Sunday, December 23, 2012

This is heavy, doc.

Marty McFly: Whoa. This is heavy.
Dr. Emmett Brown: There's that word again. "Heavy." Why are things so heavy in the future? Is there a problem with the Earth's gravitational pull?

Let me tell you, ladies. Most of us are headed towards a heavy future, and it has little to do with gravitational pull. I thought I would be in super svelte, low body fat shape after taking on a half Ironman this year. I was wrong.

I would like to preface this conversation about weight with the following disclaimer:

I am aware that:
A) I am not a plus-sized person and
B) I understand that muscle weighs more than fat.

(I'm sure someone will still point this out to me.)

So, before you think, "Oh Suzanne, Shut the f--- up, you are not fat!" Remember that I never said I was fat. I said I am getting heavier and am trying to figure out why. That is all.

A few years ago, before I hit the big 3-0 in years, my goal was to stay at 127. After the age of thirty, I also went over one-hundred and thirty pounds. The doctor weighed me a few months ago when I went in to check out my ganglion cyst and I was 134 pounds. I can live with that. Last week I went back for a routine checkup, and I was 138 pounds. Really? Maybe I had more water that day?

My days of being under 130 are probably over, but my body is also capable of doing more, so I should just come to terms with it. But what about the next decade? What is 40 going to look/feel like?

This is what I've figured out (so far): Weight gain happens despite a lot of things. My weight gain is despite my workout activities. I put on the typical 5 pounds around Christmas 2011 and it stayed on me through 2012. Everyone keeps telling me that muscle weighs more than fat, but it's still extra weight that I have to carry around when I'm training. Maybe it would be best to take off a couple of pounds?

The more I talk to other people in their 30's, the more I realize that changing up routines is the way to go.

If you take on an extreme diet or exercise regimen, your body will change pretty dramatically.  Let's say you train yourself to run a mile. Pretty soon you can run a mile every morning before work. Your body improves, and you feel good about yourself. You think to yourself,  "Oh if I continue to run a mile every day, I will stay like this."


Your body will get used to running the mile, and pretty soon you will be able to run your mile but you will continue to start to put on weight again. At the rate I'm going, I will be a 200 pound 60 year old doing ultra marathons. Time to think about diets again, because it's food, not exercise that is causing the gains. My mom always told me that your appetite gets smaller as you get older. Still waiting for that one...

So this winter, while running 20 milers, I still indulge in everything winter has to offer. If only we could just hibernate for a month like other animals and wake up thin, well rested, and not broke. Maybe my doctor could give me a prescription or write me a note for that. Or maybe I'll just start some kind of diet after the holidays.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Happy Trails to You

Nature. So much more challenging and fun than a treadmill.
Photos courtesy of Brazen Racing.

Running trails makes me feel like a medieval warrior, or some kind of wild gazelle. If I could learn how to carry a pack on my back, run in sandals, and chuck spears, I would join a tribe and just live in the wilderness. At least I would drive out to the wilderness and hang out on the weekends. If my tribe had a hot tub, that would be awesome.

Running trails is also terrifying. One slip on a wet branch, or over step around a tight single-track turn, and you are going down. There are all kinds of bruised and scraped up people at the end of a trail run. Badge of honor, people! I've fallen during at least half of the trail races I've done. Luckily, I've only bled once, and the rock pieces eventually grew out of my palms.

It can be difficult to keep motivated in the winter months. For the past couple of years, I've worked trail workouts into my winter schedule. Trails are a great break from the norm, they keep my aerobic/anaerobic fitness up (notice I didn't call it "cardio"), they force me to slow things down and think technically about running, and they are an awesome addition to an otherwise flat workout routine. I live in northern California, so I'm lucky to have an abundance of parks within 30 minutes of my front door. The worst element in my neck of the woods is a drizzly downpour, or having to run through puddles or around a downed tree trunk. After spending grueling hours on the gym treadmill, it is a joy to be outside because I occasionally like to do thing that scare the crap out of me - like running up (and down) hills -  in the middle of nowhere.

When planning a trail run, it is important to remember to do the following:

1.) Bring your own food supply and water. Nature does not come equipped with drinking fountains.

2.) Look at a map! Remember all of that high school geography? Finally, you can put those SAT skills to good use. If you still aren't good at reading an elevation map, guess what? There is an app for that! Mapmyrun, or Strava come to mind.

3.) Pay close attention to the type of terrain you will be running on. Trails are dirty and full of obstacles like fallen trees, puddles, branches, leaves, and other things to trip and fall over. The secret to don't fall is - slow down! It could be a dirt trail, or a rocky trail, or maybe even a paved fire road trail.

