3.28.2010

2010 Kent City Ridge Run 15k Race Report

aka Learning The Hard Way.

Just what did I learn yesterday? I learned that racing without my Albuterol inhaler for asthma is a REALLY DUMB thing to do. Just because my inhaled steroid meds work well during easy training runs doesn't mean I shouldn't have that rescue inhaler on-hand during an actual race (on a hilly, partially unpaved nightmare of a course) when I am pushing my body and lungs to the limit. I thought I knew this from earlier race/asthma issues, but perhaps I have been in denial or thought my current maintenance medication (Qvar) was more effective than it actually is, at least during a race. In all fairness, this is the first race I've run since I started this medication, so yesterday served as a learning experience.

Here are my mile splits. My official time of 1:29:48 ended up being 1:15 slower this year than last (my PR for both the distance and the course)...and this year those miles felt SO much more taxing:
Intervals (GPS Interval)
TypeDistanceTimeTotal TimePaceAvg HRMax HRNotes
Interval1 Mi9:02.859:02.859:03
Interval1 Mi9:44.7418:47.599:45
Interval1 Mi9:17.6828:05.279:18
Interval1 Mi9:16.5237:21.799:17
Interval1 Mi9:59.2247:21.0110:00
Interval1 Mi10:08.4457:29.4510:09
Interval1 Mi10:26.211:07:55.6610:27
Interval1 Mi9:35.261:17:30.929:36
Interval1 Mi9:25.251:26:56.179:26
Interval0.37 Mi3:12.691:30:08.868:41

I should have taken a hit off of my inhaler at about the 3 mile marker, as it takes about 20 minutes to kick in fully. That would have at least gotten me through the last half of the race, when I really started to struggle with my air intake. My lungs were also not helped by the people burning leaves or the farmer driving his fume-belching diesel-powered tractor around at road's edge and kicking up dust.

Last year I recall getting a second wind around the 7 mile mark. This year that was just before I really started to consider stopping to walk. By about 7.5 miles my right lung actually started hurting. This was a first. The lung pain was accompanied by coughing and by the end of the race I was starting to gag on the lovely mucus working its way up from my lungs and catching at the back of my throat. In the future I may try taking a dose of Mucinex pre-race to hopefully loosen that gunk up.

Every other time I have run this race I've had a strong kick for the last mile. Yesterday there was no kick. No gas left in the tank. Instead of bombing my way down that last LONG, gradual hill I just trotted-along trying not to get passed by anyone in the last half-mile. Oxygen is kinda important to optimum muscle function, heh.

I finished 7/13 in my age group...pretty similar to last year's 7/11. Average time for women was 1:30:33, so at least I was on the faster side of average. Average time field-wide was 1:22:56.

I spent the rest of the day with a tight cough and achey lungs. I ended up having to hit the Albuterol again to fall asleep.

Today I feel better...not too tired and just a bit stiff and sore. I did a really easy 3.5 mile run to work out the kinks. That felt pretty good. It was almost 60º out there under clear, blue skies. What a gorgeous day. I'm looking forward to getting out for an easy ride on my bike tomorrow, too. I hope the weather will be just as nice as it's been today.

I still plan to run the race again next year. Hopefully with at least 10 fewer pounds stuck to my butt (20 would be ideal...that could potentially buy me a minute/mile pace increase) and for sure with my inhaler in my back pocket. Never again am I going to let something completely avoidable like not being fully prepared get in the way of a great race.

3.25.2010

Sugar vs. "Sugar"

I have been leery of High Fructose Corn Syrup pretty much since the days when I followed the Atkins diet for the better part of 3 years. In addition to cutting white flour and white sugar out of my diet I ate pretty much 0 HFCS for several years. I felt like a million bucks, had stable blood sugar and no reactive hypoglycemia symptoms for the first time in my life, ate a ton of veggies and salad (yeah, Atkins is not about bacon and cheese, contrary to popular myth--though one can eat these things without guilt, which is beautiful).

So what happened when I got lazy and fell off the Atkins wagon? Yeah, I started eating the same crap that made me fat in the first place (on Atkins I lost 60#s). In short order I had regained 20#s. The same 20#s I have been battling for about 5 years now.

