The High Cotton

infusing life with Southern food, hospitality, and fun

Category: Fitness

is it hot in here, or is that just me?

Most of the breast-cancer portion of this blog is here. I’m still dealing with treatment side effects, though, so I thought I’d talk about that real quick since it is impacting my running. Fortunately, chemo was not a total nightmare for me. Sure, my hair fell out and I was tired ALL THE TIME, but I’m pretty much back to normal now (almost exactly three months post-chemo). My current issue is with a little jerk called Zoladex. Zoladex is a shot some breast cancer patients get to shut down their ovaries during treatment. Other breast cancer patients get it for literally years after chemo is done. I’m not one of those people, thank goodness, because Zoladex blows. I am still having hot flashes and night sweats even though I haven’t had an injection in three months. My doctor says this is normal, but my hatred of it probably is not. I’m using the words “shot” and “injection” like Zoladex is equivalent to a flu shot or something. Nope. It is actually an implant that gets injected into your lower abdomen with a HUGE needle. Like, the nurse has to numb the area first because the needle is so big. Ugh.

Anyway, in addition to getting the vapors constantly, I’ve also put on a bunch of weight because Zoladex messes with my hormones. This is making me a very slow runner. I’m training for a 10K right now, and to say that I am frustrated with my lack of performance is an understatement. I’ve been running pretty consistently for about a month with negligible progress in both pace and distance. The race is on May 30, so I still have time, but I’m starting to get kind of concerned. I can’t even run two miles without having to stop at least twice. My bad runs far outnumber my good ones at this point. I’m not sure what to do besides just keep trudging along until things get better.

Ok, enough whining. To be honest, even though I’m not happy with my fitness right now, I’m beyond happy that I am healthy enough to run at all. Things could have turned out differently, and much worse, for me. So complaining time is now over. Until my next bad run, anyway.

PS – Did anyone watch the Boston Marathon yesterday? I had it streaming like a big (running) nerd. Watching the elite runners cross the finish line gets me every time.

Here we go again…

After I ran the Zooma Annapolis half marathon back in May, I thought I might be done with that kind of thing. The course was hard, I missed my time goal by a frustratingly small amount, and I considered just checking the half marathon box and calling it done. But, unable to leave well enough alone, I just signed up for the Richmond Half Marathon. It is technically called “The American Family Fitness Half Marathon.”  I will not be calling it that because obviously. Anyway, the race is on November 15, which means I have to get on a training plan pretty much immediately.

Truthfully, that’s one of the main reasons I signed up. If I don’t have something to motivate me to get up and work out, I tend to sleep in. Not cool. I’m also in an “embrace life” mood lately. I am physically able to run without aggressively hating it (most of the time). I get to be outside breathing air that hasn’t been recirculated by an office HVAC system. I am exposed to natural light for long periods of time. These are good things that add richness to my existence. I should do them. Also, this is a fall race, which means training will be fairly pleasant weather-wise, and the scenery from past races (via the race’s facebook page) show pretty leaves and scenery.

Leaves, y’all.

The Richmond Half is apparently pretty popular, because it is early August and there are no hotel rooms to be found. Seriously. Every hotel anywhere close to the race start is booked. Let’s just call that Future Katie’s problem.

Vacation! (and a new workout plan)

Work has been B-A-N-A-N-A-S lately, so we were so glad to finally go on vacation last week.  We went to Carmel, CA (technically Carmel-by-the-Sea, which is apparently an actual thing).  There was a lot of this:

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So. much. fog.

There was also a fair amount of this:

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Wine.  No further comment necessary.

The weather was pleasant, but much cooler than we were expecting.  We knew it would be in the 60s most of the time, which was fine, but we didn’t adequately plan for the chill caused by fog.  I told Tom I was prepared for California 60s, not Scotland 60s.  In the end, we packed enough sweaters to get by, and had a fabulous time.

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Tom’s Filson duffel.  These things are THE BEST.  Get one.  Right now.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.

