Kaleidoscopic Utah & thoughts on solo travel

Besides being a beautiful course, a major reason I wanted to run the St George Marathon was so I could work in some parks before and after. Over the years, I've visited many of Utah's phenomenal vistas, but I still wanted to cross off a few "biggies" from my wish list. The ironic thing about Utah is that you are never done; its crayon-box landscapes and special, secret places always leave you hungry for more. Now, I want to go back, stay in one area and do some serious, focused hikes.

On traveling solo

I made this road trip alone – flew into Salt Lake City, rented a car and basically drove around the state clockwise. Every time I travel solo, it worries my family. Friends often ask "Aren't you afraid to travel by yourself?"

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St. George Marathon: race review

St. George Marathon: race review

Just back from running the St. George Marathon and some bookend side trips to National Parks (I'll tell you about those another post.) Heads up: this is going to be a long, picture-heavy post.

First, a bit about my impetus for running St. George. I've said it many times: I am NOT a marathoner. racing shorter, faster distances (5K-10K) are much easier for me. I had run pretty competitively for my age last year and through this spring, and felt burned out on racing hard. I needed to do a race purely for fun. Just for the joy of running. So I decided to do St. George. Non-runners might say, "A marathon for fun?" but running nerds like me will understand the allure of a no-pressure race.

Why St. George? I wanted a destination race, and the St. George Marathon is noted for being beautiful. I love being outside in nature, and I have been smitten with Utah for ages; I've been there many times before, from age 29 on when I first drove the Four Corners solo. I figured I could work in some nature trips both before and after the marathon.

St. George is noted for being a net-downhill race. But don't let that fool you. It starts at elevation, and the drop is significant: from 5,240 to 2,680 feet. That's a 2,560 foot elevation loss. It sounds fast and easy on paper, but the truth is, you can really tear up your quads for the long term if you don't train and race properly. Ok, let's get to the race details...

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Shoe Review: Nike Zoom Fly

Shoe Review: Nike Zoom Fly

When I first tried on the shoe, it felt like a slipper – love at first step. That's how a running sneaker should feel.  It's super comfy. There are no annoying seams across the front of the foot, so it's roomy enough to accommodate my wide feet plus bonus bunions.

The shoe is a featherweight. It is billed to be cushioned enough for training but light enough for racing, and I wholeheartedly concur. Next to my track spikes, these are the lightest shoes I own. Men's weigh 8.75 ounces & women's weigh just 6.5 ounces. But they feel so cushiony that you would guess they weigh more.

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Last week's workouts: My 80-mile week

Last week's workouts: My 80-mile week

The St. George Marathon is one month from today. Over the next few weeks, I am hitting the top end of my mileage and the crescendo of months of training. I ran nearly 80 miles last week – the most miles I have ever run in a week. Not so many miles for some, but I am 52 years old. Everyone is different in terms of the mileage their body is able to handle without getting injured.

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How to make kombucha plus, Story of My Tea review & giveaway

How to make kombucha plus, Story of My Tea review & giveaway

Kombucha. It's the not-so-new-new thing, an expensive, fermented tea that includes healthy bacteria to keep your microbiome in tip-top shape. It's trendy now, but many of us old-school veg-heads and crunched out types have been making our own 'booch (as we call it) for years. I guess that makes me a boochie mama?

Because of the fermentation, kombucha is lightly fizzy, like champagne. I like to think of kombucha as a good-for-you soda. After a long or hard run, I love nothing more than a glass of it, over ice. It's not very high in sugars, or therefore, calories. 

Storebought kombucha is tasty. But at between $3-5 a bottle, it is pricey. You can make your own for far less. After the initial investment and after getting your SCOBY going (read on), you can make 4 8-oz bottles of kombucha for under $1-- that's pennies a bottle. Can you say cha-ching? 

It's very easy, once you get the hang of it...

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What the eclipse taught me about running

What the eclipse taught me about running

...My wise yoga teacher, Lindsay, usually starts practice by sharing something insightful that's she's been reading or observing. This week, she talked about the lessons we can learn from the eclipse and their application to yoga. Balance. Oppositions. Yin-yang. The necessary tensions and seeming contradictions in life. To truly feel happiness, we must understand despair. To truly experience gratitude, we must go through loss. We tend to think people and events are "either/or" when in fact, they are usually "both/and." The same lessons can also be applied to running. Or really, to anything in life.

Here are just a few of the eclipse-related running observations I made this week during my workouts....

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August StrideBox Review

August StrideBox  Review

StrideBox review time! For those who don't know, StrideBox is a subscription box for runners. For $15 a month, you get a sampling of the latest gadgets, gizmos and nutrition for runners. The value almost always exceeds the price, and this month is no exception. It's a great way to try out new products. Plus, it's fun to get a surprise in the mail each month, in between the bills and junk mail.

So far, I've received and reviewed 10 StrideBoxes. To this point, all the products I've tried been mostly great and useful, sprinkled with a few "okays." But there's no way around it...

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mayor's cup 5-miler 2017: race recap

mayor's cup 5-miler  2017: race recap

Philadelphia's Third Annual Mayor's Cup race was held on Saturday, August 17, 2017. The Mayor's Cup brings Philadelphia runners from all these clubs together on the infamously challenging Belmont Plateau Cross Country course, in mid-August for a day of food, fun, and friendly competition. There are no individual awards – teams compete for the Mayor's Cup, which goes to the fastest team. 

