Showing posts with label running. Show all posts
Showing posts with label running. Show all posts

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Well-Read Redhead's Best Books of 2016!

It is time to announce...

The Well-Read Redhead's Best Books of 2016!

As I always disclaim with this list: you may be surprised by some of my choices...and some of my non-choices.  There are books on here that, in my initial review, I enjoyed but maybe wasn't completely gushing over.  And there are books not on the list that I mentioned as potential favorites when I wrote my reviews.  But at the end of the year, when I make this list, I go by what's really stuck with me--after months have passed, what are the books that are still leaving an impression?  Still giving me something to think about?


I am fully aware that I have not been the best blogger lately, but I just love making my end-of-the-year best-books list, so I had to throw in my two cents before 2017 rolls around!

As in past years, this list is in no particular order:


1. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley


I lied, this part of the list is definitely in a particular order, because this was absolutely the best book I read all year.

2. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty


Many would write this off as "chick lit", but I found it very thought-provoking.

3. Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich


Villians and intrigue and spectacular writing.

4. Alice & Oliver by Charles Bock


ALL THE SADNESS.  But I loved it anyway.

5. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes


More sadness!  Like seriously, so much sadness.  But SO SO GOOD.  Can't wait to see the movie and cry my eyes out.

6. Run the World by Becky Wade


I read a lot of running books this year, but this is the one that stuck with me the most.  I love Wade's fresh perspective and diverse discussion of the world of running.

7. Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave


In a literary world full of WWII stories (not to be trite, but that's true), this one is a stand out.  The dialogue alone is reason to pick it up.

8. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult


What would my best-of list be without the latest Picoult release?  Pointless, that's what.  But seriously, this has to be the most immediately socially relevant book she has ever written.

9. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett


This book reminded me why I really, really need to read more Ann Patchett.

10. Do Your Om Thing by Rebecca Pacheco


As an amateur yogi, my perspective of the practice was completely changed by this book (for the better!).  I learned so much from it, and I know I will refer to it for years to come.

That's a wrap!  What made YOUR best-read list for 2016?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

What I Was Reading When I Wasn't Here (and, Hi!)

And Lord knows it's been a while since I've been here!

Sorry for the protracted absence, reader friends.  I told ya this was likely to happen though, what with me in school, and child in school, and toddler in full force, and making time for me + husband, and running, and this freaking election (don't even get me started), and just EVERYTHING.  All the things.  There are too many things.  So yes, I have been absent.

However, I have been reading!  I just haven't been blogging about it!  Which has been weird (since I've blogged about EVERY book I read between August 2012 and...6 weeks ago), but also very liberating.  I just fly through books when I have the time, and don't worry about how I will review them.  It's rather wonderful, in fact, even though I know that doesn't bode real well for the blog...though I'm still staunchly NOT shutting it down, for whatever that's worth.

Anyway, instead of full-on reviews, I thought I would highlight the best of what I've read lately, in a very short and sweet list...plus let you know about the one book I've been reading forever, but have yet to DNF.

The Best of What I've Read Lately (with exceedingly short descriptions):

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

RELEVANT IMMEDIATELY.  READ NOW.

The Mothers by Brit Bennett

New release by a debut author, the hype in the blogosphere was justified.  Plus, I like pretty things, and the cover is a very pretty thing.

In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10, both by Ruth Ware

Mystery and debauchery!  Lots of red herrings!

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (my first Christie!)

The queen of Mystery and Debauchery and Red Herrings!  I was not disappointed.

Why I Run by Mark Sutcliffe

Runners need to read this one.  It helped me get out of a running slump and pushed me to sign up for a marathon (again).  More on that in another post...

And...The Book I Have Been Reading Forever:

Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

I dunno guys.  I am starting to think this series is not for me.  Been at this since August?  September?  I still have 300 pages to go.  Determined to do it, but it might be a while before I think about picking up the third installment.

So, readers, catch me up...what are you reading lately?  Have you read any of the books I listed above?  What should be next on my ever-expanding TBR list?

Also, send Joe Biden memes.  All the Joe Biden memes.  #UncleJoe

Monday, September 19, 2016

It's Been A Long Road...(4 Seasons Challenge is DONE!)


Well, you've been hearing about it since I signed up on October 1 of last year, so here it is: the FINAL phase of the Rochester 4 Seasons Challenge.  IT IS DONE!  And my leg didn't fall off!
4 Seasons mega medal!  The 4 squares are each medal I earned during the year, held together with the final piece in the middle.
For those that are just joining us, the 4SC is a challenge for runners in the Rochester area: to run the 4 Rochester half marathons in 1 calendar year.  January, April, July, and September.  All was well for me until right before the 3rd one (in July), when I started having some leg pain that ended up being a calf strain.  I was originally supposed to run the full marathon instead of the half this September, but because of the strain I pulled back to the 13.1 distance...but then still had to take almost 8 weeks off running to heal it.

Okay, you're all caught up!  The final race was the MVP Rochester half marathon yesterday (9/18).  Let's break this into 2 parts: recap, and lessons learned.

RECAP!
I went into the race having zero idea what to expect.  My husband was wondering when I might finish, and I gave him a range of 2:15 to 3:00.  When you haven't run for 8 weeks, it's real hard to guesstimate your time, even if you've run the distance many times before!

I ran 2 miles on Friday before the race, and that was the first time since the diagnosis that I had no pain while running, so fingers were crossed for a good race.

