Ask Amanda: The Half Of It

Hey, did you guys know I ran a half marathon this past weekend?  

I’m almost kidding, since I feel like I posted it all over every social media platform I had – but who can blame me*?  The race went great, the location (Angkor Wat Archaeological Park; definitely worth your visit) was incredible, and the training I put into the effort was top-notch.

finishers

All the amazing kweens of the 2016 Angkor Wat International Half Marathon (me, far right)

*I almost turned this post into a mini-rant to counterpoint OTHER peoples’ mini-rants about how “annoying” it is to post your workouts on Facebook; a habit which I not only have NO problem with but find encouraging and inspiring – but I digress; that’s not what today is about.

Today is about half marathon training, my friends – or really, any endurance event training, since I’ve been doing a lot of those things of late.  How do I train for a long-distance running or obstacle event?  What are the keys to success in these cray-cray distances?  And how can you avoid some of the common mistakes new racers make?

First of all – and I stress this so much to clients it’s almost a joke – I don’t run that much.  Ok, before that seems absurd, let me clarify – I absolutely do run more than your average person not doing half marathons.  But I do NOT run every day, every other day, or really anything over 15K (9.3 miles, American friends) unless I am training for an actual full marathon.  What I do do is make every single run count – I hit one speedwork, one strength/hill run, and one distance run per week when I’m in endurance training.  The speedwork usually involves a legit rubber track; the strength involves hills (if I can get ’em outdoors), treadmill inclines (if I can’t), or tempo work (like this); and the distance run starts at just 5 miles (8K) and grows to a max 15K (in this hot and humid weather, I find it is more than enough to get a sense of what race pace and fatigue feel like, and also enough to test nutrition and fuel options).

Which brings me to my next point – the centrality of proper nutrition.  Hate to be a downer, but guys, it’s not just the big fun carboload meal you eat before the race that “counts” (and for the record, my favorite pre-race meal is NOT a big plate of pasta, but rather, a big slab of red meat – either a burger and fries or steak and potato), but in fact the nutrition program you use on a day-to-day basis throughout training and during the actual race that matters most.  I do intermittent fasting each and every day of the week, but I also limit my carb intake in the week leading up to the race.  Two days prior, I start to add refined carbs back in force, and then the night before the race, I give myself a healthy dose of simple carbs and animal protein – and believe me, this method makes me feel like I have a jet pack on my back.

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As for race-day nutrition, everyone is different – so it is crucial that you find a strategy that works for you well before the actual day.  For me, I have trouble eating in the morning due to a mixture of nerves, lack of appetite, and fear of pooping my pants, so I like to load up a later dinner the night before and race on coffee, water, electrolyte beverages, and GU gels alone.  Other athletes I know like to wake up with a hearty bagel or muffin, then hit some chews throughout the race; even others I know carry actual food with them on the course (believe it or not, I know one gal who legit races with a cooked sweet potato in her pocket).   Lance Armstrong was renowned for taking in nearly 20 PowerGel packets (!) during the 26.2 miles of the NYC Marathon the first time he ran it.  Summary point: it does not matter what you need to do for race-day eating; it DOES matter that you practice, practice, and practice again eating EXACTLY what you’re going to eat in EXACTLY the conditions you’re going to eat it to make sure it doesn’t cause you any hassle, GI distress, or general discomfort when the big day comes.

Besides nutrition, the biggest advice I can give new endurance runners is to cross-train with weights.  You heard me – don’t be afraid of getting bigger, be focused on getting stronger and more indestructible.  Sure, there’s something to be said for being light and fast on your feet, and I absolutely do recommend finding a healthy race weight and adjusting your nutrition program to help you reach it – but there’s also a great deal of value in being powerful (this was the first half marathon in six years that I was able to PR, and I attribute it to a killer kick that allowed me to drop two fellow female competitors that had led me for the entire race in mile 11), recovering easily, and finishing strong.

