Friday, March 30, 2012

The ellipitical: Not a treadmill but not quite a bike

Today's Workout: 50 minute elliptical, 1.5 mile run (to test out the knee)

I know some of you are reading this saying... wait, I thought you weren't running until Monday to rest your knee? Well, I admit I'm HORRIBLE at doing what I know I really should do. Don't be like me please. Also, two other things happened that made me decide to run:

One: I wanted to see if my knee ailment was REALLY Iliotibial Band Syndrome or just a minor tweak. Still not sure which one it is, but I'm a known hypochondriac so I always have to check.
Two: I just got a super cute running skirt, my first running skirt, that I wanted to try (and I really, really couldn't resist). Tell me you would be able to just let this skirt sit there and not test it out..

Athleta Swagger Skirt: looks super cute on. No, those aren't my legs that's the model photo. Would be nice though if they were mine!
So far it passed the 1.5 mile test, shorts didn't ride up, but I'll put it on gear reviews once I run a longer distance in it.

Now that I've got the whole skirt-testing thing out of my system I promise I won't run for a few days. Seriously this time.

I did do a long elliptical session today though because I actually had the time for once and nothing in particular to do. The elliptical is strange to me and I don't really know how to describe the motion. Its not quite running and not quite biking.. its somewhere in between. I do like the resistance settings and I feel like I give my quads a good work out, but its just not the same as running. I definitely don't sweat as much either, even when I put the resistance up high. I'd say the cardiovascular benefits are less than when running (wonder if there's a study on this.. there must be. Thats the evidence-based practice side of me coming out- I need some proof!).

Even though I normally dread the elliptical, today wasn't so bad. I stayed on longer than I planned and got in a really good workout, partly because I had energy and partly because I couldn't stop reading Harry Potter Book 7 on my Kindle. Yes, in addition to being obsessed with Disney World I am also a huge HP fan. And yes, I read the books as they came out and am now almost finished re-reading them all.

 As I'm writing this I realize that I must sound incredibly weird. But I'm sure I can't be alone in my love of HP! Besides, there's absolutely no fun in using the elliptical unless you are watching TV or reading. For me I prefer reading books about things that aren't real, but that I wish were. If only this place existed in real life....

My sisters and I at the Harry Potter Wizarding World in Universal Studios, Orlando. Yep, that's Hogwarts.
My sister in the middle loves HP as much as me, and my sister in the hat probably couldn't wait to get the hell out of there.

Butterbeer in Hogsmeade.
The butterbeer was amazing, sadly no real beer in it though.

Glad I got to share with you my weirdness, it would have come out at some point anyway. I really will take a break from running now that I know how awesome that skirt is. I'll also keep foam rolling and using the wonderful Stick on the ol' IT Band. I'm definitely hoping and praying this goes away ASAP because I have a pretty packed race schedule coming up. People were practically giving away organs to get into the Brooklyn Half Marathon this May, so I seriously don't want to miss that one. But we'll see what happens. Fingers crossed! Keep you posted.

TGIF! Enjoy the weekend.

Anyone have any races planned for the weekend? Tell me about em!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Why IT Band? Why?!!

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I never claimed to be a doctor. If you want one, my sister will be one in a few years. But I never will. In that case, the information I am presenting comes from my own experiences and from reading books and the internet. If you have a similar problem, its recommended that you do not self-diagnose like me but go see an actual doctor for a real diagnosis and treatments.

Ask anyone who knows me really well, or actually anyone who knows me even just a little bit, and they will tell you that I am incredibly accident and injury-prone. Its just in my family genes. Thanks mom and dad. I've had more injuries than I can count and since I have always been an athlete, the number and severity of injuries was probably doubled because of that. Since I started running last year, I've had problems with shin splints and blisters. So I got compression socks for shin splints and sport shield for blisters. Problems solved.

Now a new issue has arisen. And while I'm not surprised I have another ailment, it is disappointing when all you want to do is run pain-free. During the end of my 5 miler yesterday, I started to get a little throbbing pain on the outside (lateral part) of my knee. It stuck around after I stopped running and was still there in the morning. So in my crazy mode I googled everything under the sun until I realized, "Hey I spent money and bought a book for times like these". I opened up the Running Doc's Guide to Healthy Running (by Lewis Maharam) and turned to knee injuries. Pretty soon, I self-diagnosed (not recommended!!) myself with Iliotibial (IT) Band Syndrome.