As usual, I ran with my team, Philadelphia Runner Track Club. We won the Mayor's Cup last year – when the race was ridiculously, painfully and dangerously hot. In fact, the heat index was 110 degrees when my 5-mile race took off last year, making this year's 73 degree start temperature and 90% humidity feel almost Arctic by comparison. It was definitely still hot and sticky, so you can't "reason" with your body about how much easier this is to run in. And then again, this is nether a PR course nor a PR race – no race in mid-August is. It's just a fun day for light running rivalry...

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Happy Bloggiversary to me

Happy Bloggiversary to me

I can't believe I've been blogging at Mastering Running for over a year now. Time flies when you're having fun. And I am having fun and am enjoying my life, especially compared to how I felt when I decided to shut down my original blog, The Urban Vegan...

I thought it would be fun to list my top favorite blogposts from the past year. But before I do, I want to share some news... 

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Avoiding seasonal running burnout

Avoiding seasonal running burnout

Whether you are a serious runner, training for a goal race, or you are a total newbie, just trying to stay the course, running consumes a lot of your time and your mental and physical energy.

As I look over my TrainingPeak records, I see I've recently put in an average of 8 hours of workout time per week (running, yoga, strength). I've put in way more when I am runner higher mileage and am about to peak for a marathon, which I am about to do. Spending 8-10 or more hours a week running and training is like putting in another work shift. But running is supposed to be fun, not work...

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July StrideBox review

July StrideBox review

Press sample

It's time for another exciting edition of StrideBox review. For those who don't know, StrideBox is a subscription box for runners. For $15 a month, you get a sampling of the latest gadgets, gizmos and nutrition for runners. The value almost always exceeds the price, and this month is no exception. And it's a great way to try out new products. Plus, it's fun to get a surprise in the mail each month, in between the bills and junk mail.

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10 tips for running in extreme summer heat

10 tips for running in extreme summer heat

Heat running can be super uncomfortable – whether you are a total newbie or you are Shalane Flanagan or Meb Keflezighi. Your body will eventually acclimate to running in the sultry summer weather, but even then, you'll still need to get through those extra-soupy days, when the dew point, humidity and temperature all conspire to create a triple whammy of hell-fire conditions.

If you live in a climate that experiences 4 seasons like my city, Philadelphia, take heart. This is only temporary. Running in the summer swelter increases your capacity to appreciate those crisp fall mornings. And the good news is, studies show that heat training can be just as beneficial to runners as altitude training – good news for those of us at sea level. (Philly may not have mountains, but we do have almost-tropical summer weather.) Heat training increases your blood plasma volume, just as altitude training does, leading to improved cardiovascular fitness.

Here are a few tricks that have helped me get get through some extremely hot summer runs and races...

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I had a sh*tty long run – and I'm grateful for it.

I had a sh*tty long run – and I'm grateful for it.

... On Saturday, I got to the running path by 6AM in an effort to beat the heat and humidity. But there's no outsmarting or outrunning Mama Nature. It was 77 degree when I started and 82% humidity. Worse yet, the dew point was 71. The dew point is the true measure of how much you are going to struggle when you run. Anything over 55 will affect your running performance. As you can see from the chart below,a dew point of 71 is in the "Expect to suffer greatly" range. ...

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Running apprenticeships: years running vs age

Running apprenticeships: years running vs age

When it comes to improving as a runner, there's talent, and there's hard work. Sometimes, the stars align, and both elements are in place. But hard work - and consistency – will almost always get you farther than talent alone. Part of that hard work involves completing a running apprenticeship. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Putting in consistent running and training time - daily or almost daily
  • Being open to learning from runners, coaches and other experts who know more than you
  • Studying up on running on your own via books, web sites, workshops, etc
  • Learning from your mistakes, as well as from your triumphs (I think you always learn more from the former)
  • Understanding the holistic aspect of running: nutrition, sleep, stress and life-work-training balance all come into play

How long does an apprenticeship last? ...

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Marathon training begins: building base

Marathon training begins: building base

I was slated to run the Boston Marathon this April, but since I was not "feeling the love," I had decided to skip it and instead concentrate on speed and shorter distances, which I tend to prefer, probably because I'm better at them. (We all prefer to do things that we are better at.) It turned out to be a good move. I enjoyed a sweet spring season, PRing in every distance I raced (5K, 15K, 10-mile) and even winning #1 female in a 5K – something I didn't expect to do at age 52,

As anyone who has done it will attest, marathon training is hard work and requires a huge time commitment, not only because you have to run higher weekly mileage than to train for shorter races, but also because you need to devote many hours to building up muscular strength in the gym and/or yoga studio. You have to be in the right headspace to do all this or you will have a miserable time.

After the spring racing season was over, the marathon bug started playfully nipping at my heels again.

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Consistency and running

Consistency and running

What's the #1 way to become a better cook? Cook every day.

Want to improve your cello-playing ability? Practice early and often.

Aiming to be a better runner? Then (wait for it!): run consistently.

Whether you are an elite or sub-elite runner looking to shave a few seconds off a fast PR or a total running newbie, just trying to break a 10- or 11-minute mile, consistency will afford you more gains than the latest fancy-pants training trend or a pair of sub-2:00 sneakers. Making running a regular habit – and not talking yourself out of doing it – is the easiest way to improve both your running and your mental grit...

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