Archive for November, 2012

New thoughts on insanity

As everyone knows I’m smack in the middle (or perhaps getting toward the end) of training for the Goofy. The Goofy, of course, is a bit Goofy – 13.1 miles on Saturday morning followed by 26.2 miles on Sunday morning. And, yes, I mean on the same weekend. As I approach the 6 week mark, I have 2 of my longest mileage weekends on the calendar. This weekend I’m supposed to walk 10 miles on day and then run 24 miles the next. For a weekend total of 34 miles. That’s more than some of my monthly total mileage!
I’m pretty sure that barring illness or serious injury I’ll be able to finish the Goofy at this point in time. I’ve already done a 21 mile run – more than most training plans require prior to race day. The question at this point is what my marathon time will be and how good I’ll feel on Sunday, January 13th in the afternoon. So in just over 6 weeks I should be able to say that I’ve successfully completed 2 full marathons.
Which then begs the question – What’s next?
And a funny thing happened about that. My local running store – the one that organizes Monday night running for women (which I haven’t attended because of my ecoaching) – posted a video clip on their Facebook page. The video for an advertisement for a new race taking place about 90 minutes away from where I live. The race is called Rock the Ridge and takes place in beautiful Mohonk Preserves. And for a brief moment I actually considered it. So why not? This race is 50 miles long. No, that wasn’t a typo. 5-0 miles. Like almost twice a marathon. And while I’ll admit to insanity, I don’t think I’m actually that insane.
So why would I even think about such a race, even for a moment? I *am* running the Goofy after all. That should give some hint into my mental fitness. And I seem to be someone who needs to do the hardest thing – surgical subspecialty, 3 kids instead of 2, the Goofy, etc. You get the picture. Chronic overachiever type.
Why not run a 50 mile race? I guess I don’t really need to answer that question as even most marathoners wouldn’t do it. But I did ask that question and came up with some interesting answers for myself.
1. I’m slow. I know by Disney race standards I’m mid-pack but I’m really not where I want to be with my running. I think that by focusing on longer and longer races (full marathon and then Goofy), I’m delaying my ability to run faster. Doing long training runs without injury requires a slow pace. While I have been doing some speed work during the week, my recovery from long runs often impairs my ability to do speed work. I have taken several minutes off my half marathon time by being more consistent and adding some speed work. I think focusing more attention on shorter races (I mean 10ks and half marathons), I focus on speed instead of distance.
2. I’m over scheduled. Shocking, no? 3 kids, a husband, and life as a surgeon. How do I not have tons of free time to devote to 5 hour training runs? An aggressive half marathon plan has you run a longest run of 14 miles (maybe a few more in a Galloway “time improvement” plan). That’s about a 3 hour proposition at training pace. As opposed to this weekend’s insanity of close to 8 or 9 hours (in 2 separate runs). Even adding an additional training day or 2 to my schedule still makes half marathon training “manageable.”
3. Really? Why would I even contemplate an ultra marathon at this stage in my life? And I’m likely preaching to the choir on this one.

So my plan, for now, is to focus on the half marathon distance and work on speed. In my fantasy world I’ll some day run a 2 hour half. I’ll let you know when that happens!


