Half Marathon Training: Week Nine

It’s easy to lose patience and I’m starting to experience that a bit. The week started out with me feeling a bit off. I can’t put my finger on why but my mind and body just didn’t seem like they were in sync with each other. My cold has now turned into dealing with springtime allergies. The allergies don’t seem to be affecting me too much as long as I take my Claritin and Flonase but maybe this is the cause of the way I feel.

Still doing my speed work on Wednesday and Thursday but I’m not expecting to see significant improvement with my speed between now and the half marathon in Nashville. I see the workouts helping me improve my anaerobic endurance more than anything.

My long run on Saturday was very early in the morning. I had a commitment to attend for most of the morning beginning at 9 a.m. so I got up at 4 a.m. and was out pounding the pavement by 4:30 a.m. Last week’s long run ended with me slowing down quite a bit on the last two miles and I didn’t want this to happen again this week. I backed off my pace slightly at the start and as I began to hit the early hills I made it a point to keep my breathing and heart rate steady. This helped quite a bit. I finished the last four miles strong. Completed the run with my longest distance since I started training for the half: 10.82 miles. With six weeks to go I’m feeling pretty good about my progress.

Workout breakdown for the week:

Monday: Ran 4.49 miles at 10:42 pace. (Slower than last week.)
Tuesday: Rest day (but still did some walking).
Wednesday: 36 minute interval run. 18 minute fast run/2 minute walk/16 minute fast run on a treadmill.
Thursday: 36 minute interval run. 12 minute slow run/2 minute fast run followed by 1.5 minute of walking (x4)/10 minute slow run for a distance of 3.43 miles at 10:31 overall average pace. (Faster than last week.)
Friday: Rest day.
Saturday: Ran 10.82 miles at 11:27 pace.
Sunday: Strength training and stretching.

Six Weeks Until Nashville

I’ve got six weeks until the half marathon in Nashville, TN. I have to admit I’m starting to get anxious. Partly due to the distance and in part because of the huge crowd participating should make it exciting but mostly because I’ll get to see my daughter and son-in-law whom I’m running with, and of course seeing the grandkids. They live about a nine hour drive from our house so we don’t get to see each other much. Grandma will be taking care of the grandkids during the run but hopefully we will see them on the sidelines somewhere along the route.

Speaking of the course: The course route hasn’t been finalized yet! I know Nashville is a large city and a huge tourist attraction but it seems like this should have been announced by now. When you go to the website you can look at the 2015 course and I suppose this will be pretty close to the route for this year as well. I hope so because I’m training based on the route. The 2015 course in Nashville starts relatively flat for the first mile but the next 3.5 miles is mostly uphill. Luckily, I can almost replicate that using my home training course. After the 4.5 mile mark it’s a mix of up and downhill and my home running route is the same way.

My goal for this run has been modest. I hope to finish side by side with my daughter and son-in-law with a time at or under an 11:30 per mile pace. If my calculations are correct that would mean a finish time of 2:30:39 or less. Honestly, the finish time isn’t that important to me. Finishing and finishing without out feeling wiped out is the main goal. Based on my training performance so far I’m pretty confident this is a realistic finish time providing we have perfect conditions. Perfect conditions rarely happen though. There are so many factors that could change this: temperature, humidity, the crowd, colds, allergies, stomach problems and on and on that I’m not going to worry about the things I can’t control which also include my finish time.

I need some other goals that really have nothing to do with running or running performance. It has to be something fun, silly, and maybe a little crazy. So far I’m thinking about taking a least three selfies along the route. Another one is dancing in the street at least once. After all, we will be in Music City USA so dancing to the music somewhere along the way seems like a great idea. We’ll see. I’ve still got six weeks to think about it.

Half Marathon Training: Week Eight

Now we are into the gut check weeks. I didn’t mention it last week but I got a head cold last week and the effects of it are still lingering a bit this week too. At first, I thought it was spring time allergies at but nope, that will hit in another week or two.

I’m getting a little faster every week. I really don’t look forward to my speed workouts on Wednesday and Thursdays but I’m happy to see them paying off. For some reason I felt a little apprehensive before the start of my long run on Saturday. I don’t know why really. Maybe it’s because I know from here on out until the half marathon in Nashville the miles are going to be very long. My pace on Saturday started out between 10:30 and 10:50 per mile until mile seven. Miles seven and eight have a lot of hills and my paced dropped to around 11:50 per mile. After mile eight my legs didn’t have much left and my pace slowed way down. In the end I finished with an 11:14 per mile average pace. My goal for the half marathon is to finish with an 11:30 per mile average pace so I’m right where I need to be with a little to spare.

