Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Week 4 - Recap

Miles: 41

I broke the 40 mile a week barrier, finally, and just in time too. I'm starting to see the end in sight. The marathon is less than two months away now, and it's starting to become more of a reality to me.

The best parts of this week:

  • My best 3/4mi performance to date
  • Seeing the "deer family" again on my long run. 
  • Gutting out 14 miles over flooded trails
  • And most favorite of all - and completely non-running: my anniversary celebration in Chicago
This week is not going to change much in terms of mileage. My long run will increase, as usual, but my coach is really cautious about increasing mileage too much too fast. I think it's a good plan.

My least favorite parts of this week:
  • The heat
  • The fact that summer is flying by
Don't these two seem at war with each other? I'm from the South and I love the heat, but it is definitely hard to run in. That being said, heat and humidity make everything else about Wisconsin extremely pleasant. I always tell my customers when they complain about how hot it is that we could all be shoveling snow (and we all WILL be shoveling before we know it...).

Summer is also slipping away from me. With this training, especially, my days are packed with work, athletics, and socializing, but there's always more I want to do. One more baseball game, one more grillout, one more party, one more race. There's just not enough time to fit it all in. And I'm starting to see back to school ads on television and in magazines. It makes me nostalgic for my childhood days when all I had to worry about was swim practice and swim meets in the summer. I think part of this need to jam everything-all-at-once into three months comes from the fact that our winters are so long and so brutal in Wisconsin. It puts a lot of pressure on everyone to have as much fun as possible while the sun still shines. Right now, I wouldn't have it any other way, though. I'm training, working, and having fun. So, let's keep this summer rolling along! 

55 Days - Remember Me?

Hi. It's been awhile.

Luckily, it's just my writing and not my training that's fallen behind. Also, this week was kind of busy because I took a trip to Chicago to celebrate my wedding anniversary. Three years!

Yesterday, after a train ride back into Milwaukee, it was time to get back to reality. Not only did I have to teach my abs class, but I had to get a run in as well. I decided to park at the Y and run on the Oak Leaf Trail.

The run was about five and a half miles, but it felt a little longer because of the heat. It was hot and bright, and by the time I got back, I was drenched. I ended up drinking one of those huge SmartWater bottles (about 50.7 oz) and didn't have to rush to the bathroom repeatedly afterwards. That means I lost a LOT of fluids.

On my way back, I saw a kid walking up the hill on 15th St. (Ave?) with his football pads on. He must have just gotten out of a camp session or something. Even though it was blazing hot outside, I could feel the tiniest bit of fall crispness in the air. I knew that the hazy sky of summer would soon give way to the deep, clear, limitless blue of fall. The autumn sports are gearing up, and summer will be over long before I'm willing to accept it.

I'd be lying if I told you that I didn't crave a fall run every once in a while.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Week 3 - Recap

Miles: 31

This post is almost a week late, but I still think it's good for me mentally to take stock of each week and see where I am. Miles-wise, I stayed about the same this week. I had another race, which accounted for the lack of increase in miles. The one area that is increasing, though, is my long run. This week was 13 miles.

Physically, I'm still holding everything together with no major pain or aches that last longer than a day. I really hope this continues. Part of the reason for this may be that I waited until I had three solid years of running banked up before I started marathon training. Another reason is that my coach and I are really focusing on diet, hydration, and rest, rest, rest during my off days.

Mentally, I can feel myself getting stronger. The long run gets easier from a mental standpoint each week. The hardest part for me is still the turnaround, or the halfway point, and those last two or three miles when everything hurts and there's nothing you can really do about it. I think the heat training is also helping with my mental development because it's so oppressive and requires much more effort to stay focused and keep proper form. Come September (which will, hopefully, be cooler) my mental toughness will literally have been forged in the fire.

Another constant that has really been helping me through this journey has been the support of my friends. They are always sending me encouraging messages via text and Facebook. It doesn't sound like much, but that constant support is a huge motivator for me.

61 Days - 5x.75mi

My strategy for these was to try not to burn out the way I did last week. I took precautions: ate a little before I went out. Made sure I was hydrated. And I think the results are promising. I didn't go as fast as I did last week, but I split negative, and my last three-quarter was the fastest one I've ever done.

1. 5:28 (7:18/mi)
2. 5:22 (7:09/mi)
3. 5:11 (6:54/mi)
4. 5:08 (6:50/mi)
5. 4:55 (6:33/mi)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

62 Days - Cudahy to Oak Creek

7 miles from Cudahy to Oak Creek.

First, I got to the Y to teach my class. I rarely make it to the Y anymore except to teach, and I didn't teach Thursday, so it felt weird to be back after a whole week! I miss it there, but I just can't fit everything in anymore. What I'm really missing is my weightlifting. I liked the strength and definition it was giving me, but I can't split myself up too much, or I'll risk getting injured.

By the time I got on the Oak Leaf Trail, the clouds were moving in. At first, it felt great. High seventies compared to high nineties is a wonderful temperature drop. But then, it started to rain as soon as I hit Oak Creek. Damn, OC, I thought we were cool! The rain lasted until my last mile and a half and then it turned into stifling humidity. I was glad to reach my car and turn on the AC.

These were supposed to be easy miles, but I found myself pushing it to try to get out of the rain. No matter how much I tried to slow it down and relax, I was still kind of tense. I know not every run will be pleasant, but after my awesome long run last week, I was hoping to continue the trend.

Speed work today. Now, it's really time to get tense...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

63 Days - Rest

Nothing else to tell y'all but, stop what you're doing right now, and go see Inception.

Yes. Right now.

It's that good.

See you later.

64 Days - Long Run

"13 miles and still smiling."

That's what I texted my running buddies as I sat in a post-run ice bath with my legs twitching out. I never used to understand shirts with that phrase: "AND STILL SMILING!!!!!!!! :) :) :)" It all seemed way too cutesy for me. But these long runs are making me realize that sometimes that unswerving over-the-top positivity is the only thing that will get you through to the next mile. Or get you over the pain in your feet once you stop. Positivity, people! I'm learning it.

The other thing that gets you through long mileage? This American Life on podcast. I was really trying to be a purist with these long runs and do them sans ipod, but yesterday was not the day to stand on principle. As you know, I was supposed to be resting yesterday and seeing Inception, but decided to get my run over with. I checked the weather and saw that Sunday was going to be way more humid than Saturday. And after a long Sunday opening shift, humidity was not going to be my friend. So, after my 8a - 4p shift yesterday, I headed out on the trail armed with Ira Glass to keep me company and help the miles glide by.

It was a lifesaver. I was totally caught up in the stories of the show and not on negative thoughts. I know that I will have to learn to deal with pain and negativity without the aid of an ipod (since I'm going to be racing without one), but it was such a relief to have company on my run after a long day at work.

Things I Saw/Thought About

  • The last half of my run was during the "golden hour," as the sun just starts setting. It was really pretty, and the heat died down a lot as the sun started its descent.
  • As I was coming back, I saw a doe and two of her babies eating in the field. They crossed the trail right in front of me. The sun made everything golden and green and beautiful. A great reward for heading out.
  • I now know why elite distance runners choose "buns" (short spandex shorts) over regular running shorts. When you sweat, your shorts become completely soaked. By the end of the run, the back of my shorts was literally dripping with sweat. I looked like I had just climbed out of the pool. Seriously, y'all, I could feel the weight of these shorts. Wow.
This week's long run went pretty well. We'll see if the trend continues. I haven't hit my wall yet, so I'll let you know when I have to fight through one. Hopefully, I'll be ready.

