural History was a good way to stay loose the day after the marathon) and Tuesday was my first day back at work and I was just too busy catching up.

But I did try to work out yesterday. I took Danielle's indoor cycling class at noon. She looked fresh as a daisy, as usual! I thought I felt okay, but as soon as I started riding, I realized I wasn't.

Every time my heart rate would get over 145 (so not even 75% of max HR), my legs would ache and I would have to slow down or remove tension on the flywheel. And every time we were out of the saddle, I got a pounding headache.

So I took it easy and burned just 350 calories or so. I forgave myself by saying it was the first workout after a big race, travel, a time change, etc.

That headache, though, stayed with me - so much so that despite having a dozen people over the house for Bible study last night, I excused myself and went to bed. At 8:15, leaving my dear husband to finish hosting, pay the babysitter, get the kids in bed, and clean up the kitchen. Plus I left him with all the morning stuff - make the boy's lunch, pick out the girl's clothes (the boy wears a uniform, fortunately), etc.

However, the upside of going to bed at 8:15 was that I was wide awake before 5 a.m., ready to go meet the girls for a run. I got out of bed tentatively, not sure the headache was really gone. It was. So I was off to the gym.

We got a slight break in the rain, but we ran just four miles today. And oh my goodness. The first few steps HURT. My right hamstring and both glutes were not excited to be running. Plus, I got a cramp less than half a mile in, and it stayed with me the entire time.

We did four miles in about 44 minutes - that includes stops at streetlights, but it was a hard run for me.

And what do I do when I get back to the gym? I start thinking about what MORE I could do to work out. 45 minutes didn't feel like enough!

I made myself get in the shower instead, and I'm not going to let myself go back to the gym until tomorrow, when I will again try to do a low-key recovery workout.

But it's so hard! I want to be able to go, go, go all the time! Rest is for the weak!

Or smart. Rest is for the smart. (But I'm not smart!!!)

Okay, I'll try to be. But it's just so hard!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The "week two" diet

So now that my season is over (yes, expect a season recap soon!), it's time to really buckle down on the diet. I know I was using FitDay fairly faithfully for a few weeks in October, but I let that fall down when the NY marathon approached, and now it's time to get back to being serious about my diet.

So I'm going back to "Week 2" of the 20/20 Lifestyles program, the diet and exercise plan on which I lost 60 pounds two and a half years ago. Here's what the diet entails:

I am allowed to eat the following things:

Protein (preferably lean; white chicken and turkey, fish, and lean cuts of pork and beef)
Vegetables (except potatoes, peas, and beets)
Healthy fats (nuts, olive oil, peanut butter)
Sauces/dressings where the sugar content is less than 4g/serving

I need to eat these things in the following distribution. Each meal has to contain protein, fat, and carbs.

Breakfast: 300 calories (approx 14 grams of protein; 30 grams of carbs; 10 grams of fat)
Lunch: 400 calories (approx 35 grams of protein; 40 grams of carbs; 10 grams of fat)
Snack: 100 calories (approx 5 grams of protein; 15 grams of carbs; 3 grams of fat)
Dinner: 400 calories (approx 35 grams of protein; 40 grams of carbs; 10 grams of fat)

This gives me 1200 calories per day. I can go up to 1400 calories if I'm hungry and need to increase at a meal, but pretty much if I'm this limited in what I can eat, I'm going to end up eating much higher volume foods - so I'm less likely to be hungry than if I were eating, say, banana bread and candy. :-) Seriously - if you have to get a majority of your calories from vegetables and berries, you have to eat A LOT. So your tummy stays full. It's a great trick. Too bad it's more fun to eat banana bread.

So here goes! The plan is to do this until Thanksgiving, then enjoy Thanksgiving, then go back to this diet until the end of the year (with reprieves for parties and Christmas Eve and Day). In January, we'll see how I did. I do have a Caribbean vacation coming up in January...gotta look good in a bikini!

Oh, one other thing: Halloween was insane for my kids. They got a ton of candy from trick-or-treating at Microsoft and in the neighborhood. So Wednesday night, before we left for New York, I made an offer: I'd pay them 25 cents for each Halloween-sized candy bar they turned in to me, and for smaller items, two for .25. I figured I'd owe each kid $10 or so.

Well, instead, each child made piles worth $1 with all of their candy, then proceeded to take out 8 or 9 pieces each, and turn in the rest to me. I owed each child $27.25!!! That means each one turned in 109 pieces of candy. (This was after whatever they ate Tuesday night and Wednesday before we made the deal.)

