Running

More sunrises

I’ve always been partial to a beautiful sunrise. When traveling anywhere near a coast or a good vista, I’ll almost always get up at an absurd hour to drive or run to see it. Like…this one.

Gulfstream Park, Florida, 2011

Boy, there’s something to be said for the “real” camera. I need to pull that out more often. But anyone who knows me Facebook or Twitter knows that I *love* to run at sunrise whenever possible and share Instagram photos. Like…this one.

South side Milwaukee, somewhere near the infamous “Vomit Hill”

And this one.

South Shore Park, Milwaukee. Where all good sunrise runs start.

So, I was thinking recently about how to meet my fundraising goal for Racers Against Childhood Cancer this year, beyond the usual “incessant begging” strategy that has worked in the past, thanks to your generosity.

What could I do? Shave my head? Still not quite ready for that…

What event could I have? Working on some possibilities, but with all the training, don’t have much time for planning…

What could I give?

Inspired by Drawing Support on my friend Mickey Gomez’ blog, I found the “sunrise” connection.

This year, if you support RACC through my page, I will send you a special sunrise card. And if you donate $100 or more, I will send you a special framed version of the sunrise of your choice.

Together, we can help fund research so the 46 kids who will be told they have cancer today see more beautiful sunrises.

(Yes, sort of like the American Cancer Society “more birthdays” campaign. But way cooler ;) )

THANK YOU, from the bottom of my heart, to those of you who have already shown your support this year. I promise to work my ass off to make you proud.

So much love.

Spaight

Seven lessons from training for a marathon and getting injured

Imma just put this right here for later.

NOT FUNNY, UNIVERSE. NOT FUNNY.

Evidently the universe, which is usually quite good to me, thought it would be comical to have me run through all sorts of winter darkness and ice and grossness, and then, on the VERY FIRST gorgeous warm sunny day of Spring, tell me that I have a stress fracture in my calcaneous (heel bone). Pending MRI confirmation on Monday/Tuesday, but we’re 99% sure. Frustrating…check. Sad…oh yeah, big time. Not at all amusing…at least not yet.

I feel asinine even posting this, less than two weeks after Boston. Believe me, I am *fully* cognizant of the fact that there are people much, much more gravely injured than I. I particularly think about the dancer who lost her foot in the bombings, who has vowed to run next year’s marathon. Unbelievable resilience.

I just feel that the best way to process/deal with this at this point is to think about what I’ve learned in the *process* of training and getting injured, partially to comfort myself, in lieu of ice cream, and partially in hopes that it might help someone else at some point. There’s a lot I would do differently, knowing what I know now.

1. SCREW “SKINNY.” GET STRONG.

The fitness and beauty industries overall conspire in many ways to focus on our aspirations to be skinny, and much less so on our desire to KICK ASS AND TAKE NAMES. We owe it to ourselves to know better than that.

Through the first 10 weeks of my training this year, I was very focused on limiting my daily calories to drop some lbs. before the marathon. Yes, valid goal. Yes, I dropped 13 lbs and am at a healthier, happier weight. Yes, I feel less gross (except for this whole sitting-on-my-ass-all-Spring-now thing). BUT. Little did I know that somewhere along the way, while obsessing over tracking every calorie, I was developing a slight Vitamin D deficiency, even though I was taking a 1,000 IU Vitamin D supplement every day along with a multivitamin.

2. FOOD IS NOT THE ENEMY. HALLEFREAKINGLUJAH.

With the help of this experience and nutritionist-to-the-stars and rockstar runner and triathlete Amy Friese, from Fearless Nutrition, I’ve learned that food is FUEL, not something to be feared.

Wait. What?! I’ve spent my whole life trying to learn to eat LESS. The experience of NEEDING to eat MORE to fuel training and a LOT of it…*mind completely blown*.

3. DRINK YOUR MILK.

The thing about Vitamin D? It needs FAT to get absorbed. So if you’re using skim milk to stay skinny and think you are getting enough Vitamin D in your body, to ensure you can absorb calcium and keep your bones strong, you *might* be wrong. I’ll never know if my outcome would have been any different if I was enjoying a couple of glasses of 1%-2% (chocolate!) milk every day, but it’s entirely possible. In hindsight, I wish I had gotten my vitamin levels checked BEFORE I started training; I’d also suggest that to anyone training for something like a marathon…especially when you are rapidly heading over the hill like me. ;) There are of course other ways to get calcium and Vitamin D for those who can’t do dairy…the milk thing works for me, not for everyone. I recommend it if you can.

4. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. THEN LISTEN HARDER.

For newbie runners like me (or for anyone I suppose), it’s hard sometimes to know when you are running through a little “ordinary” pain and when it’s time to STOP and get it checked out. We train ourselves to just keep running, and that can mean not listening well to the signs of an injury. Denial, as they say, is not just a river…

A stress fracture is weird in that the pain comes and goes, so it can trick you into thinking that you’re OK. My foot started hurting about 6 weeks ago. At first, I could get about 6 miles into a run before it would hurt. Then 3 or 4. Then 1. Then…crap…it hurts all the time. I’d better go to a doctor. I wish with all my heart that I had gotten checked when it first started hurting, instead of doing two 20-mile runs with a stress fracture. I’d be in a very different place right now that it’s FINALLY SPRING.

The moral of the story: be smarter than me. If something hurts, GO TO THE FREAKING DOCTOR. If it turns out to be nothing, that’s a bonus.

5. RELATED, ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE/THERAPIES SOMETIMES AREN’T ENOUGH.

Even once I admitted to myself that I am injured, I didn’t go to a “traditional” doctor / orthopedist right away as I should have, in hindsight. I went to a (terrific) physical therapist. I went to an orthotics-guy-acupuncturist. I finally went to the orthopedist seeking clearance to race and peace of mind. I really didn’t think he was going to find anything. HA. HAHAHA. BWAHAHAHAHA *cries*.

Seriously, stress fractures are sneaky little bastards. Don’t be fooled.

6. PEOPLE ARE GENERALLY AWESOME.

Everyone knows the community of runners is amaziballs and my experience during marathon training was no exception. There were people like Anne who offered to be there for support and early morning winter complaints. Like Deb, who offered to chat about nutrition and share her experience. Like Tracey from PowerUp Fitness, who whooped my ass (in a good way) in bootcamps and training sessions and was generally *beyond* awesome. And like COUNTLESS others who offered support and encouragement. Thank. You. All of you.

There were also more than 20 people who donated to Racers Against Childhood Cancer in sponsorship of my run. THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH FOR YOUR SUPPORT.

7.”EVERY SETBACK IS A SET FOR AN EVEN BIGGER COMEBACK.” ~THE ROCK

OK. So here’s the deal. I’ve cried a LOT yesterday and today. And while I can’t guarantee I won’t continue feeling a little sad over the next several weeks while I am sidelined (the absence of endorphins is a BITCH, yo) and watching people run by my window, what I can promise is that I am going to do everything I possibly can to stay motivated and strong and do what I can physically do during this period (which I don’t really know yet.) Yoga. Recumbent bike *woooohoooo (sarcasm)* Upper body weights. CORE. And I’m drinking my milk, and not obsessing over every single calorie…just eating healthy and trying like hell to not let food be my source of comfort…which is a real challenge for me at the moment.

So that, hopefully, 6-8 weeks from now, I can start running again, and maybe, just maybe, if people smarter than me say it’s semi-reasonable, build back up in time for a fall marathon.

‘Cause that Kelly Clarkson, you know, she may not *seem* like the sharpest knife in the drawer…but that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” shit? That’s the real deal.

So, while I can’t that Racers Against Childhood Cancer race shirt right now, it’s hanging where I can see it every single day. And know that someday I’m going to cross a marathon finish line in it, and it’s going to be EVEN. BETTER.

If you’ve dealt with a running injury, what advice would you add? And how do I not go crazy?

Marathon training: halfway! and my new team

Photo credit: Mike Baird

There’s a lot to be learned from marathon training, or any other endurance training. I think it makes you more optimistic. And more persistent. More of a believer, because you have to be, to get out day after day and get the miles in.

I’m nine weeks into training, and frankly I’m still feeling a bit…stunned. I ran 37 miles last week (WTF!?!) and while I felt great after my Saturday long run, the next day after yoga class my legs just…stopped. Laying around, eating and feeling my legs throb seemed like a good time to reflect on the first half of training, what I’m learning, what’s driving me, what anyone might take away.

KEEPING YOURSELF HONEST

When I jumped into this in January, I presumed I’d be doing it for a dual purpose: 1) to keep myself honest and disciplined through the winter and 2) to raise funds for a childhood cancer charity. Not necessarily in that order.

