5 Ways to Make Sure Your Race Doesn’t Suck

Ah, the thrill of race day is what some runners live for. Take all that adrenaline and exited-nervousness and it’s a schmorgesborg of energy. With race day comes the (hopefully mostly) self-imposed pressure, expectations and hopes to run your best. You’ve got big goals you want to achieve and you hope that by the time you cross the finish line you’ve hit those. Here are 5 ways you can stack the odds in your favor to step away from the line satisfied.
runner angel
1) Game Plan: You need to go into any race with a concrete idea of how you’re going to run and the goals you want to achieve. You don’t want to have to try and make decisions on the fly; in the middle of a race you don’t want to be wasting mental energy on wondering what to do. Plan how you’re going to run, the splits you want to hit, how you are going to react if someone surges or your competitors make a move. Go in knowing if YOU plan to make those moves and what you will do if someone covers them. With race plans you need a few because you don’t know what others may do; you don’t want to be surprised in the middle of a race and freeze-up. You also don’t want to mess up your entire race by poor pacing. When you’ve got your race plans it’s even better if you’re able to use mental visualization to ‘practice’ them.

2) Consider Conditions: If you’re running amidst a hurricane you should obviously be drafting off of people! Not funny, I know. But when you show up to a race you need to check the conditions and adjust your race plan if need be. If it’s really hot and humid you may have to chuck the times you had planned and race off of effort. If it’s really windy you may want to hold off on taking the lead until later so that you can tuck in and conserve energy. The race day weather and conditions don’t DEFINE the race and you can’t let less than ideal conditions be an excuse for you to still not put the effort in; it just means you may have to adjust your goals and plans.

running in a tornado

That girl’s drafting! ;)

3) Use Your Competition: Don’t ever be afraid of your competitors, embrace them because they will force you to step up your own game and race your best. Always be looking for that person faster than you, key off of them, sit behind them, focus on their back and don’t let a gap develop. Pick people off; if that back you’re focusing on is slowing down or you feel better then blow by that sucker and move onto the next person in front of you…always keep looking for that next person.

4) Avoid Mind Mutiny: There are SO many sub-topics here, for the sake of brevity I’ll give pointers here and direct you to other posts. Getting stuck in no-man’s land in a race stinks, but there are ways to salvage the race; don’t let feeling like it’s just you on the course be an excuse to give up…hey, the clock is always there! The middle of a race is the hardest, don’t let your mind check-out here…this, 99% of the time, leads to your pace slacking. Keep applying the pressure and focus. Do NOT focus on, “dang, this really hurts.” Duh, running hurts…that’s a reality, you knew that going in. So stop the self-defeatist thoughts and focus on what you CAN control (form, breathing, stride count, etc.) as a means of distraction.

5) Not Your Day, So What: Does that sound heinously tough love-esque? Well so be it…but the truth is we ALL have races where the legs just don’t show up that day. If the gun goes off and you feel like you’re pulling bricks, don’t automatically throw in the towel and give up. You NEED those mentally grueling races and workouts because getting through them makes you mentally tougher; then the days when your legs SO show up, you’ll be able to apply that toughness and you’ll be running faster. Overcoming the crappy runs are a huge mental test; give up too often and you set up a really bat habit that is tough to break out of. So if it’s not your day, yes, you may need to adjust your goals and plan but STILL put in the effort. Also, you’d be amazed at how your race can be salvaged even with ‘dead’ legs; that and miraculously your legs could show up mid-race…it’s happened.

So there you go…five ways to make sure that race you’ve been running your butt off for doesn’t suck. Of course there are many more…but I guess you’ll just have to keep reading (and running) to get more. ;)

1) What’s one way you make sure your races don’t suck? Or a tip you’d like to share?

2) What has been a time you had to adjust your plans due to weather conditions?

3) When has been a time that your legs really didn’t show up that day; how did you react and still put in the effort? Or, if you gave up, what did you learn from that experience and try to make sure you did better next time?

Downing Donuts and Crunching Carrots: Runners balancing their nutrition

In case you needed an excuse to hit up Krispy Kreme, today is National Buy a Donut Day; please runners, by all means indulge, let’s just make sure it’s of the 100% whole wheat vareity. ;)
runner eating donuts
Let’s talk runner eats. I’m the first person to shout from the rooftops, “I run so I can eat like a Sumo-(wo)man and not look like one!” As runners we do carry license to do some damage when it comes to the grinding; but, at the same time we recognize that we are fueling those miles. If we want quality miles, then we should do our body the justice of giving it QUALITY fuel, right?

