Monday, December 17, 2007

Snow Play

video

Just when I thought we had the fourth and final storm in December, we got hit with another one Friday-Sunday. But this time, the snow was just beautiful. It was the kind of snow storm I use to sit up late and watch as a child, counting down the minutes until I could go out and play in it. Snow angels were my favorite, especially in fluffy white snow. We use to play for hours making forts, snow ball fights and sledding down hills. Now I understand why we were fit kids. We played in the snow rather than complaining about it:)

I went for a run on the plowed and salted roads Sunday after all the snow had fallen and came across Cricket Hill. It is the only hill in Chicago and THE place to be after a significant snow fall. I stopped, took this video and just smiled watching the kids laughing, the adults smiling, and the dogs jumping in excitement.

I finished up my 6 miler and promised myself that next time I would "play" in the snow rather than run around it. I will break out the snow shoes, hit the trails and reap the benefits of a classic Chicago winter storm.

Happy Trails,

Jenny

Monday, December 10, 2007

Plan B, C, and D...


Well, it's been one of those weeks in Chicago. We went from rather nice running weather in the 30-40s to sleet, snow, and cold. Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining about that but what I am whining about is it all came in one week! We are on our fourth weather storm warning in less than 10 days! And all at the time when I had to get in my 18 miler.

So, I modified, tweaked and practically duct taped my long run plans. First I was going to run it on Wednesday and take a cab north to Lake Forest which is about 18 miles from my home and then run home, but the snow started and it would have been nasty. Then I was going to run it Friday and run loops on the lakefront path but by that time the ice and snow hit and the path was nasty. I scheduled it confidently for Sunday morning as my schedule was clear and surely by then the weather would pass, right? Nope. We had an ice storm all day and the streets and paths were slippy.

So I decided to get it in on Saturday. I ran 8 miles as I coached with my training team Chicago Endurance Sports and then headed back out and finished the next 10 miles. I was dreading it because the path was sort of plowed but still had a significant amount of snow and ice and it takes so much more energy to run on that stuff. It turned out to be a good run even though the conditions were still slippy. The sun was out which was a gift and the winds were relatively calm.

So, the moral of the story is to have several plans and routes in your pocket for winter running. You never know what is coming and it pays to have a lot of choices in your pocket.

Happy Trails,

Jenny

While I was

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Running And Giving













I'm just back from Randleman, North Carolina where we [John Bingham Racing] hosted the second Annual Run to Victory Half Marathon and 5 Miler. The race benefits Pattie & Kyle Petty's [NASCAR] Victory Junction Gang Camp. The Victory Junction Gang Camp enriches the lives of children with chronic medical conditions or serious illnesses by providing life-changing camping experiences that are exciting, fun, and empowering, in a safe and medically sound environment. It truly is a magical place for the kids.

The first time I set foot on the camp I felt the positive energy. It is hard to describe but you just feel so darn good when you're there. The kids are having fun and you can "feel" it unveiling the layers of happiness inside. Last year we had about 600 run the race and raised $65,000. This year John set the goal to reach $100,000 and we not only reached his goal, but it came in well over $120,000.00! Thanks to all who supported the event and the camp. It is truly a wonderful opportunity for runners to run a tough and challenging hilly course all for a great cause! For those of you who are looking to Run and Give at a fantastic feel-good half marathon or 5 miler next year, put Sunday, December 7th, 2008 on your calendars.

Happy Trails,

Jenny

Monday, November 26, 2007

It's been a long time since I've had such a perfect holiday weekend. There have been countless wonderful "parts" of holidays but never a perfect 10. From start to finish it was a wonderful blend of family, friends, running and relaxation.

It started with running the Turkey Trot in Chicago, a tradition that goes way back in my running years. We met up with our good friends Shari, Tom and Jill and headed to the start line. It was the first REAL cold day in Chicago with snow and wind and I welcomed it because I knew for the first time this season I wouldn't be overdressed:) We hugged, took our places in line (we all run at various paces) and reminded each other of the true goal at the finish...get to Shari and Tom's to warm up, celebrate and enjoy lox and bagels.

I ended up having a great race and pushed harder than I thought I would. The first 1.5 miles is important to push because it is on a wide road which then narrows to a path that can only handle 3-4 people across. Once on the path you are pretty much stuck with what you have... So, I pushed hard, felt great and passed a number of people...except for the girl in the boxer shorts. She was with me the entire race. We were exchanging places back and forth, she would pass me and then I would pass her. So, I used the little wisdom I've developed in the 40 years on this planet and sat on her shoulder for a few minutes until the last half mile and then took off. Feeling over confident and proud of my tactics I launched my finish line push and then got "the Tap." Its been a very long time since I felt the tap and I must admit it was the perfect strategy. The Boxer short girl tapped my shoulder. I looked back and she went flying right through so quickly I had no idea she passed and beat me to the finish line until it was all over. Brilliant. My competitive spirit was even proud of her! It was a fun day of running and one that I will remember for ever. I was grateful for a strong race and to share the morning with my wonderful friends. Life is good.


