Sunday, March 31, 2013

Spring Has Sprung (Finally)

Since exactly one week ago, a foot of snow buried my hopes for spring so deeply I thought that it would never come, I want to take a moment and celebrate that it's FINALLY spring here.

Yeah, I like Thug Kitchen A LOT. 

The sun is out, it's 60+ degrees out, and my 11 mile run in the icy rain yesterday afternoon is out of my head. I officially switched out my closet to spring/summer today, so hopefully we don't have any more relapses! Spring colors are poppin' like it's hot in my closet.

The Grige and I took a little trip to the zoo. It was sunny, but the animals were mostly napping. I think I'm about ready for a nap too!

Yoga Birds
This guy is also anxious to lose his winter wardrobe.
So dignified, so ready for a nap

Nice Hair, bro.
Stay tuned for more spring.  I know I will. Which brings me to.... we are officially 7 days away from my half marathon. I'm pretty nervous, and I feel like there just isn't much info out there about the race to help me prepare. I've studied the course map and picked my outfit, but I can't find reliable information on parking near the race course, metro hours, or spectator information. Alas, I guess it will have to wait for the expo on Friday.

As far as other race-prep, I'll be getting up early every morning for a short, easy run every day this week. I'll be following up with yoga after work. I'll start carb loading on Thursday and won't be  drinking any alcohol or consuming any other "empty" calories until after the race. I've been using my foam roller twice to three times a day and will continue doing so in addition to icing my quads. I'm looking forward to putting the half behind me and focusing on the full marathon.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

5 Reasons to NOT Run a 5K

This should actually be titled “5 (Completely Subjective) Reasons to NOT Run a 5K (As Your First Race)”, but that’s too long. So let’s just assume that everyone will read past the catchy title before getting all bent out of shape at me.
The popularity of the 5K race is nothing short of a revolution. I’m not here to argue that this isn’t a good thing. The Couch to 5K program is a fantastic approach to introduce non-athletes to running and to encourage healthy lifestyle changes. I highly recommend it. However, I think that getting too wrapped up in the 5K distance during my formative running years (aka: high school, college and immediate post-grad) was a really negative thing. I wish I had been much younger than 22 when a marathoner finally told me: “I used to hate running too. It turns out that anything under 5 miles just really sucks”.  Of course, I didn’t believe her. If I was struggling to run 3 miles, how could I run 5 or 10 or (gasp) 26.2? Impossible math. If I had been 16 when I first heard that advice, I would have been 19 by the time I realized it was true. So if you are really struggling as you try to train for a 5K, just remember: It’s not you, it’s probably the wrong distance.
Here are my top 5 reasons to NOT run a 5K:
1.       5K’s are super popular. Maybe too popular. I literally can’t open the internet without hearing about a new “cool” 5K in my area. Headlines like “dogs and strollers welcome!”, “We will throw colored corn starch at you!” or “fire pit full of snakes!” are just a few of the “fun” things you can experience. I do not think this is a good way to do a first race. It’s great that 5Ks are easy to find without traveling, but it’s much better to do a race where people are taking it seriously and there aren’t obstacles intended to make it harder than it already is to stay on your feet and moving forward. You will rarely see an advertisement like this for a longer distance, but 10Ks are nearly as easy to find as 5Ks.
2.       Shorter means faster. One of the cardinal rules of injury avoidance is that you can either increase distance or speed, never both.  When you are training for your first race, building the distance safely is pretty much the only thing that matters. This means people are going to BLOW by you on race day at a 5K, which can be a little demoralizing. Those of us who didn’t have nick-names like “crazy legs” in high school will probably want to focus on distance for quite a while (years, even) before we start thinking about speed. If you chose a 10K instead of a 5K, you will train for longer (thus increasing your confidence) and there are likely to be many more people in your (slower) pace range. When I ran my first 10K, I was terrified of the distance. By the time I finished, I realized that my 10K splits were faster than my P.R. 5K splits. In fact, I essentially ran back to back 5K personal records in the form of one race. I’m finding the same thing with marathon training. My pace for all distances is pretty steady; it’s just a matter of building up the mileage.
3.       Runner’s High.  The actual science on Runner’s High is pretty sketchy, but the general idea is that your pituitary gland will release endorphins (which essentially make you “happy”) once you cross an effort-related threshold. Wikipedia ( summarizes that threshold as being related to “long, continuous workouts, when the level of intensity is between moderate and high, and breathing is difficult. This also corresponds with the time that muscles use up their stored glycogen”.  Workouts of over 90 minutes are a rough rule for when you fully deplete your glycogen stores, so it follows that it would be unlikely that one would experience “runner’s high” in a running workout of less than that.  It’s been suggested (like in Born to Run) that there is an evolutionary connection between persistence hunting (when a human tracks an animal to exhaustion) and runner’s high. I’m no scientist, but I have never, ever experienced runner’s high before mile 4 and rarely before mile 6. I regularly experience it around miles 8, 9 or 10, which is extremely consistent with the 90 minute mark in my workouts. I feel pretty confident saying that it’s not likely a new runner will experience a “high” while training for a 5K. And let me tell you, that “high” is totally worth the effort.   
4.       The “Other” Runner’s High: Accomplishment. I suspect that you are not training for a long distance race because it’s something that anyone can do. If you want to feel like you’re doing something special (which can be highly motivational, by the way), a longer distance is the way to do it. I know lots of accomplished runners who constantly give me accolades for running such “long” distances. I know I’m not doing anything that many of them couldn’t do better if they tried, but that’s just it – they’re not doing it. I am. Sure, it’s hard, and I’m definitely still slow, but I go out there every day and put the miles down and it makes me feel really good about myself. Way better than the comparative “instant gratification” of running a 5K.  
5.       The Lifestyle. 5K training did not make me feel like a runner. It’s not long enough or involved enough to elicit the kind of changes that I wanted running to make in my life. I spent a lot of years feeling frustrated that my over-all fitness wasn’t really improving, I wasn’t losing weight, I couldn’t really eat what I wanted, and never really looked forward to running. I truly believe it’s because the commitment needed for 5K training wasn’t enough to push me over the threshold to really enjoying running as part of my life. The longer distances are habit forming – I get so excited for my weekend long runs, I kind of can’t imagine my life without them! I never would have experienced that if I hadn’t pushed to longer distances. The best part is, you can still run a 5K, but when you make it part of the journey, instead of a stand-alone goal, it becomes a lot more fun. You can still run with friends, who are doing shorter distances, you’ll just do another loop when they are finished. And then you can go home and eat a giant bowl of pasta and look forward to your next race.  
In summary, 5K’s never worked for me. I’ll never forget screaming at the Grige while he tried to pace me through the last 1000 yards of a 5k turkey trot after training my butt off and still being unable to break 30 minutes. I really wish I had wasted less of my life being angry about 3.1 stupid miles. My tipping point was a little north of that mark, and I’m really glad that I pushed my way there.
So if your 5K is making you angry, do me a favor and sign up for a 10K or a half marathon, stop feeling guilty about taking a walking break and get ready to be surprised.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


