Thursday, August 14, 2014

Marathon Training Update: Halfway There!

I’ve mentioned it a few times here and there, but one big thing going on in my life right now is training for the Chicago Marathon in October. I say “big thing” because as some of you out there know, training for a marathon takes up a LOT of time. Fitting in a 2.5+ hour run on a Saturday morning kind of puts a crimp in Friday night plans, and makes you greedy with your time for the rest of your weekend as well. 

As a first time marathoner, here are some of the things I’ve noticed that set marathoning apart from any other running I’ve previously done (up until this point it was just 10Ks and half marathons for this girl):

1. I am hungry all the time. Seriously, so much hunger. It’s insane. I eat breakfast and then am hungry an hour later. After lunch it’s time for second lunch. My dinners are getting bigger and bigger. I’m trying to eat healthfully and get lots of fruits and veggies, but the main thing I crave is salty carbs. All of the carbs. I’m also having to experiment a lot more with fueling during my runs since I have the metabolism of a hummingbird and there’s no way I can eat enough before my runs to sustain my energy through 2+ hours on my feet.

2.  I am tired most of the time. I have never been someone who can get by on only a few hours of sleep, but training for a marathon takes my need for sleep to a whole new level. I’ve had to be diligent about making sure I get to bed on time as I have a pretty strict morning schedule. Good thing I really love sleep.

3. I am sore. I have found that most of the time, some part of my body is sore. It takes me almost all week to recover from the soreness that arrives after my long run...just in time for another long weekend run. I’ve tried to be really good about stretching and hydrating, but putting serious miles on my legs for the first time ever means that I’m always feeling a twinge in some weird place or other, like the outside of my right foot or in my left hamstring. 

4. Running takes up a lot of time. This is kind of a no-brainer, but it’s hard to explain to people who aren’t runners. My midweek runs, for example, are now 5 or 8 miles long. An 8 mile run will take me an hour and a half, and then I have to stretch, shower, etc. The whole ordeal can take two hours, and then it’s time to make dinner, relax, clean up, and get to sleep (see also: tired all the time). The long weekend runs seem to somehow take up most of the day, or I have to go to bed at 8pm the night before so I can get a full night’s rest in before a 5:30am (yes really) wake up call. 

5. You kind of stop talking about it with people who don’t run marathons because they just start looking at you funny and saying things like “But...why...are you running 15 miles on Sunday?” It’s hard to explain that not only do you really want to train for and run 26.2 miles, you actually paid a lot of money for that privilege. Plus, I fear turning into the kind of person who can only talk about one thing. 

6. Injuries suck. Right now I’m dealing with patellar tendonitis (also called Runner’s Knee or Jumper’s Knee), which is a swelling of the patellar tendon that runs under the kneecap. A few weeks ago I woke up the day after a long run and could barely move my knee because it was so irritated and swollen. I got a doctor’s diagnosis as quickly as possible, but the main course of treatment is resting the knee, icing, and then doing exercises to strengthen the surrounding muscles. I’ve been “resting” as much as possible while still maintaining a modified training schedule, but it’s hard to miss or shorten a training run when you know what the schedule actually calls for. Long story short: I know it’s very common in first time marathoners, but injuries still suck.

Tell me, have any of you ever had Runner’s Knee? What are the things you've noticed when training for a marathon or other big event?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Summer Bucket List Update

Even though it's been strangely cool in Pittsburgh the last few days, I'd like to remind everyone (myself included) that summer is not offically over until September 22. We still have over a month of summer left and I plan to embrace it fully while I still can. With that in mind, I figured it was time for a summer manifesto check-in.

First on my list was eat a lot of watermelon, and of course all the other summer-only fruits and veggies. I have eaten an unbelieveable amount of watermelon and cherries this summer, and have been making my favorite summer recipe, Southwestern Black Bean Salad (which calls for fresh corn), as often as D will tolerate. I'd call this a success.

Next up was spend as much time outside as possible, and this has also been a resounding success. I'm outside every chance I get, and have the tan to prove it (although I've been as diligent with the sunscreen as I can manage). I LOVE being outside, and a nice day spent indoors has come to feel wasted. If there's a park, festival, or tailgate, I'm there. I know the sunny days won't last.

Go swimming often hasn't been as much of a success, but I have had reason to put on my swimsuit twice already this summer, which is better than I did last year. D and I also have tickets to Sandcastle Water Park again and are plotting to get there before the last day of the season like we did last year.