Once we were back on a regular schedule again, I realized I needed to think about my workout strategy.  Since the half marathon I ran about six weeks ago, I haven’t been into running long distances.  Honestly, I haven’t been into working out at all.  I’m sure I will go back to distance running, but in the meantime, I need to mix it up.  I’ve also been on a long-standing weight loss plateau that needs to stop.  After considering many options, I’ve decided to up the intensity, but not necessarily the length, of my workouts for about three months and see how it goes.  Here’s my current plan, which is subject to modification as schedules (and sleeping in) dictate:

Monday – rest

Tuesday – run to gym (~1 mile) at a hard pace, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) leg workout, run home from gym at an easier pace

Wednesday – rest

Thursday – run to gym at hard pace, HIIT back and bicep workout, run home from gym at easy pace

Friday – run to gym at hard pace, HIIT chest-shoulder-tri workout, run home from gym at easy pace

Saturday – pilates or barre class

Sunday – some kind of “long” run or track workout

Tom designed the HIIT workouts I do, but you can find a bunch of them on the web.  The benefit of HIIT, they say, is that it is really efficient, meaning you burn more calories and fat in a shorter period of time.  You accomplish this by alternating between periods of intense activity and periods of lesser activity or rest.  I have been doing HIIT off and on for about a year, and I can attest to its transformational powers.  I certainly lost fat by running, but I’m convinced that most of the changes in how I actually looked were due to HIIT.  Each HIIT workout in my personal program takes about 30 minutes.  You can totally modify HIIT to suit what works best for you, which is another great thing about it.  The important thing is doing the intervals, not necessarily what the intervals are.  I worked in rest days on the day after my longer run, and the day after my leg workout.  That’s when I find I need the most recovery time, but again, rest days can be moved around.

Zooma Annapolis Half Marathon Race Recap

Well, y’all, I did it.  I ran my first half marathon last Saturday and didn’t die.  Not only that, I finished only two minutes over my kind of aggressive (for me) goal time of 2:30.  WIN.  The race was hard because, in addition to being the furthest distance I’ve ever run, the course was super hilly.  I knew that going in, so I was able to come up with a strategy in advance.  The strategy was to walk up the hills.  Ha!

My friend Karen ran the race with me (we ran the 10K together last year, as well).  Last year the course was poorly managed and ended up being short for both the half marathon and 10K distances.  Zooma fixed that this year, sort of, but the course was still a little confusing at points.  There was at least one time when the half marathoners had to cross over the 10K runners.  Chaos.  Also, my Garmin said the course was actually a little LONG this year.  When I crossed the finish, my watch read 13.28, not 13.1.  I’m not sure what’s up with that.

We got to the start in plenty of time to use the porta potties.  There was no line because there were about a million of them.

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Porta potty central, dead ahead.

Once that was taken care of, we wandered around for a minute and then got into our corral.  Since this was our first half, and we knew the course was challenging, we decided to line up behind the 2:30 pacer for survival, and the maximum chance for a respectable finish.

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We were in the corral in plenty of time.  It got more crowded as start time approached.

The race started right on time at 7:00 am.  It’s not a huge race so we crossed the starting line pretty quickly.  The weather was great, so we were feeling really positive.  Except for the moment before the start when I questioned my decision:

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The first few miles went just fine.  There was a mixture of sun and shade, and no major hills.  The first big incline came around mile 6.  Here we are at the top of the Naval Academy bridge.

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We were feeling pretty good at this point.  Unfortunately, there was another HUGE hill right after the bridge.  Womp womp.

We hiked up the bridge as planned.  I used the time to eat a salted caramel GU and drink some water.  Then we ran down the bridge.  Straight into another epic hill.  Sigh.  We walked up that one too, and then resumed running.  At that point, the race course entered a neighborhood with lots of trees and shrubbery.  That meant lots of shade, but also lots of pollen.  Karen had to slow down a little bit at that point due to a mild allergy situation.  I kept going, and got a second wind somewhere around mile 8.  Then I made the turn and had to go back across that dang bridge.

