Tunes or No Tunes?

I often get asked if I run with music or not. When I first started running during high school, I never ran with music.  As I ran during my college years, when I was no longer on a team, and after, I found myself putting in my head phones more often. When I first moved to the beach, I ran with music all the time. I found myself running with one ear bud in one ear so I could hear whoever I was running with talk to me. The more running I did, the more I listened to music.

The more times I did this, the more I changed my playlist. Then I decided to sign up for a 50K, and my coach recommended trying to run without music to listen to my breathing, how my body felt, and how my footsteps fell on the road and the trails as I ran. While running without music had become foreign to me, it was a welcome quiet. The silence allowed me to do exactly what my coach wanted. I listened to my breathing, and realized how ragged I sounded. I could feel my heart pounding. I could hear when I landed softly, and when I was slapping the ground with my heels too hard.

I started to appreciate the quiet. While I still chose, and now also choose, to run with other running buddies, the quiet of no music in my ears is still peaceful and welcome. Now I just listen to my friends talk about whatever conversation comes up on our run that day! I do enjoy the silence on solo runs quite often. It allows me to sort through my thoughts, clear my head, and feel like I’ve let go of the load on my shoulders by the time my run is done.

While I do appreciate the quiet, I often am found with both ear buds in my ears on any given race day. I tune the world out when I am racing so that I can focus on what I am doing. I am paying attention to my pace and my breathing, and pushing myself. I like the music to distract me from those around me, and it’s helpful to have a playlist full of music I love to listen to!

Honestly, listening to music or not while you run comes down to personal preference. If you are contemplating listening to music while running, try it out with just one ear bud in your ear so that you can hear your own body and everything happening around you. If you choose to run with music in both ears, be sure to keep the volume low enough to hear oncoming traffic and emergency vehicles. If you are on the trails, it is wise to run with only one ear bud in as well, just in case a wild animal comes along. This way you won’t be startled if an animal crosses your path!  If you prefer to run without music, enjoy the sounds of nature happening around you!

 

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Cold Weather Runner’s Advice

I am through and through a lover of cold weather for a solid run! My breathing is much easier, my pace becomes more steady, and I don’t get as overheated in cooler temps. My personal opinion of perfect running weather is 45-50 degrees and sunshiney! And you better believe I will still be in short sleeves and shorts! I am notorious for being hot on any given run.

As the temps in my area have crept closer and closer to the teens and single digits, my attire for both work and workouts has changed. For work, it’s easy enough to pull out my cuddle duds and fleece lined leggings to go under my dresses. It’s also pretty simple to add an additional undershirt and a scarf to complement my outfit and keep my neck warm. As a runner, dressing for colder temperatures, wind gusts, and possible snow and ice is a bit different.

Us runners are always known as the crazy fools who will run in anything. All the nay-sayers are right. We WILL run in anything, and we DO run in any kind of weather, winter included! So, new runners, here are some ideas of ways to figure out your best attire for running in colder temperatures.

  • Layer your running gear and have the shirt closest to your core be a sweat-wicking one that is a bit more snug than the rest of the tops you have on.
  • Wear long tights in the winter even if you can tolerate the cold so that you don’t risk permanent damage to your skin. I frequently grab my lined tights on days where the temperature is in the 20s or below to keep myself warm and to keep my skin from drying out and cracking from the wind and colder temps.
  • If you are unsure of how many layers to put on, start with a long sleeve, sweat-wicking running top, and add a running windbreaker on top. If this is not enough, either try an additional long sleeve between the jacket and the first layer, or try a heavier jacket. My go to for winter tops are my Under Armour cold gear long sleeve fitted, sweat-wicking top, a long sleeve technical race shirt, and my Under Armour cold gear winter running jacket that is water resistant and has a hood.
  • Try a heavier sock, possibly with smartwool. I have a pair of Farm to Feet socks that are a wool blend. I was given these as part of my race swag from running the Blue Ridge Marathon a few years ago, and love to wear them as the temps get colder. My feet stay toasty, and my socks still won’t slide around in my running shoes from being sweaty because they are breathable.
  • Wear a headband or beanie that covers your ears. Wind in the winter can be brutal, and our ears can surely suffer from the cold and wind. Keep your head covered to keep the heat in your body.
  • Gloves or mittens are definitely a must, as it is proven we lose a lot of our body heat through our extremities. Save yourself some big bucks by raiding the $1-$2 racks at the big box stores for those little gloves that can be easily tossed in the wash. I’ve lost a glove or two along the way when I’ve taken them off and haven’t tucked them all the way in my pockets. No need to be glamorous on the runs, so why not wear a mismatched pair of gloves?
  • Vaseline is a lifesaver when it comes to keeping your face from getting windburnt and hurting like crazy after coming in from a winter run. A thin layer of Vaseline applied to your entire face (forehead, cheeks, nose, and chin) will keep your skin moisturized, and stop the wind from leaving your face raw and red.
  • If you have asthma like I do, the lack of moisture in the air can be dangerous. I often do 1 of 2 things to help me breathe. I wear a neck gator, that slides down over my head, and is worn over my neck. I can pull it up over my mouth and nose if I am struggling to breathe, and the moist air helps my breath become steady once again. I also put a dab of Vicks VapoRub under my nose when I run to keep me breathing easy!
  • Last, but certainly not least, is a pair of sunglasses. If you are brave enough to try running on the snow, protect your eyes from the harsh reflection of the sun on the bright white snow by donning a pair of shades. I’ve tried shades from all kinds of stores, and finally settled on a pair of polarized running sunglasses from Tifosi. You can easily find these at many running stores. I found mine at Running Etc. in the hilltop area of Virginia Beach.

