October 4, 2008

Twin Cities Marathon 2008

Tomorrow I am running in my third marathon, the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon - 2008. I ran this marathon in 2006 and 2007 as well.

In 2006 the weather was beautiful. You couldn't ask for anything better. This race was mostly fun with only a little pain, well, unleast until after the race. It was an excellent experience that made me want to continue running marathons.

In 2007 the weather was way too hot. The starting temperature was 74 degrees and the ending temperature was 86 degrees. For 20 miles of the race there was no clouds, no breeze, just sun and heat. The marathon officials would likely have called the race had the cloud cover not rolled in for last bit of the race. It was a very painful race. I was exhausted and dehydrated. I experienced heat stroke symptoms the rest of that day. As a statistician, or I should say, biostatistician, I thought to myself the probablity of similar weather conditions in next year's TC Marathon was highly unlikely.

Here I am running the marathon tomorrow. I am going into this race knowing that this is my last marathon for the next few years. I am thinking more and more about running half-marathons or maybe the TC 10-mile. I think the training runs over 15 miles this year were on the boring side. So if I run a marathon again, I will have to join a running club.

In previous years, I built up anxiety before the race. However, this year, I am just plain excited. I have set no goal for myself. I feel that way I can really just enjoy the run. Tomorrow there is a 68% chance of rain during the marathon and a small chance of thunderstorms. If there is lightening then they will call the race, so let's just hope there is no lightening. I actually ran my 20-mile training run in the rain. So rain, though not ideal, will have to be good enough. I know I can do it!

Thank you all for your emails of support and sharing your experiences with me. I haven't had time to respond to all of them, but I can assure you I have read all of them. Best of luck to all you runners out there!!!!!!!!!!!!

P.S. ~ I have learned so much more this summer while running again. I am thinking about continuing my blog segments about running techniques, methods, and running chemistry, like building up blood vessels and different sources of protein. Things I never thought of until this summer. Very interesting and I would love to share!

April 23, 2008

Twin Cities Marathon 2008

Does anyone read this anymore? If I get some responses to write again than I will start writing again. It seems that my running tips were helpful. Thanks for your comments.

FYI ~ I am fully registered again for the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon again this year, which will be run on October 5th, 2008.

October 14, 2007

The Marathon

Hi all,

Well, as you may have heard the Twin Cities Marathon this year was the hottest in it's history of 26 years. That's right...starting temperatures of 74 degrees with 87% humidity @ 8am with no clouds in the sky. Beautiful by many judgements, but very uncomfortable to run in. Oh, and there was no breeze! Around 11:15am, clouds did start rolling and a slight breeze did come through, which later I heard saved the marathon from being called earlier. The Chicago Marathon, also held that day, got called early (3.5 hours into its marathon). By the time I fininshed the race it was 86 degrees.

Results:

2007 Chip Time: 4:28:29 (hr:min:sec) = 10:15 (min:sec)/mile on average

Interval Splits (hour:min:sec):

5K (approx 3.105 miles) = 0:26:10
10K (approx 6.21 miles) = 0:54:10
Half-marathon (13.1 miles) = 2:01:27
30K (approx 18.63 miles) = 3:02:47
20 mile = 3:17:33

Other Info:

2007 Goal Time: 3:55:00 = 9:00 (min:sec)/mile on average
Qualifying Time for Bostons: 3:40:00 (so I obviously didn't qualify)
2006 Chip Time: 4:07:12

As you can see, my time slowed down by 21 minutes compared to last year, despite my efforts of training harder and faster this year. Note, however, that last year I finished in the 27th percentile for my division (female 20-29) and this year I also finished in the 27th percentile for my division. That means everyone slowed the pace sort of consistently in my division.


Other Statistics:

10500 runners registered for the marathon, of which only 8106 crossed the start line. Of the 8106, only 7215 runners finished the marathon. The average time was 4:48:01.

My Marathon Story:

I started the marathon weak. I did not feel strong as I often did during my training period at the beginning of my runs. I blame myself for not eating consistently the day before the marathon and bulking up on my carbs. Jeremy and his mom came out to cheer me on at mile marker 1 on Hennepin Ave. By mile 5 my left pinky toe started hurting. It felt like it was bleeding, but no time to stop. So I kept running.

Jeremy and his mom cheered me on at mile marker 6, which was when Jeremy handed over my inhaler and I took my first puff. This was also around the time I took my first carb shot. Note that during my training I never took my inhaler - not once, so I knew the humid weather was playing a role in my difficulty running.

Every two miles, the marathon provided Gatorade and water. I initially started taking Gatorade because this is what I was consuming during my training runs. For some reason it did not sit well this day and upset my stomach. I felt like throwing up. My side cramped up at mile 8. I stopped for 30 seconds or so to get a good breath of air and release the cramp in my side. Ok, so now I was at least ok to run. No more Gatorade...water will have to do.