It all comes back to balance and moderation, isn’t it the truth with everything? Enter easy days and hard workout days. So while we can wolf down a pizza the size of our head, polish off the Entemenn’s coffee cake, that’s not ALL we eat, and we most of us don’t do that every day. Though no judgement if you do, trust me I’ve got runner friends who eat cleaner than a pro-body builder competing for a show and then I’ve got friends who eat their weight in Big Macs.

I’ve done a couple article on various nutrition topics for runners:
Going Gluten Free
Setting a Pre-Race Eating Plan
When to Eat High and Low on the Glycemic Index
Running and GI Issues
Post-Run 30 Minute Refuel Window

That last one is probably the one I’d force down all of your throats…it’s SUPER important for your muscle recovery to get that food into you system and start the refuel RIGHT after you run.
runner eating pizza
Today let’s talk about balance here. Food should be enjoyed, it should be loved, you can spoon with your Pop-Tarts at night if you need to. BUT I like this quote from one of my favorite sports nutritionists, Krista Austin, Ph.D., “Eating for performance.” Used in context she was referencing how Dathan Ritzenhein’s go-to pre-race meal is plain, white rice. It’s bland, but he knows it sits well in his stomach and because it is a non-complex carb it gets broken down quickly and is energy readily on tap for when he goes out to race.

Is it his favorite, most taste-bud tantalizing meal? Probably not, but he’s eating for PERFORMANCE. There are times and places when taste isn’t the prime objective; it CAN be the second you cross the finish line and take yourself out to a celebratory dinner, right?

The point is this, every runner is different and how much ‘junk’ they can get away with really varies. Krista Austin notes, “We can hope that going back to the old adage of ‘what you put in the fuel tank of the car is what you put out’, comes into play and if we put a higher quality of food in the body we should be supporting training better and enhancing the ability to create training adaptations…[but], I know many an Olympic athlete etc, in the sport of running that eat horribly and still get the job done (although yet to medal so maybe this is why?)-in fact they are the guys on top!”
fresh carrot
As a personal observation I would say that the people on top are the ones who know WHEN to indulge and when to ratchet down and be a little more strict in what goes in. The periods when they are in really heavy training they make sure to get in the QUALITY foods first (fruits, veggies, whole grains, adequate protein) but then if they need to make up for all their expenditure they will dig into the higher calorie ‘fun’ foods because, let’s be honest, if you run 20+ miles you freaking earned the right to! Conversely, when they are tapering and getting close to race day, they make a conscious effort to make sure they aren’t eating like they are running 3-times more miles per week.

The ‘junk’ food, and that’s not the best term but the foods that we logically know aren’t the ‘best’ options, are hard-earned and one of (I think) the perks of being a distance runner. The thing is though, those foods are not to be eating INSTEAD of the good stuff. Think of a house, set the foundation as the QUALITY eats and then if you’ve got room for an attic, by all means fill it with pizza, Pop-Tarts, and yes, donuts. ;)

1) What are some of the ways you ensure you get in enough QUALITY into your runner diet?

2) What are some of the foods that you fill your ‘attic’ with? Do you probably fill more than just the attic, maybe the second story too?? ;)

3) In ‘eating for performance’, what are some pre-race day foods that work for you?
I’ve done oatmeal, Powerbars, but will admit to some Pop-Tarts too. :P

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Runner-Speak: A runner’s unsaid language defined

Runners, we really have our own language. True there are the actual words: fartlek, tempo, IT band, nip-guards, chaffage, etc. that we toss around. But there is the running BODY language that sometimes emotes much more than anything that could possibly be vocalized. Enter Runner-Speak…

runner-speak cartoon

I hope you enjoy my little Sunday Runner Cartoon. Get some giggles, then go make sure your Garmin is charged and able to pick up a signal. ;)
If you want some more cartoonage you can see some of my other Runner’s Strip cartoons HERE, HERE, and HERE!! :)

1) Any of those Runner-Speak pictures look familiar? Which one was the last you expressed?