As always, run with care in the winter time. Snow and ice can create hazardous surfaces to run on. Be prepared to run a little slower than normal, and to drink as much as you would on a hot day. Going a bit slower, and being more precise about footing can cause you to sweat just as much on a warmer day. Enjoy the miles and stay warm!

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Resolution vs. Goals

As the end of the first day of 2018 approaches, I have been thinking about resolutions for the new year, as many of us do. The more I look at the word resolution and it’s direct definition, the more I feel like it’s more of developing a dream to do better, be better, etc. It doesn’t have any concrete sustenance to the word. There are no specifics to help guide you to achieve the resolution.

This year, since I can’t seem to wrap my head around a resolution, I’ve decided setting goals are where I would rather expend my energies. Goal setting seems more tangible, more easily defined, and definitely more attainable than a lofty dream. As I think about the goals I want to focus on, I need to be realistic in what I can do in a year’s time. My own goals involve the three following: continue to write monthly, run races that only give back to the local community, and continue to chip away at my student loans.

Like many others out there, I have aspirations and a bucket list to complete before the final date is stamped on my headstone. I want to continue to write to share what I know, encourage educational and valuable conversation, and to learn more about what I don’t know. I love to write, and I feel sharing my knowledge and interests can excite, encourage, inspire, and even encourage banter. My goal of writing monthly is two-fold in that it will keep my writing skills sharpened, but it will keep my brain thinking at a higher level as well. (Sometimes it’s tough when you teach little ones all day long, and your brain is in constant children appropriate conversation levels.)

I absolutely thrive on running. It fuels the fire in my soul. It makes me feel alive with every step I take. I couldn’t possibly live without it. I want to make sure my running, especially when I race, gives back to the community in which I live. I feel it’s important to show compassion, and knowing each race entry supports a local charity warms my heart.

Lastly, I know I am not the only one out there chipping away at the student loans that funded our educations. While my degrees are necessary to teach, and I have certainly used what I learned in college, it is still daunting having such a big dollar sign hanging over my head. While I will keep the actual dollar amount to myself, I will continue to make progress monthly on my loans. My goal will involve reading financially savvy blogs, tips, and ideas to be even more frugal.

What are your goals for this year? What tips, thoughts, or ideas do you have to share with me? I welcome your input!

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Just Say No to a Marathon

Just reading the headline may perplex you, especially if you are a runner. You may ponder my reasoning, and begin scratching your head as you process the possible whys. My reasoning actually began 23 years ago on a track in Upstate New York when I realized that that ever-fleeting feeling of personal success could be achieved more often than I thought. I had been approached about joining the track team a year earlier, and was quick to say no before the coach could even get another word out. Somehow, he later convinced my dad that I would be a great track athlete, and here I was on that very track I had initially said no to.

I was scheduled to run many 100s, 200s, and a warm-up and cool-down run around that track that night. My warm-up and cool-down runs are not what stuck in my mind. The exhilaration at the completion of each 100 and 200 meter run were what motivated me to keep going until I had completed my scheduled work-out. The feeling of complete and utter exhaustion after those same 100 and 200 meter runs was my internal sign that I had given my workout all I had. The combination of this exhaustion and exhilaration is like a different euphoria that you wouldn’t know unless you are a runner. The epitome of a runner’s high hits when you know that you have given a run, a race, a workout your absolute best and hardest efforts.

The thought of saying no to a marathon came to me after a particularly miserable marathon earlier this year. I realized that I had nothing left to prove. I had completed my tenth marathon, on my own two feet, alone, and I wasn’t happy. I was glad the damn thing was over. I’ve lost count of the number of races I have run, but it’s up there in numbers, and I have never felt so relieved after a race simply because it was OVER. I didn’t relish the medal. I didn’t enjoy the finish line celebration. All I was happy about was that I no longer had 20 mile long runs on Saturday mornings; I no longer had to give up a significant chunk of my time to training, resting, fueling, stretching, and crosstraining.