So what the heck is the IT Band? Well, it looks something like this....
Look at those sexy muscles. The IT Band is that big ugly white band running from your iliac crest (hip) to your tibia.

 A few of the major symptoms of this common running injury include: pain on the lateral side of the knee a mile or two into a run (check!), but no pain on the first step (check!), pain going up and down steps (check!), and tender points over lateral femoral condyle (check!). The pain is caused by the IT Band rubbing on bone over and over during running. This causes inflammation and... you guessed it: pain

There are so many reasons someone can have IT Band Syndrome including types of arches, body structure, over-pronation, uneven leg lengths, and weak muscles. Also, it could just be that the IT band is tight (I'm hoping this is it for me). That's sort of where the doctor (the actual expert) comes in because they can actually pinpoint the cause of the problem. Gotta love doctors and them being so smart!

You might be asking: I might have IT Band Syndrome... what now?

Well, as you can see by the amount of symptoms I have, I am pretty sure I have this condition. Luckily I just started feeling this pain/irritation recently so recovery should be quick. Running Doc and the internet suggest foam rolling the IT band or using the Stick (love this thing), doing stretches, taking anti-inflammatories, cold therapy (aka ice packs), and massages. When the pain is gone, then strengthening begins to prevent this injury from coming back.

 The Stick. Looks so simple, but its a miracle worker. Really wish I invented this.

Well since I'm crazy I'll probably be trying each and every of these things. Often. I'm sure my boyfriend Karl will appreciate me rolling around on the floor on my foam roller all night during American Idol. So attractive. As if watching AI wasn't torture enough for him.

Unfortunately this means I'm going to have to stop running for a few days, probably until Monday to be safe :( To normal people, that doesn't seem like such a big deal.. but for anyone who loves running as much as I do, you know how much that sucks! Its like someone telling you you can't breathe anymore. Except you don't die when you don't run. At least not right away. But I have been trained to understand that health comes first, so I shouldn't cheat and run anyway (as a student in a healthcare field I should probably learn to take the advice I would give to patients and not be such a hypocrite. Blah.). Cross-training it is.

What kinds of running injuries have you had?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Musical Motivation

Today's Workout: 5 mile run at 5K pace

So I know there's a lot of controversy about running with iPods, MP3 players, a stereo if that's what you want to run with for some strange reason, or anything else that plays music. Many races ban the use of them for safety reasons, and others highly discourage them but usually let you use them still. Personally, I've never been able to completely ween myself off of using my iPod unless its a big race with entertainment or cheering to keep me occupied (in which case I try to imagine everyone is cheering for me because I'm just so awesome or because I look so good while I'm running... even though my race photos beg to differ. Hello, one eye closed).

But I have been trying to stop relying so much on music to motivate me. I know the day will come when my little pink iPod nano dies in the middle of a run and I'll be like a little kid lost at the mall. Confused and totally lost. Possibly crying. Who knows? 

 Who wouldn't be sad if they couldn't use this cute little thing?
So I started unplugging my headphones for 1-2 minute intervals during my runs. This sounds like nothing but when you're used to depending on music those 1-2 minutes feel as if you were forced to watch C-Span for 4 hours straight. With no snacks. And no ability to pause.

So this process usually doesn't bother me at the beginning of my runs. But near the end it gets incredible difficult to run in silence. To distract myself from thinking about things like how much my legs hurt or how I wish I didn't wear two hair ties, sometimes I hum songs (can't escape the music.. don't judge, there's only so much actual important things I can think about at one time. Everyone has their limit). Problem is, I'm not such a great singer (ask anyone in my family) so trying to sing songs in my head usually is more torturous than anything else. I guess I'll have to come up with some strategies to help keep me entertained, or I suppose I'll get used to it if I keep trying with my interval system. What do you think about while running music-less?

I'm definitely going to keep using music though for most of my runs, but I want to be prepared for that dreadful, sad day when I don't have any music to keep me company. I certainly don't want to dive head first into that situation because it could be disaster. And I could be that little lost kid in the mall... crying in a corner somewhere with my dead iPod.
 Since I do use music more often than not, I definitely need to update my list quite often or I get very, very bored with the same songs on repeat. Here's a little taste of the current, totally random selection of songs on my running playlist:

Do you run with music?
If you do, what's on your playlist?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Running with Penny and Sheldon...

Today's Workout: 3.6 mile run with speed intervals

...Not literally, of course. I totally wish. I'd actually love to see what Sheldon would look like running. Not Jim Parsons, but the actual character. I imagine it would look something like Pheobe from Friends running. I know you've seen that episode!