And guess what--NO PAIN!  I did the entire 13.1 miles with zero calf pain.  It was truly amazing.
Taken around mile 6.  No calf pain, but the struggle still got real there for a bit
So that was the good news, no calf pain.  The bad news is that everything else had it's own special brand of pain...haha.  Have you ever seen that running shirt that says "Everything Hurts and I'm Dying"?  Yes, that was my hamstrings/knees/right foot.  Again--I totally DO NOT recommend running 13.1 miles if you haven't run at all in 8 weeks!  But I was determined to complete this darn thing.

I started out feeling superhero-amazing (as one does at the start of a half), but around  mile 6 is when I felt how out of practice I was.  I started to get down on myself, and then mentally punched myself in the face.  Why am I getting upset about time??  I didn't even fully train for this race!!  Just have fun!  Stop worrying and enjoy yourself!

So that's what I did.  The Rochester half had a huge course change last year, so it was all new to me, and it's BEAUTIFUL!  It brings you through scenic parts of Rochester that I never even knew existed.  So it was easy to cruise through the race and enjoy the sights.  I stopped for pictures, took lots of selfies (texting my husband and friends along the way), walked when I needed to, high fived every little kid I could find.  It was a great time.
Selfie with a waterfall!  Totally necessary!
Favorite race story: this course is incredibly HILLY, and I decided early on to walk most of them, since I knew my lack of training would cause them to completely wipe me out.  However, while walking one I spotted a race photographer 3/4 of the way up the hill.  Crap, no one wants a race photo of themselves walking!  So I kicked myself into a run as best as I could.  As soon as I passed the photog, I walked and yelled, "I did that for you!  I hope you got it!"  He laughed and assured me he did.  Can't wait for that pic.  :)

My husband and kiddos were near the finish line, and when I got there, Small Fry jumped over to run the last .1 with me, which was the total highlight of the day.  I was so wrapped up in holding his hand across the finish that I didn't look at my time!  I found out later that it was 2:23:17, only 2 minutes slower than my slowest half (which was also my first, a total hot mess).  I'll take it!

Lessons Learned!
I was very excited for this 4 Seasons Challenge when I first signed up for it, but now that it's over, I have to say I took even more away from it than I originally expected.  I thought this would be a great way to test my running abilities and keep myself in shape all year long.  Yes, those things happened, but there was much more as well.

1. I learned what I want to do as a runner, vs what I think everyone else thinks I should do.
As I was training for the second race, I realized I hated the regimented speedwork and constant pace-pushing required to hit my then-goal time of under 2:00.  Furthermore, I realized I was only doing that because I felt like it was the next logical step for me--my PR is 2:05, shouldn't I break 2:00?  But then I thought, why?  If this doesn't make me happy, then why do it?  I started running more for the distance than the speed, and immediately started enjoying running more.  A simple but valuable lesson--if you love something, do it the way YOU want to, not the way you think others want you to!

2. I was forced to think of my fitness more holistically.
After getting so wrapped up in half marathon training the last few years, I think I lost sight of my larger fitness goals.  I was just running, running, running all the time.  And when that was taken away from me (with my injury), it was like I lost part of my identity.  I was totally depressed and had no idea what to do with myself.  Then I started trying new fitness areas: biking, swimming, group fitness classes, etc. and slowly realized that those were fun in their own ways too.  By the time the injury healed, I was thinking maybe...maybe?...I could do more than just run.  What a novel concept!  But a bright side of the injury is that it really forced me to look at my fitness goals beyond the next road race.

3. I'm tougher than I think.
My husband said to me after the race that he was so proud of me for completing 4SC, for a variety of reasons, but one was because I could have bowed out at any time when I hit obstacles to my training, but I never did, the whole year.  And he is right.  The opportunity to quit was always there, but I never took it.  I'm pretty proud of that, and those are exactly the sorts of lessons I hope my kids learn when they see me do stuff like this!

I could go on, but I think you probably want this post to end eventually.  The bottom line is that 4SC was an amazing experience for me.  Would I do it again?  Ummmm...get back to me about that.  But even if I move on to other challenges, I don't at all regret taking this one on!

Monday, August 22, 2016

More Mini Reviews with Boston Bound and The Fireman

Guess what starts today, my friends?  My first day of my first semester as a college student (well, round 3 after my bachelors and masters degrees).  :)  As such, I expect my pleasure reading time to diminish significantly, but I do have 2 more mini reviews to share with you as I enter this drought period.  Unless you want me to review my Sports Management textbook...?

Boston Bound by Elizabeth Clor
Createspace, 2016
personal purchase

I encountered Elizabeth Clor's recently-released memoir via her Instagram page, and was immediately intrigued.  Elizabeth started road racing in 2005, and has since run 20 marathons (as well as countless other races at shorter distances).  She began her marathon career at the mid-pack with the rest of us average Joes, but after years of hard work and persistence, she started to realize that a Boston Marathon qualifying time was in her reach.  However, the time between her first inclination towards that dream and its realization was SEVEN years.  Elizabeth knew she was capable physically, but anxiety and a host of other mental barriers stood in her way.  Boston Bound is the story of how she overcame them to earn her BQ (she finally ran it this year!).
I ended up giving this one a 3 on Goodreads.  There's no doubt that Elizabeth's story is inspirational, especially for those of us that are "hobby" runners, training in between jobs and families and everyday life.  Plus, as someone who deals with many of my own anxiety issues, I made note of a lot of the strategies that Clor used to realize her dream.  Running is about 90% mental for me, so I relate to that struggle!  That said, the reason I gave a 3 instead of a higher rating was because of the writing.  Clor's formatting doesn't give her story a solid flow, and her race recaps eventually started to sound repetitive.  Her takeaway advice is excellent, but the journey for readers to get there is a bit clunky.  Plus, she relies heavily on past blog posts from her running blog (Racing Stripes), which ends up making the whole book feel like a long blog entry--not really the tone I was wanting from a memoir/nonfiction book.
Overall, runners will like this one, as it certainly has a lot of inspirational material!  It's just not the most well-written running book that I've encountered lately.