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Not so smiley on the return trip across the bridge.  More barf-y.

It was starting to get hot at that point, but it still wasn’t too bad.  I ate my second salted caramel GU around mile 10 or 11, which seemed to help.  Mile 12 was tough.  You’re so close, yet so far away.  I had to walk a little bit, but I don’t feel bad about it.  The race course ends on an uphill (RUDE), and that little bit of walking helped me finish strong.

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The half marathon finisher’s medal is pretty awesome.  It has glitter on it and a little life preserver charm.  So Annapolis!

I finished in 2:32:08.  I was 656 out of 910 overall, 619 out of 867 in the female group, and 121 out of 168 in my age group. The numbers don’t look that impressive, but since it was my first half marathon, I’m satisfied with them.  I passed the 2:30 pacer a couple of miles before the finish, and couldn’t even see her behind me by the end.  People who were following that pacer definitely finished over 2:30.  If I had relied on the pacer rather than my garmin, I would have been kind of mad.

I would definitely run a half again, although maybe not the Annapolis Zooma half.  The hilly course is something I really only need to do once!

It’s Taper Time

Two more days until the half marathon, which means I’m a resident of Taper Town.  This is a new experience for me, and let me tell y’all, I could get used to it.  If I understand this whole process correctly, during the taper period you don’t run very much and you eat tons of carbs.  YAY.  I just finished my last run before the race (4 miles).  I went pretty fast, but my reward is a yogurt and some chocolate milk. I haven’t had chocolate milk in about 20 years.  It’s actually kind of gross, but to be fair, I’m a milk purist.  I mean, I drink whole milk on the regular.  Anyway, it’s important to eat right after a taper run because your muscles are primed to store a bunch of glycogen.  We are having panzanella for dinner, which is just a fancy name for bread salad.  More carbs!

Tonight I really tried to remember that running is supposed to be fun, and that I’m lucky to be healthy with working legs that allow me to run.  In that spirit, I took some photos of stuff I see on my usual route through the Naval Academy campus that I often take for granted.


Wednesday night sailboat races


Docked Navy boats


Not for self, but for country


The chapel


Officer/faculty housing

New Shoes

I got an email last Friday from the organizers of the half-marathon I’m running.  It’s 4 weeks away.  !!!!!

I decided that if I was going to get a new pair of running shoes, I’d better do it now.  The number one rule of race day is: don’t do anything new on race day.  So, I went to Charm City Run here in Annapolis and tried on a couple pairs.  I run in neutral or minimal shoes.  Quick aside – if you’re new to the whole concept of minimal shoes, you need to read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.  It totally changed how I thought about running.  Amazing.   I switched to minimal shoes over a year ago, and have been injury free.  I don’t stick strictly to the barefoot philosophy, though.  For the longer half-marathon distance, I decided minimal was probably too…well…minimal.  When I run short distances, I use a barefoot shoe that just wouldn’t be right for double-digit miles.  A friend of mine wears barefoot shoes regardless of distance.  She also just came back from a brutal stress fracture in her foot.

That left neutral models.  I’ve worn Nike Frees for distances longer than about 3 miles for awhile now, and that is the pair I wanted to replace.  They’ve got a lot of miles on them and it was time.  Goodbye, old friends.

I tried on the new Nike Free 5.0s and liked them a lot.  I also tried on some Flyknits, which I thought were cool, but not right for a half-marathon (too minimal).  The 5.0s fit pretty much the same as my current Frees.

Nike Free 5.0

Nike Free 5.0

Next, I tried on a pair of Brooks Pureflows.  The Pureflow model is part of a “high tech” line Brooks has been doing.  It’s a neutral shoe like the Nike Free 5.0, but sports some additions that Brooks claims make it technologically better.  For example, Pureflows feature a “split toe.”  From what I can tell, that has no function whatsoever.  So, I guess take the marketing claims with a grain of salt.  I can say, though, that the Pureflow is extremely comfortable for a shoe with not much going on in the sole department (i.e. no cushy heel that may very well injure you).  I’d never even tried on a pair of Brooks before, much less run in them.


