June Goal Check-In

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Giving Mary, leader of NoPo Run Club, a Team LUNA Chix Portland Run sandwich!

Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it. ~Russel Baker

Portland’s summer has not only arrived early (I’d been warned to expect rain off and on until the 4th of July), it’s also already kicked into high gear and promises to be one for the record books. In fact, rumor has it that this heat wave is likely to last well into early July and may end up breaking records for longevity, as well.

For example, last Saturday morning’s low at Portland International Airport was 71 degrees. This is the first time PDX has ever recorded a low in the 70s in the month of June.

Not that I’m complaining; I actually like the heat, and I’m thanking my lucky stars that my first year in Oregon has been a mild one when it comes to lack of rain. But it does make outdoor workouts a bit more tricky, so early mornings and advance planning have been key when it comes to sticking to my 2015 goals.

Wondering what this is all about? Read more on the five goals toward which I’m working this year.

Here’s the latest on my progress:

1. Seeking Balance

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, summer in Oregon means one thing: BERRIES! And taking into consideration the amount I’ve consumed thus far, I’m quite shocked I haven’t pulled a Violet Beauregard and morphed into a giant blueberry.

If there’s a second thing I’ve learned, it’s that summer in Oregon also means another thing: ALLERGIES. Spending an afternoon in the strawberry patch on Sauvie Island was totally worth it, even if I had to take Zyrtec for the next two weeks to keep from being a puffy, wheezy mess.

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And although I’ve started to hear the all-too-familiar siren song of fall marathon training, I’m trying to ignore it and stay focused on the present: Bouncing back from injury and enjoying that process before I sign up for my next major undertaking.

Luckily, Ben’s on board with this plan and has made it his mission to keep challenging us with weekend hikes that are as breathtaking in scenery as they are in elevation.

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2. Training Smarter

The biggest revelation — and relief — this month came from finally solving the mystery of my SI joint pain!!! I happened to overhear one of my trainer’s other clients complaining of similar symptoms and that his PT said kettlebell swings were the likely culprit. A-ha!

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Since he’s not a runner and the only common denominator in our workouts is kettlebell work, I decided to back off from swings to keep from jarring my pelvis. It’s been almost a month, and I’m happy to report that the pain has all but subsided during runs, so consider this my PSA if you’re having a similar issue!

3. Facing Fears

Swimming. My 2015 nemesis.

As I sit down to reflect and write my recap each month, I always cringe when it comes to this part. Yes, I’ve been in the pool a few times since my last update; no, I haven’t taken any of the steps needed to actually improve my technique and comfort level.

But that may have changed this past weekend. I was so inspired by watching Ben and friends in the Pacific Crest long course triathlon that I decided to re-commit to getting my ass to the pool.

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And Mary Anne, the swimmer from the women’s relay team (who kicked butt, by the way, and is training for a 5K swim later this season), graciously offered to get in the water with us and give Ben and me some pointers, so we’re going to set some dates and get moving on this.

Baby steps, right?!

4. Pushing Myself

My proudest moment this month came in the form of work: namely, launching my new company, Pulse Creative. After spending the past few years part-time for a start-up with freelance gigs on the side, I finally decided to make it official and fully align my passion (health, fitness and wellness) with my livelihood (helping people tell stories through PR, marketing and social media).

Just as coaches recognize potential and guide athletes to greatness, my goal is to work directly with small business owners to define challenges, recognize opportunities and help them develop the critical skills to be competitive and relevant in their respective market.

So if you happen to hear of anyone looking for help, I’d really appreciate it if you’d send them my way 🙂

5. Giving Back

Last but certainly not least comes Team LUNA Chix Portland Run. An extremely close second in terms of proud moments this month came in the form of being nominated for the Foot Traffic Women’s Hall of Fame for encouraging women to get active and providing a non-competitive environment in which to do so.

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Not only am I humbled at being included in the group they assembled — seriously, there were some pretty amazing competitors, coaches and local legends in there — but it also makes my heart happy to be able to contribute to the women’s running community here in Oregon.

And great timing, too, as we’ve been seeing some terrific attendance and momentum at our weekly workouts, so please come out and join us if you’re in the Portland area. We meet at 6:30 p.m. at the Duniway Park track — and all levels are welcome, both walkers and runners.

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Check out our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts for more info!