Training for a marathon is not something that comes easy to any person, even if you have previously been or currently are an athlete. It is 20+ grueling weeks of training that involves long runs, short runs, potential bridge repeats or tempo runs, crosstraining, extra sleep, extra food, finding out what fuel works for you, and time away from friends, family, and other commitments. Choosing to do a marathon is not something to be taken lightly. If you commit to doing a marathon, you have to commit to doing all of the aforementioned activities that go along with it. You will be running when your friends and family are sleeping in on Saturday and Sunday mornings. You will be running when your colleagues are going to happy hour after work. You will be running when the weather is hot, cold, wet, windy, and just miserable. When you are done training, yes, you will be able to say that you have completed the marathon distance. However, you will not have the immediate gratification of the feeling of success or a runner’s high until AFTER you have completed the marathon.

If you choose to run a different distance, where the outcome still allows you to cross a finish line, you can have that same immediate gratification I felt after completing my workouts on the track all those years ago. I have found that the marathon is not for the faint of heart. It can be done, but it is not for everyone. Even as a seasoned runner, I feel that I am incredibly more satisfied with a shorter workout. I can compare workout to workout and physically see improvement on my times. I can document how I felt before, during, and after each workout and see the fluctuation of progress or backsliding. In a marathon, you continue to build mileage from week to week, with the occasional cutback week, which allows for lesser mileage and more recovery. It is challenging to see progress immediately made from run to run. You can still document each workout, how you feel before, during, and after, and compare and contrast, but it doesn’t have the same, quicker turnover in progress that shorter distances do.

My reasoning behind dialing back from the marathon is not because I have given up on the distance, but because the 10k distance is more satisfying. It’s like a tempo run that challenges your ability every step of those 6.2 miles. Unlike running a marathon, a 10k can be run where your muscles feel pushed just beyond their limits at a manageable, but slightly uncomfortable pace. I have been taught to run a 10k as a negative split run where you run each mile slightly faster than the last one. The training for the 10k involves lots of ladders on the track, reminiscent of my time on the track all those years ago. The same Cheshire Cat grin I had at the end of each of those workouts was the same grin that was plastered across my face when I completed my ladders on the track recently. My joy for running was back, and the 10k was the fuel to my fire!

With this said, I encourage all runners to find the distance that fuels your love for running. Each individual is different, and each individual will have different goals. Find your sweet spot that allows you to have that instant feel good moment that feeds your passion for the sport. I reignited my love for running when I started doing those same track workouts on the track just a few short months ago. I rediscovered those moments of the instant feelings of success. In my honest opinion, find your distance, fuel your passion.

 

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Tips for The Trails

One of the perks of living near a state park is having access to trails to run on a regular basis. It took me about 5 years to realize there were actually trails nearby my home.  I have been a road runner most of my life, and up until that point, I had done nothing on trails other than hike with family. Running on trails was a completely foreign, and somewhat scary concept.

After I completed my very first marathon at the OBX Marathon in 2011, I was itching for another running goal that would push beyond my comfort zone and scare me and excite me all at once. I hastily signed up for the Seashore Nature Trail 50k. Now here’s the thing about being a road runner; you ALWAYS run on the road. How in the world was I going to run an entire race, in fact 31.07 miles, on trails I had never stepped foot on? I made a plan to research as much as possible as soon as I hit the submit button on my registration form. I talked to local runners who had run the race. I sought out a running coach so I wouldn’t be completely clueless when it came to training for such a race. After all, it was only 5 miles longer than a marathon. What could be so bad?

The more questions I asked, the more I learned. The more I learned, the more I realized I would have to get to know those trails like the backs of my hands. My coach ran with me the first few times on those trails, and that reassured me some. I was more concerned about the times I would be running the trails solo. Coach drew me a map, and sent me on my way. Here are some of my takeaways from running the trails solo:

  • pick your feet up at all times or you will likely kick, trip, or fall over a root or two
  • as beautiful as the scenery may be, watch the ground in front of you for those roots
  • carry a water bottle with you as mother nature may not provide any drinks
  • be prepared to stop and squat if mother nature, ahem, calls
  • take a moment to pause and take in your surroundings as you are in the middle of beauty
  • bring a cell phone with you if you run alone, and you truly do get turned around
  • learn to read the mile markers, sign posts, and trail names as you pass by them to make sure you are aware of where you are
  • trust in your ability to plant your feet squarely as you run
  • running on tip toe can be hazardous in that you don’t have solid footing, and you are more likely to slip
  • wear layers that are easily removed since temperatures can vary a great deal inside a state park
  • bring fuel with you to keep you going in case you end up running farther than you expected
  • watch out for wildlife, they were there first, and we need to respect their habitats

Trail running was an absolutely new and exciting experience, but I had a lot to learn. I hope you can take away some valuable lessons from my personal experience! My training for the 50k made me fall in love with running on the side trails that had rolling hills. I still run those very trails today, and love the thrill of running fast on the trails with beauty surrounding me! Consider trying a trail run on your next adventure!