Brooks Pureflow

The great thing about Charm City Run is that you can try out the shoes you’re considering on a treadmill there.  I ran for a couple minutes in the Nike Frees, and then the Brooks Pureflows (having already eliminated the Flyknits).  After that, I was really torn between the two.  On the one hand, I have owned Nike Frees and know I like them.  The Nike Free 5.0s were comfortable, looked good, and felt like a safe choice.  On the other hand, the Pureflows were different from any other neutral/minimal shoe I’ve ever tried.  They felt like they had a lot of cushion without any of the weight or dangerous heel drop.  You can’t land on your heel in these no matter how hard you try.  After walking around the store for awhile, making Tom try on the boy versions, and asking a bunch of questions, I finally decided to just get both.  It seemed a little bit excessive, but I’m glad I did it.

I’ve run about 12 miles on the Pureflows so far and have zero complaints.  I plan to run in the Nike Free 5.0s tomorrow.  I expect them to feel pretty much like my old pair, but newer and better.

Easter Weekend (Running and Eating)

We had a nice, relaxing Easter weekend.  We spent some time yesterday finishing up a little project in the back yard (I use the term “yard” loosely).  I’ll post about that tomorrow.  Otherwise, we just hung out with friends, worked out, and ate.

On the workout front, I’ve started doing an hour-long spin class on Saturdays for cross-training.  I think it’s good for me, but since my long runs are on Sunday, my legs are super tired.  This Sunday was the half-way point in my training.  There is a little break in the schedule at this point, so instead of doing a long run, I did a 5K for time.  I beat my goal time by one minute, but I did not count all the times I had to stop and stretch out my calves.  Is that cheating?  Yes.  I was still pretty happy with myself because I didn’t walk at all and ran pretty fast.  I need to use the roller on my calf muscles, though, especially if I’m going to keep going to spin class.

On the eating front, I cooked more this weekend than I have in a while.  It was nice!  I made a quiche for breakfast on Easter Sunday:

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Fresh out of the oven. This is a store-bought crust, btw.  I make a lot of things, but homemade pie crust is not one of them.  It’s just not worth it to me.  Judge away.

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Immediately pre-consumption.  I was so hungry, I can’t believe I actually stopped long enough to take this picture.

For lunch, I made mushroom bruschetta with ricotta and a small arugula salad.  I fried the bread in a mixture of butter and olive oil, thereby negating any “light lunch” characteristics this would have had otherwise.  Oh well.

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To make the mushroom topping, I sliced up a container of regular button mushrooms.  Then I sauteed them in butter and oil until they were nice and brown.  I deglazed the pan with about a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.  I leave the mushrooms in the pan during this step.  They soak up the extra vinegar that doesn’t evaporate, and the released brown bits stick to the mushroom slices.  Yum.  I also added some fresh thyme, salt, and pepper.  The whole process takes about 10 minutes.  So easy.  The salad is just arugula with pine nuts and sundried tomatoes.  I dressed it with with champagne vinaigrette from Trader Joe’s.

Speaking of pine nuts, a friend of mine recently told me about something called “pine mouth.”  I’d never heard of it, but apparently you get it from eating a bad pine nut.  It totally deadens your sense of taste for weeks.  What?!  She said that pine nuts from China are the primary culprits.  If you buy pignolis from Italy, you should be okay.  She owns a specialty food store and has stopped carrying pine nuts altogether (even the Italian kind) because of this.  One of her employees got it from a random pine nut somewhere, and said it was just awful.