How are your 2015 goals coming along? 

How I Run: Team LUNA Chix PDX’s Megan Fuetterer

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In honor of our inaugural Team LUNA Chix Portland Run season, I’ll be introducing my teammates via this interview series throughout the next few months…get to know these impressive ladies, and come join us for a run Monday nights from 6:30-7:30 pm in Portland (click here for details)! 

Have you ever met someone and immediately just hit it off? That was Megan Fuetterer and me over coffee a few months back.

We were introduced by a mutual friend and quickly bonded over a shared love for food and an active lifestyle. Fast-forward to the present, and I’m not only taking weekly spin classes from her at Revocycle, but we’re also running together Monday nights with other LUNA Chix gals.

What I love about Megan, though, is that her awesomeness is outweighed only by her humbleness. Not only has she recently launched a successful company (Zest Nutrition), but she has also made a professional home at OHSU’s Doernbecher Children’s Hospital where she enjoys working with kiddos and their families as a pediatric dietitian.

Oh, and did I mention she’s also a certified personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine, a certified spin instructor and an Ironman triathlete whose healthy pumpkin pie recipe was featured on the TODAY Show? There’s nothing this lady can’t do, and I’m excited to learn more about smart fueling as we tackle our first LUNA Chix run team season together.

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1. What’s your favorite route? Forest Park, but when it’s sunny out, there’s nothing quite like running on the PDX waterfront. My morning loop along the waterfront was featured in Runner’s World last year as the Rave Run!

2. What shoes do you wear? I am currently running in Nike Fly Knit Lunar 3s. Prior to these, I wore Newtons for years and loved them! They have lugs under the ball of your foot, which prevents heel striking and ultimately leads to a more efficient stride. They definitely helped improve my form.

3. What other run gear can’t you live without? My iPod shuffle. It clips onto my shorts and is weightless. Good tunes can energize me even on my most unmotivated days.

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4. What’s your best time-saver or “runhack?” In high school I got in the habit of wearing my running clothes to bed for early morning practices. That way I could literally set my alarm three minutes before I needed to leave the house. I still do this on nights I want to squeeze in as many minutes of sleep as possible.

5. What running-related thing are you better at than anyone else? Listening to my body. If I’m pushing and my body is pushing back, I ease up and honor that. Our body gives us signs for a reason. I think yoga has been the biggest help in teaching me self-awareness.

6. What do you listen to while running? Anything with a good beat and an uplifting message. The key for me is constantly finding new music to keep it fresh.

7. What are you currently training for? For the first time in eight years I can happily say I am not training for anything! Wow! I am getting married in September, and I want to fully embrace the months leading up to the wedding. My fiancé and I still run for fun together in the mornings before work. It actually is a great time to talk about wedding plans.

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8. What are your recovery & sleep routines like? Sleep, sleep, sleep! I aim for eight hours per night. If waking up early to run means less than seven hours of sleep, I skip the early workout and get the Z’s instead. Recovery, for me, comes in the form of food. I always eat an adequate meal of carbs, protein and fat within 30 minutes of a run, then continue to stay properly fueled and hydrated throughout the day.

9. What’s the best running advice you’ve ever received? Smile. Even if it hurts, smiling tricks your brain into having a good time. If you aren’t having fun, what’s the point?

10. What’s your favorite running-related memory? My senior year of high school Track & Field, my 4×4 team made it to the finals at the state meet. Right before the starting gun went off, someone started shooting fireworks off nearby. My last ever lap around the track in an organized meet was with fireworks lighting up the night sky overhead. I ran my fastest split time and my team took 3rd in state. It was unforgettable.

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11. Fill in the blank: I’d love to go on a run with ________.  Chrissie Wellington.

12. Anything else you want to add? For tips on fueling for fitness and everyday life, visit ZestfulNutrition.com 🙂

Thanks, Megan! I’m hungry (see what I did there?!) for making more memories during our adventures together this season. 

Runner friends, shoot me a note — info (at) kineticfix.com — so I can feature you, too!

February Goal Check-In

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Two months down, 10 to go!

I wrote previously about the five goals toward which I’m working this year, and since this is my little corner of accountability on the Internet, here’s my update on how things are progressing:

1. Seeking Balance. I’m actively restraining myself from signing up for #AllTheRaces this year — which is difficult when you’re in a new state! — so you’ll see that my schedule for 2015 is still very much a work in progress. My strategy is to try to target new events, and I’m trying to mix things up rather than build toward a specific A race this season.

