Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Paying it forward: Charity Miles

Running give me so much in my life by challenging me both mentally and physically, I thought it would be nice to start a series of posts about ways to give back to the running community. 

After my last post, I got a few questions about Charity Miles and I couldn't be happier to share more about it.  Honestly, it is such a good idea, I am a little annoyed I didn't come up with it.

Charity Miles is a free app for both Android and iPhone users. It allows you to earn money for a wide variety of charities while you workout.  It's very simple. Just pick a charity, start your workout, and Charity Miles does the rest. The app tracks your time and distance, and for every mile you log (10 cents for bike, 25 cents for runs and walks) a donation is made to the charity. You can even share your workout on social media afterward to raise awareness for the charity. Funding is through a series of corporate sponsors. In it's first year, Charity Miles earned over $350,000 for its charities! Here is a video with founder Gene Gurkoff to tell you more:

I usually only get to do one big fundraising event each year and for the third year in a row I am riding 24 Hours of Booty.  Charity Miles allows me to help a variety of organizations on a daily basis without having to constantly ask my friends and family to open their wallets. It's free and simple, and a great way to make more of your training.  I use it as often as I can on everything from walking the dog (she like to earn miles for the ASPCA) to hiking to my long runs.  I was recently named a Charity Miles All-Star, meaning I help encourage others to use the app and come up with way to improve it! Please let me know if you have any ideas.

Do you use Charity Miles?  What organizations do you log miles for?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Marathon Training Week #5

I learned this week that Atlanta is 206% normal rainfall for the past 30 days. In honor of that, I've changed my FB relationship status to "going steady with the Treadmill".

Monday: 4 miles on the treadmill. Felt a little tightness in my foot after Saturday's cool run (I got a little excited and finished strong).  Did extra stretching and foot rolling with the Monster's toy and felt much improved by morning.

Tuesday: Cross training and strength training. Including, but not limited to, bike riding, squats, lunges, hip strengthening, and arms.

Wednesday: 6 miles strong on the treadmill. Stretched well afterward and had no linger foot issues.

Thursday: 4 miles.  I felt sluggish and the gym was kind of hot, so I called it at 4.

Friday: Rest Day.  Attended (and excelled at really) an ice cream social. Those kids had nothing on me.
What is that? Is that the...sun?
Saturday: 16 miles.  I hadn't run this long since my last marathon.  Got a little worried when a black cat crossed the road in front of me during mile 1 and then the sun came out. Good news is that I never felt like I was on the struggling bus, but I never felt like I was killing it either.  Just kept marching along. I tried out a new route with some good climbs (5000ft of elevation change).  Did not excel at fueling and for the last 2 miles my thoughts revolved entirely around food (juice and popsicles) to the point where I almost texted the Jayhawk to see if he would pick some up.
Morning 16 miler and afternoon at the pool.  Perfect Saturday.
Sunday: 1.5 mile recovery walk with my Monster.  She likes to earn Charity Miles for the ASPCA.
Summer in Atlanta is ruff.
Next week: Busy running week!  Thank heavens for the 3 day weekend.

How was your week?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Fuelin' up Friday: ENERGYbits

I was recently approached by ENERGYbits and asked if I would like to sample their product.  Given all the things I've heard about them and my need to find a fueling option that works for me, I  was super curious to try them.

For those of you who aren't familiar with them, ENERGYbits are tablets made of 100% spirulina algae. They are 100% organic and packed with vitamins and nutrients. They are 64% protein, 19% carbs (by my math that is just under 1.5g per 30 tabs) and sugarfree. I was excited to try a natural product in my fueling routine.
From their website.
ENERGYbits recommends using them daily and before any endurance event.  I used them two separate times before my long runs.  The first long run was kind of a bust because it was my 12 miler that felt like I was in an inferno.  So I didn't draw any conclusions about the bits, good or bad, from the that run.  The second long run was this past weekend's 10 miler, a mere 30 degrees cooler than inferno day. Again, the weather was a bit of an anomaly, but here is my review.

Taste: Both times I swallowed all the bits with a full glass of water 30 minutes prior to my runs, so taste wasn't a major factor.  You can chew them, but the company recommends swallowing at first. They also recommend taking 30-40 bits before a run (I took 30 both times) and I found it a bit weird to swallow 30 tablets at a time.  I suppose this is something I could get use to over time.

From their website.
During run:  I didn't feel any specific boost from the bits, but that is kind of the point.  With no sugar or caffeine, they are designed to be consistent energy. I didn't take extra bits with me on the run because I wasn't sure if I would feel like swallowing more tablets and their recommendations are listed as daily.  I did take a few sportbeans.

Post run: As always, I was hungry.  I did feel able to eat right away which is often hard for me after a long run or hard effort.  The sugarfree bits did not bother my stomach and allowed me to be able to eat at the end of my runs which is an important part of recovery.

