making the best of it: 20 miles on the treadmill

With three kids and cold temperatures, many days the treadmill is my only option during the winter months.  Because of this, I’ve come to accept the fact that I really can’t afford to hate running indoors if I intend to keep up with my training at this time of year.  But I don’t love it and I certainly don’t prefer it to outdoor running, any day of the week.  I see the treadmill as a necessary evil and try to remember to be grateful for it, because any run is better than no run after all.

Usually when I get on the treadmill for more than just a few miles, I have to make it interesting and challenging – I mix my workout up with a tempo or creative speed intervals – in order to keep myself from getting insanely bored.  I push my speed.  I rarely push my distance.  Prior to yesterday, the most miles I had ever run on the treadmill was 10.  And I thought that was a lot (I still do).

I am not afraid of Old Man Winter.  I will run in freezing temperatures.  I will run in the rain.  In the dark.  I will run in the snow.  I actually really love winter running – layering up and breathing in the crisp cold air is invigorating and refreshing.  It makes me feel *hard core* – like I conquered so much more than just the miles, when I brave the elements and get it done in those conditions.  We all have that place where we draw the line though, and for me that line is drawn with one simple word: ICE.  When the trails are icy, I don’t need to risk falling and hurting myself.  It’s just not worth it.

Yesterday morning my line had to be drawn.  When I awoke to snow, freezing rain and ice I had to make a decision.  It wasn’t an easy one for me, even with the ice on the ground.  But my gut told me I should run indoors, so I listened.

Even though I have a treadmill in my basement, I decided to go to the gym to get my long run done.  It would be easier on my family that way – Mommy would be out for her run just like every other Saturday morning.  The main roads were perfectly safe to drive on so I packed up all my things and drove to the gym.

I couldn’t really believe I was about to do this.  But I also couldn’t bear the thought of not doing it, either.  It had to be done.

So I went to the locker room and took off all my warm cozy layers.  I had 2 full water bottles, 4 gels (I planned to eat three but brought an extra, just in case – and I am so glad that I did), a small towel, my iPod and a couple of magazines.  I found a treadmill in the back and made myself at home there.

the necessities

My plan for tackling the run?  Try to run it as close to how I would run it if I were outside.  Which meant at a comfortable pace, averaging somewhere around an 8:30 – 9:00 mile.  When I run outside I drink water throughout (and at least at every mile) and eat a gel every 5 miles.  The gym treadmill doesn’t let you run more than an hour at a time, so my plan was to run 5 miles, stop the treadmill to eat and refill my water (if necessary) and then tackle the next 5 miles.  This strategy worked really well for me because I just told myself mentally that I only needed to run 5 miles at a time.  In some weird way I was able to refresh myself mentally and physically after every 5 miles I ran.

I started out slower – running a 9:13 pace for the first mile and then notched it up to an 8:34 mile.  I hung onto that until Mile 5 when I stopped to eat my first gel.  I had some side stitches and felt like my breathing was funky during parts of the first segment.  Mentally, this first 5 miles was definitely the toughest for me.  I kept thinking Oh. My. God. I have to do this for a really really long time.  For REAL?  Time is moving soooo slooooowly.  Am I crazy?  Yes I am crazy.  But I already knew that.  Nearly of my friends and my sister were doing the run outside despite the weather and I kept thinking about them.  Sort of wondering if I was taking the “easy way out” by running on the treadmill.  I battled my mental and emotional demons in this first 5 miles though and quickly decided Hell NO! this was not the “easy way out” – there is no easy way out of 20 miles other than to just not do it!  This run was a beast and I was going to tame it.  Time for the first 5 miles: 43:27.

The next 5 miles were really really uneventful, guys.  Can you imagine?!  After having my gel and refilling my water I just ran, like a hamster on a wheel, for 5 more miles at an 8:34 pace – finishing it in 42:38.

I was halfway done!  Yayyy!

I grabbed another gel, toweled off and refilled both my water bottles.  I was sweating like crazy and drinking way more than usual because it was so warm in the gym.  My body isn’t used to training in that heat these days, so it was really an adjustment for me.

As I stepped back on the treadmill for the third segment I was entering into new territory – the “I’m running more miles on a treadmill than I ever have in my life” territory.  My endorphins were kicking in now and I was listening to some great music on my iPod.  I really enjoy my music and pretty much only listen to it when I’m on the treadmill and occasionally on long runs so I can easily get lost in songs I love.  Music was my saving grace yesterday.  I hung onto the 8:34 pace and time just ticked away. Total time for the third set of 5 miles: 42:34.

I was rocking it and feeling good.  15 miles – DONE.

When I stepped off the treadmill at this point, I had a renewed determination to be finished with this run.  I ate my last gel and reached for my water – it was time to refill again.  I had already had 6 water bottles full at this point, which astounded me.  This was way more water than I normally have on a run.  But my body needed it.  I was thirsty.  I ate my gel and refilled my water and hopped back on the treadmill.