Disclaimer: I really want this post to be about my 12 mile long run yesterday. But I already know I'm going to get distracted. I want you to know that I have tried to calm down. I've tried wine, I've tried pranayama breathing, I tried talking to the Grige and my Mom, and I've reached the conclusion that if I am still this angry after 12 miles, or 2 hours and 17 minutes, of pounding pavement, I'm probably not going to relax for a while.

So let's start with the run, and see where we go. I wanted to start early, but let's be honest: I love staying in bed with the Grige for as long as he will let me. I'm building a whole life around that fact, because I am actually a morning person, but it's the only time I get to see him, so I take full advantage. So I dropped him off at studio around 8, and ran to the grocery store, and ate some peanut butter toast and a banana. I actually made it out the door by 10 a.m., which is quite a bit earlier than normal!

I really just want to let that paragraph be, but did you know that I am a horrible feminist because I let my husband's schedule dictate my plans? Do you know that that's what I was thinking about while we snuggled? That I am letting my gender down because I want to appreciate my husband. Yes, I let that stupid article in New York Magazine, which I will not link to on principle, get in my head BIG TIME.

I was actually excited to read it. I think it's so cool that we're approaching a time where women can chose to work, or stay home, or really do whatever they want without judgement. I was psyched to read about feminist housewives, who are devoting their educations and energy to raising responsible, kind, intelligent little humans and to providing care and assistance to those they love. Well, SURPRISE! Instead, I got to read a bunch of barely veiled snide commentary peppered with out of context quotes designed to make these women sound like simpering idiots and make me feel bad about pretty much every single choice I've ever made and will ever make.

And as my anger simmers, I realize that what is so wrong about this article is that it not only pits women against each other, but it pits women against their husbands, and it really makes you wonder what the hell kind of woman could actually win in the world the author paints. It made me feel like the fact that I cooked dinner for my husband last week is not because I love him and want to support him, or even because I like to cook, but actually because I'm participating in some patriarchal scheme that my husband and all the men everywhere have concocted. He wasn't working late, he was actually smoking cigars with all the other bros and laughing about it while I slaved over a hot stove.

You see, my marriage is not a microcosm for all gender roles everywhere. It's actually just a couple of fools trying to muddle through building a meaningful and enjoyable life together. As a team. And if I decided to stay home, or take a job as a CEO at a start up, it would be a team decision, and there would be pros and cons just like every other decision in life. Maybe it would work and maybe it wouldn't, our job is just to find what works for us, which is pretty damn feminist, if you ask me. I suspect we're not alone in this, and I'm tired of making a decision to do what's right for someone other than myself getting read as being a bad feminist. If I start believing that my husband is not on my team, and I'm out here alone fighting for an abstract construct or whatever just out of spite, that's a really sad life!