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So what do I mean by cross-training with weights?  I mean 2-3 sessions of dedicated, structured resistance training per week.  Perhaps for you that’s a bootcamp-style workout, or a circuit training class, or a TRX session – all great options.  Maybe you’re the type who likes to follow a traditional training split (like back/biceps, chest/legs) in the gym alone.  A third option may be to join a CrossFit or obstacle-racing gym (depending on your goals) and practice functional skills like flipping tires, kettlebell swinging, or rope climbing.  Whatever your preference, make sure you’re lifting with proper form (a session with a personal trainer can be an awesome investment here to master the basics), lifting heavy, and lifting with a focus on core development (i.e. choosing free weights or a barbell; not relying on gym machines to do the stability work for you).

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Finally, and this underlies all of my advice above – make sure you have a plan.  Serious runners get coaches; if you can’t afford one, get yourself a solid running plan online, make your runs and workouts as serious as your work appointments or meetings, and stick to it.  I advise 12-16 week plans for new half marathoners; 16-20 for new marathoners.  For shorter distances, allow yourself at least 8 weeks to fall into a focused run-and-resistance  training routine, and for obstacle racers, make sure you’ve got race-specific (like the aforementioned rope climb) training at least once per week in the 4-5 weeks leading up to race day.  And as always – listen to your body.  Even the best runners on the most finely-tuned programs get injured when they build mileage too quickly, skip their cross-training, “forget” to stretch or do yoga, and stop sleeping enough to recover fully – so make sure you’re keeping your self-care intact as you ramp up your endurance work, too.

How do you train for a long-distance race?  What are some of your time-tested tips?

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MY Workouts Versus YOUR Workouts

I was recently telling a friend about my work/workout (since they seem like they’re one in the same, most of the time) schedule, and it went something like this:

“I try to Crossfit twice a week, run 1-2 times, and yoga 1-2 times.  Oh, and I teach 8 Spin classes and a boot camp.”

That last part always gets people.

My swolemate kangaroo "gets" me

My swolemate kangaroo “gets” me

In any fitness professional’s life, there is a distinct and tangible difference between the workouts you do “for yourself” and the workouts you do while teaching group exercise – as in, “for others.”

Working out for Under Armour at an awesome sponsored event!

Working out for Under Armour at an awesome sponsored event!

When I am working out for others, I am completely engaged in their experience.  I am constantly checking on their form, wondering how they’re feeling, focusing on the details (music, lighting, timing) that make their workouts feel special, motivating, and effective. When I work out for others, I am often sweat-drenched and usually exhausted afterward, because putting your mental and physical all into something is a truly challenging pursuit.

That said, it’s a whole different ball game when I’m working out for myself.

When I work out for myself, I am free.  I turn my music up and my distractions down, and for a blessed hour(ish), I am silent.  Voiceless.  Focused.  I can enjoy the way my muscles burn, the cadence of my own breath, the familiar comfort of my own strength.  Instead of concentrating on details, I let my world get fuzzy, blurred, relaxed into an abstract “zone” where I am at once fully myself.

I recognize my authentic self when I am working out this way; I lose track of time and feel connected to who I am deep down inside – not a shell personality screaming from a Spin bike, not a military-style force lording over the trembling bootcamp masses, but an authentic human presence working and loving and pushing myself without judgment or pressure.  It is indeed my “happy hour,” my favorite place, the few moments of respite I seek from each day’s routine.

They say that part of finding happiness is losing yourself in what you truly love to do; finding “flow” to the point where you are barely even aware of what you are doing except for the way it makes you feel – blissful, productive, accomplished, fulfilled.  That is what my workouts do for me.  I love teaching for others and will always need that purpose in my fitness life; however, I need to remember that part of my balance as a fitness pro is making time to give myself the pleasure of working out for ME.

Rave run at Macritchie Reservoir

Rave run at Macritchie Reservoir

What makes you feel like you’re “flowing”?  Where do you find bliss each day?

TFB’s Ultimate LA Marathon Playlist

ultimateI am always nervous to put up a race-day playlist because to some extent, it is deeply personal.  The music that drives one person is complete rubbish to another; I know people that run to podcasts (!) whereas that would make me crumble and die of boredom.  I know others that never run to music and find listening to tunes while running abhorrent; still others that run to classical or wordless music or trance-like mixes that last 13 minutes.

I, on the other hand, need music that is inspirational (I actually listen to the lyrics), motivational (I actually move to the beats), site-appropriate (I will always try to sneak in songs that speak to the location, season, or other descriptor of the race), and familiar (I rarely go for brand-new, un-listened-to tunes unless they’re by a familiar artist).