My brother and I ran a great 16 miler Friday. It was a personal record for him and the longest he's ever run in the history of Scott Hadfield! We set out from the north end of the Chicago Lakefront Path and ran south 16 miles to the 63rd Street Beach House. My husband John (the Penguin) crewed for us along the way which made things easier. A perfect way to get a long run in and see the beautiful Chicago lakefront too. I am super proud of him and can't wait to run the Disney Marathon with him in January.



I hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend.

Happy Trails,

Jenny

Monday, November 19, 2007

Turkey Trotting And Other Seasonal Thoughts...

I am sure for many of you the start of the winter running season begins when it snows or in December at the Winter Solstice. That makes perfect sense. For me, Winter running always kicks off with racing the local Chicago Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning.

It starts at 9am so there is plenty of time to sleep in and still get to the start. It is an 8K and plenty of miles (and Ks) to tackle before grazing those wonderful turkey day treats. But most of all, its a great way to socialize with the runners in the community and wish them a happy holiday. I consider the running community an extension of my family (the part that doesn't think I'm crazy for running!).

I look forward to this day almost as much as I look forward to the official start of the Spring running season (Shamrock Shuffle). On the surface, Winter running sounds just awful, but after a hot and humid Summer it sure is a treat to run in the cold temperatures. There is an honesty to running through Winter. The cold blustery days teach me exactly how strong or weak I am in my running phases and reminds me of the importance of mental strength.

There is also a solitude about running in the Winter. There are rarely other runners out there and in most cases its just me, the cool, crisp weather and the sound of my feet hitting the ground. It is a great way to defrag from the high intensity of the Summer season and run easy for a few months.

Like the change of seasons, our bodies need phases of training. It makes for an interesting and motivating year of running but it also allows our bodies to rest, train, perform at peak levels. So, as the leaves fall off the trees and I begin to set out my Winter apparel for the new season's workouts, I look forward to a fresh phase of running and one that will help me recover from the magnificent year I've had. Have a wonderful holiday weekend.

Happy Trails,

Jenny

Monday, November 12, 2007

Creative Long Runs

I am getting up in miles for my long training runs in preparation for the Disney Marathon. Although I am running the race with my brother, he lives in St. Louis so we aren't able to train together. I had to run 15 miles Friday and I just couldn't motivate myself to run along the lakefront path in Chicago. It is a great place to train as it runs 18 miles along the beautiful lakefront, but it is where I coach year-round and I am just plain burnt out on the course.

So, when the motivation and scenery is lacking, I add an element of adventure to spice things up. I decided to run home from the north shore. I mapped it out on the USATF map routing website and calculated where 15 miles north of our home is. Then had my husband John drop me off and ran home! It is my favorite way to get in a long run because every step brings you closer to your goal (home) and it includes a few great hills which are lacking in the city.

As I ran my way south towards the city, I navigated to find side streets with less traffic and quiet streets. It was a beautiful fall day and there was a nice tail wind to push me forward. Mixing up your terrain is the easiest way to bring new energy and excitement to your runs. Especially when you are running long...

My next long run I hope to run with my brother Thanksgiving weekend. It will give us a chance to catch up and learn each other's pace. It will be a 16 miler, and another good opportunity to run point to point. But this time I may have John drop us off on the south end of the lakefront path and run 16 of the 18 miles north to show off our beautiful city.

Happy Trails,

Jenny

Monday, November 05, 2007

Soapbox Blog

Excuse me while I get up on my soapbox...

Over the weekend a friend sent me this blog post on salon.com. You can read it by clicking on blog post in the last sentence. But beware, feelings of anger and thoughts of throwing something across the room may happen. :)

The Cliff Notes version is he writes about how Oprah, the Penguin and all the slower runners have wrecked the competitive spirit. He writes:

"With all these runners, and all this technology, you'd think America would be turning out faster and faster marathoners. Instead, the opposite is happening. The more we run marathons, the slower we get -- an average of 45 minutes slower over the last 25 years. Ryan Hall is the swiftest American-born marathoner ever. His best race isn't in the top 250 of all time."

He must not have done his homework when he wrote this blog on Friday because Ryan Hall beat the Marathon Trials record from the early 80s with an outstanding 2:09:02 on a very challenging, hilly Central Park course. And it was only his third marathon ever. That, and the top three men (Dathan Ritzenhein and Brian Sell) a spot on the Olympic Marathon Team are training on "Teams"sponsored by Nike, Brooks/Saturn, and Asics. These companies are investing in developing elite US marathon runners BECAUSE of the masses. And it is working.

He also fails to mention Deana Kastor who broke the American Marathon record and won a bronze medal in Athens. Little does he know that the elite runners are getting stronger because of the masses of mortal runners toeing the line at marathons. The elite runners are also the first ones to encourage mortals to run. They are by no means negatively affected by the slower runners. The larger the race, the larger the prize purse and sponsorship. Runners fast and not-so-fast contribute to their winnings.

