Run Streak 2019

I wanted to be better about posting on here more regularly this year, but I haven’t been great about that so far. Life has been a little hectic lately, and oh yeah, I’ve been RUNNING!

2019 Run Streak: Day 60

You read that right. After MONTHS of being sick or injured and being unable to run more than a mile or two (if I’m lucky) since my 10k, I’ve finally got a streak going. Not only that, but I’m also getting some distance PRs!

Today marks day 60 of my 2019 Run Streak! Two whole months of running at least a mile (or more) a day. Things got off to a rough (and slow) start. I was still getting over being sick and, thanks to those illnesses and the cold weather, my asthma was the worst it’s been in a couple years.

I’m slowly seeing improvements though. I’m not doubled over trying to breathe in the middle of a run (mostly thanks to my expensive inhaler, but partly just to exercising regularly again). My pace is starting to get better, too.

At the beginning of 2019, I was running 13-minute+ miles. Now my average pace is in the 12-minute range. Oh, and I recently had a distance PR. I ran my longest run last Sunday: 9 miles in the cold and 25-mile-per-hour winds. A couple weeks before that, when the weather was cold and icy, I had another PR: Longest treadmill run–7 whole miles on the treadmill!

I’ve been frustrated at times with the slow progress, and I’ve been dealing with a lot of muscle soreness lately. In spite of that, I’m proud of myself for sticking with it, especially through all the bad weather.

New Year, New Me, New Watch

I treated myself to a new Garmin watch this month. I previously had an old Garmin Forerunner, which took forever to connect to GPS and had limited functionality. I tried out an Apple Watch for a few weeks, but its limited functionality and inaccuracy was frustrating.

Running with my Garmin Vivoactive 3After a lot of research, I knew I wanted to get the Garmin Vivoactive 3, and, as luck would have it, they had a sale around Valentine’s Day. So I took advantage of it and used my Christmas money to buy it.

I’m so happy with my purchase. It connects so much faster than my old Forerunner and it has more functionality, like the ability to set intervals and create workouts. Plus, it’s beautiful! I had someone from work ask me if it was a Kate Spade watch the other day!

Hydrating with Nuun

Nuun Hydration PromoAs a 2019 Team Nuun Ambassador, I’ve been hydrating almost daily with Nuun. Being an ambassador has its perks, like getting a discount on all my favorite flavors! Now through March 6, you can enjoy some of those perks, too!

Head to nuunlife.com and use the code hydratefriends25 to get 25% off your order! If you aren’t sure what to try, I recommend Nuun Sport Lemon-Lime or Strawberry Lemonade. Those two are my favorites. I also love the Cherry Limeade and Lime flavors with caffeine and the Blueberry Tangerine Immunity if you need a boost as flu season drags on and on.

Running for Guac & Girls on the Run

It feels good to be running every day again. It makes me happier and stronger. And now that I’m starting to add miles onto my long runs, I’m getting more and more excited (and a little nervous) for my half marathon in April.

Speaking of my half marathon, I’m running the Go! St. Louis Half Marathon as a Girls on the Run SoleMate. Throughout my training, I’m raising money for Girls on the Run St. Louis.

Girls on the Run St. LouisGirls on the Run is an empowerment program for girls in grades 3 through 8. The program gives them skills and experiences to navigate their world with confidence and joy.

Through engaging lessons and movement activities, the curriculum helps each girl understand and celebrate herself, value healthy relationships and realize her power to impact the world. At the end of the program, girls complete a celebratory 5k that underscores these lessons with a lifelong memory of accomplishment.

My goal is to raise $1200 for this incredible organization before my half marathon on April 7. If you’d like to make a donation to help me reach my goal and to empower young girls, you can do so here: https://www.raceplanner.com/donate/Amanda-Brown-Girls-on-the-Run-St-Louis-SoleMates-2018-19-48294

I appreciate any financial support you can give–even just $5 can make a difference in a young girl’s life!

 

 

 

Race Recaps

I haven’t been running much lately (and it’s been even longer since I posted here). I completed my first 10k back in October and then ran a 5k a week later. I’ve only run once or twice since then. But I’ll get back to that. First, Here’s how my races went: 

My 10k training went okay. I wasn’t expecting to run with the 5:1 pace group, but I eventually accepted it (and I think it ended up being better than trying to push myself to run at a faster pace). 

Over the course of my training I dealt with chronic fatigue (possibly due to my seriously low vitamin D levels). I had some SI pain, which my chiropractor eventually began treating me for. I tripped and fell twice less than a month apart. 