But I respect whatever gets – and keeps – you running.

That said, in my last post about the LA Marathon, I mentioned a few of the songs that got me through the hard miles – so I wanted to post my (extensive) playlist from the race to give you an idea of what’s going through my earbuds when I tackle a long-distance run.

I have a superstition of sorts where I make my playlist and then commit to setting it on “shuffle” – meaning I don’t allow myself to get caught up in the specific order nor do I allow myself to skip any songs, so they all have to be winners (again, winners in my book – I know my eclectic taste is not for everyone).

So without further ado – my marathon playlist, in four parts with short commentary:

playlist1Highlights from this segment?  For sure “Work B*tch” by Britney Spears (possibly my most-used workout song if you consider both running and teaching group exercise), but “Far Alone” by G-Eazy always makes me feel like a pimp, and “Booty” by J-Lo & Iggy Azalea makes tackling hills feel like no big.

playlist2

My standouts here are the kickass “L.A. Woman” remix by The Doors & Paul Oakenfold, “Cinderella Man” by Eminem (works great during a tough, broken-down mile for pacing), and “Blessed” by Tom Hangs feat. Avicii – tell me you can’t stay positive with that gospel-inspired song caressing your eardrums.  Moving on:

playlist3Ah, another embarrassment of hip-hop and dance riches brings us to “You Be Killin ‘Em” by Xavier (brush your shoulders off and KICK IT to this one), “I Don’t Get Tired” by Kevin Gates (the name alone hearkens to its endurance-themed powers), and “Not Butter” by Dillion Francis, which is the only song to make me laugh out loud while actually running.  And for the finish line:

playlist4Don’t hate on “Break My Stride” by Matthew Wilder; that song is an oldie but goodie.  And “City of Dreams” by Dirty South & Alesso has come with me through three marathons; it always brings tears to my eyes when I’m running somewhere with which I feel a deep connection.  Finally, gotta hand it to “Turn Down for What” by Lil’ Jon for the ultimate mid-mile boost – I am almost positive I PR’d the mile that song accompanied.

What do you listen to when you’re workout out?  What are your must-have tunes for long races?

Marathon Recap: ThisFitBlonde Runs LA

Hey, did I tell you guys I was running the LA Marathon?  Probably not, since I actually did it on a whim (read: with NO training, not even a long run of anything more than 12 miles) after getting a bib from a friend who was too injured to run – but I did!  And it was absolutely fantastic.

Some background: LA was my fifth marathon, and the 30th running of the marathon overall, so an anniversary of sorts for both me and the city.  I’ve run Surf City (Huntington Beach), the NIKE Women’s (San Francisco), Rock N Roll Las Vegas (at night), Boston (in 2013, so ’nuff said about that unique experience) and now Los Angeles.

I always vowed not to run LA because it was “too familiar”these are the streets I train on day in and day out; the streets I live on; the streets I commute and curse upon.

How could running a marathon in L.A. feel like anything but drudgery?

But friends, I was so wrong.  If you are a 16-year Angeleno (and fierce defender of the city’s greatness) like me, you need to run this race.  You will see LA in a whole new light – not only the promising and hopeful light of dawn but also the striking and illuminating “light” of a city untouched, somehow cleaner and prettier and less crowded than it’s ever been.  I loved every step.

That said, no marathon is without its downfalls – and this race still had some, despite my best efforts to stay calm and focused.  Here’s a quick play-by-play of what was going on in my head, mile-by-mile:

MILE 1“it’s just another perfect day…I loooove L.A….” Randy Newman’s voice booms loud at the starting gun – and we’re off.  I’m feeling good.  It’s sorta crowded but no one’s elbowing me yet.  I keep reminding myself to keep the pace steady and slow.

MILE 2 – where was the mile 1 sign?  Didn’t they say they’d have a sign for each mile?  Oh well, whatevs.  This muscular dude is running a nice pace.  I’ll follow him awkwardly closely until he runs away.

MILE 3 – hey look, a 5K!  Isn’t that sweet?  Muscular dude has been upgraded to official Pace Buddy, despite that we haven’t yet exchanged verbal words.  It’s just a runner “thing,” you know?

