Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Running Gods Are Smiting Me

crap [krap]
1. vulgar : nonsense, rubbish

This was my first thought yesterday as, half-way through my 8-mile planned run, I began to feel pain directly below the site of my outer ankle. Or, what foot physicians refer to as peroneal tendonitis.

It began as an ache, really, that grew progressively worse over the course of several days. I, of course being the stupid individual that I am, blew it off as a minor thing that might accompany the stress of the 50+ miles a week I regularly run.

I was very wrong.

I've gone through injuries before, most noteably last summer. I was inflicted by tendonitis near the inner ankle, followed by two weeks off from running. A week later, I got a repetitive stress injury that came frighteningly close to a stress fracture. Thus, 6 weeks of no running was in my future, which meant 6 weeks of intense training on the stationary bike. Because I went back to running too soon, with the permission of my far-from-knowledgable-about-running podiatrist, this stress injury plagued me for many months after its onset.

This spring, it fully healed and I was running with an attitude of iron. Or perhaps of titanium alloy. You see, I was the "bionic woman," training as hard as ever. No injury could even catch me.

Unfortunately, yesterday was the moment of brutal realization: I am as susceptible to injuries. My bionic facade has been crushed, and my far-from-machine-like body has brought me to remember the physical and mental anguish of injury.

Today is a scheduled rest day, making it mentally easier to not run, but what about the day after that? And the day after that? I will evaluate my situation on a day-to-day basis, but in the face of denial, I realize deep inside that this may require a week or more to heal.

Perhaps not running as a result of injury should be dealt with the same mental strength as running. Instead of putting my energy towards running, I must temporarily direct it towards cross-training (i.e. biking) and healing.

There will be ups and downs along the way - times when I want so dearly to succumb to my running addiction - but for the betterment of my training, it is a duration as necessary to my training as a long run.

I may come back to read my own writing tomorrow, the next day...however many days I am out of commission. I need to take my own advice and put aside the hardcore runner within me until my peroneal tendons decide to cooperate.

Regardless of how I'm talking tomorrow, ranting on about my anger towards the running gods who seem to have so quickly turned on me, I will accept my fate as an oppurtunity to grow. Ironically, I posted a while ago about the meaning of patience. Looks like this is my chance to practice some.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Running the Numbers at Wal-Mart and Target

After a 50.1-mile week (even without a long run), it is my rest day, which means my physical activity for today will consist of approximately 30 minutes of an ab routine...and grocery shopping. As a runner, I try to fuel myself properly, but there is a common misconception that eating healthy costs more. For today's post, I'd like to prove that wrong.

Inconspicuously toting my cell phone with me, I took a variety of photos of common staples in a runner's diet. I went to both Wal-Mart and then Target, at which I gathered a number of price comparisons and deals that could help you readers save money on good food.
Note: Depending on the time of year and Wal-mart/Target you go to, prices may vary.

Energy/Nutrition Bars
These bars pack a number of essential vitamins and minerals, not to mention they are very convenient. They're great snacks for runners who lead busy lives and can take advantage of easy, portable food.

1st Recommendation: Buy them in packs, not individually - they're usually much cheaper in bulk.

2nd Recommendation: At my local Wal-Mart, the energy bars in the grocery section of the store were about $0.40 cheaper than their identical counterparts in the health/beauty section (i.e. $4.97 versus $5.37). There was also less variety of the cheaper bars, but if you're not very picky, this would be the way to go.

3rd Recommendation: If you are not as busy, you can make your own granola/energy bars at home. This is likely the cheapest option if you can afford the time.

Wal-Mart Prices: (Grocery section) Box of 6 Clif bars: $4.97 (~$0.83/bar)
Box of 6 Luna bars: $4.97 (~0.83/bar)
Box of 4 Kashi Go Lean Crunchy bars: $6.12 (1.53/bar)

Target Price: Box of 6 Clif Z-Bars: $3.49 (~$0.58/bar)


Fruits and vegetables, depending on the season, can be expensive. However, during my investigation, I found some deals that I could definitely foresee saving a lot of money on.

1st Recommendation: Try to buy in-season fruits/vegetables, since they're usually cheaper. During more temperate seasons, you can often find great prices at your local farmer's market on many goods.
2nd Recommendation: Although this is not price- or savings-related, it's something you can keep in mind while purchasing fruits and vegetables. Aim to buy a variety of colors that indicate a variety of nutrients. Buy darker assortments of salad because in the case of green, leafy vegetables, the greener it is, the more nutrition it has. Opt for red or purple grapes instead of green, because as the derivatives of red wine, they also contain the antioxidant resveratrol, which is believed to be heart-healthy.

3rd Recommendation: If your favorite fruit is out-of-season, sometimes you can also find it in the freezer section (for example, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, diced peaches, etc.).

Wal-Mart Prices: Apples: $1/lb. (of golden delicious and gala varieties)
Strawberries: Under $3.00/16 oz. carton
Bird's Eye Valley Fresh Vegetable Steamers: $1/12 oz. bag


Of course, runners need protein to help build lean muscle mass and to recover after hard workouts in which we demand a great deal of our muscles.