As it turns out, it has been great for keeping me honest; crappy winter weather and all, I haven’t missed a single run/workout in the past nine weeks. Many days, I’ve doubled up. I’ve run 187 miles since January 1 and dropped just over 10 pounds – through a combination of the running and nutritional obsessiveness – and yes, I’m damn proud of that. Yet as I’m about to cross the threshold this week between merely crazy-hard and completely batshit (15 miles? At ONCE? Say what?), that just doesn’t seem like enough of a REASON to start running 15, 16, 18, 20 miles at a time. It should, perhaps, but it doesn’t. There has to be more to it.

TELL ME, ARE YOU JUST GETTING BY?

Last year at this time, I couldn’t run a mile without stopping. I sure as hell couldn’t run 5 or 10 or 13 miles. I’ve been “just getting by” for a long, LONG time. There’s a line in the P!nk song “Try” that gets me every time – “When you’re out there doin’ what you’re doin’, tell me, are you just getting by?”

My answer, now? NO. HELL NO. I am NOT just getting by. I am PUSHING. More. Better. Faster. Stronger. Every. Single. Day.

It stupefies me, to be thinking “Sweet, I *only* need to run 10 miles today?” This is SO ridiculously far outside anything I’ve ever pushed myself to do before, that it is absolutely SHATTERING long-held negative perceptions of myself. Not only is it making me more optimistic, it is, in fact, making me BELIEVE THAT I CAN. Maybe – just MAYBE – even that I’m GOOD ENOUGH. *Maybe.*

Life is short, friends. And pushing yourself, in whatever way you wish, feels a hell of a lot better than just getting by. Whether you are an athlete or not, I would say to you: are you just getting by? Think about it. How might you stretch yourself a bit more?

FINDING A HIGHER PURPOSE

I’ll spare you the details of how frustrating it has been the past couple of months, trying to find a childhood cancer cause, or a child, to represent this year. Tenuous relationships, state law, the IRS, politics and PR…all got in the way. Three strikes later, I really thought about giving up, and *just* running for me. But it still felt…hollow. Then, I remembered the perfect answer.

I could not be happier and more proud to share that this year I will be running for Racers Against Childhood Cancer.

Founded in 2007 right here in the Milwaukee area, RACC is a team of runners, riders and triathletes that uses their passion and competitive spirit to raise awareness and money for research and the fight to defeat childhood cancer. The funds raised go to THREE wonderful causes: Cure Search, MACC Fund, and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

46 children are told that they have cancer every day. And children’s cancer kills more kids than all other diseases combined. I hope you will join me in this fight; I will share my fundraising page in the days to come.

Not hollow any more.

These next 250+ training miles, and the 26.2, 60 days from now, are for the kids.

Plateaus, poor choices, screw “skinny” and The Runner’s Diet

Mom runs a marathon, weeks 5-6…

Plateaus suck. Patience is hard.
It happens to everyone. After a few weeks of satisfying, steady progress at weight loss or better nutrition…nothing. (OK, 4/5 of a pound in week 5, in my case, and nothing in week 6. Which is roughly equivalent to…nothing.) Frustrating? Sure. But sometimes your body just has to slow down and adapt, and there’s nothing you can do but stay the course and find your patience.

This time (yes, I’ve lost weight once or twice or twelve times before), while I certainly have my moments of great impatience/frustration, I’m surprisingly OK with losing slowly, because I feel like it’s SUSTAINABLE. Hallelujah! I just plain refuse to starve myself and put myself on less than 1,600 calories a day while training for a marathon.

So, some days I say screw it, I’m super hungry today, and I’m going to eat at a maintenance level instead of below. And that’s OK. Listen to your body (unless it’s telling you to eat ALL of the Girl Scout cookies).

 Slips. Will. Happen. It’s all about how fast and how well you get back on the road. 
Other days, I let myself get too ravenous, especially when I fail to eat enough protein early in the day. And then I make poor choices.

"Let's drink and made bad choices" t-shirt

Such as this week, when I went to Subway. And in spite of having just watched Jillian Michaels on my obsession Biggest Loser NBC pimping the FreshFit menu at Subway, chose very, very poorly. 6″ honey oat with egg and veggies. But I chose the full egg patties instead of the egg white. They put two of those suckers on there and it adds up. I said “yes!” to the cheese…not necessary. A “little bit” of oil which is never a little bit. And of course, a bag of baked Doritos (gross, but YUM) for a rare chip treat. Add it all up, after inhaling it…800 FREAKING CALORIES. Half a day’s worth. Ouch.