And what is back in my diet...HFCS. Yep. Not in soda (if I drink soda it's one can and always diet)...but in so many other things...flavored "low-fat" yogurt, low-fat salad dressings, low-fat cereal bars, breads, canned tomato soup...a whole shit-tonne (European spelling, the way my hubby likes it) of processed foods.

HFCS have been vilified off-and-on for a few years, then studies sponsored by the corn producers (with their massive government subsidies) say "oh, pish posh...HFCS is no different than sugar."

Oh, really?! Remember when the government also had us convinced that transfat-laden margarine was so much better for us than natural fats in butter? How's that working, now? Or when eggs were the Devil...then it was found that eating eggs had little to no bearing on a person's cholesterol #s.

The smart people at Princeton have been doing research on HFCS and how lab rats metabolize it differently from sugar. What they found is not shocking, but it has me pretty fired-up.

The first line of the article really says it all:
A Princeton University research team has demonstrated that all sweeteners are not equal when it comes to weight gain: Rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same.

Susan Powter was wrong...it isn't fat that's making us fat...it's crap added to a ridiculous amount of food. Crap that allows the "food" to be made inexpensively, because corn and corn by-products are all subsidized in massive dollars by the government. Money that could be spent to make meat and produce and unprocessed foods cheap.
This creates a fascinating puzzle. The rats in the Princeton study became obese by drinking high-fructose corn syrup, but not by drinking sucrose. The critical differences in appetite, metabolism and gene expression that underlie this phenomenon are yet to be discovered, but may relate to the fact that excess fructose is being metabolized to produce fat, while glucose is largely being processed for energy or stored as a carbohydrate, called glycogen, in the liver and muscles.

One study I recall reading back in my low-carbing days found something that has stuck with me ever since. They compared the weight loss of individuals on a low-fat diet vs. the results for those eating the same number of calories with controlled carbs. Very clearly those low-carbing individuals lost more weight, which showed that the old "a calorie is a calorie" wasn't really true. Why did this study not garner more media attention? Perhaps due to pressure from the strong corn lobby...?

Hopefully this bit near the end of the article gets people thinking. It took consumers pushing for the removal of transfats from products to change the way many foods were produced. It's going to take that sort of change in buying habits to get the HFCS out of so many foods, too.
In the 40 years since the introduction of high-fructose corn syrup as a cost-effective sweetener in the American diet, rates of obesity in the U.S. have skyrocketed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 1970, around 15 percent of the U.S. population met the definition for obesity; today, roughly one-third of the American adults are considered obese, the CDC reported. High-fructose corn syrup is found in a wide range of foods and beverages, including fruit juice, soda, cereal, bread, yogurt, ketchup and mayonnaise. On average, Americans consume 60 pounds of the sweetener per person every year.

In the meantime we're going back to label-reading and avoiding all the over-processed stuff in the stores. So many of these "food" items have healthier substitutes. Plain yogurt is cheap (we've made our own in the past and it's yummy) and can be flavored with all sorts of natural things...including real sugar. I've found an organic ready-to-serve tomato soup that is tastier than Campbell's (though much pricier...because it's not full of cheap, subsidized ingredients...HFCS is the SECOND ingredient in Campbell's Tomato Soup), and those "healthy" fruit-and-grain bars are gross, anyhow. Time to start looking for homemade granola bar recipes with our choice of ingredients. Coming up with new combinations sounds like a fun way to get our 9 year old son involved in the kitchen, too.

I will be interested to see if weight loss is a pleasant side-effect of removing this single ingredient from our diets. I think it's high time we found a copy of King Corn, too. I haven't seen it, but a good friend said after watching it she viewed everything in the grocery store with new eyes.

PSA: Don't Forget The Sunblock!

A few months ago I noticed a new spot on my hubby's forearm. I will preface this by saying that Derek has a lot of moles, some are fairly large. This one raised red flags because of the newness of it. It didn't really meet any of the criteria for melanoma from its general appearance, but after nearly 20 years with the big guy a new mark on his skin definitely caught my eye--and not in a good way. Unlike the rest of his light-colored moles this one was darker, more chocolate in color. It stood-out.

