Monday, January 20, 2014

My 100th Post and a new Weekly Total Distance PB!

Yup, this week I ran longer in training than I have ever run before thanks to the training plan I'm following from the book Relentless Forward Progress. And this week, I get to do it again. I have one of those half-hearted "yay" feelings about it. You know the kind-where you want to do it but at the same time you know, at some point(s) things will really suck but in the end you'll be glad you did it-kind of moments about the up coming mileage.

Last week I had two runs that are what I'd call (gut'em out) kind of runs, where there were moments when things went well but overall it hurt more and I was slower than I wanted it to be. The other three runs were pretty darn good, and that even includes the 16 miler I did on Saturday. In total it was 46 miles. This week I'm aiming for 50 miles (80km)!

When you're training for a race, and as you progress through your training plan, you'll quickly notice what works and doesn't work from a nutrition stand point. On Saturday I took a GU and a Cliff bar with me for my 3+ hour run. I quickly learned that I had NOT ENOUGH FOOD. The GU propelled me through miles 3-9 but by mile 10 I was really hungry and the little bites of cliff bar weren't helping so I ate the rest of what was left...and realized I don't really like cliff bars anymore. That got me through the end of the run but I would have liked to have been more comfortable throughout the run so I'm going to take an extra bar with me this Saturday. Trial and error. You might ask why I just don't replicate what I've done for other races, but I've found that what worked for me a year (or two) ago won't necessarily work for me now. We are all constantly changing, and although I'm not a hell of alot faster or lighter I can handle a much bigger training load than I used to and this has brought with it new nutritional (and time management) challenges.

Thankfully, on the time management end, my husband and I have been able to figure out a plan that works for both of us. We both need exercise time so we both do our best to fit this into our schedules as best as we can, with the other person supporting by taking care of our daughter and/or household chores.

This week's total distance will be a challenge, but one I'm ready for. I'm very glad that I've decided to push myself to train harder using this plan, it goes to show, you can push past your own perceived limits if you try!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Protein Bar Review! Oh Yeah! Almond Fudge Brownie

As far as protein bars go, this is my all-time favorite. Oh Yeah! bars can be found in two sizes, the half and full bars. Walmart and other smaller pharmacy and grocery stores seem to sell the half size, which is about 170 calories and 15 g of protein. I tend to buy the full sized (85g bars and split them over two days, or if I have a longer run than 6 miles planned I'll eat the whole thing for the 30g of protein.If I have it in the morning it tastes like a real treat with coffee!

The Oh Yeah! Almond Fudge Brownie bar looks and tastes like a real candy bar. This bar is loaded with almond chunks wrapped in chocolate surrounding a delicious brownie center. You should feel down on yourself for having one but you don't because it has no trans fat, is gluten free and (as I said before) its really high in protein. I've found it to be an excellent source of pre-run fuel so I can feel satisfied for my hour + long runs. 

Here is the nutritional info for the full sized bars:

Calories: 350 (I know this sounds like alot, but if I replaces a meal I don't think 350 calories is very much)
Total Fat: 13g
Sodium: 90mg
Potassium: 170mg
Total Carbs: 27g
Fiber: 4g
Protein: 30g
Calcium: 15%

My personal favorite - Almond Fudge Brownie - YUM!!

I give Oh Yeah! protein bars 5 out of 5 stars, now go try one yourself!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Honoring A Fallen Runner

This coming Saturday (January 18th 2014) I'll be dedicating my 16 miler to a woman I've never met but, as a fellow runner and mom, I felt a certain kinship with..although I doubt I'll ever qualify for Boston (as Meg did this past year). Meg Cross Menzies was a 34 year old mom of three who was out for her morning Boston training run, (which with 3 kids, was probably the only time she had to run) when she was struck and killed by a drunk driver.

This could happen to any of us. I've read other stories like this, one of a young student teacher who was crossing the road and was struck by an inattentive driver, throwing her to a neighboring yard where she died in the arms of one of her professors who witnessed the whole thing. Another where a woman was struck and left by the side of the road, a victim of a hit and run. (And yes I've read stories like this about men-but because I'm a woman maybe-these ones stick with me). It's shown me that no matter what age, experience or running speed you have, the worst can happen. It has taught me to pay much more attention when I run on the roads-I've given up being embarrassed by my waving and peace signs when I communicate my intentions to a driver and they nod in understanding (they get a peace sign if they don't give me the middle finger). If that doesn't happen I assume they can't see me and I look to the next car back to have the same sign-language conversation until I can go ahead safely. A few seconds isn't worth me being hurt or worse.

