Monday, August 31, 2009

Runner's Almanac - Day 16

The training schedule provided by the LA Leggers written materials recommends the first midweek run on a Tuesday, so I decided to cross train today instead with some spinning.

Also, in LA Marathon news, they have now posted a video on their new route here. The video is fun, but it lacks any specifics except what we already know - Dodger's Stadium, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica. There is no information on streets or elevation except that it includes the hilly twists and turns of Sunset Blvd. Since the new management of the race, I have noticed its evolution into more of a commodity for customers than a marathon for runners. Fees have gone up to $125 with no early bird discounts, and the new route is more geared toward the commercial aspects of Los Angeles (and now the cities of West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica) such as Grauman's Chinese Theater, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and gasp, Rodeo Drive - The video even pans to the Louis Vuitton store in Beverly Hills.

The LA Marathon's owner, real estate developer Frank McCourt, also owns the LA Dodgers; so his handiwork at bridging these two entities is not lost on us. Just visit the LA Marathon official website and the first image is a panoramic view of Dodger's Stadium. Since his plan to purchase the Boston Red Sox in his native Massachusetts failed, he is creating a monopoly of athletic organizations in our city. I support runners' excitement about the new course- but I'm hoping that this great event for our city isn't overshadowed by the corporate powers that be. Registration for the 2010 LA Marathon opens September 1st.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Runner's Almanac - Day 15

Did my cross training today at The Absolute Yoga studio. I did two classes - Pilates bar and Kundalini Yoga, and now for the first time in a while, I am sore! Planned on walking for 40 minutes but the air quality was like a barbeque all over the San Fernando Valley sky. Good day to cross train indoors. Please check your air quality in your area before running outside.

Happy running!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Runner's Almanac - Day 14

Today was my 7 mile long run with the LA Leggers. I was watching my emails the night prior in the event that it was cancelled due to unhealthful air quality from the firestorms. Our weather in Santa Monica is seldom tainted by this though, and it went as scheduled. The weather was sunny and warm by the beach at 7:30 am. For the first time this marathon training season, I felt in tune with our pace, step by step, so much so that I could envision myself running forever. This is what runners refer to as their "forever pace". Heading back from Venice towards Santa Monica, I turned my iPod completely off and tuned into the pat pat pat of our feet as we ran in step with each other. Although our formation was not as straight as a training army, I felt proud of our regimen. Looking forward to the next 7 miles!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Runner's Almanac - Day 13

A challenge for every runner is to decide what forms of cross training best compliment your training. I used to enjoy indoor rowing the day before a long run - It works your arms and legs and gives that burst of energy that fuels into the next day. Yoga and stretching can also help. I had lunch with my friend Kathryn today, and although she is not a runner (currently!), her exercise regimen consists of jump roping, which I believe, is also a valuable cross training exercise for runners. In running magazines and websites, I've noticed that plyometric exercises such as jumping, leaping, "grapevining", and any movement that requires coordination and strength, will help with speed.

Kathryn jumpropes 20 minutes or so each session interpersed with quick periods of walking in place. I used to jump rope as a quick cardiovascular activity in between weight training, usually about 200 jumps in total. I always thought of it as a a compliment to a larger program. When jumproping is brought as the focus, however, it is a powerful pop of strength that additionally puts focus on the arms and also on the balance required not to trip over the rope.

Isn't it interesting that jumproping is usually associated with grade school girls during recess? But that's where we can glean its benefits. Just consider the high degree of coordination required for jumping rope, and especially double dutch, a feat I could never accomplish. Out of curiousity, I checked to see whther jumping rope is actually done competitively. It turns out that many established organizations promote it as an athletic sport. This includes the American Double Dutch League and the International Rope Skipping Federation. As far as cross training activities, it is inexpensive, easy and you can fit it into any portion of your schedule. Jump to it!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Runner's Almanac - Day 12