It also hit a cord with me because he blames Oprah and the Penguin, who just happens to be my loving husband. I don't know Oprah but I love who she is and what she's done. Her marathon was all about transformation in her own life. And she ran it in a very respectable time too. John has spent the better part of 12 years motivating inactive people to get active and discover the runner within. With obesity creeping up to being the most deadly disease in the nation, getting people active is a very good thing.

And yes, the average finish times are slower than they were 20 years ago, but there were a mere 1,000 or fewer runners in marathons then too. The times are slower because there are 30,000 runners not 1,000! It simple math. Not to mention, had the author tried to run a marathon 20 years ago, he would have been in the back of the pack. Which is the group he is blaming for the dumming down of the sport. Speed is relative. Anyone who doesn't win the race is slow in a race. We're all slow so how can a 3:45ish marathon runner call a 4:30 marathon runner slow????

Today's runners fast and slow are motivating tomorrow's champions. The sons, daughters and even grand kids are watching their parents finish the race and that not only motivates them to run it also gives them permission to try. Life is short. Get out there and run, cycle, and be fit. And never let anyone tell you that you can't. Because being a marathoner is not about how fast you get to the finish, it is about having the tenacity to train, prepare and gather up the courage to show up at the start line. If you happen to run a faster time that is a bonus.

Getting down off my soapbox and going for a slow run...

Jenny

Monday, October 29, 2007

My Next Adventure

It was a beautiful weekend in Chicago. The weather was finally cool and crisp and perfect for a long run. We just launched our Winter Warriors program with a record sell out crowd and it is nice to be back on the trail this time of year. The path is peaceful, the weather is perfect and there are hundreds of new runners all training for their first half marathon. There is nothing like your first...

Speaking of firsts, my brother Scott has decided to train for his first marathon this year. I am speaking at the Disney Marathon this year and the family is coming too! He is doing very well with his training and we're going to run the race together in January. Funny, the last time we exercised together we were pretending we were professional football players in the backyard. Seems like just yesterday. We even had the black lines under our eyes for authenticity.

Anyway, I am proud of him for taking the challenge and excited to run with him. Disney is a very special place for our family. My mom and dad use to drive us down from Chicago to Orlando in the Spring and it was always an adventure. Funny how life comes full circle. Although we won't be driving this time, it will definitely be a great adventure. And one that will bring back all those magical childhood memories. I can't think of a better place for him to run his first marathon.

Happy Trails,

Jenny

Monday, October 22, 2007

Recovering at 40...

It is one week and a day post Ultra Marathon, and I am still sore. Typically, post marathon the soreness subsides in 3-4 days and the healing gradually happens over three weeks or so. I ran a short run on Friday and was surprised my right quad cramped up in the middle of the run. That, and I was walking like Frankenstein until Thursday which is timely because of Halloween. It worked out nicely...

I think I am recovering more slowly for a few reasons. A, I used a lateral stepping motion while racing up the steep trail hills in the Ultra Marathon. I hadn't done that step since Eco-Challenge and although my body knew how to do it, my muscles were a little taken back. They went along with it in the race but let me know they weren't happy with me after the race.

And two, I am simply getting older and it takes longer to recover when we age. I haven't really raced hard in a few years so I haven't noticed my aging body's demand for extra TLC, but I am listening and learning.

The good thing is there is an element of wisdom that comes with age that has taught me to listen and modify my training. I remember in the adventure racing world many of the athletes were in their 40-50s and would kick the butts of the whipper snappers on the course. They trained just enough and not too much and used their wisdom to outwit and out smart.

So as I learn what its like to train and race in my 40s, I will lean more heavily on my wit and wisdom and less on my quads.

Happy Trails,

Jenny

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Fire Inside

Just back from Greenbush, Wisconsin and my very first Ultra-Marathon race, the Glacier 50K. I can honestly say I had no idea what to expect. Although I've run trails and competed in lots of races, I just didn't know how my body and mind would do Sunday. It's been a few years since I've "raced" an event and I was beginning to think I didn't have the "fire" inside me.



Well, I had enough fire to start a small forest fire Sunday. From start to finish it was a magical day and those don't happen very often. The drive up to Greenbush, Wisconsin was beautiful as the leaves are at their peak and fall is my favorite season. The weather was cool and rainy and the temps never rose above 50 degrees all day. A true gift after the 80-90 heat all month.


The race was an intimate experience and reminded me of the first few adventure races I did. About 100 runners towed the line at the start and I positioned myself cautiously at the back of the bubble. We hung out in the Greenbush Fire Dept until a few minutes before the start and then walked out a few hundred yards to the start. Another gift...We had about a half mile down the road and then hit the Ice Age Trail. A rugged single track trail with rocks and roots all under the cover of the leaves.