Friday, July 16, 2010

65 Days - 8mi Run

Eight miles. 88 degrees. No real way around running it, either. I didn't want to wait until nightfall because I knew it wouldn't make much of a difference temperature-wise, and I'd rather just get the run over with. I strapped on the Camelbak and headed out.

I tried to drink water continuously, which averaged out to about every half mile. The water gave out right at my cooldown walk.

One thing I was thinking about today during my run was that this is the time when a lot of athletes are training for long distance races - Ironmans, marathons, etc. Each of us heads out on our bikes or on a run and we go out into the world, and then back towards our homes. Kind of like a circle around an area that widens and widens with each week and as the miles increase. Now, our circles are starting to intersect. I see a lot of runners and bikers on the Oak Leaf Trail, the farther I head South, and they are seeing me more frequently as they head north. So all of these training circles are starting to come together. It's kind of cool.

Enough of me already. Rest day tomorrow, then 13 miles on Sunday. I'll tell you now: I'm dreading it. And it's after I work for eight and a half hours on an opening shift at SBUX, too.


At least I get to see Inception tomorrow!

What to Do With Stinky Lake Clothes

Throw them into a plastic bag. Stuff them faaaaar down into your gym bag. Dump into washing machine immediately upon arrival at home.

66 Days - Aquathon and a new PR!

Yesterday was another race: the Fleet Feet Aquathon series in Madison. The aquathon consists of a 1000m open water swim and a 5k run. Fleet Feet holds 5 races during the summer, and you receive points based on your finishing time. The person with the most points at the end of the series is the winner. I haven't done any open water this summer and really wanted to get a lake swim in, so I just signed up for this one. It was really fun and a perfect night to be swimming and running.

The lake

Surveying the depths

At the starting line

I completed the swim in 15:16. I wish I had gone a little faster, but the water was pretty choppy. The swim out to the first bouy was the longest stage, and the waves were against us the entire time. I tried to stroke strong, ride the waves, and focus on getting there without getting pushed off course. This was also an issue as we swam parallel to the beach towards the second bouy. The waves were trying to push us towards the beach, and sighting the second bouy was difficult at times. Once I made the turn and was headed straight into shore, though, I gave it all I had and tried to use the waves to my advantage.

The run was interesting. I didn't bring my Garmin with me (water and sand and $450 technology don't mix) and so I was more unplugged than I've been in awhile. I had my Polar watch timing me, but I didn't have that up-to-the-second data telling me my pace, so I had to go back to feeling it out. As my coach and I discuss over and over, the key for me is to not go out too fast. As I ran out of the transition area and started tackling the three miles ahead of me, I focused on feeling good and getting my legs acclaimated to the run. I was feeling better and better until I reached the "Mile 1" marker and realized, I still had more than half of the race ahead of me.

I looked at my watch and calculated that I'd done the first mile in about 8 minutes. This was good: I didn't go out too fast, but the adrenaline from the swim was wearing off, and I was starting to feel fatigue setting in. I always seem to go through this when I run a race. I call it the "settling in" period. It's the time where my initial excitement at the starting line wears off completely and I realize that:

1. I'm running alone, now, without my cheering section
2. I'm going to be running for longer than I really want to be
3. There will be significant pain involved.

The trick, for me, is to accept it all without too much struggle. To say to my mind, "Yes, yes, and yes. You're absolutely right. I know you got dragged into this by a domineering body, but we're in this together and I really need to you get on board." I can't get angry or afraid because it jams me up. It wastes my energy. My mind, like all of our minds, is ultimately looking out for my best interests. If I'm about to do something that will cause me pain (touch a hot stove, for instance) it's going to shriek out a warning at me: "Stop! Pain, bad! Don't do that!" But during a race, you can't let your mind's instinctive "panic mode" take over - and there's always a moment when it will try to.

Don't be afraid. Pain is part of the process. Let it happen. A quote I go to time and again when I'm settling in is from Haruki Murakami's book* What I Talk About When I Talk About Running:

"Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional." 

So, I got my mind on board with my body. I accepted pain. I settled in, and I banged it out. The course was an out and back with a water stop at the turnaround point. I didn't bother to get water, knowing it would be over soon. And when I turned around and started heading back, I worked on increasing my speed. At mile two, I was starting to hit my stride. The last quarter mile was a long straightaway to the finish and I just let it go. I tried to remember those speed drills from Monday and those 100 yd dashes from Tuesday. I knew I wouldn't come close to finishing first, but I didn't want anyone catching me at the end. It was a hard, fast finish, and I was happy with that. When I saw the official run time, I was even more excited: 23:24 - a new PR!!!

Final results:
57 out of 130 total participants
16 out of 66 female participants (top 20!)
Swim - 15:16
Run - 23:24
Transition - 1:13
Total time - 39:52 (just squeaked under 40 minutes)

The best part, by far, for me was the swim. Even over the PR. I'll always be a swimmer and I'll always love those open water swims. It's a shame there aren't more straight-up open water swims in Wisconsin. I just love swimming out into the middle of a large body of water. It will always be a rush.

Sorry for the long post. We'll have you guys back to short and boring and no pictures in no time! :)

*Runners! Get this book! I can't recommend it enough. And while you're at it, start reading some of Murakami's fiction. He's my favorite modern author.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

67 Days - Rest Day

I took advantage of two days off work to head to Madison early yesterday. No running, no training, just a lot of relaxing and walking around the city. I'm really starting to enjoy these rest days.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

68 Days - 6mi Recovery and 6x100yd sprints

"What in the world is in that bag; what you got in that bag?!" Water, of course! :)

Muggy, hazy, humid, sweaty. That about sums up my recovery run. I filled my camelbak and took it with me because I figured I'd be sweating almost immediately. I was regretting this decision a lot during the first mile, when the bag was sloshing against my back, but the water was gone by the time I finished the run. I ended up taking sips every quarter mile or so, and I didn't suffer any of the lightheadedness that I usually get towards the end of heat-training runs.

With about a quarter mile left to go, I stopped at the Saint Francis seminary for my 6x100m sprints. The first sprint is always the hardest. You're trying to drive with your legs and keep your knees up and it all just feels so stupid and awkward. But your body quickly gets into it and by the third and fourth one I was flying. Well, as much as a 25 year old non sprinter can be said to "fly." In my mind, I was Usain Bolt all the way, though.

When I got home, I had to leave right away and teach my abs class at the Y. I felt really bad for them today. Not only was the workout hard, but I stank. I mean seriously. There was a lot of sweating going on.

I think heat training is the closest I can really get to an NFL summer training camp. Which I remind myself every time the going gets tough. I can't WAIT for preseason!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

69 Days - 5 x .75mi's

Speed work. I both love and hate it. I hate doing it alone and I hate doing it where my coach can see me struggle. But somehow, it always makes me happy when I can look back and see my results.

I would have been a little happier with faster results, this time:
1. 5:07 (6:49/mi)
2. 5:13 (6:57/mi)
3. 5:00 (6:41/mi)
4. 5:32 (7:23/mi)
5. 5:17 (7:02/mi)

I hit a physical wall in my fourth three-quarter when I was slammed with a side cramp so severe, I was whimpering with each labored breath. Not very, "G." I think that had to do with dehydration. I thought I had gotten enough to drink prior to heading out, but I didn't. I wasn't really sweating anymore, either. During that three-quarter, I just had to slow down to a cruise and gut it out. I took my minute rest, and tried to come back from it for my final one, but I still didn't get back up to speed. One thing that cheered me a little was that, except for the fourth "crash and burn," I performed all of these quarters at a faster pace than last week. This bodes well for the aquathon later this week, when I hope to turn in a fast 5K.