He made an appt. to see our PCP and our doctor didn't think it looked particularly dangerous (it was uniform in color, round, not raised), but removed it all the same and sent it in for testing--to be safe.

Good thing he did (and good thing I nagged my other half to have it examined). Turns out it's melanoma--the most dangerous form of skin cancer.

So Derek will be undergoing full treatment for the skin cancer, including more thorough removal of the lesion area and further tests to determine whether it had begun to spread and, if so, which lymph node(s) will will require removal. Scary shit, friends. He details the process further in a blog entry. Give it a read. This is serious stuff. Skin cancer is definitely not an issue of cosmetics. It's cancer...and includes all of the terrifying ramifications that go along with all forms of cancer.

Skin cancer is so preventable. I will openly admit that I have done some pretty jackassed things in the name of vanity. I have even done some 1-month tanning packages in the Spring, so that when warmer weather arrived I wouldn't blind everyone with my Nordic pastyness. I PAID to increase my risk for a deadly disease. Those days are long gone. Now we will be applying the highest and most sweat-resistant sunblocks available (I've been a big fan of that Coppertone sunblock at right--super easy to apply and seems pretty effective. Kept me from burning during many 4 hour marathon training runs during the past couple of years). I know that my own skin cancer-free days are likely numbered. My mom has had at least one spot removed on her back. I have long said that for me it's not a matter of 'if', but 'when'.

I'd just as soon avoid the facial aging issue, too. As a friend recently mentioned, at least those Twilight vampires have made fair skin fashionable, again. That Neutrogena sunblock for face is good. It doesn't irritate my skin, but I still avoid putting it above my eyes (I have yet to find a sunblock that doesn't sweat into my eyes and burn in a most godawful way) and instead always wear a hat or Headsweats head covering.

Don't forget the sunglasses, too. Melanomas can develop in, of all places, our eyes. This is in addition to cataracts caused by sun damage. I make a point of wearing sunglasses that wrap around my face well. I like photochromic lenses, since I can wear them on overcast days and still have UV protection for my eyes. It is rare that I will run without shades...it pretty much has to be raining for me to not have them on my face.

3.20.2010

Did you see the zombie?

Yeah, I think it was me. I can barely call what I did for 12 miles today "running," though. More like trudging/shuffling/ambling...just like an old school zombie (as opposed to the more modern "infected" sort of Human, which isn't technically a zombie by the opinion of many zombie-philes).

I definitely overdid it this week. I logged 111 miles: 30+ on foot, just shy of 81 on my bike. That was stupid. Today's run was supposed to include 3-4 intervals @ 5k pace...fat chance. I could barely maintain 11:30 and walked a few times just to keep from stopping altogether.

This week will be MUCH easier...at least until Saturday, when I will be doing my favorite 15k race. It's hilly...the race's nickname is "Jill's Hills," after the race director. She is also CC of the HS in the community where the race is held. Apparently their team runs that route quite often. And they have a REALLY strong CC program, which comes as no suprise. Though this course is tough it's my 15k PR, even over the MUCH easier 15k course I run every Summer. That race is usually held when it's warm and humid and it takes a toll on my pace. I can tolerate hills more than I can tolerate asthma attack.

One of our 4 felines has also decided that I should quit this running business. He/she soaked both shoes of my more recent pair introduced into rotation...of course this is the pair with the highest price-tag, too...and only 50 miles logged. Damn. I discovered this just as I was about to gear-up for my run. Normally I am averse to washing running shoes (it can shorten their life-span and I wear the dirt as a badge of honor), but cat pee on shoes requires washing. So in the delicates bag they went, along with my new pair of Superfeet insoles. Dumb cat. Perhaps they didn't like the new shoe smell...or that they are Mizunos when the rest of my road shoes are Nikes (I'm not loving these shoes as much as my Nikes, either...they are a hair too stiff for long runs and my peroneal tendons let me know it). I'm just thankful that my Sidi cycling shoes were left unsullied--those babies are the price of 3 pairs of running shoes!

