Half-Marathon Training: The Second Week Slump

Gee, Chuck, the date started off good….

Untitled

The above quote from the movie, Ace Ventura, seems to sum up my week in a nutshell. The week started off with a beautiful winter run on Sunday with my dog, Chuck. It wasn’t too cold, the sun was shining, and there was a fresh blanket of snow on the ground. But then, what I always call the “second week slump” kicked in. Does anyone else have this problem with the second week? The second week is always the hardest for me, and this week the weather didn’t help at all. I made it through, though, and I know it will start getting better from here.

I had a 3-miler on the schedule for Tuesday, but with 35 mph sustained winds and 50 mph gusts, I wasn’t about to go out for a run. Instead, I did a circuit in my living room that consisted of skipping rope, swinging my kettle bells, push-ups, and some core work on my stability ball.

Wednesday, we had sub-zero temperatures (-11 with the windchill). Too cold for me, so I stayed in again and did a long yoga session.

bird tracks

Thursday was a gray day, but it warmed up in to the 20’s, so I decided to hit the trails. I ended up cutting the run short when during my warm-up walk, I not only noticed some cute little bird tracks in the new snow, but also fresh coyote tracks. The one set of tracks was joined a few feet up the trail by another set, which was joined by another set a few more feet up the trail. They were fresh tracks and the coyotes have seemed more aggressive this year than other years – my husband has had few tense run-ins with coyotes while hunting and collecting maple syrup buckets this year. I decided to err on the side of caution, leave the trail, and run around town instead. Luckily, I had nothing else on my schedule that morning, so the extra time it took to switch gears didn’t matter much. I was still able to get 3 miles in around town.

Friday was a rest day. That’s when the mental chatter started in – you know, the negative, unhelpful chatter that questions everything, wonders why you are doing this to yourself, what the hell were you thinking, you’re not a real runner, etc…. The second week slump had kicked in something fierce. I did nothing active except take Chuck for a leisurely walk in the afternoon. I stuck to my nutrition plan though, which was a huge accomplishment since I tend to stress eat. I’ll take the little victories, because they add up over time.

And by Saturday’s run the mental chatter was really loud. It took me an hour just to get out the door in the morning, I took more walk breaks than usual, and I was feeling pretty defeated a mile into my 4-mile run. But by mile 2, a small ray of sunshine peeked through the clouds, Tightrope came into my playlist, and I was able to quiet my mind and finish strong. It’s amazing what a good song can do for your spirits.

I’m taking another rest day today so I can recharge. I might do some yoga to clear the last bit of negativity from my head.

It looks like this week I will have to be flexible with my training schedule again since we have a huge winter storm in the forecast. Hopefully this will be the last big winter storm, but I’m not holding my breath. And I’m hoping the last bit of negativity will be banished so the second week slump won’t carry over into the third week.

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Week two of training:

  • Sunday: easy 3 miles, light yoga
  • Monday: strength training
  • Tuesday: circuit training
  • Wednesday: yoga
  • Thursday: easy 3.8 miles
  • Friday: rest day
  • Saturday: 4 miles, light yoga

Do you experience the second week slump? How do you overcome the negative thoughts?

Homemade Granola Bars

homemade granola bars

I’m on a mission to eliminate as much processed foods from my diet as possible this year. We eat a lot of granola bars (or ‘ola bars, as my son used to call them when he was first learning how to talk) in this house. They’re one of my favorite snacks after a run and the kids like to pack them for school snacks. Many pre-packaged bars have a lot of sugar hiding in them. They can also get expensive. I’ve tried a lot of recipes in search of the perfect one: some worked, some didn’t, and some just needed some tweaking.

One of my favorite recipes that worked and tasted good is the Raw Lemon Coconut Bars on this page. The other bars are ok, but the first recipe is so good. The Lemon-Coconut bars never last long when I make them.

And after much experimenting, I have come up with my own version of homemade granola bars. These passed the family taste test. I usually have a batch in the fridge.

