Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mantras and Miles

I don't know about you all, but I am a big fan of the Runner's World email I get pretty much every day. I don't read it every single day or every single article, but there are frequently some pretty good ones. Today's article "The Magic of Mantras" was particularly good for me right now.

I don't know why I didn't already think of creating a running mantra for myself (or several) seeing as I have many that I've been using lately in normal life—favorites include: 'Fake it 'til you make it,' 'Keep on keepin' on,' and 'You will get through this.' So far, they've been doing very well for me. As such, prior to today's anticipated 5-miler (Helen's and my longest run together to date), I used Runner's World's list in the article and settled on: "Run strong. Be bold."

Sidenote: Why do mantras always sound kind of hokey except for when they're in use and need them?

But I digress. As we set off for our windy run, I felt pretty good about my choice and Helen and I settled into a nice, slow pace to make sure her ankle stayed in the game. I must say, lining up "Run strong, be bold" with my footfalls for the last two miles did make a difference and we ended our run with roughly a 12 min/mi pace, despite the Mistrally wind we encountered throughout the run.

I'm really excited about having a 12 min/mi pace as our "slow/LDR" pace because even at that pace, we won't get picked up and kicked out of the half marathon in April! :) Theoretically, we get paid tomorrow, so Helen and I will finally be able to register for the half so that'll be taken care of.

As for tracking today, I did good on points and clocked in at 33P+ for the day, including some red wine. Only in France does one find a not-horrible 1,75€ bottle of Bordeaux. Just saying.

Tomorrow, my goal is to get out those resistance bands and do one of the P90X DVDs as well as squeeze in another run in the morning (if possible).

Question: Do you guys use mantras when you run? What keeps you pushing yourself to the limit and makes you keep going when you're out there on your long, tough runs? I know we all love running, but sometimes it's just not fun. It's hard work!

Running in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont

On the 2nd level of the Eiffel Tower
Playing in traffic on the Champs-Elysées

View from the Pompidou Center

The Pompidou at night

Paris was lovely, as you can see from the photos above. After being there for a month this summer, it was fun to be back and see some familiar places and to see some new things as well. I'm pretty impressed with us really as we saw/did all but one thing we'd wanted to do. We ended up nixing the visit to the catacombs under the city for reasons of cold, but we did see the Tour Eiffel (and went up as high as we could... the summit was closed), the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs-Elysées, the Musée de l'Orangerie (quite possibly my favorite in Paris), the Louvre, Notre Dame, Shakespeare and Co, Berthillon's Ice Cream, Montmartre, and the Pompidou Center. We were busy little bees!

On Friday night, we went to a crazy restaurant called Nos Ancêtres les Gaulois on Ile Saint-Louis. The whole theme is to have a meal like in Gaulish times, so it was really entertaining, if not quite the "healthiest" night. Just to give you a taste, here's the "salad" they bring you:

Despite my hangover Saturday morning, I did leave Chris at the hostel and make it out for a nice 4-mile run. When I was living in Paris in the 6th arrondissement, I always wanted to go run in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, a park in the 19th that I'd heard of and googled and fell in love with. Sadly, I never worked up sufficient motivation to take the metro out to run in a park then run back, so I ended up sticking more to the Seine and those monuments for my runs. This time, however, we actually STAYED in the 19th, so I knew this run was meant to be. If I lived in Paris, I might try to live in the 19th just to be able to run in this park all the time. It's hilly AND flat and has gorgeous scenery. There were tons of runners and, as you can see in these photos, it's no surprise as to why! I averaged at an 11:40/pace, which is good considering I kept stopping to take pictures of everything! Check it out:

I also went ahead and ran by the Quai de la Seine near our hostel at the end of the run because I didn't think I'd make it out again before leaving and I wanted to check it out:

At the end of a successful run. :)

Back to the hostel (isn't it a cool building?)

Anyway we had a great time. I got my run in and got to spend some quality time with one of my very best friends. I didn't know it until I was there, but I really needed this weekend and it was everything I needed it to be. Now, time to get back on plan... I've been too off plan for too long and though I haven't really gained, I don't want to keep going in this direction!!!

PS: As a sidenote, I ALSO found out this weekend that I got accepted (and tentatively offered a TA position at one of my top grad school choices)! Whew!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Off to Paris!

I swear one of these days I'll get better at updating more often. But, not this weekend. After school today (Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, anyone?), I'm taking the TGV up to Paris to meet up with Chris for the weekend!

See you all Sunday!!!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Another good pace and a new blog layout :)

Today, Helen and I had another run planned--this time a 3-miler. It seems the warm weather is beginning to slip away (much to my dismay) and, this morning, I started off the run wishing I'd brought a pair of gloves.

