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Month: March 2010

March Madness Recap

March Madness Recap

All smiles, post 13.1!

This past weekend, Chicago saw some seriously shitty weather on Saturday.  It was that nasty “wintry” mix stuff that combines wet snow, rain, and wind, which makes you feel like someone’s throwing sharp little knives at your face, and no matter how you cock your head, or how much you grit your teeth, there’s just no way to get comfortable.  Yuck.   Luckily, I wasn’t planning to run our group’s slated 15 miles on Saturday because I was running the Hillstriders’ March Madness half marathon out in Cary, IL, which is located roughly forever (70-ish minutes?) away from Chicago.

The March Madness race is like a secret that you want to share, because you know how good it is, but one that you want to keep to yourself, because you want to stay privy to the information.  I’ll explain.

Apparently, the race is limited to only about 1k runners each year, mostly because it’s on a Sunday morning, and the runners overtaking the rural country roads interfere with the church-going crowd.  (Logic would say to a) hold the race on a Saturday or b) start the race earlier than 8:35, but who’s reason to mess with church?  Anyway….)  That said, getting an entry into the race is like getting a golden ticket from a Wonka bar.  The 2010 race registration opened on New Year’s Eve day and filled in — get this — 5 hours.  Unless you were sitting by your computer, credit card in hand, you probably didn’t get an entry.  I took my laptop with me to the DR for the express reason of registering as soon as I possibly could.

The race, itself, is probably the hardest half marathon I’ve ever run (in addition to the Mill Creek Distance Classic in Youngstown, Ohio).  It’s hilly, and in all the wrong spots — much like the Boston Marathon!  In fact, that’s why many people run the March Madness race … as a Boston tune-up.  Check out the map below; you’ll get my drift.  It’s the best-kept secret that you kinda, but don’t really, want to share.

March Madness Half-Marathon Course

Here’s another picture of my training buddy, Chris, and me, taken right after we finished.  I think we look much more awake and alert than we probably feel 🙂

I ran a satisfying 1:41, slightly slower than last year, and pulled a 12th place finish in my age group and among the top 50 women.  I tried to run the race thoughtfully and not go balls-to-the-wall early on, for I knew what hills lied ahead, and when I finished, though tired, I still had some juice in the tank.  The race, and my performance, definitely made the drive worthwhile.

We’re officially less than a month from the 114th running of the Boston Marathon, kids.  Next up: the last of our three 20-milers before Boston, plus roughly a million Yasso 800s this week.

Bring it on.

Making sense of nutrition

Making sense of nutrition

I’d venture to say that if you ask a group of runners why they run, you’ll get answers that range from the motivational and sentimental (“to raise money for cancer,” “to beat my ____ addiction”) to ones a bit more funny and light-hearted (“to justify my eating habit!” or “so I can drink and not feel guilty!”).  I think most runners I’ve met love eating, drinking, or both.  And we’re not talking celery sticks and water here, folks…

In my next lifetime, I think instead of working in higher ed, I’ll go the nutritionist and dietitian route, since I’m always so amazed by food and people’s relationships with it (including my own).  Some of my favorite books are food-related — think Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation or Pollan’s In Defense of Food — and there is an abundance of literature out there related to athletes and “performance nutrition” … lucky for me.

I read most anything food- or running-related that passes my screen, and this article — about the ABCs of sports nutrition — I found especially good.  Sometimes it’s tough to know when to eat, what to eat, or how to eat (as strange as that sounds) when training for an endurance event, like a half or a marathon, and improper “fueling” can lead to many an illness, ache, pain, or sideline-guaranteeing injury … every athlete’s nightmare!  It can be a bit intimidating to get into the nitty-gritty of nutrition though, since few people know how many grams of ____ nutrient are in our dietary mainstays, nor can we easily keep track of the myriad nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that are out there and know which ones should be “more” important to us and our diets.

Another tricky thing is figuring out what works for you, since nutrition and proper fueling depends so much on how an individual can “handle” the food.  I’ve been a vegetarian for over two years, and besides not eating meat at all (nothing – red meat, fish, poultry, anything that lives in the sea, no animal-based broths, nothing), I also consume very little cheese or dairy products because it upsets my stomach about 80% of the time, and when it does, it’s not pretty.  In addition to these circumstances, like many other runners, I have to be really careful when I consume sports drinks like Gatorade or ingest gels or gus because if I consume too much of either, or god forbid, together, I’m in the bathroom faster than you can ask, “where’d she go?????”

Clearly, this isn’t the case for all runners, and some have other issues to contend with, like soy or wheat allergies.  Finding what works for you — maybe eating potatoes instead of pasta before a long run, for example, or preferring one type of sports drink or gel to another — is critical in order to a) enjoy your exercise dramatically more! and b) to perform to your best abilities.

Other good resources for food include Nancy Clark RD’s blog and the sports dietitian blog over at Runner’s World.  I encourage you to check them out or even write-in your own diet- and nutrition-related inquiries!