I took it out really slowly to make sure I finished and did so with a smile on my face rather than cramps in my quads. I was surprised at how "friendly" the runners were and listened to them chat for the first few miles. I met a runner with a picture on his back [pictured here] and asked him who she was.

"My running partner of 12 years," he said. He went on to tell me all they had done together and how she was in her fourth round of chemo for breast cancer. For me, it really put perspective on the day. I thought of my dad, who we lost last year from a brain tumor and his journey. It was the first time I could talk about him without falling into sadness. The miles went by as we discussed her spirit and the hope to some day find a cure for all cancers. My dad was with me every step...

As I reached 15.5 miles and the half-way turn around point many of the lead runners were coming back on the trail. The course is set up as an out-and-back. The competitor inside me [that fire I was referring to] starting tapping on my shoulder. "I know you are out here to finish, but if you push a little harder you can pass some of these nice runners." The first half of the race was all about conservation in the hopes of finishing and as I passed the half-way mark, the race became all about picking off runners [nicely] along the trail.

As the course rolled up and down [and up and down], the rocks seemed to multiply and the hills grew steeper [this is the elevation chart for the race].
I didn't remember that many rocks on the way out! It started raining and it quickly became more difficult to navigate over the slippery roots and rocks. My mind was growing tired of looking for the next spot to place my foot. One false step on a rock or root and you're down on your face. In fact, falling is a big part of ultra-running, especially as you fatigue.

Surprisingly, I was able to pass a few runners as I counted down the miles and then something [the fire] kicked in. The song "The Fire Inside" from Bob Seger came on my ipod and all hell broke loose. It is one of those songs that motivates me to leap tall buildings [or rocks in this case] in a single bound. My arms started moving faster and my legs followed. I passed a hiker with a cute dog and he yelled out, hey, you have about 7 runners just ahead if you push you can catch them. That is like telling me, hey, there is a sale going on at my favorite store and if you get there early enough you'll hit all the good stuff! I kept hitting the repeat button on my ipod and kept passing runners. What a high! As I finished up running my fastest mile of the race, I saw three men and a truck [the finish] and couldn't believe it was over already. Don't get me wrong, I was ready for it to be over at about mile 25.

It was a great race and a breaking moment in my life.
I've been stuck in a fog the past few years dealing with the loss of my father, grandmother and dog. Running this race cleared the fog and unveiled the trail ahead.

Getting off the beaten path unleashed the fire inside and for that, I am grateful.

Happy Trails,

Jenny

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Doomsday Scenario


Unless you've been on a week long expedition in the wilds of the outback, I'm sure you've heard about the Chicago Marathon. We [Chicago Endurance Sports] had over 400 runners participating in the event and for me, it was like letting your kids go play in the middle of Death Valley in July. I couldn't help but be concerned for everyone. Outside the troubles with fluid on the course, it was an absolute brutal day to run a marathon. 70 degrees is considered hot for a marathon and running a marathon is hard enough without the heat. It was 88 degrees, 90% humidity! The only way you can get through it is to throw out your plan A, B, and C, and go with the Doomsday Scenario. That may sound negative, but running the marathon Sunday was all about surviving the heat. And our runners did just that.

They carried their water bottles, they brought money just in case and they slowed their pace. I am pretty darn proud of them. Although they are quite disappointed they didn't finish 26.2 miles [some did], they did finish the event on the day. Although it wasn't a traditional race, it WAS a marathon of an event.

So for those who ran or attempted to run the Chicago Marathon just remember this...

A marathoner is not made in a day.

A marathoner is made like a fine wine.

From long runs on the weekends and fartleks during the week.

From weeks and months of preparation and early Friday nights.

You were all aged to perfection and ready to run.

What makes a runner a marathoner is the will to prepare and the courage to show up on race day.

Hold your head high. There are plenty of marathons to tackle.

Happy Trails,

Jenny

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Running Canada


Just back from a fabulously fun trip to Toronto. John and I were speaking at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon and we turned it into a fun adventure.

We had a little extra time on our hands and decided to take advantage and ride our motorcycles to Toronto. We took it easy and broke it into two days and stayed with our running friends Therese and Gary Grondin in Michigan. BTW, T, good luck this week in Maine!

We hit Toronto Thursday night, enjoyed dinner with our friend and owner of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Alan Brookes [pictured: John, Me and Alan] and settled in for race weekend. It is a lovely race that is flat and fast. So fast in fact the Canadian marathon record was shattered! A record that held for 31 years! The women's course record was also broken and you'll be amazed to read the "juggling while marathoning" Guinness World Record was broken too! Can you imagine running a 2:50:13 while juggling? I can't even imagine doing one at a time!

I ran the half as a training run for the ultra next week and had a great day. There is nothing like getting into your tempo and feeling strong on a great course on a great day!

This week is the Chicago Marathon. Chicago Endurance Sports has over 400 marathoners running on Sunday. Can't wait to cheer them on!