4.) Note tree cover. Are there trees, or is the trail exposed? Whether or not there is tree cover will greatly effect temperature.

5.) Look out for animals. Hopefully just deer and bugs, but don't let it surprise you. You are on their turf.

6.) Wearing a small backpack, camel back, or even a fanny pack is perfectly acceptable.

7.) Walk!  The first time I "ran" a trail race, I thought I was just getting out to run in nature, and didn't take into consideration running outside on a natural obstacle course. I had to walk/hike - a lot. I had always prided myself on never walking during a race, but during a trail race, especially as a novice, walking is totally normal. This shocks a lot of people. It shocked the hell out of me.

8.) Bring a friend. I am lucky to have my friend, Erika, who is a crazy trail runner girl. She is currently training for a trail 50k. Um, yeah. I told you she is nuts.

9.) Remember that exercise is about effort, not distance or reps. Think of taking on a steep incline as keeping up intensity in a workout. If you are a runner with a GPS who looks down and thinks, "OMG! I've only gone 0.5 miles?" you are missing the point. It helps me to think about workouts in increments of time and not miles.

10.) Read the book "Born to Run" - even if you don't like nature, or don't run. I read "Moneyball" and I think baseball is super boring. It's about life, challenging yourself, and people who are super insane.

I ran Brazen Racing's Summit Rock Half Marathon this weekend. My favorite part of the trail was a two mile stretch of short ups, and downs. It was fun to bound up the hill, then wheeeee back down, then bound up, then wheeee, bound, wheeee, bound, wheeee.

Friday, December 7, 2012

I run corrected

There are a lot of people out there who don't like to be corrected by others. Ok, who am I kidding - no one enjoys being corrected. But, being corrected shouldn't make anyone feel like it's a threat to their persona. I mean, once in awhile, we do things incorrectly. Or at least, someone else thinks we are doing things incorrectly and try to give us a new way of doing things.

I prefer to keep an open mind and do the following:

1.) Hear correction.
2.) Ponder correction.
3.) Check for a reliable source.
4.) Try it the new way, or say, "Great tip, thanks! (but no thanks)" and go about your day.

I guess I'm familiar enough with my body to know that I do things wrong all the time, and there is always room for improvement. I really appreciate corrections to my swimming form, and am very open to make changes since I'm really still learning. Suggestions to improve my cycling are also appreciated, but it also depends on the source. The criticisms I  appreciate are usually regarding form: feet flat on the pedals, head up, center of gravity, etc. The criticisms I don't appreciate usually have to do with gear; everyone has to flap their jaws about the best clothes, best bikes, best cycling apps, etc. It's really easy for someone to say, "Oh you need these new $100 shoes," or "Oh you need a new $2,600 bike." This is why people think cyclists are elitists btw. (Oh and the fact that cyclists often don't feel they need to follow the rules of the road.)

A runner would just say, "Oh you run! How cool! Which races have you done?" I've heard less, "You should buy this, you should use this, you should, you should..." from runners. Runners are cool. As long as you have two feet and no injuries you can run. And if you can't run, you can walk. Runners will still like you. Correct me if I'm wrong here...

I'm ready to take triathlon to the next level, so I joined a local triathlon club. I want to be with people who push me, and teach me new things. But, it's also important to me to have organized swims and bike rides. The running I can do on my own - or so I thought.

At a club track workout this week, the coach corrected my running form! I was stunned. Now, I haven't had anyone look at my running technique probably since 1997. On the contrary, I've read a lot about running form and have made many corrections on my own. In fact, a few years ago I slowed my running down dramatically and tried to take on the Chi Running method which I feel has helped me to run more effortlessly. I thought I was a pretty damned good runner. So, I was shocked that the coach stopped me and gave me some pointers on my form: tilt forward from the ankles, land feet directly underneath you (not in front), and lead with your chest. I thought I knew these things! Worse is, I thought I was doing them!

It was taken for a loop (track pun intended), but I took it in the correction, tried to rationalize it (probably too much), got over the shock, and then tried to switch my form up the way the coach suggested. After a couple of laps, the coach commented that I was doing much better. It felt ok (honestly nothing felt good about doing 1,200 fast repeats that night).

I guess I really do need help with my running - and that's ok. The person who gave me the correction is a long time running coach. I'm lucky to have been corrected.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Kitty Cats and Rainbows

A couple of reasons why running in the rain this weekend didn't suck:

Sneaky kitty! This kitty cat came out in the rain to snoop on the geese at the Campbell Community Center track. About 4 dozen geese made the football field their hang out during the rain storm. If a cat can find a reason to enjoy the rain, so can I!

The rain storms broke a few times this weekend to create lovely rainbows in San Jose.