Just Breathe

When I first started running, I got side stitches all the time. Invariably, I would end up with horrible pain under my ribcage before I hit the one-mile mark.

With time and patience, however, I started getting stitches less and less. Nowadays the only time I have this issue is if I eat too soon before running.

But in the past week or so, I have been getting stitches on every run. Even my easy, short runs have been painful. With each run, my panic grew: if I couldn’t run a slow 4mi comfortably, how would I ever run 26.2?

For days, I tried to pinpoint what the problem was. I kept track of what I was eating, made sure I was hydrated, ran slower…nothing made a difference.

On my easy run today, I made it to mile two before my side started to ache. Now, on a typical run, I listen to music. Today, it was raining really hard, so I left my electronics at home. In the end, it was running without headphones that led me to the root of the problem.

As I ran, I realized that my breathing sounded really weird (something I can’t generally hear over my music). And then it dawned on me – I was breathing through my mouth! This might not sound like a big deal, and for some people mouth breathing works, but for me it is really uncomfortable.

This past week, however, I have been fighting a cold and thus unable to breathe through my stuffy nose. My breathing has been strained and shallow, which is apparently a common cause of side stitches. I didn’t even realize I was breathing through my mouth, because it was the only way I could get air in!

As soon as I realized this, I knew it was the problem. Luckily I was much less stuffy today. I immediately focused on breathing like I normally do while running: slow and steady through my nose. Within about 3 minutes, the pain was gone and I was fine for the rest of the run.

It’s amazing how such a small change can make such a big difference!


Rest Day Reflections #8

It’s now officially two weeks until the marathon. The race is creeping into my thoughts more frequently with each passing day.

I also appear to be coming down with some sort of illness – sore throat, stuffy nose, etc. Not good! When I get sick, it tends to last for a while and I don’t want to be sick while running 26.2mi. I have been making sure to get extra rest, drink lots of water, and take some vitamin C. Plus, I have been washing my hands like a maniac.

In other news, I actually had to wear long pants for one of my runs this week. I typically wear shorts until it is below 40 and we finally had some daytime temperatures in the 30s.

Week Stats:

Miles Run: 30
Yoga Classes: 3
Strength Training Sessions: 2
Weeks Until Marathon: 2
Sodas: 0 (Last night, I almost caved. But I managed to stay strong while others were drinking delicious diet cokes)

Things I am Grateful for This Week:

1) Group Halloween Costumes

I typically dislike dressing up for halloween, because I am terrible at coming up with ideas and not particularly crafty. But when it’s a group costume, I can totally get on board. Last night, some friends and I dressed up as Kiss. It was surprisingly awesome. I was uncertain that we would pull it off, but I am feeling pretty pleased.

My attempt at a mid-70s style Ace Frehley.

My attempt at a mid-70s style Ace Frehley.

"Gene Simmons" rocking the DJ booth.

“Gene Simmons” rocking the DJ booth.

All together now! (Photo by Lyn/Paul Stanley)

All together now! (Photo by Lyn/Paul Stanley)

2) Pumpkins

Pumpkins are one of my favorite things about fall. Not only can you eat them, you can also make jack-o-lanterns!

This is about the extent of my carving skills...and apparently my photography skills aren't much better

This is about the extent of my carving skills…and apparently my photography skills aren’t much better

What are you being for Halloween this year?

Any suggestions for fighting off a cold?

Adventures in Breakfast # 2

My first attempt to break out of my breakfast rut was a success. However, it still included my go-to ingredients: banana and peanut butter.

For my next endeavor, I wanted to step out of my comfort zone. My Aunt Betsy sent me a link to recipes for refrigerator oatmeal, and I decided to give it a try.

There were a number of flavors (including a banana and peanut butter one), but I chose to try the Mango Almond Refrigerator Oatmeal.

The recipe was incredibly simple. The night before I wanted to have it for breakfast, I gathered up the ingredients….

Ready to mix!

Ready to mix!

Grabbed a mason jar….

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Mixed everything together…

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And then put it in the fridge overnight.

In the morning I had oatmeal ready to eat! I really enjoyed this recipe, the mango/almond flavor was really interesting and the combination of oatmeal and Greek yogurt kept me full for a while. Plus it was quick and easy – the only steps were cutting up a mango, measuring ingredients, and mixing.

Nom nom nom

Nom nom nom

I will certainly be making this again and look forward to trying the other flavors!


Rest Day Reflections # 7

Yesterday’s 20 miler marked my final really long run before the marathon. For the next few weeks, I will keep running as frequently, but fewer miles.  I am glad to start tapering, my legs need a break…but I know that before long I will be completely stir crazy.

My run yesterday was…interesting. I was in Kentucky for a wedding, so it wasn’t as easy as putting on my shoes and heading out the door. With the help of some friends, I picked out a place to run: The UK arboretum.

The arboretum isn’t huge, but it is connected to some subdivisions. So my 20 miles were spent weaving through the arboretum and the surrounding neighborhoods – over and over and over. At least the arboretum was very pretty and I got to run a lot of hills.