Happy Trails,

Jenny

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Beloved Bite Me Zone

John and I have a loving description for those runs that really, well, um, urgh, SUCK! The runs that humble. The runs that make you feel less than. The runs that slow you down so much you think you are running backwards. We call these runs "Bite Me Zone" Runs. Because, well, you are in the Bite Me Zone some, if not all of the time.

I was running my last long 21 miler for the Ultra Saturday afternoon and I knew from the very first step it was going to be a tough one. I was tired from a 12-hour motorcycle ride we took Friday and felt as if my legs were not attached to my body the entire time. I think it was due to the fatigue from the ride, but who knows. I had to get it in Saturday, so I took my time and made the best of it.

One might think you would stop running after an episode like this one, but I think these runs help me more on race day than the easy runs do. I had to mentally run through Saturday's long run. I couldn't rely on just my body and tuning out to my iPod. I had to think my way through. And that is a gift I will take advantage of on race day in a few weeks. With or without the Bite Me Zone.

Happy Trails,

Jenny

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Chafing from hell...

The weather is cool and crisp in Chicago this week and that means two things. One, running is a lot easier and my pace is faster without the heat and humidity. And two, the risk for chafing is much, much higher [much].

I was right in the middle of a phenomenal two hour trail run Friday afternoon when my legs started to rub like they were going to start a forest fire. The risk for chafing in cool, dry weather is much higher than the hot and humid weather because your sweat evaporates more readily and leaves a salty residue on your skin. Which in time, rubs like sandpaper and causes nasty chafing. I forgot to put on Bodyglide and I won't do that again any time soon!

There was nothing I could do...I tried water from my bottle, spit, moving my shorts around, and running on one leg with my eyes closed. I was stuck and had to run another hour back to the car while working up a chafing tattoo the size of a small car.

Despite not being able to walk normally all weekend, I had a great run. I am getting stronger on the trails and ready for my Ultra in October.

In my world it is officially fall as I enjoyed my first of many carmel apples last night.

Life is good.

Jenny

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Goofy Training

This one goes out to all those crazy runners who are starting to train for The Goofy Race and a Half Challenge in January. I ran the Goofy Challenge in 2006 and it really sounds "Goofy", but I must admit I had a ball training for it and even more fun running it!

The Goofy Challenge is a half marathon Saturday and a marathon Sunday! The best part though is the two tech shirts and the three medals you earn. You get a Donald Duck medal for the half, a Mickey Mouse medal for the full and a Goofy medal for running both in one weekend! It's all about the medal, isn't it?

I've created special Goofy Training Programs since I've gotten so many emails asking about how the heck do you train for this thing. You can find them HERE.

Sure its crazy to run a half and full in the same weekend...but aren't we all a little Goofy anyway?!?

Good luck and I will see you in January at Disney!

Jenny

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Running Into Fall

This is my favorite time of year to run and one of my favorite ways to close out the summer is at the Virginia Beach Rock n Roll Half Marathon. Every summer John and I spend the long holiday weekend working the event and it is always a treat! If you're in the market for a fun half marathon next year, put this one on your list. It is flat, includes a band every mile and the last two miles finish along the beach boardwalk. There is a music festival along the boardwalk and plenty of things to do. The headliner Beach Concert a few years ago was Journey [my favorite high school band]. Am I dating myself? The medal is pretty cool too!

I had a bonus day Sunday. I ran on the beach, hung out and caught a few rays and watched the wind surfers [amazing]. Funny, I'm always ready for fall after Labor Day Weekend. But that is what is so great about being a runner. We get to run right through all the seasons and experience them one step at a time.

Here's to carmel apples and colorful foliage!

Jenny

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Big Miles

This time of year for long distance runners is what I can the Big Weeks. The Big Weeks are when our running mileage is at is longest and where the training is at its peak. And sometimes it is when I get a little cramby [or my family would say "crabbier than normal].

I ran a long trail run Thursday on a local trail. All in all it went well although it was very warm and humid. My body is acclimated to the heat, but I just can't keep up with the hydration on days like this. I finished looking like a wet dog.

I have a theory about long runs...there is always one and sometime two of the super long runs that are really challenging. My theory is that it happens to make sure we don't get too cocky about our training. A humble pie run has a way with making you respect the distance and prepare fully for race day. Ultimately, it is a good thing. It keeps me from dancing on tables the night before the race.

Happy Trails,

Jenny

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Lucky Duck

I was probably all of six or seven years old when I started organizing events. Big Wheel races down the block, hand stand contests, and of course the "who can ride their bike the longest with no hands" competition. So, as I stood next to my husband John Bingham at the start of the 2007 LaSalle Bank Chicago Distance Classic Half Marathon Sunday I was in tears.

It brought me back to what I love the most - movement and a great challenge with a few neighborhood friends. John bought the race in 2002 when there were about 2,000 runners and we've gradually built it up to over 11,800 - thanks to the wonderful Chicago running community.

