Friday, August 30, 2013

Marathon Ready!

I've been doing my Detroit Marathon Countdown posts and threw you a curve ball with my last one by announcing that I'm now doing the Marquette Marathon.  I explained that I really want to run Boston 2014 and this is my last chance to qualify.  That's why I'm running a marathon mid-marathon training.  Some may call me crazy.  I'll use the word "determined."

My qualifying time is 3:35:00.  My goal is to run the marathon under 3:25:00 because of registration dates.  Registration opens on Sept. 9th for those who met their BQ standard by 20 minutes or faster.  Then it opens again on Sept. 11th for those who met their BQ standard by 10 minutes or faster.  Hence my goal.  

That means a pace of 7:49.  I'm going to do 7:50's for the first 10, then drop down to 7:30's for the next 10.  Since I've never done more than 20 I think I'll just have to see what my body does after that.  Hopefully I can maintain.  But I want that cushion from miles 11-20 just in case.

My bag is packed with all my gear - Lululemon shorts, green Under Armour tank top, my favorite Brooks, some awesome new socks (that I've tried out - don't worry!), Bondi Band, and my now signature racing sunglasses.  I have my Garmin and iPod with 58-song playlist.  I have the ingredients for my chia pudding, some gels, bananas, and coconut water.  I also bought The Stick to massage my muscles on the long drive home.  My mom is going with me to be my support.  Yep, I'm all set!

If you don't already follow Vegan Road Runner on Facebook, please do!  That's where I'll post all my updates until I have a chance to get back to the blog.   

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

My New Favorite Sandwich

I never used to like avocados.  Wouldn't touch the things.  Now I can't seem to get enough of them!  Yes, they're high in fat compared to other fruits but it's GOOD fat and the health benefits are just too good to be ignored.  Plus, we need SOME fat in our diets, preferably from whole foods/plant-based sources.  (Seeds, nuts/nut butters, and olives are some other good sources.)  I do stick to a very low-fat diet but one of the fat sources that I always make room for is avocados.  Not necessarily daily but a couple times a week I'll spread half an avocado on a veggie burger or chop a whole avocado on a salad.  Whenever I go to Mudgie's Deli, I get the Hippie Dippie Sh*t Man wrap, which comes with avocado.  I don't douse these meals with other sauces or fatty dressings.  You don't need to do that when you have avocado.  It adds such a creamy deliciousness that you don't miss those other things.  And cheese?  Fugetaboutit!

Enter the Grilled Avocado and Tomato Sandwich.  No cheese.  The avocado stands in for the cheese.  And you won't even miss a thing.  Trust me.  You can use any bread but we happened to have some amazing rustic Italian bread from Westborn Market that Brian had picked up the day before.  I thought about getting some Daiya but as delicious as a grilled Daiya and tomato sandwich is, I just can't get past the fact that Daiya is so processed.  So I did a side-by-side comparison of the nutrition facts of Daiya vs. avocado.

Daiya (1/4 cup mozzarella shreds)        Avocado (1/4 cup mashed)

Calories: 90                                          Calories: 80
Fat: 6 grams                                         Fat: 7 grams
Sodium: 280 mg                                    Sodium: 4 mg
Carbs: 7 grams                                      Carbs: 4.3 grams
Fiber: 1 gram                                        Fiber: 3.4 grams
Sugars: 0 grams                                     Sugars: 0.33 grams
Protein: 1 gram                                     Protein: 1 gram
Potassium: 0 mg                                    Potassium: 244 grams
Vitamin A: 0%                                        Vitamin A: 1%
Vitamin C: 0%                                        Vitamin C: 8%
Calcium: 2%                                           Calcium: 1%
Iron: 2%                                                 Iron: 2%

As you can see, fat and calorie-wise, they're pretty comparable.  The avocado stacks up better in terms of fiber, potassium, and vitamins.  Plus it has less sodium and fewer carbs.  Another downside for me with Daiya is that it has all those ingredients, whereas avocados are just avocados!  Granted, I wasn't going to just have 1/4 cup of avocado but that was fine with me.  I could use the extra iron, fiber, and potassium - plus my overall fat intake for the day was low.  So I used the WHOLE avocado even though you could easily get away with just using half if you do want to save on fat and calories.  It would still be pretty delicious - and a little easier to bite into!

