Sunday, March 21, 2010

I've neglected my blog for nearly a month. In my defense, I'm a PhD student, and I've been preparing for comprehensive exams and working on an article manuscript. I'm great at balancing school and running, but blogging is admittedly a low priority and comes close to last on my never-ending to-do list.

Despite the chaos, I've mostly kept to my running schedule. Our training schedule switched from 4 days per week to 5, and Wednesdays are now spent running instead of swimming. I hope to compete in a triathlon this summer, so it's important that I also incorporate swimming and cycling into my weekly workout schedule. Unfortunately, training for this half marathon leaves little time for that.

Here's a summary of my recent training:

The weather last week was absolutely beautiful with highs in the 60s. Although it was great to run in the sun wearing shorts and a tank top, I had a difficult time adjusting to the heat. Breathing was more difficult, and my runs were hot and uncomfortable. Akitla hasn't shed her winter coat yet, either, so she was limited in how far and fast she could comfortably run. I knew I had to cut our 5-miler short last week when she started pulling me off the bike lane into the adjacent marshlands so that she could get a drink of water.

17 minutes! That's how long it took me to run two miles last week! I'm so proud of myself. I knew I was capable of running 8 minute mile intervals, but this was the first time I'd run 8 minute miles consecutively with no rest in between.

10 miles! Yesterday's schedule called for a 10 mile run. I was delighted to see that it was snowing in the morning, which made the run much more comfortable for both me and Akitla. Since I have my eye on a trail marathon in August, I decided to run the dirt trails at Lake Lansing Park. That was a bold move. Trail running is MUCH more difficult than road running, and the longest I had ever run on the trails was probably 4 miles. I knew completing all 10 miles would be difficult, so I kept myself at a slow pace. I needed to conserve as much energy as possible for navigating the hills and uneven terrain. Once you've been running for awhile, the trail begins to feel like an obstacle course, and jumping through the tree roots that have overtaken much of the trail begins to feel like running through tires at boot camp. My muscles are sore, but I'm so proud of myself for surviving the run!

Only a few short weeks until race weekend!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A day behind and a tough run this morning

Our training schedule called for a 5 mile run yesterday. I'm ashamed to say that I skipped it. I've been studying extra hard lately. I've stayed on campus the last few nights until 9 or 10pm. By the time I get home, eat something, and unwind, I'm up way past my bedtime. It's has really worn me out. Plus, it's been snowing like crazy here for the last few days. Morning exhaustion coupled with snowy sidewalks hasn't exactly been the best motivator to get outside and run.

I sucked it up this morning. Instead of doing the scheduled 2 miles, I did yesterday's 5. It was awful. There was a good inch or two covering the sidewalks, and my legs were absolutely exhausted. Putting one foot in front of the other was a struggle.

To top it off, Akitla was extra hyper and excited to be outside in the snow. She was incapable of concentrating on running. It felt like she was always either trying to pull ahead of me, dive sideways into the snowbanks lining the sidewalks, or chase the falling snowflakes. If she wasn't doing those things, she was distracted with [fill in the blank: squirrel, car, person, bird] and getting dragged behind me. On a morning like this morning, the last thing I needed was to have to wrestle with a 30 lb. puppy.

Normally she's a great running partner. I loop her leash around my waist and secure it with a carabiner, and she runs right next to me without pulling. When we're on the trails and have to maneuver through a tight space, she automatically falls behind me and allows me to lead. Not this morning.

Luckily, my legs woke up and switched into autopilot about 4 miles in to my 5 mile run, and I was able to finish comfortably. I hope today was just a fluke. We'll give it a shot again tomorrow morning, and hopefully I'm not so exhausted and Akitla will behave better.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

woot. woot.

I did it!

I had an amazing run today. Our Team in Training schedule calls for a 2 mile run every Sunday to recover from our Saturday morning long runs. I normally take it easy, but today I was determined to run my hardest and kick some butt. I decided to run two 1-mile intervals with a short rest in between. I ran my first mile in 8:13 and my second in 8:30!