The Fireman by Joe Hill
William Morrow, 2016
borrowed from the library

Oh, I have so many feelings about this book.  Let's start with the good thing: the creative post-apocalyptic world that Joe Hill has created.  Basically, a spore called Dragonscale has infected humans, and the people infected are spontaneously combusting into flames.  So there's fire and mayhem and just overall good, end-of-the-world chaos.  This premise alone was reason enough for me to pick up the book, and Hill certainly delivers as far as interesting sci-fi-ish plots go.  I absolutely expected to love this novel.
BUT (and you knew there was a but).  I had two serious issues with the The Fireman.  First was Harper, the protagonist.  I felt like Hill was trying to make her too many things at once.  She's cutesy and naive and loves Mary Poppins, but then she's swearing like a sailor and unfazed by carnage and violence at the same time.  I wanted to be like, PICK A SIDE, DUDE.  I am all for complicated characters, but in 747 pages I never felt like Harper came together.  Second issue was that this book is trying way, way too hard to draw off Stephen King's The Stand.  Which is awfully interesting, considering that Joe Hill is King's son but has (in the past) gone to great lengths to hide it.  But in The Fireman, we have a deaf character named Nick, a main character who is pregnant and has the middle name Frances (goes by Frannie...), and all sorts of little Easter eggs referencing other aspects of King's work.  I'm surprised SK didn't read this and be all, "Get your own apocalypse epic, sonny-boy."  This, paired with the fact that Hill constantly references Harry Potter (seriously, so many JK Rowling references, let's give it a rest), the Rolling Stones, and other aspects of popular culture, makes this book feel like it is not at all his own creation.
A longer review than I intended, but I 3-starred this one.  It had promise, and despite the length of the book it moves along at a brisk clip.  However, in the end I was disappointed with how Hill put the pieces together.

What are you reading these days, reader friends?  I will add your suggestions to my list for after the semester ends!  :)

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Well-Read Runner: Bye to the Marathon


If you follow me on Instagram, you already know this, BUT...there will be no marathon for me next month.

I know.  BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.  Trust me, I'm right there with ya.

As I mentioned in previous posts, I've had a nagging injury since the first week of July, and an orthopedist finally made it official when he diagnosed me with a calf strain.  Which is pretty much exactly what I expected, though it does certainly suck to hear it, especially when it's followed by the prescription of NO running (like at all.  Like zero. Like NONE) for 6 weeks.

Let's see...6 weeks from my doctor's appointment puts me at...September 15.  THREE days before the Rochester Marathon.

Yeah, I emailed the race director that very day, and asked to move down to the half marathon.  And even that should be real interesting to complete with zero running leading up to it!  But since I've got several halfs under my belt already, at least it's a beast that I know how to fight.

That said, I'm handling this change of plans better than expected.  Don't get me wrong--I had my mourning period, though it took place well before the doctor's appointment (I knew deep down from the start that this injury was not going away easy).  I had a miserable couple of weeks when I couldn't BELIEVE that this year of hard work was going to end without me completing 26.2.  When I got down on myself and didn't want to work out at all.  When I wondered if I should give up running completely, forever.

However, right before we went on vacation, I promised my husband that I would use the time away to step back from my injury, and running in general, and try to clear my head.  And I did exactly that.  A week away in the beach air did wonders, and I came home feeling okay about the loss of the marathon (even before the doc made it official).

In fact--I will go so far as to say that this injury has been a blessing in disguise.  Let me count the ways:

1. Once I decided not to do the marathon, I realized that there was a part of me that was a tiny bit relieved.  I signed up for it as part of the Rochester 4 Seasons Challenge, which I was very excited about, but I was NOT pleased that my first marathon would be on a hilly, two-loop course.  The two loops bothered me the most--I've done two-loop 10Ks (running the same 5K route twice), and the mental challenge of completing a hard course and then doing it AGAIN is painful.  Now put that on a marathon...I was prepared to do it, but very nervous.  Now that I won't be running the Rochester full, I can choose a different first marathon experience that might play more to my strengths as a runner.

2. I have learned a LOT of patience.  I am not a patient person.  I tried a billion remedies to get rid of this injury...more foam rolling, icing, elevation, massage, compression, stretching, ibuprofen, blah blah blah.  But the ONLY fix for this calf strain is no running, and 6 weeks of waiting.  Patience required.

3. I have now learned the difference between a real injury and normal post-run soreness.  This is my first true running injury.  Every other ailment I've had while running has been an ache or pain that was easily remedied by taking an extra rest day or two, and foam rolling a bit more.  This pain felt different from the start, and now I know going forward what's worth trying to run through, and what's not.