The best thing about speed work, though, is that it really does make you come face to face with your limitations, but more often, your strengths. Many times I think to myself, "I can't do this; there is no way I can do this rep faster than the last," and my time proves that I can. Getting yourself to the point of intense pain, and then pushing through to achieve a faster time is something that only a speed workout can deliver. It breaks you down in the present, but builds confidence for the future - as cheesy as that sounds.

I promise I'll take some pictures or something to spice up this blog a little...

Monday, July 12, 2010


Even though this is more of a personal record than something that many people read, I have added a list of my favorite blogs (and bloggers!) to my space, here. Check them out!

Week 2 - Recap

Miles: 33

My mileage didn't go up this week because of my 5K race. Packing on miles and competing don't really mix. But, I did increase the mileage of my long run, going up to 12 miles this week.

How do I feel? Good, so far. I'm really making an effort to keep my life organized, which seems to make my headspace a little more orderly as well. I'm trying to write my abs classes ahead of time instead of last minute. Keep the house, and the spaces I use frequently in it, clean. One thing that's still a struggle is trying to actually rest when I have time to rest. I still feel like I have to be doing something at all times, when what I really should be doing is regrouping for the next push. Yesterday, I think I did a really good job of that.

Physically, things are still holding up. I have the usual aches and pains from time to time. My knees start to hurt at the end of a long run, for instance, but I feel like that happens later and later into the run. What I'm trying to accept, however, is that this is the nature of what I'm trying to attempt. At such a distance, there will never be a "pain free" experience. My knees will hurt at some point. "The trick," as T.E. Lawrence says in my favorite film, Lawrence of Arabia, "is not minding that it hurts."

This week will be exciting, I hope. I am going to Madison on Thursday to compete in an aquathon: 1000m open water swim and 5k run. We might make a mini vacation out of it.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

70 Days - Rest Day

Today was a rest day I didn't mind taking. By the time I got done with my shift, my feet and back were aching and all I wanted to do was lie on the couch and watch World Cup finals. I ended up passing out at about the 35 minute mark, slept through halftime, and woke up again with 15 minutes to go in the second half. All good, though, because no one had scored anyway!

I'm still feeling pretty dehydrated and have been drinking water all day, which has really been helping with muscle soreness and overall body function. By tomorrow, I think I'll be raring to go again.

I've also been making dinner for tonight and probably tomorrow. Cold soba noodles with bok choy in light seasame oil, rice wine vinegar, and tamari dressing and cole slaw with lime and peanuts. Tasty stuff. While I was washing dishes, though, I saw this centipede about as long as my pinky crawl across the counter (the window was open). Now, I'm too scared to finish the job. Real-life centipedes are no game...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

71 Days - Long Run

12 miles today. Wish I had more to say, but right now, I'm drained and getting ready for bed. It was good. I can feel myself getting stronger mentally.

One cool thing about the run was being able to see the thunderstorm roll in from off the lake. Lightning and everything.

Take care.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Recipes To Keep You Running - Savory Oatmeal

Oh man. I should have taken a picture of this for y'all, but I ate it already! When we think "oatmeal," we usually think "breakfast food." Something dressed with a drizzle of honey, maple syrup, cinnamon, brown sugar, dried fruit, etc. But oatmeal doesn't have to be a sweet breakfast dish. Today was the first day I made my own batch of savory oatmeal. I loosely followed this recipe of Mark Bittman's, and by "loosely," I mean, I finely diced some celery (because I didn't have scallions) and added it to the freshly cooked steel cut oats. I then added a splash of low sodium tamari and a tiny drizzle of sesame oil. No extra cooking required.

Believe me: it was simple and tasty and "lunchy" and satisfying. The celery was just as good as the scallions because I still got the same crunch. The sesame oil and tamari complemented each other as well. The steel cut oats resembled sort of a soft rice in taste and texture.

Oatmeal for lunch and dinner. Try it.

Quick Savory Oatmeal

1 c. quick cooking steel cut oats
2 c. boiling water
2 tbs. finely diced celery or scallions
1 tbs. low sodium soy sauce or tamari
seasame oil for drizzling

Cook the oats according to directions on package. If using a stovetop, bring the oats and water to a boil on high heat, then lower the heat and stir frequently for five minutes. If using a microwave, add boiling water to the oats and microwave in a large bowl for 3 minutes, stir, then microwave for another two minutes. (Note: when microwaving, make sure the bowl is twice as big as you think you'll need. The oats and water will "puff up" during cooking, and if your bowl isn't big enough, you'll wind up cleaning up your lunch or dinner rather than eating it.)

Once the oats are cooked, quickly add the vegetables, a splash of tamari, and a drizzle of sesame oil. Stir to combine. Wait several minutes for the oats to cool.


73 Days - A 5K and a PR

I'm posting a day later than usual, but by the time I got home last night, I was too tired to put anything together.

Yesterday was the "Storm the Bastille" 5K run. This was my second time doing the run, and I ran it with some of my best running buddies. The race started at 9pm, and I had a lot to do before that. I taught my class at 545p at the Y, then I picked my husband up from the airport, and went home to drop off luggage. We then headed to Bastille Days, and I had him drop my off at the Summerfest grounds so I could get some miles in before the race. (One thing I'm quickly learning about marathon training is that getting miles in becomes increasingly important. Even if I have a race, I still have to build miles into that event, whether before or after.) I ran from the lakefront to the festival and then it was time to watch Lebron's big announcement. We packed into a bar with other like-minded sports fans to watch it all go down. Sure enough, he chose the Heat. More on how I feel about that, later.

Now that the future of my favorite basketball player was determined, it was time to race. I met up with my friends and we headed to the starting line. I was glad we had all done the race before, because we gave ourselves plenty of time to line up. This race gets PACKED. Not only is the starting line on a city street - which means hundreds of us have to pack into a space the width of a city intersection - but the line is at one end of the festival, with bars on one side. If you're running late, you may not make it there because you have to navigate through hundreds of festival and bar-goers. But *smart girls* we made it in time, and soon enough, the race was underway.

My plan for this race was to relax and run hard and most importantly: don't go out too fast. I was happy with the results. During the crowded first half mile, I took it easy and talked with one of my friends, and then I gradually sped up. Mile 1 - 9:18. By the time, I got to mile 2, the course was looking familiar and I had more room to really stretch my legs out and get into my stride. Even though I was feeling good, I didn't want to burn up all my gas, though. Mile 2 - 7:30. By the beginning of mile 3, we were running through the Third Ward area of Milwaukee. Lots of twists and turns, but I knew that the end was an uphill finish from the Third Ward back to the festival grounds. I kept the pace peppy, but tried to save some for the hill, and when I saw it, I let whatever I had go. Mile 3 - 7:04.

My overall time for this event was a 23:58.12 - a new PR. I finally broke 24 minutes, and I'm really happy about that. By the end of the race, I was running 6:30 min miles - something I could never have done last year.

But like I always say, the best part of the race and the night was being able to share it with my friends. Even though my coach/husband goes to all of my events, there is something special about having friends that are doing the race with you. It's definitely something I missed during my 10 miler last month, and I know I'll miss it during my marathon. It's a good, almost unconscious, reassurance that I get from knowing that somewhere on the course, my friends running too.

Anyway. This turned into a long post. I had a great time in both senses of the word. It was just the motivation I needed to get through the rest of the week's miles.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

74 Days - Rest Day

I finally got back to Body Pump (and weightlifting in general) after a week away. It looks like weekly lifting is all I'm going to be able to do for awhile, so I'd better settle in. Just too much other training to do.