Eventually, I started taking more days off to focus more on getting enough sleep. I was worried I would be undertrained come race day, but then I saw someone’s post online about how it’s better to be undertrained than even a mile overtrained, and that made me feel better about my decision to back off. 

10k Race: Flat as a Pancake

Race day was chilly and rainy. I got there early to get my bib and t-shirt, and got to use an indoor bathroom before the race started! (It’s the little things.) The race was in Tower Grove Park, so the 10k was two loops around the park. 

The first mile or so felt really hard. Even though I had warmed up thoroughly prior to the start, I still felt stiff. Not to mention, my fall allergies were in full swing at that point, making it hard to breathe. 

MaPq2hjtxcCkF2DogkFapLZUMfXN9NlMY_hSUthSStwpX92IBFortunately, one person from my pace group was also running the race, so we ran it together and that made things a lot easier. I dealt with a lot of side cramping during the first half of the race as well, which was frustrating. 

Our pace at the 5k mark was 12:24, and we managed to maintain that pace throughout the rest of the race. I took my nutrition after finishing that first loop and started to feel a little better. 

I was tempted to try to run the entire race instead of doing my 5:1 intervals, but my running partner reminded me to stick to my training. I think that was the right choice. Our final time was 1:17:01 with an average pace of 12:24. 

Overall, I was happy with my time and what I accomplished. This was the first race I ever ran with someone (and without headphones/music!) and I think that made a big difference. I also realized I need to invest in a proper hand-held water bottle. 

5k Race: Race to the Shrine

I pretty much took the entire week after my 10k off to rest. I was tired and sore and focused again on sleep (and foam rolling). I ran a 5k the next weekend. 

The weather was pretty great for that race, but it was super windy. I stuck with my 5:1 training plan again, mostly because I didn’t feel like I had the energy to try to do more. 

This run was pretty uneventful, but also hilly. One of my favorite moments of the race was passing a young girl with a sign that said “I don’t know you, but I’m proud of you.” That gave me all the feels. 

Race to the Shrine 5k
Post-Race Selfie with the Shrine!

Despite running into a headwind for the last quarter mile of the race, I finished strong. My final time was 36:01 with an average pace of 11:36. Not a PR by any stretch, but given that I had run a 10k the weekend prior, I was happy with it. 

In fact, I came in 3rd (out of 7) in my division. That’s not something I had ever really paid attention to before, but it was kind of exciting to see I wasn’t dead last!

Future Running Goals

My next race is the Turkey Trot this Thursday for Thanksgiving. Since completing the Race to the Shrine a month ago, I have only run once (that I can remember). I had been extremely tired and then I got sick. 

I’ve been sick for about a week now and am just now starting to feel a little better. Hopefully I can get a couple short runs in between now and Thursday and not feel terrible for this race. 

After that, I think I might try to start my run streak back up again. The “official” Runner’s World run streak goes from Thanksgiving Day to New Year’s Day (41 days total). 

All I know is that I felt strong and in shape and healthy when I was streaking before, so maybe I can get back to that. Plus, I have a new (used) treadmill (thanks to my in-laws), so I don’t have to run outside in the dark and risk more injuries. 

Then my plan is to start training for a half marathon. I’m looking to do one in the spring. I probably won’t meet my 30 Before 30 goal of running a half marathon and a marathon before I turn 30, but I will at least be able to cross the 10k and 13.1 off my list. 

I’m hoping to have more time (and energy) to do some more writing. If that’s the case, I’ll do a “year in review” post to see how I did with my goals for the year and my thoughts on 2018 overall. 

I’ll try to get my Turkey Trot race recap up sooner than a month later, too 😉

What are your plans for the rest of 2018? Do you have any more races coming up? Let me know!

 

 

Don’t Call it a Comeback

After a 2-month hiatus from running, I hit the pavement again yesterday! My chiropractor finally said I could start testing out exercises like running, so I didn’t waste much time getting out there!

My first run was slow. I was exhausted from little sleep, my left foot felt uncomfortable in my shoe the entire time (a good reminder that I need new shoes), and my knees were achey. Despite all of that, though, I was just so damn happy to be running again, no matter how slow or how many walk breaks I needed (excluding my warm-up and cool-down, I needed about 3 total).

img_3243I ran/walked 1.74 miles with an average turtle pace of 16.12 minutes. That’s a heck of a lot slower than my previous 10 to 12-minute paces a couple months ago, but I was deliberate in my slowness. I knew if I tried to go too fast or too hard on this first run, I’d regret it and maybe even cause a setback. So I’m taking things slow and steady in hopes that I can continue running.

I won’t be taking up my run streak again any time soon. Right now I think I’m going to try to maintain a schedule of running a few days a week up to every other day and see how things go. I don’t have any pace or mileage goals; right now, the only goal is to just keep running.

