Monday, April 28, 2014

Speed up, shorty.

The Marathon is behind me and Spring is cruising by. Bring on the longer days, warmer temperatures and shorter runs. Over the next few months, I'm focusing on improving my speed and looking good in my bathing suit (priorities, ya'll).

Cue the strength-training, cross-training and jogging stroller-pushing.

Long-distance training is awesome; its also super time-consuming. This time of year is always packed with weekend activities (festivals, roller coasters and beer-drinking, to name a few), so its an ideal time for me to run shorter and focus on other parts of my training besides distance.

My next major goal is the Seashore Nature Trail 50k in Virginia Beach. That race isn't until December, so I've got a little time to kill as far as training goes. Guess I might as well crush my 5k and 10k PRs while I'm waiting. My fastest 5k time is 23:56, a time that I'm confident I can beat this July during the Road Runner's Cul-De-Sac series. My 10k goal is to come in around 55 minutes at the James River Scramble next month. Totally doable. I think.

In order to become a stronger, faster trail runner, I've been sticking mostly to single-track trails that are somewhat challenging from a technical standpoint. The mountain bike trails @ Pocahontas, Buttermilk/Northbank, Forest Hill Park and Rockwood Park are my favorite local spots. It feels totally different to focus on speed instead of endurance. To hit 6 miles and feel exhausted after pushing myself to maintain a less-than-comfortable pace is sort of refreshing. And weird.

I'm not an expert, but I find that in order to run faster, I have to get stronger and lighter. Since I'm not currently running giant distances, I've been eating a little less and really trying to eat the right stuff. Easier said than done, but we're all a work in progress, right?

Here are my 5 favorite power-foods

1. Avocadoes

I know I'm not the first to realize this, but avocadoes really make me feel lean and strong. I love them with eggs in the morning or added to a favorite sandwich.

2. Greek Yogurt w/ Flax seed granola

One of my favorite mid-morning snacks. Fills me up and satisfies my sweet tooth.

3. Pretzels & Bananas w/ Peanut Butter

Best snack to munch on during my kiddo's nap-time...yummy and even better because I don't have to share.  :)

4. Edemame

Best. Food. Ever.

5. Tomato Sandwich on whole wheat

To me, a tomato sandwich is the lunch for Spring & Summer. I toast the bread and stack it high with veggies, cheese and the fattest tomato I can get my hands on. YUM.

Eating better definitely makes my training go more smoothly. I feel lighter, quicker and less sluggish; even on hard days, I feel stronger than ever before. I still have to get my pizza fix on (old habits die hard), while enjoying a little more salad and a little less cheese.

In addition to eating better and running shorter distances, I've added more cross-training and strength-training to my routine. Cycle class has become my new go-to for low-impact cardio while Boot-Camp style workouts have been kicking my butt on a regular basis. These new additions to my regimen are keeping my workouts fun while strengthening and toning every muscle group (including those I didn't know existed).

When I'm not able to hit the trail, I've been dusting off my jogging stroller and hitting the pavement with Lu in tow. The older she gets, the more challenging (and hilarious) this becomes. This morning we went to Rockwood Park for a little jogging and playground action. The constant hills at Rockwood are hard enough, but throw in a very chatty toddler and a very heavy stroller and you've got yourself a heck of a workout.

When your running buddy is 2 years old...
Lu- "Another big hill, Mommy?"
Me- "Yep (deep breath),"
Lu- "We almost there, Mommy?"
Me- "Uh-huh."
Lu- "This is hard work, Mommy."
Me- "...(you're telling me, kid)...Yeah, it sure is..."
Lu- "Me have my fruit snacks, Mommy?
Me- ".........."
Lu- We go playground now, Mommy? Pleeeease?"
Me- "Yep, in just a minute."(quads on FIRE)
Lu- "Mommy?......You OK, Mommy?"
We finally make it up the damn hill.
Lu- "Yay! I WIN!"
My very chatty running partner.
Hopefully the results will be evident by my stellar beach bod; I'll be the one covered in goldfish crumbs, chasing around a topless 3 year old on the beach. Yeah, that's sexy.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Courthouse Creek 15k Trail Race