2) What’s another Runner-Speak body tell that’s not pictured?

3) What are you doing with your fine runner self this Sunday? Runs, races, workouts, let’s hear it! :)

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Quick Tips to Improve Your Running in 10 Minutes or Less

I cringe slightly because that headline sounds borderline Runner’s World, but I’m NOT going to say that by eating such-and-such you’ll drop your running PR’s by 2 minutes. Rather that with running there are SO many little, ‘extra’ things that supplement your running workouts that will improve your performances. Get more flexible, have better range of motion, improve your stride, fix your form and there’s a direct correlation to running efficiency. These things also reduce your risk for injury.

That said we live in some manic paced times and it’s easy to use the excuse you just don’t have time. Well, I’ve made a fun little chart to help dispute that. C’mon, are you really going to argue you don’t have an extra 40 seconds to spare from your day?
improve running in 10mins
The last one, visualization touches on the MENTAL side of training. Don’t ever poo-poo how much of a difference the sports psyche makes. You can read the full visualization post HERE.

So, will you give me at LEAST the 40 seconds?? ;)

Shout out to the AWESOME Katie @ Peace, Love and Oats for giving my running shirts some love on her Friday Fav’s list!! Everyone go check her out!

Also, in case you missed it on my Facebook Wall…Active.com named my running shirts among their Top Ten Holiday Gift Guide for Runners!! Yay again…hit up slide number 5 to see it. :)
1) Will you be brave enough to promise to do one of these things on a regular basis? Or do you do some already?

2) What are quick ways you sneak in a running ‘extra’ through the course of your day.
Stretch while I’m waiting for the micro do cook my food. ;)

3) What’s a bit of running mental training advice you have to share?

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Runners Deserve Equipment Managers: Because attending to our needs is just that important

Running is different from most other sports, namely it’s better. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think I deserve to have an equipment manager around here attending to my needs like the football and basketball players get. What about MY needs?

vibram shoes

Dear My Running Equipment Manager,

I bestow upon you the great honor of lining up my running shoes each and every night, laces loose enough so that all I have to do upon waking is slip my feet in. It’s brutal enough waking up earlier than most, I shouldn’t be expected to function until I’ve gotten at least a 1/2 mile into my run. The task of tying my shoes is implied, I’ll be too busy trying to strap my Garmin on my wrist. (I’ll let you off the hook on that one.)

I really LOVE my Garmin, like love him, but those satellites get iffy every so often and for tempo runs and intervals I have to go with actual markers. You can old school wheel-off the mile markers for all my tempo runs. I’ll direct you to a fun hill and have you mark off 200 and 400 meter markers for when I do hill repeats. Gotta build the power and speed…wait, is it fair to demand THAT much from the single fast twitch muscle fiber I have in my body? ;)

I’ll get back from my run nice and sweat, it’s imperative for my recovery that I eat straight away…like the second my feet stop moving I expect you to wield me the refuel of carbs and protein. I REALLY like doughy carby goodness, so don’t you try and pass off those stale bagels that’s not what I keep you around for. And duh, we’re talking whole grains and wheat variety, none of that white crap. #healthyrunnereats
runner eating pizza
Actually food is a constant theme of the runner life. So you’re also a glorified short order chef; be close by because you never know when the runner black hole stomach gremlin may rear its ugly head.

Speaking of ugly heads, injuries are bound to spring up. No they kind of sneak attack and they are going to leave me uglier than that thing that crawled up out of The Ring. Your job will be to make sure I don’t wind up getting myself into too much trouble, if the judge isn’t a runner he may not sympathize with a not guilty plea if my excuse is that my state of mind was impaired and the outlash was because of miles withdrawals.

I LOVE me my running clothes. Especially THESE shirts and my tempo shorts. Do the laundry and don’t go losing all my left socks either.
runner closet
Runners may not have the crazy fans that the soccer (sorry, futbol/football) fans get in Brazil, even though we deserve it lots more. You can also function as my entourage; I’d like feeling like I’m more important than I am every now and again.