Cost: ENERGYbits can be purchased in 1000 tablet packages for $115.  That works out to about $3.25 per 30 tablet serving. 

Other Products: RECOVERYbits, SKINNYbits, and VITALITYbits.

Summary:  For me ENERGYbits would make a good addition to my daily nutrition. They do not bother my stomach and provide extra dose of vitamins and minerals from a natural food source. As far as being a fuel for long runs, I think I would still need to use them in combination with another product. With less than 1.5g of carbohydrates per 30 tabs, I would not be able to fuel well enough on only bits for a full marathon. I do like the product and think that RECOVERYbits might be a good option for me.

Have you tried any new fuels lately? Have you tried algae as a food source?

Full Disclosure: I received a sample of EnergyBits from the company for free.  No other compensation was received. All opinions expressed in the post are mine.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Hip Update and Shoe Shopping!

So it's been over 3 week since I came clean about my foot trouble which is mostly caused by my hips.  I had three main things I was working on, and here is an update on how they are going.
  1. Alleviate pain.  It's greatly reduced.  It's not gone, but we are moving in the right direction. I definitely see a difference on days I stretch well, so I think all my changes will pay off as long as I remain consistent.
  2. Alter workouts: I think I've been doing great at this one.  All my mid-week runs have been on the TM and I have not done speed work.  Moderate, flat runs minimize the foot pain.  I have been running outside for my weekly longruns, but I have altered my course to make it as flat as possible in Atlanta (it is harder than you think to find flat ground around here). 
  3. Prevent future issues.  I've been doing my hip strengthening exercise several times per week and I definitely notice and difference between the two hips and in my comfort in some of the motions. Soon I will have the strongest hips around and can fulfill my dream of being a Hula dancer.
In addition, I went shoe shopping (an important runner's holiday).  My old sneakers which were super old when I bought the troublesome sneakers, had now reached wicked old stage.  After much discussion with the salesgirl, I played it safe and got the updated version of my wicked old sneakers.  Behold the Asics Gel Cumulus 15.
Look at their snappy new color!  How could I not get them.
 The very first run I did with them was my Cades Cove run and I felt comfortable the whole time.  I have done all my runs since then in them and things are going well.
Just so happy.
Do you have any troublesome spots that you focus on during stretching and strengthening?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Marathon Training: Week 4

A good omen for marathon training.
Monday: 4 miles on the dreadmill.  I managed to wear a complete matching outfit including headband.  I can't manage to even wear matching clothes to work.  Happy to report that the apocalypse didn't occur.

Tuesday: Cross training and weights.  25 minutes on the bike. Lunges, Leg press, hip strengthening exercises, and planks.

Wednesday: 6 miles Tempo run on the treadmill. I felt pretty good the entire run. Also got my cross training in with some vacuuming.

Thursday: 4 miles on the treadmill.  I was pretty busy at work (some areas of my job don't allow food or drink) and didn't realize how poorly hydrated I was until I got on the mill.  I was driving the Struggle bus the entire run and had to work too hard for it.  Ah, the powers of hydration.

Friday: Rest Day. Went to a going away party for our friends who are moving to Mozambique! Jealous.

Saturday: 10 miles in 63 degree weather (a mere 30 degrees cooler than last week's long run).  seriously, 63 degrees in ATL in August.  I thought I was dreaming. It was lovely and I finished strong.  Funny thing happened at mile 6.  A gentleman and I reached a corner at the same time and he paused to let me turn first because I was moving faster (he was walking).  I waved to thank him and he promptly gave me a huge thumbs up and called out "Going for the gold! Watching out, the Russians are gaining on you, but I won't let them catch you."  I laughed for the entire next mile.
Here we are staying out of trouble.
My good friend, Jo, has come to the darkside started a blog.  It's safe to say I know Jo pretty well. We have been teammates on 3 relays (we are a team of 6 so we are pretty tight).  That means we have spent close to 100 hours in a van together and still like each other!  She has even had the honor of holding my hair back while I have barfed multiple times on 2 of those relays (3rd relay I did it all by myself!). If you like running, triathlons, and a fun view on life, then check out her blog.  Oh, and I am sure there will be a good dose of silly!
Jo enjoying some moments during the relays.
Find her at: or on twitter @DailyCupOfMoJO

How was your week?  Any races or runs to report?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Running Anniversary and 5 Tips for New Runners

Recently we passed an important anniversary at our home: The Jayhawk's first year of running!  Now this is not to say that he had never run before.  He had done a variety of casual 5 and 10k runs, but one year ago he started running more seriously, meaning he started tracking his miles, training for specific races, and even wearing fancy running shoes and dri-fit clothes. Last year he ran a 5k at the beginning of August that I consider his 'before' race and he hoped to run it again this year to see his progress, but unfortunately he violently pulled a hamstring while tubing a few days before.  I am thinking of taking him go over to run the course once he is healed!