The moral of the story: My kids have learned something. Toys are more permanent than candy, and candy is unhealthy anyway. Just a little bit is enough! Yay!

And I learned something too: Next time, offer .25 for two or four pieces, not just one!

Monday, November 06, 2006

New York Marathon Race Report

New York is an incredible place to run!

So, I never actually lived in NYC, but my sister did, I lived upstate for four years during college, and I spent a bit of time both working and hanging out in the city. I always found it lonely and unfriendly, honestly. Something about SO MANY PEOPLE everywhere just made me feel so isolated - by myself in the midst of thousands of people every time I went anywhere in the city.

But yesterday, what the NYC marketing people say about the city was completely true. It became like a small town, with everyone out supporting the runners - and it didn't matter that I passed by hours after the leaders, those New Yorkers cheered for me as if I were first. Crowd support was incredible.

And you know, athletes supporting each other was incredible too. I had tears in my eyes when I passed the double-amputee, pushing himself along on crutches. And a few blind runners. And more than a few people running "in memory of" a loved one.

I've already said New York wasn't about a PR for me. It was about soaking up the spirit of the city and enjoying the company of my friends. And, now that it's done, I'll also say it was about one more thing for me: it was about trying to be the kind of person and the kind of friend I want to be. And in that, I think I was moderately successful.

So here's a recap of the entire day - I want to remember it forever.

I spent the night at Danielle's friend's apartment near Columbia University so my family wouldn't have to drive me to NYC at 4 in the morning. Danielle and I woke up on time, and except for a mad scramble to find her earrings that she had accidentally tossed in the trash can, made it out of the apartment close to on time - but not quite enough. So we had to run four or five blocks to the subway station, fuss with the ticket system, go down the wrong side so we were on the uptown tracks, not downtown, race back up and over, and barely got on the train before the doors closed. Wendy got on the same train a few stops down, so in all we met up fairly easily.

We took the shuttle bus from the NY Public Library to Fort Wadsworth Park. This was probably the hardest part of the day - we got there around 6:30 or so, but the race didn't start until 10:10. They make you do this because they have to close the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge and all athletes need to be on the other side - but basically, you sit around on cold, wet grass for hours before you run. They had food, coffee, tea, and water - and of course Porta-Potties - but it was pretty hard sitting there in the cold, shivering and feeling my muscles stiffen up. I had worn a throw-away sweatshirt plus my winter jacket that I would put in my checked baggage an hour before we started running, a long-sleeve running top and my running jacket, plus two pairs of gloves (one throwaway, one real), but I was still cold.

The time passed quicker than I thought it would, though, and eventually it was time to line up. We walked to the foot of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, and then, as Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" blared, the gun went off! We were running!

So if you look at the elevation profile of NY, the biggest hill looks like the first bridge. Biggest, though, is extremely relative - and when you typically run in Seattle, there are NO HILLS WHATSOEVER on the NY marathon race course. Seriously. So that was a huge boost of confidence for me - I know I'm strong on hills, but I also know that they do make my heart rate rise, just like anyone else, and I was somewhat concerned that hills plus the amount of time I'd be on that course could combine to make me uncomfortable.

However, because there was the slight incline for the first mile, something unexpected happened: I warmed up. Enough that between miles 1 and 2, I shed my gloves, ear band, and jacket. I was unwilling to part with them (unlike so many other runners - probably for the first five miles we were dodging dropped clothing), so I shoved the gloves and ear band into the jacket pocket and ran with the jacket around my waist. We knew Wendy's sister would be around mile 7 and we could drop things we wanted to keep with her.

So when I warmed up, Wendy warmed up even more. She had been debating tights vs. capris all morning, and because of the cold morning, went with tights. Well, turns out that wasn't a good choice for her - she runs warm, unlike me, so by mile 2 she was HOT whereas I was just comfortable, maybe slightly on the cool side (perfect for running). Our plan had been to run 11 minute miles for the first three, until the crowd thinned out, then pick it up. When it was in theory time to pick it up, though, we couldn't. Wendy was hot and uncomfortable, which made her heart rate rise, and 11 to 12 minute miles was where we needed to stay if we were going to stay together.

Here's where it got hard for me. I was running so effortlessly. It felt great. But the crowds were so thick that it wasn't all that easy for the three of us to run side-by-side. So I was slightly ahead...and I kept getting further ahead, and having to slow down and wait until Danielle and Wendy caught up with me. After a while, this got pretty frustrating. I realized very early on that 4:20 was going to be impossible...and even 4:30 slipped away in the first few miles.

