Monday, February 28, 2011

"A" is for anemic

Anemia: A condition that develops when your blood lacks enough healthy red blood cells. 

In other words, a lack of iron. 

I found this out the hard way, during my freshmen year of college when my weekly cross-country mileage superseded my iron consumption.  Of course, I was 100% at fault for declining to eat the mystery meat served up at the cafeteria.  But seriously, how could I argue with an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord stocked with cocoa crispies and pickles?! 

Although I'm not one to point fingers, I can guarantee you that growing up in the Midwest did nothing to teach my young self about proper eating habits.  I grew up in a household where we had a separate freezer for meat.  Like an entire cow's worth of meat.  And there it sat, wrapped up in matte white paper, ink- stamped with phrases like "T-bone steak" and "ground chuck." 

So that famous catch-phrase, "Beef: It's what's for dinner" was indeed my family's motto.  Almost nightly, my mother would whip up some part of that deep-frozen cow.  Beef and noodles with mashed potatoes?  Hell yes.  Spaghetti with meat sauce?  Bring it.  Minute steaks?  Yeah, I got a minute for one of those bad boys. Pass the A-1 sauce, please. Add in a tall glass of two percent milk and I swore my hands were somehow transforming into hooves. 

However, despite all of my meat consumption as a child, college brought on a new week night dinner special.  Ramen noodles.  They were easy, cheap and could be consumed in my hot-pot in the comfort of my tiny dorm room.  It was awesome.  Until one day, it wasn't. 

High mileage and little consumption of iron-rich foods had me feeling like Hester Prynne, only the "A" I bore wasn't noticeable to anyone but myself.  Iron supplements and some force-fed cafeteria "meat" finally cured me - or so I thought.

Since college, I have not once been tested again for anemia.  But, I'm quite certain that b*tch is back.  Don't get me wrong - I've tried to have blood work done.  Problem is, my veins are too small to extract any blood.  And the thought of going to the hospital to wait hours on end to be poked and prodded has not sounded appealing on any of my days off from work.  So instead, I've been trying to eat iron-rich foods.  And meat. 

Taco Salad Success!
 This poses a problem.  One, cooking with meat scares me.  I'm always unsure if it's "done."  Plus, if I cook meat, I'm stuck eating it for days.  And after all those days of eating meat, I'm sick of it.  So then I take some time off and anemia continues to invade my cells. 

With that being said, I'm really trying to make conscious choices when I eat.  For example, I do, on occasion cook meat.  And sometimes I even get super creative and make taco salad.  Actually, I've only done this one time, so I took a picture as proof.  Not only is the salad meaty, it's got lettuce (full of iron) and avocados, which I read somewhere are a "good source of fat."  I'm not sure where I read that, but I'm sure it was a credible source, like a T.V. commercial or something of the like. 

Yes, I need to get my iron levels checked, preferably before I start bustin' some ass training for Chicago.  Food recommendations would be awesome.  Making me food would be even more awesome.  Just sayin'.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

86ing Minneapolis

A few months ago, with the help of a few beers, a friend and I decided to run the Minneapolis Marathon.  Many of our friends have already qualified for Boston 2012, and while cheering on the sidelines is a rush in itself, it's not good enough for most runners - especially the crazy competitive type, such as myself. 

Minneapolis in June sounded perfect, as did the training leading up to the race, which would be optimal in the usually awesome Philly spring weather.  It was a flawless plan.  Until Boston decided to get all elite on our asses.

I knew the day was coming when achieving a BQ would require me to run faster than 3:40.  I just hoped I would qualify before that day.  Now, with 3:35 as the *new* BQ for my age group, I am left feeling a little uneasy.  Yes, it's only five minutes faster than the previous BQ time, which, in a marathon is like one less stop at the porta-potty. 

But nothing in life is guaranteed.  Even if I run a 3:35, a spot in the coveted Boston Marathon is not promised.  Therefore, I'm shooting for a 3:30 in Chicago.  Instead of cramming in a spring marathon, I've decided it would be better to focus on preparing my body for the brutal beating it will take come July, when marathon training for Chi-town begins. 

How is this different from my current work-out regimen?  I have no idea.  That's a lie.  I do have an idea - and it includes track workouts, long runs at marathon pace, consistent weight-training, and some solid stretching.  Thinking about all that makes me cringe with excitement.  I realize that there will be days when I curse marathon training, but just the same, there will be those times when I can't wait to lace-up my shoes and hop outside for an easy 8 mile run. 