I am incredible proud of all the progress he has made in the past year and it got me thinking: What are the 5 most important things when you start running?  So without further ado, here are my 5 tips for the running-curious out there:
  1. Patience. I can't emphasize this one enough.  Patience is a virtue (not my favorite one) and it is especially important when it comes to running.  Insane fitness and crackerjack speed don't happen over night.  It takes work and time for your body to adapt.  Be patient.  Good things will happen with consistent training.
  2. Power of the pack. Group training is a great resource and can be especially helpful and encouraging for new runners.  Check with local running stores and running groups to find out when they have group runs.  I have found the running community to be very inclusive and awesome. Join in!
  3. Shoes.  They are really the only piece of gear you have to have and getting a good, properly fitting pair is vital.  I recommend going to a running specialty store that can assess your needs and stride.
  4. Stretch!  It's something we all know we should do, but tend to get lackadaisical about.  If you make it a habit when you start, it will be that much easier to do on a regular basis. Don't wait until something hurts!
  5. Rest.  This is a hard one to learn, but are you are challenging your body to more, giving it time to recover is just as important.  Rest days are in a plan for a reason.  Make sure to take them.
And if that wasn't enough, this fun little slide show should sum up what it's like to become a runner.

What did I miss?  What is you most important advice for new runners?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Destination Run: Cades Cove

When we planned our vacation in the Smokys Mountains with the Jayhawk's family, I was excited.  Excited to hike, see family, and relax.  But when the Jayhawk mentioned that Cades Cove is open only to non-motorized traffic on Saturday and Wednesday mornings until 10am, I got a little stuck on the idea of running it. Ok, I was down-right obsessed with the idea. Since we were not arriving until Saturday afternoon, I only had one shot at a run on Wednesday morning before I returned to the big city early (due to work commitments).
Just lovely. So peaceful.
For those of you who aren't familiar, Cades Cove is a 11 mile, one way loop in Great Smoky Mountains National Park that is notorious for it's wildlife viewing, specifically bears and deer. It is hands down one of the most popular spots in the park and the traffic can often be a little hairy when the bears are out and about. Having never been to this side of the Smokys, I was curious about what the cove had to offer. We toured through the cove by car early in the week, giving me a chance to do a little recon for my run. Oh yeah, I looked at the wild life and enjoyed time with the family too.
Bears, deer, and horses. Oh my!
The original plan for Wednesday was that the Jayhawk would ride a bike, take pictures of the wildlife, and leap frogging me as I ran around the loop.  But after he suffered a vicious tubing accident in 2 feet of water (it was kind of hilarious and yes, he was completely sober) resulting in a pulled hamstring, a 11 mile bike ride was no longer on the his to-do list.  Instead, he and his brother decided to come along and walk/hike part of the loop, while I ran a bigger chunk.  The Jayhawk was a little nervous that I would get eaten by a bear if I was out there on my own, but I had reassured him that if chased by a bear, I would give it my Salted Caramel Gu and then get in some serious speed work while the bear enjoyed the caramel-awesomeness. Win-win.
At the start of the run.
Run morning was overcast and threatening showers.  Due to the forecast of heavy rain, we decided it was best to make sure we were done before the weather got funky.  Instead of the full loop, I  ran through the second cut-through road (total ~7.75 miles), while the boys hiked through the first cut-through road (~4).  I ended up catching them around 7 miles (like I wasn't going to try and run them down?).  Most of the people on the loop were biking.  I did see a few other runners but I enjoyed most of the loop as a stunning solo run.

Running by the boys at the start of the loop.
The run was amazing.  The scenery gorgeous.  The experience of running alone in the park surrounded by morning fog: fantastic.  If I lived closer, I would be tempted to do it every week.  I did see several sets of deer and one bear off in the distance.  After learning from one of the cyclists that the bear was the mamma bear and babybear had alread crossed the road (which we were standing in), I decided it was best to keep on moving instead of testing her mamma bear instincts.

An amazing moment on the run in the middle of the cove.
I did manage two major running faux pas while on the run (no, I didn't imitate a bear and have the trots in the woods): I wore brand new sneakers and tried brand new fuel.  I guess the running gods were on my side that day, because both worked out perfectly. Somedays it all just clicks.
Catching (and running by) the boys.
What is your favorite running spot?  Do you ever plan special runs while on vacation?