I repeat- the day after a 9 mile long run, I ran 8 minute miles! That's a personal record for me, and I'm so proud of myself!! I normally stick to a 10 minute/mile pace-- high 10s for my solo long runs and low 10s for my mid-week runs. To date, I've always focused on increasing my distance, so I've never really pushed myself to run fast. In the future, I will definitely start to incorporate speed workouts into my weekly running regimen.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

9 mile group run

This morning Julie and I had our 9 mile run group run in Dewitt. A new Team in Training group started, so we were joined by new members who were beginning their training for summer half and full marathons. It seems like just yesterday that we were the newbies, running only 3 or 4 miles on our group "long runs." I'm so proud of how far we've come! I'm amazed that I often catch myself uttering the phrase, "only 4 miles" when my husband asks me how far I'll be running as I head out the door in the morning.

Our run this morning was relatively laid back and relaxing. We took it easy, and (mostly) stuck to our 1 mile run and 1/10 of a mile walk intervals. Julie's making incredible progress, so I think I'll have her weaned off her walk breaks in no time.

The picture to the left was taken at one of the Team in Training aid stations. I had just tried the chocolate PowerBar gel for the first time, which I don't recommend during a run. It was delicious, thick, and rich, like a decadent desert, and not at all refreshing. I think I'll stick with their energy blasts or Gatorade from now on.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

two halves do not make a full

Last month I created a poll asking if I should switch to the full Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon. I had been feeling unsatisfied and like I wasn't pushing myself as hard as I could. Since it was going to be my first race, I wanted it to do my absolute best.

As you've probably guessed, I decided to stick with the half marathon. Although I would have loved to switch, training to run 26.2 miles would just be too time consuming. As it is, I run 5 days and swim 2 days per week. Somewhere in there, I need time to work and study. :)

In lieu of switching to the full marathon, I've decided to run two halves in the spring and train for a full fall marathon. On April 10th, I'll be running the Martian Half Marathon in Dearborn, MI. This will be my first half marathon, so I'll run it solo and the quickest I can. Then, in May when I run the Cincinnati Flying Pig Half Marathon, I can relax, keep pace with the group, and fully enjoy the experience. When I have a bit more time in the summer, I'll train for the Chicago Marathon.

It sounds like a good plan to me.

sun and dry pavement!!!!!

Today was the first day in weeks that I was able to run on dry pavement! And the sun was shining!! It was amazing!

Since our snowstorm last week, Akitla and I have been suffering through deep snow and ice on the sidewalks. Unfortunately, when we get a lot of deep snow-cover, Lake Lansing trails are converted into cross-country ski trails and are closed to pedestrians and dogs. I love running on the snowy trails, but snowy sidewalks can be very treacherous.

Last week I fell for the first time on pavement. I was 1.98 miles into my 2 mile run and rounding the corner to turn onto my street. I hit a patch of ice, and lost control, skidding across the pavement on my palms and knees. I had just taken off my mittens, so I was skidding on bare palms. Ouch! I was lucky I didn't seriously injure myself and I was able to walk away with skinned hands and knees and a hole in my favorite running tights.

Since then I've been extra careful. I've ignored my Garmin and focused on safety rather than speed. Today, with our newly dry roads, all of that went out the window. I shaved a minute off off yesterday's pace and finished at just over 9 minutes per mile.

Lately I've been discouraged with my 10 minute per mile pace. Today confirmed my hopes that I'll slowly get faster as the conditions outside improve. And since I've never really worked on improving my speed, only my distance and endurance, knocking a minute off my pace is kind of exciting!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

three posts in one day?

Julie and I ran 9 miles with our team on Saturday! I was really nervous about the run, since I had barely run at all the week prior and was still struggling with back pain. I surprised myself, and it was a breeze! I'm so proud of us! We're getting so close to 13.1!

Sunday was an easy 2 miler, so Akitla and I ran the trails at Lake Lansing park. Although I usually swim after my Sunday runs, I was feeling too sore and tired. My back didn't hurt at all when I was running, but it was extra sore afterward. To make up for it, I snuck in some swimming on Monday afternoon.