I feel blessed to be able to do what I loved as a kid, share that with my husband and all the wonderful people we meet at the races. Thanks to all who have contributed to the success of this event.

Life is good.

Jenny

Monday, August 06, 2007

Tail of the Dragon

This One's For Sam...

It's been a wild and crazy few weeks. John and I took a week and rode our motorcycles out east to DC to see the grandkids [yes, I am a "grammy"], then off to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway. I just learned how to ride 2 years ago and absolutely fell in love with it. Perhaps it was due to my scootering days? I don't know...

Every summer I set out to try something "hard". That is, something that is outside my comfort zone. Two years ago it was learning to ride a motorcycle. Last year it was - hmmm, well I must have skipped last year. This year it was riding the Tail of the Dragon. The nation's best and most dangerous motorcycling road. 318 turns in 11 miles through the Great Smoky Mountains in NC and TN. The bonus is there is a tourist shop at the end so you can shop! Shirts like "I slayed the Dragon", Dragon Slayer... you get the point. Well, we didn't exactly "Slay" the Dragon but we sure got through it a few times. And we have the swag to prove it!

It's been a great summer and it's not even over yet. Who knows what next summer will bring. Right now, I'm just enjoying my Dragon Slayer shirt, pin, patch, stickers and of course my bragging rights. I believe they last for 318 days.

This blog goes out to a good friend and Chicago Endurance Sports runner, Sam Nelson. He is resting comfortably after heart surgery today. Sam, I'm counting the days until we can share the trails again. Get better soon...

Jenny

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

On the dotted line...

Well, I did it. I committed to running my first Ultra-Marathon, the Glacial Trail 50K in October. It's been awhile since I've had the energy or time to train and dedicate myself to a race but there is no time like the present. I've gotten in a few strong long trail runs and can't wait to hit the course in the fall. It feels so good to be focused on a race again.

Truth is, I've been wanting to run an Ultra since my adventure racing years. I am more drawn to the serenity of the woods and the intrigue of a winding trail. Every turn makes me wonder what comes next.

John and I are heading on vacation next week on the Kyle Petty Charity Motorcycle Ride. I just recently learned how to ride a motorcycle (2 years ago) and absolutely love it! Perhaps it was from all those summer days as a kid testing the limits on my Schwinn, or that shiny red scooter I rode in high school... either way, I still can't believe I love to ride. It just goes to show you, life is like a trail, you never know what is around the next corner.

Happy Trails,

Jenny

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Dreaded ITB Syndrome

ITB (Iliotibial Band) tightness is a common running injury among all levels of runners. The ITB is a band of tissue that runs from the gluteus down to the outside of the lower leg just beneath the knee. It's main role is to extend the leg and stabilize the leg while you run. It can be caused from overuse or drastic changes in training, inflexibility, worn out shoes or shoes that don't support your feet, cambered roads, and muscle imbalances. Signs and symptoms include pain on the outside of the knee or hip.

How to get back to running after ITB Syndrome:

* If pain exists, decrease your running mileage, cross-train or rest to reduce the risk of further irritation. Ice the area and review your running program for drastic increases in intensity, mileage or terrain changes. Try to identify what caused the pain to avoid it from happening again.

* ITB can be due to having weak gluteal and knee stabilizing muscles and muscle tightness. Incorporate total body strength and flexibility exercises - emphasizing your core, upper and lower body at least three times per week. Building balanced strength and flexibility will not only prevent ITB it will also improve your running form and efficiency. You will be more successful in your journey back to running if you properly address specific weaknesses and muscle imbalances.

* Gradually get back to running by testing the waters first. Doing too much too soon can increase the time of recovery. After a 5-minute walking warm-up, run a few 30-40 second easy paced sprints on even terrain and walk back to recover between each one. If you have pain, continue to rehab and rest. If not, continue with the next step.

* Warm up walking briskly for 5 minutes. Run at an easy pace for 20-25 minutes and finish with a 5-minute walking cool down and flexibility exercises. Repeat this running workout on alternate days [i.e. M-W-F] 4-5 times. Cross-train on the days in between to maintain your cardiovascular fitness. If there is no pain present before, during or after the run add 10 minutes to the run next time.

* Gradually add minutes to your runs as your body allows. Every time you increase minutes hold what you have for 3-5 more running sessions until you reach your normal running regimen. This will avoid risk for re-injury and doing too much too soon. Alternate your run days with either rest or cross-training for the first four weeks back to running.

* Avoid adding speed or hill workouts until you are symptom free for at least 6 weeks and have rebuilt an adequate base of mileage.

* If pain returns, take 3-4 days off, continue to focus on cross-training, strengthening and flexibility and try, try again. Your body will recover and be stronger and less likely to develop ITB again.

* Be cautious about running on tracks, down hills and on crowned and uneven surfaces as it can contribute to ITB. All of these can contribute to developing ITB. Running on softer surfaces is more fore giving on the body and may be an easier for the transition back to running.