Rest day - no running. Did plenty of icing and caught up on the new season of Project Runway. Also found out that the Los Angeles Marathon is looking more commercial and less runner-focused with each new update. For some reason, they have decided to drop the bicycle portion. There is also no longer an early bird registration fee discount. I'm not so thrilled with the new course since it goes through areas of town that, frankly, I see enough as it is. Also, since when is West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica part of the city of Los Angeles? I liked last year's course and hope that in the future it will return to Downtown. The Pasadena Marathon is looking more attractive ( as long as it doesn't rain again this year). Also, the folks of the Firecracker Run have posted their date for next year, and this way cool logo for the year of the Tiger. I did the 5K run at Firecracker in 2007, and boy, is this course hilly. But you can't beat the ambiance in Chinatown.

Happy running!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Runner's Almanac - Day 11

I ran about 2.5 miles this morning outside before heading off to work. I usually eat something before running, but today I decided to run on an empty stomach. The mileage wasn't too high, and I thought I could burn off whatever I ate the night before. I had done this one another time and was happy with the result. This morning, though, I started getting stomach cramps about halfway through. My shin soreness was also compounded by a slight pain in the knee and ankle. Around the point I usually make my less than one mile climb back to the end of my route, I stopped and stretched. This helped. But I will take it easy, ice and elevate my legs, until the long run on Saturday. I don't mind taking some time off now so that I can run more in the long run. Besides, I'm starting to feel that biting tenderness in my upper abs - even my lower rib cage - from pilates yesterday. Wow!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Runner's Almanac - Day 10

Today I did some cross training at The Absolute Yoga Studio in Woodland Hills. This was my first class at the small yoga/pilates studio. Newcomers pay $20 for any mat-based classes their first week. The studio is warm and intimate and and the staff is also friendly. I appreciate this quality when at a new exercise facility since the experience has the potential of eliciting jittery nerves or yoga intimidation. You know, when everyone else seems to know what to do and where to go and what to do with their foot and what that block is used for. Even the lady at the front desk knew many of the clients' names by memory.

I enjoyed the mat pilates class and the instructor Monika. Newbies may find the class just a tad short on in-depth technical aspects of pilates such as appropriate breathing and body gait, but our class had a couple of recent pilates practitioners (my mother and aunt, respectively), and they seemed to be doing just fine.

Pilates helps strenghten the core, a good tool for the long distance runner.

Happy pilates!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Runner's Almanac - Day 9

Today's mileage: 4.5 miles outside in the early evening. This took me about 55 minutes. Note to self: Add a Garmin watch to your wish list for Santa. It makes it much easier to remember exactly what time it was when you started.

I enjoy running this time of day. The sun holds on to its final sky-high prominence but with a honey dripping slow downward turn, met with the cool breeze of dusk. It's a little slice of heaven when you're running on your favorite leg of your favorite route. At this time of day, my run is a combination of fun, hardwork, and peace. I remind myself often how fortunate I am to be able to use my legs in this way and, as runners, we have to be thankful everyday that we can. That being said, I've been noticing some pain in my shins recently. So a massage, or more calf strengthening exercises may be in order. I'll keep you posted.

By the way, if you haven't tried Gu yet during your runs, take them with you if you plan on running 40 minutes or more. Gu is, well, like energy-fueled goo. It's easy to carry and no chewing is required. Recommended 15 minutes before your run, and every 45 minutes in. I had half a tri-berry Gu about 40 minutes in and it helped. Find it at your local running store. Or if you go to REI, you get 20% off if you by in large quantities.

Happy running!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Runner's Almanac - Day 8

Today I didn't make it for a run. I was supposed to go for a walk - A nice long walk - After yesterday's long run. And it would have felt good. But I relented to the comfort of my couch in the late afternoon while something unbelievably funny was on the television. It doesn't matter what was on. That's not the point. Only that sometimes the lure of the couch beats the lure of the road, and well, there is really nothing we can do about it.