4. If I had to get injured, this isn't the worst thing that could happen.  For a while I was concerned that this was an Achilles-related injury, which is NOT good news, as Achilles injuries tend to recur for runners.  But a calf strain, while slow to heal, WILL heal.  And then I can move on.  So I have to be thankful for that.

5. It's like a billion degrees outside right now, and I'm completely not jealous of those of you running in it.  ;)

So, just over a month til the Rochester half--what am I doing if I'm not running?  Well, the only activities that hurt my calf are running (duh) and jumping, which eliminates a lot of plyometric-based workouts from my regimen.  (I tried a BodyCombat class last week to cross train, and it was very no-bueno on my leg with all the jumping and kicking.)  However, there are a lot of other cross training activities that feel just fine.  I've put in a LOT of time on the stationary bike (both in spin classes and in the gym).  It's giving me a killer cardio workout, and I better be able to fly up some hills once I start running again, because my quads are killing me!!  :)  I've done some swimming as well, plus lots of yoga and strength training (I still love BodyPump!).  Plus, my friend Michelle just loaned me her road bike, so I might be able to take all this spinning out on the roads starting this week--woohoo!

At this point, I'm just trying to keep my fitness level up enough to finish this race without completely dying.  I am VERY interested to see how all this cross training plays out in the race...am I headed for success, or a hot mess?  Stay tuned, because we're gonna find out soon enough!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Reading and Running (& more) in the OBX

Hello, reader/runner friends!  Yes, a long absence around here, but for good reason.  If you saw my Instagram post the other day, you know that the Well-Read Redhead family recently returned from a 10ish day long summer vacation.  Woohoo!  Add in the time required to recover from said vacation (because all vacations with children require substantial recovery periods), and wait a minute, when did August get here...?

Let me fill you in on the trip, especially the reading and running highlights!

(I'll warn you that this "brief" update post turned into a rather long vacation review, reading discussion, and race report, so...just read the highlights that interest you most, I guess?  BEAR WITH ME PEOPLE, I'M STILL IN VACATION MODE.)

Our first stop was at Sesame Place down in Langhorne, Pennsylvania.  We added Sesame on to the front of our summer vacation last year as well, because our kids are at PERFECT ages for it (2.5 and 5), and it's a fun way to kick off a big trip.  This year, we broke family records by staying at the park for NINE HOURS.  My kids are serious troopers for hanging in there that long!!  We had a great day, then hopped in the car and let the kids sleep while we drove to a hotel in Maryland.
The Happiest Place on Earth (for kids who have not yet been introduced to the actual Happiest Place on Earth)
The next day, I impressed myself by getting up at 6:30am to work out in the small, but well-equipped, hotel gym.  I had the place to myself, and ended up doing 30 minutes of cycling, plus a bunch of core/strength work with the free weights and BOSU.  I thought about trying a treadmill run, but one running step told me my right leg was still not okay (more on that later).  Boooo.  Still, this was good for spending 9 hours running around a theme park the day before!
Up in the gym just workin' on my fitness. Pretty sure someone famous said that.
After checking out, we headed to our final destination: the Outer Banks in North Carolina.  We vacationed here in 2012 as well, and fell in love with it.  A return trip was most certainly in order.  We shared a beach house with our 2 good friends and their 2 kids in Corolla, and had an absolutely AWESOME week.  We managed a beach trip (or 2 or 3) every day, as well as a side excursion to the aquarium on Roanoke Island.  It was fun, relaxing, exhausting, and rejuvenating all at the same time.  :)
More of this please.
Reading highlights...well, there aren't too many.  You do a beach trip with two young kids, and you don't end up with much reading time (see: Reading with a Toddler, an old guest post on the blog from 2013...very appropriate here! Sorry for all the broken pic links though. Too lazy to fix right now...).  I packed my book into my beach bag on day 1, and promptly removed it that evening, knowing that the oceanside reading of my 20's was just never gonna happen.  However, after the kids went to bed and during their afternoon downtime, I did often get some pages in on the deck.  My book of choice was Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter.  Full review to come, but WOWZA, this was an enthralling mystery, albeit an extremely, horrifically graphic one.
View while reading. Not sad about it.
Running highlights...again, not many, this time because of my injury!  (I still don't have a name for said injury, but I'm finally seeing an orthopedist tomorrow, so stay tuned.)  Other than my hotel biking/strength session, I also got in some sunrise yoga on our deck (AMAZING!!) and on a whim I decided to run a local 5K on the 27th.  I knew it would stir up my injury, but how could I resist a local race along the ocean?  I mean, just one little 5K, right...
My sunrise view during yoga on the deck. Seriously? Stop it.
The Brindley Beach Lighthouse 5K is run every Wednesday during the summer months in Corolla.  I was afraid that a race that is put on every single week would be kind of shoddily done (like, are they going to go all out for something they do over and over?), but holy moly--OBX Running Company has a pretty amazing thing going on!!  Every race employee I talked to was super friendly and helpful, the entire race was smoothly executed, all the little details were taken care of...it was great.  Very nice finisher medals and race tshirts for all participants, plus an email later that day with your official race results, finisher video, and pictures.  Seriously awesome.  They also do a 5K every Thursday in Nags Head, so I highly recommend checking one out if you are ever vacationing down there!

I got to the race site near Currituck lighthouse early to register, then spent some time stretching, warming up, and exploring the area.  The race started a little after 8am, which in Corolla means HOT HOT HOT.  It was 81 degrees with 96% humidity, to be exact.  YEAH.  For an upstate New Yorker, that is literally trial by fire, because I can't remember the last time I ran in those conditions.  Between the heat and my leg, I decided to keep myself going no faster than 8:30 pace, and just push as comfortably as I could.