The day after Thanksgiving seems a good time to write about post about all of the running things that make me thankful. Not surprisingly – especially to my fellow runners – I have a lot for which I am thankful.
1. The act of running. One popular running t-shirt says, “My sport is your sport’s punishment.” And it’s true. As a gymnast, a soccer player, lacrosse player, etc. running laps was a punishment for poor performance, so when, and how, did I get to the point where running is what I do for recreation? Probably the key moment was starting my first race back to 2011 but there are frequent key moments. And running is now a reward.
2. The running community. There is no doubt that there are certain runners who feel that slower runners, especially “Gallo-walkers” like myself, somehow diminish the Marathon. Luckily most runners, fast or slow, are part of an incredibly welcoming a supportive group. I consider myself to be blessed to be included in this community.
3. The solitude. I am a social creature by nature but there is something positively spiritual about getting up at 4am on a cold, dark morning and starting a long run while the rest of the world sleeps.
4. The adrenaline rush. I remember standing in the starting corral before my Tower of Terror 10 miler in late September. It was hot and crowded even at 10pm. The DJ was pumping out tunes to get us psyched. I turned to the person next to me and said, “I always forget how much I love this!”. The excitement and anticipation of starting a distance race is just incredible. There’s so much energy ready to burst out.
5. The test. Each long run and each distance race is a test. It’s a test of mind over body. A test of how well you’ve trained. A test of what exactly you’re made of that day. And most of the time I have found that I more than pass the test.
6. The bling. I love my race medals. I’ve been known to wear them for days after finishing a race. But it’s what the medal symbolizes that really matters. Knowing you’ve giving what you have to give and conquered that course.
7. The gear. I love running clothes. And running shoes. And especially running costumes (thank you Sparkle Skirts – I’m now coveting the Wonder Woman one…). I love buying running gear and wearing it. And obsessing over race day temperatures so I can obsess over outfits. You get the picture…
8. The technology. I have 2 pieces of running technology that get me through almost every run. One cost about $20 and the other over $300. My Galloway run-walk-run interval timer was a bargain at $20. It’s lasted 2+ years and hundreds of miles. I can set whatever run-walk interval and easily change it mid-run. The other item is my Garmin 610. It’s a GPS watch that measures distance and pace and is completely awesome!
9. The coaching. Or, in my case, ecoaching. I love having a coach to talk to every week. Ecoaching has been an amazing investment with great results. I love it and will do it again!
10. The example. I’m very thankful for the example that running sets for my family. I hope that I inspire them to stay active and find their own way.

More Thoughts on Racing Weight

With the Goofy Challenge less than 2 months away and several indulgent holidays rapidly approaching, I’ve re-started counting calories via myfitnesspal. My goal between now and race day is to maintain my current weight – or possibly lose a few of the 10lbs gained during last year’s marathon training – and maybe improve my body composition in what ever way is possible in less than 60 days. Obviously I care mostly about being successful on race day but most training plans seem to contain a dietary guideline, whether or not you want to lose weight in the process of training. My experience of gaining while training is apparently not uncommon amongst women, especially in my age group, and calorie counting helps prevent that.
As someone who tortures the general public for hours with talk of marathon training and calorie counting, I was a bit taken aback today. I had mentioned my body fat scale and trying to improve speed through calorie counting when I was asked to stop projecting my poor body image on someone else’s daughters. I don’t actually perceive myself as having poor body image so I was a little flabbergasted. Do I think losing back the 10lbs I gained last year would help my clothes fit better and help me run faster? Absolutely. Do I think I look terrible and obsess over calories to improve my appearance? No. No. And no.
Which leads me to 2 interesting questions: Why do I care about Racing Weight? And does running marathons and worrying about peak training body composition project a bad body image on my daughter?
I’ve written some about my reasons for working on nutrition previously. In summary poor food choices during marathon training led to unnecessary weight gain which is hurting performance. At my body composition, a 10% loss in weight/body fat (not the same thing I know), will likely translate to a performance improvement of 10%. My half marathon PR of 148 minutes becomes a PR of 134 minutes. And since my BMI is at the uppermost limit of healthy, there is a long-term health benefit, too.
So what impact does my training have on my children, particularly my 6 year old daughter? Jessica has already told me she has a chubby tummy. But wasn’t upset by it at all. And I have certainly never said anything like that to her (she heard it at school). I don’t think I run for weight-related reasons so I doubt my children think I do. I go on training runs to prepare for a specific endurance event. I’m not following a diet and exercise regimen to achieve an idealized body image but to try to improve my race performance. My number obsession is over speed intervals and PRs, not so much numbers on a scale or a dress size. We talk about eating healthy to be healthy not to achieve a weight-loss goal. I actually think my running sets a positive example of achievement for my children. The fat body scale is merely another tool to get me across the finish line as quickly as possible based on evidence-based studies showing that body composition matters.
I guess the lesson I’ve learned from this discussion is that I don’t have poor body image and I’m not teaching bad body image to my children. And, perhaps more importantly, I need to choose my audience for discussing my running obsession more carefully…

