Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Batten Down the Hatches

It started off as an ordinary day. I had one of my standard breakfasts. It probably looks familiar. I rotate the same handful of foods for breakfast, lunches and snacks at work.

Creature of habit here.

I have kicked the caffeine habit and go with plain decaf tea or coffee now, so there's a change :)

Mr. Blondie called around 10:00 and said I better pay attention to the storm warnings today. The terrible storms that hit Alabama yesterday are coming our way. He suggested I work from home for the afternoon and pick Emily up from daycare early so we'd be off the roads.

Most of the time he makes fun of the news stations for trying to make a story out of the weather, so when he expresses this kind of concern I know it must be serous. He was back at work today so he's been getting all the latest weather updates.

I left work at lunchtime. When I arrived home, the sky was starting to turn grey and the wind was howling something fierce. There was no sign of rain yet though.

video popout

So I did the logical thing and immediately changed into my running clothes. Potentially taking a tree limb to the head sounded better than spending a full hour on the treadmill. I know you agree.

The plan was to do the first part of my run outside since I didn't want to stray too far from home. I ran for 35 minutes then took it to the 'mill. That's another mini-mind game I play with myself. Instead of breaking up my workout evenly I often do it this way....knowing I'm more than half way done when I switch to the less favorable activity (even if it's only by 5 minutes) makes it seem less daunting.

I had a big salad for lunch and toiled away on some more work before going to get Emily a little earlier than usual. Now we're cozing up for the night. Flashlights are out and I cleaned out the walk-in closet underneath our staircase in case we need to hunker down inside there later. Hopefully we won't.
I thought I was safe when I moved to blizzards. hurricanes, tsunamis or earthquakes here. Alas, we've got tornadoes.

Stay safe tonight kiddos.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ready for the routine

I only got in 2 workouts last week. A 45 and a 60 minute run outside. I have no idea how far I went either time. The heat and humidity are in full effect in Atlanta already, so I’ve packed the Garmin away for the next few months. I just set a time goal and ran at a comfortable pace.

After being away in Spain for over a week, we finally walked into our house at 10pm last Monday. Then rest of my week was spent catching up on projects at work, returning calls and emails, laundry, and all that sort of stuff. I felt edgy that I didn’t get some more running in, but combined with the jet lag those two runs were about all I could handle.

Then Friday night we were back here again.

Traveling on Easter weekend wasn’t nearly as bad as I was anticipating. We didn’t have trouble getting flights either way. Is Easter more of a stay at home and chill holiday?

Saturday night we attended the wedding of one of Mr. Blondie’s good friends from high school/college. They drifted apart after college and the only contact they’ve had in the past 10 years is through some exchanges on Facebook. It was rather odd we were invited. It was being held at a really swanky place in NY and other buddies he still hangs out with were invited, so we all decided to make it a fun night out.

After cocktail hour, a 4 course meal, and wedding cake, they rolled this out.

2005 called, it wants its chocolate fountain and candy buffet back….

I love these things. It’s one wedding trend that I hope never dies. It was such a night of gluttony. We did a lot of dancing though. Maybe that helped negate a chocolate covered strawberry or two?

Then we woke up early Sunday morning to attend Easter service at my father-in-law’s church (he’s a Lutheran minister). Emily got to play with all her cousins.

As soon as church service was over we hit the road for a 2 hour drive to NJ. My grandma was admitted to the ICU on Friday with pneumonia and some internal bleeding in her GI tract that required blood transfusions. It’s still touch and go. It's times like these when I feel especially awful about not living closer. After visiting hours were over, we turned a back around to Long Island to join my in-laws for Easter dinner.

The state of Georgia still recognizes Confederate Memorial Day (yes, you read that right). It’s the last Monday of April and conveniently coincided with Easter weekend this year. A weird holiday, but I’ll gladly accept a paid day off if you want to give it to me. It helped that we were able to come back on Monday instead of rushing back Sunday night. However, we wanted to get back to Atlanta as soon as possible to get more stuff done around the house, so we were still up at the crack of dawn to catch the 7am flight out of LaGuardia.

Yesterday consisted of grocery shopping (did awesome with coupons again , woohoo!), laundry and even a run.

I’m such a creature of habit. After the past couple weeks, I’m so ready to get back to a regular routine again. I’m totally craving a week of consistent running, eating salads, and going to bed early. You know you’ve been living a little too much of la vida loca when that happens :)

What’s your favorite way to de-stress after a hectic week?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Our Trip to Spain in 800 Words or Less

So my month of racecation has come to an end. I'm feeling refreshed and ready to hop back on the running path again. Between Mr. Blondie and myself, we took about 1200 pictures. I’ll post a few of my favorites once we’ve got them sorted out.

