On the Run, Again

If it seems like I’ve been traveling a lot, that’s because it’s true. I have been here, there, and everywhere. Some of my travel has been personal travel or races – my favorite kind of travel. But, some of it has been work travel. Work travel is hit-or-miss when it comes to fun. Some work trips are great fun, but, generally, work trips are a parade of bad food, bad hotel gyms, and bad locations. I’m staying in a hotel this week that is quite possibly the worst hotel gym I’ve ever seen. I’m starting to become a bit of a hotel treadmill connoisseur. I’ve seen the good:

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The ugly:

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But this one can only be described as bad. The air conditioning doesn’t work, leaving the whole room a stuffy 74 degrees. It positively reeks of mildew. All the equipment, and by “all the”, I mean one treadmill, one ancient elliptical, and one recumbent bike, is rusty and more than a decade old. The treadmill is off center and wobbles precariously any time the speed goes above 5.0 miles per hour. It’s not good. Thinking there may be a solution on some facet of the problem, I talked to the hotel management about the air conditioning. Their response was to close the gym. I guess you don’t know what you got until it’s gone. Now I’m missing my mildew and my wobbly treadmill.

Travel isn’t all bad. There are great adventures, like the day I ran 7 miles round trip to get deodorant I had forgotten to pack.

SLC

There are amazing restaurants with delicious foods I can’t find at home (like cheesy cornbread!).

Jim N Nick's

 

and great scenery.

Multnomah

Overall, it’s pretty great. I love traveling and the new joys it brings to my life.

Hit the Trail

Spring is a great time to add trail running to your training to take advantage of spring weather and enjoy nature. Here are my basic tips for getting started with trail running.

First, find a good trail. No single trail is the same. From wide, crushed rock trail like the airline, or rail trail, to single track cutting through trees, trails offer a wide variety of running surfaces and scenic options. In Connecticut, we are lucky to have an amazing trail system including the blue blazed trails, Joshua’s Trust trails, and a variety of town-maintained trails. Get to know your trail by researching online, or by asking other runners and hikers.

Trail running

Once you’ve found a good trail, prepare for the hazards you might find on the trail. If it has tall grasses or thick underbrush, consider wearing pants or tall socks to deter ticks. If your trail is sandy or has small, loose stones, tall socks or gaiters will help keep debris out of your shoes. While many trail runners use specially made trail running shoes, which have more aggressive tread and a closer to the ground feel, they aren’t always necessary. Consider how “technical” your trail is when selecting your footwear and gear. Generally, a more technical trail is one that is, more narrow, winding, steep, or has trail hazards like roots and rocks. Use good judgment in planning your trail run in order to match your trail with your ability.

Next, focus on safety. Take your dog or a buddy, or write your route out and share with a loved one. Make sure someone knows where you are going and how long you’ll be gone. Consider carrying water and a snack. Carry your cell phone and identification for emergencies. Once on the trail, keep your eyes on the trail so avoid rocks and roots. Focus on looking three to four feet ahead to create an imaginary “line” of travel, a plan for where you going to step for the next few steps. This will keep you focused and alert to potential hazards. Finding a line will become easier as you become more comfortable running on the trails. Make sure that you’re alert and be aware of landmarks and trail markings.

When trail running, it’s best to run by time, rather than distance to begin. Trail running can be exhausting at first and it can take much longer to cover the same distance on a trail than on a road. I generally add one to two minutes to my pace per mile, even on trails I know very well. Slow your pace and take time to look around and enjoy the beauty of the trails. Run by time, effort level, or heart rate and avoid comparing your trail pace to your road pace.

Finally, work to improve your trail running performance by including strength and balance exercises into your training two to three times per week. Exercises that strengthen the calves, ankles, and feet are particularly useful. Consider adding lunges on a pad or stability disk, single leg squats, bridges, dead lifts, calf raises, and other exercises using a wobble board or stability disc to develop foot and ankle strength and stability.

Once you’ve tried trail running, grow your confidence by running on the trails at least once per week. Try new trails and make friends with other trail runners. As you grow in your confidence and strength, tackle more technical trails, or sign up for a trail race. Trail running can be a great way to see new sights, meet new people, and enjoy Connecticut’s natural beauty.

Enjoy the trails!