So I ended up pulling into rotation a new pair of Nikes--4th pair of Run Avant+. I grabbed them on clearance when they were first discontinued and have been sitting on them. I think I will wear them for the race on Saturday, so today was a good day to break 'em in a bit and make sure that there were no quality control issues. My other road shoes are both high mileage. One pair is essentially retired and on sloppy run reserve and the other pair is about 80 miles from being done.

3.17.2010

Zzz...

Ugh...I'm wiped-out. I've only logged 10 miles on foot...that's pretty light running mileage by midweek. But I've spent 66.5 miles on my bike saddle. Oof. Luckily my new saddle seems to be a really good fit for me.

Nothing on me really hurts--not even my butt--but I am beat. I've already put in about 6.5 hours of training. I still have about 4 hours of running left and an hour on the bike on the plan for this week. That puts my training time at about an hour more than I logged before my highest mileage week training for my last marathon, I believe. No wonder I am so exhausted. I gradually worked-up to that marathon mileage. Last week my workouts took 8 hours, the previous week just under 7. Good thing this next week is an easy week leading up to a tough 15k in about 10 days. If I kept up at this level for too long (at least without an intelligently gradual build-up) I'm sure I would break. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger, though. I'm hoping this tough week and consistent training all Winter long spells a big PR on race day...and more to follow.

Today was a day of bravery, at least on the cycling front. It was my first solo ride with DH nowhere near and in no position to rescue me should my bike blow up, or something. I rode for a nice hour...it was a little scary, though.

The impending weather forecast also makes me feel obligated to get in miles when I can. We're supposed to go back to the sort of weather that early March's "in like a lion" usually requires...snow, wind, rain, nasty. Not biking weather...barely running weather. So the 2 hour ride I had planned for Sunday will most likely be cut down to maybe an hour run. I won't really have another chance at a long bike ride until after the race, so easily 2 weeks after my 2.5 hour ride a few days ago.

3.14.2010

Oby and I Are Survivors!

Of our very first solo ride:
Powered by RunningAHEAD.com
Phew...I am tired! We covered 33.6 miles averaging 14mph pace. Some of those hills were brutal and twice I dropped my chain (time for Oby's first tune-up, including some cable tightening to prevent future chain-dropping issues).

I wasn't fast, but I had at least one downhill where I hit somewhere in the neighborhood of 30mph...as well as some uphills at 7mph--but that is still faster than I can run uphill, so there's that. I had several steady-state miles in the 16-18mph range, so maybe I can complete that 30k (18.6 miles) in roughly an hour if I have a good day and the first 5k run doesn't burn me out too badly. I may not have much less for that last 5k run, but I will definitely feel happy if I can complete the ride portion without a dropped chain or flat tire. A tire issue would potentially spell DNF.

Right now that is my biggest worry on these solo rides, too. The people in online tutorials make changing a tube look straightforward and fast. But they forget to mention that those friggin' tires are HARD to get off and on. At least I found this to be the case when the hubby was walking me through a practice tire change today. It's definitely the sort of thing that would be easier with an extra set of hands to support the bike for getting the wheel off the bike and then back on, again, too.


Last night we had a really fun time with the rest of DH's JDRF ride team at the ride season kick-off party (ie too much food, so the extra miles I ended up riding today were really necessary). This year he is the assistant/co-coach. So having my no-nothing butt around is good coaching practice for him, as he will likely be showing others how to do things like change flats and basic bike tweaking and maintenance.

3.11.2010

And a good time was had by all

Cue cheesy grin! There's me with my Oby. Man, I love that bike. 2 days ago DH and I went on my 2nd really "long" ride. Granted, long to me is 2 hours, at this stage, but my ride the other day was faster and hillier than my prior "long" outdoor ride, so I'm feeling pretty stoked. We had a great time and the weather was gorgeous! Can't wait to do it again. I'm so glad DH has every-other Friday off. That way we can ride together while DS is in school. It's tricky to fit in rides with a child who isn't yet old enough to be home alone. Maybe in a year we can do outings with Dane on his own. In the meantime I need to start braving the road on my own. I will feel much more confident once I have mastered changing a flat tube. But I definitely need to do that before duathlon day, which is fast approaching.