I can't say exactly what happened this past Monday when Meg went on her run. Maybe she had the same conversation I do with the drivers and instead of staying put Dr. Carlson (who has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and driving under the influence) pressed on the gas leaving a husband without his wife and three children without their mom.

Organizers have called this Virtual Run this Saturday Meg's Miles. You can find it on Facebook where you can pledge to dedicate this Saturday's running or walking miles to Meg. They ask "no matter what your distance, no matter where you live, run for Meg. Take in the fresh air, be aware of your surroundings, keep your headphones on low, feel the heaviness in your lungs, the soreness in your legs, and be grateful for it--for all of it. The sweat, the pain, the wind, the cold…everything. Be grateful for that moment."

I will and I hope you will too.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Product Review! QuestBar Protein Bar

Like alot of my fellow runners, sometimes I'm short on time and simply have to pick the best meal option available from the vending machine..that said, my office is lucky enough to have one of those really healthy food stocked vending machines, but still, it's a vending machine consisting of pre-packed stuff. But I digress.
Today I decided to try a new addition to the vending machine, a QuestBar. It enticed me with its 20g of protein label and its pretty packaging. Questbar comes in a wide variety of flavors (chocolate, double chocolate
chunk, strawberry, apple pie, vanilla, mixed berry, etc.) but the one I tried was Coconut Cashew.

Personal preference disclaimer: Typically I really hate protein bars. I find them either really dry, making my mouth feel pasty or too chewy and I worry I'll pull a filling out of my teeth. There have been very few that I've found that really conquer these product tendencies and actually taste like a real candy bar without compromising nutrients.

The Coconut Cashew QuestBar's nutrition profile looks like this:

1 Bar: 60g
Total calories: 190
Fat: 6g (1.5 of that is saturated)
Sodium: 270mg
Carbs: 25g
Protein: 20g
Fiber: 17g
Calcium: 8% of daily recommended value
Iron: 4% of daily recommended value
Magnesium: 10% of daily recommended value
Phosphorus: 8% of daily recommended value

When I first opened the package I quickly lumped this bar into the "chewy-looking" category, with its monochromatic peanut-butter colored stick. I thought it would at least be covered in chocolate! Chocolate dreams aside, I took the leap and bit off a chunk. Surprisingly it wasn't totally rip-your-teeth-out chewy. Once past the exterior it revealed the coconut and cashews inside and tasted..pretty good!

I'll give it a 3 out of 5 stars, taking away one star for the unexciting , non candy look (it looks like someone poured and froze the bar from their blender) and another for the initial chewy factor. In the end though, I ate the whole thing and it left me satisfied for three hours (until lunch) when I could find real food. It does have a chewy texture but it isn't sticky, so that's a huge plus for me. I like that the carbs and protein are well balanced and the fat and calorie content is low. Overall, this is a good tasting protein bar..and if you have a choice between this and some no-name sketchy looking bar, I'd pick this one.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Book Review! Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons

Bryon Powell does a good job of bringing together all of the most current training principles and advice in his new book; Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons

During the holidays my younger brother Joshua traveled from Vancouver to visit the family. My brother and I have been running partners in the past, we ran our first 5k charity race together, our first half marathon together, we even ran our first marathon in VFFs together (he wore bikilas, I wore the sprints). Sadly a few years ago he moved out west and since then we've run only a couple of times in races together. My brother ran a huge PB at the Vancouver marathon (4:28-or something close to that) a couple of years ago and then started training for Boston when I decided that trail running and ultramarathons were WAY more fun than road races. So our running paths diverged. Josh eventually gave up running consistently but it seems like whenever he's back home he gets an itch to run (or maybe its some deeply buried sibling rivalry-whatever). So after a few hours of babysitting my daughter I came home to find him reading this book that I got for Christmas.

Josh told me that we was considering running the 50k with me this year...until he read a few pages from this book. I had to chuckle. He went on to say he had looked at the training plans (included in the middle of the book) and thought "Well, hey, I can do that...oh wait..the plan is in MILES not kilometers...never mind." I smiled and realized its been three years since I took the leap into trail and ultrarunning so the weekly totals don't really phase me much anymore..unless I look at a 100 miler training plan-now THOSE scare me.

The training plans in this book are what I would deem as aggressive, but they will very likely deliver the results a runner desires if they put in the work. Bryon Powell also does a very good job of outlining adaptations to the plans so that they can be tailored to suit just about any runner's schedule or lifestyle demands. I also enjoyed how he wove the advice from other well known ultrarunners into the context of the topic he was discussing at the time.