I started to doubt I would make it to the finish line since I already was showing signs of fatigue, my stomach was upset, and it was hard to breath. I started to feel claustrophic with all the runners and spectators and the narrow path that seemed to go on for miles. Where was that breeze? We were to predicted to have an 80% chance of thunderstorms this morning by NWS, so where was it? I overheard others asking the same question that I had been pondering for miles.

Jeremy and his mom came to mile 11, just before Lake Nokomis. I think this is where Cedar Ave meets Minnehaha Parkway...I very well could be wrong. I was overjoyed to see them. I need the lift in my spirits so I could stop thinking about giving up. I remember Jer asking how I was feeling, to which my reply was "Not Good!". This is about the time when many of the other runners started walking. I tryed to only let myself walk at the water stations.

It seemed to take forever to run along Lake Nokomis, but eventually I got passed it and broke away to West River Parkway, which parallels the Mississippi River. We head north on it for a few miles. At mile 15, the usual folks were out offering up cut up bananas. As much as I wanted to take some, I couldn't. I didn't have enough slivia in my mouth to swallow them. That is probably the best description of just how hot it was out there.

Despite water stations passing me every other mile, it just did not seem like enough. After a mile of passing a water station, I would become lethargic again. It felt like I was in a desert and needed water. I thought I would pass out. Oh, did I need water. I looked at the spectators downing their bottles of water and thought about snagging it out of their hands, or at least asking them for it. So thirsty!

By mile 16 I saw Jeremy and his mom again. That goodness...just the lift I needed to get me throw the last of the Minneapolis portion of the marathon. Jeremy was drinking a bottle of water and I asked him for it. I downed half of the bottle of water despite getting water from a water station one mile previously. I told hime there was just not enough water stations out her to accomodate the weather conditions...most likely because it was forcasted with 80% probability of having completely different weather.

At mile 17 I started to walk again. This was also the mile where there was more water and where volunteers passed out Clif Shots (i.e., carb shots). I got strawberry! I found it very difficult to swallow these shots and my own stash of carb shots because there was just no slivia in my mouth to get them washed down. I decided at this point to only have them at the water stations from this point forward in the race.

Mile 18-19 crosses over the river, which represents departing Minneapolis and heading into the last portion of the race in St. Paul. Thank goodness I told myself. Now, I can't quit. Nope, only if I pass out will I quit. I saw a few good friends in this neck of the woods, including my friends Nick and Kaleb.

The end of mile 20, going on to mile 21 is where the BIG hill is located. This happens when you start to depart away from the river and head onto Summit Ave. I didn't think I could make it up the hill without water. I stopped to walk, but a fellow runner named Roberto, who was from Costa Rico, to me to "Vamos!", and so I did.

Spectators kept saying at the top of the hill is water...just make it to the top. I got to what I thought was the top of the hill and there was no water. Thankfully, there they were...Jeremy and his mom. Jeremy gave me his water and this time I kept the bottle. I took my third puff of my inhaler and I was off again.

Only 5 more miles left...this was a pleasant thought at first, but then it quickly turned into a scary thought. Can I make it the last five miles? I was in so much pain already. My body hurt. My muscles were tight from the lack of water retainment in my body. Ok, I am not going to get to the end being negative..."think positive thoughts". This and more I kept repeating to myself as I took on Summit Ave.

Summit Ave seemed to take forever to run. I mean forever. Each mile seemed to pass slower and slower. In actuality, this was not just in my mind. My time slowed dramatically, so each mile was actually passing me slower and slower. I had my water bottle with me so I felt secure that I could make it. The kind specators offered to hose me down with their garden hoses and I obliged. Thank the kind Lord for these folks. It was just what I needed to keep from passing out -- keeping my body temperature down.

Finally, I passed mile marker 25. Only 1.2 miles left! I can do this, I thought. But my body hurt...so I needed to walk despite the finish line being so close. I walked for a minute and ran the rest of the way. The last half mile was all down hill with the finish line in site. Nice! I see the end. Focus on that finish line. Just get there. Don't hit a wall now. Just get there! 3-2-1-finish line! Praise the Lord, I finished this one!

At this point I screamed to my sister "never again". I quickly changed my mind after I had a chance to cool down. I have to reach my goal time...so another marathon will be in my future.

My family, Jeremy, and his mom, plus a few other folks were waiting my arrival at the finish line. Thank you all of you! It honestly makes it all worth it to me. Thank you!

September 7, 2007

A Few Updates

I just finished up my first week of classes, though it did not officially start until Tuesday, so was not a complete week. My classes seem smaller and more challenging than last year. I know this will be good for me when it's all over with, but for right now I am seeing things as strenuous. I am taking (1) Probability Models, (2) Linear Models, and (3) Mathematical Statistics which equates to a 10-credit load. Full-tmie status for a graduate student is deemed to be 6 or more credits, so needless to say, this is definitely a full-load. Am I nervous? Yes! Am I scared? Somewhat, yes! Am I excited? Yes! When it's all over, I will definitely know my stuff. Either that, or it will overtake me. Just Kidding! I will never let that happen.