As of today I am nearing the end of my 5th of 11 weeks of training. Only 6 more weeks to master a fast tire change and fixing a dropped chain and that sort of thing. The whole biking around other racers thing still freaks me out, too. I'm a klutz, but I don't care of my noobishness and clumsiness takes me out...if I took others out in the process I would feel absolutely dreadful.

Today also finished-off 2 more fabulous days. The guys and I spent the night at a Holiday Inn with a pool in Grand Rapids (and supper at the famous Beltline Bar...mmmMexican!), since DS is home for parent-teacher conferences. After our in-hotel breakfast of biscuits and gravy, scrambled and hard-boiled eggs, cinnamon rolls, cereal, coffee, OJ, and muffins (remember when hotels only offered stale doughnuts and burned coffee?) we drove to our favorite West Michigan destination, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park for the 15th annual "Butterflies Are Blooming" exhibit. I love this...every year this is a preview of Spring and Summer. The main atrium features at least a dozen different species...hundreds of bright, fluttery, gentle bugs. We're so lucky we had this school day to go, since the place is an absolute mob-scene during the weekends and Spring break week.

But I think the best part...we found out that ANOTHER Dale Chihuly exhibit is coming late next month--and a BIG one. I think 12 individual installations, some outdoors. I am over-the-moon happy. Chihuly is my very most favorite artist in the whole wide world. The first time I saw his work was at FMG when Dane was just a little tike in a stroller. He oohed and ahh'd...as did his mom. That was just a small, indoor installation.

So...we had to buy the family membership. We had one years ago, then gas prices went up and we couldn't justify the cost to drive to GR to go to FMG more than once/year. This year they have so many awesome events scheduled that there was no way we could not join. I'm interested to see which outdoor amphitheater concert acts are scheduled. Members get first-dibs on ticket purchases. I had wanted to see The Swell Season in Kalamazoo. Tickets went on presale yesterday and are already gone--oh, snap! I would love if they ended up being booked at FMG. They would be perfect for that venue.

3.06.2010

3 Cheers for a Happy Butt!

I found out the hard way that the wrong saddle can really put a damper on one's cycling enjoyment. The saddle that came with my bike (Cannondale Raven saddle) was a better overall shape and size for my needs, but had sort of domed, squishy padding that had me poorly supported and put pressure on places where no woman wants it.

After reading some reviews I thought the Selle Italia Lady Gel Flow sounded like a good candidate--after all, it's essentially identical to the Terry Butterfly saddle--the best-selling women's saddle on the market. But, as I have found with a lot of running shoes, just because it's popular, doesn't mean it's best for me (Asics is the top-selling brand of running shoe, but I have never found a single Asics model that worked for me, either).

The Selle Italia saddle is 160mm wide and "pear-shaped." My sit-bones appear to be in the 120-130mm range (based-upon several unscientific measurements using a flexible measuring tape). Most recommendations for proper saddle fit suggest that one should have no more than 10mm of saddle beyond the outer edge of each sit-bone. So my 160mm saddle was likely at least 10mm too wide. Perhaps this wouldn't have been so problematic by itself, but with the more gradual flaring from nose to butt area meant that the saddle was cutting into the backs of my upper thigh area with each pedal-stroke.

In addition to that issue I had to keep scooting my butt back to keep my sensitive frontal area from being squished and pinched against the front of the cut-out. Instead of the cut-out offering relief from saddle pressure it was probably causing more issues...numbness, pain, raw tissues--even after just a single hour in the saddle. Hubby was convinced that once I got on the road that this would be remedied, but after asking some fellow female riders about my issues it was pretty unanimous that discomfort and injury should not be synonymous with rides using the indoor trainer.

After some further research I decided to give the Specialized Body Geometry Jett saddle a try (in part because Specialized offers a 30 day satisfaction guarantee, so I knew I could return it if I didn't love it). It comes in 3 sizes (130, 143, 155). Most women fit the 143 and my own rudimentary sit-bone measurements suggested that was a good fit for me, as well.