MILE 4 – downtown looks nice, at least this part.  Pace Buddy (now known as PB) smiled at me and handed me a water from the aid station; still no words but officially my PB.  Resisting urge to look at the clock as I keep telling myself, slow and steady.

MILE 5 – so THIS is what Echo Park is!  Wow!  There’s a lake here and things.  Supes nice.  Feelin’ gangsta as “Not Butter” comes on my running mix and I audibly laugh.  PB probably thinks I’m insane but is too committed to our pacing to run away.

MILE 6 – PB speaks!  He pulls out one earbud and tells me he’s going to grab water at the next aid station and hit a gel.  Scintillating.  I agree with him and play “gel roulette” with what’s in my pack; end up with a vanilla bean w/caffeine.  Hyped up on that and Beyonce.

MILE 7 – Blisters are starting to form, and this early it’s annoying – but I don’t have time to care.  Gotta stay on the 9-minute flat with PB, and gotta pretend like this isn’t the most boring scenery of the entire course (sorry to those who live here, but it sucks).

MILE 8 – Deep into Hollywood now and prepping to see my friend Melinda at mile 9.  I tell PB, “I have friends at mile 9!”  He throws me an exhausted-looking thumbs up.  I feel like a douche.

MILE 9 – DAMMIT.  DAMN.  IT.  Where is my friend?  I know she’s here!  She made me a sign!  I know she did!  “Maybe she didn’t wake up,” says PB, and I want to punch him for a second.  I KNOW SHE IS UP.  Are we running too fast?

MILE 10 – DOUBLE DIGITS!  I throw up a “deuces” to PB and he laughs.  We are running too fast for him; I can tell he’s struggling, but I refuse to slow down when I feel this good – plus we’re in Hollywood reppin’ the Pantages, Grauman’s Chinese, and all the “cool” things about this part of town – without the annoying tourists up in our grills.

MILE 11 – PB tells me he’s going to drop off at the next mile to meet his wife and son and change shoes; secretly I am a little relieved because I want to maintain.  “0 to 100” comes on the mix and I know I’ve made the right choice because I go 0 to 100 real quick; real f*cking quick.

MILE 12 – As promised, PB peels off with the fam and we exchange a heartfelt (if momentary) goodbye.  For a second I am sad.  Then I realize he is a total stranger and I go on running.

MILE 13 – Did I make it halfway already?  Are those drag queens dressed as high school cheerleaders?  Do I have time to stop and poop?  The answer to all of these is, of course, yes.

MILE 14 – OHMYGAH the greatest downhill of the course is about to hit and I didn’t even see it coming.  I wave my arms like a stupid lunatic and almost take somebody’s eye out (sorry bro).  My baller “LA Woman” remix comes on and I realize that this is the city I was born to run.  Tears well up in my eyes.  Sentimental Manda = getting tired….

MILE 15 – But not too tired!  The promise of seeing my family in a few miles perks me up again and I power through WeHo and Beverly Hills like it’s no big (and hey, this is getting close to my neighborhood – it is no big; I run these streets all the time!).

MILE 16 – 10 MILES TO GO!  In some races that has felt like an eternity, but here it feels doable.  I realize I am on pace for a sub-four marathon after screaming at a volunteer, “WHAT TIME IS IT!??!”  Someone shoves an ice cold coconut water into my and I am almost brought to tears again with how happy I am to drink that delicious beverage.

MILE 17 – OMG, family is so close!  How’s my hair look?  Oh wait, it looks like the rest of me – a soggy, sad sack after being sprayed down with hoses, pouring water on my head and back, nearly losing my stretched-elastic shorts (note to self: toss these shorts when you get home), and squinting out one eye after one is rendered useless due to sunscreen drip.  I’m a hot mess.

MILE 18 – There’s my house.  WHERE MY BED IS.  And I’ve been up since 4:45.  Would anyone notice if I just diverted off course for a moment?  Sigh.  Another mile, another orange slice.

MILE 19 – FAMILY!!!  HI MOM & DAD!  HI BROTHER!!!  My “official” first spectators since I missed my mile 9 support and dropped my PB.  I feel like a massive baller, despite the fact that I just grabbed a handful of Vaseline off a posterboard carried by a complete stranger (hey, I refuse to suffer armpit chaffing if I don’t have to).