2. Training Smarter. Heart rate training went out the window this month in favor of a metric ton of cross-training. I’ve been barre-ing my butt off at PureBarre in an attempt to build more glute and core strength, riding at Revocycle to make sure I’m road-bike ready come spring, and testing out all kinds of other classes via ClassPass (post with details to come). Variety is the spice of life…and fitness, right?!

Ben and I also completed our own version of Whole30 (more like Whole45 since we had two minor cheat weekends with company in town), so nutrition has also been a major focus this month. As much as I used to pride myself on being able to eat whatever I wanted, I’ve got to admit that I feel so much better eating clean, unprocessed food and cutting down on added sugar.

3. Facing Fears. Ok, you got me — there’s not much progress to report on the swimming front. I haven’t been making regular weekly sessions, and although I’ve got a few standing offers for technique guidance, I haven’t had a chance to drag Ben to the pool to take videos of me in action. Hoping to remedy this in March!

4. Pushing Myself. I’m officially registered for my second ultramarathon — a 50K in May. I’m also eyeing a century ride earlier that month, as well as trying to decide between a sprint triathlon or Olympic duathlon in June. Throw in two overnight relays, and it’s looking to be an active summer!

5. Giving Back. We’re still in our pre-season for the Team LUNA Chix Portland Run team, so fundraising hasn’t started quite yet for the Breast Cancer Fund. However, we’ve been so excited to get going that we’ve gotten a jump on things by holding group runs once a month to touch base.

In the meantime, our potential century ride has fundraising component for the American Lung Association, so if we decide to bite the bullet on that event, Ben and I will be hitting up our friends and family to donate for another great cause.

Other than that, we’re looking forward to March coming in like a rainy lion and out like a damp lamb here in the Pacific Northwest…how about you?!

How are your 2015 goals coming along? 

Swim-less in Stumptown

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Calling all swimmer/triathlete friends: I need your help.

I figured this might be a good place to crowdsource some knowledge — not just for me, but for anyone else who finds themselves in a similar predicament.

After almost 20 years (yep, dating myself there) of running, I’m mixing things up with more cycling and swimming — thanks, in large part, to the encouragement from my fellow Coeur Sports teammates.

Throughout last season, my #bikelove blossomed — from learning how to clip in to completing an Olympic distance race to long group rides on weekends.

But my #swimlove? Er, not so much.

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See, with running and biking I feel like the mechanics are pretty self-explanatory: one foot in front of the other, one pedal stroke at a time. Sure, we can shave off seconds and prevent injury by fine-tuning form and fitness, but once you have a grasp of the basics, all it takes is time and practice.

Swimming, on the other hand, is not something that feels intuitive. At all. And although I took the obligatory swim lessons as a kid, I had to re-train myself to do laps last year.

I can wrap my head around the movements — stroking, kicking, breathing — and get myself back and forth across the pool for 30-45 minutes, but there’s still something missing. Basically, I feel like I’m not moving smoothly or quickly enough for how much effort I’m putting in.

So my mission for 2015 is to figure this out once and for all, and — aside from knowing that I need some outside help — I’m not sure where to start.

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That’s where you come in.

Step one is to whip myself into shape in the pool, then step two is to (eventually) translate that to open water. But how?

I know I need someone to watch what I’m doing, tweak my form and help me worth with, rather than against, the water…but I’m stumped on the best approach: instructor vs. coach, personalized assessment vs. lessons from scratch, one-on-one vs. group, etc.

At this point, I’m not looking to get primed for a specific event; I just need to train to be able to train, if that makes sense.

But please don’t tell me to join a local masters program. I tried that in SF and got left in the dust with a group who said they were too slow to train with the actual masters group at that pool. Between getting lapped a gazillion times and dealing with smug looks from a Michael Phelps body-double, I’m not keen to try that again anytime soon.

Runner seeking advice: I’m searching for #swimlove in 2015; can you help? 

My 5 Goals for 2015

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Aside from freezing my butt off (#packingfail) while running around Michigan over the holidays, I had some time to think about goals for 2015.