During my first day of Probability Models, I received eight homework problems, all of which are proofs. During the second day of this course I received three or four more proofs to complete. The positive side of this is that the proofs are short and sweet. Furthermore, we are covering essentially the same material, at least for this first week, in my Mathematical Statistics class. Nice! I love when my classes align like that. It makes you really understand things better when you learn it from two different teaching styles.

During my first day of Linear Models, I received a quick homework assignment, which I haven't done yet purely because of procrastination. I have to email my professor a description of myself and my expectations for this course. I love it when professors give a semi-personal assignment like this. I makes me feel like they actually care or at least want to care about you as a student.

During my first day of Mathematical Statistics, I received a 34-problem homework assignment which is supposed to be "review". I looked at it the other night and it seems LONG! Many of the problems have multiple parts. Secondly, the problems seem rather involved and will definitely take some thought and lots of time to complete. We have ten days to complete it. Yikes! It is worth 5% of our final grade. On top of this, during my second day of this class today, my professor gave us many in-class "exercises" to be completed at our own leisure and posted twelve more problems on his website. However, we do not have to submit these or any other additional problems. There is to be no more submitted homework after the first "review" assignment. The professor did forewarn us that any homework he assigns but does not collect will come back to haunt us and could potentially show up verbatum on a exam. This also means that 95% of our final grade is based on our performance on the two exams (midterm is 35% and final exam is 60%). I feel like I may be struggling my way through this class to ensure I stay on top of things.

In other news, I did win a parking spot through the parking lot lottery. This does not mean the spot is free. It is essentially $224 per semester. A lot of money to a student, but to me this is worth it since I live a distance from campus. I get to park in the Ski-U-Mah parking lot, which is just down the street from my traineeship on campus. Furthermore, I did get my traineeship renewed for this school year taking me through August 31st of 2008. This is conditional on my success in the program.

Tomorrow (Saturday) is the annual biostat/stat picnic. Both th Biostatistics dept and Statistics dept come together during this event, which is nice because many students in the Statistics dept share a class with me. Last year, besides the weather being cold, it was fun and relaxing. Immediately following the picnic tomorrow I am off to a wedding. Also, in the morning I have to complete a 14-mile run for my marathon training. Sunday will be a day of homework, nothing but homework, and a short run of course.

Until next time...

August 21, 2007

The Ladies of Shock 2007

Shock 2007 2.JPG

You may recognize a few of these women in this picture because a few of them are also U of MN students. I thought I would share this picture with you since soccer is a semi-big part of my life. I have played soccer since I was seven years old. It is a part of me. Our team, called Shock, played D2 on MWSL (Minnesota Women's Soccer League). The past couple years our team has won the league, though this is only the second year I have been on the team. This past year we struggled a bit initially to find our synergy so did not win the league. We did well and by the middle of the season we found our nitch again.

The picture is a big blurry, but it's the best of the couple pictures taken. There are a few players missing from the photo since it was taken right after our last game. I love this team!

August 14, 2007

Getting Ready

Fall semester officially starts on Tuesday, September 4th. Currently I am not taking any classes, which has been a refreshing break. However, now I am starting to miss it all.

I am taking three courses this fall:

  1. Linear Models (the theory thereof),

  2. Probability Models (which I think is like stochastic processes), and

  3. Mathematical Statistics - Stat 8111

I am kind of nervous about taking these three classes concurrently because they will all be quite challenging and theoretical. Linear Models and Probability Models will be on my Preliminary Exam that I will be taking next August. Mathematical Statistics used to be on the Preliminary Exam - well, it still is this year, but this is the last year. They have made some adjustments to the coverage material on the Exam this past year, effective in 2008. The professors and students I have spoken to about my fall classes basically say "I'll be busy". I think I am building up some anticipatory anxiety about it, but I'll get over it once it all starts.

My assistantship has given the students under the same grant as me some money to purchase some related textbooks. I have fully taken advantage of this...now my problem is finding time to read them all. I am just reading the ones that peak my interest right now. Actually all of them peak my interest or I wouldn't have ordered them, but I am referring to the ones that will best prepare me for the fall. I am hoping to gain a collection of reference books to aid me with my studies.

As the summer is winding down I am trying to make the most of it. My soccer league finished last week, while my marathon training is really picking up. I ran a 15-miler this past Saturday and will be running a 16-miler this coming Saturday. Only eight more weeks until the marathon. I ordered a treadmill, picked it up this past Sunday, and ran my first run on it today (a 7-miler). It is so nice!

I have always wanted a treadmill but have never wanted to spend the money on it. I am now glad that I waited because I know exactly what I am looking for in a treadmill. I want a quiet, wide belt with extra cushioning for my joints. I want a heart rate monitor, built-in speakers, a programmable machine, and one with an incline. The one I actually ordered is a NordicTrack! It has a built-in T.V. Nice, huh? It makes my runs so much more enjoyable. Oh, and I also wanted a machine to count my calories that I burn, and keep track of my time and pace. Anyways, I am quite happy with it.