XTERRA Courthouse Creek 15k & 7k
Camp Brady Saunders, Maidens, VA
April 6, 2014
I usually have pretty low expectations when participating in any event in its inaugural year. In my experience, first-year events have awesome energy but can feel chaotic and disorganized. Although the Courthouse Creek events were first-year events, the seasoned pros behind the scenes did an awesome job in their organization without losing that first-year magic. The result was a stellar run on some of the best single-track trails in the area.
The Brady Saunders Boyscout Camp in Maidens VA is absolutely beautiful; its also private property. I've been out there once before for a 10k in 2008. I had a blast that year and was disappointed when the event wasn't repeated. I've kept busy at the other great trail-running spots RVA has to offer and kept an eye out for any events out in Maidens.
 When the Courthouse Creek 15k popped up on the local running calendar, I was super excited and signed up right away. The event was put together by the folks over at Run Ride Race (in conjunction with XTERRA); they have a great reputation for smooth and fun events for both runners and cyclists in the Richmond area; they didn't disappoint. The very well-marked course was both pretty and challenging; it was almost all single-track and definitely all FUN.
The course was a single loop (hooray!) that traversed through the woods, over creeks, up and down hills (those fun roller-coaster types) and over bridges. About mid-way, we ran through a giant open field; I welcomed the break from the hills and soaked up the warm sunshine and cool breeze. After about a quarter-mile of breezy field-running, the trail led back to the woods and through some of the Boy Scout camp area. It even provided a peek at the High Ropes Challenge Course (now THAT looked rad).
The 15k and 7k courses were very well-marked, although both measured a little short. My guess is that the 15k was actually about 8.7 miles, but that's no biggie. I'll keep that to myself from now on; makes my time look quicker...har har har.
As we runners were wrapping up our part of the day, the cyclists were gearing up for an event of their own, "Six Hours of Saunders," which sounds both intriguing and painful. I'm happy to keep my two feet firmly on the ground, thanks for asking.
I finished up the 15k at 1:20, a time I'm happy with (especially if no one knows it was about a 1/2 mile short, right?). The first place male and female finishers got a sweet prize pack, including a growler from the Center of the Universe brewing company in Ashland (not full O' beer, but still groovy) and a huge box of Power Bars. I really want that growler, so I'll have to either get a lot faster or actually go pay for one.
Tricky, tricky.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

James River Park: RVA Trail Running Awesomeness.

Buttermilk / Northbank Trails @ James River Park
Distance- 6.67 mi
Time- 1:11
Elevation Gain- 1,699 ft (ouchie)

In 2012, Outside Magazine named Richmond VA as the "Best River Town" in America. Last year, Trail Runner Magazine gave RVA the "Best in Dirt" award for its stellar trails. When these awards were given, I remember being a little surprised; aren't places like Colorado, California and Utah the typical choices for awards like these? Typical spoiled Richmonder...The James River Park system is quite special, unique and NO, other cities don't have anything that quite matches up (take that, Fort Collins).

Each year, there seems to be another new trail race utilizing the James River park system, Belle Isle and Brown's Island. Why? Because these trails are AWESOME.

Today I took advantage of the trail running paradise that is Richmond, VA and headed to the Reedy Creek entrance to the James River Park trail system. I left the mutts at home; while Buttermilk and Northbank trails are awesome for a solo runner, the bike traffic and steep drop-offs make me too nervous to bring my K9 kiddos along. Sometimes its nice to pound the dirt solo, anyway; today was definitely one of those days.
As usual, this course was gorgeous, entertaining, FUN and completely humbling. The terrain is sometimes rocky and almost always hilly. The stair-climbing and root jumping add a nice quad workout along the way. Over a 6.7mi trek, I jumped creeks, pet other people's dogs, climbed stairs and embankments, crossed bridges, dodged bikers and got embarrassingly sweaty.
 I love Richmond.
Nice little rocky spot on Buttermilk

Next on my calendar is the XTERRA Courthouse Creek 15k this Sunday in Goochland. I'm really looking forward to getting out on the trails at the Brady Saunders Boyscout camp. I've been out there once before and I'm stoked to get the opportunity to run there again.

Single track + Kindred Runner Folk = HAPPY HAPPY.


Trail Map, James River Park