The race started, and a minute or so in, I looked at my watch to see 7:45 pace.  Nope nope nope.  I dialed it back and fell pretty comfortably into the 8:30 range.  I finished mile 1 at 8:35 and felt surprisingly good.  Mile 2, I encountered the one water station and decided to walk through it.  I knew I NEEDED the water, and the thought of choking down 1-2 mouthfuls while I ran was not appealing.  I still managed to complete the second mile in 8:55.

As expected, the heat was getting to me badly by the third mile, but I still finished it out at 9:03 pace, for a final result of 27:27, good enough for 2nd in my age group.  Not bad!!  Only about 1 minute off a PR in fact, and that's damn good for those conditions.  I attribute much of it to the fact that my legs were very (very very?) well rested from no running lately, and that I put zero pressure on myself, since I did this race at the last minute anyway.
Sweaty me + medal + Currituck Lighthouse
So glad I participated in this race--the whole experience was so fun, and it ended early enough that I still had enough time for a long, fun day with the family on the beach afterwards.  :)

(I did pay for it with my leg afterwards though.  OW OW OW.  Le sigh.  Damn injured leg.)

Anywho, after that 5K, all my other working out for the week went out the window.  I will admit that I had MORE than my fair share of wine last week, participated in a lot of late nights laughing with our friends and playing ridiculous rounds of Cards Against Humanity, and ate a lot of not-workout-friendly foods like Duck Donuts and cookies and ice cream sandwiches.
In case you've never met Duck Donuts. LET ME INTRODUCE YOU.
But hey--no regrets!  Honestly, I'm starting to feel like this injury was "meant to be", as cheesy as that sounds, because it would have been hella hard for me to continue marathon training last week and still have the fun, carefree vacation that I enjoyed.  Plus, it's saving me from heavy training in the hottest months, and I gotta tell ya, all you runners with the hot-weather-running Instagram photos are NOT making me miss it.  ;)

Does taking a running break suck?  OH YEAH.  Watch my face turn green with envy every time a runner goes past my house.  I find it mentally painful to open my newest edition of Runner's World right now.  If it's possible for a Garmin to rust, I'm sure mine is currently doing it.  But if I have to find the bright side, then I will, because I can't let a speed bump get me down.  (More on this in a later post...)

Oh man, are you loving my rambling today, or what???  I have lots of upcoming posts for you though, and I promise they will be better organized!  I owe you a Shoreline Half race recap, I have a bunch of mini-book-reviews to publish, and I have some deep thoughts about running to share in the wake of this injury.  STAY TUNED!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Well-Read Runner: Marathon Training Update + Butterfly Compression + INJURED?!


Hello, runner friends!  It's been a while, but I am still here, chugging away at marathon training.  I'll give you a quick update, as I'm currently at the halfway point (week 9!) of the training.

Honestly: right now I feel like I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Up to this point, my longest run has been 12 miles, and I kind of just feel like I'm half marathon training.  I actually have a half marathon scheduled this weekend (Shoreline Half, part 3 of the Four Seasons Challenge), which I am treating as a regular slow-paced long run.  After that though...things get serious!  Some weekday runs will be up to 7 miles (eventually as high as 10), and my long run the weekend after Shoreline is 15 miles--the longest I will have ever done.  EEEKKK.

Things that have been helping me out so far in marathon training:

1. Getting enough sleep!  Almost all of my runs are still being done at 5-6am, so I am really trying to be good about getting to bed at a decent hour.  I don't always manage it, but I'm doing well enough that I don't feel completely exhausted (yet).

2. Eating right.  I still gorge on my faves sometimes (cookies, ice cream...hey, I'm burning mad calories over here!) but I have been VERY good about getting enough protein and fruits/veggies, which makes a huge difference.  I've also cut back my alcohol intake, and usually will not drink at all before a long run.  I'm no alcoholic, but seriously, summer drinking time?  It's hard to turn away a Sam's Summer these days!!  :)

3. Good stretching/cross training/recovery.  I have tried to be very diligent about foam rolling regularly, doing yoga 1-2 times a week, and not ignoring my cross training days (as I used to do).  Biking, swimming, and strength training are my friends!

I am also LOVING compression socks lately for recovery.  I had a few pairs already, but recently got a chance to review SLS3's Butterfly Compression socks, and became an instant fan:

They felt great on the run, and I've been using them for recovery post-run as well.  I never thought I'd see the day that I'd be wearing pink running wear (let alone with butterflies on them), but seriously, these are so fun (and they do have other colors!).  I got a few compliments from other runners while wearing!

SLS3 has them available in their Amazon store HERE, so if you're looking for some fun new running wear, check it out.

Things that have not been helping me during marathon training:

Only 1 thing.  Injury.  

WHOMP, WHOMP.

Yeah, the last 10 days I have been battling some sort of lower-leg ailment.  If I had to guess, it's a calf strain (I've had trouble getting in with an orthopedist, so Dr. Google is diagnosing for now), though I have no idea what brought it on specifically.  July 2 I did a 12 mile long run that felt AMAZING...until I got home.  And then my lower right leg hurt, a LOT, but mostly when running or going down stairs.  I took the holiday weekend off, only doing yoga.  Walking in sneakers vs. flip flops helped ease it as well.  Tuesday I tried the 3 mile run that was on my schedule, and while it didn't feel amazing, I was able to finish it.  However, Wednesday (the 6th) I tried a 6-miler, and had to call it quits after 4.5.  Pain was getting worse and starting to radiate up my hamstring.