Can I really shave 20 minutes off my marathon time?  I can.  I have to.  I will.  Or I'll die trying.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Keep right on going

That day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run. So I ran to the end of the road. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd run to the end of town. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd just run across Greenbow County. And I figured, since I run this far, maybe I'd just run across the great state of Alabama. And that's what I did. I ran clear across Alabama. For no particular reason I just kept on going. I ran clear to the ocean. And when I got there, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well turn around, just keep on going. When I got to another ocean, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well just turn back, keep right on going- Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump, albeit a fictional character, was a self-motivator.  Or perhaps all runners, despite age/gender/ability, have that determined gene lingering somewhere inside their brain, perhaps nestled snugly against the one that thinks marathon training is "fun."  (It is.)

"Keep right on going."  Forrest did it (in corrective shoes, might I add).  Yet, if I'm saying that running is a metaphor for life (and I am), then one knows that there are twists and turns.  And perhaps even that race where you throw up Gatorade once crossing the finish line.  But somehow, despite all of life's curve balls, you manage to put one foot in front of the other.  And breathe.

So on a particular frigid morning, I layered on the dry-fit, laced up my Brooks and stepped outside, Mother Nature's blustery wind slapping me awake.  I made a spontaneous decision right there on my stoop to run only 3 miles, or however long I could withstand the feeling of windburn on my face.  As I pounded the asphalt on the Schuylkill River Banks, I thought.  I thought, as I tend to do on runs, about life.  My so-called tumultuous life.  It's not that bad.  In fact, it's great.   I've been down.  I've been up.  I've built up walls - who will knock them down? Go faster.  Slow down.  Take the high road.  Take the road less traveled.   Be honest, but not too honest.  Say what you feel.  Watch what you say.  Be careful.  Be mindful.  Always be on the look-out. Don't look back.  Look ahead.  Never give up.  Don't quit.  Keep going.

Keep right on going.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Calling all marathon training programs...

In approximately two weeks I will begin training for yet another marathon.  After running six of these bad boys, one would think I'd have the training aspect of marathoning down pat.  Not true.

I've dabbled in several "programs," throughout the years, from Intermediate/Advanced training on Runner's World websites to books, such as Run Less, Run Faster.  However, despite the fact that I am physically capable of completing 99.9% of the workouts listed in said programs, I find that reality called "life" eventually kicks in and I actually end up completing about 50% of my training plan. 

Add in the fact that I still need to add cross-training to the mix (yoga/spinning/drinking) and really, I feel as if I'm training for an Ironman.  Therefore, this time around, I'm creating my own training program.  Well, kind of.  My training buddy is also contributing, since we'll be doing the bulk of our running together. 

Essentially, I feel it's important to have three to four days of running a week.  Not all of the runs are "easy" and not all are "hard."  Balance, although something I'm not that great at, is the key with marathon training.  With that being said, I give you a "rough draft" of what I envision a typical week of training will look like:

Monday: Gym (weight training, easy 3-5 mile run on treadmill)
Tuesday: Track workout
Wednesday: Yoga (at a real studio, not in my apartment where I am super distracted and frustrated because yoga makes me hate life)
Thursday:  Tempo run/running club (Thurs. is beer runners night, but I generally run to get to our club's meeting spot, so can use that part as my tempo run. It's also a great night to get in some miles, depending on the bar we're running to.)
Friday:   REST
Saturday: Long Run
Sunday: REST

Knowing my body, I think two rest days a week are key.  I would like to somehow fit in a spinning class, but I'm not sure where that would go.  I like having rest days before and after my long run, but will sometimes do a "shake-out" run the day after I go long.  Of course, training plans are flexible, but I do want to establish some sort of routine. 

What training plans have you found to be successful

Seriously, I'm game for any suggestions.  And any plan that will guarantee an entry to Boston 2012!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Windy City, Here I come!

Fact: I will spend $145 on an entry fee to the Chicago marathon, even if it means I have to eat pasta for the next week.

Registration for this famed marathon opened up early this morning (1:00 a.m.) and I feared not being able to get a spot. But at 5:30 a.m. Eastern time, slots were still available.  So I did what any insane runner would do - I paid the outrageous entry fee, risking the chance that I would probably overdraft my checking account to do so. 

I've signed up for Chicago years back (when it was a mere $90), but ended up not running because the friend who signed up with me backed out.  This time, I am planning to run with a good buddy of mine whom I coerced into running seven years ago (and who will be running Boston for the first time this year...woot!)

So, despite my drained bank account, I'm super excited for the race.  I am not excited about the weather in Philly lately.  Snow/ice/ice residing on top of snow does not make for awesome running conditions.  But I have managed to get my ass outside a few days a week, so for that, I give myself a gold star.

What are some marathons you are running this year?