On The Run: Des Moines

I’m on the run again, this time to Des Moines for the RRCA National Convention. I got in late last night, but was sure to get up early for a run along the Des Moines River with some running friends. I love running around a new city. There is simply no better way to see a new place than on foot. My group met early and ran toward the Des Moines River, where there is a lovely trail system. The paved trail goes along the river a ways, past a ballpark, over a very cool pedestrian bridge, and to a Japanese garden.

Spring in Des Moines

The flowers were in bloom and the weather was perfect for running. It was gorgeous! Later, we will take in some of the Drake Relays and I will run in the Hy-Vee Races. I can’t wait for a weekend totally dedicated to running!

Brother on the Run: Random Travel Running Moments

My amazing brother on the run has been traveling for work and has had a few hilarious runner experiences. In this post, he shares a few fun anecdotes. I know many of you can relate. Here’s Troy:

Running during a business trip can be a challenge or at least it can be for me.  Between the longer hours, tiny hotel gyms, and odd settings; getting a run in doesn’t always happen.  However, I tried during my last business trip to make the most of warmer weather and get a few runs in.  Oh Texas, always an adventure.

Pulled Over for Running

While staying near the Kemah (TX) Boardwalk, I tried to get 4-5 mile runs in every other day.  Unfortunately, this meant having a running day come during a monsoon – it was pouring rain and kept most people indoors.  I decided that I had a run to get and I was going to get it in.  Dr.Rachel has always pointed out that race day might not be perfect weather so training in sub-par weather can only help you prepare.

Fully dressed in running gear (half my stuff is fluorescent orange) including water bottle and Garmin I headed out for my 5 miles.  I was about half way through when a local cop pulled up to question me!

‘Was everything ok?’   ‘Did I need a ride somewhere?’ ‘Did I realize that it was raining?’

It was very nice of him to check on me (and I do appreciate it) but considering I have never been pulled while driving, being pulled over while running was a bit odd.  It took two days for my shoes to dry.

Most ‘Runner’ Thing Ever

After a hotel change, I was in a new city and still needing to log some miles.  I decided to do something new, something different for me.  I got dressed in all my running gear and headed to the local running store.  One question “where do you run?” was all I had for the clerks.  On The Run (Webster, TX) was great and showed me maps for both in city and trail runs in the nearby area.  I have never felt like more of a runner than going to a running store in a new city for course suggestions.

Bayou Trail Runs

The above conversation led me to the Armand Bayou trails in Pasadena, TX for a quick 5 mile run.  Not but 100 feet into my run a walker warned me about the trail ahead being ‘wet’.  It hadn’t rained for days so I thought nothing of it and continued on my way.  Mistake.  What was supposed to be a solid tempo run became some kind of crazy fartlek run where I sprinted for 100 yards and then walking through bogs and swamp pits in an attempt not to lose a shoe or fall in!  Trail runners probably laugh at this; this path is flat and covered with crushed gravel for the most part with only some slightly flood-ridden zones.  I just might not be much of a trail runner after all.

Treadmill or Beer?

I ended my trip back to the old standby: the hotel treadmill.  The particular chain of hotels I stayed at offer a cocktail reception once a week, a reception that just happened to fall right on my run night.  There is nothing like the joy of running 4 miles when, through the glass, I can see the other guests enjoying drinks and appetizers.  When I say 4 miles, I really mean 3.27 miles before I needed an ice cold beer also.  Running is hard, running when you could be drinking a beer by the pool is impossible.

Race Review: BARC St. Patrick’s Day Road Races

Race season has come to Michigan! Here’s a great race review from my brother on the run. Now that he’s conquered 26.2, he’s keeping his training going with several short races. Here’s his take on the BARC St. Patrick’s Day Road Races:

There are a number of early season races near to my home in MI that somehow are able to draw a crowd despite the chance for cold weather.  This year, I signed up for the Bay Area Runner’s Club St. Patrick’s day races held in Bay City, MI.  The race featured a 5K, 8K, and Irish Double – participants in the Irish Double ran the 8K and then 5K.  This was my first race following Disney. So, I did the logical thing and signed up to run the Irish Double.

March weather can be unpredictable in MI, with the 2014 race being about 14F (I am told).  Luck was on our side though and the day turned out to be relatively nice.  Credit must be given to the nearly 5000 people who showed up Sunday morning to run while their neighbors started grills and drank beer – yes, we saw multiple people with cases of Miller Light.  There is a parade that follows the races so most people are not there to watch the runners but to prepare for the parade.