2014 was pretty epic. It would be hard to top, and to try would likely be setting myself up for trouble. So, in light of my evaluation of last season and my “train smarter, not harder” mantra for 2015, I’m on a mission to build a solid foundation for a further (50M?), faster (sub-4 marathon?) 2016.

My 2015 goals are as follows:

1. Seek Balance. One of my goals for 2014 was to race roughly once per month, and while I enjoy motivating and challenging myself this way, I want 2015’s racing schedule (still TBD) to be based on quality, not quantity.

2. Train Smarter. I sound like a broken record with this one, but I want to take 2014’s lessons and apply them in 2015 — namely, building an aerobic base using heart rate, continuing strength training and pre-hab to activate glutes, along with regular cross-training for flexibility and functional fitness.

3. Face Fears. 2014 was the year of #bikelove — I went from never having clipped in to competing in an Olympic triathlon to completing a 50-mile solo ride and loving.it. — so I want to make the same strides as far as swimming goes. Gulp.

4. Push Myself. Nothing’s set in stone yet, but I’m tossing around a few ideas for challenges to keep me stoked and give me something for which to strive in the New Year, including a duathlon, another 50K and a century ride.

5. Give Back. It’s easy to get lost in your own little training world each season, so in 2015 I’m leading the Team LUNA Chix Portland Run crew in order to help inspire and encourage women to get outside and play, all while raising money and awareness for the Breast Cancer Fund.

Have you set your goals yet for 2015? What are they?

Race Report: LifeTime Fitness 2015 Indoor Triathlon

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Although I said I’d hold off on registering for another triathlon until I work on my swim, I couldn’t help myself when I found out that the Indoor Triathlon Hour powered by Life Time Tri and IRONMAN would be happening while I was in Michigan.

In an effort to inspire the community to consider and commit to racing triathlon in 2015, LifeTime Fitness created the event as a way to offer an inspirationally-charged, safe and indoor environment for athletes of all fitness levels to experience the nation’s fastest growing sport of triathlon.

I did a similar event last year at a different location, and while my distances were slightly shorter this time for the same time-frames (damn!) — 10-minute swim/30-minute bike/20-minute run — I can’t complain too much because my training has been consistent but not particularly focused lately.

My wave — the first of the day — started promptly at 8 a.m., so I arrived about 20 minutes early to check in, get my cap and number and get organized in the locker room transition area. And then it was go time!

Swim: 10 minutes = 17 lengths

Clean, clear water and only two people to a lane? Now, that’s how I start to get my swim mojo back.

And apparently my lane buddy, Eric, had the same idea. He’d done outdoor triathlons before but had a bad swim experience recently, as well, so both of us joked about just wanting to just get through that part of every race.

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Since the lap pool there has five lanes, they limited each heat to 10 people. By the time I had arrived, people were already starting to warm up, so I hopped in and swam one length to try to get the pre-race jitters out.

This is about when I also noticed that my wave-mates were a pretty athletic looking bunch. I was one of three ladies, and I could tell quickly that this wasn’t a group who was trying triathlon for the first time; these people were here to kick off their seasons, so I figured I’d just try to keep up.

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My adrenaline didn’t work in my favor because I went out way too quickly. And the combination of being against the wall (aka swallowing back-splash) and getting bumped a few times took me right back to my Olympic triathlon back in April, and I could feel myself start to panic.

This is where the giant countdown clock came in handy, though, because I’d raise my head at the end of the lane and think, You can do anything for five more minutes. Gradually, I got my rhythm back and, thankfully, the whistle blew for us to stop after I’d gotten 17 lengths under my belt.

Bike: 30 minutes = 7.7 miles

Although they gave us a generous 10 minutes to transition from the swim to the bike, the time flew by. I tugged off my suit in the locker room, threw on my Coeur kit and headed upstairs to the bike area that they had sectioned off by the cardio equipment.

For some added motivation, we could watch Ironman videos on the projection screen, so I snagged a front-row seat for the action. I didn’t have my bike shoes to be able to clip in, so I secured my running shoes in the pedals and prepped my nutrition: a bottle of water and a trusty Chocolate Peppermint Stick LUNA bar.

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And we were off again! The music pumping nice and loud, so I tried to ride to the beat and turned down my resistance as much as possible to gain some of the ground I lost in the pool.