I did get in some virtual running this morning, however, watching parts of a documentary on the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. That was the inaugural year the women's marathon made it in the games. Maine native and Bowdoin college alumni Joan Benoit was the event's first ever gold medalist. As Benoit did a commentary about that day, running through the tunnel that opened up to the LA Coliseum, she was shocked to see so many fans fill the stadium seats, waiting to see her and about 50 other women achieve such a goal. Who would come out to see a woman running, she had thought? Benoit continues to participate in the sport, even having trained Lance Armstrong for his recent marathon efforts. I later watched a segment on the Joyner siblings and their story growing up in poverty-stricken conditions in East St. Louis, Illinois to achieving track and field glory in their careers. Although I was living in Los Angeles at the time of the Olympics in 1984, my memory of it is mostly of Mary Lou Retton - It was a very popular costume that Halloween for us kids. Who knows, maybe they'll bring the games back to L.A; revamp the Coliseum, for another history making running event.

Happy running!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Runner's Almanac - Day 7

Now that my long runs are early on Saturday, my Friday nights consist of little more than reading a book and taking it easy. I am still getting accustomed to this - not to the early nights, but to the early Saturday runs. For a while, Saturday mornings were golden - I could sleep in or watch TV. Now that I get up early, I need a nap after my morning exertion. Then the day is halfway shot. But today, I was a little more productive. I went to REI and purchased some resistance bands, restocked my kitchen, and partook in the ubiquitous Saturday acitivity of walking around third street Promenade. All of this after a 7:20am run start time. I also did get in that nap.

I ran today with the LA Legger's 12 mile/hour pace group. It's beautiful running by the ocean, and that initital view running down toward the Santa Monica Pier with the sleepy ocean view makes it all worth it. Since we just started the training season, we are only at 6 miles - plus the half mile I jogged to arrive at the start on time. The weather has been really beautiful this time of day - overcast and cool. We started off fast and ended slow, with a little bit of drama in between. Two runners (one being Leslie to my left) tripped and fell sometime after a large black dog walked by us. The action seemed to trigger another runner to fall further ahead of us. Note to readers: Always handy to have some Band-Aids just in case. They are useful for blisters or for unexpected cuts.

The run south toward Venice Beach is really crowded even just at 8 in the morning. The path is jammed with various running groups, walkers, bicyclists right next to us, dogs and their masters, and the requisite homeless population. Leslie was a trooper, and even though she had a cut on her hand, she got it taped up and caught up with us. I've fallen once or twice myself - It's one of road hazards of being a roadrunner.

So I tried the peanut butter and jelly snack from Bonk Breaker I mentioned on day 5. Prior to my run, I could only rummage some toast (hence the need to restock breakfast supplies mentioned earlier), so I ate about 3/4 of the Bonk Breaker. The outer crust reminded me of those commonly found on Nutrigrain bars, but a bit thicker. It has a nutty taste, but there isn't a lot of peanut butter. It's not slopped on the way I would normally eat a PBJ sandwich. But that's what makes this a twist on the lunchtime favorite. In fact, the bar (which is about half the size of a run of a mill bar but wider) is very compact, and the lack of excess peanut butter goo proved to be a good thing. I couldn't even finish it and found it provided enough to sustain the 6 miles. So I would recommend it. I also had half a Gu about 50 minutes in (tri berry!).

Good luck to anyone doing a race tomorrow. Happy weekend.

Runner's Almanac - day 6

Rest day - no running today.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Runner's Almanac - Day 5

My lunchtime run on Monday created such a welcome jolt of energy in the afternoon, that I decided to do a repeat today. Instead of a treadmill run, however, I trekked around UCLA for a total of just under 3 miles. The interesting aspect of running around campus is that there are few areas of flat terrain with a lot of steep hills and even more going down. There are unexpected areas of dirt and a lovely tree lined run along Veteran that makes the whole lunch run effort worthwhile. The tall branches overhead and cool breezes along various parts of the route brought some respite with each step of working a slight incline.