My camelbak arrived today and I can't wait to take it out for a spin. It's light and built for a woman's torso. The color is cool and there's pockets for a cell phone and some fuel for long runs. I think I may even take it out tomorrow for the Bastille Days run, since I have to get some miles in before the 5K. I could run to the starting line and leave the pack with my husband when I'm racing. We'll see.

I'm excited about the 5K tomorrow! I finally get to run with my friends again.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

75 Days - Speed Work

"And you can never break my stride / You'll never slow the momentum / at any moment I'm about to blow / You'll never take my pride"

Speed work in the heat today. 1 mile warmup and cooldown and 4 reps of three-quarter miles. My Garmin has a feature that allows you to set up a workout for yourself, so I had set up the four reps along with a minute rest in between. What I found out, though, was that there was no way to see what I was splitting for each one. (I think, in the future, I'll have to use the "advanced workout" feature.) The first and second three-quarters felt ok, but the third and fourth were just exhausting. I was hot and running the same stretch of trail over and over again, passing walkers that were mostly bemused at the sweaty running huffing and puffing continuously by. When I got home, however, I found that I had actually split negative for each one.

That made me feel good, especially since my strategy for each rep was to stay loose and relaxed. My coach has always told me that the more relaxed I am during a sprint - the more I let my legs do the work - the faster I can actually go. This time was no different. I was hot and uncomfortable and tired from work. But the last two reps I just let myself go, got out of the analysis aspect of running, and just focused on getting it done. The last part of a race - the part where you're dying and hate everything around you - is actually the part where you need to be the most mentally tough. If you think it's going to hurt, it will. If you think you can't run faster, you won't. Let the pain come and let the legs go.

The quote at the top is from "No Love," one of the tracks off of Eminem's new album, "Recovery." If this album doesn't win a Grammy or, better yet, several, my faith will be completely lost. It is amazing. I first started listening to Em when I was in middle school and have followed him ever since, so this is a really personal and raw account of an artist that I feel I've "known" pretty well (as well as a listener can ever really "know" an artist). Even for those who aren't fans or aren't familiar with Eminem, you will still get into it - I hope.

Monday, July 5, 2010

76 Days - 4mi and 3x100m Striders

What a nice day off. I slept for 10 hours and could have packed in a few more to boot. Had coffee with my husband, hung out and read some essays from What the Dog Saw, and had lunch at Beans and Barley (peanut noodles = omnomnomcanipleezhavesomemore?). I also got some new books: Wisconsin Death Trip and Empire Falls. The first is a little morbid, I know, but it's been on my list to read for some time and what better way to enjoy the summer than to think about people suffering through the dark and endless winter in isolation in Black River Falls, Wisconsin at the turn of the century? I think you see my logic, now.

The run was ok. It felt kind of "junk-mile-y," if that makes any sense. As in: I didn't really want to head out when I did, but I was crunched for time because I had to teach my abs class soon, and I just kind of started running without any real plan. The first mile, I spent a lot of time thinking about how "last minute" the run seemed and how I wasn't really focused on form or anything, but this seemed to fade as I got warmed up and let my legs do what they knew how to do. The best part of the run was when I did my 3x100m's. I ran down the long driveway of the Saint Francis Seminary, and as I ran towards the campus, I noticed a deer eating on the lawn at the end of the driveway. She didn't move as I approached, and kept eating through three rounds of sprints. I wanted to stay and watch her: I was about 3 yards away, but I had to get home so I could get to the Y. She definitely seemed like a regular visitor to the seminary.

I hope you guys are enjoying the last of the holiday weekend. Real life begins again, for all of us, tomorrow.

Week 1 Recap

Miles: 33

This was the first training week of twelve, so I don't have much to say. I feel good so far. My legs are adjusting. No major problems (physically) yet.

Mentally, I can already see how this is going to be tough, though. Between SBUX and my job at the YMCA, there is a lot of time where I'm working and can't train. I also want to have a life beyond work and athletics, too. I want to spend time with my husband. Relax. Feed my soul (as cheesy as that sounds). Fact is, I can't work and train non-stop or I'll get mentally and physically tired. I need a release valve, and I can see, even at this early point, that something is going to have to give somewhere. I could go down to teaching one or two days at the Y instead of three, but I hate quitting on my class. I also just took this instructing job and don't want to give up. I could go down in hours at SBUX, but that's my "real job" and I don't want to sacrifice the money or the hours.

I don't have an answer at this point, but it's something I'll definitely be thinking about in the days and weeks ahead.

For week 2: I've got a 5K race and a 12 mile long run coming up. I'm excited about the 5K. Not only does it take place at my favorite summer festival: Bastille Days, but I also get to run it with some girlfriends that I haven't seen in a few weeks. Should be fun.

See you real soon.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

77 Days - 3mi Recovery

This was my third opening shift in a row. Needless to say, when I got home, trudged through the 90 degree heat to my door, and collapsed on my bed, I wasn't going to be getting my run in until far later in the day. I did get paid time and a half for working on the Fourth, but even that gets lost sometimes when dealing with customers who have been enjoying a holiday weekend while you serve them. They get to leave and go back to their lives. You have to stay.

It all worked out for the best, though. I came home and took a nap with my cat. Then Eric and I went to see a movie, and by the time we got home, it was cool enough for a very enjoyable recovery run. My legs felt good and it was nice to loosen them up a little bit. I also enjoyed seeing the families in the park as I ran past, playing games and spending time with each other. As I headed towards home, I smelled the food cooking on their grills and anticipated the smell of my own grill that Eric was firing up while I was out.

I feel good, so far, but I have a long way to go. Week 4 of 16 training weeks is down. Let's gear up for the next week. I'll post a recap later.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

78 Days - Speed Work

Today was a speed workout. 2 miles at "goal pace" 2 at tempo pace and then 2 at goal pace with a mile warmup and cooldown.

Even though I waited until about 630p to head out, it was still a sweaty ordeal, which I didn't mind as much as the lovely lakefront gnats that roam the Oak Leaf Trail in swarms to stick to my face, arms, and chest. I should remember, though, that I'm lucky to have a trail right outside my front door to run on any time I want, even with the hassle of gnats.

Overall, I felt good. I brought the ipod along this time to keep me pumped. One thing I noticed was that my pace was much more consistent after the two fastest miles than before. I kind of got a feel for pacing much better when I didn't have all of that energy that I was holding back.

Many of you are probably out picnicking and getting ready to see some fireworks. Have fun and be safe! Happy Fourth of July eve.

Friday, July 2, 2010

79 Days - Rest Day

Today is a rest day. As in, complete rest. These are my least favorite days by far. I'd even take the most grueling speed workout over a rest day. I always feel like I should be doing something more - pushing myself instead of letting my body heal. Soon, I know I'll crave my rest days, but today I just feel like a slob.

Eleven miles yesterday. I'm still running without an ipod, but sometimes it gets boring even on these shorter long runs. Once I get up into the 20's, maybe I should consider listening to a book on tape or something. Anyone done that before?

I'm also pretty stoked because I ordered a Camelbak to take with me on long runs. It ships today and should be here sometime next week.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Here We Go...

Thanks a lot, Bud Light, for patenting that phrase, by the way. That is the way I'm feeling right now, though. "Here we go." Excited, scared, and unable to predict exactly what the future will hold.

In 12 weeks, or more precisely, 80 days and 11 hours, I'll be standing at another starting line - one that's completely new to me. I've registered for the Fox Cities Marathon on September 19th.

Since I started this running journey three years ago, running a marathon has always been in my sights. But I really wanted to run it. Not walk portions of it or stop. I wanted to race it, as best I could. Not just participate. I wanted to compete at some level. Not just finish. Even now, I still don't feel completely confident that I can achieve those goals I've listed. But I'm ready to try.