After the Subway incident, I was religious for about a day and a half. And then I slipped again, and got right back up.

I’ve learned it’s important to eat ahead of the hunger. When you get to that “over hungry” place, biological mayhem happens and it’s pretty tough to not make poor choices. You can kick yourself, or you can just deal with the fact that you are human and get back up.

Screw “skinny.”
Successes…there have been a few wins these past two weeks. Or at least one significant victory of growing self-confidence. For a while, I was trying to really restrict my carbs at dinner because Bob Harper, another trainer on my obsession Biggest Loser NBC said in his book Skinny Rules that it would make me skinny. Note to Bob: Bob, I love you man, but here’s the thing: I’m NEVER going to be “skinny.” Nor is it what I aspire to be. I’m going to be healthy, and strong, and BADASS, and powerful, with great endurance, and someday, maybe, more speed. And that means that sometimes, I’m going to eat sweet potato oven fries for dinner the night before a run and not let you make me feel crappy about that.

The Runner’s Diet. Unfortunately, not made of pasta and bacon.
I’m doing more reading about nutrition for runners because, with 12 weeks until the race, I still don’t feel like I’m “doing it right”. So I just read Runner’s World‘s “The Runner’s Diet.”

I really can’t recommend the book…it’s way too basic compared to how it was sold, and written mainly towards people who “used to” run, which is not AT ALL how it was sold.

I am going to give the 50% carb/25% protein/25% fat approach that they recommend a shot and see how that goes, and if it improves my energy level. The book asserts, “What runners need to do is flip the food pyramid and make fruits and vegetables the base. This provides fiber-rich carbohydrates, with quick energy but far fewer calories than the starchy items.” It claims that 50-25-25 is the best combination for sustained weight loss, keeping your appetite satisfied, and avoiding post-running fatigue. This eating plan is about the “mutual long-term goals of weight loss and energy for fitness.” AMEN. Sign me up.

The bonus of that is I have something new to obsess about daily (or hourly) - the nifty graph of these macronutrients in my MyFitnessPal app. Fun stuff!

My new favorite MyFitnessPal feature

How about YOU, what helps you through a plateau or to recover from a setback? Nutrition tips you’d like to share?

Hey, if you like this blog, are you SUBSCRIBED? Just enter your email address in the box at the top of the right sidebar and you’ll get the blog in your email box every time a new post publishes. Many thanks. -Spaight

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

Mom runs a marathon – week 4 – Beating the sugar addiction

Looking back at my training journal over the first three weeks quickly shows the extent of my sugar problem. “Too much chocolate today.” “Sweet tooth still out of control.” “Excessive sugar; didn’t meet my calorie goal today.” Then: “Totally overdosed on sugar and feel gross (Twizzlers); threw candy away.”

It’s been six days now that I’ve been “clean.” And now my journal says things like: “Felt SO much better at the end of the day.” “More energy by far.” “Losing weight…down another 1.6 pounds.”

Breaking a sugar addiction cycle is a hard, hard thing to do. So hard that even though we know it’s not good for us and we FEEL better without it, we still keep munching away. If I didn’t have the goal of dragging my ass 26.2 miles in 103 days, I probably wouldn’t be dealing with it. But if you’re brave and taking it on, as many have responded on Twitter that they are, here are a few things that have helped me so far.

1. Get the stuff out of your house and out of your office. This is a no brainer, right? If it’s there, and you’re a junkie, you’re going to eat it. I was sent a sample of these little chocolate covered pomegranate thingies from Brookside as a Klout perk. They were tasty, no doubt about it. I may or may not have thrown them away in my office trash can and then dug them out to finish them, the day before I broke the cycle. THROW THE STUFF AWAY if you’re an addict that can’t moderate your intake very well. If you can eat just a few, more power to you.

2. Protein is your best defense. The first day after I quit, I was ravenous and ready to gnaw my arm off all day. The second day, I had a really high protein breakfast and it made all the difference in the world. Some books I recommend for recipes are the Master Your Metabolism Cookbook by Jillian Michaels (try the Jillian pancakes and one scrambled egg with extra egg whites) and Skinny Rules by Bob Harper (Caprese wrap FTW).