I haven't run since then.  EEEEKKK.  And yes, I do have a half marathon this Saturday that I am running (or walking? at least finishing) come hell or high water.  In the meantime, I have been giving my leg lots of rest, ice, and compression.  I've also been cross training (biking, swimming) to keep up fitness.  Do you know how long it's been since I swam laps in a pool?  EIGHTEEN years ago on the JV swim team.  You know what though?  Turns out I forgot how much fun it is.  So I guess the upside to injury is that I'm rediscovering my cross training options.  I MAY have said the T-word (triathlon) recently to my husband, and he MAY have looked at me like I'm crazy.  That's for another day...
Getting ready to rock the YMCA pool. I know, the swim cap is super hotttttt.
Anyway, as of yesterday (the 12th) I finally woke up and felt like the pain was getting better.  Only a slight pinching pain in my calf, and only when I push off my right foot to run.  So my plan is to try a short 2 mile run tomorrow or Friday, just to see what I'm up against for this weekend.  Then it's fingers crossed for Saturday...and after that, re-evaluting where I'm at for marathon training.

I'm really hoping that this injury has a quick recovery period, because if I have to take too long of a break, this marathon is probably not a good idea for me right now.  I know there are marathoners who have cross-trained their way to the start line, but that's really not the way I want to get there for my first one.  I will cut back to the half marathon if I have to, though the thought makes me sad/frustrated/NOT happy.  I am SO looking forward to this first 26.2.  But I know running through injury isn't smart, so if I have to put it off for a while, I (reluctantly) will.

So, 9 weeks down...and the next 9 weeks should be interesting!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A Runner's Read! Run the World by Becky Wade


Title: Run the World: My 3,500 Mile Journey Through Running Cultures Around the Globe
Author: Becky Wade
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: July 5, 2016
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Fresh off a successful collegiate running career—with multiple NCAA All-American honors and two Olympic Trials qualifying marks to her name—Becky Wade was no stranger to international competition. But after years spent safely sticking to the training methods she knew, Becky was curious about how her counterparts in other countries approached the sport to which she’d dedicated over half of her life. So in 2012, as a recipient of the Watson Fellowship, she packed four pairs of running shoes, cleared her schedule for the year, and took off on a journey to infiltrate diverse running communities around the world. What she encountered far exceeded her expectations and changed her outlook into the sport she loved.

Over the next 12 months—visiting 9 countries with unique and storied running histories, logging over 3,500 miles running over trails, tracks, sidewalks, and dirt roads—Becky explored the varied approaches of runners across the globe. Whether riding shotgun around the streets of London with Olympic champion sprinter Usain Bolt, climbing for an hour at daybreak to the top of Ethiopia’s Mount Entoto just to start her daily run, or getting lost jogging through the bustling streets of Tokyo, Becky’s unexpected adventures, keen insights, and landscape descriptions take the reader into the heartbeat of distance running around the world.

Upon her return to the United States, she incorporated elements of the training styles she’d sampled into her own program, and her competitive career skyrocketed. When she made her marathon debut in 2013, winning the race in a blazing 2:30, she became the third-fastest woman marathoner under the age of 25 in U.S. history, qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Trials and landing a professional sponsorship from Asics. 

From the feel-based approach to running that she learned from the Kenyans, to the grueling uphill workouts she adopted from the Swiss, to the injury-recovery methods she learned from the Japanese, Becky shares the secrets to success from runners and coaches around the world. The story of one athlete’s fascinating journey, Run the World is also a call to change the way we approach the world’s most natural and inclusive sport.


My Review:

If Becky Wade is not the luckiest runner-traveler out there, I don't know who is!  With the help of the Watson Fellowship, she got to travel around the world for a YEAR and run.  And run.  And run some more.  And learn about how other cultures approach running.  If that doesn't sound like an insanely cool trip-of-a-lifetime, we have very different bucket lists. :)

Run the World is Wade's memoir of her year of running travels.  If you're a runner, this book will open your mind to all manner of different running techniques and traditions.  As Wade mentions often, American runners tend to focus on gadgetry, speedwork speedwork speedwork, and structured training plans.  However, she found that success as a runner doesn't always translate to keeping track of your pace on your Garmin with every run.  And every great runner does not always "carb-load" with pasta the night before a big race.  The things we take for granted as "must-haves" or "must-dos" as runners are not always available or desirable in other running cultures.  Wade's book highlights those differences and the ways she was able to combine some of them with her old running routines to make her training even more effective.

There are so many facets of this book for readers to enjoy.  Yes, there is the exploration of running culture, but the book is also peppered with international recipes for yummy runner foods that Wade discovered throughout her trip; descriptions of beautiful running locales the world round; and the wide variety of people she was able to form connections with in the running community.  My initial awe at the details of Wade's journey quickly combined with admiration for her ability to comfortably jump right in to cultures that were entirely new to her.  Wade rarely stayed in hotels or hostels, instead managing to find lodging with local runners or coaches during her stay in each country.  Not only did this steep her in the daily life of the host country even more, but it required her to have a certain amount of bravery as she experienced a trial-by-fire introduction to each new culture.  I'm not sure I could have done that with such a low level of anxiety!

