Sunday, January 31, 2010

February 1

There are a few important things happening on February 1.

First of all, it marks the first day of training for the April half-marathon:
It's actually 12 weeks long, and I think I'll probably use the McMillan running calculator (there's music so turn the volume down...unless you're looking for some good tunes!) for my pacing so I can aim to break two hours on the half-marathon. I used the SmartCoach tool on the Runner's World site for the schedule above (you need to be a member to do use it).

Here's the pacing plan the McMillan running calculator spit out for me:
Thank you to Meghann for directing me to this site! Meghann is going to be in New York for the Gridiron Classic 4M race next weekend - that's the next thing February 1 marks, the entrance into the month of my first race of 2009! I'm looking forward to meeting Meghann and some fellow runners!

Another big February 1 occurrence is ...

You guessed it, my rent check is due. Ugh, I hate the first of the month!!!

Oh yeah, and there is just one other little thing...
Yup - the Chicago marathon opens the floodgates for registration. And none other than Yours Truly will be registering. Yikes! My friend Christina will be registering too - yay!

Why the Chicago marathon you ask? Well, there are a few reasons:
  1. I've never been to Chicago and I keep hearing I'd love it. I'm looking forward to actually going and seeing the city, and I think the marathon would give me the perfect excuse to go out there.
  2. It's on 10/10/10. How cool is that?!
  3. It's four days after my 26th birthday. So no, I won't be getting too crazy on my actual birthday, but what a celebration I'll have afterward! Woo! And there's something that I like about running my first 26.2 mile race at the age of 26. Weird? Cool? I don't know, I like the idea of it.
I think that pretty much sums it up. I was going between the Marine Corps marathon and the Chicago marathon, and even though it would be kind of easier to run the Marine Corps marathon in DC since my family lives there and everything, I just really want to go to Chicago! So Chicago it is. I'll report back after I actually register!


Yes, I have a totally awesome Garmin. But I also have Nike+ enabled shoes (suggested to me by the wonderful people at Pacers Running Store in Alexandria)
and the Nike+ for my iPod. I didn't get the shoes so that I could use Nike+; they just happened to be the best shoes for me and I'm glad that they are! I bought the Nike+ kit as a way to keep me motivated when I first started running, and it has definitely done just that.

Like the Garmin, the Nike+ has a lot of functionality online to help you track your progress. Every time I plug in my iPod after a run on the treadmill, I can log on to the Nike+ site and see how I did on my last run,

my monthly totals for 2009 (just discovered that one option! Can you tell when I was training for the September half-marathon?),

recent runs,

my average pace, calories burned, and a whole lot more. It's a really awesome tool and as long as I don't have the foot pod for the Garmin, I think I'll be using the Nike+. If you calibrate it, it's actually pretty accurate (I actually calibrated it on the treadmill rather than outside). Yesterday I ran 6.45 miles according to the treadmill and my Nike+ said it was 6.40 miles. I'd say that's pretty accurate! It also feels so good to see how far I've come. I'd definitely recommend it to any new runners who are looking to keep track of their runs and stay motivated.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


I was totally planning on going on the lululemon Saturday morning run club at 8:45. I went a couple of weeks ago and met some great people, had fun running with a group, and totally loved it. And then I saw the weather prediction:

Hmm...all I can say is: No. I don't "do" 18 degrees, feels like 6 degrees. I mean, honestly, I don't have the gear! And I grew up in Saudi Arabia. I am not built for that kind of cold. I'm just not.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

But I don't wanna...

I would describe myself as a morning person. I could probably win a prize at sleeping in on the weekends, but I was a coxswain in high school and college (and recently coxed a race at Head of the Charles) and that called for early mornings - I'm talking awake at 4:45 a.m. and out the door at 5 a.m., all before coffee. Once I stopped coxing in college, I got pretty good at sleeping till the last possible minute before a 10 a.m. class, and mastered the art of sleeping till noon on weekends, but as soon as I started going to the gym last year I decided that if I was going to go, it would have to be in the morning, at least during the work week. NYSC is just too much of a zoo after work (though there are more attractive guys at the gym at night...hmm, decisions, decisions...).

I'm not a grumpy person (most mornings), and I usually snooze for five minutes after the initial alarm, then pop out of bed, throw on my clothes, grab a snack and head out the door, all before 6 a.m. But this morning? Oh man, this morning there was nothing I wanted more than to stay in my bed, reset that alarm from 5:30 to 7:30, and get back to that dream I was having about Johnny Depp. I found myself whining internally, saying, "But I don't WANNA get out of my bed, I wanna go back to Johnny! And I definitely do NOT wanna get on the treadmill!" God, how pathetic am I?