1st Recommendation: Vegetarian, vegan, and omnivore runners alike need sources of protein. So don't skimp on this vital aspect of nutrition, regardless of your dietary specifications. For those who don't eat meat, reach for alternative protein in the form of nuts, peanut butter, tofu, tempeh, dairy products, whole grains, legumes, soy meat, and/or whey protein shakes.

Wal-Mart Prices: Skim Milk: $1.13/quart
Silk Soy Milk (light, chocolate, and original): $2.74/quart
Blue Diamond Oven-Roasted Almonds with Sea Salt: $3.97/8 oz. container
Smart Balance Omega Chunky Natural Peanut Butter: $2.73/16 oz. jar


You can't forget about the carbohydrates us runners so love to eat. Whether it's preparing us for a grueling race or replenishing our glycogen stores after a hard workout, carbohydrates are a must-have for any runner.

1st Recommendation: When it comes to cereals, look for the key words "whole grain," "bran," or "oats." Yet remember, though, that bran cereals, while high in fiber, are not whole grain. On General Mills' cereals, look for the Whole Grain Label. Also, if you so adamantly resist replacing your sugary Lucky Charms, mix it with healthier alternative cereals or have it every once in a while. You can also mix cereal/granola and fruit with your yogurt to make a delicious treat.

Wal-Mart Prices: Kashi Go Lean Cereal: $2.98/box
Quaker Instant Oatmeal: 2 for $5.00 ($2.50/box)
Nature Valley Oats & Honey Granola Bars: $3.78/value pack box with 24 bars (~$0.16/bar)

Target Prices: Kashi Honey Oat Waffles: $1.99/box of 6 waffles
Kashi Strawberry Flaxseed Waffles: $2.14/box of 6 waffles

Long Run Fuel

For distance runners and marathoners, long run fuel is often used for runs over 75 minutes. Some consume specially-made products, such as Clif Shot Blocks or Gu, to replenish glycogen stores. On a budget, these kinds of items can add up in excessive costs.

1st Recommendation: One can use gummy bears or other candies on long runs, which are often cheaper alternatives.

Wal-Mart Prices: Haribo gummy bears: $0.97/bag
G2: $4.98/pack of 12 12-fluid oz. bottles
If nothing else, I hope my small-scale investigation made you more price-savvy and knowledgeable about the many possibilities healthy eating has, even on a budget. Cutting costs does not have to mean cutting nutrition.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

"Happy Winds-day" -Winnie the Pooh

Winnie the Pooh said it best. The winds were blowing pretty hard today from the North, which I ran through for most of the 8.5 miles I covered. Although, I'm thankful I can say, "BUH-BYE!" to the malevolent arctic weather we've had this past week. And while I'm at it, I might as well tell it to not come back.

Considering I do 2-a-day runs, I figured why not do a 2-a-day posting? It was a recovery run day, so I decided to try bringing my camera with me and have some photo fun while I was at it.Between the occasional pause and picture snap, I thought about impatience. I know it's a mindset that plagues me and many others, so I wondered how I got so into the sport of running.

It takes patience to pound out the many miles required to hone your fitness and hit the PR's we all strive for. It also takes patience to do speedwork as you run through the incessant, nagging part of your brain that wants to stop to cease the tsunami of fatigue. During long runs, which can last anywhere from 1-3 hours, it takes serious mental strength simply to occupy oneself with positive and introspective thoughts. Is impatience our attempt to push a fast-forward button on life, for which none exist?

Are we impatient throughout our lives to get through our lives? Do we run through life as if it is a race feeling the same impatience with which we regard that familiar feeling of fatigue? Maybe life is the one place we shouldn't apply our racing skills. Perhaps in the race of life, we should slow down to a walk. Or perhaps even pause for a couple of moments.

Instead of racing through life, maybe we should try to embrace that virtue that so many of us lack - patience. Steps off soapbox.

For the Love of Garmin!

This little gadget has been almost permanently-attached to my arm ever since it was given to me as a present last summer. Several other updated models have also come out since then, but everything I could ever want in a GPS watch I have found in the Forerunner 205. It has freed me from the frequent trips to Google Maps. I no longer must make the drive to various running routes to closely watch the car odometer, attempting to approximate the mileage of a route.

Amidst some fellow runners who bear wrists naked to the privilege of a GPS watch, I've received comments such as, "Wow, that thing is huge! How do you run with it?!"
To all such inquirers, I answer you now. This handy-dandy contraption is only 2.72 ounces, a small weight to which I've become accustomed. Honestly, since I've learned the many slick capabilities of the Forerunner 205, I could care less about its size.

Browsing through some reviews, I also found one grievance pertaining to the side buttons, which this critic found to be difficult to push. Now I'll respond with my two cents. Unless you have sausage fingers and lack the strength of a butterfly, you shouldn't run into problems here.