The packet pick-up offered prizes to the first 750 in line and sure enough, the line was out the YMCA door and down the road when we showed up.  The volunteers and YMCA staff did a great job of leading people through the building to the packet location (and minor expo).  The only slight here is that some of the announcements were not loud enough or repeated frequently enough.  The expo featured only a couple of vendors, but had plenty of information and stands on upcoming races – we grabbed a pamphlet for everything.

Sunday morning weather was on the cold side, but we still headed out for the 9:00 AM race start time.  The course starts in Bay City, near the waterfront gathering on a street corner.  Parking was a free for all.  I had asked at the expo where to park and was more or less told that it was anywhere I could find a spot.  This is a pet peeve of mine – parking should be clearly marked and easy to access.  Had we only been running the 5K, I would have been worried about finding a parking place.  Going so early, we found something close to the race start/finish and piled out.  The race corrals were easy to find and plenty big to hold the 8K runners.

The race itself goes through the historic district of Bay City and features some impressive houses.  The course is flat, fast, and with very few turns – perfect for setting a PR.  Two highway lanes are provided so at no time did I ever feel crowded or have to dash through a crowd of people.  Water was provided and there were plenty of volunteers directing and cheering.  I think the course and set up was great and the volunteers seemed genuinely happy to be there.  My only complaint – there was road kill on the course.  Someone should have checked the path and taken care of this before we started the race (let alone clean up before the start of the 5K as there was plenty of time).  The finish area was great and staffed by more than enough people to direct, hand out food, and hand out medals.

The 5K followed a shorter version of the same path and was broken into a run and a walk division.  With my pregnant wife by my side, we started at the back of the runners and immediately before the walkers.  We both enjoyed the 5K course (save for road kill) and were pleased to see even more people showing up and cheering.  I was surprised when we reached the finish at the sheer number of people who had shown up – though the weather was about 15F warmer at that point.

Everyone who finished got a medal and those of us who did the Irish Double received two.  The medals are of high quality and look great.  The race t-shirts are made of impossibly soft cotton and while simple in design, were well thought out.  The swag for this race was great and with a relatively low entrance fee made for a great day.

Overall, I had a great time on this race and would probably run it again – staying afterwards for a beer with friends while watching the parade if situations allow (they did not this year).  It probably doesn’t hurt that I set a new 5K PR during the 8K run.  It was a great way to start the race season.

 

Product Review: Shower Pill

My favorite days are multiple workout days. I love a good two-a-day. Between my own workouts and my yoga teaching, I have lots of opportunities for multiple workout days. Multiple workout days lead to serious questions that can only be described as “fit girl problems”. Questions like: “Should I shower now, or 6 hours from now when I get home?” “How bad is it if I don’t wash my hair after this sweaty run, and just wait until tomorrow when I want to look pretty?” And, the real question – “Is it bad to just change clothes and not shower?”

I confess. I don’t shower after every  single workout. Sometimes there isn’t time. Sometimes I just don’t feel like it. Sometimes it doesn’t seem worth it – like those days that I run in the morning and know I have a super sweaty hot yoga class a few hours later. I know this calls my personal hygiene into question. I do shower once a day at minimum. I swear I’m not dirty…I just like to maximize my shower power. I like to earn my shower. Sometimes this results in questionable shower-timing decisions. For a long time, I have used Wet Ones, or other hand wipes in between workouts for a quick clean up. They don’t really do the job. They manage to remove some of the sweat and grime from the gym of the road. I am cleaner, but never really feel clean.

Enter the ShowerPill. I had heard about ShowerPill for a while now from my friends in the fitness community. I don’t know why I never tried them, but I had wanted to. When the team at Fit Approach contacted me about a review opportunity, I jumped at the chance. I had been wanting to try ShowerPill, and now I had the perfect opportunity.

ShowerPill is an antibacterial wipe for the entire body. It is alcohol free, so it’s safe to use on sensitive skin (including the face), and has aloe and vitamin E. I got a 10-pack of ShowerPill to try.

ShowerPill package

 

I decided that the first ShowerPill use would be a double run day. I had a 14+ mile run in the morning, 2 hours off, then a 5 mile race scheduled in the afternoon. The afternoon race was an important one – I would be representing not only my running club, but the RRCA as a state rep. At a minimum, I couldn’t be smelly. This was an important test. I hopped into a changing room at the local running store (location of run #1) post-run.