MILE 20 – There is something amazing about mile 20 – it’s where you truly start to believe the finish line is attainable.  It’s more amazing when “Move B*tch” by Ludacris comes on your playlist and you start dominating some b*tches (and by “dominating” I mean “hobbling past someone that stopped to walk at a water stop, then getting caught by them 200 yards later”).

MILE 21 – I see two runners help a handcycle athlete get up a steep hill, and my eyes are again filled with tears.  I let one spill.  I AM NOT MADE OF STONE DAMMIT.

MILE 22 – Four miles left?  Steady downhill grade?  Let’s do this.  “Turn Down for What” guides me through a “high five station” where I literally slap about 24 hands in a row.  Ow.  And now I’m sticky.  Ew.

MILE 23 – It’s just a 5K now – and yet the blisters on my feet are beginning to revolt against the 90-degree weather – and did I mention I’m also COMPLETELY blind in one eye from sunscreen damage?  Note to self: sun protection is one thing, but temporary blindness is quite another.  Remember to pack the powder protection next time.

MILE 24 – OMG, two miles left.  I scream out for the time again and when the volunteer tells me 10:33, I realize I am fully going to break 4 hours on thiz beetch.  I prepare to rip my bib (because I told the friend whose bib I was running on that I would, so she wouldn’t get some rando time) and accidentally rip the bib.  Now I’m carrying a bib.  STUPID.

MILE 25 – Finally, the spectators who have been screaming “you’re almost there!” since mile 2 are vindicated: we are, in fact, almost there.  They say the last mile is the longest.  Whoever “they” are, they’re right.  I can see the ocean; shouldn’t the finish line BE HERE ALREADY?!?!?  WHY AM I STILL RUNNING?!?

MILE 26.2 – Crossing the finish, I suddenly feel at peace, like the scenes in movies where all the sounds fade away and you are moving through silence, colors intensified, time almost simultaneously fast and slow.  I feel completely inside my own head yet utterly connected to everyone around me.  It is a glorious sense of achievement and relief, compounded with an intense bowel cramp and crazy craving for cold pizza.

My finish time was 3:57 (net 9:02/mile pace), including poop break – making this my slowest marathon ever.  That said, it was one of my favorites ever – the one where I got to relive all the memories I’ve made over the past 16  years in this amazing city.  I am honored to have given some intense love to the city that has watched me grow up and made me who I am today.

Have you ever run a marathon?  What goes through your head when you run?

Would Amanda Eat It?

With the LA Marathon coming up this Sunday (!), I’ve been thinking about how I’m going to fuel for the race.  Granted, I’ve run four marathons before (Surf City, NIKE Women’s SF, Rock N’ Roll Las Vegas, and Boston, for those who care to know), but I’ve run all of those – meaning, trained, practiced, and spent the entirety of the marathon in a full-on run.

This time around, I’m not trained, I haven’t practiced, and I don’t plan to run the full 26.2 miles without stopping.  I tried a 3/1 (run/walk) interval on Sunday for a quick 12 miles and it worked wonderfully – I was able to complete the distance in less than 10-minute miles but without soreness or fatigue, and felt like I could definitely keep going if I had to.

All of this aside, the main point of this post is fuel – what would Amanda eat on the race course?  In the past I’ve stuck to water and GU, but what’s really in that GU stuff?

They come in all flavors, but my personal favorite (and the one I rely on) is Peanut Butter.  The nutrition facts are simple – 100 calories, no fat, 50mg sodium, 5g sugar.  The ingredients, however, are not so much…which brings me to my (brief) assessment:

The good:

  • a straight shot of glucose and fructose means you are getting instant, easily-processed energy that goes straight to the bloodstream
  • fat-free
  • relatively low sodium compared to other “sports nutrition” products

The bad:

  • guys, it’s sugar syrup in a packet.
  • more than that, it’s processed sugar syrup, which means loads of preservatives and “blends” (fancy names for more chemicals that purport other health benefits)
  • 25g carbs including all that straight sugar

The verdict:

  • would I eat it?  Yes, and I have – in every single marathon I’ve ever done.  But is it the best form of race day nutrition?  Well…

The alternative:

  • Because GU is just convenient, portable, shelf-stable sugar, it’s popular.  But eating straight candy is almost the same thing, if you don’t mind chewing – and low-fiber, high-glucose snacks like, say, a Pop Tart (yes, I’ve actually used these as fuel during long bike rides) are sometimes more appetizing than a packet of gel
  • If you’re going clean(ish), sweet potatoes, yogurt-covered almonds, or raisins can give you the same boost of carbohydrate power without the laundry list of chemicals that even the “cleanest” processed product is destined to have

What do you use to fuel long runs?  Are you a GU fan – or do you eschew the GU?