Really though I just watched them on TV while I ran on the treadmill today... like a hamster on a wheel. It was dark already when I decided to run after school and since I have big problems with running outside in the dark... treadmill it was. Not a bad run actually, especially since my knee was acting up a bit after my run on Saturday. Felt good today, thankfully. Or it could have been having the shenanigans of this show keeping me motivated and entertained....

What do you do when you run on the treadmill? Music? TV?

I added in some speed intervals (6x400 at 5K pace) into my workout today. Now that I've finished my first half and am no longer following a super strict training schedule (Mr. Hal Hidgon's plan), I think its time to work on improving my speed and try to get some PRs. I am running the Scotland Run10K on April 7 and am hoping to improve my 10K time in that race.

Also I want to wear a kilt in the spirit of Scotland but have no idea how to sew and don't know where to get one since its not Halloween. Any ideas? I really want to pretend like I'm Scottish. Ive had haggis, I know the deal. I am Irish though, isn't that close enough?! (kidding!)

Anyway, speed workouts will be added into my workouts a lot more often in the next few weeks and months. They are  fun and mix up the monotony of the dreadmill. I also think I deserve to move up a bib color, NYRR, and want to prove that to you!

Speaking of NYRR, today the registration for Brooklyn Half Marathon on May 19th opened. I signed up because I've heard its a great race. My friend Jessica also signed up for it so I'll have some company for this race! This will be nice since my company for the NYC Half was my iPod and the 10 seconds I saw Karl in Times Square. So amazingly the BK Half is nearing capacity though even though it's only been open for 9 hours or so. Incredible! Glad to see running is becoming more and more popular though and love that people want to be healthy :) Spread the love, runners!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Running with a View

Today's Workout: 5 mile easy run 

Besides a short jog the other day, today was my first normal run since the NYC Half last weekend.  Luckily it was a really nice day out and didn't rain like it was supposed to. I was on Staten Island visiting my parents so I decided to go down to the boardwalk for an easy 5 mile run with some nice beach scenery that I don't normally get in Brooklyn... actually who am I kidding, I never get beach views. So this was a treat.

It was 55 and sunny. Those should like perfect running conditions, right? Well it would have been except the light, springy breeze that I felt by my house was more like gale force Hurricane "Insert random hurricane name" winds down by the beach. Would have totally blown my parents 4 pound Chihuahua out to sea. Nevertheless, I made sure to run into the wind on the first half of my run and with the wind at my back for the second. The views were so nice that the wind didn't bother me too much.

Saw some interesting folks out walking around in some choice outfits. Wish I was coordinated enough to take photos while running to share with you the daytime styles of some Staten Islanders (in case you're about to feel the urge to defend SI, I can say these things because I was born and raised on SI. And I really do love it there. Just don't always love the clothes). Let me put it this way, lots of not-so-young adults wearing Juicy Couture and "LOVE Victoria's Secret PINK" matching sets. Ah, good old SI.

The view was amazing and I always love seeing the Verazzano Bridge in the background. But I definitely need to find a running partner... can't wait until my world-traveler sisters come home then I can drag them out with me. They just don't know they've agreed to this yet. But they have.

 Probably will take it easy tomorrow and swim or elliptical. Don't want to push myself too fast, even though I'd always rather be running.

Where are your favorite places to run?

Running My City: 2012 NYC Half Marathon

The NYC Half was my first "big" race and my first half marathon. Before I started training for this race, I literally never ran more than 4 miles in my life. By the end of the morning on March 18, I had run 13.1. Unreal! 

The 2012 NYC Half had a record number of runners: 15,000. Many of them were from overseas but there were definitely a lot of hometown people. The course started with a full 6 mile loop at Central Park, running through Times Square, down the West Side Highway and ended at the South Street Seaport. Its was like a tour of NY in 2 hours.

Race weekend: 
On Friday I headed to the Expo at the Metropolitan Pavilion and picked up my race bib... #18383. The expo had a bunch of cool vendors and some nice giveaways, including free Tommie Cooper compression socks, Odewlla bars and smoothies, and Luna bars (yum!). I also had to buy myself some official race gear, including the NYC Half running hat. Although it was a bit out of my grad-school budget I thought, "Hey, its my first half and I have to prove I ran it somehow!" So I got a sweatshirt and a hat. Plus the race T-shirt was nice but its SO green. Can't wear that everywhere without accidentally blinding one or two people.