I got the feeling that a few of my heat-mates train together because they rode in a group and were encouraging each other throughout the ride, which was inspiring to hear. We pedaled furiously as a small crowd gathered to watch us push onward, still dripping a bit from the pool, but smiling from ear to ear.

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I think the bikes may have been calibrated differently from last year’s race because my just-under-eight-miles seemed like a conservative estimate for how strongly I felt like I was riding (especially after getting a comment form one of my heat-mates to the same effect). But, regardless, I stayed pretty steady throughout, ate and drank consistently, and was proud of my overall effort.

The second wave came up to join us with about 10 minutes to spare in our ride, so we pedaled as a large group for the final portion. Their energy was a breath of fresh air after hammering away on the stationary bike, and just a few minutes after they got settled the whistle blew for our final transition.

Run: 20 minutes = 2.69 miles

We had five minutes to get from the bikes to the treadmills, but they were just a few yards away, so I grabbed a towel and got situated quickly because I already had my Hoka Conquests on.

My heat-mate next to me had a treadmill malfunction at the very last second, so he scooted over to another machine just as they started a countdown to the third and final portion of the event.

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Because I’ve been managing what I’ve self-diagnosed as some SI joint pain (note to self: must continue to work on my lack of ankle mobility, which is likely the culprit!) since my marathon, my plan was to run a conservative first 10 minutes and then gradually increase my speed over the next 10 minutes to warm up properly.

I started off at 6.8 mph and increased to around 7.5 when one of the volunteers came by, daring me, “I think can go faster than that.” Yep, she was right; I wasn’t really out of breath, so I pumped it up a few tenths of a mile every minute or two until I was up to 8.5 mph 15 minutes in.

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I was hoping to inch up the speed to 9.0 mph like last year, but I started feeling a little lightheaded with three minutes to go, so I gritted my teeth and ran on. Maybe increasing the speed wasn’t an option, but I sure as hell wasn’t backing down at that point!

When the final whistle blew, I ended at 2.69 miles. Not PR territory, but a solid performance with an average pace of 7:26/mile, so I’ll take it…especially considering I’ve eaten my weight in Christmas cookies over the past few weeks.

It was also a wake-up call: Fitness-wise, I’m close to what I was last March, so I’m happy to have been able to maintain. Training-wise, however, I’ve got to dial things in better if I want to progress. And, nutritionally, I think I did ok, but probably could have used some extra oomph for the run in the form of Osmo or Tailwind in addition to the LUNA bar.

All in all, it was an event I’d highly recommend, especially if you’re looking to kick off your training with a low-pressure race and get a baseline in place.

Congrats to everyone who participated, and cheers to a successful 2015 racing season!

Year in Review: 2014’s Highs & Lows

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October’s Best & Worst of Racing Link-Up post was so much fun that I figured I’d revisit each of this year’s races in the same manner.

So on the eve of 2015, I’m taking a little walk down memory lane…starting way back in January with our chocolate-fueled 15K and ending with December’s holiday-themed run.

I was going to add up all the mileage, but instead of boring you with stats, I’ll just get to the good stuff 🙂

Best Post-Race Bellyache

We soared away with mega sugar highs after January’s Hot Chocolate 15K. Not only did Kelly, Ben and I have a blast running the scenic route, which looped around Golden Gate Park and down Highway 1, but we also (over)indulged in the most decadent post-race spread of fondue, hot chocolate, marshmallows, cookies and all kinds of other goodies.

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Best Mid-Race Meetup

You know it’s going to be a good race when you become fast friends with someone you meet two miles in (hey, Molly!) and get to hang out afterwards with the one and only Catra “Dirt Diva” Corbett and her running companion, a dachshund named TruMan. Just some of the many amazing running memories that Vivi and I — college friends reunited as running buddies — made at the Chabot Trail Run 30K in February!

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Least-Intimidating Triathlon

At home and on a whim, I signed up for the LifeTime Fitness Indoor Sprint Triathlon with my friend Colleen in March. Not only was the 10-minute swim, 30-minute bike and 20-minute run a nice way to ease into triathlon for the year, but it was also a great workaround for being able to “race” while there was still snow on the ground outside.

Best of all, though? The 10-minute locker-room transitions, which may have permanently ruined us for “real” ones.