I have completed 2 1 hour rides with this saddle and cannot believe the difference in comfort. No pain, numbness or raw skin up front--even without Chamois Butter. My sit bones are happy, and I don't need to squirm around on the saddle much at all, since my sit bones are actually being supported by the widest part of the saddle without my having to keep scootching back. Nor do I feel the need to get my butt off the saddle so frequently--the areas that need to align over the cut-out are aligning properly. And no upper thigh/butt chafing, either. The narrower nose is also comfier for this girl with chunky thighs.

The only discomfort after yesterday's 1 hour ride came in the form of a 3 mile progression run. Man, do these brick workouts make my legs feel like Jell-O for about the first mile!

3.05.2010

She's a Brick (duh duh daa duh) HOWSE!

Today the exercise agenda calls for a brick workout--first an hour on the bike, then 5 miles outdoors (2 mile warm-up followed by 3 miles at increasing pace). As I sit here it's still pretty cold outside, but it is gorgeous...I don't ever recall seeing this much sun at this time of the year. I hope we won't be paying for this relatively mild Winter with a miserable Spring and Summer.

I really can't wait to get outdoors on my bike and I have enough warm running and cycling clothes that I could get out right now, but the kicker is that I'm not yet ready to be venturing out by myself. I really need to change a few tires under supervision and make sure I have that skill mastered long before I consider going solo. Finding opportunities for both the hubby and I to go out together is tricky with a 9 year old, too. He's not yet old/mature enough to be left alone. Maybe in a year or so we can consider that option.

I look forward to the day that he can ride WITH us, too. He's just about big enough to fit a junior-sized road bike, but it will be a while before he has the speed and endurance to keep up with adults...though I'm guessing that day will come within just a couple of years. He definitely has energy to spare (yay, ADHD--it's good for something!). He really enjoys riding his clunky old (when I say "old" I'm not kidding...it was his dad's bike when he was the same age) BMX bike. He's going to be a little monster on a lighter-weight bike with better components and larger wheels.

3.01.2010

Rabbit Rabbit!

It's the first of March! In like a lion, out like a lamb...and so far it's looking like it's going to be in like a lamb. Hopefully the entire month is lamb-like. March is one of my favorite months...not because it's all that fabulous on its own, but because it marks the end of Winter and entry into Spring. Compared to May March's weather is still pretty crappy, but relative to the 3 months that precede it it friggin' rocks my socks!

Today it is brilliant and sunny...and it's a rest day for me. Too bad. The last 2 days were pretty gross, but they wore me out and I need to take it easy today. On Saturday I ran 11 miles with a couple of local running friends and yesterday I did 22 miles on the nowhere bike. I had planned to go a full 2 hours, but after 1:40 my butt and girly bits cried uncle. And Zombieland (our choice of indoor ride entertainment) ended, anyhow.

When I say butt I don't mean the obvious culprit--the sit bones. I mean raw chafing along the front crease where my butt meats my thigh, especially on the left side. In the same spot where I chafe if I wear undies while running (which is why this gal goes commando under running tights).

I asked around on a women's cycling support board with a lot of knowledgeable riders and it's been suggested that my saddle (Selle Italia Lady Gel Flow) is too pear-shaped for my my booty shape and biomechanics (as opposed to more T-shaped, which has a less gradual transition from nose to butt-area). I'm also suspicious that it's too big/wide. My sit-bone width appears to be ~120-130mm apart, but my current saddle is 160mm wide, I should probably be on something closer to 140-150mm.

The saddle that came on my bike was likely a better shape/size, but it was very squishy and domed and without a cut-out to help relieve pressure for the girl parts, so that wasn't ideal, either. I find with the current saddle that I have to keep pushing my butt back, but keep sliding forward and the cut-out ends up being too-far back to do me much good. Stuff that shouldn't get pinched and smooshed gets pinched and smooshed. Adjusting saddle angle and placement relative to the handlebars doesn't seem to make much difference.

In some ways finding the perfect saddle is very much like finding the perfect running shoe--except saddle designs/models don't change every 9-12 months and a saddle should last me a couple of years, UNLIKE a pair of running shoes.