I really struggle with my controlling my breathing when I swim (freestyle). Exhaling underwater is a mess, and I struggle with getting enough air when I lift my head to inhale. Not to mention all of the water I've inhaled.... I'm used to being able to inhale and exhale when I feel like it!

I've also been struggling with my endurance, which I'm sure is a result of my breathing difficulties. Right now, I have to catch my breath at each wall of the pool. If I don't rest, I inevitably inhale a lungful of water. It's ridiculous that I can run 9 miles without getting winded, but I can't swim 50 yards.

Luckily, it gets a little easier everyday.

baking for hope

Julie and I have been baking like crazy! We held an extremely successful bake sale in our department last Monday, and our homemade all-natural puppy treats were a huge success! So much so that we're now taking special orders! We've made three deliveries so far this week!

Julie and I spent the entire weekend prior to the bake sale baking. We made most of the goodies on our own and then met for a few hours on Sunday to make the dog treats and do all of the packaging together. Julie's dog, Ava, came over, so the puppies had a blast running amok together in the snow. Every few minutes we'd catch them both staring into the house wondering where all of the wonderful peanut butter smells were coming from. Then one would pounce on the other, and they'd both race back though the yard, chasing and wrestling one another.

We used bone, paw-print and dog house shaped cookie cutters to make the dog treats and then packaged them in either cellophane bags or larger colorful poop bags (depending on the size of the order). Julie was in charge of packaging and found some adorable bone print ribbon. She did such a great job! We've decided that if our PhDs don't work out, we can always open up a doggy bakery...

With our combined efforts over a two day period, Julie and I made:
  • Pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting
  • Banana bread with chocolate chips
  • Chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting
  • Brownies with mint icing
  • Raspberry flavored jello cake
  • Peanut butter dog treats
The bake sale itself was a huge success! We had customers before we even finished setting out the goodies! Luckily, and quite coincidentally, there was a faculty meeting that afternoon so every single faculty member in the department was in the building. Nearly everyone stopped by to support us! Because of the meeting we had a much better turn out than we could have possibly expected. I couldn't believe that every single cupcake, piece of bread, slice of cake, and package of dog treats were purchased! We made nearly $300 and it far exceeded our expectations.

The outpouring of support from our (perhaps sugar addicted) department was truly inspirational!

another amazing trail run

This morning's run through Lake Lansing North's trails was truly magical. I saw eight deer!

It's been snowing here all day, so I threw my camera in my CamelBak and hoped to get a few pictures of the snowy landscape. About 5 minutes into our run, I was startled by two white-tail deer racing through the forest. I usually listen to music while running, so the deer caught me by surprise. I fumbled in my massive mittens, trying to get my camera out of my bag and snap a few pictures, but it was too late.

Not 5 minutes later, Akitla and I rounded another corner of the trail and came face-to-face with a doe and her calf. They slowly meandered their way deeper into the forest, away from us, where they stopped and watched us for several seconds, and I was able to snap the picture above. As I stood there with my camera, four more deer bounded out of the treeline, leaping toward the mother and her calf, before disappearing into the dense forest.

I know it sounds cheesy, but mornings like this are why I love running so much. It doesn't matter what's going on in my life, I always find peace when I run. My head clears and the stress of daily life melts away. Nothing beats the serenity and peace of mind that trail running brings.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Back pain, 8 miles, and Sparty Beads

I suspect that I threw my back out last Monday. I have been waddling around ever since then, so I skipped all of the mid-week runs last week and spent all of my free time lying on a heating pad. Sitting for any length of time is painful, let alone running 4 miles!

Saturday was our 8 mile group run. I was really concerned about whether or not I'd be able to finish the full 8 miles, but I surprised myself. I probably should have played it safe and skipped Saturday's long run, but I was terrified of falling behind in my training. Despite the back ache, I still managed to complete the full 8 miles. Julie and I took it slow and stopped often for walk breaks. Before I knew it, the 8 miles were over, and we were enjoying homemade hot cocoa with our teammates!