My workouts for the week consisted of:

Monday: Ran 4.63 miles at 10:22 pace.
Tuesday: Rest day (but still did some walking).
Wednesday: 34 minute interval run. 16 minute fast run/2 minute walk/16 minute fast run on a treadmill.
Thursday: 30 minute interval run. 9 minute slow run/2 minute fast run followed by 2 minute of walking (x4)/9 minute slow run for a distance of 3.02 miles at 11:17 overall average pace.
Friday: Rest day (but still did some walking).
Saturday: Ran 9.51 miles at 11:14 average pace.
Sunday: Strength training and stretching.

 

Almond Cherry Granola

I eat this granola with Greek Yogurt almost every day of the week. It’s easy to make, tastes great and is full of carbs, fiber and antioxidants. I first learned of the recipe from the book, “Runner’s World Meals on the Run” from Rodale Press. I’ve modified it slightly though. My recipe makes twice the amount and I’m not a big fan of cloves so I reduced the amount used.

Makes 10 Cups

Wet Ingredients:

6 ounces Canola Oil
4 tablespoons Honey
1/2 cup Maple Syrup
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 teaspoon Almond Extract

Dry Ingredients:

4 cups Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats
1 cup Slivered Almonds
1/2 cup Chopped Cashews
1 cup Toasted Wheat Germ
1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon Ground Cloves

1 cup Dried Tart Cherries (Added after baking)

Pre-heat the oven to 35o degrees F.

In a medium bowl stir together the wet ingredients. The mixture should have a medium brown color when blended.

In a large bowl add the dry ingredients (minus the dried cherries) and gently toss to mix the dry then pour the oil mixture over the oat mixture. Stir to combine, making sure all the dry ingredients are coated.

Spread half the mixture on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir the ingredients. Return the baking sheet to the oven and bake for another 8-10 minutes. (I prepare two baking sheets and I use parchment paper on the baking sheets to make clean up a little easier. You can bake both sheets at the same time but I prefer to bake one sheet at a time.)

20160306_122519296_iOS

Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the dried cherries onto the baking sheet. Allow the granola to cool on the pan then store in an airtight container.

Repeat the baking and cooling process for the remaining half of the granola mixture.

 

 

Half Marathon Training: Week Seven

The long run days are getting long. On Saturday I ran almost nine miles. I have to say I really enjoyed the run. I stayed relaxed and kept my heart rate and breathing in control. I turned up the jams and mostly daydreamed for an hour and forty minutes.

Monday: Ran 4.22 miles at 10:16 pace.
Tuesday: Rest day (but still did some walking).
Wednesday: 31 minute interval run. 16 minute fast run/2 minute walk/14 minute fast run on a treadmill.
Thursday: 30 minute interval run. 10 minute slow run/1 1/2 minute fast run followed by 1 minute of walking (x4)/10 minute slow run for a distance of 2.72 miles at 11:04 overall average pace.
Friday: Rest day.
Saturday: Ran 8.78 miles at 11:30 pace.
Sunday: Strength training and stretching.

Fitbit Blaze Review

I’ve had the new Fitbit Blaze for a week now so I thought I would tell you about my experience with the new tracker. For a little over a year I’ve used the Fitbit Surge so any comparisons I make will be made between the Blaze and Surge. Functionally, both are very similar except the Surge has built-in GPS and the Blaze uses connected GPS from your mobile phone. The Blaze comes with a classic band and retails for approximately $200. For comparison the Surge retails for approximately $250.