The hardest part of my run was the weather. When I left my hotel at 7:30am, it was chilly. By the time I got to the arboretum, it was 50 and sunny. I started out in a long sleeve shirt, because I needed to warm up a bit. After a few miles, I was warm and changed into my t-shirt (my car was stocked with all sorts of clothes).  Around mile 9, the weather changed drastically. The sun disappeared, it began raining, and over the next 11 miles the temperature dropped by about 10 degrees. But the worst part was the wind, which made it feel so much colder. The last 5 miles were a struggle, and I was so glad when my GPS finally hit 20 miles.

I ran back to my car, excited to be out of the rain and cold. Unfortunately, my fingers were numb and it took me about 5min to open my car door – who knew pushing those little buttons could be so difficult? I changed into some dry clothes and headed back to the hotel, with the heat on full blast the whole way.

Back in my hotel room, I was still chilled. I cranked up the heat in my room and proceeded to take an excessively long and hot shower. Once I was all warmed up, I made sure to hang up my running clothes – there are few things more disgusting than wet running clothes being packed into a suitcase.

The whole bathroom looked like this

The whole bathroom looked like this

There was no time to rest though, I needed to get ready for the wedding! Somehow I managed to spend the next 8 hours wearing in high heels, dancing until midnight.



All in all, I am happy with my 20 miler. It was much slower and not as much fun as my last one. But this run really tested my perseverance and I am proud to have stuck with it!

Week Stats:

Miles Run: 34
Weeks Until Marathon: 3
Sodas: 0

Packing for 20 Miles

This weekend I have my second 20 mile run scheduled. This will be the last really long run before the marathon. My previous 20 miler went well, but I am still nervous to do it again.

This run has an added challenge: I will be out of town for a friend’s wedding. So I will be doing my run in Kentucky!

My plan is to talk to the hotel staff and try to map out a 5mi loop. Then I would repeat the loop 4 times. Might not be the most fun, but I don’t want to stray too far in an unknown place.

This also means that I had to pack for my run.  I am a pretty intense packer (there are usually multiple color-coded lists involved), so my nervousness combined with my hyper-organization made it hard to decide what to bring.

The weather looks like it will be pretty nice all weekend (50-60s), so that did help some – no bulky winter clothes. I wear shorts and short sleeves until it gets into the 40s. But I packed a few different outfit options, just in case.

After taking this photo, I added another shirt...and more socks

After taking this photo, I added another shirt…and more socks

I also needed to pack fuel for the run. I am not even sure what I want to eat tomorrow, much less Saturday, so I made sure to include plenty of options.



Luckily all of my fuel fits neatly inside my water bottle.

It's all in there! So efficient!

It’s all in there! So efficient!

Now that I am all packed, I just need to deal with my nerves!



Rest Day Reflections # 6

It has been a low-key running week. It came at just the right time, since my legs were starting to feel the effects of all the miles.  I took advantage of the extra time to do some foam rolling and stretching. Currently, my legs are feeling pretty good – let’s hope it lasts!

We have a love-hate relationship

We have a love-hate relationship

As of today, there are exactly four weeks until the marathon. I am starting to get nervous. I have one more high mileage week (including a 20 miler), and then I will start tapering. Now that I am a month out, it actually feels real. Which is both exciting and scary.

Week Stats:

Miles Run: 24
Yoga Classes: 2
Strength Training Sessions: 2
Weeks Until Marathon: 4
Sodas: 0

Things I am Grateful for This Week:

1) The Sun
The sun was absolutely beautiful today. We will be having less sun in the coming months, so I am glad to enjoy it while it’s here.

2) Cinnamon Spice Tea
So warm and delicious.



3) Coffee Shops.
When I work at coffee shops, I am significantly more productive than when I work from my office. Which probably isn’t saying much…

Rainy 10 Miler

This morning I did an easy 10mi long run. I was glad it was a cut-back week, because my legs have been feeling tired lately!

Since I live near the football stadium, Saturday morning runs in the fall are always interesting. I have been offered many beers and many drunken words of encouragement Today, I got yelled at through a megaphone, which was new. Hearing “Hey runner! Looking good!” is a little jarring when it’s that loud!

Once I got away from the crowds, I admired the changing colors on the trees. I suppose it really is fall, although it didn’t feel like it. When I started my run early this morning, it was already 60 degrees and 90% humidity.

Starting to turn colors!

Starting to change colors!

About 4 miles into my run, it suddenly started raining. I used to avoid running in the rain at all costs, but I have learned to really enjoy it. I like the sound of the rain, and today it removed some of the humidity from the air, which was great.

Drying out my shoes

Drying out my shoes

The rest of the run was pretty uneventful. I was struck by how much my long runs have changed over the years. Three years ago, running 10 miles was unfathomable. I never imagined that I would actually make it that far. I certainly never imagined I would be grateful that I had to run “only” 10 miles.

Finally, I have a few shout outs:
1) Happy birthday to my amazing dad!
2) Congratulations to Jackie on her first marathon!