Run the World is an excellent read, especially for the runners and the world travelers among you.  Bonus: just before I opened my computer to write this post last night, I pulled my new issue of Runner's World out of the mailbox and found a feature about Becky Wade (and Run the World) inside!  So check her out there as well.  She is also racing in the US Olympic Track and Field Trials THIS WEEK in Portland, Oregon, vying for a spot to compete in the 3000m steeplechase.

Go, Becky, go!  This is one runner/reader who will certainly be rooting for you from afar after following your running journey in this book.

As always, much thanks to Trish and TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour.
Want to find out more?  Check out the other blogs on this book tour HERE. And connect with Becky Wade via Twitter and Instagram.


Friday, July 1, 2016

A Midpoint Check-In for 2016

Hello, reader/runner friends!  Today marks the first day of the second half of 2016, so I thought it would be fun to check in with how I'm doing on the reading and running fronts so far this year.  I have also been admittedly absent around here lately, so it serves as a way for me to let you know what's going on in my little corner of the world these days.

Let's start with Reading:

So far I've read 25 books this year, not bad!  I didn't set a goal for 2016, but I've read a LOT of great books in that group of 25, and as such the reading has been easy.  It's nice when you don't feel like you're getting hung up on a lot of slow reads or DNFs.

It's hard for me to pick favorites, but a few contenders for the "best so far" of this year would be What Alice Forgot, Everyone Brave is Forgiven, and Alice & Oliver.


Running:

I went back in my Nike+ history and found that I've run 426.5 miles this year so far--woohoo!  I have never kept track of my yearly mileage or set a monthly/yearly mileage goal, but I went further back to 2015 and found that I ran 364.2 miles in the first 6 months of that year.  I think this Four Seasons Challenge is definitely helping me stay motivated!  Last year whenever I finished a big race, my 70-100 mile/month frequency would plummet down to 25-40 miles/month if I had nothing to train for.  Now that there's always a race on the horizon, I'm getting out there more often and am feeling more consistently race-ready.

Two of the Four Seasons races are done...the next is in just a few weeks (Shoreline Half on July 16), though I'm using it as a training run for the September Rochester Marathon.  Marathon training is going REALLY well, but the July training schedule amps up the mileage quite a bit, so check in with me again in August to see if I'm still so enthusiastic.  ;)
Me at the 19K finish line back in May...yeah, hoping I can look like that at the marathon finish too!
Personally:

My most significant news of late is that I am going back to school.  Yup, again!  A bachelors and a masters didn't seem like enough, so I decided to add an associates degree (haha).  This fall, I'll be starting classes to get my degree in Fitness and Recreation Management (with a concentration in Personal Training).  The eventual goal is to get a job as a personal trainer once Tater Tot is in school full-time.  That's not for several more years, so it gives me time to spread out the coursework.  You can get a personal trainer certification without going to college for it, but doing it that way does not require any hands-on experience, which I would like to get before heading into the workforce.  The degree requires an internship, so I'm pretty stoked about the opportunity to gain experience in the field before I (hopefully) get a job!

This is a huge career change for me (you may remember I was in higher ed administration before), but one that I am extremely excited about!

That's where I'm at these days.  I know I post less frequently, but I do so love my blog and all my bloggy friends--I hope that, as always, you'll stick with me through this new busy season in my life!  :)  While I know I'll have to trade some pleasure reading time for textbook reading time this fall, I have such a long list of excellent TBR books that I know I won't be ignoring it completely!

How's your 2016 going so far??

Monday, June 6, 2016

Nonfiction Mini-Reviews x3!

I didn't mean to do it, but my last 3 reads have all been nonfiction...and now that I've realized it, I'm pining for more!  Send me all your latest nonfiction recommendations, if you please.  In the meantime, here's some snapshots of what I've been reading lately:

Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach
W.W. Norton, 2016
received from the publisher for an honest review


If you didn't see my review of Mary Roach's Packing for Mars a few months back, let me tell you that she specializes in hilarious, science-based nonfiction.  She generally chooses unconventional topics (the particulars of space travel, the science of human cadavers, etc), researches the minutiae behind them, and peppers her findings with off-color humor.  Now that is MY brand of nonfiction.

In Roach's latest release, the topic is war, but not in the way it's covered via politics or military strategy.  Instead, she's delved into the oft-not-discussed ways that our military uses science to provide for our soldiers at home and overseas.  For example: what happens when a Navy SEAL really, really has to poop during a mission?  (I'm dead serious.  She actually ASKED A NAVY SEAL THAT.)  How are military hospitals providing for soldiers that lose not just limbs, but also their genitals, during combat?  How do submariners in the Navy prepare for undersea conditions?  (Nice shout outs to my hometown of Groton, CT (Submarine Capital of the World, say heyyy) in that section!)  These are the questions that you didn't even know you had, but now you want them answered.

Overall I enjoyed this one, because Roach's humor was on point (as expected), and the research was interesting.  However, as a whole the book did not click with me quite as well as Packing for Mars did.  I felt like the chapters were a bit disjointed from each other, which disrupted the flow between topics.  Plus, I found it harder to laugh at her humor on this particular subject.  Giggling over space toilets is one thing, but finding the humor in genital reconstruction for wounded soldiers was a bit tougher.  Perhaps my humor has it's limits?  I never thought I'd see the day...