Chewy Peanut Butter Granola Bars

homemade granola bars

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/8 cup flaxseeds
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup other dried fruit ( I’ve used apples, apricots, or dates)
  • 1 cup peanut butter (preferably the natural kind with no added sugar)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Line a 8×8 inch square baking dish with aluminum foil.
  3. Spread the oats, nuts, and seeds onto a non-stick cookie sheet and bake until lightly toasted.
  4. Combine dried fruits in a large bowl. Add nuts and seeds when they have finished toasting.
  5. In a small saucepan, combine peanut butter, coconut oil, honey, vanilla, and cinnamon. Heat over low heat until everything is melted together, stirring frequently.
  6. Pour the melted peanut butter mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until combined.
  7. Transfer to baking dish, press mixture down firmly, and refrigerate until firm (about 30 minutes).
  8. Remove from the baking dish and cut into bars. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They keep fresh for a few weeks in the fridge, if they last that long.

You can substitute almond butter, or any other nut butter, for the peanut butter if you like. And when I have a bit of a sweet tooth, I sometimes replace the dried fruit with dark chocolate chips.

Invincible Summer

In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says, that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there is something stronger – something better, pushing right back.
-Albert Camus

The above quote came into my head while I was running yesterday. It has meaning to me on several levels right now.  But if there is anything running this past year has taught me, it’s that there is something stronger and better within, pushing right back. And life is not merely a series of hardships and struggles; it’s a challenge. I may not win, but I’m going to have as much fun as I can trying.

On  a running level, it’s been hard to motivate myself in this cold weather. I normally wouldn’t try to motivate myself too hard “in the midst of winter”, as I firmly believe there is a cycle to our lives that follow the seasons; winter is a time to slow down, rest, and regroup. I guess in the Midwest you kind of have to embrace that way of thinking. However, I signed up for a half-marathon in June and I need to get off the couch and step away from the knitting needles or I will be crawling across the finish line.

Apparently all I needed was a plan to get motivated. I signed up for a couple of races this spring, planned out my training on my calendar, and suddenly it didn’t seem so cold outside and the wind didn’t seem quite so daunting. I found my invincible summer to push back against the cold weather and negative thoughts.

icy trail

I ran once on icy trails this week. I thought I was going to have to cut this run short when I encountered this icy hill about a half mile into my run. There was enough snow on the edges to keep my footing though, so I just slowed down and carried on. I’m glad I toughed it out for that first hill. The rest of the trail was clear and beautiful.

Spring House

The geese are starting to migrate back here and a red-tail hawk flew overhead at one point. I enjoyed watching the geese do whatever geese do this time of year. I don’t know why, but just watching them paddle around the lake always makes me smile. I startled a couple. I think I was too close to their nesting site and they let me know. I moved on quickly. I know that geese can get quite mean and protective. Or maybe they were just trying to motivate me to get back to the task at hand.

geese on the lake

Since the kids have a holiday weekend, I ended up running laps around the neighborhood for my last two runs this week so I wasn’t too far from home. Not too exciting, but I got the miles in.

Yesterday was cold: 20 degrees F (6 with the windchill) and 15 mph winds from the NW. I’m starting to not mind the cold runs, but I’m still looking forward to warmer months ahead! I heard a chickadee singing outside my window while I drank my morning coffee. It gave me hope that spring is coming soon.

June Hymn by the Decemberists played at the end of my last run and made me wish for warm weather even more. The song normally puts a spring in my step; yesterday it helped me conjure up the feeling of the warm sun.

I ended this week with a total of 13 miles. I feel great. No unusual aches or pains, lots of energy, and I’m ready to go. Hopefully the weeks ahead will follow suit. It’s good to be back in a routine again.

On a personal level, it’s been a challenging few months here. Life seems to be throwing us lots of curve balls lately. Some are easy to hit out of the ballpark, but some sneak up on you. I know shit just happens. It’s a fact of life. And the older we get, the more life seems to throw at us. It finally ended with some good news of sorts for us, and I’m glad I kept my head through it all. It would have been easy to wallow and whine and do all the “worst-case first” thinking, but what does that really accomplish? Running has taught me to break each challenge down into manageable parts and I was able to apply that to my real life. It was such a more positive and productive way to face the challenge.