Body Fat

A few months ago I purchased a book called Racing Weight which explains the benefits of being at ideal body weight (and composition). Aside from being generally healthy, being “lean” translates into faster racing (the book is not just for runners – the same principles apply to swimmers, cyclists, skiers, etc.). Extra weight not only slows you down but may predispose you to injury, especially when we talk about running.
I bought this book in part because I gained 10lbs while training for my first marathon. And, sadly, those 10lbs have stuck. I obviously feel that I’m under-performing a bit when it comes to pace so maybe losing those 10 lbs would help? (Or maybe losing a bit more than 10 lbs since I’m not sure I started at ideal wight.)
When I started reading the book, it basing a lot of its guidelines on body fat composition. And strongly recommends a body fat scale to monitor body composition. I put this item on my wish list and promptly set the book aside. In the meantime I started tracking calories on myfitnesspal to try to lose weight. This didn’t work as well as I’d hoped. And with the arrival of Hurricane Sandy and no power for 10 days, I stopped tracking, I’m less than 1 lb above the 10 lbs I had already gained so the storm didn’t cause the massive weight gain I feared.
In the middle of our powerless stretch, my 41st birthday present from my well-meaning husband arrived – a body fat scale!!! With no electricity and indoor temperatures around the 40F mark, my new toy would have to wait. Today was the initiation of the scale.
I’ve always weighed more than my clothing size and appearance would suggest so I suspected my body fat percentage would be higher than I wanted. And oh boy was I right! As far as endurance athletes my age and gender go, I’m near the bottom. As I researched my number compared to the general population, the data was less bad. But still not good.
What does this all mean… I need to lose a few pounds. Before the eating disorder police come out in force, I don’t think I’m obese or super fat or anything like that. I’m slightly above a healthy weight for a non-endurance athlete and quite above a peak performance weight for an endurance athlete. I need to make a bigger commitment to fix this. Partly so my clothes start fitting better again. Partly so I’m at a good healthy weight for life in general. And finally to help improve my running performance.
How will I do this? I’m honestly not sure. I started using myfitnesspal again today. I’m committing myself to drinking more water as that seems to improve my weight. And I’ll try to add some cross-training on my non-running days – once I can start walking again from my weekend mileage!
If anyone’s been highly successful at weight loss while training for an event, please share your story!

Most of us, especially women, go through periods of feeling like imposters. So-called imposter syndrome is that nagging feeling that everyone is going to wake up some day and realize that you aren’t really competent at all, that somehow you’ve been faking it all along. Nothing brings on my imposter syndrome quite like my new-found title as a Runner.
I know that I’m a relatively inconsistent and slow runner. While I have finished 5 Half Marathons and one Full Marathon, I probably haven’t lived up to my potential in terms of speed. I’m not someone who spent my whole life as a couch potato and then decided to run. I was a life-long competitive athlete (gymnastics, soccer, lacrosse, tennis, diving, etc.) who took a hiatus during medical training and child-bearing. As a beloved family member said to me recently, “It’s not that your slow. It’s that you should be capable of running faster.”
As many of you know we were recently hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. We lost power at 5:30pm on Monday, October 29th and have yet to re-gain power. So last weekend we made the decision to go away to a family all-inclusive resort about 90 minutes away. As a kindness to my also powerless mother-in-law, we invited her to join us. With many homes around us also in the dark, we were lucky to get the last available room. Which meant all 6 of us in one room (2 Queen-sized beds, a bunk bed, and a cot – it was cozy!). Friday night before going to bed (I had the bottom bunk – don’t ask!), I laid out my running clothes and set my alarm for 6am.
I’m so used to doing this every weekend that I don’t even think of it as something extraordinary. One child has 9am Hebrew School on Saturday and another at 9am on Sunday. While my husband happily does the chauffeuring, I need to be home by 8:30am on a regular weekend so the other 2 kids don’t have to go along. (Tom sometimes attends adult learning at synagogue during Hebrew School or heads to the hospital to see patients.).
On our weekend getaway I knew breakfast started at 8am and my kids are early risers so my goal was to get back from running by then. I got some maps from the front desk which I studied on Friday night and knew I had everything ready for my morning run.
My mother-in-law was shocked that I was running despite being away and the stress of a Hurricane. One of my boys just shrugged his shoulders and told her, “Mommy does this all the time.” And that’s when it struck me…
One of the things that makes me a “real” runners is that my children – even the 4 year old – see me as a runner. My youngest is an early riser and will often wake up to see me getting dressed to run or coming home from an early run. He often asks if I’m going for a run (or would I please NOT go for a run so I can hang out with him). Part of our family culture is having me as a runner. So maybe I’m not an imposter after all?