Last year after the marathon, I basically stopped running for the winter. This was a BIG mistake. I regret it. I think for my mental health and overall health I need to keep this part of me alive. I find fun in exercising and breaking a sweat. I plan to run three to five miles, five days a week after the marathon and to maintain this even in the most stressful of times.

Anyways, I plan to keep writing my "running tips" blogs but I wanted to write about my thoughts and anticipation of the school year resuming soon. :-)

August 3, 2007

Joint Statistical Meeting (JSM) 2007

This past week I attended the JSM conference in Salt Lake City. Thankfully I wasn't on campus during this weeks events here in Minneapolis with the bridge collapse. JSM is an annual gathering of statisticians, biostatisticians, and others in this field. I heard something like 3000+ statisticians attend JSM each year.

I did not present anything, just attended it. It was interesting. Some talks I understood, while others were way over my head. I actually feel as though I understood much more than I understood when I attended JSM last, which was two years ago here in Minneapolis. One day I would love to present at this meeting. I think it would be good for my future career. Right now I don't have anything to present, but maybe in another year or two.

Here's a link to my photos of Salt Lake City: http://www.kodakgallery.com/Slideshow.jsp?mode=fromshare&Uc=19tyxfck.8urlgplk&Uy=ifev50&Ux=0. Oh, and you may see pictures of my friend John. I met John at Western Michigan University years ago. He has his Ph.D. in Statistics from Western Michigan University and is doing a post-doc at Pomona College in California.

Stef :-)

July 24, 2007

So sad...

I just went to MPR.org to tune into the radio when I saw a headline reading "Fifth Minnesota sextuplet dies". I have been following the Morrison's story all summer and praying for the lives of these babies and their parents. I was watching the news on T.V. earlier and thought these parents look like my age. I cannot imagine what they must be going through. What a tough situation!

I am writing this blog today in hope that others read their stories and pray for them. Here is a link to their blog: http://morrison6.com. Check out their website, read their blogs, pray for them, and make a monetary contribution to them if possible. Their medical bills must be rough, unimaginable even. I think that the best wealth we can acquire is given to us by the gratitude of others. At least keep this family in your prayers. Thank you.

God bless!

July 18, 2007

Running Tips - Part 5: Running Form

I will continue with my running tips.

  1. Stretching

  2. Listening to your body

  3. Breathing

  4. Running form

  5. Eating right

  6. Hydration

  7. Running shoes & clothing

Today I will discuss what is an appropriate running form to get that optimal performance out of your run and minimizing any undue stress on your body.

RUNNING FORM:
First I would like to emphasize the importance of your body posture while running. There is one lady that I see running most days that lives by me but who has such poor running form. I feel like telling her how much better she may feel after her runs and how much she can improve her runs with good body posture. Ok, so what is good posture?

You will want to run with your upper body being straight up so as to lengthen your air canal. This will allow you to breath fully. Keep your head up, allowing you to breath better. This is especially important when running up hills. Focus your eyes on the top of the hill. It is natural for your eyes to revert to the ground in front of you on hills, but keep those eyes on the prize (i.e., getting to the top of the hill). Don't let your shoulders fall inward toward your chest. Keep those shoulders back.

Also make sure to keep your arms down. A common mistake is to pull your arms in toward your chest. Open up your chest! Let your chest be for breathing. You need to use your arms muscles when running. Pump with your arms. Think about bringing your arms down toward your hips and then pumping them. This is also especially important to pay attention to when running up hills. You will want to help prevent your leg muscles from getting fatigued. One way to do this is to take some of that pressure off your legs and to put it into your arm muscles. Pump your way up that hill!

Next, I want to discuss your lower body running form...from your hips downward. For distance training, it is important to strike the ground with the back portion of your foot (i.e., your heal). For speed training, switch it up and run on your toes. It is important not to over-extend your legs while running. I used to get shin splints every year in high school when track would roll around. My dad gave me some of the best advice to prevent shin splits. He too used to be a runner. He said to strike the ground with your heals. I had to pay attention to my running form for years until it became second nature for my feet to strike the ground heal first. Believe it or not, it worked! I have not had shin splints since my senior year of high school, which was nearly a decade ago.

To see how you are striking the ground, look at the bottom of your shoes. You may be able to see where they have become woren down. If you legs are two different lengths (which is more common then one may think), then you may want to see a doctor or athletic specialist before jumping into any long runs. One of my legs is a half-inch longer then the other, however, this is not statistically significantly different for my height. If you see on the bottom of your shoes that you are pronating more to one side or the other then you may want to consider getting orthotics that you can easily slip into your shoes. I run with orthotics. Orthotics may also help prevent getting ITBS (which I have discussed in previous blogs).