Adventures in Breakfast

In an attempt to break out of my breakfast rut, I tried a new recipe! This was ambitious for someone who rarely eats breakfasts that require actual cooking.

Turning on the oven to make breakfast...this may be a first!

Turning on the oven to make breakfast…this may be a first!

The recipe was for a Whole Wheat Banana Puff Pancake. This sounded right up my alley and I had all the ingredients on hand, so I decided to give it a shot.

Ready to cook

Ready to cook

The recipe was really easy, which is a plus for me. My attention span in the kitchen is pretty short, so I like recipes to be straightforward. Basically, I melted the butter in a dish, mashed the banana and mixed it with all of the other ingredients, and then poured the whole thing into the buttery dish.

Mixing always reminds me of baking with my mom as a kid

The batter is ready!

The pancake took about 15min in the oven and made my kitchen smell delicious!

The cooked pancake

The cooked pancake

I sliced up the pancake into six pieces and put five of them away for later.

Ready to eat

Ready to eat

Since I am a peanut butter lover, I topped my banana puff pancake with a bit of dark chocolate peanut butter.

Nom nom nom

Nom nom nom

Not only did I feel very impressed with myself for taking the time to cook breakfast, but I was also happy to discover that the pancake was very yummy! This success has inspired me to try some other new recipes in the near future.

Cross-Training: Part 2

So last week, I talked about incorporating cross-training into my schedule. I used to run almost daily, figuring that more was always better. I have found, however, that trading some of my runs for other activities has allowed me to run longer, faster, and with fewer injuries.

Here are my favorite non-running activities:

Initially I resisted yoga – it just seemed so boring. But after my PT suggested it, I begrudgingly went. At first I only went as a way to rehab my injury, but eventually I actually started to like it. Yoga has not only helped strengthen and stretch my body, but has helped me to relax (something I don’t do well). Plus power yoga is anything but boring – it’s really hard!

Strength Training
As a runner, it’s easy to ignore muscles not directly involved in running. This can lead to imbalances, weakness, and injury. Incorporating strength training is a great way to develop both running and non-running muscles. There are lots of resources for runners looking to incorporate some strengthening activities. I can’t say I love strength training yet, but someone did comment on my arm muscles the other day – I guess those push-ups are paying off!

Little weights for my little arms!

Little weights for my little arms!

As the proud owner of a new bike, I have been doing a lot of this lately. Biking is a great way to get your legs moving without the pounding of running. It also works your legs in a totally different way. I like to think of myself as having pretty strong legs, but the soreness after my long bike ride the other day quickly humbled me!

Helmets allow for safe and stylish cross-training. Well, maybe just safe...

Helmets allow for safe and stylish cross-training. Well, maybe just safe…

The elliptical doesn’t have the best reputation. For many it conjures up the image of someone spending hours on the machine without ever breaking a sweat. While the elliptical is easy to use ineffectively, it can also be a great tool. In the spring, I took time off from running to heal an injury. My PT had me replace my running mileage with time on the elliptical. It simulates running, but without the same strain. When I was able to run again, I had not lost nearly as much running fitness as I had expected.

What are you favorite non-running activities?

Rest Day Reflections #5

It’s been a boring week of running, which is not a bad thing. All of my runs were solid and I got in all my planned workouts, which doesn’t always happen!

I ended the week with a steady 18-miler. After the run, I suffered through my first ever ice bath. The evidence is mixed as to whether sitting in freezing cold water actually aids recovery. However, many runners I know swear by it, so I decided to give it a shot. Getting myself to sit down in the water was the hardest part, and I stood with my feet in the tub for a good ten minutes. Finally, I called my mom and she talked me into it. After the initial shock, it really wasn’t that bad. It didn’t hurt that I was wearing a sweatshirt and drinking hot chocolate. The jury is still out on whether it made my legs feel better, but it was certainly an experience.

Week Stats:

Miles: 31
Yoga Classes: 2
Strength Training Sessions: 2
Weeks Until Marathon: 6
Sodas: 0

Things I am Grateful for This Week:

1) Jigsaw Puzzles
I always have a puzzle set out on my kitchen table and I love just being able to put a few pieces together every time I walk by.

1000 tiny pieces can be a lot for one person!

1000 tiny pieces can be a lot for one person!

2) Football Wins
Notre Dame did not lose this week, for which I am very grateful. You can never be sure with the Irish. Plus, they aired an ad featuring a professor with whom I have worked closely and respect greatly.  Much of my research focuses on the very issues discussed in this commercial.  So cool!

3) Hot Showers
It’s easy to take showers for granted. But as I sat complaining in my cold bath, I thought about how lucky I am to have the option to take daily hot showers. It can be easy to forget that the things I think are so normal are not universal.

Lastly, CONGRATULATIONS to my mom who completed her 11th half marathon yesterday. The course was really hilly (like actual hills, not Wisconsin hills) and she did an amazing job! This was her 8th state in her quest to race in all 50 states.

How was your week?