Sorry to post and run while we were gone. I wanted to keep a little interest going while we were away with some quick updates. I’m catching up on my google reader to see what y’all have been up to, and to return the bloggy comment love as well. Geez, you guys have been busy!

Prague was actually our first vacation choice. We’ve heard nothing but good things from people who’ve visited there. However, the flights looked full even a full week in advance, so we went with plan B instead.

Spain has always been on the top of our must-see list too. The dollar is much weaker in Spain than in Prague, which is why it was our second choice. Albeit pricier, it didn't disappoint. I’m glad we ended up there because it was wonderful. It was sunny and 75 degrees every day, the landscapes were breathtaking, the food was tasty, and the people were nice.

Although we covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time, we felt relaxed and not the least bit rushed. We traveled about 11,000 miles in 8 days.

Instead of flying directly out of Atlanta, we first made stops in NY to drop Emily off with my inlaws and then to pick her up again on our way home. We flew to Barcelona non-stop out of JFK, and then got around Spain via a mix of Spanair flights, buses, rental cars, and subways. Everything we needed for the week was crammed into our backpacks. Our route looked something like this:

ATL -> JFK -> Barcelona -> Sevilla -> Ronda -> Malaga -> Barcelona -> Figueres -> Cadaques -> Girona -> Cadaques -> Port Bou, France -> Barcelona -> JFK -> ATL

We were seated in first class both ways. Eating and drinking our faces off began the second we sat down in the cushy recline-flat seats. It was liked I’d died and gone to heaven. The value of the plane tickets we used was equivalent to Mr. Blondie’s gross salary his first year at the airline. It’s absurd to think about. It’s about time we cashed in on some of the fringe benefits to make up for it. This is the first major international trip since he was hired 5 years ago.

We relied on Rick Steve’s Spain 2011 as our travel guide when deciding on which cities to see. I picked it up at Barnes and Noble a couple days before we left, so not a lot of research went into this trip. We were very happy with his recommendations, and it helped us to avoid over touristy areas. We used a mix of suggestions from the book,, and dumb luck to find hotel rooms along the way.

Every hotel we stayed in nice and was reasonably priced between 40-80 euro (and usually included breakfast which saved us another 20-30 euro). Our only flub was one night in Barcelona when we couldn’t find vacancies anywhere. We stayed in sketchy hostel near Plaze de Catalunya which cost us 90 euro (~$140 USD). That was no bueno.

We ate 2 meals a day, and stopped at a grocery store to pickup snacks and make our own sandwiches for dinner a couple times. Eating simply, we still spent anywhere from 70-120 Euro a day on food and drink ($110-$180). The tapas bars can be pricey at night. And who can pass up sangria?

I don’t want to bore you with too much information, so that’s the condensed Cliff’s Notes version. If you have any specific questions about our trip or traveling to Spain, just leave a comment and I’d be happy to answer them :)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ok, I guess we'll come home

But it won't be easy. After padding around Spain for the past week, with a brief foray into France, tomorrow we head back to the states.

See you again soon!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Cadeques, I Just Can't Leave You

Let's try this again. I was having issues posting from my iPhone before.
The museum that Dali created was totally trippy. Unlike any museum I've seen before. Definitely a must see.
After touring the museum we hit the road. The plan was to stop in Cadaques, a harbor town where both Picasso and Dali lived. We'd walk around, take some pictures, then continue on to France.
The winding roads with steep drop-offs made me feel as green as my shirt.
Then we fell in love with Cadeques. It's exactly what I imagined a mediterranean seaside town to look like. We met a friendly British couple while we were walking along the beach and they turned in to our personal travel agents. They hooked us up with maps and a list of sites to see in the area. We'd heard the drive through southern France wasn't that great until you reached the area around Nice, and they confirmed that. We decided to forget that idea and explore more of the Cataluna region instead. Oh, if only I could stay here longer...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Good Morning from Figueres, Spain!!

We got a late start out of Ronda yesterday. We went for another hike and got immersed in taking more pictures. No worries, we caught a later bus to Malaga.

It was about a 1.5 HR bus ride, getting us into the city around 5pm local time.

There must be nice parts to the city. We wandered to the beach and around the city for about 2 hours and never found them. We felt like we were in a very seedy part of Miami and were quite relieved to hitch a ride back to Barcelona on a 10pm SpanAir flight.

The rental car Mr. Blondie reserved for us was ready for us when we landed. So far driving here has been much easier than expected...not much different than the US. Instead of spending the night in Barcelona, we went for it and made the drive to Figueres, near the French boarder. It took about an hour. Luckily we found a nice hotel at 2am local time.