I’m also doing some moderate upper body/shoulder strength training, too! I’m using resistance bands rather than weights (I’m weak AF after a year of zero upper body training), and it will be a slow recovery process. But it’s progress nonetheless.

In my last post I talked about how little sleep I’ve been getting and my resolve to give up caffeine as a last-resort effort to improve things. I’m happy to report that I’ve moved past the horrible withdrawal headaches I had the first few days. Unfortunately, it seems the caffeine, or lack of, has had little impact on my sleep. I’m still getting less than 5 hours of sleep each night (and less than 4 the last couple nights).

I’m considering giving magnesium another try. Apparently some options come in a lotion form, so maybe I’ll like that better than the spray I bought. I’m also considering switching back to Benadryl from the current antihistamine I use before bed occasionally (usually when I’ve had something for dinner that gave me hives) and trying something like Tylenol PM. My concern is most medications that make other people sleepy seem to have the opposite effect on me and I just feel totally wired.

For now, I’m going to continue with the decaf, because now that I’m past the withdrawals, I don’t see an urgent need to go back to regular coffee. And I’m going to keep running and doing whatever other exercises I can in hopes that might help my sleep, too.

 

Praying for Sleep

I’m not particularly religious, but if I were, I’d be praying to whatever deity for sleep, which has eluded me for months now. 

I started tracking my sleep in January, but I knew that, for at least a couple months prior, I wasn’t getting enough sleep. From January to now, I get an average of about 4 to 5 hours of sleep each night. Sometimes I get as much as 6 or as little as 3, despite being in bed for 7 to 8 hours total.

img_3235
The light blue lines are periods of restfulness and the dark blue is deep sleep. Ugh. 

I’m not wide awake, though. There’s not a million thoughts running through my head (okay, that happens sometimes) and I’m not staring at my ceiling every night wondering why I can’t sleep (that happens sometimes, too). Instead, I’m tossing and turning and just restless in general. I’m exhausted, but I just can’t get comfortable enough to fall asleep and stay asleep.

My shoulder pain may be partly to blame, and I assume stress is also to blame. I’m doing everything I can to reduce those (seeing a chiropractor, more self-care, etc.), but there’s only so much I can do. I feel like I’ve tried everything people suggest to sleep better. I’ve tried:

  • Going to bed early
  • Getting up early
  • Going to bed/waking up at the same time every day
  • Turning off screens at least 30 minutes before bed
  • Reading before bed
  • Drinking herbal tea before bed (relaxing, yes, but I usually have to get up to pee)
  • Diffusing lavender and other calming essential oils in my bedroom
  • Getting more magnesium
  • Exercising regularly
  • Meditating
  • Not drinking caffeine after noon (more on this later)

I even got so desperate that I tried taking melatonin and Zquil. Neither worked. In fact, both of them made me feel exhausted but also completely wired (I’ve had the same experience with muscle relaxers in the past). And one of my main motivations for doing the Whole30 in January was to improve my sleep. While I saw a whole slew of other non-scale victories, better sleep wasn’t one of them.

So, desperate times call for desperate measures. In addition to praying to the Universe for sleep, I’m also giving up caffeine. Because caffeine can stay in your system for so long, I stuck to the hard and fast rule of no caffeine after 12 p.m., but that hasn’t helped. And I had previously tried going a couple days without my  morning coffee, but didn’t notice a difference so I quickly gave up. This time, I’m going to stick it out for a couple weeks at least and see what happens.

It’s the only other thing I can think to do. So I’ve traded in my beloved, caffeinated, bulletproof coffee for a decaf version. As of this posting, I’m four days caffeine-free and these four days have been entirely unpleasant. The first day I had a mild headache. No biggie.

By the second day, that headache was a full-blown migraine with a side of nausea for good measure. I was grateful to have a light workload because I spent most of the afternoon just laying on the couch. I ate very little and watched a whole lot of Netflix. I thought things were really looking up when I fell asleep relatively quickly and wasn’t tossing and turning, but then Penny started whining.

I checked the clock. 2:45 a.m. Ugh. I got up and let the dogs out. She definitely needed to go, so the whining was justified. I put them back in their kennels and went back to bed. Couldn’t get comfortable. I turned on some meditation music to help me fall back asleep. Didn’t work. Played a dumb game on my phone for a while until I was tired again. Finally fell asleep around 5. Alarm went off at 6:30. Decided to sleep in an extra half hour. Slept until 8 instead.