Tonight was a "women's only" sports-bra clinic geared toward the Moving Comfort line at Phidippides running store in Encino. I initially assumed there would be a short talk on the importance of choosing the correct bra by a Moving Comfort representative. The event was actually more sales-focused, typical for large department stores like Nordstroms who open their doors after hours to select customers to drink champagne and shop with the promise of a gift with purchase or other discount. Although I expected something with more of an educational element, I wasn't disappointed. As a runner, I enjoy being around other runners. What is also special about Phidippides is that the ambiance feels like it's not just a store but a family run operation. The women there who assisted us actually look like hikers and/or runners, as opposed to the younger bunch of salespeople who work at certain other running shops. Don't get me wrong - I shop at places like Frontrunners in Brentwood (got my last 3 shoes there) but feel like the staff at Phidippides don't just sell running equipment, they use it themselves and can comment about it from experience. In March, when I went shopping at Frontrunners after my 5K at the inaugural Pasadena Marathon (which I blogged about here) , I was rather surprised to hear the salesperson, a runner, didn't go to the race that day because it was too far. Really? Pasadena too far for a race? Didn't sound like something an avid runner would say.

The bra clinic ended up being quite interesting (and frustrating at times) but I left with a small assortment of store items and 10% off. This included some sort of peanut butter and jelly snack from Bonk Breaker that I am eager to try out. I always think that peanut butter and jelly is a great pre-run snack, so I'll give my review when I inject the small 250 calorie slice of heaven before a long run.

Happy running!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Runner's Almanac - Day 4

When I first started running habitually, my schedule consisted of a morning run 4-5 days a week. I liked the routine of it and found that running consecutive days made it easier to keep up the practice. Run every other day, and it's just a pinch harder to get going. However, I soon developed some painful shin splints and learned the value of alternating run days with other cardio or strength training activities. For a while I was doing mat pilates and loved it. I haven't been doing as much strength training in the past year though, and my 2.5 miles yesterday reminded me of the importance of this. After my morning run, I noticed some slight discomfort that was a bit out of the ordinary. It wasn't the normal ache and pain, but something a bit more internal. Just recently, I spoke with my medical doctor about the effects of running on women's bodies. She told me that it affects the thin natural support system in the breast tissue - therefore requiring a very supportive bra (or two at a time in some cases) and can also affect the pelvis and bladder through pressure created by the constant impact of running.

So, I did a zippy internet search and found this posting recommending the importance of core strength to balance out the effects running can have in this respect. I knew I was not on top of my strength work, so last night I took out my favorite Denise Austin pilates dvd that hadn't seen the light in a little while. I dusted it off, popped it in, and did some core strengthening exercise. I even did some yoga this morning. Now if the discomfort persists and starts to melt into more of a pain, seek medical advise. Otherwise, remember to strengthen your core about 3 times a week, and also take days off regularly during your running. Your body will thank you for it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Runner's Almanac - Day 3

Today's mileage : 2.5 miles outdoors.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Runner's Almanac - Day 2

It's a great ambition to be an early morning runner. I've done it a few times - Wake up at that delicate cusp between night and dawn, venture out into the morning chill and plop one foot in front of another. Hey, if you're still half asleep, how hard can it be? If you go out early enough, you may even require some sort of head lamp or light. This is my lofty ambition - To run early enough that I would need a head lamp. Out by 5:30am, back before 7:00am. Now that is hardcore.

I used to get out to run at 7:00am, but now that my work schedule has changed, my alarm goes off around 5:30am for a scheduled run. Alarms aren't fail safe, however. They can go off when they are told, but we humans can be stubborn.

I put on my alarm clock this morning so I could run before work. I had plans afterwards so I knew this was my only chance to do so. I've read that the only way to get out of bed when it is just more comforting NOT to do so (especially on a Monday morning) is to do it without thinking. Hear the alarm, jump up, put your clothes on, and get out. Well...better said than done.

Needless to say, I didn't make my early morning. But I knew I had to get some running in today, so I packed up a bag for a lunch time run. Now, one person's lunchtime run can be totally different from the next person's. Depending on your place of employment, this can be a relatively easy mid-day activity or completely the opposite. I think that an hour and a half is the perfect amount of time for a lunch time run - But unless you live in France where mid-day breaks range up to two hours, or if your schedule isn't monitored closely, your lunchtime activities usually need to wrap up in about 60 old fashioned minutes. It may seem like enough, but like any efficient machine, this too needs to be planned out efficiently.