Grilled Avocado and Tomato Sandwich


2 slices hearty bread
1 tomato slice
1 avocado, sliced
Whole Grain Dijon mustard (I'm obsessed with Trader Joe's brand)
Vegan margarine, such as Earth Balance
Garlic powder (optional)


1. Preheat a skillet over low heat.  

2. Prepare your sandwich by spreading both slices of bread with mustard.  Lay avocado slices on one piece of bread, top with tomato slice, and cover with remaining avocado slices.  Cover with the other piece of bread, smooshing down a little, if possible.

3. Lightly spread margarine on top piece of bread and sprinkle with garlic powder, to taste.  Carefully place in pan, margarine-side down.  While that side begins to brown, spread margarine on the side that is facing up and sprinkle with garlic powder.

4. Flip after about 5 minutes, once the underside is lightly browned, being careful not to lose any avocado pieces.  Cook for another 5 minutes or until browned. 

Serves 1.

What's your favorite way to eat avocado? 

Monday, August 19, 2013

On the Run: Farmington Run for the Hills 10K 2013

This weekend I ran what just might become one of my new favorite 10K's.  Run for the Hills is one that I've never run before.  Although this is the 4th year it's been held and Farmington isn't very far from me, for some reason I hadn't heard of it until this year.  There were less than 200 people in the 10K.  There was also a 5K run/walk that probably had more participants but overall it wasn't a crowded race.  It was, however, very well-staffed with friendly volunteers and race officials so everything went smoothly (at least as far as I could tell).  The start and finish was at beautiful Shiawassee Park in Downtown Farmington.  There were bagels and fruit before the race and more bagels, fruit, and pizza after.  I also liked that the shirt was optional and if you didn't want one your registration was cheaper (only $25!).  They were nice Leslie Jordan tech shirts but I opted out to save money and closet space!  

I've been running so much because of my marathon training but am always looking for something different to spice things up.  I was really looking forward to both the accelerated pace of the race and change of scenery.  The weather was perfect and I was super pumped to start running.  Once I got started, however, I was feeling a little tired and unsure just how much I would be able to kick it out.  The first mile didn't feel good.  I felt sluggish and a bit nauseous.  My pace wasn't steady.  This was not going well.

Not far past the first mile marker I came to the split for the 5K and 10K and I heard someone shouting my name.  I looked over and saw Kim and Dave, two of my teammates from GLR!  Not only was it exciting to see familiar faces, but seeing theirs was exactly what I needed at that point in the race.  It reminded me that this race was EASY.  I'd run much harder races than this at GLR, under much harsher conditions.  So I pushed myself.  I pushed hard.  I passed a lot of people, going both uphill and down.  I went from a 7:21 minute pace that first mile to a 6:24 minute pace for mile 6.  And it felt awesome!  The course had a lot of turns to make it interesting.  There was pavement and dirt road, hills and flats.  It wound through neighborhoods and went down busy roads.  The last bit of it was a gradual downhill, then the finish at Shiawassee Park.  Brian was there waiting for me to snap some photos.  Unfortunately he caught me leaning backward again - this is NOT Good Form Running!  (hanging head in shame)

I was shocked to find out that I was the 3rd woman overall to finish.  (So surprised that I actually didn't find out until after I got home!)  Because of the 5K and 10K together, I couldn't tell who I was passing up.  I also didn't expect to do so well with the hills.  In fact, this turned out to be a new PR for me - 13 seconds faster than my old PR at the zoo!  I even won $50 for coming in third.  Wahoo!  (That's totally buying me all the new Fall and Halloween soaps from Cellar Door.)  


   6:57 min/mile


Out of My League / Fitz & the Tantrums 
The Innocent / Mayer Hawthorne 
Locked Out of Heaven / Bruno Mars 
50 Ways to Say Goodbye / Train 
Dance Apocalyptic / Janelle Monae
I Love It / Icona Pop 
Blurred Lines / Vampire Weekend 
What Makes You Beautiful / One Direction 
World Shut Your Mouth / Death Cab for Cutie 
A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got) / Fergie feat. Q-Tip & Goonrock  
Run Right Back / The Black Keys 
Battleflag / Lo Fidelity Allstars 
Radioactive / Imagine Dragons

Next race: Marquette Marathon, August 31st

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Detroit Marathon Countdown: 10 Weeks

10 weeks to take-off and things are humming along quite smoothly.  So smoothly, in fact, that I ran my first 20 miles this past Sunday instead of 5 weeks from now.  Why far ahead of schedule?  WELL . . . I told you I have a hard time sticking to a training plan, right?  So I've decided to bump up my training a bit and run my first marathon on August 31st.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I'm now running a marathon midway through training for my marathon.  Am I crazy?  Yes.  Yes I am.  (And proud of it!)