So, it looks like this blog might get more personal than I'd originally intended it to be as I take this journey over the next 12 weeks. But I'm ok with that. I hope I'll be able to write more consistently than I've done before. I also think it will be helpful for me to reflect in this space rather than just writing my miles in a running journal.

So. Here we go.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Recipes to Keep You Running: Spring Green Soup with Lemon and Dill

As I type this, drizzle is falling outside, making everything more green than it already is. Spring has almost given way to summer. We're getting more hot and humid days here than cool ones. The fresh verdant green of the grass and trees has started to turn brassy. Along the lakefront, the population of lake gnats has been mostly eaten by birds (THANK GOD). And local farmers' markets have resumed.
One of my food resolutions this year was to try to cook local and in season as well as healthy. While I still haven't taken the plunge and gotten a CSA box of produce each week, I try to make seasonal choices when I shop. This soup helps me achieve that aim.
The great thing about this soup is that it's incredibly forgiving and versatile. You can put whatever you find at the farmers' market into it, and it will still taste wonderful. I adapted this soup from Anna Thomas's book, Love Soup. I got this book as a Christmas gift this year from my mother in law, and I cook from it constantly. It focuses on seasonal, vegetarian soups with some recipes for breads and desserts thrown in for good measure. I highly recommend it.

Spring Green Soup
1 large leek, chopped (both white and green parts)
2 tbs. olive oil
1 large pinch sea salt
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, diced
1 bunch asparagus, sliced
2 medium green zucchini, sliced
1 bunch baby spinach leaves, or 1 bunch chopped regular spinach leaves
2 tbs. fresh dill, chopped
3 or 4 c. vegetable broth
1/2 lemon, juiced
cayenne pepper

Wash the leeks and drain them. Chop them. Cook them in a large, nonstick skillet with olive oil and salt over medium heat until tender, 8 to 10 mins.

While the leeks cook, scrub and dice the potatoes and put them in a large soup pot with 4 c. of water and a pinch of salt. Cover and simmer for 10 mins.

While the potatoes and leeks cook, slice the asparagus and zucchini. Wash the spinach leaves.

Add all green veggies, including the leeks, to the the pot and simmer for 15 or 20 minutes. In the last few minutes of cooking time, add the dill and lemon juice and then a pinch of cayenne.

(Anna Thomas recommends that you let the soup cool slightly and then blend with an immersion blender, but I've skipped that step, partly because I don't own an immersion blender and partly because I like the rustic look and texture of the sliced vegetables in the soup.)

Serve with hunk of crusty french or sourdough baguette, a glass of cool white wine, and friends.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Lucky Gear?

Question: How many superstitious racers are out there? Do you wear your "lucky gear" on raceday? What items do you consider lucky?

Me? I never race without my ball cap and my Phiten necklace. And my Oakleys, of course.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Recipes to Keep You Running: Asian Slaw with Tofu Triangles

I'd like to occasionally share some of my favorite recipes with you guys as we go along. As a vegetarian runner, I'm constantly looking for new ways to incorporate protein into my diet while at the same time trying to lower fat and amplify taste. If you have any recipes to share, feel free to comment! You may see one of them featured in a post at a later date.

This recipe for asian slaw is adapted from a salad recipe in the May issue of Fitness magazine. It's fairly healthy from a calorie and fat standpoint. It's loaded with veggies and tofu. It is a little high in salt, though, so make sure to watch your sodium intake on the days you make/eat this. This slaw is also an interesting alternative to traditional coleslaws, and a great dish to bring to those Memorial Day cookouts this weekend.

Asian Slaw with Tofu Triangles

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes

1/3 c. low sodium tamari
3 tbs. rice wine vinegar (I eyeballed this as well as the measurements for the honey and oils)
1 tbs. seasame oil
1 tbs. peanut oil (or canola oil if you don't have peanut)
2 tbs. honey
1 tbs. minced ginger (I just cut a chunk off of a ginger root and minced it)
2 or 3 minced garlic cloves

2 14 oz packages of firm or extra firm tofu

3 tbs. seasame seeds, toasted
2 c. sugar snap peas
6 c. shredded cabbage
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 c. shredded carrot
1 bunch chopped scallions

1. Slice the tofu into half inch strips, and cut each strip diagonally to form triangles. Cook the triangles in a non-stick pan over low heat. This method is called "dry frying." No oil is required, but it is important that the heat stays low and that your pan is nonstick. When the tofu begins to turn light brown and "dry out," on one side, it's time to flip it and cook the other side. Another way to tell if one side is done is to try to move the piece around in the pan. If it moves, it's ready to be flipped. This takes about 30 to 40 mins.

2. While the tofu is in the pan, whisk the soy sauce, oils, honey, ginger and garlic together in a small bowl. Set aside.

3. Bring a small pot of water to boil on the stove. Add the peas and blanch for 2 minutes. Then drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside.

4. When the tofu is light brown on both sides, remove from the heat. Place in a small baking dish and pour half of the dressing over the triangles. Marinate for at least 10 minutes.

5. Toss the cabbage, red bell pepper, sugar snap peas, carrots, and scallions together with the remainder of the dressing. Sprinkle sesame seeds over the slaw.

6. You can serve the slaw with the triangles on the side, or put the triangles in the slaw. When I took this to a gathering last night, I tossed the triangles and their "marinade" in with the rest of the slaw for a one-bowl meal, but if you're serving at home, you may want to leave the triangles separate and have people serve themselves.

What I like about this recipe is that it can be customized in many ways. You can substitute snow peas or add edamame. You can top with crushed peanuts. You can even make this a more traditional "oriental salad" and add crushed, dried ramen noodles.

I hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

More For Me Than For You...

Don't let your mileage pile up on you. You know what you have to run today. You know it's going to be long and hot. You're going to have to work hard. So stop delaying the inevitable (on Blogger) and get out there and run!

Mile by mile, you'll eat up what you have to get accomplished today, but first you have to start.

Friday, May 14, 2010

What Now? The Next Steps After a Big Race

So you've just finished your first big race. Do you feel on top of the world? Invincible? Wanna try for twice that distance? In a month or two? Really? Let's talk this out.

In the first few days after a race, particularly if it's been a positive and successful experience, I have a mix of feelings. I feel proud of my performance and accomplishments, but I also feel a void because I'm no longer "in training." So then, I start wanting to take on another challenge, right away. I've learned, though, that sometimes it's better to take things slowly.

Being "in training" for a race is something special. I always complain about how tired I am in the weeks leading up to an event, but miss the focus that training gave me when the race has ended. Often, I've found myself plunging back into a running program right away, with only a few days of rest. I didn't have anything specific I was training for, and no reason to keep my milage up at the level that it was. I just didn't want to lose the fitness level that I had attained before I ran my race. Not surprisingly, a few weeks later, I would find myself dealing with nagging aches and pains, or even outright injuries. Then I'd be forced to take time off.