So I laid out my clothes and gear the night before, set about 6 alarms, ate some pasta, drank tons of water, and tried to sleep. That was the tricky part, I thought I would never fall asleep and just kind of laid there. I managed to fall asleep at some ungodly hour and woke up at another ungodly hour. Around 4:30 I got dressed, ate my pre-race Clif bar, and headed out the door to the long, lonely subway ride to the park. There were a decent amount of drunk people coming home from St. Patty's day celebrations as I'm sitting there in my compression socks and running shorts. They probably thought that I was the crazy one. Even the ones dressed as leprechauns.

When I got to the park it was still dark, which was kind of eerie. I did a warm up run, stretched, waited on the huge line for the Porta potty and got into my corral. After the "official" start of the race it took me about 20 minutes to get to the starting line. That's what 15,000 runners will do to you. Pretty cool though to see the professional runners on their way out of the park as I just was about to cross the start (yeah, seriously... they were that fast). If you blinked, I think you would have missed them. Including my inspiration, miss Kara Goucher..

 Kara Goucher in the NYC Half. Photo by NYRR (
She finished in 1:06... what?!! Someone described it as her doing a "13.1 mile sprint through NYC"

The loop of Central Park was not as bad as it could have been. Thankfully I did a bunch of training runs on the hills of the park and trained my quads to get stronger and behave on those hills, otherwise it would have been killer. I saw so many people give up and walk up the Harlem hills but I mentally coached myself not to stop and walk... and I succeeded. Also it just so happened that Yellowcard's "Believe" came on while I was running up the hills which always inspires me to keep running.

Times Square... unreal.

After the loop we exited the park and made our way through Times Square for miles 7-8. I ate my GU gel around this time to try to encourage my second wind to kick in. This stretch was the absolute best part of the race and made the $117 dollar price tag on this race totally worth it. When else can you run through an empty TS with crowds of people cheering you on?! My goal was not to trip and fall over a manhole and embarrass myself. Goal accomplished. Luckily my boyfriend Karl was waiting for me in TS and took the super awesome photo above. In all the professional ones I had my eyes closed and looked like I was having a seizure. Plus I think my legs look pretty damn good in that picture so I thought I'd share it with you.

 Crossing the finish line. Love the face on of the lady next to me.

After TS we made our way to the West Side Highway. There was some good race entertainment including DJs and cheerleaders, which was cool. Kept me motivated on that super long stretch of road. We passed Chelsea Piers, then the WTC, and went through the tunnel under the southern tip of Manhattan. I saw people doing downwards and at first I was happy for a downhill. But I quickly realized that if we were going down we would have to go back up at some point... sure enough, coming out of the tunnel there was another hill. I thought "are you kidding me?!", but the signs on the side of the road saying "800 meters to go" kept me going. I pushed on, couldn't believe I actually made it to the end, and cross the finish line.
Final time: 2:06.18 (9:39/mile pace)

Post-race festival at the seaport

The post-race festival was at the South Street Seaport. I was a sight to see all those heat foiled people walking around. Must of looked like the strangest festival ever to all the nearby residents. It was a bit crowded though and the line for medal engravings basically went all the way to my apartment in Brooklyn. I passed on waiting. Overall though, the festival had alot of great entertainment and food. Great place to end a race.

Post-race photo and warming up with my heat foil.

So this was an amazing race, nicely organized, and well worth all the work. I've lived in NY forever but never experienced anything like running through Times Square. I am so happy this was my first half marathon and proud of finishing. A special thanks to all the people and volunteers along the course who cheering me and all the other runners on... you totally kept me going! If you can get in by any means, I would definitely recommend this race and I'll see you there next year :)

Did you run the NYC Half? What was your first half marathon?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Let me introduce myself...

The first post is the most awkward, I would assume, for any blogger (although this is my first blog, but I'm just guessing here). I decided to start this blog to help me keep track of my athletic endeavors, mainly running, but also to share a little bit about my life with you. I have always enjoyed reading running blogs and being inspired by others so I thought, " I could totally do this too." I hope my life is semi-exciting to read about and most of what I write makes sense (but hey, I can't promise that.. especially those days I'm pretty much drooling over my computer half asleep while drinking my 89786867th cup of coffee). I also want to share with you some of what I figure out along the way and give back some of what I learned from everyone else. Also, I have some time to kill since I'm off from running for a few days to recover from my first half marathon, but more on that later...