I really am happy to have you around My Running Equipment Manager. You can do all the things I’d rather not have to think about. I’d rather just run. Oh wait, I forgot, just a couple other small tasks: massage me, freeze my ice cups, track the miles on my shoes, buy me new shoes, fold my running shirts, inform me of running news and results, foam roll for me, stretch for me, lay out my free weights, keep away leashless dogs, move absent-minded pedestrians from my path, pace me for my 400′s, call out my mile splits, pay my race entry fees, make sure I get VIP status to port-a-potties, pace me for 800′s, update my running log nightly and read bedtime stories to my treadmill.

What an AWESOME job you’ve got! XOXO Arty Runnerchick

1) What would you employ your running equipment manager for?

2) What are some things you do to make it easier/faster for you to get up and get out for you run?
Lay my running clothes and shoes out the night before.

3) What is your go-to post-run refuel?
English muffin and tuna…talk about eating on a budget! #dirtcheap ;)

Running Consistency: It’s a sum of all the miles between the PR’s

With running, those shining races, performances worth remembering and runs where everything clicks are more just a representation of all the crappy runs, slog-fests, and uneventful miles before them. The highlights are always outnumbered by the runs done where no one else is watching, probably wouldn’t even know if you did them or not.
women art
If you checked out my Facebook wall yesterday (and you should definitely ‘like’ me! hehe) you saw a sneak peek of a collage type of project I’m working on. It has various women, different eras and poses but it’s an example of a piece of art that can’t stand alone, it needs all the smaller pieces to work. Right now I’m not done and it’s still needing more artwork clips, just like in running. You’re constantly ‘adding’ to your project with every mile, every workout, each race and all the steps forward.

Running hinges on consistency probably more-so than anything else. Built into that is self-motivation and determination because it takes those two qualities to MAKE yourself consistent. After that is probably fortitude, or maybe more correctly the inability to stop, because the honest to goodness truth is that for the most part running hurts. There, said it, and even on those ‘easy’ runs you have to hurt to a degree because otherwise you’d just be jogging or racewalking, right?

Wow, what a pep-talk, right? But let me finish because I’m still explaining here and the point is that you can’t expect to feel like you’re running on rainbows most of the time; you have to expect and anticipate the fatigue and ‘meh’ days because they will be there. They make you a runner because runners get THROUGH those days and move onto the next workout, be it a slog-fest of one of those workouts where you feel everything clicking and you’re just ON.


Art: Cait Chock (early stuff!) lol

Your running is made up of each and every mile, it’s not just the glowing PR’s or the runs where you swear you saw a unicorn shi##ing rainbows and a leprechaun bathing in his gold. (Sorry, sort of an inside joke there…that’s my reference to where everything is ‘perfect’.) Now, there WILL be those days where you spy that unicorn, the runs where you feel like you’re outside watching yourself achieve something you didn’t know your legs were capable and you think, “Am I REALLY running this fast…by gosh, I AM!”

I also wanted to touch on the fact that you can’t let a single run define you. You can’t let a single really heinous race, workout or run get to you so much so that you DEFINE it as yourself or an indicator of your fitness. For these runs here is where it’s really helpful to remember that running is representative of the whole, and that crappy workouts come with the territory; you need them to build mental strength and also take them as learning opportunities. See if there is a REASON why you sucked so hard (sometimes there isn’t a reason either), try and learn, and then shower off and move forward.

Though, those unicorn runs only come BECAUSE of the regular old miles before them, and the miles that will come after them. Get through the slog-fests because they make it all worth it. And to be honest, us sick and twisted little glutton for punishment runners wouldn’t have it any other way.

I get back to the inability to stop…

1) What would you say is the ratio to slog-runs to ‘just regular feeling’ runs then to unicorn and rainbow runs?
I’d say most are just usual runs, the ‘real’ unicorn runs come maybe three or four times total?

2) How do you keep perspective after really bad races or workouts?
Remember the good ones I had, chances are they were right on the heels of your epic fail.

3) Name one of your unicorn and rainbow running experiences…go!

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Running All Over the Place: Humor, Shirts and Ultra Running Gluttony

I think my brain’s been running in a million more directions than my feet could keep pace with as of late. So today’s post is going to be a bit of Arty Runnerchick updates, link loving, and randomness. It’s getting closer to what actually meeting me in real life is like, I’m the queen of talking tangents…

Humor is awes-tastic and running humor is ever BETTER! With Halloween coming up we all know the best costumes are pulling from our favorite running superstars, right? Well, check out the cartoon I’ve starting running over at Skinny Runner. This month she’s rocking the Kara Goucher bunhugger look…and looks like she’s talking Jaymo into pulling off a Shalane Flanagan doppleganger…YIKES! You can also check out the first Skinny Runner cartoon I did HERE.

runner gluttony

The pizza is hiding my chest there, but trust me it’s not hiding much.