According to the Garmin site, this particular model has a "GPS antenna around part of the wrist for a better view of the sky, and its high sensitivity GPS receiver provides improved tracking under trees and near tall buildings."

Garmin's advertising administration also couldn't resist adding, "Forerunner 205's courses feature lets you compete against previous workouts: you can compare your pace over your entire workout to your past performance over the same run. You can also use Forerunner 205 to train for your next duathlon or triathlon with multi-sport workouts, a feature that lets you seamlessly transition between sports without resetting the unit, so you can use it for running, biking and more."

Ah, but we can't forget about the newly-released Garmin Forerunner 405, available in black or green "to fit your style," says their site. The suggested retail price, $299.99, requires you to ante up much more than the 205, priced at $199.99.

However, it has more features, including "innovative ANT+™ wireless technology" that "automatically transfers data to your computer when the Forerunner is in range. No cables, no hookups." The 405 boasts the ability to wirelessly share workouts and courses with fellow users, in addition to offering an "optional foot pod to track your speed, distance and running cadence indoors when a GPS signal is unavailable."

As a self-proclaimed skeptic, I might have blown off these claims had I never been given a Forerunner 205. However, even I must profess my love for this little piece of technology. So for all you wide-eyed critics, whom I might have once been, I discourage you from knocking it 'til you try it. Despite my dislike for evangelism, I have become a firm believer in Garminism, and I hope you consider converting as well.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Nametag: "Hi, My Name is Breadcrumb Runner."

Since we are "meeting" for the first time, it seems only appropriate to introduce myself. If it were in reality, all you might have to do is read a hastily-written name tag reading "Hi, my name is so-and-so." However, this is cyberspace. There are none such nametags here, so I thought I would fashion myself one (see title of post). If it were in reality, we also might shake hands nervously and verbally introduce ourselves. Perhaps I'd mention my interest in running, which you may (or may not) reciprocate. Perhaps this common ground would spur conversation. Assuming, reader, you are in fact a fellow runner - whether you be a beginner or pro, run recreationally or competitively - it is here, my anonymous internet running friend, I will begin my lengthy blogging journey and explore the depth of this sport that can be over-looked at face value.

Today I woke up, a day off from classes, in a wonderful mood. Yesterday and the day before I had to run chained to the infamous dreadmill, forced inside by the nasty arctic wrath mother nature thrust upon me. The temperatures, ranging from -6 to -22 degrees Fahrenheit with windchills hitting the -40's, were just not safe to venture outside in. Oddly enough, when I run on the treadmill, I find it actually feels more strenuous than when I run outside. At first I thought perhaps my running mechanics were much more adapted to outside running. However, I did some research, and found that the reason for this greater perceived exertion could be because I always set the treadmill at 1% incline (to "account for the lack of air resistance," as is widely believed). Read this article online: "The 1% Incline Treadmill Myth" It suggests that air resistance is negligible and only factors in at speeds close to sprinting, which might mean running at 1% incline actually makes the treadmill more difficult than outside. Maybe it's not just me!

I also found this in an internet discussion, indicating treadmill running requires more of the muscles and a higher stride frequency for equal distances:

"Reporting in Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise, researchers evaluated the kinematics and biomechanics of treadmill running and determined that running on a treadmill increases the muscular demands made on hip flexors and knee extensors. The authors concluded that treadmill running might improve sprint times due to the extra effort of those key muscles. Other studies have shown that the treadmill requires a higher stride frequency because the treadmill pushes the rear leg forward and the advancing leg must plant more quickly. As a result, a faster cadence and shorter stride produces more steps per mile and the cardiovascular demands of running may be higher on a treadmill than outdoors at the same pace."

Although my hardcore, crazy-self might have had trouble resisting the temptation to trudge through the freezing winds, risking frostbite and hypothermia, I pondered this debate as I put one foot in front of the other on a treadmill set at 1% incline (just in case...)

Nevertheless, I had been looking forward to today. "Why?" you might be asking, "What would be so special about today?"

The weatherman was forecasting a high of 12 degrees today, that's what! I was very eager to run outside and bask in the relative "warmth" of midday.

Against the wind, flurries, and balmy 9-degree temperature, I happily adventured into the outdoors. On a favorite, familiar trail of mine, I ran 4.4 fartlek miles (began the first mile @ 6:45/mile avg pace, then transitioning to 6:00/mile avg pace), followed by a 3.7-mile treadmill cool-down. This brings today's total to 8.1 miles and brings to a close my (thankfully) brief, exclusive treadmill streak.

Note: Reader, if you are either a beginner to the sport or are unfamiliar with this word, "fartlek" is a Swedish term meaning "speed play." It is a type of speedwork, not flatulation of any sort. Now that we have cleared that up...yes, I give you permission to giggle childishly once more at the aforementioned word...we can continue.

Given that today was a speedwork day, I had fewer "profound" thoughts. All I told myself was, "GO." Although, perhaps getting outside helped stimulate some brain juices for some interesting ideas for tomorrow's post. Besides, today was merely our orientation.

Stay tuned.