3. Find substitutes. For me, and I suspect for many others, much of the root of the sugar habit is just wanting “a little something” to sweeten up the day. I’d love nothing more than to start every single day with a ginormous chai tea latte or vanilla/hazelnut latte. But over the course of a year, a grande Starbucks chai (I wouldn’t get it there, mostly, but they have the most readily available nutrition information) would add up to 76,650 extra calories or an extra 21.9 POUNDS!! Insanity! So, I’m limiting myself to an occasional tall chai or latte, or getting a nonfat latte without the sugary syrup, much as I love it. If I’m really hard up, I’ll make or get a fruity herbal tea. Rishi cinnamon plum can get me through an afternoon quite nicely. This week, I’m trying Republic of Tea “Get Lost” which claims to help curb sugar cravings…we’ll see. The tea thing really is helping me.

In other week three “news”, I got in my four runs for 15 miles, one weight workout, one kettlebell class and my regular Sunday morning yoga class with Jaimi at Yoga Ward. It was damn icy outside all week so I was on the track at 5:30AM Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, which was EXHAUSTING, frankly. This is a lot lot LOT harder in the winter than it was last summer. Thankfully it was 40 degrees on Saturday so we could get outside…now back in the deep freeze. Wah wah wah. So that’s daunting this week but at least I know I am going into week 4 with my sugar jones under control. Woo-hoo!

How about you? What are your sugar challenges? If you’ve kicked it, what have you found that helped? If you’ve made a new year’s fitness resolution – or better yet, a plan – how’s it going so far?

photo credit: bored-now via photopin cc

Mom runs a marathon: training week 3

Sooooo I’ve decided to blog my journey to finishing a marathon this Spring. I was shooting for fall, but last week I realized that I was ramping up again and totally on schedule for Spring so why wait, ya’ know? All kinds of stuff could happen that could get in the way if I wait (a cancer diagnosis, hit by a bus, etcetera), so might as well just GO.

I’m signed up for the Wisconsin Marathon on May 4. 16 weeks from now. So I just finished training week 2 and am going into training week 3 of 18. I’ve got 39 marathon training miles behind me and…*GULP*…427 to go to the finish line. Not that I’m counting. I’m using the Hal Higdon Marathon Novice 1 program. His half-marathon program helped me so much in running the half last year that this was a no brainer.

Last week was week two and I got 8 total workouts in, which honestly was one too many. I tend to get a bit overzealous and need to keep that in check to make sure I don’t hurt myself here. I did my four runs, two “regular” weightlifting sessions, a kettlebell class (which is what did me in) and my regular weekly yoga class a.k.a. stretch-fest-of-pain-and-relief.

The kettlebells: I’ve wanted to try them FOREVER and came across this great article by Jenna Kashou on Milwaukee’s only RKC (Russian Kettlebell Certified) studio, Superb Health. Their fundamentals classes are only available on Saturdays, so I did it after my assigned 7-mile run. It didn’t hurt at the time, though I swear I got a better every-muscle workout in the last five minutes of class than I usually do in 45 minutes of weightlifting. The next day though…OUCH. Super tight and sore. I plan to keep going once a week, because I think the core and hip strength it can grow will be invaluable for marathon training. Core has never been a strength and it needs to be.

Biggest challenge: NUTRITION. Specifically, cutting SUGAR, which I eat WAY too much of. This is my primary focus for improvement starting this week. This Runners World article on the top foods for runners is really helpful…I eat a lot of healthy foods, just trying to eat more of these and less sugar and late-in-the-day carbs. The goal being to fuel my body optimally AND drop another 13 more pounds before the marathon. I figure if I am going to drag my ass 26.2 miles I am going to do so weighing as little as possible!

I do hope/plan to be doing this marathon for a cause. It’s so much more meaningful to me that way, personally, versus just logging a bunch of miles for the sake of logging a bunch of miles, not that there’s anything wrong with that. I have one of my favorite causes in mind and am waiting to hear if they can hook me up with a fundraising page.

The cool thing I realized is, last Spring, my son G did a one-mile fun run for school. I walked it, but it NEVER EVER NEVER would have occurred to me to run it with him. And now, about a year later, barring any injuries, I’ll be crossing the finish line of a marathon. Life is good. I tell G all the time that I am the luckiest Mom and my gratitude just keeps growing and growing. I’m also super lucky to have friends and supporters like you who care enough to read what’s going on and offer support and advice. THANK YOU.

Love, Spaight

photo credit: kaneda99 via photopin cc

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