First, decide - Will you run outdoors or at the nearby gym (if you have one). What do you actually do about lunch, since you are technically spending "lunch" running? How about afterwards - How do you magically revert back to your pre-running non-sweating work-attired self?

It was around noon, and I was having seconds thoughts about this. I had intentionally left my running clothes in my car, which is parked about a 10 minute walk away from my place of employment. My plan was to grab my bag and walk to the nearby gym, run on the treadmill for 20 minutes and head back. The only glitch was that I hadn't really thought about lunch. So, for any mid-day runners at work, Tip #1 - Please remember to pack a lunch and bring it with you. Preferably something handheld that is easy to eat conspicously while you finish your work. I ended up purchasing a tuna sandwich that was heavy on the tuna and mustard (FYI - Not recommended).

Since I had already purchased and ate the sandwich at the desk, I didn't want my hastily eaten lunch to be in vain. The purpose was to eat now so I could run later. So I promplty left work, walked to my car, grabbed my bag, and headed to the gym. Once I entered the airconditioned sanctuary and swiped my card into the ID detector, I felt deeply satisfied by my decision to do so. It was a welcome break in a busy day.

Now, for a short 20 minute run, I would recommend throwing in a fast 5K paced segment for about 10-12 minutes to challenge yourself in the short amount of time that you have. I did 10 minutes at close to my 5K pace (about a 10 minute mile) and mixed it with 11-12 minutes a mile. I ended up running just under 2 miles. It provided a spurt of energy that made going back to work more than bearable. Go to a sit down meal for lunch and end up with a food coma. Run during your lunch hour and it's like a jolt of caffeine, that hopefully leaves you with enough energy into the night.

So my conclusion about lunchtime runs? They are a good thing. Just plan ahead. What do I not recommend? Eating your sloppy tuna salad sandwich while running. Now that would be a road hazard.

Happy running!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Runner's Almanac - Day 1

So, this is my new blog venture to chronicle my running - runs, training, races, and all other elements of the simple yet simply gratifying sport. I started running a handful of years ago, an attempt that began with the run/walk method until my endurance for both feet off of the ground at quick intervals became less and less difficult. Although I started running then, it wasn't until the fall of 2007 that I consider first becoming a "runner" while training for my first 5K. Now nearly two years later, there has been times when my running has been sporadic or even non-existent. But when I ask myself the question of what hobby I enjoy, running is my favorite answer. I ran my first marathon on May 25 of this year. My aunt considers this something of a fortuitous coincidence. The Los Angeles Marathon normally takes place in March, but this one year the event was held on a holiday monday in May - which turned out (naturally) to be Memorial day. Every 7 years or so, my birthday falls on Memorial day, and so was the case this year with my 30th. Runners groups were unhappy with the date change. It affected their strictly planned training routines and the summer day was predicted to be a scorcher. But it wasn't. The day was overcast and a runner's dream. So it was somewhat of an omen to keep up with my favorite hobby, eventhough the days after the marathon left me so sore I moved but only with a lot of grimacing. Post-marathon on my birthday, I spent most of the day on my couch. But it was worth it.

I find running to have a great meditative aspect. It's a singular activity, just like writing. As a non-elite runner (or maybe even for them), your only real competitor is yourself. It's you and the road beneath your feet. It's simple, but not easy. And infinitely rewarding if your head is in the right place.

I'm not planning on running today since I did my "long run" yesterday. It wasn't actually that long - only 5 miles - but it is part of the marathon training program that I recently started. Each week, we will add another mile, until that long run lives up to its promise. As for today, no runs are scheduled for me, but I am on my way to some spinning as a form of cross training.

I used to love running on Sunday mornings. For anyone out there running today - you're lucky! Happy running.