8 miles down, and don't we look lovely! (Me, Wendy, Danielle)

So we saw Wendy's sister between miles 7 and 8, dropped my jacket off with her, and got a decent boost from that. The next thing to look forward to was seeing Eric, Wendy's husband. He was supposed to be around mile 11 with a fabulous gift for Wendy: shorts! After some confusion around where exactly he was going to meet us, we did find him and Wendy changed from tights to shorts, right there on the sidewalk in Brooklyn. We had our little pink skirts on over our tights, so she was somewhat covered, but it still drew more than a few interested glances our way. Wendy also ditched her white Princess shirt - which was SOAKING wet, I picked it up off the ground to give to Eric - and ran in a bra top. Danielle decided to be in solidarity with Wendy and run in her bra, too (a pink one, of course), but I knew John would KILL me if I ran in just a bra, plus I wasn't warm enough to really want to. So I kept my clothing on. :-)

Wendy said she felt so much better in shorts and her bra top, so I was hoping we'd be able to pick up the pace a little bit. I asked her whether she wanted me to do the math and give updates on how we were doing. I do this in every race I run, from my 1-mile time trials to the marathon. It's one of the ways I keep my brain occupied during running. I play with fractions and percentages and make predictions and figure out how fast I'd have to run to come in at X time, etc. At this point, she was still interested in hearing our pace and predicted finish time.

But we really weren't speeding up much. When we hit the halfway point on the Pulaski Bridge, heading from Brooklyn into Queens, I saw 2:30 on my watch. So I knew then that we were likely looking at a five-hour marathon.

Realizing that, though, took away some of the frustration I had been feeling up until the halfway point. I'd run 13 miles in two and a half hours. There was no way in the world that I was going to PR, or see 4:20, or see 4:30. I had really set 4:30 as the "acceptable" time for me to run with my friends, and it wasn't going to happen. So I had to tell myself to just suck it up. To stop caring about what other people think of my time. To live in the moment I had, right then in New York. It was going to be over sooner rather than later and I'd only have the memory. I didn't want the memory to be of being annoyed at my pace or my friends or anything other than the joy of running comfortably amidst a crowd of supportive people and with great friends.

I still felt fabulous at this point. My legs were starting to feel somewhat heavy, but my heart rate was low and I was fully able to talk, laugh, yell, and sing. And skip, and dance. So I did all of those things throughout the second half. There was one thing that happened around mile 16, on the Queensboro Bridge. I had gotten ahead again of Danielle and Wendy, and then you go through this really dark part of the bridge (felt like a tunnel, but I'm not sure it actually was). During that part, I could barely see even with my sunglasses off, so I just kept running and slowed down to wait for them to catch up when we got back into the light. When Wendy and Danielle caught up, Danielle said, "We were just talking, and we don't want to hold you back - so why don't you just go ahead?"

NO! I just got so annoyed that they would suggest it. (I'm not annoyed now - I just was in the moment.) I had already resigned myself to whatever time we got, and was trying to re-focus my time goals on Wendy's - she had said she wanted to come in under 5 hours and make the New York Times (they publish the names/times of the people who run the marathon in under 5). So I just said, in a annoyed tone of voice, that I wasn't going to leave them. But I wanted to know whether I should encourage Wendy or just shut up. I guess I thought that encourage was what was wanted, though I'm less sure now.

So from that point on, I made more of an effort to stay side by side with the girls. Amazingly to me, the crowds of runners were still thick - really, it never thinned out at any point on this race. I hadn't ever experienced that before (though this is by far the biggest race I've ever done). I started making phone calls to whoever I could think of - John, my mom, Aleks, and later, we called Latosha and Regan for some over-the-airwaves encouragement. Danielle and I started monitoring Wendy's eating more closely - she was getting snappy some of the time, and we weren't sure if she hated us or was close to bonking.

My fueling strategy, by the way, was perfect. I did a pack of Jelly Belly Sport Beans just before the race started, then after the first hour, then every 45-50 minutes thereafter. I used course water and didn't carry my own. I knew with the cooler weather I'd be okay without the extra weight and water.

John was waiting for us around mile 17. He was up on top of something snapping pictures, and I made him come down and give me a kiss. Then I had to run faster to catch up with the girls.

Left to right, Danielle, me, Wendy

The last five miles were definitely the most fun for me. I had completely let go of the time goal, because by this point I was sure we were going to come in under 5 hours. So I just danced to the tunes from the "best DJ in the Bronx," then I did the twist while running when we crossed back into Manhattan, and I sang and was generally a goofball for a while. Then I had a great idea at mile 22: at mile 23, we'd all eat our last bit of food, whatever we were using, and we would dedicate the mile to a co-worker of Wendy's, who had told her she "didn't look like a runner."