* Perform self massage/release techniques with a foam roll or The Stick to help release the tight tissue and decrease tension on the band. If possible, schedule a deep tissue/friction massage biweekly or monthly.

* Practice patience and go perform each workout with a goal in mind. If you're wise, every run will be one step closer to a complete and successful return. You may be surprised...and turn a negative into a positive and come back much stronger!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I love it when my body adapts

It happens every summer. We go from winter to summer in a matter a days and I find myself feeling just crummy during my hot weather runs. I've really been struggling the past two weeks running as it's been pretty darn warm for June in Chicago.

I keep repeating the hot weather mantra to remind myself that my body needs time to acclimate and adapt to running in the heat. It is very much like acclimating to the altitude, only it involves the body cooling itself rather than learning to function with less oxygen. It's plain and simple. My body simply needs to make friends with summer.

Well, today I am happy to report I bonded with Summer. I ran in 82 degree heat, which doesn't sound bad until you include the humidity at 90%! It was hot and I was happy. Not only was I able to run, but I ran a pretty descent Tempo pace too. Giddyup!

So my friends, if you are struggling with running in the heat and humidity take note...your body will adapt after about 2 weeks of running in warmer conditions. It will only do so if you are outdoors running in it and allowing your body to get really efficient at cooling the body. Until it does, take it slow and easy and repeat my mantra. "Slow and steady until my body makes friends with the heat."

For more on learning to run in the heat visit my blog on Runnersworld.com
Happy Trails,

Coach Jenny

Friday, June 15, 2007

Cicada Madness


Okay, I promise this will be my last mention of cicadas for a few more decades. I can't help but be completely amazed at these exotic-alien like insects that grace us with their presence once every 17 years. For those that aren't in the midwest, the cicadas are insects with big red eyes on the side of their heads and transluscent wings. At first they are scary looking and then you kind of warm up to them (at least I did). They are one of the most widely recognized of all insects, mainly due to their large size and remarkable (and often inescapable) acoustic talents.

I have been on the trail all week mountain biking and running to the symphony of the cicadas. It is so loud, I couldn't even hear my ipod so I turned it off and just took it all in. What a gift. I can't remember the last time they were here, but I know I will remember this time because I was doing something I love.

The truly amazing part to me is they only live for a few weeks. Trillions of cicadas live underground sucking the sap off trees for 17 years. They hatch and emerge out of the ground for only a few weeks. They climb up trees and transform themselves from nymphs to adults. The next few weeks of their lives are focused on their sole purpose - to reproduce. The males sing in chorus and the males and females take flight "to get to know one another better". The females lay their eggs in tree branches and then they die. The eggs hatch and the babies fall from the trees and burrow into the ground, not to be seen again for another 17 years.

I can't help but think life is short and you have to live like a cicada and make the most of the time you have here. I never thought a trail run with insects could be so profound, but I guess that is really what it is all about... Oh, and if you want to watch a cool video about it click HERE.

Happy Trails,

Jenny

NEW! Read the new "Ask Coach Jenny" blog on Runnersworld.com

Monday, June 11, 2007

Happy Trails

It has been awhile since my last post. I finished up a long spring of travel and just needed some defrag time on the laptop. Thanks for your patience.

The good news is I have been catching up on my trail runs and feeling like I have a strong base again. Travel is tough on the running schedule. You can still run, but the quality is not the same. I am happy to be back in the saddle again.

Around here the big news is the cecadas. They are insects that come around every 17 years to reproduce and lay their eggs. You can see them everywhere and hear them too! It makes me think about the last time I saw them. I was 23 and just starting my running career... that made me feel pretty darn good - I've been a runner for 17 years. I never thought I could be a runner. It just goes to show you, never say never. The view is much better when I'm running. Life is good.

Happy Trails,

Coach Jenny

NEW! Read the new "Ask Coach Jenny" blog on Runnersworld.com

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

40 Years...


Well, today is my 40th birthday. Although the past few weeks have been turbulent thinking about it, I feel just fine now that the magic day is here.

Wrinkles did not appear over night. Not any more at least.

There are no signs of memory loss. At least I can't remember any.

And I can still run with a smile on my face. It just takes me a little longer to recover.

Perhaps my fourth decade will be the best of all. There is no telling what the forties will bring. I am just glad it is here and I can stop worrying about turning forty and begin to enjoy BEING forty.

Life is good.

Jenny

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The 3-Week Rule

As a coach and a trainer I've always preached the 3-Week Rule. That is, it takes 21 days (3 weeks) to create a new habit, change a bad habit or progress to another level. I develop most of my running programs based on this rule and use it within my own training regimen as well.

Coming home from Antarctica three weeks ago was quite the challenge. It was not quite spring, the weather was still icky and I was feeling less than fit. 10 days on a ship + days in planes, trains and automobiles left me with a lower base of miles than I like. So, what is a girl to do? I took out my planner and circled April 4th on my calendar in bold red marker. It was exactly three weeks away.