Figueres is where Salvador Dali did most of his work. We're going to visit the Dali museum in a few minutes, then make our way in France this afternoon to continue our trip along their southern coast.

This has been amazing.

More views from Ronda

>Malaga beach :(

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

See Ya Sevilla

We left Sevilla this afternoon for the quaint city of Ronda, the birthplace of bull fighting. It is about 1.5 south of Sevilla and is perched on the side of a mountain.

We spent the second half of our day hiking down to the valley below. Tomorrow morning we leave for the seaside city of Malaga. Hugs and kisses from Spain :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Viva Espana!

(uploads from my iPhone, sorry for the quality)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Train Slower to Race Faster - Part II

You guys already know what I’m going to say…you’re good :)

The problem with running 30-45 seconds/mile slower than our standard race pace is it’s still too close to the lactate inflection point. We’re cutting ourselves short on key aerobic adaptations. The majority of marathon training should be done around 80% of your predicted marathon race pace (or for half-marathon training, 25-30% of your half marathon race pace). That’s about 2-2.5 minutes slower per mile than you expect to race in a marathon. Towards the end of the training cycle is when you can add speedwork sessions to build efficiency at race pace. To estimate your own training paces, try the McMillan calculator.

It’s counter-intuitive, so it made a big difference for me to learn the science behind training this way. It definitely makes sense for the marathon. However for half marathon training, I can’t imagine doing my “long runs” at 8:45-9:00/mile pace when my half-mary race pace is about 7:20/mile. Then again, the length of my weekly “long runs” will need to increase significantly as well to 14 or 15 miles. Right now I top out at about 10.

Upon further review, my current half-marathon training strategy is probably most in line with 10K racing. Not coincidentally, that happens to be the distance I’ve recently performed the best at according to the age-grading calculators (70%)

It’s time to evolve beyond from my haphazard ways. Thanks to the extreme heat and humidity of summer in Hotlanta, I’m treating the upcoming months as my off season. It’ll give me a chance to test out the long, slow distance thing. I make my own best guinea pig. Hopefully I’ll approach the fall with fresher, stronger legs ready to be fine tuned for the demands of shorter races. We’ll see how things turn out over the next few months. I’ll continue to do the race/weight correlation for you too.

It's easy to tell other people how to do things, but it's quite different trying to put it into practice for myself. I counting on y’all to help keep me in line.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Train Slower to Race Faster

That goes against everything you’ve ever held to be sacred and true in this life, now doesn’t it?

It’s ok, I’m still trying to come to terms with it as well.

I don’t know about you, but “go hard, or go home” has always been my personal philosophy. If I’m going to go out there for a run, I’m going to make it count. I’m going to push myself to the limits.

The exercise physiologist (with 25+ years experience) leading the RRCA class I attended spent hours lecturing on this LSD (long, slow distance) principle. There must be something to it.

Out of the 30 people in the class, I was just about the only one who wasn’t already a personal trainer or high school/college coach. Although they were nodding in agreement with the LSD principles, they all had the same thing to say…….. “Good luck getting your athletes to do that.”

If you’re an exercise physiologist feel free to skip the rest of this post. Better yet, feel free to chime in with a better explanation.

As I mentioned in my last post, between marathons 1 and 2, I changed my training routine. However, that just meant cranking up the intensity. There wasn’t much change in the mileage. In fact, out of the 6 marathons I’ve run, I’ve never done a single long run over 13 miles in preparation for any of them.

My total weekly training mileage was high, but the individual runs were always middle-distance (7-10 miles) at a high intensity (equal to, or faster than my actual marathon race pace). Only one day a week was allotted as a true recovery day.

By doing this, I was missing several key adaptations. I won’t go into the whole ATP/energy production process, fat for fuel, and changes in lactate production and consumption. The Lore of Running by Tim Knoakes is an excellent read for that. By always running near the lactate threshold point, I wasn’t preparing myself for a race where you want your body to stay away from that threshold as long as possible.

I was unnecessarily wearing myself down day after day. It’s amazing I wasn’t nursing overuse injuries all the time, but had my share of other over-training issues. It’s obvious looking back now, but you need to respect rest days. Don’t push runs faster than prescribed in your plan either (if it calls for mile repeats at 10k pace, don’t do them at 5k pace). Respect the phase of training you're in.

Many of us consider 30-45 seconds/mile slower than our standard race pace to be an “easy run” pace. I’ve seen this throughout blogland, so I know it’s not just me. We iz doin it rong………

Come back tomorrow for part II