Here's the thing about orthotics...they are expensive. Typically to get customized orthotics, they can cost around $300. Some health insurance companies with cover some of the cost of orthotics. To find out, just call your health insurance company. It will likely be considered durable medical equipment. The health insurance that I had at the time covered 80% of the cost. To get customize-made orthotics you will need to visit a podiatrist (i.e., a foot doctor). If your insurance doesn't cover it and you don't want to spend the money then there is another option. You can buy gel orthotics from your local pharmacy (like Walgreens) or sporting goods store. You can cut these to feet into your shoe, but they are different than the ones the doctor will make you. The orthotics I have are solid. Molds were made of my feet so that they fit the arch of my foot. They basically work to level out your feet so that you strike the ground better when running. The orthotics that your doctor will give you can last for years. I have had mine now for about three years and they are wonderful! I don't know if I could have done all this running without them, at least successfully. One more thing about orthotics...you may have to cut the soles that are in your shoes so that the orthotics can fit in there comfortably.

Pay attention to your body when running. Your body will strike the ground over and over when running, so if even one part of your body is not aligned properly, then you could cause yourself injury. This is why orthotics can help with your lower body. Get the most out of your run by making your body work as one. Pump your arms when running, keeping them down by your hips. Focus on where you are striking your feet when you hit the ground. Lengthen your airway and pay attention to your breathing.

FUN RUNNING!

July 11, 2007

Running Tips - Part 4: Breathing

I will continue with my running tips.

  1. Stretching

  2. Listening to your body

  3. Breathing

  4. Running form

  5. Eating right

  6. Hydration

  7. Running shoes & clothing

Today I will blog about breathing techniques when jogging.

BREATHING:
Breathing when jogging seems kind of obvious, but novice runners are known to over-breath. What is over-breathing? Over-breathing is when you either breath too fast or too deep. Under-breathing is the opposite of this. Essentially what you are doing is allowing your body to lose or intake too much carbon dioxide (CO2). Over-breathing (or under-breathing for that matter) may cause a person to hyperventilate. Asthma can intensify this.

I have asthma so I always have to be aware of my breathing. If I start to hyperventilate, my asthma will kick in full force. When this happens I need to immediately gain control of my breathing. If you have asthma and are trying to get into shape by running (or other exercise regimes) then it is a good idea to carry your inhaler with you at all times.

Also people suffering from anxiety can easily over-breath (often referred to as a panic attack) and hyperventilate. I was once told my a medical person that if you suffer from hyperventilating then bring a paper bag with you and breath into it, sealing it tight around your mouth. This will force you to breath in the same CO2 that you just breathed out, which, in essence, prevents your body from hyperventilating. This is a more extreme measure and probably won't help much with running as a paper bag is often not nearby when running.

So it is very important to control your breathing...remember you are indeed in control of it. Don't let it control you! Controlling your breathing is easy...force yourself to breath out and breath in for equal number of counts. I often repeat to myself in my head "out-two-three in-two-three". That is, breath out for three counts followed by breathing in for three counts. Make the counts of equal length. You can choose whatever counts fit your breathing style. Practice this when you are not running to get into the habit of it so that you can get your mind and body to the point (when you are running) not to even think about it.

If the weather is extremely hot or humid then no matter who you are it is important to count your breathing. You do not want to experience any hyperventilating in extreme weather conditions! If ever you feel your breathing getting heavy then it is important to get it under control. Remember, you are in control of your breathing!

Happy running!

July 5, 2007

Running Tips - Part 3: Listening To Your Body

I wasn't sure if anyone was still reading my blog entries. Thanks for the comments! I appreciate them. Today I would like to continue writing about my running tips. Before delving into this, I hope everyone had a relaxing 4th of July. Ok, now back to blogging.

I have already discussed stretching, so today I am going to continue down my list (below) and discuss what I mean by listening to your body. Personally, I believe this is one of the most important aspects to running or any exercise regime, for that matter.

  1. Stretching

  2. Listening to your body

  3. Breathing

  4. Running form

  5. Eating right

  6. Hydration

  7. Running shoes & clothing

Listening to your body:

First of all it is very important to schedule days of rest into your exercise routine. Your body needs time off, just as your mind does with work & school. If you don't take this time off, you will wind up taking steps backwards instead of forwards into your exercise routine. Important: do not run three or more days consecutively. This means you need to schedule something like two days of rest every week. Sometimes it is easy to train your body into a routine like every Tuesday & Friday are my days of rest. This may give you some motivation to get your runs in even when you are busy and just really don't want to run. If you know you will get a break tomorrow, then it's a little extra incentive to get in a good run today. The website that I used for marathon training (HalHigdon.com) recommends a similar type schedule.

Some reasons for not exercising three or more days consecutively is to (1) rest your muscles and (2) not to overuse your mucles. Essentially, if you overuse your muscles (even with proper nutrition and stretching) you could be causing them harm. Think about it as if you are breaking down your muscles day by day and a day of rest restores all (or most) of the stress you put on them. So if you don't take these breaks then your muscles don't take the time to restore themselves fully and eventually your muscles will become extremely fatigued, which could lead to pulling or tearing of your muscle tissues.