12 miles is a long time to think about something and not get any more clarity. Which is how I know that this is a big problem. And then last night, after inhaling a bunch of Persian food, our waiter overhead me bitching (and not for the last time) about what a horrible year for women 2013 is turning out to be. I was specifically complaining about the fact that a hotelier in Greece will only communicate with the Grige instead of me, even though we are paying him with MY CREDIT CARD. My tone was somewhere in between exhausted and "what the f*cking f*ck?!?!". And then, at the end of the meal, for the first time in my entire life (throughout most of which I have been either picking up or splitting bills), the waiter handed ME the check. So maybe there's hope. There was definitely a big-ass tip for him.

I think that feminism for me is a little bit like long distance running. It's a mental game, all about choice - how you let people make you feel, which way you turn, whether or not you can keep going. It always makes you hungry and tired, and sometimes, it gives you diarrhea. It's your race, but it's a lot more fun when you do it as part of a team. To win at running, it's pretty much useless to tear other people down. It's not a contact sport. And to be honest, the real win is just finishing for most of us. Maybe I'm reaching for that, but I think it rings true. I should know, I thought about it for 12 miles, or 2 hours and 17 minutes, yesterday.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


One of the reasons I started running was because I was broke as a joke and wanted an athletic endeavor that theoretically wouldn't cost me more than the price of shoes, which I would probably own anyway.

I don't want to imply that this isn't true. It is 100% possible to run with nothing but shoes and whatever athletic clothes you happen to have. But this is America, so you can bet that there is a giant industry built up around selling you stuff for something that you can do for free.

However, stuff is fun sometimes. So I thought I would tell you a little bit about mine.


I try to keep it minimal, but as mileage increases, there's more I just "need" to have with me. I still use my Nathan handheld water bottle when it's warm out, but there are a number of water fountains on my current route, so I have taken it out of regular rotation. 

So, here's the run-down, from left to right:

1. Petzel headlamp. I don't usually use it for it's headlamp function, since my route is pretty well-lit, but I often turn it backwards for the strobe function. It can't hurt, for the one street I have to cross, and the occasional rogue cyclist. 

2. iPod shuffle and earbuds. I love the shuffle for running. It definitely holds enough music for even my longest runs right now, it's light, it's no big deal if it gets wet or sweaty since they retail for around $40, and it clips to pretty much anything. 

3. Shot Bloks. Delightful little chew candies that I nosh on every 2 miles on long runs. I love them, and the Grige steals from my supplies as snacks. 

4. Garmin Forerunner 10! This! This was a surprise from the Grige earlier this week. It's a "lower end" GPS watch (which means it's 100% solid awesome, but does not have a heart rate monitor). I've only had it out on 3 runs so far, but it's performed as expected so far and really helped me work for those negative splits. I'll review in more depth later.

5. Spi-belt. This guy is not really all I'd hoped for. I have wide hips and a narrow waist, and I like to run in athletic tights. This does not stay put at ALL and I have to constantly adjust. However, It's really convenient to stash keys, snacks and phone for longer runs, so I use it anyway. I'm hopeful that when the weather warms up, it will work better with shorts. Until then, I'm playing around with wrapping it around my arm, or buckling it over a t-shirt. 

oh, pasty legs. March is just the BEST.

6. Last, but not least, my foam roller. I picked this up when I started experiencing quad pain, and let me  tell you, it's like being handed new legs after a long run. To use it, you traction your weight onto the roller and then roll over your muscle. It works for calves, quads, hamstrings and IT band. I am in LOVE. However, you have to deal with the fact that it costs like $30, which seems like a CRAZY amount for a piece of foamy plastic. However, the Grige informs me that it does actually involve some "technology" and is probably justified in the pricing. I'll take it, but only because my legs feel so much better. 

So that's the roundup, and these are just the gadgets. I'll be back with more essentials one of these days.  

Monday, March 18, 2013

Hunger Like a Runner

I never believed all of the people who used to say that they could eat whatever they wanted because of their running schedule. In fact, as a slightly sub-athletic person, I don’t think I have ever in my life experienced a legit increase in biological eating cues as a result of exercise. I have an unbelievably emotional relationship with food, and as a result, I am in the habit of pretty much always restricting my impulses to eat. My natural assumption is that I’m not actually hungry and start looking for the “real” problem – stress, anxiety, sadness, or PMS – before grabbing a fork.