Also, I had so much fun taking the photos for this post, I've joined Instagram!  Follow me: Runningeb.  There is also a link at the top.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Marathon Training: Week #3

Checking out the Chimney Tops from the road.  View from the top.
This week's challenge was fitting in some workouts while on vacation with the Jayhawk's family in the Great Smoky Mountains.  I had no gym access and I managed 2 picturesque workouts before I had to head back to the city early for work commitments.
Enjoying the view from the top of the Chimney Tops.
Sunday: 4 mile hike with 1350ft elevation gain up to the Chimney Tops. It was a good workout and I felt no issues with my foot or hip!
The Jayhawk scaling the tops. Rock staircase on the way up.
Monday: Tubing, which turned out to be a serious core workout.  The river was low and I think I rode the whole time in a half crunch because I was afraid of breaking my tailbone. Obviously they haven't had the rainy summer that we have in GA.
At the end of the float. That green tube is me.
Tuesday: Rest day. Many smores were consumed to celebrate rest day.

Wednesday: 7.5 miles through Cades Cove.  They close the loop to cars until 10am on Saturdays and Wednesdays.  Nothing like a peaceful morning run through a National Park. It was so pretty and amazing, I'm going to do a separate post about it. Truly one of my favorite runs of all time.
Excited at the start of the run! Will I be chased by bears? Eaten by a wild hog?
Thursday: 3.1 miles on the treadmill.  Back in the big city.

Friday: Rest Day

Saturday: 12 miles (instead of 14).  The heat and humidity really bothered me and I ended up heading home because I was running out of water.  Just not my day, but 12 in the books. The good news is that I didn't have much foot trouble (silver lining?).

Injury report:  I have lost some skin, ok a lot of skin, off two toes.  I spare you the pictures, but I have no pain, just naked looking toes.

Mini goal for next week: Continue to work on new fueling option.  Starting to think outside the box.

13 weeks until race day! As a bit of added excitement, Chickamauga added a 5k 100% for charity, so the Jayhawk will be joining me on race day!

How was your week? Any races or fun runs?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Fuelin' Up Friday: Salted Caramel Gu

Energy gels and I have a rocky relationship.  Conceptually, I really want to be able to use them. They are portable, come in a million flavors, balanced, and available everywhere. But in my reality, the texture and consistency has always been a challenge for me. However, when I heard about the newest flavor from Gu, Salted Caramel, I knew it was time to give it another try.
I was hoping the Yeti would protect me from the bears.
You see, I love salted caramel.  I love it so much, I often make it from scratch and send it out as Christmas presents. It's like Gu sat around and thought about what would make me try gels again.  Salted Caramel is supposed to be guey, which I was hoping that would make me forget I was eating a gel. On top of that, there is a Yeti on the package, so really, what's not to love?
Getting ready to enjoy Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park without cars!
When I went out shoe shopping last week, I made sure to pick some up.  The girl at my local running store said that they all tried it the day before when they came in and they were really good. I bought two and gave one to the Jayhawk.  He recently tried energy gels for the first time and doesn't seem to mind them.  He ate his the very next day on his long run and came home to tell me "It tasted like awesome and went down like butter".  I think he is hooked.  I didn't get to take mine until my longish run this week.  It just so happens that it was while we were on vacation in the smokies and on a fabulous run through Cades Cove (but I'll recap that later with lots of photos).

Taste: Gu got it. Spot on Salted Caramel.  By far the best flavor energy gel I have tasted so far.

Consistency: Classic Gu consistency. I struggled.  Big time. I only made it half way through before gagging on the consistency.

Overall: Good.  I still had trouble with the consistency, but for me I hope it is more mental at this point.  The taste was great and the lightly caffeinated formula gave me a little boost.  I definitely need to work on my gel strategy a bit, but maybe I have found my gateway Gu. I think I need to take the whole thing before I think about what I am doing. Any tips would be greatly appreciated!

Do you take gels?  Do you take the whole thing at once and then wash it down or do you take it in 'bites'?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Marathon Training: Week#2

Sorry for the late update. I was under the weather then in a world without internet/phone reception (these places still exist!).

I was treadmill bound for most of this weeks runs to give my foot and hips a break while I work on strengthening. I am happy to report I did not die of boredom and think I am seeing improvements in the foot-hip complex.

Monday: 4 easy miles on the 'mill.

Tuesday: 25 min cross training on the bike and the usual lifting. Sporting my new shirt for lifting days.  It looks even funnier on my chicken arms.

Wednesday: 5 miles tempo on the 'mill.  Felt good with no foot discomfort.  I think flat running is paying off as far as foot recovery.

Thursday: 4 easy miles on the 'mill.

Friday: Rest day. Popped by the local running store to stock up on fuel and get some new kicks!  I was long over due for new running sneakers, but was a little gun shy after my last pair didn't work out so well.  Full update coming soon.

Saturday: Woke up feeling like death.  Major migraine. Seeing as I was driving to TN later in the day for a few days vacation, I opted for some extra sleep and meds.  First missed run of the cycle.

Mini goal for next week: Get in two workouts while on vacation with the Jayhawk and his family.

14 Weeks until race day!

How was your week?
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