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Friendliest Faces Race

Our entire SF community came out in full force for the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco Half Marathon back in April. The weather cooperated, I helped pace Barry’s Bootcamp owner Adam Shane for the start of his first 13.1 finish, and friends and family came out of the woodwork to run and spectate along a course that was much tougher and hillier than anticipated.

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Worst Race Ever

Lest you think this rundown of races is all rainbows and puppy dogs, I present to you my darkest moment from the 2014 season: the HITS Napa Valley Olympic Triathlon.

Struggling with sickness and self-doubt, I battled for more than four hours through a panic attack on the swim, not being able to catch my breath on the bike and a miserably hot run that day. But as far as my performance was from perfect, I’m proud that I didn’t quit — and, hey, it can only go up from here, right?!

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Most Revealing Race

If you’ve never run Bay to Breakers in May in San Francisco, you’ve got to add it to your runner’s bucket list. Not only is it the oldest consecutively run annual footrace in the world, but it’s also some of the best people-watching and partying you’ll ever witness in the city. And no, don’t count on a PR, but do plan on getting an eyeful while covering the 12K course.

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Ultra-Freakin’-Awesome Race

Each time you run farther than you’ve ever run before, it’s an exhilarating experience. Jamie, my pacer extraordinaire for my first Canyon Meadow Trail 50K Ultramarathon, fortunately understood this and dealt with my exclamations every mile on the mile after 26.2: “Guess what? This is officially the longest I’ve ever run!”

And it may have been the first, but it won’t be the last…

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Biggest Post-Race Double-Take

As in, I had to check the race results twice to make sure I read them correctly. Hubby paced me to a shiny, new 10K PR in the Beaverton Sun Run, and I credit the Hanson’s marathon plan for the speedy finish. Sure, I got injured soon thereafter from the sheer volume and high threshold of training (plus lack of pre-hab), but it was fun while it lasted!

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Best-Worst Race Experience

Was it real or was it a dream? You may never know…because after more than 24 hours of being awake, driving and running for almost 200 miles the hallucinations start to set in. I can’t even really do justice to the insanity and hilarity of an overnight relay, particularly the “Mother of ’em all,” but I can say that this year’s Hood to Coast Relay was something I’ll always remember!

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Favorite Street Cred Race

Yes, I’m referencing the location, but I’m also alluding to the fact that, after five weeks off during peak mileage building, I had something to prove with this race — and, per usual, it was to myself. Both being able to run and highlight my hometown, plus be able to finish the Detroit Marathon was an incredible way to cap off a fall full of physical frustrations.

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Most Instagrammable Race

No joke, the first thing I did when I found out we were moving to Oregon was to put the lottery date for the Silver Falls Trail Half Marathon on my calendar because I heard it had some fantastic scenery. And the price we paid — in crazy elevation changes, rough footing and cold, crappy weather — was totally worth it!

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Most Spirited Race

From the looks of some of the creative costumes involved in this event, I have a feeling several of the participants may have taken the holiday “spirit” part of the race literally. Not only did Carolyn, a fellow LUNA Chix teammate, finish her first-ever race with flying colors, but the Jingle Bell Run 5K for Arthritis also ended up being an ideal way to round out the year just the way we started: with friends.

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Looking back, I’m feeling really thankful for a year chock-full of memories made, laughs shared and miles covered with friends and family.

Cheers to an even more eventful 2015!

Which moments are you most thankful for from 2014? I’d love to hear!

5 Reasons to Factor Some ‘Heart’ Into Your Workouts

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In light of this week’s announcement from Coeur Sports — I’m thrilled to be a part of the team again in 2015! — and in honor of our “heart & courage” rallying cry, I figured it’d be an opportune time to talk about something I’ve shied away from until only very recently: heart rate training.

Why? As much as I love to quantify my fitness, somewhere between doing the heart rate zone math, finding the correct workouts to hit my zones and then licking attaching the device and syncing up to whatever software is needed, I inevitably drop the ball. Let’s face it, adding another element of discipline can be tough when the alternative is to just lace up and head out the door.

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But the wiser older I get, the more I’ve realized that there are some terrific benefits to taking heart rate into account when training. Here are a few of the reasons why I’m starting to incorporate it into more of my workouts:

1. Train smarter. There’s a good chance that, like me, you tend to overdo your easy days and don’t push quite hard enough when it is needed.