Appearance

The Blaze uses a new color display instead of monochrome. The display is attractive and I find it easier to read than the monochrome display on the Surge. The tracking device snaps into a metal frame which gives the Blaze a nicer appearance than the Surge.  Unlike the Surge, you can swap out the bands that hold the tracking device. The classic band has an appearance similar to the Surge and Charge HR and is available in three colors: black, blue and plum. While a bit pricey, Fitbit now offers a leather band or metal links band for the Blaze. The leather bands come in black, camel, and mist grey. The metal band has a satin silver finish that matches the frame that holds the tracker. The metal links band retails for $130; the leather bands retail for $100 and the classic bands retail for $30. I hear Fitbit plans to offer additional bands that will appeal more to women. I hope they offer alternatives that are priced well below $100. I have the metal links band which to me, gives an appearance more appropriate for the office or evening out. I plan to use the classic band when I work out with the Blaze tracking device and wear the metal links band at work and on evenings out. My Surge will not go by the wayside either.  I will continue to use my Surge with its built-in GPS while running outdoors. The Fitbit app supports the use of multiple trackers very well so switching between the two trackers is easy.

Navigation

You press any side button or tap on the touch screen to wake up the device. Navigation between menu screens is handled by swiping to the right then tapping on the screen to open the menu. Menu choices are Clock, Today, Exercise, FitStar, Timer, Alarms, and Settings. At any time, you can press the Back Button (single button on left side) to return to the previous screen and eventually back to the clock screen. The screen tap function is a little quirky. Sometimes I have to tap multiple time to get the watch to detect my taps. Hopefully this will improve in a future firmware update.

To view text messages, calendar reminders or missed calls you swipe up from the clock menu. To view the music controls, you swipe down or hold the top right button. If you use the original watch display (three other display options are available: Pop, Zone, & Flare) you can tap on the clock to see the date, heart rate, distance, calories burned, stairs climbed, total steps. Swiping to the Today menu and tapping once allows you to scroll through the screen to view to daily activity.

Tracking Exercise & FitStar Integration

SmartTrack automatically detects most exercises but you can use the Exercise menu to start a workout such as running, treadmill, golf, bicycling, weights and others. The Blaze can track your running or cycling route by using the GPS capabilities of your mobile phone.
Fitstar is a new integrated feature of the Blaze. The integration is limited and I would really like to see more routines included. Users like myself that use Fitstar’s premium service will not be impressed. You have the choice of three routines: “Warm It Up”, “7 Minute Workout”, and “10 Minute Abs”. I didn’t have any trouble understanding the exercises in the routines but if you’re not a Fitstar user the routines may be a little confusing at first. All three routines will give you a useful short workout, especially when you’re away from home or only have time for a short workout.

Sleep, Silent Alarms & Heart Rate

The Blaze does a great job of automatically tracking your sleep. Just wear it to bed and the Blaze will do the rest and will calculate your resting heart rate for you. Unlike other smart watches on the market the Fitbit HR models Charge HR, Surge and Blaze track your heart rate all the time. Most other smart watch makers only record it every ten minutes.
As with other Fitbit trackers you use the Fitbit mobile app to set your silent alarms. I use the alarms for morning wake up and to remind me to get up from my desk at work and get moving for a few. You can tap the screen to turn an alarm off or put into snooze mode for nine minutes. I tend to use the right side buttons instead of the touch screen. This is an area that I have my greatest complaint but I will admit had I not come from using the Surge I probably would not have noticed or even minded the change here. You use the lower right button to turn the alarm off and press the upper right button to put the alarm on snooze. This is the exact opposite of the Surge. The first night I used the Blaze I intended to put the morning wakeup alarm on a nine-minute snooze and without realizing it I turned the alarm off. I fell back asleep and then overslept by twenty minutes. I suppose I will get used to the change but I will always have to think about which tracker I’m wearing when an alarm goes off. I cannot think of any compelling reason why Fitbit didn’t keep this function consistent between both trackers.

Overall Impression

If you are a Fitbit Surge user, there is little reason to switch. Personally, I got the Blaze for its appearance and not for its functionality. A Fitbit Flex, Charge or Charge HR user who doesn’t need built-in GPS the Blaze would be a good upgrade option that has a cheaper starting price point than the Surge. Of course, if you start adding custom wristbands the saving will disappear quickly. The Blaze has very good battery life. Even with my frequent tapping, swiping and button presses while going over all the features and functions I got four days on a single charge. Overall, I like the Fitbit Blaze and will wear it daily however, I will continue to use my Surge on my outdoor runs so I can take advantage of the built-in GPS.

If you are wanting to upgrade from a first generation tracker, the Blaze is a great option. All measurements from the tracker are accurate and battery life is very good. If you want or need built-in GPS you may want to consider the Fitbit Surge, otherwise you can’t go wrong with the Blaze.