The "use my camera more" goal has been a total failure. Other than taking pictures on our NYC Memorial Day trip and our Toronto Fourth of July trip, I have not pulled out my camera at all. However, I did sign up for a camera class next Sunday morning in hopes that some formal instruction will get me to pull the DSLR out a bit more.

Go camping has also been less than successful. We did go camping a few weekends ago, and I had high hopes for a fun long weekend in Chautauqua, New York. And then it rained so hard our first night there (with no promise to let up any time soon), and our campsite neighbors were so awful and loud, that we decided we'd had enough misery and headed back to Pittsburgh a day early. It was absolutely the right decision (being warm and dry is pretty awesome) but I was bummed that each of the four times we've been camping since we've lived in Pennsylvania it has rained on us. What can I say? Apparely we're the rainmakers. 

Train for a marathon was my last official goal, and while it's been hard, we've been sticking to our training schedule with pretty good results, especially given all my other goals and commitments for the summer. The training will continue into the fall, of course, but for now I'm really enjoying doing all my runs outside. I know that come November, I'm going to be inside on a treadmill and really missing my riverside trails.

What about you guys? How are you coming on your summer goals? And can we please all agree to stop saying summer is almost over? Here's to five more weeks of sunshine!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Book Review: Help for the Haunted

I'm not the kind of person who loves ghost stories or just has to see the latest scary movie, but not because I hate being scared. It's just that ghost stories and the paranormal can be so scary. I don't just scare easily, I scare very easily. Pity my husband after we watch a scary movie or after I read a book about ghosts. I basically become his shadow and he can't do anything without me right there behind him, demanding he turn on all the lights in the room. However, I decided to give Help for the Haunted a chance because it's not just a pure ghost story. There's a lot of doubt that creeps in, and it's full of mystery and a healthy streak of whodunit that ties it squarely to the land of the living.

Sylvie Mason’s parents have an unusual occupation: helping “haunted souls” find peace. After receiving a phone call late one snowy night, they are lured to an old church on the outskirts of town, where Sylvie falls asleep in the car and is awoken by the sound of gunshots.

Orphaned on that night, Sylvie comes under the care of her reckless, distant older sister, still living in the rambling Tudor house that guards the relics of her parents’ past. As she pursues the mystery of their deaths, Sylvie’s story weaves back and forth between the time leading up to the murders and the months following, uncovering the truth of what happened that night—and the secrets that have haunted her family for years.

First things first: Sylvie's parents are a piece of work. Her father is self-righteous, in that "God said man was head of the family and the womenfolk in my household will do what I say" kind of way. Her mother, while sweet and gentle, has no backbone to stand up for herself. And her sister Rose, in whose care she is left (care being the operative word here), is in the throes of terrible teenager-dom when suddenly she has to take charge of her little sister following her parents' death. Spoiler alert: she does a terrible job. But Sylvie, sweet Sylvie, powers through most of this without becoming too jaded or spiteful herself. She tolerates teasing at school, her sister's wild mood swings, and her grief over losing her parents, all while working to uncover the secrets surrounding the night her parents died.

The book skips back and forth a lot--starting in the middle of the action on the night her parents died, and then jumping around with flashbacks, etc. I found this kind of confusing, but I'm the kind of person who has trouble with any story (book, movie, you name it) that doesn't unfold in a linear fashion. This is more a reflection of me than the book, but if you are the same way, be warned. Because of this narrative structure, I found the pacing to be a little strange at times. Parts of the story seem to unfold slowly, and then just before you're ready to give up, the author puts in another little twist or clue that has you reading on to find out what happens. The ending wasn't a total surprise for me (and I'm not going to spoil it here) but I did think it was cleverly done. The climax of ghost stories can often be totally hit or miss, and John Searles definitely does not "miss" in Help for the Haunted. This would be the perfect story to read as the days get shorter and cooler in the fall (although I'm still kind of hoping for an endless summer because we all know that after fall comes winter, shudder).

Also to note: this would be a great book club book. I've found that books where there is any ambiguity foster great discussions and lots of thrilling and scary personal anecdotes. Book clubs that sign up to chat with John Searles about Help for the Haunted could win a tote bag of books for each member of their book club! Find out more details about John Searles’ goal to speak to a book club in each state of the United States over at Book Club Girl!

Disclosure: TLC Book Tours provided me with a complimentary copy of this book to review. The opinions and views are all mine.