The whole training partner/quick workout setting on Mr. Garmin is really starting to grow on me. The only downside is that he stops at the exact mileage. Next time, I'll have to see if I can get him to start and continue on next time just to see how it would work if I wanted to run longer. Since Sunday's 12:15 pace was too slow, this time, I decided to plug in 11:30. I knew that my last run felt good at 11:21/average, but I didn't want to set to high goals for both of us, what with never running that fast on any of our runs together to date.

As you can see, we averaged out at a great 11:09/mi pace. To be fair, we did take about a 5 minute walk in the middle because Helen's ankle was hurting (I turned off the Garmin so it wouldn't count to our 3-mile workout). After that break though, she pushed on like a trooper and said she was glad she did. If training keeps going like this, we might have to re-evaluate our half goals a few months from now! I'm so excited!

In other news, I spent a bit of time this afternoon re-vamping the blog's look! I've noticed over the past couple of days that I seem to be getting more hits than usual (I'm excited), but I realized that the old appearance was kind of bland and I hadn't heard from any of these new people (Don't lie, everyone likes comments). I'd also been wanting to do an "About me" and an "About the blog" section like I'd seen on so many blogs. Part of me feels bad because my blog is all over the place and not super focused. Then the other part of me reminds myself that this is, in fact, my blog, so I shouldn't sweat it.

Regardless, what do you all think of the new layout? I'll admit, I totally made the new header using Mac's Preview, Screen Capture, and PowerPoint. Talk about working with what you've got, right? :-P Have a great day!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Woo! Race pace! I think?

I don't know where this freakishly warm weather has come from the past few weeks, but I'll take it. Honestly, today felt a tad cold, though my widget says it was 57º, but that gives you an idea of how much sun and 60º weather we've had lately. I'm loving it.

Saturday was supposed to be our long run day, but a mile in, Helen's ankle was really hurting, so we ended up walking back and detouring through town instead. It was still bothering her on Sunday, so she insisted that I go ahead and do the run myself. This gave me the golden opportunity to finally listen to the new Girl Talk album I'd downloaded. I first heard about it from Bitch Cakes and went ahead and downloaded it, but it wasn't until my friend Dennis mentioned it recently that I finally started listening. Like Sheryl said on her blog, it's PERFECT for running. If you listen to music when you run, download it for free here.

I'm not sure if it was the weather or the music, but yesterday's run was great. I've just recently started playing with Mr. Garmin's pace partner feature, so I went ahead and picked an easy 12:15/mi pace for my long run and off I went. I quickly saw that the 12:15 was going to be too slow, so I just switched to a different view that didn't tell me how far ahead I was and kept on going. Somehow, mile 1 happened in 11:04 and felt really good so I just kept at it... I know that long runs are supposed to be slow, but 4 miles isn't particularly long, so I decided to just go with the good feeling and ended up with an average 11:21/mi pace! I haven't done that since October! I'll admit that Mile 4 was difficult and that I did stop for about 5 seconds a few times, but I can already tell a huge different in my heart rate in comparison with last week!

The best part of this run? If I keep up like this, I'll definitely be able to finish the half in under 2:45:00! I need to go in and tweak the training plan a bit after talking to Christina, but I'm feeling really good overall. Now if only I could motivate myself to do some strength workouts at my apartment! I bought those bands and haven't used them at all! Tsk tsk, Nicky!

Anyway, I'll upload the stats from the run when Garmin Connect is loading properly. :)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

This is why I run:

My best friend Chris came to visit last week and I must admit that that led to a lot of off-plan eating (as pictured above). Unsurprisingly, as a result, I wasn't great at tracking this week (but am getting back on track today). I'm feeling pretty good still and I think it's due to the fact that I was able to squeeze in a lot of walking showing her around town as well as a few runs really helped.

We had a really good time. Out of our restaurant experiences we only hit one "truly" French restaurant (Au Tout Petit), though we did enjoy some French pastries, Spanish tapas, and British fish and chips. :)

I'll admit that part of me feels bad for going so stellarly off plan, but I figure that as with all indulgences, it's better to live a little and just make sure that a veer off track doesn't lead to getting spectacularly lost. That said, I clocked in today at my 29 ProPoints, so here's to a good week!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Training Plan and our first training run

To be honest, I never quite know what to look for in a training plan when it comes to running. Really, the only one I've successfully followed was C25K back when I first got into this whole business around a year ago. (Has it been almost a year already? Wow). That said, I think probably the most important thing is just choosing one, knowing you can modify it to suit your needs, and then sticking to it.