It’s all about the ultra marathon! Da-daaang, if you thought your long run was long be ready to have some runner envy. Add to that some food envy (ummm, pretty sure the only reason I’d be able to talk myself into an ultra marathon is so I could go full-on glutton!!) I did an article for Active.com: Transition to Ultra Running: What You Need to Know AND I’m also super proud of the amazing Julia loved reading her article published for Active: How I Became an Ultrarunner as well. Check both of those out.

Speaking of Active; there will be a few of my posts breathing new life over there. So in case you missed them here you now have two placesto check them out. Are you seeing double yet??

get chicking white running shirt

Yay! Hey, at least I spared you the post-run sweaty face! ;)

Running shirt news!!! I’m super excited to share that there is a special, limited edition White Shirt Version of the Get Chicking running shirt. You can check out both the white and black styles of them over at my STORE. I’ve got a new batch of my Run Your Fortune Shirts just hot off the presses too, so do run yourself over to my store. Don’t jog or race-walk though…those words aren’t allowed on this blog.

Ba-dang-da-dang…Spoiler Alert: there is soon to be another edition to the shirt line as well, so stay tuned. I know, I’m bursting with running shirt related fodder today.

Let’s end on a humorous note because we opened on one. Halloween IS coming up and if you really want to scare your friends here is what you can dress up as:

* The dirty, doper Christian Hesch. Make the costume complete and sport the board shorts and needles. Seriously, you’ll get boo’ed out of any runner party.

* The GI distressed runner post-long run. Costume musts: missing one sock, questionable brown stains. You do the math.
injured runner
* The disgruntled injured runner. It’s imperative to wear a warning sign with this costume stating that you may, in fact, bite.

Happy Saturday, my running friends! May you be off getting your miles on!

1) Do you have a running related random tangent for me?

2) Would you ever attempt and ultra marathon? Or what’s the longest race you could envision yourself doing?

3) Pick a bad Halloween costume idea and share away!

I Spy a Runner

Etched across your face are the words you choose to define yourself by.

runner face
Select them carefully, for while you can change them later, some are harder to rub off than others. Labels may be controversial, are they good, are they bad? Who gave them to you, are you just putting them on for show? Do they fit quite right? All that politically correct jazz.

Though RUNNER isn’t a label that I feel looks bad on anyone. Actually it makes them look better. Feel better. Be better.

I like this word, runner, and while I know I’m much more than just a runner, the word suits me just fine and I don’t mind keeping it around. What about you?

1) What are some words that describe yourself?
quirky, OCD, fast-talker, runner, sister, daughter, friend, sarcastic

2) Have those words changed over time to fit you better?

3) If you picked runner amongst your words, can you narrow it down just a little bit more? (ie: distance lover, need for speedster, anti-fartlek, all about the long run)
Miles Addict.

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Adrenaline and Endorphins Are My Drugs

The act of running floods the brain and body with endorphins, the rush of these feel-good hormones isn’t all that different from a drug-induced high. Those drugs being the ones you get on the streets; there are other kinds of ‘drugs’ that in the sport of running don’t call to mind images of strung-out addicts on the street shooting up.
runner legs for miles
These drugs bring to mind images of runners floating on air, setting records, bulging muscles, endurance that seems inhuman and then being able to kick like a monster. It seems inhuman because it is, there are drugs involved. I’d call them steroids but at this point the science in that area is so advanced who knows what in the heck it really is, the bottom line is they are performance enhancing drugs.

It’s been quite the year for drug busts; I know I’m a little late in Facebooking, Twittering or posting about the recent article in which running Christian Hesch admits to using drugs and explaining what it felt like. I’ll be honest, I hesitated because I wasn’t really sure if it was worth posting about; I like to keep things positive here or on the up and up but the truth is drugs are ever-present in our sport. It’s sad, it’s not only limited to the top of the top (Hesch proves that, he was in that floater, limbo area), and it’s naive to think everyone is clean. BUT it’s fact, and I also know there are many athletes who ARE totally clean. While it is disgusting to have to line up next to someone you know is dirty, in the end you CAN’T control what others are ever going to do. You can only control your own actions, your own training and what it comes down to is this: Are you going to compete clean?

