Friday, April 4, 2014

Friday Five: Training favorites

We made it!  The first Friday in April... and I couldn't even manage to show up for work.  Way to start the month off on the right foot, huh?

Lest you think I'm some kind of delinquent, I actually requested today off nearly two months ago.  My mom's turning 65 (!) on Sunday, and I've planned an entire day of fun surprises for her around the city.  The first arrived at my parents' house last night -- my grandma! -- who will be celebrating with us all weekend.  I hear my mom was quite surprised, which we consider a major victory since she's easily the most observant (and hard to surprise) member of our family.  No more details since she reads this (hi, Mom!), so I'll just say we're going to have a fabulous day! :)

Speaking of long-term planning, you know what else is just around the corner?  (One month from today to be exact.)  The Pittsburgh half marathon!  It will be my second half, and I feel so much more prepared this time.  The biggest lesson I learned during training was that one size doesn't fit all, so I tweaked and adjusted my plan until I found the magic formula for me.

If you're considering signing up for a half marathon, lacing up for your first 5K, or just psyched to start running outside as the weather gets nicer, today's Friday Five list is right up your alley.  Here are some of my favorite training essentials.  Happy trails & happy weekend, friends!

1. Really good socks - I'm normally a cotton-wearing gal, but longer runs require fabrics with more bells and whistles.  I was looking for socks that kept my feet (relatively) dry and blister-free.  It's mind-boggling (wrote "blogging") how advanced sock technology is these days!  Thankfully, I found socks made of moisture-wicking wool blends with elastic support bands around the arches and no-slip tabs on the back of the heels... and they are a dream!  Happy feet at last.  I recommend Ballega and Smart Wool for serious running socks.  Target's C9 brand also makes great performance socks at a smaller price tag.

2. Clif Shot Bloks - I was really resistant to mid-run fueling and put it off for as long as possible.  Once my runs reached 10 miles and beyond, I started playing with various gels and chews.  I'm still on the fence about the gels -- gross aftertaste -- but these energy chews have made me a believer.  They basically taste like fruit snacks, which are delicious! 

3. Post-run smoothies - It might seem hard to believe, but I'm not particularly hungry after 2 hours of running.  Even more surprising is that I don't eat anything in the morning before running.  I love breakfast, but I find I run better on an empty stomach with the last food I've eaten was the previous night's dinner.  By the time I finish, I've gone nearly 15 hours without real food.  Whether I want to or not, fueling is super important for recovery and it needs to happen quickly.  Cold and refreshing smoothies have been a godsend these past few months!  My current favorite is the purple monster a.k.a. blueberry banana with a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder for a chocolate boost.

4. Naps - My mom will tell you that I never napped as a child.  Never.  According to her, my sister regularly took naps every day until the first grade, but she "wasn't so lucky" with me.  Now, almost 25 years later, I can proudly say I've finally learned how to nap.  Regardless of where I am and what I'm doing, I get super sleepy in the early afternoon on days of my long runs.  I tried to fight it at first but finally gave in and started taking naps.  Up to (but no longer than) 45 minutes later, I wake up feeling refreshed and ready to enjoy the rest of the day.  Naps rule!

5. Beef - The burger bonanza that I mentioned a few weeks ago is really indicative of a bigger trend.  Give me beef or give me death!  I don't know what it is, but I physically crave it, especially the day after a longer run.  Recent Saturday dinners include shepherd's pie, burgers, beef & tomato soup, and flank stank tacos.  All beef, all the time!  I've also noticed that I'm not as sore the next day if I've eaten red meat.  Check out some of the delicious beef recipes I've got on the blog.  P.S. I've already got my post-race meal planned: Burgatory, baby!

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