Helen's dad sent her a bunch of potential plans based on level from Running.About.com and in the end, we just decided to go with this one. We're going to tweak it a bit for days we're not together and in order to add in a week or two to make it the right length, but it looks good to us so far. :)

Today was our first day of training and of the three runs we've done since getting back from vacation, it was definitely the best one we've done. As I've mentioned before, the course will shut down at 2:45:00 with them coming to pick us up in busses, so we're really just aiming to be able to finish. The slowest pace we could have would be 12:35/mi, so we're going to try and hit a pace somewhere in the 11:30 range so that we can account for water and potty breaks. What do you guys think?

Anyway, here are today's run stats. Our original goal was to maintain a 12:15/mi pace and to stop for water after 2 miles (as opposed to after each mile as we'd been doing), but at Mile 2, we were feeling so good we decided to keep going and ended up with our fastest mile of the day: 11:35 and guess what?! It felt good !

This was the first time I used the "Virtual Partner" setting on my Garmin and I really liked it. You don't see your time, just your remaining mileage and your pace... AND (bonus) when you finish, it says "You Win!" What can be better than that? I'm also a fan of Garmin Connect/Bing's "Bird's Eye View" map view. Kind of fun, right? I'd still like to see my HR come down a bit during our runs, but I think that'll come with time.

On that note, I'm off to hang out with Chris, one of my best friends from the States, who got here yesterday to visit! :) She's a big sleeper, so she doesn't mind staying in bed while Helen and I are off prancing about.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Run 2 and a Roast Dinner: Successful Sunday!

It's true when they say that the hardest thing about getting back into something is doing it again for the first time. Helen and I met up "early" (for a Sunday) for our "long" run for the week. Since we're just getting into it and our official training isn't going to start until Tuesday, we figured 4 was fine. Today was also in the 50s and I started out with a jacket but ended up tying it around my waist.

We tried to go a lot slower to keep a more even pace since this was our long (and thus slow) run and stopped for water every mile. Next time, we're going to aim for every 2. It's really hard to build back up, knowing that 2 months ago I ran 10 miles with maybe 2-3 water breaks. Just goes to show how fast it goes. If you don't use it, you lose it, is definitely true!

Here are the stats for our run:

As you can see, the HR was up really high (for me)--I'm looking forward to my body getting used to running again so it'll go back down. So uncomfortable. We also ended up going for an extra half mile since mile 4 felt so good.

After such a successful run, Amy and I hit up Les Halles (the market) to do the shopping for our Sunday Roast Dinner. We stopped by our favorite produce stall and then went back and visited the butcher from whom we'd bought our Thanksgiving Turkeys in order to get the chicken. He was very pleased when I informed him that his turkeys had been such a hit. Our dinner was lovely and full of fresh roasted vegetables. Aside from the oil (and actual duck fat Amy used for the potatoes) it was REALLY healthy too. Well, aside from the king cake.

Amy and I even learned how to truss a chicken!

Massaging poultry is apparently a specialty of mine after Turkey day


My lovely British girlfriends (I'm going to go stay at their houses in the UK in February! We booked the trains today! Woo!

A finished photo of Wayne the chicken

Look at all those veggies: braised leeks and zucchini, roast potatoes, steamed carrots, honey parsnips

Galette des rois (King Cake) we got a "frangipan" one

Rosie got the "feve" or the little figure. I didn't know that they did this for the New Year in France. I wonder if they do it for Mardi Gras too like we do at home?

Lovely day with lovely people AND with a good run in the morning. What more could you want? Oh wait, to not have to walk home in this downpour:

Oh well! Great day nonetheless and BONUS one of my very best friends (Chris) gets here tomorrow to visit! Yay! She's never been to France (or Europe) so I can't wait to show her around!

All the Pretty Horses!

Saturday was again a mild (if not a bit overcast) day. My friend Rosie has only recently purchased herself a bike (or "vélo" in French) and is very keen on biking excursions. That said, Kyle new a good spot for a little picnic and we set out this afternoon for a bit of easy activity. Avignon is almost entirely flat, so biking or running isn't usually difficult elevation wise. I did finally find a good hill for training, but it's taken me a while.

Anyway, we set out with our little dessert picnic and headed for a "surprise" since Kyle was leading the way. In the end, this led us to the Tour d'Espagne (The Tower of Spain), which happens to be fenced in on someone else's property. In order to view this tower and enjoy our picnic, we set up camp in a farmer's yard... He drove by twice and seemed to be amused more than anything.

Having smelled our food, we even got visited by a herd of white horses. The Camargue, which is near Avignon, is known for their white horses.

In the end, I think the horses were by far the highlight of this trip. Sorry, tower.