ShowerPill test

The first thing that I noticed is that ShowerPill is soft and thick, like a real washcloth. It has a great, fresh scent. It *feels* like it will clean the whole body. It is damp, not wet, and the wipe left my skin feeling soft and clean. I actually felt clean. Really clean.

ShowerPill wipe

I was able to completely wipe my whole body with the ShowerPill wipe and feel completely clean. When I emerged from the changing room, one of my friends commented that I smelled nice. Nice! I was shocked. I was so impressed with the ShowerPill that I carried it around and made everyone feel it. Everyone was struck by how soft and thick the cloth was. It really was fabulous – life changing, even.

For my next ShowerPill test, I wanted to up the ante. I used a ShowerPill wipe after a sweaty workout at my weightlifting gym. The floor is black gym flooring and absolutely disgusting. Any time I touch the floor, I’m covered in black dirty. Combine that with sweat and the whole thing is a mess. The ShowerPill easily handled the dirt. I wiped off and found the cloth almost black. Disgusting, but I was dirt-free. I felt clean. It worked!

Overall, I adore the ShowerPill. Now that I have them, I can’t imagine my life without them. I’m heading for Florida today and I packed my ShowerPills! I can’t go without them. I love, love, love this product.

Note: I was provided complimentary product to conduct this test. I was compensated for this review (though I spent all the money on more ShowerPills!), but the review is honest and my thoughts are my own.

Product Review: MealEnders

If you’ve been reading for any amount of time, you know that I’m a total sugar addict. I’ve tried nearly everything to stop myself eating sugary junk. I know it’s bad for me. I know it’s addictive. But I love it. My biggest weakness is dessert. A meal just doesn’t seem finished until I have had something sweet. It’s a problem.

When I was approached by the team at FitApproach to try MealEnders, I jumped at the chance. MealEnders, are, basically, a lozenge that is scientifically formulated to reduce overeating. MealEnders is different that most stop-eating interventions. It’s a small lozenge, a low calorie, drug free, stimulate free, candy designed to help reduce overeating through sensory science. MealEnders  has two parts: a  sweet,  outer  layer  and  a  cooling inner  core.  The sweet outer layer has a pleasing flavor that tastes like dessert. The inner core is a tingly, cool flavor that clears the palate. It works kind of like brushing your teeth after a meal, but without all the effort. The lozenge takes a long time to dissolve, so your mouth is occupied for a while, allowing the brain time to process the fullness signals coming from the body.

MealEnders packages

When I got my MealEnders, I was skeptical. Let’s be honest, I have tried to kick sugary desserts for ages without success. I love my dessert. I tried the chocolate mint first. My thinking – it’s more “dessert-y” than some of the other flavors. Delicious! My first impression was pleasant. The taste really was sugary and tasty, like a light version of mint ice cream. It took a few minutes for the flavor to fade and the cooling sensation to begin. The cooling sensation worked well with the mint and was pleasing. I finished my lozenge in a few more minutes. And….I didn’t want dessert. I was totally satisfied. I had a great dinner and no dessert and that was enough. It was amazing!

I’ve used up my bag of chocolate mint and have tried the other flavors. I was so impressed with the MealEnders, I gave one bag to my mom to try. MealEnders really help me take control. I still have dessert, but I feel less overpowered by my sugary cravings. MealEnders have done as promised – allowed me to curb my appetite and take control of my cravings.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Would you like to try MealEnders yourself? Awesome! You can enter to win your very own sample pack below. The lucky winner will get one bag of each flavor. Open to residents of the US age 18 and over only, no purchase required. One winner will be selected via the Rafflecopter widget. Must have a non-PO Box mailing address to receive product. Winner will be notified and will have 48 hours to claim the prize. Failing to do so will result in forfeiture of the prize and the next winner will be selected. Winner will be provided the product directly from MealEnders.

Note: I was provided with free product to conduct this review, but was not otherwise compensated.

Thinking Spring

Spring is coming. I know it. As I look out at the piles of snow, and shiver in -10 degree temperatures, it doesn’t seem like spring will ever come. I dutifully count down the days until the first day of spring (less than four weeks!). I plan my spring training and register for spring races. If I keep thinking about spring, maybe it will come. Spring is coming.