Now, when I finish a race, I try to keep a few things in mind:

  • Remember when you were "in training" and you complained about those various aches and pains in your (insert body part here)? Well, they didn't magically disappear just because you got a PR. Now is the time to take care of your body. Figure out where the problem areas are and work to rehab them.
  • Unless you're planning on running another long race in the next two weeks, you should decrease your mileage. This isn't an exact science, by any means. I take my mileage back to the point that it was midway in my training, but you may be able to do more or less. Just remember that your body needs to recover from the stress you've put on it (before you can stress it again!).
  • Returning to a routine is good - forcing yourself to do too much too soon is bad. I am always anxious to get back to lifting weights, cross training, group exercise classes - all those things I couldn't do when I had to run for two or more hours every day. Now is definitely the time to go back to those other areas of your personal fitness. Just don't try to tackle everything in one day. You'll get into a "normal" routine again before you know it.
  • You should plan on doing something else, and soon. It's just as easy to do too little for too long after a big race. Maybe you're sick of running or training. Maybe racing just isn't your thing. Maybe you're still sore or creaky or even injured from the race. Regardless of what's going on, it's important to start setting goals for yourself again. You don't have to pick another race or set a weekly goal mileages, either. When I was injured, my goals had to do with my rehab, i.e. "I want to be able to do 30 leg lifts with good form by the end of the week." It's normal to feel tired or discouraged after a race. A return to goal-setting will help to boost your confidence and also put your fitness back into perspective.
Again, it's another loose list of things to think about, but this is definitely what I'm dealing with, day to day, after this last half marathon.

We'll talk again, soon.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What Have We Learned?

It's been a little over a week since the half marathon. For those of you that are interested: yes, I met my goals, and I'm very happy about that.

I wanted to write you guys a little list of what I learned during this half marathon, in no particular order.

  • Have a plan. This may have different meanings for different people. For me, it meant having a goal time and then blocking out my goal splits for each mile to achieve that time. My coach also gave me "focus phrases" to think about during the different parts of the race. Does that sound "type A" to you? Maybe. But remember that distance running is just that: lots of time and lots of miles. It's easy to get "lost" mentally and forget what you're doing and why you're doing it. Focusing on splits or key phrases helps to cut through the fog that you will eventually hit at some point in the race.
  • Be prepared. This is simple stuff. Set out your clothes the night before. Pack your bag. Pin your race number to your shirt or bra. Put your timing chip on your laces. Set your shoes by your bed. Put your gels/bars/energy substances in your pouch/belt. The morning of the race is not the time to pack. It is the time to focus on your race, not the contents of your bag.
  • Be early. Many races are huge events with thousands of people. You will have to look for parking, then walk to the start line. You might get lost. You might have to use the bathroom. You need to warm up. Not only does an early arrival ensure that more parking spots are readily available, but it also means that the port-a-potty lines are relatively short. Do yourself and your spouse/cheering section a favor and set the alarm one hour earlier than you think you'll need. Today is not the day to catch up on your sleep.
  • Be confident. It doesn't matter if this is your first race or your fiftieth. You have every "right" to be here as everyone else. One of the most common things I've heard from runners at the starting line are the words, "I don't feel like I belong here." Do you know how to run? Then you belong here.
  • Be committed. Maybe you trained seriously for this event. Maybe you intended to train, but slacked off despite your best intentions. At this point, you can't train any more. Get focused on the race at hand and run it to the best of your ability. If you make excuses at the starting line, you're handicapping yourself before the race even begins.
  • Have fun. I ran the race with my best running buddies (pictured above). Even though we didn't finish together, it was nice to know that they were going through the same race that I was. We were together at the starting line and we waited for each other at the finish. I loved having their support. Whether you listen to music while you run or not, pay attention to the crowd. Look at the handmade posters, laugh at the themed outfits that other runners are wearing. Enjoy this moment, and when the pain comes, try to enjoy that, too. You've earned all of it.
That's a little bit of what I took away from my race. I hope it's helpful for you guys. Coming up, we'll cover: "What Now? The Next Steps After a Big Race."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Birthday Reflection

I try to keep my posts fairly substantive, but I wanted to acknowledge something a little more personal in this post.

Today's my birthday. Another year in the bank. I have a lot to be thankful for. My life, my husband, family and friends. My health.

I'm reminded today of a conversation I had with some friends as we ran the Lakefront Discovery Run this fall. We were talking about the pain that comes during a race, and one of my friends said that he didn't think the pain ever got any easier to deal with. I came back with the usual response that you've all come to expect from me: that you have to push through and above the pain. That the pain of running or racing is part of the experience and something to be appreciated.

"But sometimes I think that the pain isn't worth the effort." he responded, "I'm not running to lose weight. I'm certainly not gaining muscle. I'm never going to win a big race. So why am I doing this?"

The first answer that came to me, and one I'm reflecting on a lot today is: "We do it because we can. At this point in our lives, we're healthy enough and strong enough to be able to compete in this race, and so we should give it everything we have - even if it's painful."

Sure, running feeds my competitive spirit and it keeps me in shape. But it's also a gift that my body has given me over the years - one I shouldn't take for granted.

We don't know what's going to happen to us today, tomorrow, or in the years to come. Today I'm grateful for my body and my mind and the rich life they've allowed me to have so far.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Poor Cinderella

Today. Oh, today. A different kind of "stress test" for sure. A synopsis:

Today was my third opening shift in a row. We had a busy weekend at the store and that, in addition to waking up at 4am were definitely taking their toll. I was tired, but I had a plan. Immediately after work today, I was going to jet out of the parking lot, and head to the Y for my favorite boot camp and abs class lunchtime combo. This morning, I stumbled around the house stuffing workout items in my gym bag and ran out of the house at 4:23am, with work and gym bags in tow and a few minutes to spare.

I got through this morning thanks to continuous coffee refills. I worked through my lunch in order to leave on time. I left, I drove, I parked, got scanned in, got my key, opened my locker, looked in my bag - and saw that I had forgotten my shoes. Doing pushups, jumping jacks, and sprints in Danskos was not a viable option either, so home I went. And here I am.

Am I pissed? Hell yeah. I knew there was a reason my bag felt so light. But after thinking about my mistake for a few minutes, I realized that I wouldn't have made those mistakes had I not been so tired.

Just as I stress the importance of listening to your body during training, listening to your mind is just as crucial. Had I been mentally rested, I would have remembered my shoes. Heck, I would have packed my bag the night before. Being forgetful or distracted is a sign that the mind is fatigued. And, since a large portion of running involves mental focus, it's important to listen to your mind when it tells you that a break is needed.

The best performances come from physical and mental balance, so keep that in mind (ha, ha) the next time you're feeling forgetful during training.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

It's Almost Race Time

It's been a quiet few weeks here at "TSL." There are some reasons I could give you for why:
  1. The NBA playoffs
  2. The NFL draft
  3. Laziness and inertia (my personal favorite)
All these factors definitely play a part in TSL's recent silence, but I think the biggest reason is that my first serious race of the season is happening next weekend.

I've never had children, so I don't presume to know the nervousness and anticipation of a mother-to-be as she waits for the arrival of a child, but the first big race, (really any big race) gives me a similar kind of stress. I don't talk about it. I don't write about it. But there it sits on my shoulders. I carry its weight with me.

So let's talk about it, shall we?

What To Do The Week Before a Race

The week before a competition is known as "taper week." It's a time to rest the body and prepare the mind for the challenge that is to come. Your milage drops, your bedtime is earlier, the gummy bears get hidden on the top shelf in the back of the pantry.

Seems simple, right? A lot of resting, relaxing, and waiting.

Except, it's not. Not for me. Not for a lot of the type-A people that I know who need to fill the hours of their day with some kind of activity. And if my activity is taken away, then mental anxiety starts to fill that empty space.

So, here's what I do. I slow down, but I don't stop completely. First of all, if you've been training hard for an event, the taper week should feel much-needed. But that doesn't mean that you should sequester yourself in a room until race day.

Rest your body for the first few days. Do some light jogging. Do some water jogging in the pool. Get together with friends you haven't seen during your training. Enjoy your down time.

Think of yourself as a lake in the spring. The more rest you get, the more your muscles relax and grow strong. The ice melts, the strength flows back into you. By the time race day arrives, your reservoir of capability should be full-to bursting. When the starting whistle sounds, the dam breaks, and you can let all of your pent-up energy out.
But it starts with rest.