The book is truly a how-to guide. I had expected a bit more of a narrative to the book which was the only negative thing I can say about it-but really one book cannot be everything to everyone. Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons guides the runner/reader through the topics every runner attempting an ultramarathon should be familiar with; from nutrition, nausea, injuries, cross training, the debate on speed work, deciding on a race distance, running roads versus trails, preparing for a race mentally and physically, the importance of rest, etc.. all of it is organized in a very fluid way that will have me going back to this book as a reference for years to come I'm sure.

I was a bit let down that my brother-who's followed me into most of my other crazy ideas-won't be saddling up to run the 50k with me (god knows I enjoy the company!), but I understand. A 50k, or even a marathon isn't something you can just jump into with a few weeks of preparation. It takes time to build up to that distance comfortably and to mentally prepare for the ups and downs that you'll experience (plus you have to really, really want to achieve that distance). But the reward of self satisfaction in surpassing what you thought you were capable of doing is truly a feeling like no other. I got a hint of that with finishing my first marathon but after I finished my first 50k I wore a perma-smile for a week. You can tell someone about it, but unless you get out there and push beyond your own limits I don't think a person can truly appreciate the rewards that relentless forward progress can give you.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Happy 2014!

I hope you had a wonderful holiday season everyone! I had a pretty great holiday, all things considered. I even managed to accomplish my last running goal of 2013- to run consistently through the holiday season! Yesterday I capped off my best running training week in a couple of months by running a total of 38 miles, with a nice 14 miler long run yesterday.

If you've been keeping track of the weather it's been a month where each week brings a new snow/freezing ice storm. Halifax NS has been very lucky and the storms haven't impacted daily life very much. They have made for some ridiculously low temperatures (ranging -18C to -30C) so my running has been relegated to the treadmill and indoor track. Yesterday's 14 miler was done outside thankfully when the temps rose to a balmy 0C. The sidewalks were hard packed in snow and slush so the footing was pretty similar to a trail surface this time of year. I think I may have run a mile on actual black concrete. For the first half of the run I was pretty focused and worked hard to keep my pace reasonable so I didn't burn out too fast but quick enough to fit in the 14 miles through crappy footing in 3 hours. The second half I was less focused and found myself having random thoughts as I know most runners enjoy on long runs...such as

"I should be writing poetry on these runs..runner poetry... like how Data (on TNG) wrote about his cat Spot-maybe I could write Odes to running things...but then I'd have to turn off my Nike+app to record them...ugh..too much work...nah."

"I wonder if I'll be able to crack 8 hours in the 50k this year...hmm...only if I speed up"

"God I can't believe Hannah wants to run on the treadmill nowadays! I can't believe I got kicked off yesterday so she could run intervals!! God she is getting so big..maybe Richard's right that if she keeps at it she could be one hell of a runner someday.."

"Why can't the city put SOME salt down on these sidewalks-seriously. It would do wonders to clean up this mess (as I splash into another puddle."

"Ode to a slush puddle..Oh slush puddle, how you cover yourself in snow to hide your icy depths..."

Yeah. Nothing there to craft a best seller from but if I keep up with this training maybe the Ode thing might take some kind of shape. LOL. Oh, and I did manage to hit the 3 hour mark when I finished my 14 miler. Not my top speed by any stretch but I think for the conditions I did okay. I also realized that after 6 years of running, the Canadian version of the post long run ice bath - sit in the snow. When I got home, instead of sitting in a icy tub of water I just sat down, running clothes and all in the snow beside my doorstep and checked Facebook and my emails. My neighbors drove by the house a bit slower than usual giving me weird looks, but hey-I was multitasking!

One last thing was my favorite Christmas presents. This year I have a top three. First, the message pillow my mom gave me-so nice. It's velour and when you push a little button it vibrates. It's awesome and so much less painful than a foam roller! Second is the pair of compression running shorts my husband got me-after 2 years of searching and asking I've finally got a great pair of running shorts again-thank you!! And third is a book, Relentless Forward Progress. I'll write a formal review later this week, but right now I'm following the author's 50k training plan on 70 miles a week. It's very challenging, and I'm on week 5 of the 20 week plan. So far (knocking on wood), so good. The book also has a 50k on 50 miles a week plan so I know if I start feeling over trained I can drop back to that version and still make the start line of the Wasskally Wrabbit 50k this May.

In closing, here's to a great 2014 and meeting all of your goals-running or otherwise! Cheers!