Despite the lack of sleep (I should be used to it by now), I actually felt a little better on day 3. My headache and nausea were gone. I made my decaf bulletproof coffee and ate a banana for breakfast to play it safe. Now I just have to wait and see how much sleep I get.

img_3230By the way, if you aren’t sure what bulletproof coffee is, it’s a pretty popular morning drink. It’s traditionally made with regular (ie caffeinated) coffee with grassfed butter and coconut (or MCT) oil blended in. Previously, I simply added ghee to mine, omitting the coconut oil, although I have done both in the past. More recently, I’ve added collagen peptides (check back for a post on this later) and ghee, and starting this week, I use decaf coffee. Then I top it off with a little dairy-free creamer and use a frother to mix it all up. It’s a delicious morning tradition I just couldn’t part with (hence the decaf).

Have you ever struggled to get a good night’s sleep? What are your best tips for falling–and staying–asleep? Are you a fan of bulletproof coffee or do you prefer yours black? Let me know in the comments!

PS: This post contains affiliate links.

Missing Running

Things have been a little quiet on the blog lately, mostly because my personal life has been chaotic. I’ve been struggling both mentally and physically since I had to stop running over a month ago (chiropractor’s orders). I had plans to run a 10k at the end of May and that’s just not going to happen. Maybe if I got cleared to run in the next week I could pull off a 5k, but I think the 10k is out of reach at this point. So that’s frustrating.

On top of that, I really have had zero physical activity over the past month. I went to the gym once and did the elliptical and it was awful. Way worse than the “dreadmill”. So I’m not getting much exercise, I’ve been sore from my adjustments and muscle work at the chiropractor, and I feel like I’m not making much progress with it. My shoulder still hurts and although they tried to have me do exercises last week, I was so sore afterwards that they’ll probably delay those even longer.

I know it will eventually get better and I’ll be able to do more than I could do this time last year, but the waiting is hard. Especially since running was about so much more than staying in shape for me. First and foremost, it got me out of the house at least once every day (work from home problems). But it’s also an outlet for anger, frustration, sadness, writing blocks, and so much more. So now I have all these pent-up feelings and I don’t have a way to release them.

IMG_3169.jpgThe past month or so has been hard for lots of other reasons, too. My freelance work was slow for a while, which really stresses me out (and I couldn’t run to relieve that stress!). Then, my grandpa passed away, so I had to cut back on the little bit of work I did have so I could be with my family. It was all hard and exhausting, but the amount of people who came to the visitation and/or funeral was incredible and I’m so grateful to everyone who stood in line for almost an hour or more just to say hi and chat for a minute.

In spite of all the sadness and stress and exhaustion, good things are in the works. My freelance work is picking back up and I’ve got some promising full-time opportunities on the horizon as well. It’s been hard to stay positive lately, but I’m trying.

For now, I’m going to keep working hard, and maybe try to write a blog post more than once a month! I’ve got some other posts I’m working on so be on the lookout for those!

The End of an Era

My run streak has come to an end.

That probably sounds a little dramatic, but it’s how I feel right now. I finally went to see a chiropractor to find out if they could do anything to help with the shoulder pain I’ve been dealing with for over a year now. Turns out, my shoulder pain is probably the result of some neck problems, which were probably the result of one or more concussions I had in high school and college.

So the chiropractor is going to start working on my neck, which should relieve my shoulder pain and will probably help quite a few other issues I’ve had over the years. Unfortunately, that means ending my run streak. I asked him twice, just to make sure I actually had to end it. [And I thought briefly about continuing it anyway, but decided I’d rather be pain free and re-start my run streak at a later date.]

Not only do I have to end my run streak, but I can’t do many other physical activities either. He said I could still go to the gym and do things like the stationary bike or elliptical as long as I’m not moving my arms and I’m not hunched over. Those sound worse than the treadmill, to be honest. After about a week or two of adjustments, I should be able to start running again, but it will be a while before I’m doing upper-body work again (not that I was doing much to begin with).

So my 4.5 mile run on Tuesday was my last for a while. I made it 218 days and ran over 370 miles. That run streak pulled me out of a depression that had lasted most of last summer. It showed me just how strong I am. And it reminded me how much I love running. Over those 218 days and 370 miles, I got faster and ran farther.

Now I have to let it go and put my goals on hold. It’s frustrating to say the least. I’m trying to remind myself that a healthy, pain-free shoulder will be a good thing. Because eventually I’ll be able to do other exercises I haven’t done in over a year. Like yoga and lifting weights. I’ll eventually have some upper body strength again, which I completely lost over the past year. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll finally be able to achieve my goal of doing a headstand.