Here's the deal.  The Detroit Free Press Marathon was going to be my first.  I figured why not run one marathon once in my life.  Then I got it in my mind that I would try to qualify for Boston; however, I didn't think about registration deadlines.  By the time I run in October, Boston 2014 will be full.  I'm sure it will fill up faster than ever this year!  So I resigned myself to the fact that I would just do Boston 2015.  Oh well.  Then when I was at GLR, I was talking about it with my teammates who suggested the Marquette Marathon on Labor Day weekend.  That's when I got Boston Fever.  The more I thought about it, the more I wanted it.  So I signed up.  It was only 6 weeks before the marathon.  That meant 6 weeks to get from 13 to 20 miles, including 2 weeks of tapering. 

I kept my weekly mileage about the same, maybe adding an extra mile here or there.  The difference was on the weekends.  I only had 3 Sundays so I did 14, 17, and 20.  I felt great with the long runs!  On the 20-miler I didn't lace my shoes tight enough and ended up with a wicked blister under one toe.  (I get runner's toe regularly.)  My quads are sore but nothing some extra foam rolling and stretching shouldn't take care of.  Surprisingly enough, the last 2 miles were my fastest.  I know I still have another 6 to face but if the first 20 can be as easy as they were on Sunday then I'm fairly confident that in the race environment I'll do alright.

For nutrition, I've been eating my version of this chia pudding before my long runs, just as I would before any race longer than a 10K.  That keeps me going strong for the first 14 miles.  From miles 14-15, I nurse a Clif Shot Energy Gel and then follow it with some water.  I was worried because a lot of people say the gels bother their stomach but this works great for me.  For the marathon, I'll have another gel around mile 20, making sure to finish it where there will be a water station.  That should be good to get me through to the end but I might take 3 with me, just in case.  

Now I'm following the end of my training plan.  The taper weeks after the last 20-miler.  When I'm done with this first marathon, I'll get right back into the training plan with 7 weeks left.  With one exception.  I could probably skip that first 20-miler that falls 2 weeks after Marquette.  Maaaaaybe. (wink wink)

So there you have it.  First marathon coming up August 31st.  I'll keep you posted!

Read previous Detroit Marathon Countdown posts - 17 Weeks, 15 Weeks, 12 Weeks

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

It's Just Good Running

As runners, we all have some vision in our heads of what we look like when we're on the move - posture, stride length, arm swing.  This may or may not be anything like what we actually look like - but we all picture something in our minds. 

Up until last week, here's what I knew about the way I run: I have a short stride/quick cadence and I run very upright, so much that I'm actually leaving backwards (though I've gotten a bit better about it over the years).  (It used to be really bad - yikes!)  That's it.  That's all I knew.  I gathered this information from seeing still photos of myself and talking to friends and family who watch me run.  I've never had anyone analyze me because I figure I'm fast enough, haven't had any injuries, and don't want to mess with a good thing.  We all have our quirks, right?

I've been doing Saturday group runs at RUNdetroit and a few weeks ago Justin and Alia (the shop owners) announced they would be holding their first Good Form Running session at the store.  I signed right up and my BFF Katie was able to get into the class, as well.  This would be a great (free!) way to have someone look at our form and give us some pointers on what we could do to improve.  Mid-marathon training isn't the best time to mess around with my form but I figured at least learning about it wouldn't hurt. 

As it turns out, Good Form Running isn't some new craze or a drastically different way to run.  No, it's just an easy, safe way to run so you don't get injured.  And it's basically how I'm already running...with a few adjustments.  

To begin, our instructor videotaped each person in the class running as they normally would.  Then we went through the 4 elements of Good Form Running: Posture, Midfoot, Cadence, and Lean.  As we learned about the elements, we did some drills to practice each one as we put them together one at a time.  Once we had everything in place we did a few practice runs before the final videotaped "test."  It wasn't until that point that we sat down and watched both the before and after videos and discussed with the instructor or Justin what we could do to improve our form.