Welcome to Team SunRype!

Hey y’all – did I mention that I get corporate sponsors from time to time?  #humblebrag I know, but for real, it’s a sweet deal – you agree to be sponsored by a given company, and in return they give you swag, product, and the occasional free race entry (though this “perk” is becoming more and more rare).

I’ve been through the sponsorship track many a time, starting with Aquaphor in 2006, Toyota Hybrid Vehicles in 2007, Goody Hair Products in 2008, Bear Naked Granola in 2009, Snickers MARATHON Bars in 2010-11, a brief hiatus in 2012, Wheaties in 2013-14, and now: Team SunRype USA 2015!

For those of you who are thinking, “I know the name SunRype, but what exactly do they sell?” here’s your answer: fruit snacks, fruit juices, and fruit & grain bars.  Our sponsorship focuses on using the SunRype Fruit Strips (only 50 calories and all fruit sugar – a great alternative to the chemicals in GU or gel packets!) during runs and endurance events.

If you are lucky enough to know me in real life (suckers), get ready to be bombarded with free fruit – I am going big on promoting these tasty, natural products and I want to share the wealth!  I also need to put some races on the calendar to make sure I’m wearing out my SunRype kit in style – so, any suggestions?

Local SoCal athletes – what are you racing this year?  What are your favorite races?

The Five Stages of Soreness & How to Break Free

I feel like there are two types of people who get sore after workouts:

It burns

1) People who are formerly sedentary and whose bodies are “waking up” to the shock of actually doing meaningful exercise

2) People who are overactive and have such an intense program of exercise that their bodies always kind of ache

Those who are never sore also fall into two categories:

1) People who don’t do sh*t anyway

2) People who stretch and foam roll so well that they eliminate all soreness before it even has a chance to settle in

Oh, Dickie Simmons, I love you.

I have this fanciful nostalgic memory of being one of the “never-sores,” where I could run miles and miles, lift heavy weights, and then spring out of bed with the vim and vigor of a young Richard Simmons (or heck, even an old Richard Simmons).

I am pretty sure those days were due to a medical condition I used to have called “being in your twenties.”  Now that I’m 30, sh*t is getting real.  I have a general level of hip pain.  My knees are hit or miss.  My mid-back feels like it gets punched while I sleep.  And my whole body crackles.

Now while that might sound alarming, I assure you that for me (and for my fitness level, job status, and age) this is perfectly normal.  For folks that are newer to exercise, just getting into weight lifting, or simply trying a new activity, consider the five levels of soreness – and assess where you fall on the scale:

1) In-Motion Soreness.  This is the kind that sets in during your workout, while you are still actively exercising.  It may come in the form of lactic acid buildup, muscle fatigue, or just “feeling the burn,” but it’s usually fleeting and stops as soon as you stop moving, put down the weights, or catch your breath.

2) Day-Of Soreness.  So you worked out this morning.  Good for you!  But then most likely you went and sat down in a car or office, and suddenly when you got up to go to the bathroom your legs felt like they were going to collapse under you.  Soreness at this point is basically stiffness; your body is beginning to feel the effects of your exertion.

3) Next-Day Soreness.  Ah, the pain of trying something new.  Hamstrings that felt so free and loose in yoga yesterday feel like they’re going to snap in half today.  Hips that shimmied and shook their way through Zumba can barely propel your feet forward today.  Areas that feel sore the next day can give you a clue to muscle imbalances and form problems, too, so pay attention to unilateral (one-sided) pain and/or neck strain.

4) Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).  Yep, this is a thing – a medically documented reality.  You might feel superb the day after a workout and think the soreness has passed you by – only to be blindsided by pain 48 hours after.  DOMS strikes even the strongest among us, especially when trying to “up your game” (run faster, lift heavier, go further).  Find comfort in the fact that it’s only temporary, and usually gone by 72 hours.

5) Chronic Soreness.  Also known as injury, this is the type of burn you don’t want.  Chronic soreness and/or the fatigue associated with it is a sign of chronic inflammation, which is related to a whole host of undesirable health problems.  Chronic soreness accompanies certain sports injuries like stress fractures, muscle strains, and tendinitis.  Any persistent soreness that lasts beyond 72 hours is worth a trip to the sports doc or physical therapist just to make sure everything is OK.

All this being said – I do have some tried-and-true methods for eliminating (or at least managing) soreness.  For example:

  • epsom salts baths.  I swear by ’em.  I buy good old Dr. Teal’s and I soak for a legit 20 minutes, at least twice a week.  This is basic maintenance for me.
  • ice baths.  Also sworn by, but horrifically uncomfortable and really only necessary in the face of massive effort (for example: a 16-mile marathon training run).  15 minutes max for me, and usually with a hot cup of tea in hand to ward off the chills.
  • sports massage.  Whether you prefer Chinese (best spot in L.A.) or Thai massage (like me) or more traditional Western massage, make sure your therapist knows where you’re hurting, what types of activities made you hurt, and how firm you need the pressure to be.  I like to get one at least every two weeks; one a month is crucial.
  • foam rolling.  This is your daily fix – the way you can relieve muscle soreness in a jiffy (caveat: it hurts like hell).  I recommend going through these stretches/exercises to release the conventional spots of soreness, plus going double on any areas that bother you regularly.
  • yoga.  I always tell clients I’ve never gotten injured while doing yoga regularly (for me, just one a week does it) – and it’s true.  When I let the yoga lapse, the inflammation takes over – and that’s no bueno.  You can check out a YouTube at home or hit the studio – it doesn’t take much to reap the stretchy benefits.

What stage of soreness do you feel most often?  What remedies do you use to relieve it?

Tram Road Challenge Recap

Every year I see the Tram Road Challenge signs go up in and around Palm Springs, and every year I think, “I should do that.”  Then it’s always the wrong weekend, or I have something else to do, or I just don’t feel up to the commitment.

That ended last weekend.  I finally tackled the (29th Annual) Tram Road Challenge – and I can’t wait tphoto 4o do it again.

It all started at 7am, around 193 feet above sea level.  The vibe was relaxed – there was a funny MC recapping highlights from Challenges past, it was warm and crowded, and the volunteers were friendly.  I was nervous – was it really one 3.7 mile, continuous hill? – but ready to get going.

The siren sounded and we were off – the MC’s caution to take the first part easy was in the back of my head – and already it was steep.  The inclines were estimated at an average 12%, but I was sure I could run at least most of the race – and I was right.  I gritted my teeth, leaned into the hill, and chugged up as hard as I could – stopping ophoto 1nly to walk after mile 3, when it became a 16% incline (!).

After reaching the finish line (over 1930 feet of elevation gain later), I stood for a moment in disbelief – had I really made it?  Did I do well?  I was pacing a woman that I ended up passing in the last 1/4 mile, but I hadn’t really seen anyone else that might be in my age group, so I wasn’t sure how I’d finished.

photo 3

Turns out, I did pretty well. 

I finished in 44:05 (11:54/mile pace), which was good enough for 2nd in my age group, 11th woman overall out of over 400, and 76th person overall out of around 2000Processed with Moldiv.  YES!

Besides the finish, though, I was struck by the community of the race – from start to finish, the volunteers went of their way to inform and support the runners; the race was dog and stroller friendly; and I even met a running doc (Sports Injuries Specialist) that taught me the “runner’s hitch”; and sat on the bus back down with a few folks that wished me luck on my bridal shower later that day (post pending!) and were genuinely kind to me.

After years of running everything from 5K to a 1/2 Ironman, I have come to appreciate the simplicity, communal feel, and hometown vibe of a small race, as well as the intrigue of doing something completely different from what you’ve done before.  I will definitely be back for the 30th annual next year – and I’m going for 1st AG, dammit!

What’s the best race you’ve participated in lately?  What makes a race truly memorable for you?