Finally, three snoozes and 30 minutes after the initial alarm went off, I got out of bed, pulled on my clothes (as slowly as possible) and dragged my butt to the gym. On my way I had an internal dialogue full of reasons I could go back: "Man, it's FREEZING! Did I feel a little pain in my left ankle? Probably shouldn't run on that... I probably forgot my iPod...oh, wait, no there it is in my pocket. My favorite treadmill will probably be taken..." And it went on. When I arrived, I was greeted with a waft of heat (no longer freezing), my imaginary pain disappeared (magical!), iPod and headphones were present (can't use that excuse anyway), and my treadmill was waiting for me. I had no more excuses, and had spent way more energy thinking them up than it would've taken me to get up the first time my alarm went off!

I went to bed with a plan for my run - a five miler with speed intervals. Honestly, I think that's at least partly what finally got me out of bed - knowing that there was something I had planned and wanted to accomplish. (Not gonna lie, I also wanted a good excuse to indulge in the free Mexican food we had at work today. Hehe.) I had a finite amount of time to accomplish my run before I had to be home and showered and on my way to work. The pressure was on!

And you know what? I had a really fantastic workout. My legs moved quickly, I felt good at the higher cadence, and I felt amazing afterward. Much as setting a goal helps me get going, knowing how good I will feel after a workout (especially a great workout) helps me even more. And no, not every workout feels fantastic, and of course, I struggle through two-milers from time to time...but as my very wise (and very fit!) father says, "Showing up is half the battle!" And as Elle Woods says, "Exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins make you happy!" Put them together and you've got a pretty good chance of getting something good done at the gym.

I think we've all had plenty of cases of the "But I Don't Wannas", and there will certainly be more to come, but what matters for me is showing up and going in knowing I'll feel better afterward. (And also knowing I'll be able to have an extra helping of guacamole.) I usually do try to have a positive attitude overall in life, but it goes for workouts, too. Much as we might wake up or get home from work and immediately begin dreading a workout, whether it's running a mile on the treadmill, doing 45 minutes on the elliptical, or erging the heck out of a 2k, we almost always feel better after we get it done. And we accomplish something. And that, my friends, feels pretty damn good no matter what it is. Even if your goal is to eat an entire burrito. But in that case, you might not feel so good afterward...

What gets you to the gym? Do you set goals? Do you hold yourself accountable in some way? Do you have any "But I Don't Wanna!" moments you turned around?

Monday, January 25, 2010


So in addition to running, I am a huge fan of baking. As you've learned in my earlier post, I have a very, VERY sweet tooth, and today was no different. I had some eggs I need to use in the next few days, so what did I decide to do with them?

No, I did not scramble the whites and make a healthy breakfast for myself. Nope, I did not hard boil them to use as a protein source in my salad for lunch tomorrow. And no, I didn't use them in a protein shake of terror. What did I do, you may ask?

I baked with them. I baked some mighty fine chocolate chip cookies, and I have a feeling I'll win some brownie (cookie?) points in the office tomorrow with these bad boys.

Total body conditioning, however, will probably not be so kind to me.

But do you know how Levain Bakery started? Levain Bakery bakes the most OUTRAGEOUS chocolate chip walnut cookies I have EVER had. I don't even LIKE nuts in my cookies, and this place had me converted. Yes, it's a 6 oz. cookie made of butter, sugar, walnuts and chocolate chips, but trust me, it is worth every last calorie. Please promise me you'll go there when you find yourself in New York.

Anyway, I saw the story of Levain Bakery on Throwdown with Bobby Flay (are you surprised I'm also a huge fan of the Food Network?) - two women, Pam and Connie, were training for an Ironman and needed something to give them extra calories delivered in a fast and delicious way. Their love for food and for chocolate chip cookies in particular helped them launch Levain Bakery and get the calories they needed to refuel while training. When you think about it, it makes sense - you need carbs, protein, fat and a ton of calories when you're training however many hours a day, and a chocolate chip walnut cookie certainly has all of that (and then some!). To Pam and Connie I say: mission accomplished.

So that's my excuse for baking chocolate chip cookies - training. OK, fine, it's not for an IRONMAN, but that 4-mile race is coming up soon and I need to fuel up! No? That excuse won't cut it? Fine, what about this one: they are delicious. 'Nuff said.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

My Garmin

New York Road Runners gives everyone who volunteers at the NYC Marathon a 25% discount in their online store. There weren't that many things that looked good to me - there were a lot of shirts and other gear that had the NYC Marathon logo on it, and since I haven't (yet) run the marathon, I felt a little funny ordering something with that on it. I looked in all of the areas in the store and finally landed on an item I thought would be perfect: a Garmin Forerunner 405. I mean, when else can you get that item for 25% off?! Luckily, I have some wonderful parents who kindly purchased it for me for Christmas. I'm still learning all the cool things you can do with it, but so far I've been really happy with it!

