June 24: Pre-training for Rock ‘N Roll Half-Marathon

I’ve not been trying as many new things lately. I guess work took over my life these last few weeks. But I have been staying on my fitness grind. I am a Pilates convert; it’s a great complement to a running routine. I missed my weight training classes this week due to my workload, so I will have to make time to hit the weights in the gym this weekend. I will be doing more outdoor pursuits next week while I am at a conference in Davidson, NC. Kayaking and 3-hole golf are on my to-do-list, particularly because I’ve never tried them before!

Anywhoo, my running routine is going quite well. I changed the time breakdown on Thursday intervals from 5w(alk)-3r(un) to 3w-5r. I didn’t think it would make that much of a difference since I run three other days of the week; I had to call it quits after 5 intervals instead of the usual 6 I ran before the switch. I guess the problem isn’t really a problem: I had a hard time recovering because my heart rate would drop quite quickly so that I found myself jogging slowly during the recovery periods.

I’m doing well with my speed work, too. I especially like that I can be finished with my workout in 20 minutes if I run 4 X 400 m with a recovery jog in between each sprint. I recently read that tempo work (i.e., running at a “comfortably hard” pace) is better for distance races whereas speed work is better for short distances. Since I am running a 5K in September, I thought it prudent to work on speed until then. I have been adding a tempo pace to my long runs, though; I try to push myself to run a 10 min/mi for at least two miles. For the half-marathon, I should build up to 4-6 miles if my memory serves me correctly.

Speaking of long runs, I increased my time to 96 minutes this morning. I completed 9.2 miles in that time, which is pleasantly surprising. I started my run just wanting to maintain an 11 min/mi since 96 minutes is a long time. After two miles, my runner’s high started to kick in. I was running no slower than a 10:30 min/mi the last 6 miles of my run. I had a steady, smooth pace until the final mile. My hamstring felt like it was about to start cramping which caused the hip to give me some discomfort. Or maybe it was the other way; I never took physiology, so I haven’t a clue.

It’s nothing like finishing a long run with some good quality stretching. Since I began pre-training for the race, my hamstrings have become incredibly flexible. It used to take some work to do a forward fold and place my palms on the ground. But now I can do it with no problem. I also do pretty well with a seated forward bend. My flexibility in general is improving with more running and my weekly Pilates class, which is great because I need all the help I can get with my compartment syndrome — that didn’t act up today!

I will be on the lookout to try lots of new things next week so that I can have plenty to write about. It’s only so much running people can take *smile*

June 14: Heart rate training revisted

I am a convert! Heart rate training is where it’s at to improve stamina and endurance for long distance running. I averaged a 12:07 min/mi at 80% MHR during my 40 minute weekly run this morning. On May 18, I ran a 13:52 min/mi and stayed in the 70-80% sports zone for 90% of the time; today, I stayed in the sports zone for 98% of the time *smile*.

Saturday I introduced speed work into my routine. I sprinted 4 X 400 m while slowly jogging a recovery 400 m lap. My fastest lap was the 3rd sprint, which I completed in 1:57. The weekend before, I actually sprinted 400 m in 1:45 but I also felt like I was going to faint afterwards, so I’ll build up to that lol! Sunday, I ran 7.67 miles, averaging a 10:27 min/mi. I had to stop a few times within the first two miles to beat my calves into submission. The compartmental syndrome has really flared up lately; I need to buy a pair of compression socks and pray that minimizes the discomfort. Otherwise, I will most certainly have to walk part of the half-marathon. My feet become so numb that I have to watch my stride to make sure my feet land properly; they have a tendency to roll inward already, so when the numbness kicks in, the pronation becomes even worse.

Since my morning run was sub-12:12, I have accomplished one goal I set two weeks ago. Now I just have to build my long runs up to 96 minutes, which I will in two weeks. I planned my running schedule through August 28, after which I officially begin training for the half-marathon. By August 28, I plan to be running 13 miles on long run days and be down to a 10:00 min/mi for 80% MHR days. How exciting!


June 10: Soy milk and goat milk

In the last two months, I have been making an effort to try many varieties of cow milk alternatives. In the last two months I have enjoy Silk soy milk (original and unsweetened), Naturally Preferred soy milk (vanilla and chocolate), and this morning I tried goat milk for the first time.

I first tried soy milk (Silk vanilla) more than two years ago. I was surprised at the smooth, sweet taste it had. I particularly enjoyed it with cereal. But the cost was quite prohibitive for my graduate school budget considering I can drink a gallon of milk in a week. So, I continued to buy cow milk. When I moved to Ohio and started to earn a little more money, I began to buy soy milk exclusively. Within a few months, my cycle lasted 3 days longer (i.e., fewer periods) and my menstrual cramps were not as severe as when I was drinking cow milk; such an outcome varies by woman, though. I tried to save money and only drink soy milk with cereal, but I finish a carton in a week, which means I constantly try to find the best deals around town and stock up. A great thing about soy milk is that though it does not last as long as cow’s milk once opened, it does have a longer shelf-life. I buy up to six cartons at a time when they are priced $2.50 or less.

So, what all flavors and brands of soy milk have I tried so far. Since I was watching my sodium intake, I switched from vanilla (which also has a lot of sugar) to original. The flavor was less sweet than vanilla, of course, but it was still sweet. Sodium decreased from 120 mg per 8 oz. serving to 100 mg; that’s 17%. Less sugar also meant fewer calories. Well, when I noticed that the unsweetened brand had only 80 mg of sodium per serving, I gave it a try. *sigh*…well, let’s just say that in cereal, it’s great. I cannot drink unsweetened Silk without scrunching my face. I went through two cartons, and  the taste became a little bit more palatable. But I found myself drinking a glass of the milk with something sweet, which defeats the purpose of buying unsweetened milk lol.