2. Change focus. If you’re in an exercise rut, it’s fun to add a gaming element with heart rate workouts by setting some specific, measurable goals.

3. Recover effectively. Are you sure you’re not undercutting recovery days? Heart rate monitors can be incredibly helpful in helping you rein things in.

4. Stay healthy. Over-training and improper pacing can knock you off your A game, leaving you susceptible to both overuse and acute injuries.

5. Get better. Whether you’re looking to raise your level of fitness, stick to a program or race faster, fine tuning your workouts by heart rate can help.

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Ok, you’re probably thinking, that’s great, but how do I get started? Well, here’s a four-step cheat-sheet that simplifies the process:

First, determine your maximum heart rate, which can be done with a reasonable amount of accuracy by subtracting your age from the number 220 (for men) or from 226 (for women). There are a number of other equations that can be used, but that one’s a good rule of thumb.

Second, establish your resting heart rate, which should be done first thing in the morning with your feet still between the sheets. Find your pulse, count the number of beats that occur in 10 seconds, and multiply that number by six to find your rough count for beats-per-minute.

Third, calculate your training zones, which will allow you to customize your workouts to your heart rate and current fitness level. You can do the math according to the chart below, or use this handy calculator to do it for you.

Training_Zone_Diagram

Now that you have your heart rates and zones, the fourth and final step is to create a training program and track results. This, of course, will vary according to your ultimate goal(s), but here’s a great article that outlines the different types of workouts you’ll want to consider when creating your program.

The best part is that you don’t need any fancy equipment, aside from two fingers and a jugular, to get started. If you decided to stick with it, though, I’d strongly advise purchasing a heart rate monitor, which will deliver consistent readings and track your workouts for you.

My favorite right now is the Wahoo Fitness TICKR ($100). Not only does the built-in memory mean you have the freedom to train without a phone, but I also find the motion analytics (measures running form across three dimensions; click here for details) fascinating because I’m looking to improve my form and become a stronger runner.

Wahoo

As for my verdict on this type of training, the jury’s still out. I’m by no means an expert, meaning I’m still playing around with it and trying to learn as much as I can, but from what I’ve been reading I do think it could help give me an extra edge to stay healthy in 2015.

The only downside so far is that — for someone who has always set goals based on pace — I’ve had to check my ego at the door for pretty much every workout thus far. Effort-wise I feel great, but the monitor says I’m training at levels where I’m exerting myself too much, which (contrary to what you’d think) doesn’t actually serve me well in the long run.

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So what can you expect if you try this at home? Well, surprisingly, the biggest shift may be more of a mental one that physical. Gone are the subjective “run by feel” workouts; using a heart rate monitor gives you a very concrete, objective way to gauge exertion and progress.

Other than that, get ready to slooow down. Almost painfully so, as you’ll likely add a few minutes to your per-mile pace initially. But by taking back control of your workouts, you should start to see progress fairly quickly — in the form of being able to do more while maintaining a lower heart rate, which means you’re becoming an aerobic machine!

After struggling with injuries last season and feeling like I’ve hit a plateau with my speed, I’ve got nothing to lose: It could work like a charm or (what I’m really afraid of) end up slowing me down, but either way, I figure I’ll learn a lot in the process!

Do you train with a heart rate monitor? Any feedback and/or tips to share?

Iron(wo)man Meghan Manion on recovery, racing and relationships

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Meghan Manion will tell you that her Ironman finish last fall is a testament to what an “average” person can do with with proper training and coaching, but I happen to think it’s more about someone who lives her life putting a little (or a lot) “extra” in the ordinary.

And, clearly, I wasn’t the only one inspired by my interview with her about that 140.6 race experience; it’s been one of the most popular posts, most likely because her positive attitude and outlook are simply infectious.

So I thought it’d be fun to sit down again with Meghan to check in on what she’s been up to since swim-bike-running her way around the Sunshine State.

KineticFix: Thinking back to those first few days (and weeks) post-race, can you walk us through the recovery process after your Ironman?

Meghan Manion: When I woke up the morning after my Ironman, I remember my eyes welling up with tears, just realizing that I had really done it. It all kind of sunk in at that moment.