And then, three weeks ago, my relationship with food turned upside down. To understand how crazy this experience was for me, you have to first understand that I hate pasta. I never ate mac & cheese as a kid, I abhor spaghetti (I take my meatballs and red sauce with toast), I’ve spent extended time in Italy and never once ordered a pasta dish.  And then I woke up one morning three weeks ago literally salivating at the thought of penne topped with spicy sausage ragu. I swear to you, I was 100% convinced I was pregnant, until three days later it became apparent that wasn’t the case. But I was still craving pasta, and had started waking up around 5 am with my stomach rumbling and visions of French toast with a side of eggs benedict dancing in my head.
From the January issue of Bon Apetit. Get thee to a kitchen and make this IMMEDIATELY

I made the mistake of assuming that my caloric needs wouldn’t change with training because I had always done 3 mile runs a few times a week. If there was a change, I assumed I would respond to it naturally by incorporating slightly larger servings or by having a snack. As it turns out, running 10-12 miles a week is WAAAAAAAY different than running 20-30 miles a week. Shouldn’t have been a shocker, but it totally was for me. The cravings started when I crossed the 20 miles/week threshold, and no mere “snack” is going to solve the problem. My body is begging me for carbs, and I have to find a way to put aside 20 years of firm resolve against that urge. It’s way harder than I ever imagined.

When you are an emotional eater, re-wiring yourself to respond to your body’s biological cues without feeling guilty all the time is a heavy process. Luckily, the Grige has lots of experience with treating food as fuel, and stands ready to make reservations at Italian restaurants and tell me how good I look when I’m shoveling noodles into my mouth like I may never eat again. What I really notice now is how much media noise there is out there about “healthy choices”, carbs and what women “should” eat (hello, subversively guilt inducing Yoplait commercials!). Did you know that according to available messaging, it is NEVER okay to eat pizza and pie, and that I should feel guilty every single time? Did you know there is a war on bagels???

Clearly, our country has a problem with weight, and much of that could be attributed to the overabundance of convenient, high calorie, low quality foods. But are we going too far in the other direction? Is there any sane reason why a young woman in her ideal BMI range running 20-30 miles a week should feel guilty about eating a giant, juicy burger with the bun still on it? Why do I feel the need to compulsively explain to the waiter that I’m training for a half marathon?

So here is the challenge – I’m going to eat like a runner (because I am one) and I’m not going to apologize for it. I’m going to proudly stuff my face with gnocchi, I’m going to have seconds, and yes, I will have another roll with that, thank you very much. Hopefully, I’ll find my way to a cultural space where other women wake up every morning as excited about breakfast as I do.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Life List Fail, and Accompanying Silver Lining

It's time to cross another item off the life list, but not in the usual way. This time, it will be because I will never be able to accomplish it.

I got my current (and first!) passport when I was 16. I got it for a trip to Italy with my AP European History class, where I became so enamored with traveling that I have made it out of the country at least once a year every year since then, with the exception of 2012 (we got married, I figured that's enough to let myself off the hook for a year).

Italian festivals

2004 - Germany and Italy
2005 - Virgin Island
2006 - Italy (again)
2007 - Mexico
2008 - Canada
2009 - Costa Rica
2010 - Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia
2011 - Spain and Morocco
2012 -
2013 - Wait for it.....

So my passport and I, with the photograph of my broody 16-year-old self, have seen a lot of places. In fact, we've been to every continent, with the exception of South America. And so I made the not-overly-ambitious-at-the-time life list item to get every continent in that passport.

Costa Rican beaches

And then I got married. And changed my name. Emily Fisk has never traveled anywhere, and after much thought and deliberation, she's not going to start this year.

Now, those of you deeply familiar with foreign travel and able to count are probably already aware that my dear passport is about to expire anyway. So when Chad and I decided to take a honeymoon this year, I decided that it would be Emily Fraker's last ride, and I'd say farewell to my passport in style.

The only thing left to do was convince the Grige that we should go to South America and my goal would be complete! Success! Except no - because an arbitrary goal is not really a good basis for planning your honeymoon. Pesky things like flight costs, where your husband actually wants to go, safety and timing actually play in quite a bit.

So, we are not going to South America, ergo, I will not be able to check this item off my list. However, we ARE going to GREECE! For which I am so unbelievably excited I can hardly stand it. Neither of us have ever been there, and there will be lots of history for me, architecture for the Grige, beaches and adventure aplenty for both of us! In the grand scheme, I'm still getting out of the country and can hardly complain. Silver linings FTW!

Noms in Morocco
For the record, I can't recommend planning a honeymoon after the wedding is over highly enough. It has been so very fun to spend tons of time and energy researching the trip, which is something we never would have been able to do while planning the wedding at the same time. We will also have lots of energy and mental space to enjoy the trip. If we had gone right after the wedding, we would have been so busy processing the enormity of that day it would have been hard to take in a new country. To be clear, you should definitely take some quiet time alone after your wedding, but save the big crazy trip for after you've had some time to process.