I will save a big chunk of this next piece for a later date, but I would like to mention it today...nutrition & hydration. If you are running and start to get a side ache, chances are that you are not properly hydrated. I drink two 8 ounce glasses of water before I begin my run. Everyone needs varying amounts of water to stay hydrated and it really all depends on your body and the weather you are running in. If it is hot or humid then you may need extra water, or maybe want to carry some water with you when you go running. If it is cool out, then you may not need extra water. Bringing water with you on a jog is a good idea. It allows you to listen to your body. If you are thirsty then drink some water or better yet, an energy drink. However, make sure not to overhydrate your body. Extreme overhydration can cause your organs to shut down. So it is key to drink as much water as your body needs but not any more water than that.

Nutrition is important, but I will cover most of this on another date. Today I just want to mention that it is NOT a good idea to diet and run. Reducing your caloric intake slightly and switching your diet to a higher protein diet may be okay, but beyond that you could really be hurting your muscles. I ran into this last year. NOT GOOD! So, if you are dieting make sure you are eating properly - protein, protein, protein. Carbohydrates are also an important to intake when running regularly. They make inexpensive carbohydrate shots for those of your who are running more than 60 minutes at a time. There are many different brands and for the most part, they are all good. Take one carb-shot for every 60 minutes of running. There is much more I have to say on this, but if you are dieting and running, be forewarned that it could be causing more harm then good.

Moving on, I want to discuss how important it is to stick to your running routine, even on those days that you just don't want to do it. As I previously recommended, determine a running schedule that works for you - HalHigdon.com can help if you are training for any races (at any skill level). Next, stick to this schedule. There are so many days that I have had the worst time motivating myself to get out there and run. It is hard, especially on those days when you are tired or have been on your feet all day. Listen to your body on these days, but still get out there. If you need to walk what you had planned, or walk-run, that is perfectly fine. It is just so important to get out there. Bring your dog, listen to your headphones, bring a friend - just get out there. Know that you are not the only one that feels that way. You will really appreciate that you made the effort later. You are trooper and can do it!

Best of luck! Email me with any questions: stefanis@biostat.umn.edu, but put something about running or blog or something into the subject line or I may think it's junk mail and delete it.

July 3, 2007

Despicable!

I was watching the local news last night and learned some really despicable news that is happening in one of our suburbs. The City of Eden Prairie has a plan to reduce the Canadian goose population within it's city limits...slaughter them! This news is so disturbing to me. How can people be so cruel? Their reason is because the goose population is a nuisance and creating too many goose droppings which costs money to clean-up. How selfish can people be?

This plan is not a permanent fix to any "situation" that the citizens of Eden Prairie are feeling. I am certain that there are many citizens of Eden Prairie that oppose this and align with my opinion. If people took this approach to slaugther nuisances in life more generally, this world would be horrible place that I don't want to even imagine. It's just disgusting! People need to learn patience. Learn ways that can deal with this "situation" in an appropriate and humane matter. I am glad to hear that the Humane Society is stepping up and giving advice on how to deal with this "situation" in an humane matter.

Read these articles to learn more...
http://www.kstp.com/article/stories/S128701.shtml?cat=1
http://www.edenprairienews.com/node/2309
http://www.startribune.com/106/story/1238853.html

Some words of advice...leave the world a better place than when you entered it.

June 28, 2007

Running Tips - Part 2: Stretching

To continue from the previous running blog, I have decided to write about some running tips that I have found over my years of running. I do not have any medical training, so these tips are just from my own learning, mostly by trial-and-error. As I mentioned, I would like better explain each of these key points to aid in preventing injury:

  1. Stretching

  2. Listening to your body

  3. Breathing

  4. Running form

  5. Eating right

  6. Hydration

  7. Running shoes & clothing

Today, I will discuss stretching. Next week, I will continue to move down this list and discuss other key points.

Stretching

It is important to stretch when you exercise. Years ago I was always told to stretch before and after exercising. More recently, I have heard that stretching before your body is warmed up could cause harm to your muscles. In high school, I ran long-distance track. We would stretch after a warm-up run of around a mile, and then again after we were done exercising. I seem to agree with the later way of stretching. After a warm-up run or walk, your body is loosened up and you can get a good stretch in. After running, it is important to stretch, but be careful not to over-stretch. What I mean by over-stretching is not to push your stretch further than "comfortable". Feel for the point where you begin to get a stretch and then hold it. Don't push beyond this point, at least this time. If you do this each time you exercise, you will notice that you can stretch further and further.

Now you are thinking "come on, I know how to stretch". So I will move onto what kind of stretches you will want to do. There are many different types of stretches that are important. I will discuss each stretch as corresponding to certain muscles or body parts.

Stretching your quadriceps
Your quadriceps (quads) are located on the front of your thigh. These muscles are extremely important to stretch. One time while playing soccer, I did not stretch and as a result ended up pulling both of my quads and was out of commission for three weeks. Needless to say, make sure to stretch these - no excuses!