Earlier in our training, Julie and I ordered a case of 30 lbs of green and silver Mardi Gras beaded necklaces off of the internet. Saturday night was our first night (of many to come) selling these "Sparty Beads" to MSU fans outside sporting events. Rather than selling our beads for a fixed price, we have been giving out beads in return for a donation.

We expected the students to be our biggest customers, so we began by standing outside the entrance to the student section. Of the hundreds of students lined up, only two wanted beads and donated! Sadly, either undergraduate students don't carry cash or they were totally unwilling to donate to charity, since the two students who donated emptied their pockets of pennies into our jar. Silly kids!

We quickly switched doors to target families and children. That proved to be a smart move as parents generously donated for beads for their kids and men diplomatically bought beads for their ladies. We were initially a little unsure about what to yell and how to get people's attention, but the longer we were there the sillier we got. By the end of the night, we were able to work the crowds and get everyone's attention. In retrospect, the delirium was probably the early stages of hypothermia setting in.

We were a little concerned about getting in trouble for standing outside the Breslin Center soliciting donations. We had anticipated being either chased off the property by a screaming employee or arrested. Seth was on stand-by, prepared to bail us out of jail if the need arose. At one point, we were concerned about a sting operation when we noticed a police badge in a donator's wallet. It luckily wasn't a "bust," and we were able to fundraise without incident.

Although the temperature was in the single digits, we were up to our usual shenanigans and had a blast! We made a sizable dent in our bulk bead order and raised well over $100 to support blood cancer research and patient support! Hopefully future games will go even better now that we know what to do!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

St. Paul

Sunday was a day of firsts! It was Deitra (right) and my first time visiting Mim (left) in Minnesota. I also went rock climbing for the first time (awesome!), and it was our first time running together as a group. Mim is a seasoned runner and has completed several marathons. I started running in August 2008, and Deitra started running last week! The three of us running together was like a dream come true!

Hopefully we'll be running marathons together in the future! Like, maybe the Chicago marathon next fall. Right, Deitra? :)


I was lucky enough to spend my birthday weekend with two very close friends: Mim and Deitra. We met several years ago while attending Bowling Green State University for our Master's degrees in sociology and have been inseparable ever since (despite the physical distance between us). Mim lives in St. Paul with her husband, and Deitra lives in downtown Chicago. Last, Friday morning I took the train to meet up with Deitra. Before flying to St. Paul together Saturday morning, I was able to squeeze in a 6-mile run along Chicago's Lake Shore Path. Deitra lives in an ideal location, nestled a block and a half from Navy Pier and a block and a half from Michigan Avenue. I started out the run with a loop around Navy Pier and then ran several miles north along the water into Lincoln Park before turning around and heading back to her apartment. Chicago's lake shore is probably my absolute favorite place to go running, and I never miss a chance when visiting Deitra. The view is spectacular.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The last few days have been great!

Sunday was a perfect day. I took the dog on a nice and slow 3 mile run around Lake Lansing. I was still a little tired from my 7.5 miles the day before, so I kept things at a relaxed pace. Although I don't normally listen to Dave Matthews Band, I discovered that Crash is the perfect album for slow, easy runs. After we got home, Seth and I went to the YMCA, and I swam laps for 40 minutes. I struggle with my breathing and still don't have much endurance in the pool, but swimming is slowly getting easier. I love it! After all of that hard work, we spent our afternoon relaxing and watching Inglorious Basterds. I couldn't ask for a better day.

I've decided that Mondays will be my official strength training day, so I hit the gym yesterday morning before work. A personal trainer showed me how to use all of the equipment correctly and set me up with a strength training regimen- including how many pounds, sets and reps for each machine. She was so helpful! I really don't enjoy lifting weights, but I realize it's a necessary evil if I want to run long distances injury-free.

Speaking of necessary evils, I signed up for a stretching class on Wednesday nights at the gym. I'm definitely a slacker when it comes to stretching, strength training, and eating before runs.