My next thought was that I was hesitant to move for fear of intense pain! I moved slowly, and quickly realized that I was feeling just fine. No chafing, no soreness, no joint pain at all. I walked normally to the bathroom to brush my teeth. I did not expect that to be the way my morning went!

I’ll attribute the lack of chafing to four generous smearings of Chamois Butt’r throughout the day. The lack of pain….I’m still pondering that. I think the most likely answer is that Team Z just prepared me THAT well for the Ironman.

Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Petersen

Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Petersen

I definitely continued training after the race in all three sports, but at a much lower intensity. My motivation did start to fail as the winter arrived; however, I had signed up for the Goofy Challenge (Saturday half marathon, followed by Sunday full marathon) in Disney World two months after the Ironman to give me something else to work for through the winter.

That helped a little bit, but I definitely could have trained better for the race! In March, I ran the Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach, feeling not very prepared, but actually ended up with a PR that day!

Ironman does some crazy things to your body; it is incredible how much stronger I feel, even months later.

Photo courtesy of Felipe Wells

Photo courtesy of Felipe Wells

KF: I saw that you just completed another Half Ironman recently, too! What are your other race aspirations this year – triathlon, running, or otherwise?

MM: Yes! I did Ironman Raleigh 70.3 in June. I had raced Raleigh last year as a member of a relay team (I did the bike leg). After that race, I knew that I wanted to do the entire thing this year.

The swim there is fantastic. I had a rough day, including a complete tire blow-out about two miles from the bike finish! I carried my bike the last two miles that day. These things happen!

I’ll also be racing a Rev 3 Williamsburg on June 15. I’m doing the Olympic distance there, and I’m really excited to head back to Williamsburg. I raced the 70.3 last year, and it was my first half distance race.

Even more exciting, I met my fiancé Nate at that race last year, and we are both looking forward to reliving that first meeting. And after Williamsburg, Nate will be focusing on training for his first Ironman in Chattanooga in September, so I will most likely follow him around to whatever races he finds useful in his training.

Photo courtesy of Matt Koirtyohann

Photo courtesy of Matt Koirtyohann

KF: Speaking of…you two just got engaged (congrats!).  Any tips you can share for successfully balancing a relationship with training, racing and other commitments, since he’s a fellow triathlete?

MM: Nate and I were engaged on May 1, and we are planning our wedding on the beach in Florida in November! What an exciting year it has been.

We both love having triathlon as a shared interest, and we will always have it as the thing that brought us together. We aren’t able to train together much, because I cannot keep up with Mr. Speedy Pants. But every once in a while we will run together, or go on a casual ride.

We definitely enjoy racing together, or just being there for each other’s races. I think we motivate each other to get out and get the workouts in, too!

Photo courtesy of Stacie Edington

Photo courtesy of Stacie Edington

Thanks, Meghan, for taking the time to chat. And here’s wishing you just as much success and happiness in the second half of your year! 

‘Tri’ a new challenge to kick off summer fitness

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Think triathlon is only for elite athletes and endurance junkies? Think again.

According to USA Triathlon, participation in triathlons in the United States is at an all-time high. The group’s membership has grown exponentially from around 100,000 in 1998 to 550,446 when last reported in 2012.

The Sports & Fitness Industry Association also estimates that the total number of triathlon participants rose 59 percent from 2008 (1,251,000) to 2011 (1,992,000), thanks to the rise in popularity of endurance sports.

And — let’s face it — if I can do it, anyone can!

Why Tri?

  • Beat boredom by switching focus between swim/bike/run
  • Get in shape from head to toe with weekly full-body workouts
  • Reduce risk of overuse injury in one sport, thanks to cross-training
  • Develop a lean, mean body with endurance & resistance training
  • Fall into a more healthy, balanced lifestyle (nutrition & sleep are necessities!)
  • Reap the benefits of being highly organized around training
  • Reduce stress on the body with swimming & cycling, which are non-impact
  • Drop pounds, thanks to high-intensity cardiovascular training
  • Give more purpose and motivation to your workouts by setting a goal event
  • Lower blood pressure, prevent heart disease & diabetes, reduce risk of osteoporosis
  • Choose from a variety of distances for an individualized challenge

How to Get Started: 

  1. Pick a distance.
  2. Choose an event.
  3. Find a training plan.
  4. Prepare for the big day.
  5. Enjoy your first race.

So why not ‘tri’ something new this summer? You just may like it!