And my husband took note. He came home from his last doctor’s appointment with a brand new pair of Asics. He said I’ve inspired him to start running again, so on his way home he stopped by the shoe store. It made me smile. We’re both so competitive though – this could either be really good for our marriage, or…. I actually think it will be good. Our competitiveness will be a good motivator. And we can each learn how to face life’s challenges in more positive and productive fashion.

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Week one of training:

  • Sunday: easy 2.58 miles, light yoga session
  • Monday: rest
  • Tuesday: easy 3.5 miles, light yoga session
  • Wednesday: strength training
  • Thursday: easy 3.4 miles, light yoga session
  • Friday: strength training
  • Saturday: easy 3.5 miles, light yoga

On The Needles – Colorblocked Cape and Stripey Socks

I fell in love with this colorblocked cape by Amanda Keep in the Holiday 2012 edition of Vogue Knitting. It helped motivate me to finish my last sweater project because I really wanted to start it, but I have a self-imposed “one large project at a time” rule.

Amanda Keep's Side-Button Cape

Amanda Keep’s Side-Button Cape

I still love how this cape looks in the magazine, but I’ve gotten off to a not-so-great start with this project. First of all, I read the wrong pattern when I ordered the yarn. I ended up ordering the yarn for the pattern that was on the page before the cape. I thought the colors looked off when I ordered, but it wasn’t so far off that I thought too hard about it. I figured it was just a “colors may be different than they appear on your monitor” issue. When I went to cast on though, I noticed that I needed 4 colors, not 3 like I had purchased. That’s when I realized my mistake. The yarn I ordered is a lighter weight and less fuzzy yarn then the pattern originally calls for too. I’ve decided to challenge my inner Tim Gunn and “make it work”.

knitting

It’s slow-going right now. This is the first time I’ve really worked with color. I’ve done striped scarves, but nothing like this where I’m changing color mid-row. I get frustrated keeping all the yarn from getting tangled, especially when the cats are nearby. And I’m having trouble keeping the stitches even where the color switches. It seems to be improving as I move up the cape, but it still looks messy. I keep debating frogging the whole thing and starting over, or trying to fix it and hoping once I block it, it’s not too noticeable.

knitting

knitting

I am making progress and learning a few things along the way. I like the colors together and I think it will look nice with a pair of jeans this spring and next fall as well. I’m keeping a positive outlook on this project – at least trying to anyway.

I’ve also decided to teach myself the magic loop method for sock knitting. I plan on casting on this afternoon. I didn’t want to get too complicated on my first sock project, so I chose a basic rib pattern from Ravelry and felici self-striping yarn from KnitPicks.

yarn and knitting needle

I watched a few videos I found on YouTube to learn the magic loop method. VeryPinkKnits has a nice series of videos that takes you through a whole sock pattern using the magic loop method. I didn’t like the pattern she used. Not that there is anything wrong with it, it just didn’t speak to me. I’m going to try and apply her instructions to the pattern I chose. It seems simple enough. We’ll see how it goes once I actually start knitting.

If all goes well, maybe I can finally knit a pair of socks from the book, Knitted Socks East and West: 30 Designs Inspired by Japanese Stitch Patterns, that I bought a year ago. I love all the socks in this book. There are so many interesting patterns and textures in it. It would be nice if I could actually knit them instead of just admire them from the pages.

Do you have any works-in-progress? Are you teaching yourself any new skills this winter?

Logic and Reasoning

This post is a bit off topic, but it gave me a laugh this morning so I thought I’d share.

My son forgot to log out of his Google account last night. When I went to check my email this morning, I found this comic he had saved.

bridge

Source: http://xkcd.com/1170/

I may or may not have used this reasoning with him on days when I’ve been too tired and/or lazy to think of an original rebuttal to the, “But why can’t I?” questions he sometimes presents me with. I guess he was saving this for future reference. I just wish I would have thought of it when my parents used this line of reasoning with me.