I'll be around this week, hopefully more active than before. Have a good week, everyone, and good luck in whatever you're individually preparing for.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

This is All Kinds of Disgusting

For a few years, now, rumors have been circulating about a new "sandwich" that KFC was test marketing called the "Double Down." This sandwich supposedly defied the logic of traditional sandwich construction by featuring two breaded chicken breasts as the "bun" of the sandwich, encasing a mix of cheeses as the sandwich filling. The sandwich had popped up in places like Omaha, Nebraska and Providence, Rhode Island, but no official information was available as to whether or not KFC would choose to unleash this monstrosity upon America.

Well, guard your arteries, because starting on April 12th, the Double Down is coming to your town. KFC advertises the Double Down on their website with a clock counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until its release. They also have a television commercial you can view on the site.

KFC describes the sandwich as a:
"One-of-a-kind sandwich" that, "features two thick and juicy boneless white meat chicken filets (Original Recipe® or Grilled), two pieces of bacon, two melted slices of Monterey Jack and pepper jack cheese and Colonel's Sauce."
To their credit, KFC also lists some nutritional information for both the breaded and grilled versions. The breaded version has 520 calories, 32 grams of fat and 1380 mg of sodium. If you're watching your figure and choose to go grilled, you'll be putting away a skinny 460 calories, 23 grams of fat, and 1430 mg of sodium. Should you pair the Double Down the way KFC recommends - with a large soda and potato wedges - the calorie, fat, and sodium content goes up dramatically, however.

Several writers have tried the Double Down and chronicled the experience for your reading pleasure. The best article I've found actually comes from the A.V. section of "The Onion," which is why, when I initially read the headline, I thought it was another Onion joke. The writer describes his experience thusly: "
The Double Down did to my gastrointestinal system what Sherman did to the South, leaving a scorched-earth trail of destruction in its wake. After the initial flavor burst of herbs and spices faded, I was left with a series of stomach-turning pairings, the most horrifying being really bad pepper-jack cheese—school-lunch cheap and school-lunch nasty—and odious bacon."
The article really is worth a read in its entirety - though I don't recommend perusing before meal-time.

Don't get me wrong - I like junk food. I support eating freely and decadently and unhealthily every once in a while. But this? If you're going to eat something unhealthy, at least make it something that contains real food that's prepared with care. Not processed cheese and low quality meat. Not something you scarf down in the car or in a molded plastic KFC booth.

And if your idea of an amazing meal really is two breaded chicken breasts sandwiching a mix of cheeses and bacon? At least make it yourself with better ingredients. I guarantee you, it will be at least marginally more healthy than KFC's sodium and fat bomb.

It seems America's unhealthy chickens truly have come home to roost.

Monday, April 5, 2010

An Open Letter to Commissioner Goodell

Dear Commissioner Goodell,

My name is Laura Hogensen, and I’m a female NFL fan.

It shouldn’t surprise you that your league has females who follow it just as avidly as males. If you’ve been studying the recent viewer and fan trends of the league that you govern, you are hopefully aware that females comprise 58 million of the 138 million NFL fans in this country. The number of women who tune into the Super Bowl has climbed 8% over the past decade. Over 40 million of us watched the Super Bowl this year, up from a record-setting 38.3 million for the 2009 Super Bowl. Female viewership influences the television spots and even the products of the companies that sponsor your teams and purchase ads during your games. And this fan base only stands to grow larger.

So, as a loyal female fan, as someone that’s purchased tickets to your games, followed your players, bought your products, and never fails to tune in each Thursday, Monday, and especially Sunday, I need you to do something for me – for us.

Talk to Ben Roethlisberger. Schedule the meeting with him that you promised you would. Because frankly, Commissioner? It’s starting to look like violence against women isn’t all that important to you.

During your time as NFL commissioner, you’ve maintained that player misconduct is intolerable. You made it a policy to meet with players accused of misconduct before a police investigation was even concluded. You’ve taken a hard-line stance against players who choose to flout the rules and code of the National Football League, often suspending them before they’ve even been convicted in a court of law.

You took this stance with Adam “Pacman” Jones three years ago, suspending him for a season after allegations of his involvement in a shooting at a Las Vegas strip club surfaced. You sat down with Pacman immediately, and suspended him within a week of that meeting. And all of this action took place two months before Vegas police officially charged Pacman with any wrongdoing.

That same year, you also suspended the late Chris Henry for eight games after multiple violations of the NFL conduct policy. In a statement about your decision to suspend both players, you said:

"We must protect the integrity of the NFL. The highest standards of conduct must be met by everyone in the NFL because it is a privilege to represent the NFL, not a right. These players, and all members of our league, have to make the right choices and decisions in their conduct on a consistent basis."

In the 2009 case of Plaxico Burress, who accidentally shot himself in the thigh at a New York nightclub, then tried to lie about his identity at the hospital he was taken to, you suspended him indefinitely before his case was concluded in court. You did this because the case, which was brought forth in July, had been delayed until September, and you felt it was necessary for the league to take action before this time.

Though you waited for the justice system to deliver a final verdict before suspending NFL quarterback, Michael Vick, you barred him from training camp while the investigation was in progress.

You wrote Vick a letter, telling him: "While it is for the criminal justice system to determine your guilt or innocence, it is my responsibility as commissioner of the National Football League to determine whether your conduct, even if not criminal, nonetheless violated league policies, including the Personal Conduct Policy."

Commissioner, I want you to pay attention to this list of disciplinary action not because you got it wrong, but because you got it right. You should have suspended each of these players as soon as you received sufficient evidence that they had committed wrongdoing. Your actions with Jones, Henry, Burress, and Vick were a statement that the NFL does not tolerate guns, violence, or misbehavior of any kind. You stated that it is your “responsibility as commissioner of the National Football League” to discipline players when their “conduct, even if not criminal … violate[s] league policies.” You’ve been so vocal and so responsive in the past that now, your silence on the Roethlisberger case has become deafening.

You’ve done nothing; you’ve released nothing since you stated on March 23 that you planned to meet with Roethlisberger. You can’t hide behind the fact that the investigation hasn’t been completed yet. You met with other players immediately following the mere whiff of allegations of wrongdoing. You can’t say that Roethlisberger hasn’t damaged the “integrity of the NFL.” He’s been accused of sexual assault twice in the past year.

You’ve taken no real action up to this point concerning Roethlisberger, himself. And you’ve refused to acknowledge this case in the media for over two weeks. Is it because you don’t consider this case to be as serious as the others you’ve passed judgment on? Is the alleged assault of a 20-year-old woman in the bathroom of a nightclub not a graver situation than a self-inflicted gunshot wound? Is Michael Vick’s attempted cover-up of his involvement in dog fighting more heinous to you than Roethlisberger and his entourage’s attempts to obfuscate what happened in that Georgia nightclub?

Did you know that the accuser’s friend tried to remove her drunken companion from the bathroom where Roethlisberger allegedly committed the assault? Were you aware that Roethlisberger’s entourage prevented the friend from seeing the accuser, even though she stated repeatedly that the accuser was drunk? Have you noticed that Roethlisberger has refused to cooperate with Georgia police by giving a second interview?

Tread very carefully, here, Commissioner. Your actions or lack thereof will define not only your views on Roethlisberger’s conduct, but the NFL’s views on women as a whole. These are not charges that should be dismissed by you, even if they end up being dismissed by the law. The NFL should not be tolerant of abuse or misconduct against women, and action should be taken against players who make this kind of behavior a pattern – even an alleged one.