First, you can either stand up straight or lay slightly down on your side. Then grab your foot or ankle from behind you and pull it up towards your buttocks or lower back. Pull it back until you start to feel a stretch or it becomes uncomfortable. In the beginning, it may not take much to start feeling a stretch. Hold it for roughly 15 seconds, then slowly release the stretch. Switch legs and stretch the other leg. Repeat this stretch for a second time on each leg.

Stretching your calves
Your calves are located in the back portion of your lower legs. There are a couple positions I know of that your body can be in to do this stretch. First, get into the push-up position with your hands and feet on the ground as if you are about to do a push-up. Put your one foot on top of the other and puch back on the lower foot's heel. If you have bad wrists, then you may not want to do this position. A second position is to put a foot up against a wall and lift your toes as if angled against the wall. The other foot should be straight. The leg you are trying to stetch should be slightly bent. This will stretch the back of your lower leg. Hold the stretch for roughly 15 seconds, then switch feet and repeat. Again, repeat this stretch a second time for each leg.

Stretching your iliotibial band
There are two stretches that I know stretch your iliotibial band, but one of them in my opinion is more effective then the other. I will discuss this other more effective stretch first. Your iliotibial band runs along the outside of your leg from you hip to beyond your knee. This is an important stretch for runners especially. First thing is to lay on your back on a flat surface. Take one leg and curl it in towards your body. For description sake, let us say this is your right leg. Take your other leg (i.e., your left leg) and lift it up behind your right leg, crossing it over to the right side of the body. Now, take your hands and grab the knee of the leg in the back. Here that would be your left knee. Pull this knee and leg towards your body, while keeping your back on the ground. You should feel a stretch on the outside of your hips and buttocks. Hold this stretch for 15-20 seconds. Then switch legs and repeat. Again, repeat this stretch twice for each leg. This is a very powerful stretch. Do it every time you run...you don't want to get ITBS!

The second stretch is to stand upright and put your hands on their respective hips. Take one leg and cross it in front of the other leg. Say, you first cross your left leg in front of your right leg. Then, take that hip with the straight leg (here, your right hip) and push it out towards the side of your body as far as you can. You may not feel a stretch in the beginning of your running regime, but once you start your running regime, believe me, you will feel it. Hold this stretch for 15-20 seconds. Then switch legs and repeat. Again, repeat this stretch twice for each leg.

Stretching your inner upper thigh and groin area
The most common stretch for this body part is referred to as the "butterfly stretch". To do this stretch, sit on the ground and bring both of your legs in until your feet touch, or as close as you can. Hold you back upright. Pull your feet in until you start to feel a stretch. Don't over-stretch! Hold the stretch for 15-20 seconds (or longer if
needed). Repeat this a second time.

Stretching your hamstring
Your hamstring is located in the back portion of your upper legs, sort of behind your quadriceps. There are several common stretches for your hamstring. I will discuss three of them. The first stretch I will discuss is to sit on the floor with your feet extended out in front of you. Try to keep legs straight, although this may be tough in the beginning. If you need to bend your legs then go ahead (don't push it if you can't do it). Then bend forward and reach for your feet. Hold for 15 seconds and relax. Repeat.

The second stretch for your hamstrings is similar, but will stretch each leg separately. Sitting down, decide which leg you will stretch first, say your right leg. Extend your right leg forward and outward. Take your other leg (here, your left leg) and bend it towards the leg you are stretching (i.e., right leg). Try to have your left foot touch the outside of the right leg. The lean over your right leg and reach for your ankle. Again, try to keep your leg straight, but if you need to bend it then go ahead. Hold for 15 seconds, then switch legs. Repeat for each leg.

The third hamstring stretch is a moving stretch. Walking foward, keep your right leg straight and bend down foward and reach your right hand toward the ground while swinging your left leg backwards in the air. You should feel the stretch in your right leg. Then swing your leg and arm back to standing position. In your next step, you will stretch your left leg, and so on as you walk forward.

Stretching your back muscles
There are many muscles in your back, so there are a lot of different stretches you can do. I will just recommend one but it's a little bit complicated to explain. First, sit on the ground. Extend your right leg straight out in front of you without bending your knee. Take your left leg and swing it over your right leg, but this time bend your left leg so that your left foot comes down on the right side of your right leg, near your knee. (I know this must sound confusing!) Take your right arm and reach it in front of you, but onto the left side of your left leg. Try to get your elbow to the left side of your left leg. Then, look back over your left sholder. You will feel a stretch of your muscles around your spin. Hold this for 10-15 seconds. Switch legs and arms and repeat.

Stretches for shins
If you have shin splints, then I highly recommend taking some time off of running. You should be stretching your shins a couple of times every day, on top of using ice for shin splints. The easiest way to stretch your shins is to sit down and do the alphabet with your feet. Do this slowly so that you feel the stretch. Repeat.

There are many more stretches one can do. This is by no means a complete list of stretches for running or any other activity. I do highly recommend adding each of these stretches to your current list of stretches. They are all worth at least a try. Good luck!

June 21, 2007

Taking It Easy

I will write Part II of my running blog in a few more days. Today I just want to write about my summer vacation so far. My summer has consisted of running, soccer, working part-time on campus, and doing a little traveling. I just got back from San Diego. My husband and I went there to celebrate our two-year wedding anniversary.