I also made Easter dinner but was too busy cooking, eating, and laughing to stop and take pictures of it.  Here’s what I made: hot smoked salmon with dill sauce, cheddar dill scones, roasted carrots (sans dill because enough is enough), and lemon pie.  It was a Barefoot Contessa Easter!  We did the salmon on our Big Green Egg.  They are expensive, so not for everyone, but ours has been a game-changer for us.  We keep a gas grill around for quick weeknight dinners, but the Egg is definitely a major part of our outdoor life at this point.


Half Marathon Training: Week 5 (Foam Rolling is Your Friend)

My training is going pretty well, but I’m glad I still have several weeks to go because I’m nowhere near ready to run 13.1 miles straight.  One thing that’s really helped so far came as a surprise to me: the foam roller!  To be honest, I’d seen foam rollers lying around the gym, but had never seen anyone using one.  I never thought much about them.  It’s odd in retrospect because now that I use one, I’ve noticed that they are everywhere.  Almost every corner of my gym has a foam roller in it.

The first time I used a foam roller, it had nothing to do with running.  My pilates instructor had us do some floor exercises with the roller under our spines.  It makes balancing very difficult and is a serious core workout.  Then, I signed up for this half marathon like a crazy person.  I started talking to a friend of mine who has done two half marathons in the last year.  She said the foam roller was the only thing that kept her legs functional during her training.  I watched a few YouTube videos about foam rolling and decided to give it a shot.  I wasn’t that optimistic.  I mean, it’s a hard foam cylinder.  What could it really do?

Spoiler alert: it can do A LOT.  I’d been battling some knee pain that I had misdiagnosed as “runner’s knee.”  The part of my knee under my kneecap was always really sore after I ran, and to a lesser extent, during my runs.  I’d tried stretch therapy, which helped, but it was expensive and time consuming.  Enter the foam roller.  I started rolling my legs after my runs and haven’t had knee pain since.  It turns out, one of my thigh muscles was tight and was pulling on my knee, causing the pain.  The foam roller works like a massage, getting rid of muscle tension before it starts.  Genius.  There are many, many videos about foam rolling for runners out there.  I generally follow the moves shown in this one over on the great blog

Use a foam roller.  It may be the one thing that changes everything for your running.  It was for me!

Half Marathon: Week 2

Well, it’s week 2 of my training program.  Since there’s nothing worth discussing about my running (sigh), we may as well talk about fuel.  I’ve recently begun experimenting with Clif Shot Bloks.


They purport to be “a streamlined approach to performance nutrition.”  The list of ingredients is…alarming.  Shot Bloks are essentially gelatinized sugar and artificial colorings coated in carnuba wax.  Some of them have caffeine, too.  They are pretty much every responsible eater’s worst nightmare.  On the bright side, they’re non-fat!  And organic!  Also, y’all, they taste AMAZING.  So far I’ve tried the strawberry and margarita flavors.  I typically chew a blok or two somewhere around mile 3 or 4.  I’ve observed at least two benefits from this.  First, it gives me something to do for a few seconds to take my mind off what a mistake signing up for this half marathon was.  Second, I really do feel a little peppier after I’ve eaten them.  Placebo?  Possibly.  Will I keep eating them?  Definitely.

Half Marathon: Week 1

Y’all, I forgot myself for a minute and signed up for a half marathon.  WHAT?

I have been running pretty regularly for about a year now, but have never run anything close to 13.1 miles.  Just typing that gives me heart palpitations.  I started training this week and it’s going…okay.  I’m still really slow but trying to improve.  I’m using the Hal Higdon program, which I like so far.  I’m also planning to continue my pilates and barre classes on the weekends for cross training, but we’ll see how that goes once I have to start running for hours on Sundays.  My training plan also includes eating every piece of food in sight, apparently.  Sigh.

The photo above is from the same race last year.  My friend Karen and I did the 10K while Amanda did the half.  Tom took this pre-race so I have no idea why we are so shiny.  I convinced Karen to run the half this year.  We talk pretty much every day about how worried we are that we’ll end up needing to lie down on the side of the road long before the finish.