You can’t let the actions of other dictate your decision there. Runners have given the excuse that, ‘if I wanted to be able to compete with the dirties, then I have to level the playing field.’ That’s a cop out and a way they are trying to rationalize their decision to play dirty. It’s showing weak morals and only perpetuating the problem of drugs in the sport of running.

run curious

…by curious, I mean be curious of what YOUR personal best is, not getting sucked into the ‘who is/who isn’t’ game.

While it is such a shame there will be questions of ‘who is dirty and who is clean’ when we witness remarkable performances, and those awe-inspiriting moments are sometimes tainted by the questions; the thing is, that there ARE the athletes still competing who are clean, true to their sport, to themselves, and THEIR performances are worth more than any kind of world record or feat done on drugs.

True, as a spectator, it’s easy to get sucked into the ‘who is and who isn’t’ game. It’s just as easy to point a finger as it is to hold out hope; I get that. I suppose my own point is that I DO know that not everyone is on something and for those athletes I cheer for them extra loud and their results, be it an off-day or an Olympic Medal, merit that much more respect in my eyes.

The trickle down of drugs, to us mortal runners, isn’t to the point where one busts out the drug testing kit at the finish of the local 5k. Maybe so, who knows where you live! But the article I think, addresses our all morbid curiosity relating to performance enhancing drugs, “What the he## is it like?!”

True to form, we have our answer and is it really all that surprising? It makes running feel a whole lot better, the times come easier, and you, duh, run faster.

But let’s flip that…it makes running easier. It strips away a portion of the gruelfest that defines our sport. Sure, the little part of your brain that is aways begging you to BACK OFF and cut it some slack may be tempted to peace out on some of the pain. But, isn’t the mental battle of running, when you come out the victor and push yourself harder than you thought possible worth a he## of a lot more? Just my thoughts.

You can’t control the actions of other, only your own. You can CHOOSE to run your @$$ off or you can shoot up instead. I’d like to think adrenaline and endorphins (manufactured the old fashioned, personally secreted glad way, thank you very much!) are the way to go.

1) Had you read the Christian Hesch article prior to this?

2) What are your thoughts on performance enhancing drugs? How many runners do you feel are using them?

3) What do you feel is the trickle down effect, if any, to mortal runners when it comes to these drugs?

4) What’s your drug of choice?
Running…errrr…maybe Pop-Tarts too. ;)

Runner Bones

When you’re a runner you know it in your bones.

runner bones
Despite the times of injury, cross-training purgatory, and miles withdrawals, you know in your heart you are a runner.

When the track workouts and intervals gnaw at your fortitude, your stomach and your lactic acid riddled muscles, you know you are a runner. You curse it a little in your mind, your sick attachment to this thing that tests you in such painful ways.

The moments when you wish your long runs lasted forever, the miles ticked off more by feel than numbers, when time hangs and dawdles outside of hours and minutes. You know in your soul you are a runner.

Your friends, faceless companions racing alongside you, strangers you pass running on the street; this community, these are your people, you know you are a runner.

The times when the alarm clock goes off and you dread the first step, yes you actually dread it even though you don’t want to admit it, it happens. You still force foot into shoe and get moving, you are a runner after all and you know it. You also know the crummy runs are worth it too.

Because the moments, the ones that you can only catch if you’re lucky and you can’t really ever perfectly plan them. The ones when you feel like you’re not really running, but are outside yourself watching this body complete this incredibly magical yet totally simplistic action. These runs you wish you could catch in a bottle like fireflies and watch them forever…these are the times when you’re not just a runner but the run is shining through your bones.

You know you’re a runner more-so of how you feel, it’s a sense, and you know it in your bones.

1) When you’re injured or unable to run for whatever reason, you still know you’re a runner on the inside. What’s an example of feeling like a runner through the times you can’t actually run?

2) Even when you dread the workout or run, how do you motivate yourself to get the first step in?

3) How was your last long run? Was it one where the miles seemed to fly by, or craaaaawl by?

4) Who raced this weekend…brag on your fine selves! :)