This morning Julie and I took our dogs up to the Lansing River Trail again for a 4 mile run. It was great! There were none of the expected puppy shenanigans--our dogs ran perfectly with us and were able to focus on running. Of course, every time we stopped, they were pouncing on top of one-another, ready to play. They were adorable.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

I've officially lost my mind! I'm considering switching to the full marathon. I've wanted to ever since Julie and I started training for the half. I'm not going to make any decisions until next month, but I'm increasing my weekly mileage just in case.

This morning we had our group long run in Dewitt- 5 miles. Our coach, Bruce, ran with us the whole time, offering words of encouragement and support along the way. He's been such a wonderful supporter, and I am so thankful for this experience. It was great! We kept ourselves at a nice, easy pace. Before we knew it, we were done! It's amazing to see ourselves progress. A few short years ago, I'd get winded climbing the stairs. Now a 5 mile run is no big deal!

Afterward, we had breakfast pastries, bananas, Gatorade, water, and hot cocoa waiting for us inside the Dewitt Memorial Building. I'm not going to lie- I spent the last two miles of our run anticipating the awaiting hot cocoa (with whipped cream)! It's so nice to have a warm home-base where the team can chat, stretch, and snack. I'm so thankful to all of my teammates who so generously supply us all of us with snacks and goodies each week.

Since I'm psychotic and considering switching to the full marathon, when I got home I grabbed the dog and took her for a 2.5 mile run around Lake Lansing. It was tiring but felt good. I plan to continue to add a few extra miles each week until I decide whether to run the half or full marathon.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Race for the Cure!

On May 22, 2010 I will be participating in the 19th annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in downtown Detroit in honor of my Aunt Donna, who is currently battling breast cancer. Her strength and courage continue to inspire me. Last year, the race raised over $2 million to support research grants as well as local breast cancer screening and treatment programs. I'm excited to take part in this amazing event!

Younkers Community Day: Support the LLS by Shopping!

On February 13th and 20th, Julie and I will be selling Younkers Community Day coupon booklets for $5 each at the Lansing Mall Younkers store. To purchase, you can also e-mail me at tia.stevens at gmail dot com.

Coupons are good either in stores or online on Saturday, February 27th and can be used at any Younkers, Berger's, Boston Store, Carson Pirie Scott, Elder-Beerman, or Herberger's. You can buy as many as you like, and all proceeds will go toward the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society!

They're a great deal. For a $5 donation, you get:
  • A coupon for $10 off an item of $10 or more (you can use up to 5 coupons per transaction)
  • An early bird coupon for 30% off one regular or sale price item until 10am
  • Six coupons for 20% off a regular or sale price item
  • A coupon for 50% off a spring outerwear item
  • A coupon for $20 off a pair of Easy Spirit shoes
  • A coupon for $30 off a pair of Naturalizer shoes
  • A coupon for 55% off kids clothing sets from Nannette, BT Kids, and others
  • A coupon for a Kalorik floor steamer or Haan hand-held steamer for $49.99 (regular $120-150)
  • A coupon for a reversible Living Quarters down-alternative comforter for $21.99 (regular $120-160)

So sore!!

Yesterday I thought I'd spend my "rest" day at the pool. Big mistake! I only swam laps for half an hour, but I woke up sore this morning. My arms hurt. My shoulders hurt, and my hip muscles hurt. I hadn't been swimming since the fall, so it will probably be a few weeks until my muscles get used to it. I plan on spending my Wednesday and Friday rest days swimming laps.

Last night Julie and I went to the Team in Training nutrition clinic at Playmakers. It was amazingly helpful. We learned a lot about the importance of eating the proper foods before runs, staying hydrated during runs, and eating immediately after runs. The two most helpful things I learned were:

  1. On short runs, the body uses glycogen as fuel (carbohydrates stored in the muscles). Athletes build up their glycogen by carb loading. After this energy wears out, usually after about 90 minutes of running, you feel as though you've hit a wall and can't continue. At this point, the body starts depleting blood sugar. To avoid "hitting the wall," the nutritionist recommended that on runs longer than 90 minutes, we should keep a sports drink, some candies, or sports jelly beans handy.
  2. The enzyme, glycogen synthase, that turns carbohydrates from food into glycogen for storage in muscles is most active immediately after exercise. If you ingest carbohydrates soon after exercise, your muscles store two to three times as much glycogen than normal. In addition, ingesting protein along with the carbohydrates increases the body's insulin response, and as a result, your body can store even more glycogen. Researchers suggest that you ingest one gram of protein for every 4 grams of carbohydrates.
Last year, while training for the Bayshore marathon, I drank a Slim-Fast shake (or two) after each long run. They not only provided the carbohydrates and protein my muscles needed, but at 240 calories each, they also replaced some of the calories I had burned. The nutrition clinic reminded me of the importance of refueling after long runs (with more than just a hot cup of tea), and I will definitely start drinking them again!

This morning I took the dog for a 2 mile run at the trails. I usually spend my short runs working on speed, which didn't happen. My legs were tired, and I'm just happy I finished.

Fundraising is also going well! Thanks to my supporters, I have raised over $450, and I am one-quarter of the way to my $1,750 minimum fundraising requirement and one-tenth of the way to my personal goal of raising $5,000.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

This morning, Julie and I loaded up the dogs in the car and did our 3 mile run together along the scenic Lansing River Trail. The trail winds along the Red Cedar River for 13 miles, stretching from MSU to Old Town to Jolly Road. The weather was lovely- a calm and comfortable 25' and snowing, which was great. I'm excited to have "discovered" the trail. It will be great on my long solo runs, since running laps around Lake Lansing can get old and boring very fast.

Julie and I are spending the afternoon brainstorming fundraising ideas. Our next fundraisers will be selling green and silver beads at MSU home basketball games; selling candy, granola bars, and bottled water at work; and having a dog and people treat bake sale. Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Well, our 5 mile run yesterday afternoon was a success!! The trails were closed to hikers (and runners) for cross country skiing, so we ran around Lake Lansing and back. Running on flat dry asphalt was a nice break from our usual treacherous snowy trails runs. Akitla seemed to thrive in the sub-zero temperature, but my fingers ached from the cold for the first 2 miles.

Today we had a nice 2 mile recovery run around the lake. I use my shorter distance runs to work on speed, so it was a tough 2 miles. The temperature is still in the single-digits here, and the 27 mph gusts of wind did not help matters.

Seth and I also joined the YMCA today! Now that we have a gym membership, I can get back into spinning classes and lap swimming, which I haven't done since completing my first triathlon in the fall. Plus, I desperately need to start strength training. I'm convinced my hip injury last spring was because I increased my running mileage too fast and didn't do any other types of exercise.

Time to go unthaw, stretch, and have a nice, hot cup of tea!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!!

The last few weeks have been insanely busy. Seth and I spent the holidays driving across Michigan spending time with each of our families. I wish I could report that I faithfully stuck to my running schedule.

When we headed to my mom's house for Christmas, I packed up all every running accessory and clothing item I owned in anticipation for my 4 mile long run on the 26th. My brother and I had planned on running the Bald Mountain Park trails together, and I was so excited to have a running partner. Unfortunately, I had forgotten my running shoes... Next, Seth and I drove to the west side of Michigan to find nearly 2 feet of snow. Luckily, they have a treadmill, so when not eating my body weight in snacks and cookies, I was able to run a couple of miles.

We arrived home in time for a 3 mile run last Wednesday. I was bound and determined to get my miles in- so much so that I strapped on a headlamp and hit the trails at dusk. (not one of the smarter things I've done). Keeping your footing on snowy, wooded trails is hard enough in daylight. Avoiding tripping over tree branches and roots, while trying not to get lost, is nearly impossible in the dark with a wimpy headlamp.

The next day Akitla and I made it out for an easy 2 miles on the trails (in daylight!). Afterward, I strapped on my new snowshoes, and we raced around the park. If there's anything harder than running in snow, it's running in snowshoes. It was insanely fun and insanely stupid at the same time! :)

Now we're headed out the door for our first long run since before the holidays- 5 miles. It's definitely not going to be easy. The windchill is -4'. I think I'd rather crawl back in bed.