Anyway, this is worth the read for followers of Mary Roach, and I think anyone connected to the military would find it intriguing.  It's not my favorite of hers, but I'm still interested in reading her other work.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
Knopf, 2012
borrowed from the good ol' public library

The latest read for my MOMS Club Book Club!  This is Cheryl Strayed's memoir of when, after dealing with her mother's sudden death, her own divorce, as well as a descent into drug addiction, she decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.  The trail runs from Mexico to Canada via California, Oregon, and Washington.  Strayed tackled the trail with no previous backpacking experience, in the hopes that she would find something to allow her to get her life back on track.

There is a ton of hype about this book (especially since the release of the Reese Witherspoon movie), but I understand why.  This is a very moving memoir, and Strayed is startlingly honest about her childhood, her failed marriage, and her ups and downs on the trail.  I found many of her experiences to be inspiring, even in her weakest moments.  The interesting cast of characters that she encounters during her trek will (mostly) raise your faith in humanity.  Plus, it's excellent hiking inspiration for the outdoorsy readers--I already told my husband that we must put the PCT on our bucket list!

Two Hours: The Quest to Run the Impossible Marathon by Ed Caesar
Simon & Schuster, 2015
borrowed from the good ol' public library

Love me a good running read these days!  In Two Hours, Ed Caesar discusses exactly what it would take for a professional marathoner to eventually break the coveted 2:00 mark.  The current world record is 2:02:57, and while 2 minutes and 57 seconds doesn't sound like a long time to most, to elite marathoners it is an enormous divide.  Caesar looks into the science behind it--there are researchers who have done a variety of tests in order to estimate what they believe to be the absolute limit for how quickly a human can run 26.2 miles.  But alongside that, he follows the marathon pursuits of Geoffrey Mutai, an elite Kenyan runner who has his sights set on both a world record and the 2:00 wall.  This combination of scientific and personal perspectives on the upper limits of marathoning made for a fascinating book.

One of my favorite tidbits from this book is the discussion of how modern day road races do not provide favorable conditions for runners to get the fastest marathon time possible.  Many are hilly, provide very little shade, and don't allow the runners to employ pacers (non-racing runners who are hired to pace them at exactly what they need to hit a certain finish time--one racer will sometimes use a few different pacers throughout a race, if it is allowed).  Plus, they are weather dependent--you could be in the best shape of your life, but if you wake up and have to run your marathon on a sunny 80 degree day, the chances of a good time are nil.  This is just one of many fun discussions that got my brain turning in this book.  Two Hours is a quick read, and excellent brain food for anyone with running interests!

What are your current reads?  Any new nonfiction on the docket for you lately?  What's the best memoir you've read lately?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Let's Talk About The Incredible Virtual Run!


Hey, remember when I signed up for that 10K virtual race back in March?  Yeah, I ran that!  Let's talk about it!

To refresh your memory, the race was The Incredible Virtual Run, organized by Level Up Runs.  This was the first virtual run I ever participated in, and it was a unique experience.  I signed up for the 10K option because I thought it would be easy-peasy to fit in a 6-ish mile run during the last couple weeks of training for the Flower City Half.  (This run was supposed to be completed between April 15-30, and Flower City was the 24th.)  Um, that was not a good plan, because I kiiiiind of forgot to factor in the pre-race taper, so I wasn't running a whole lot the week before Flower City.  That meant that I had to save the run for the last possible day--April 30, because it was far enough from Flower City that I felt recovered and was able to put in a good effort.

Even though this race wasn't "officially" timed (beyond what I saw on my Garmin), I still had a goal to try to beat my current 10K PR of 55:55.  Because I was making up my own race course, I could have totally cheesed out and done a flat/downhill route, but I didn't!  I purposely worked in some of the bigger hills in my area, because I wanted the challenge.

Long story short: goal achieved!  I finished in 54:16.  :)

Not a huge gain on my PR, but a gain nonetheless!  And I considered it a win, given the hills I threw in and the fact that I was only 1 week post-half-marathon.

So, given that this was my first virtual race, what did I think?

Pros: I loved that I had a big window in which to fit the race--you can plan around various weather conditions and scheduling conflicts to find a time that works for you.  You also get the advantage of running your race on whatever surface or route you prefer.  I liked that I was "racing" without all the pre-race adrenaline/pressure that comes from racing in a large crowd.  I was more in control of my pace than I usually am at a big, chaotic starting line.  And because there was a (pretty awesome!) medal coming to me at the end, I was motivated to hit my goal, even without the cheering crowds.
(As predicted, my kids are totally jealous of this medal and have already tried to steal it from me 5,462 times.)
Cons: I don't feel like I can call this race time a true PR, because it wasn't done with an official timing chip, and because I got to set my own race conditions--something that is not reflective of a "true" race setting.  Not a huge deal, but something to consider if you really want 100% confirmation of a PR goal.  My only other caveat is that, other than the race medal, the other swag I received was a $25 gift certificate to SLS3--something I was very excited about.  However, when I received it, I was bummed to find it was more of a coupon than a gift certificate--I can't use it in conjunction with any sales (and they are having a ton of good sales right now), or other promotions, and it does have an expiration date.  I wish they had referred to it as a coupon (granted, a high-value coupon) rather than a gift certificate, because it was a letdown to find that all these stipulations were attached to it.

Overall, this was a fun experience, and I think if I find myself between road races and need a motivational boost, another virtual race could be a great option.

Have you ever done a virtual race?  What other races do you have coming up??
 
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