I upped the pace and ran the next 2.5 miles at an 8:13 pace, thinking I would gradually increase over the last 5 miles to wind up closer to my race pace (8:00) at the end.  But I paused the treadmill after those 2.5 miles because I just didn’t feel right.  The pace was harder for me to hold than it should have been.  My skin was caked in salt.  Something was just — weird.  This is when I reached for my extra gel I brought along.  I was sweating way more than I had in a long time because of the warmer temperature in the gym and as a result I was probably losing a lot more electrolytes than normal.  So I ate my extra gel and then slowed my pace down for the last 2.5 miles, back to the comfortable 8:34 pace I had held for most of my run.  Last 5 mile segment: 41:51.

Total time for 20 miles on the treadmill: 2:50:20.  Average pace overall: 8:31 per mile.

The way I felt when I was finished?  Relieved.  Happy.  Proud.  Tired.

And definitely crazy.

FINISHED.

I felt like giving everyone in the gym high fives, and wanted to rejoice with all of them.  But it turns out they were completely oblivious to what I had just accomplished.  Oh well.

I immediately went to the stretching area and foam rolled and stretched a bit before putting on some dry clothes to head home.  When I got to the locker room Robert called me and said he would place an order for Chipotle burritos for us – my favorite thing to eat after a long run.  Have I ever told you how awesome my husband is?  Well, he is really really really great.  For lots of reasons.  And this is definitely one of them.

I felt a little weird still so when I got to the car I drank some Nuun (which, by the way, I wish I had had with me on this run.  I normally get by with just water and gels but in this extra sweaty circumstance I think Nuun would have given me the perfect boost that I needed.  Lesson learned.).  Then I drove straight to Chipotle to pick up my recovery meal.

a vegetarian’s recovery meal heaven

For optimal recovery after a long run or extra hard workout, it’s important to get protein and carbohydrates back into your muscles quickly (ideally within 2 hours).  A loaded burrito is a perfect choice for a vegetarian like me — beans, rice, cheese, tortilla — lots of protein, fat and carbs.  Usually it takes me a while to feel hungry after a long run like that, but yesterday I was ravenous almost immediately so as soon as I got home I sat down to eat.  Before even showering.  Gross, I know.  But it had to be done.  That was probably the best burrito I have ever eaten.

Did I love running on the treadmill for close to three hours?  No, not exactly.  Am I ridiculously happy that I got it done, that I didn’t let the ice prevent me from getting my miles in?  YES.  I would do it again if I had to, though I hope I don’t have to any time soon.

What was your long run like this weekend?  Did you have to bring it indoors like I did?  What strategies do you have for running long on the treadmill?

A Play Room for Everyone

When we bought our house three years ago the basement was completely unfinished.  Cold, dark and a little spooky.

We were moving from a town house and with two kids at the time, that meant we had no “play room.”  Toys. Were. EVERYWHERE.

I was so excited to have a single family home with a basement.  We could not afford to finish the basement though, so we worked with what we had and turned it into a place the kids would play and keep their toys.  With some paint (including a chalkboard wall), twinkle lights, artwork made by my kids, lanterns from the dollar aisle and stars I made out of cardboard and glitter and hung from the ceiling with curling ribbon, the space was magically transformed into a world that would encourage and inspire my kids to use their imaginations.

It is whimsical and crazy and fun.  It is exactly what a play room should be.

I have a confession, though.  This play room is not just for my kids.  It is every bit as much MY play room.

The basement is also where I play.  It is where I paint and draw and glue and cut (mostly for Sugar Cone, but also for other projects for myself as well as along with my kids).

It is also where I run when running outside or going to the gym is not an option.

Where do you run when running outside isn’t an option?

winterizing…

there are a lot of things on my mind as my baby’s due date approaches.  it is just 4 months away and while in some ways that feels like a looooong time to wait, it also feels like it is SO soon.  especially with all the holidays approaching – halloween, my son’s 4th birthday, thanksgiving, christmas, new year’s and then ta-da BABY is here.  wow.

one thing in particular that i cannot get out of my head though is the fact that this baby will be born in january.  it will be COLD.  too cold to take a newborn outside for probably even a walk on most days.  the baby will be too little to take to the gym with me during those winter months…i can’t (and wouldn’t even if they allowed it) bring a newborn into the daycare center until it is about 3 months old.  i don’t own a treadmill or any piece of indoor exercise equipment other than yoga and pilates videos which are just not going to help me get my sweat on – and shed the extra weight – the way i know i will want to.  so the conclusion i have come to is that i NEED a treadmill.  i have wanted one for a long time but couldn’t really justify the expense since i love my gym and it is so easy for me to go there with my kids and outside my door i have amazing trails and running routes to explore and i’m not afraid to run in the cold.  but now things are changing.  now i NEED a treadmill.  so i started my research and i am a bit freaked out by the price tags.  YIKES they are expensive!!  i figure i can buy a new one in the $600 range that will work great for me – i don’t need any fancy bells or whistles.  i just want one that works well and that i can really run on.  i looked at used ones on craigslist and at the thrift store and i am just a little concerned about spending money on a used one…a couple hundred dollars is a lot to spend on something that doesn’t work well, right!?  sooo…does anyone have advice for me out there?  if you own a treadmill, do you love it?  how did you go about purchasing your ‘mill?

i am preparing for the winter and trying to think ahead now…i’m not sure if i can even afford to get one, but i want to do my due-diligence and make sure that i spend my money on something that will get me through the winter  – and years beyond.

thanks and have a happy tuesday :o)