As I stated at the beginning of my post, I knew two things about the way I ran before I started.  Here is what I left knowing about my form after the class:

1. Posture - I learned that my posture was already pretty good.  One way to make sure your arms are in the right place is to keep your thumbs up.  This ensures that your arms aren't flailing around in any weird way.  I've seen plenty of photos of me where it looks like I'm giving the thumbs-up and I always thought it was a little strange.  Turns out it's just proper form!  Thumbs-up to me!  (wink wink)

2. Midfoot - The idea of a midfoot strike is something that I never really understood.  I didn't know what part of the foot it referred to specifically and never found out.  Part of me was worried that it would mean learning some new way to run, which would interfere with my stride and affect my speed.  So I just ran in ignorance.  As it turns out, a midfoot strike simply means landing flatly on the bottom of your foot - not on your heel first, not on your toes (no Prancercise).  I saw that I have a slight heel strike but it's not bad.  (My heel strike is coming more from my problem with #4.)

3. Cadence - To help with cadence, we jogged in place to a metronome set at 180 steps/min.  Maintaining this target cadence will help with a faster stride and promote midfoot strike.  I already have a quick cadence, so this wasn't an issue for me.  In fact, 180 steps/min almost felt a little too slow for me.  For those who need to improve cadence, you could use a metronome app or listen to music set at 180 beats/min.

4. Lean - I knew going in that I needed to work on my lean.  This was the number one reason I wanted to take this class.  With Good Form Running, you need to lean forward by bending not at the waist but at the ankles.  And yes, I said lean FORWARD not BACKWARD.  (Why I started leaning backward I'll never know!)  We did some drills where we stood in place and simply leaned forward at our ankles.  I was standing there leaning forward with my ankles, yet still leaning backward from the waist.  Argh!  When we watched the "after" video, I wasn't leaning forward but I wasn't leaning back.  I was upright.  Well, I clearly had more work to do but it's a start!  Our instructor thought if I can work on my lean that should help with my midfoot strike.  AND she thinks I might be leaning backward due to tight glutes and hamstrings.  I know we all have tight glutes and hammies but mine are really bad and I am also terrible about stretching.  Gotta make it a priority.

One other thing our instructor pointed out from watching the videos is that I bounce when I run.  This isn't part of Good Form Running because I'm pretty sure they didn't anticipate a large part of the running population being so bouncy.  And I never knew I was a bouncer!  But after mentioning it to several friends I run with, they laughed and nodded like they've known all along!  They said they figured it worked for me and who were they to say anything?  Ah well.

SO, what do I need to work on after my Good Form Running class?

1. Stretch my glutes and hamstrings every day!
2. Lean forward from my ankles.
3. Land on my midfoot.
4. Stop bouncing so much!  We didn't do drills for that but I'm guessing if I work on the lean and midfoot strike the bouncing will subside.

Depending on how things are going, I might take another class in a couple months for a refresher.  We were encouraged to do so.  The great thing about taking this at RUNdetroit is that I'm there for the group runs so I can ask Justin or Alia to take a look at my form on a regular basis to check on my lean or midfoot strike.  Also, since Katie and I run together, we can help monitor each other for how we're improving or call each other out when we're getting lazy.

No matter where you're at as a runner, I highly recommend taking a one of these classes!  Take it with your running buddy.  You'll be glad you did!

Good Form Running is a partnership with New Balance.  You can learning more about Good Form Running and it's elements here.  

Have you ever tried to correct your running form?  Tell me about it!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

On the Run: Allen Park 10K 2013

Anyone else feeling a slightly TIRED after running through Allen Park today?  (wink wink)  Actually, I'm feeling pretty good right now.  The weather was beautiful this morning - temps in the 60's, sunshine, light breeze.  No complaints for an August race!  I won't lie by saying I love this race.  It's only my second time doing it because it's not a particularly scenic route and the 10K runners do the same loop twice.  In fact, after doing it the first time I vowed never to do it again!  (You can read about that race here.)

When it came up again this year, however, I decided to run it again for several reasons.  First of all, races are great for my marathon training.  Today I needed 7 miles at race pace.  6.2 was close enough.  Second, my parents live in Allen Park.  This is a rare opportunity for them to walk a few blocks and be able to cheer me on.  Third, it's a nice and inexpensive small-town race.  Win, win, win!  

And I did!  Well, not 1st but 2nd in my age group and 15th overall (out of 157).  My friend Andy ran the 5K and he tied for 2nd in his age group, as well!  The prize was a whiskey glass.  I don't drink whiskey but I'm sure I could pour some wine into it!

Today's race was my first since GLR and I really thought I was going to knock this one out of the park.  My training pace has improved so I expected to kick it up a notch during the race.  And I did - but only in the second half.  I started out too conservative and by the time I realized how much faster I could go, I was halfway through and couldn't make up for lost time.  (Can you ever?)  So what should have been a faster race, maybe even a PR, was simply the same pace as my last two 10K road races.  Before GLR.  Before I knew what I was truly capable of.  It isn't that I'm not pleased with how I did.  I just know I could have done better. (Although I certainly win "most improved" award from the last time I ran this race!)