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New Goals, New Adventures

Life certainly has thrown me some twists and turns lately. Hello homeownership and all that comes with it…. thank goodness for the bf and friends and family who know how to fix things… water leaks, a broken washing machine, a fence that fell down, a broken garbage disposal…. please, oh please, let this be it for a while…. my emergency fund has been swallowed whole this summer.

On the flip side of things, I have truly brainstormed aloud with a lot of close friends, family members, and individuals within the running community whom I highly respect, and have found my focus. For the longest time, I have had tunnel vision about running marathons. I wanted Boston. I wanted to qualify without raising money for a charity. I wanted to run fast enough, far enough, and long enough to prove myself. But to whom? Most of you who know me well, know that my mom passed away when I was 12. 12 is that crucial pre-teen age where “the sky is falling,” yet everything is great the next minute… I feel like it’s the moment that a pre-teen is really starting to see life for what it is. Some are still naive at that age; surely, I was, but I was also wise beyond my years in other respects. With losing my mom so young, and being tossed into a whirlwind situation that hurts WAY too much to talk about, my brain and my body turned to the flight or fight mode. If I couldn’t fight my way through something, I would take flight… I would RUN.

Typing these words are far from easy… I feel like the “whom” that I have constantly been proving myself to has been my mom. My hope is she is watching from above, and is proud of the person I have become. My fear is that I am not all she ever dreamed of. The reality is that I could live in this middle ground, living in fear of the unknown, or I can take hold of my life as much as fate will let me, and fight.  I have proven TEN times that I am capable of running a marathon. TEN. I am very capable of running the distance. I can put in the hard work that training requires to successfully complete the distance. I have the endurance, I have the mindset, and I have the heart to do it. Do I need to keep proving myself time and time again? NO. No, I don’t.

Here comes my new focus and my new adventures. Life is WAY too short. The closer I get to the age that my mother was when she passed away, the more I fear what I may miss out on if I don’t surpass that number. I try to squash that fear whenever it comes up. It’s hard to not think about it, but it does fuel my desire to keep chasing goals and to mark off items on my bucket list. My new focus is short distance. I have been a short distance runner my ENTIRE life. To my marathon friends, this may be new news. They know me as a multiple marathoner; as someone who just keeps busting out these 26.2 mile races. But in reality, I am a sprinter. I LOVE the ladders on the track. I love the thrill of a race where you can see the finish line from the start line. I love the idea that I can run 10x or more the distance as a warm-up for a short distance event. I love that feeling of victory when I cross the finish line, knowing that I left ALL I had on the asphalt. My focus is short distance, efficiency, and SPEED. Did I mention how much I love to run fast? Just typing this is making me grin like a Cheshire cat from ear to ear. I am ready!

My new adventures include these shorter distances, a different kind of training, and the willingness to travel when I can to see friends, family, and new places. I have also started a new adventure with this cute and sassy company called Perfectly Posh. That in itself has been exciting for me! Send me a note if you are curious about that one, and I will share more!

So right here, right now, instead of asking “Why?,” I am asking “Why not?,” and taking life one sweet second at a time.

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The Itch

Did somebody say speed?

There always comes a time that this wanderer has the itch. The itch for a new goal, a new focus, a new thirst for success. After a disastrous marathon, my thoughts have been going a million miles a minute. Once I settled some from dealing with the aforementioned race, I realized that I was not fueling the fire properly. I originally chased the marathon distance in 2011 because I was told I couldn’t do it. I then chased the 50k distance  in 2012 just to prove it could be done. After the 50k, barely 3 weeks later, I broke the 2:00 mark for a half marathon for the first time ever in the 7 years I had been racing road races. My strength and endurance don’t disappoint me, but they don’t fuel the passion for running like hitting a hard track workout spot on. They don’t leave me so spent, yet so thirsty for more at the same time. They don’t literally and figuratively kick my ass so hard that it truly becomes even more non-existent than it is. (Don’t you know I’m captain of the tiney hiney club!) The angrier I got about the not to be named race, the more I want to focus on something new. My love of running hasn’t shifted, but my goals have. My itch is to find my efficiency, my threshold, and to push beyond it. Insert my new focus, and new goal here: shorter distance, better efficiency, and hopefully, the paces will make me feel like I am flying. I’m not afraid of running the distance. I’m not afraid of running over mountains. I’m itching to hit the track, and do so many ladders that my legs feel like jello afterwards. I want to quit feeling like I am trudging through peanut butter, and feel like I am flying! BRING IT ON! #focused #fearless #fierce #fuelthefire #skirtsportsambassador

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