Spring is a great time for running – for renewing running patterns and starting new running habits. My annual springtime tradition is a big running gear cleanse.

One of my favorite spring traditions is spring cleaning. I love clearing out old things, donating my unwanted items, and getting organized. My love of spring cleaning extends to my running gear as well. Each spring, I go through my running clothes, coats, shoes, and accessories to assess their usefulness and determine what needs to be retired or replaced. Use the spring to wash all running coats, jackets, outerwear, and accessories. Zip up zippers, place mittens and other small accessories in a garment bag, and wash everything on gentle with a sports-specific detergent. Hang coats, match mittens, and organize each item. Look carefully for signs of wear and take note of things that need to be retired or replaced. Spring is a great time for good deals on winter apparel and if you know what needs to be replaced, you can stock up at lower prices. Carefully go through anything that has stretchy fabric and look for signs of wear – tights that don’t quite hold their shape, or socks that slip. Retire those items that are showing signs of wear. Keep your new gear fresh by washing in cool water with a sports-specific detergent following my handy instructions.

Ladies, spring is an excellent time to sort through sports bras. Each spring, I go through sports bras carefully and replace any that are more than one year old. The life expectancy of a sports bra depends on a number of factors, including intensity of exercise, how you wash it, and how often its worn, but most sports bras last 75-100 wears, or about 6-12 months, depending on your usage. After that, the bra is likely not providing effective support, or could be providing uneven support. Replace older bras, and replace any that were purchased when you weighed more or less, or that were around before a change to your breast shape (like childbirth, nursing, or treatment for breast cancer). Indulge in a new bra and feel supported during each run.

Couch to 5k

It’s almost spring! At least, I hope it’s almost spring. Lots of my running coaching clients are training for a springtime race, including a few first time 5k runners. I love 5ks and think they’re a perfect first race. Think a 5k might be for you? Here’s a training plan to get started! Right click and save the picture for your very own printable copy! Or, contact me (follow the link above) and I will email you a pdf of your own.

DrRachelRuns Couch to 5k Plan

Troy Conquered 26.2!

My brother has been an amazing client, one of the best I’ve ever had as a running coach. Maybe I’m biased because he’s my brother, but he did an amazing job of training for, and finishing his first marathon. Following along as he chronicled it for this blog as been a joy. Here’s his summary of the whole thing:

 

5 hours 34 minutes 55 seconds.

My official marathon time (even though Dr.Rachel’s Garmin put us at 26.85 miles).

I didn’t care it was raining and getting cold. After standing and walking for 45 minutes, all I wanted was to sit down and eat. The discomfort was manageable, but my mental focus just kept drifting. Exhaustion had caught up and still, I was proud of my accomplishment.

It was amazing to cross the finish line and be handed a medal with Dr.Rachel standing beside me. I couldn’t have done this without her and the rest of my family. Dr.Rachel helped with the training, nutrition, and pacing to keep me going through the race. Wifey put up with me being gone every Saturday and Sunday for months and my neurotic behavior about my mileage every night. The rest of the family was there to support, cheer, and encourage us on. It was a great experience.

It has also been a great learning tool. Through the training, I have learned a lot as a runner and improved as a runner because of it. Dr.Rachel originally asked me to chronicle the training. Much of what has been written are the lessons I have learned along the way.

So to finish off, here is a synopsis of some of the things I learned:

  • Each new distance hurts (i.e. discomfort). Some old distances hurt every time. You just have to keep going.
  • Benjamin Franklin is quoted as “Energy and persistence conquer all things.” Yes, there is an element of physical health but it turns out running a marathon is just being more determined and more persistent than the road.
  • Kits may not make the runner but they go a long way in making it comfortable to run. Invest in a set of high quality clothing for long runs (if nothing else).
  • Chaffing happens; nip guards exist for a reason. Vanity doesn’t exist at mile 26.
  • Food and water. Water and food. More food. Maybe a nap. Can you nap while eating?
  • Bring extra gear – long pants, shorts, long sleeves, t-shirts, arm warmers, blankets, ponchos, etc. Weather changes and better to be prepared than miserable.
  • Use training runs to make mistakes – try out different paces and fueling strategies until you find one that works.
  • A finisher medal may seem trite but damn does it feel good; good enough to make all the other discomfort silent. If just for a moment.
  • The best way to finish is to sign up for another race – I am already signed up for Detroit 2015.
  • Brain Worms will consume you.