You can see a summary of your run,

your splits,

and a map of your run.

I mean, how cool is that??

I'm not a wearer of watches in my everyday life, and even though this watch is bigger than any watch I would usually watch, it actually doesn't bother me at all. I'm still getting to know what all it can do, but so far so good! I'd highly recommend it to any outdoor runner. I still use the Nike+ when I go on the treadmill (though I recently lost the part that plugs into the iPod...hmm, I should look for that...), but I might get the foot pod for the Forerunner and replace the Nike+ with that.

They've been great motivators for me during my running journey over the past year. For me, it's extremely satisfying and motivating to see how far I've gone, how my speed has improved over time, and I just love racking up those miles on my shoes! 

Do you use a Garmin or a Nike+? What keeps you motivated in your running and fitness endeavors?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sweet tooth

I'm going to keep you (and me) up to date on my workouts and nutrition during this year of training and racing. I'd love to get any feedback you have on either topics, so please leave a note and I'll be sure to read it! My dad gave me an awesome looking food guide for marathoners (soon-to-be me - I hope!) and I'm really looking forward to reading it and learning more about fueling my body and feeding it good things that will help it move faster and better.

Run: I did five miles this morning - a tempo run of sorts, with a mile at 5.8 mph, a mile at 6.3 mph, a mile at 6.5 mph, a mile at 6.3 mph, a mile at 5.8 mph, and a cooldown. As you can see, I am not the fastest runner around. On my long runs I usually stick to a 10 min/mile pace, and I'm really looking to improve on that this year. My average was a 9:40 min/mile pace in the half-marathon (which I credit to a combination of adrenaline, Powerade gel, and general giddiness), but I'd like to break two hours on my next half-marathon in April, which would require me to run slightly faster than a 9:09 min/mile pace...clearly I have a lot of work to do!

Do you have any speed workouts that help? Leave them below! I am very intrigued by the Yasso 800s, but what do you do for your speedwork?

Nutrition: I always have a snack before I work out. On the rare occasions that I don't have a snack, or think, nah, not hungry enough, I always regret it! I usually only have half a banana, but it's enough fuel to get me through my workout.

My breakfasts don't vary very much - my staples are nonfat plain Greek yogurt (more protein than other yogurts, and less sugar than flavored yogurt!) with cereal like Kashi Go Lean, flax seed meal, and some type of berry; cream of wheat with the leftover half of banana and cinnamon; or steel cut oatmeal with half a banana and cinnamon. I like the stuff that sticks to my ribs and keeps me full till snacktime around 11 a.m. - which brings me to snacktime! Usually I have pretzels or an apple for a snack, sometimes with some peanut butter - YUM (honestly, is there a better snack than an apple with peanut butter? I THOUGHT NOT). Much like my dinners, my typical lunch is a salad with chicken, or chicken with veggies and brown rice or quinoa. I almost ALWAYS bring my lunch to work, which saves me money and guarantees I'll eat something delicious! :) I love cooking and I love leftovers, so bringing my lunch in works for me. Be on the lookout for some of my favorite recipes in the coming weeks...

Basically, I try to eat a balanced amount of carbs, protein and fat. However, I have to tell you right now that I have a SERIOUS sweet tooth. I mean, seriously. I love to cook, but what I really love to do is bake. As soon as I started bringing treats into my office, I made more friends. No lie. I eat something sweet every day, sometimes twice a day (like today - 2 little cookies after lunch and graham crackers and dark chocolate after dinner!). At the same time, it's not like I'm eating two Crumbs cupcakes a day, plus I work out and eat well otherwise, so I feel like I have a little wiggle room there...unfortunately, I also still have some jiggle, so I think I'll have to curb my sweets intake ya know, tomorrow. We'll see.

What are your tricks for curbing your sweet tooth? Or do you just let it run wild?

Totally conditioning my body

Every Tuesday and Thursday I partake in a particularly painful but totally awesome class at New York Sports Club (NYSC) called Total Body Conditioning (TBC) with Andrew. I started going in March of last year, then took a serious hiatus while I trained for last year's half-marathon and returned in October, usually going both days each week. I mention that the class is with Andrew because he is just the best instructor - on days when he's sick (which is rare, thank goodness!), the whole class grumbles and some even leave, thinking the substitute will not be nearly as good as Andrew. I usually stay, figuring hey, at least I'll get some weights in, but the instructor is never as ass-kicking as Andrew. Andrew is also one of the fittest people I've ever seen - he's probably in his 40s, and he is fitter than any 20-something in that class!