The disciplinary action that Roethlisberger deserves is up to you. This is your league, and your judgment. But the first step, the step that’s long overdue, is a face-to-face meeting with Roethlisberger. You’re not just representing the male members and fans of this league; you’re also representing the NFL’s female fans - all 58 million of us.

Do the right thing.


Laura Hogensen

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Nike Ad: A Dream Deferred

I can't watch this ad without tearing up a little. It's one of my favorite Nike track ads.

Sanya Richards, the athlete in the ad, holds the fastest 400m time in the world, and the record for the most sub 50 second 400 races.

This ad was made in 2007 after her most challenging season. That year, she was diagnosed with Bechet's Syndrome. She missed the first six races of the 2007 season, and did not qualify for the US National Team in the 400 - placing fourth in that race. A day later, she had to put all of this behind her mentally to compete in the 200m, her last shot at qualifying for the team. She ran an incredible race, and qualified.

The ad, produced by Nike, features Langston Hughes's poem, "A Dream Deferred," narrated by Danny Glover.

For more on Richards, you can visit her website.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bogut v. Big Baby

Here's Milwaukee Bucks center, Andrew Bogut with a monster dunk on Centics forward, Glen "Big Baby" Davis. I love how Big Baby stumbles backwards after being manhandled by Bogut. Definitely worth a watch if you didn't get a chance to see it live last night.

The Bucks are pretty good this year, winning ten of their last eleven games. It's these close games with great teams, like the one we witnessed last night (86-84) that really make me excited for my home town team

Are Supplements Effective?

I have a confession to make. Each day, ingest at least 10 pills that I think will improve my health or performance. Inside my bathroom mirror, there is a row devoted solely to supplements. There’s a bottle of omega 3 fish oil – good for muscle repair, a daily probiotic for digestion, vitamin d for immune health and bone density, glucosamine for joint repair. The list could go on. And I’m not alone, either. Nearly half of Americans take at least one multivitamin per day. In fact, the vitamin industry as a whole makes $20 billion per year.

But are these vitamins and supplements really contributing to my health, or am I and others just a victim of good marketing and the placebo effect?

About a year ago, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood institute paid for a study to determine whether daily multivitamins could reduce the incidence of major illness in postmenopausal women. This study was the largest of its kind, tracking the health of 162,000 female participants over a period of eight years. According to the report:

“During the eight-year study period, 9,619 cases of breast, colorectal, endometrial, renal, bladder, stomach, lung or ovarian cancer were reported, as well as 8,751 cardiovascular events and 9,865 deaths. The study found no significant differences in risk of cancer, heart disease or death between the multivitamin users and non-users."

What does this mean for you? Well, for one, it means that you could save some money, if you wanted to, at least on multivitamins. Instead, opt for getting your vitamin content from the foods that you eat: dark leafy greens, fruits, whole grains, etc.

To be honest, though, I think I’m going to keep sticking to my vitamin regimen, and here’s why. First, I don’t take a daily multivitamin. I find that, in most multivitamins, the “A to Z” vitamins that each pill contains are rarely 100% of what you need for the day. If I’m going to be eating a healthy diet, then most of that content will come from my food. I do, however, take specific vitamins – for instance, vitamin d – because I feel that my body could use an extra amount. Whether the “issues” I refer to are real or imagined is definitely up for debate, however, I can honestly say that I feel better when I take my vitamins, and that’s worth the money spent.

In his book, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, author Michael Pollan writes that it is not so important to take a multivitamin/vitamins daily, but to be the kind of person who takes their vitamins. Take an active role in your health. Be concerned about what you put in your body and how to improve it.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Lebron's Latest

For those of you who haven't seen it yet, here's LeBron's latest, sickest dunk on the New York Knicks two nights ago. Delonte West had the assist. The Cavs went on to win the game, or should I say, "rout," 124 - 93. This guy is truly amazing.

Yesterday, LeBron sent in the paperwork to officially change his jersey number from "23" to "6," his Olympic-team jersey number. James states that he wants to change numbers in order to try to officially retire the number with Michael Jordan. When the PTI guys discussed this change on the show yesterday, Wilbon mentioned that, should LeBron be thinking about going to the Chicago Bulls, the number change would be especially necessary. Though the Bulls aren't usually discussed as possible teams for LeBron to go to next year, it's definitely fun to think about.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Cheetah Girl

Most of us watched the women’s skiing events during the Winter Olympics to see the famous athletes like Lindsey Vonn and Maria Reisch try to medal. On Friday, I turned to the women’s slalom, hoping to catch a glimpse of Vonn. Instead, I saw a racer who has stuck with me for the last few days.

Her name is Sarah Schleper, and she roars before each race. See for yourself:

Schleper, is 32 and a four-time Olympian, but she’s never medaled. She’s made it to the world championships, but only won once. She is one of those athletes who always shows up and fights it out, but will never get the kind of recognition that a skier like Vonn has. Her presence at the 2010 Olympics was by no means guaranteed, either. In 2007, she missed the entire season due to a torn ACL. In 2008, she took the season off for the birth of her son, Lasse. The amount of determination and drive it must have taken to get back into Olympic-qualifying form – not only as a formerly injured athlete, but also as a young mother – is incredible.

Her story, itself, is touching, but it was Schleper's roar that had the most impact on me. Immediately before Sarah starts each race, she lets out that loud, uninhibited scream. A lion, or a cheetah roar, which gets her in the right mindset for each race. I’ve seen hundreds of pre-event rituals, but never one like this. It was a powerful statement from a female athlete, an action that both projects and also summons confidence.

I think that the concept of the “lion roar” can be applied to any sort of race or challenge that we face as athletes. If you want to win or succeed, you have to put it all out there, unabashedly. No matter what starting line you find yourself on – don’t ever apologize for your presence among your fellow competitors. If you don’t feel like you have the “right” to be standing with them at the beginning, then you’ll never beat them to the finish. Let out your roar, whether quiet or loud, and use what’s inside of you to carry you through.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Canadian Women Behaving Badly?

On Thursday night, the Canadian women's hockey team took the gold medal after beating the US 2-0 in the final round. After they accepted their gold medals and thanked the cheering crowd, the women returned to the locker room and began their post-game victory celebration.

After about 30 minutes, the Canadian women took their celebration from the locker room back out onto the ice. The athletes were photographed drinking beer and champagne and smoking cigars, smiling and joking with each other - all the while, wearing their gold medals. One athlete, Rebecca Johnston even tried to drive the zamboni around the rink.

When photos of the victory celebration surfaced, many were offended, or at least mildly irritated with the women's display of exuberance. The IOC is now investigating the matter to determine whether any rules were violated. Gilbert Felli, executive director of the Games stated: ""I don't think it's a good promotion of sport values," he said. "If they celebrate in the changing room, that's one thing, but not in public. We will investigate what happened."

For it's part, the team released a statement apologizing for the incident, saying: "The members of Team Canada apologize if their on-ice celebrations, after fans had left the building, have offended anyone," the statement said. "In the excitement of the moment, the celebration left the confines of our dressing room and shouldn't have. The team regrets that its gold medal celebration may have caused the IOC or COC any embarrassment."

Does this moment really warrant that much outrage, however? Male teams celebrate exuberantly all of the time with champagne, beer, and cigars. Granted, much of these celebrations take place in the locker room, but it is not as if the women accepted their gold medals with with alcohol flowing and cigars already lit.

If this was a male team's celebration, would it get the same amount of outcry from the IOC and the media, or would we just look at it as another instance of "boys being boys?" Are we uncomfortable with the images of women celebrating in a way that is loud and perhaps not as mannered as we're used to? Are we upset that the exuberant participants are Canadian and not American?