So we ate, and I dictated a letter to the co-worker. It went something like this:

Dear co-worker,
As I run between miles 23 and 26.2 in New York City on this gorgeous marathon day, I look around me and I see many people. Some are fat, some are thin, some are tall, some are short, some are old, and some are young. But we all have one thing in common: we're going to finish this race today. And you, sir, could probably be here with us, running from mile 23 to 26.2. However, you would have gotten to mile 23 by car, bus, or train - certainly not by your feet.

Love, Wendy, who doesn't "look like a runner" but certainly is!

So we continued through Central Park. John saw us a few times and took our picture (though I only noticed him once), and Eric apparently saw us too and took pictures as we approached the finish line. At this point, I was back to doing some math - and I realized that we might not make 5 hours without a strong push at the end.

I didn't know John was there until we had passed by!

At mile 24, we passed some porta-potties. Wendy reminded me that she'd been so good and hadn't stopped to go! I said I was going to congratulate you, but I didn't want to give you any ideas. And she said that we'd come this far without, she could certainly hang on until the end now.

We definitely picked up our speed the last few miles, passing many, many people. We were dodging around folks - there were quite a few walkers by now, but people still filled almost all the available space. The last half mile came and we knew we needed to go all-out to make 5 hours. I couldn't believe what Wendy was able to put out. We picked up the pace dramatically with the finish line in sight - at 400 meters to go, I thought we had four minutes, then realized it was only 2, and was just yelling at Wendy to go, go, go! She turned to me and yelled, "I'm going as fast as I can!" Um, oops! I shut up and just kept running. I was running hard now too, but not as hard as I could have - my max HR for the day was 175, and I'm sure that was right at the finish. (That's fairly low for me - my max HR overall is 202, so I'd expect to see a full-on sprint to the finish hit at least in the high 180s, if not 190 or so.)

Sprint to the finish

We crossed the finish line together. I looked at my watch. 5:00:25. We hadn't made it. But I did hold out a little bit of hope - I thought we were 8 minutes back from the clock (meaning, took us 8 minutes to cross the start line from the time the gun went off), and I knew the clock said 5:07 something when we crossed. I figured my watch could be off by 25 seconds over 5 hours, right?

Wrong. My official time was 5:00:20. So I missed being in the New York Times by 20 seconds. Wendy said afterwards something like, if only I had put my shorts on faster...but really, it's not about that. It's too bad we won't be in the NY Times - I had wanted to be, and in fact, never once did it occur to me that I would come in over 5 hours until mid-run yesterday - but ultimately it's meaningless. (Update: The NY Times must have had additional space, because they published the names of everyone who finished under 5:05. But still - it's cool, but not that important.)

So I didn't run my fastest yesterday. It was certainly my most comfortable marathon, and that says something big. Today I'm somewhat sore, but not incredibly so, and that's great. I hope my friends still love me after yesterday - I feel like I tried really hard to not be so competitive (and it's definitely not competition with them, it's with myself) and tried to be a good friend and supporter. Danielle stayed with me on the Seattle marathon last year when I know she could have run faster. Finishing with her meant the world to me. Yesterday, I think I paid it foward to Wendy.

Finishing with my friends was more important and just more RIGHT than finishing alone, in a lonely city, surrounded by tens of thousands of strangers. I can't honestly say I feel 100% good about the actual number: 5:00:20. But I can say I feel great about my choice.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Off to New York!

I'm leaving tonight, and SO excited!

Probably won't have much time to blog between now and when I return, but feel free to track me (and Wendy and Danielle) on Sunday!

My race number is F8163, and you can watch the race live here:

I think they have an athlete tracker, so you can check up on us (the race starts at 10:10 a.m. eastern, but I don't expect we'll cross the start line until maybe 10:30? Who knows).

They also have email updates every 5K, so you can really track us if you want to! If you watch the video thing, you'll be in for a treat: three princesses in our pink skirts!

We're planning on running a 10-minute mile throughout, so in theory should finish in 4:22. But ultimately we're going to finish it together, so if it takes us 5 or 6 hours, so be it! (But it won't. Wendy and I ran together this morning - 4 miles in about 40 minutes - and she could hardly believe it, especially since there were two fairly good sized uphills, and no significant downhill. So I know she can do a 4:22. And I know I can have more fun with my friends than without, anyway.)