Guess what? After 3 Weeks of regular running, strength training and flexibility (and a nice massage too) I feel like my old-new self again.

This time of year is challenging. Especially for those of us that may have been off the wagon in terms of activity. If this is the case for you, circle a day three weeks from now, vow to be active most days a week and wait. You too will feel better with the 3-Week Rule.

Happy Trails,

Coach Jenny

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Right of Spring




Well it has been an incredible month of travel. Three weeks in Antarctica with 200 runners for the 2007 Antarctica Marathon and Half Marathon. I worked on the crew that produced the race and got to ride ATVs to set up the course. An adventurous few weeks to say the least.

Then I ran a marathon in Ushuaia, Argentina called Fin Del Mundo or in english, the End of the World. Many beautiful miles in their national forest and snow-capped mountains all around us. I am a little embarassed to say I placed 2nd in my age group (there were only 4 women in my age group:) and received a trophy so large I couldn't fit it in my suitcase. A running memory I will always charish.

Then I was off to sunny Tucson and the Valley of Gold Half Marathon. This is one of the most beautiful races I've been to and rolls through the valley at the base of the Catalina Mountains. We had lovely weather and sun and it was a nice way to thaw out from the expedition.

Sunday, I met about 200 of our Chicago Endurance Sports runners take part in Chicago's Right of Spring, the Shamrock Shuffle 8K. Over 30,000 runners all running for the finish. Can you blame them? There is beer, music and a great t-shirt.

There is a race in every town that launches the running season. Ours is the Shuffle, and after a long winter it sure was great to move closer to warmer weather and the hope of longer miles.

Happy Trails,

Coach Jenny

Monday, February 12, 2007

Antarctica Marathon


Wow, what a month. Its been awhile since my last blog, sorry.

I've been to Arizona for the RnR Marathon, to Disneyworld for the marathon, Toronto to train a great group of marathon coaches and the sunny city of Miami to cheer on my team from Chicago Endurance Sports in the Miami Half Marathon. Its good to be home for a few days and get back to a schedule.

John and I are leaving for Antarctica Sunday night. This is one of my favorite trips and I truly believe it is the closest thing to the moon that we'll ever see. We will be crew for the Antarctica Marathon which is put on by Marathon Tours. 200 runners from all over the world will board a Russian Research ship in Ushuaia, Argentina, the world's southernmost city. It will take over 2 days to get to Antarctica on water and we'll cross the world's most turbulent seas.

This will be my third time on the expedition even though I am not very good on boats. I get seasick in the back of a car! Iget sick every time, but it is so worth it. I can't get enough! The runners will use the ship as the hotel for 10 days. The race is on King George Island on the second day we arrive (if weather permits) and then we set sail to kayak with the whales, site see with penguins, mountains and sea lions... It is the most peaceful trip a runner can take. No phones, no Blackberry, no email or internet. Just nature, a few hundred really nice runners and one of the toughest marathon courses in the world!

I've attached a great photo of the last trip when we hosted a Kayak race and a school of penguins decided to join in and race with us! The penguins are real and are not photoshopped into the picture:) The first year a whale raced in the kayak race. We gave him bib number 1! See you in a few weeks.

Happy Trails,

Coach Jenny

Sunday, January 14, 2007

DNF

Those three letters are not the most fun to write. Did not finish... I chose to not run the Goofy Challenge even though I was ready physically. It was a tough decision, but ultimately I think I decided right.

I was a t a point where I was just getting back into my long runs and had several really strong back to back long runs in the fall in preparation for Goofy. Goofy is running the Disney Half Marathon Saturday and the full marathon on Sunday. To train, I run half the distance of my Saturday long run on Friday. Sounds awful but it is a great way to prepare to tackle Goofy and the body really does respond well if you mix in cross-training, strength and flexibility to recover.

Anyway, on December 20th we put my Nan (grandma) in hospice and she passed away December 31, 2006 at the age of 100 years. Although we celebrated her long life, it still took a toll on my training during the taper and more importantly my emotions. I went from being super excited to tackle Goofy, to not wanting to run it at all. Very weird...

I think it was the total sum of losing my father, my dog and my gram in just a short few months. I thought briefly about running the race in memory of them, but I couldn't pull it together emotionally. I still believe I will do that later this year.

Goofy will be there next year and I will train and toe the line again. btw, if you want to race Goofy it sells out quickly. You should stay tuned to the Disneyworld Marathon website and sign up when it opens.

I ran the 5K with my family (John my husband, mom, sister and nephew Alec). We had a ball at Diseyworld and in the end it was a very tough day for a marathon or even half. 85 degrees and very humid. A huge congratulations goes out to all the marathoners (and halfers) and Goofies that reached the start and finish line that day. It was a brutal day and your bragging rights should be extended!

Happy Trails,

Jenny