I guess I'll just have to run harder from the get-go at my next race in 2 weeks!
7:02 min/mile

Spark / Fitz & the Tantrums 
50 Ways to Say Goodbye / Train
  Treasure / Bruno Mars
  Little Numbers / Boy
  Back Seat Lover / Mayer Hawthorne 
I Love It / Icona Pop 
Something Good Can Work / Two Door Cinema Club 
Beanbag Chair / Yo La Tengo 
Firework / Katy Perry 
Worship You / Vampire Weekend 
Hell / Tegan & Sara
 Hooray for Hollywood / Neon Trees
The Antidote / St. Vincent

Next race: Farmington Run for the Hills 10k, August 17th


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Why I'm Retiring the Orange Headband


Earlier this summer I participated in my second Tough Mudder event.  In my recap post, I wrote that I didn't think I'd be doing another one and I'd elaborate further in another post.  This is that post.  

Before I go on, let me say that I do not mean to offend anyone who enjoys Tough Mudder, deems it challenging, or finds it worthwhile to travel the country to face the Arctic Enema in Colorado and the Funky Monkey in Vermont.  Or even just do it when it comes to your city.  No, that is not my intention.  If you follow my blog you know I was all about Tough Mudder myself until very recently.  The reason I got into TM in the first place is that I was looking to challenge myself in a different way.  I love boot camp and strength training in unique ways, so this seemed perfect.  

After doing TM Michigan, however, I decided it was time to retire the orange headband.  

Here are my reasons why:


Depending on when you register, TM can cost up to $150 just to run the event.  On top of that you need to pay an additional $10 parking fee and $5 gear check fee.  What does all that money get you?  The chance to participate in the event, a tee shirt (which may or may not be a tech shirt - my first year it was cotton), an orange headband, and a Dos Equis beer (which I don't even drink).  Think your money is going to Wounded Warrior Project?  Nope.  That's separate fundraising.  So you are totally paying all this money just for the event.  Yes, it costs a lot to put on the event but it's still a lot of money.  Especially if you've done it more than once.   

Lack of Challenge

When I did my first TM in Indiana, it was really tough.  It truly did challenge my physical strength and mental grit, as promised.  When I competed in the event this June in Michigan, however, I hardly felt challenged at all.  Of course, having done it before you could say I knew what to expect, which is true.  

I hadn't, however, trained for the obstacles like I did last year.  But that didn't matter because they were easier.  I think they are making the newer obstacles easier for the masses and therefore they aren't challenging.  My guess is that they are trying to lure people into World's Toughest Mudder - a 24-hour endurance event that has you paying up to $450 bucks.  Uh, no thanks.

The running parts were also very easy - mostly flat, muddy grass and gravel.  Last year's event had swamps with waist-high muddy water to wade through.  There was quicksand that had people losing shoes left and right!  We were pulling ourselves up steep hills with tree branches.  At one point I felt like we were running through a desert.  Not this year.  Again, this year was WAY too easy.

Injury/Health Risk 

I always come out of TM with scrapes and bruises, but it's never anything that doesn't heal after a few days.  And I've never injured myself seriously in one of these events.  But the risk is there.  How stupid would it be if I hurt my foot jumping off a Berlin Wall?  Now that I'm in marathon training mode (and will likely be next year as well) I need to consider this.

In addition to the risk of injury, you also come into contact with a lot of standing water and mud which undoubtedly contains a sh*tload (pun intended) of bodily fluids.  This year over 200 people contracted norovirus from TM Michigan.  Thankfully I was not among them but it can very easily happen at one of these events.  I'd like to think I take precautions - mouth and eyes closed, don't eat with dirty hands - but really, it can happen to anyone at an event like this.  I'm just lucky it didn't happen to me.

So there you have it.  Although this post was geared specifically toward Tough Mudder, there are a lot of other mud runs and gimmicky races out there (Warrior Dash, Color Run, Foam Fest).  I look at those as more of "fun runs" where I wouldn't expect to be challenged like TM.  Because of that I think there is less risk of injury and barring any important upcoming races, I don't see the harm in participating in them with friends for fun.  As long as you don't mind shelling out $50 for a 5K, that is.

Me?  I think I'm going to stick to road races - and do my monkey-bar work at the local playground for free! 

Do you participate in Tough Mudder or mud runs/obstacle races?