San Diego is definitely a family destination. It seemed most everything was oriented around kids, fun, and wildlife. I enjoyed the wildlife piece. The hotel where we stayed was submerged in children - everywhere. This meant loudness all day, all night. I love kids, but I also need time to relax. This was an expensive vacation that was not relaxing. I had a hard time getting adjusted to the time change of two hours, but I hardly slept. The hotel blasted music all day and into the evening, then came movie time at the pool, which was followed by fireworks.

I did extremely enjoy the beautiful weather, the ocean and bay areas, and the San Diego Zoo. The zoo was the highlight of the whole trip. It made the vacation well worth it. I got to do some marathon training around Mission Bay area, which was very beautiful. We traveled to Coronado, which is an island attached to the mainland with a 2.5 mile (or so) bridge. San Diego is covered in navy persons and amazing looking battle ships. We took a 2-hour boat cruise around the north and south bay, which was also amazing.

We took the red eye plane back to MN. We got home around 6am on Tuesday. (Yawn). Then I woke up and went to my soccer game. We were only gone 4 days and 4 nights, but I am still trying to get re-adjusted to the time change. Hopefully that will have wore off by the weekend. Below are some photos of my trip:











May 25, 2007

Running Tips For Preventing Injury - Part 1

I wanted to write a running blog with all the running tips I have learned over the years. I think this would be a long-winded blog if I tried to compact it into one blog. So, I have decided to write it in parts. I would like to start off my writing about some of the running injuries I have gotten over the years, which will lead into my tips to prevent injury. I don't have medical training, so this is only my experience and what I have learned over the years. If you experience any of these injuries, the best thing to do is to see your doctor.


Some common running injuries


Shin Splints:

Shin splints occur in your front lower leg (i.e., your shin). The pain will start off being mild, but will only worsen over time if it is not given time to heal properly. The pain is associated with you muscles that are attached to your bone. You have connective tissues that attach the muscles to the bone which become inflammed. It can feel like your muscle is tearing away from your bone. I had this pain (years ago) so bad that I winced going up and down the stairs. It hurt so bad that I would hold the railing in the stair case as if my life depended on it. No worries though if you have shin splints. Taking 2-3 weeks off will allow your shin splints to heal. In my case, because my shin splints were so bad, I had to take a month off. The best thing if you have shin splints is take time off in the beginning, rather then pushing through it since it will only worsen if you run through the pain. Shin splints are caused by improper running form, and your running shoes also may play a factor. I will get into the proper running form later.


ITBS (Iliotibial Band Syndrome):

You iliotibial band runs along the outside of your legs, starting at hip and continues down your leg. The pain that comes from this (at least in my case) feels like a pinching feeling on the outside of your knee; not on your knee cap. The pain is mainly prevalent while running. There are a few causes that I can think of that may give you ITBS: 1) running shoes that are past their expiration date, and 2) changing your running ground (flat to hilly or vice versa). If you switch from flat running trails to hilly running trails, then you could be at risk for ITBS. The way that I healed, was to take off a couple weeks of running and replace it with crosstraining instead. I eventually had to go for physical thearpy for three weeks, a couple times per week. Believe me, physical therapy can be very painful. That is something I hope to not experience again; however, it made me better. Every so often still, I feel a pinching feeling on the outside of my knee, and I have to assess what I am doing wrong. I don't want it to come back in full force ever again.


Bursitus:

The bursitus that I had trouble with occurred on the back inside of both my feet, above my heel. I imagined that something was wrong with my tendon, but the doctor assured me it was bursitus (thank goodness). Your bursa basically cushion your tendon or bone. Bursa are like little disks of fluid that prevent your tendons from rubbing against your bone. When your bursa becomes inflammed and you move your joints, it can be extremely painful. I remembering running and feeling this pain, then jumping in the air with pain because I was not expecting it. I went to the doctor immediately after feeling this pain thinking it was my tendon. The doctor told me to take off a week of running. I could only imagine if I had pushed through the pain, that I would have had to take off more time. This was early in my marathon training program last summer.

I had lost considerable weight when first training and the doctor said that my nutrition caused this. He said "protein, protein, protein"! It is dangerous to lose weight while training, and protein is important to prevent injury, among other things.


Hyperventilating:

This can be common when trying to get back into shape. It could come from breathing heavier than you need, or faster than you need. It feels like you can't breath and are gasping trying to reach for air. This is why it is extremely important to count your breathing, especially in the beginning. I count as follows: "Out-2-3-In-2-3". Bascially breath out for three counts followed by breathing in for three counts. I tend to run in this rythme as well. My steps often correspond to my counts.


The keys to running properly and preventing injury are:


  1. Stretching

  2. Listening to your body

  3. Breathing

  4. Running form

  5. Eating right

  6. Hydration

  7. Running shoes & clothing

I will get into each of these with more detail in my next blog. Hasta entonces!