It was hard starting the past two days without a run. I’ve started the majority of the last 218 days that way and it’s been amazing. I’ve seen a lot of sunrises. I’ve run in the heat and freezing cold; in the snow and rain. I’ve put a lot of miles on my two pairs of running shoes, which are in dire need of retirement. I’ve found money on my runs and seen a car accident. I’ve run on vacations and overcame my hatred of the treadmill. I’ve run through soreness and head colds and on holidays and weekends. I’ve run through every possible excuse to not run.

It’s hard to let it go, even though it’s only for a week or two. But I know when I come back, I’ll make even bigger gains in my training. Once my shoulder is feeling better and I can start doing upper-body exercises again, I’ll be able to cross-train properly, which will make a huge difference in my endurance, speed, and overall strength.

Doing what’s right for your body isn’t always easy, but I’m choosing to take this time to rest and regroup so I can come back better than ever, even if I am starting over at day 1.

My Whole45(ish) Recap & Food Freedom Forever Review

I finished Food Freedom Forever a couple weeks ago. I also ended my Whole30 last week. I lost track of what day I was on, but it was day 45-ish. I just wanted something easy, so I decided on Chipotle. I ordered a chicken bowl (the chicken is cooked in rice bran oil, so it’s not compliant) with lettuce, mild and medium salsa, and—of course—guac (which apparently costs more now—ugh). I also got a bag of tortilla chips, because their chips are delicious (it’s the lime juice + salt).

It was good and 100% worth it. I didn’t notice any negative effects from the non-gluten grains, and the next day I went right back to eating Whole30. So far the slow-roll reintroduction method is working well for me. I’m only reintroducing foods I really want/miss and I’m only doing it when I’m ready. In addition to non-gluten grains like corn and rice, I’ve also reintroduced sugar. Not because I miss desserts (I don’t, and I’ve had just one brownie since my Whole30 ended), but because I really miss my egg-free mayo and it has sugar in it. I also tried some new maple blueberry breakfast sausages, which were also delicious.

Those brownies didn’t stir my sugar dragon, and incorporating a little added sugar makes my life so. much. easier. So while it’s unbelievably annoying that sugar is added to things like mayo, I’m willing to make it part of my diet occasionally to enjoy some convenience foods (chicken salad for the win!).

That’s what food freedom is all about. Finding what works for you and in the right amounts. I miss dairy the most, so I know I need to wait longer to reintroduce it. I also know from past Whole30s and allergy testing that dairy causes stomach and skin issues for me. And while my shoulder is still not doing any better, I’m pretty sure it feels worse when I go and eat a whole cheese pizza, so I’m going to stay dairy-free for a while longer.

My food freedom will change, and that’s kind of the point. Right now, I’m eating mostly Whole30, while incorporating non-gluten grains and a little added sugar with certain meals. Eventually I’ll reintroduce gluten and dairy, but not until I’m ready.

What I loved about Food Freedom Forever is Melissa Hartwig stresses that eating Whole30 100% of the time is not food freedom. Instead she gives you a plan to break the cycle of yo-yo dieting, bingeing, and “cheat days”. You start with a reset (ie the Whole30). Then you reintroduce and evaluate how those foods make you feel. The ones that don’t affect you negatively become part of your regular diet.

She also stresses to evaluate foods in the moment. So before eating something—particularly if it’s a food that might cause digestive distress, skin breakouts, and the like—ask yourself two questions: 1. Do I really want this? 2. Is it really worth it? If the answer to both of those is “yes”, then you eat the food and deal with whatever consequences there are. If the answer to either is “no”, you skip it.

Another point she makes is that you will slowly slide back into your old habits. Eating dessert every night after dinner whether you really want it or not. Having a glass of wine as soon as you get home from work every day. Bingeing on certain foods because “it’s the weekend” (which is not a special occasion). Fortunately, she emphasizes that this isn’t failure. It’s normal and happens to just about everyone. All you have to do is go back to your reset. You may or may not need a full 30 days depending on how long you’ve been sliding and how many resets you’ve done in the past.

After your reset, you reintroduce and redefine your food freedom. And that’s it. You go back to your reset as needed. You keep asking yourself if you really want it and if it’s worth it. What I love most about this is it transformed how I viewed my past Whole30s. My most recent one was my eighth (I think), and I felt a bit like a failure for having done it so many times. In reality, every time I do a round of Whole30, I’m reaffirming my commitment to my health. That’s a non-scale victory.

There’s a ton of great information in Food Freedom Forever. It will help you transform not just how you eat, but how you talk about food (and maybe even how you talk to/about yourself). I highly recommend reading it before or during your next Whole30 so you can start implementing the strategies immediately. It is by far the one book I wish I would have had from day 1.

Have you read Food Freedom Forever? What did you think? What does food freedom look like for you?