A few weeks ago, a brand of soy milk called Naturally Preferred was on sale 2/$4, but a few cartons of the vanilla flavor were marked down to $1.25 since the expiration date was within two weeks. Since I had never had the particular brand before, I bought one chocolate milk for a post-workout beverage and a marked-down vanilla milk. I actually like Naturally Preferred more than Silk. It has maybe 10 fewer calories if my memory serves me correctly, but also less sodium even for the vanilla flavor. The chocolate milk is heavenly!! It’s a rich chocolate taste without being too sweet; a delicate balance to achieve if I must say so. The brand is regularly priced at $2.59 in Kroger, so I just started buying it instead of Silk. I should read the label, though, to make sure that they use non-GMO soybeans like Silk.

I have a carton of Silk coconut milk in the refrigerator that I have been waiting to try. It was next in line but when I went to Kroger last night, a few quarts of goat milk was marked down to $1. I figured I was on a role with the different flavors of soy milk. I am not a huge fan of goat cheese, so I did hesitate to buy the goat milk. But for $1, why not?  This morning, before I poured a cup all over my Frosted Mini-Wheats, I took a little sip from a cup. Goat milk is white, like cow milk. It was a little peculiar seeing white milk after so many months of drinking ecru-colored soy milk and almond milk. The consistency was thinner than soy milk but thicker than skim (cow) milk and way thicker than almond milk. I did expect goat milk to have a pungent smell and taste like goat cheese, but it didn’t really have a smell and it tasted great. I think if I were to transition away from cow milk, goat milk would be the closest alternative that I have tried so far. It is certainly much more expensive than soy milk. The quart was regularly priced at $3.59. Like cow milk, goat milk comes in skim and whole, though I purchased whole milk. Really, the $1 price tag just made me forget about comparison shopping lol.

Anyway, this morning with Frosted Mini-Wheats, I really enjoyed the goat milk. I like to drink my milk after eating cereal, and it was nicely sweetened from the sugar on my cereal. Only then did I taste a tinge of the flavor I’m accustomed to with goat’s cheese. Liquid goat cheese just doesn’t even remotely sound appetizing to me, so I am very grateful that was not my experience. With the cost of the milk, I doubt I will buy goat’s milk again until it goes on sale. I am fortunate that I do not have any food allergies and can actually drink any type of milk that my palate desires. I still like cow’s milk and buy it occasionally for baking or making hot cocoa.

I’m excited to try the coconut milk soon. I enjoy the thick coconut milk that comes in cans, but I just cook with it or add it to smoothies; I don’t find that I like the taste of canned coconut milk just to drink. So, I am hoping that the Silk brand will be somewhat watered down but not watery like almond milk. I do believe I have had rice milk, and I don’t recall enjoying it. But for the sake of completeness, I will try it. I also saw on the CBS Early Show a few weekends ago that you can buy hemp milk? If I can find that at a price I’m willing to pay, then I’ll put that to the taste as well. But for right now, I’m sticking to soy milk.

Update (6/17/11): I tried Silk coconut milk. It’s less flavorful than cow skim milk. It is quite watery, though I do enjoy the bright white color! Apparently, I didn’t realize until I tried all these different non-soy cow milk alternatives how much I miss white milk lol. I won’t be buying Silk coconut milk again after I drink this carton. It doesn’t taste bad, but I would rather spend my money on something I actually want to drink. And I also bought some skim goat milk. It was marked down to $1.25, so I picked up 2 1-quart cartons. I definitely prefer the whole goat milk, but I suppose I will acquire the taste if I drink enough skim goat milk just like I had to adjust from 2% cow milk to skim milk. I probably shouldn’t become accustomed to goat milk since it does not seem to be all that popular at my local Kroger. The whole milk was out of stock, and the four cartons of skim goat milk were all marked down. We shall see.

June 5: Pre-training for Rock ‘N Roll half-marathon in Vegas revisted

Well, I successfully completed my first three weeks of pre-training for the 13.1 in a few months. I have seen improvements in my endurance and stamina thanks in part to heart rate training. The concrete and asphalt were doing a number on my feet and joints, so I mostly run on an indoor  track or an outdoor high school track these days. It’s not as fun running in circles as it is taking on the varied terrain of my old running routes, but I have zero interest in injuring myself.

For June, I am still only running four days a week. To switch things up, I am running 40 minutes at 80% MHR on Tuesdays and running six-8 minute intervals on Thursdays. Saturdays I am introducing speed work into my routine. Sundays I am running for time while keeping effort below 85% MHR. So instead of 2 days of heart rate training, I am doing 3 days this month. When I run at 80-85% effort, I feel like I can just keep running. I want to be able to run as much of the 13.1 miles as I possibly can, and slowly building up aerobic endurance is the key. Currently, I am running slower than my 10K pace, but even at an 11 minute mile, I can complete a half marathon in 2.5 hours. I’m confident that come December, I’ll be running at least a 10 minute mile at 80-85% effort.

Since I am increasing the time of my runs on Sundays, I have been particularly attentive to hydration. I stop for a few seconds every 2 miles to rehydrate. I notice an immediate improvement in my heart rate; at a constant pace, my heart rate stays lower just the first mile after a water break compared to the last 0.5 mile prior to the next water break. Fortunately the fact that it is hot and humid here in SW Ohio encourages me to drink much more water than I had been during the cooler months.

By the end of these next four weeks, my two running goals are to finish a Tuesday run sub-12:12 (which would be a full minute off my June 1 time) and to finish a Sunday run sub-11:00 for 90 minutes (which would be 20s per mile faster for 27 minutes longer than my June 5 time). I like to switch things up, so the key for me is to just be consistent as much as possible particularly with three conferences in four weeks. So, we’ll see how I’m running in four weeks!