The class is made up of 50 minutes of strength, weight training and cardio, and it will seriously kick your butt - literally, the most painful part of my body today (and most post-TBC days) is my butt. I'll try to post a few of the regular workouts we do, but what makes this class so great is that he changes it every time. Sure, we'll always do some abs, work the legs, do push-ups (which he fondly calls "Michels" since Michel, one of the regulars, hates push-ups so much), use the body bar and dumbbells at some point, and end with some stretching, but he does tend to throw in something totally impossible-looking in each class. I go to this class with two of my roommates, and as soon as we see that impossible-looking thing, we scoff, call Andrew crazy, then actually give it a try. Usually, it is very hard, but not impossible. He's made the class extra hard for the new year and surprises us with something new in every class. I've gotten to the point where I'm not usually sore after runs (even long ones), but I'm almost always sore after this class - today it's my shoulders, butt and lower back, but he makes sure not to make my arms, quads, calves, or hamstrings feel left out most of the time!

I'm still researching and figuring out what, exactly, the benefits that weight and strength training bring to running, but I know that there are some and that weight and strength training is an excellent complement to running! For starters, there's your core. You need a strong core for running - the muscles in your core support your trunk and hips and give you a strong base for running. A strong core helps you maintain your alignment and helps with balance and coordination. Now I can't say that I am the most devoted core-worker-outer, but I try to do ab exercises and planks a few times a week. I've even gone to TBC just to get an ab workout before I had to get into work early! I've thought about getting a balance ball to sit on at work instead of using a proper chair, but somehow I just don't think my office would go for that...

I own a couple of Pilates DVDs and I think I will start incorporating them into my workouts more, plus NYSC offers Pilates and yoga classes too. I hear yoga is a fantastic complement to running, and really helps with your breathing.

If you have any core exercises that you swear by, leave them below! I would love to see the ways you strengthen your core and improve your running - I definitely still need to strengthen my core and improve my running!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A little bit of background...

I have always believed that I was not physically built to run. Believe me, I tried when I was little, and I just couldn't do it. I was a skinny little kid and always found myself out of breath at the end of the mile you had to run in P.E. (though that may have had something to do with living in the desert of Saudi Arabia...). I thought I had asthma and was even told so by a doctor! When I moved to the U.S. at age 14 and our P.E. grade depended on how fast we ran the mile, I opted to walk the mile for a grade since I knew I could not run.

Luckily, before I hit college anyway, my genes were good enough that I could eat whatever I wanted, not do any form of physical activity, and still stay pretty small. In high school when we had to do some activity every season, I did the fall play, the winter musical, and was a coxswain for rowing in the spring (coxswains sit in the back of the boat - we don't row).

In college I rarely went to the gym, and when I did I would go on the elliptical for 30 minutes. I tried the treadmill a few times, but decided it was My Worst Enemy and I would never go on it again.

Fast forward to post-graduate life - I work at a desk job where I'm sitting for 9+ hours a day, I live with a roommate who goes to the gym religiously, and I continue to eat cupcakes and cookies whenever I feel like it! I felt pretty awesome, eating whatever I wanted and not gaining (too much...) weight, but I noticed that I had some trouble areas and got winded walking up the two flights of stairs to my apartment. Like a lot of companies, my company offers a discount at the New York Sports Club. I figured, why not? My dad just told me to MAKE SURE I USE IT!!! and so I decided to try running. My roommate did it, my boss was a marathoner, and another coworker had just started running, so what can I say? I was surrounded by inspiration to give it a go.

My first run? Half a mile at 5.0 mph, which I could barely sustain. Everybody's got to start somewhere though, right? But the pain...ohhh the pain! The leg pain was terrible. Since I must be some sort of masochist (all rowers and runners must be, to some degree), I decided to keep going. Increase the distance, go with what was comfortable, but build up my lungs and just keep running.

Half a mile turned into a mile, which led to two miles, then three, and the realization that hey, I could maybe run a 5k now! So I signed up for one. I ran the George Washington Parkway Memorial 5k in Virginia in 29:24. Not too shabby for a first-timer! I was ecstatic and instantly addicted to the feeling of racing.

My next goal was a half-marathon in September in Queens. I logged onto Runner's World and used their SmartCoach tool to come up with a training schedule for me. I followed it religiously - a mistake, I have to say - putting off social events because I just HAD to do this run the next day. It was an unhealthy entrance into the racing world, but I definitely learned a LOT from that experience. I ended up running the half-marathon in 2:06:38, which I was more than pleased with!

In November I volunteered at the NYC Marathon on the course, handing out Gatorade at mile 20. THAT gave me the marathon bug. This year, I became a member of New York Road Runners and plan on doing the 9+1 program that will give me guaranteed entry into the 2011 NYC Marathon. I do plan on running a marathon in 2010 though - either the Marine Corps Marathon or the Chicago Marathon.

This blog will follow my training for the marathon, races before that, background on my previous experiences, and anything I learn along the way. I hope you enjoy the journey with me...and maybe get some inspiration to run along the way!