Thursday, May 30, 2013

Try It: PRO Compression Socks Review + Giveaway!

Something you may have noticed in my race pictures (when I get around to taking them!) is that I almost always wear compression socks. It doesn't matter how short or long the distance - I consider the socks a must. Beyond racing, I often wear compression socks during and after hard workouts and long runs.

One of my favorite brands is PRO Compression. The brand's Marathon Sock is my favorite and the perfect blend of style and function.

Thanks to PRO Compression for sending me these socks! They are awesome!

So at this point, you're probably wondering why you should give compression socks a try. To sum it up, these socks help improve blood flow in your lower legs and feet. Think of it this way - the better your muscles are supplied with blood and oxygen, the better they'll perform. They also help increase stability and provide a nice little hug for your feet and calves!

Racing with the help of PRO Compression socks!

Compression socks are great for runners, of course, but they can also benefit other types of athletes - triathletes, cyclists and even golfers. Walkers, hikers or those who just spend a lot of time on their feet can also benefit from wearing these socks. 

Keep it tight!

A question I'm often asked is do the socks stay up during running? My PRO Compression socks always stay up, unlike some other brands I've used in the past. They are also super durable. Case in point - earlier this spring I took a nasty fall on the pavement during a run. While my legs and gloves were all torn up from the spill, my socks survived without a single snag or tear and my calves were spared unlike the rest of my legs!

PRO Compression socks come in a variety of fun colors and prints. If a tall sock isn't your thing, the brand also carries calf sleeves and low-cut socks
So here's the part that I know you've all been waiting for - one lucky reader is going to win a pair of PRO compression socks! Here's how to enter the giveaway:

  • Leave a comment below telling me your experience with compression socks, why you want to try compression socks OR what color Marathon Sock you like best.

To earn up to two additional entries in the giveaway:

I'll pick a winner using a random number generator on June 5. The winner will have 48 hours to contact me to claim his/her prize. 

Note: The prize socks are not pictured in this post. 

Good luck everyone!

- ST

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Madison Twilight 10k Race Recap

Whenever you race a distance for the first time, there are a lot of unknowns. You can train your tail off, but in my opinion, nothing quite prepares you for the moment when you line up and take off.

There were butterflies in my stomach as I said good luck to my mom and we went to line up at the Madison Twilight 10k. My goal for the race was a sub-48 minute time - which I felt was a nice goal since it was my first time racing the distance. Once again, I left my watch at home and was determined to race by effort only.

Of course, I was decked out in my Oiselle Team gear, including my new bunhuggers. I was a bit self conscious wearing them at first but eventually, I think they helped me feel more confident. I was dressed like a fast runner which meant I better run the part ;)

I heart my Oiselle Team Kit :)

The first mile went by pretty quickly and wound around the Capitol Square and over to Langdon Street, where I lived when I went to UW-Madison! Soon I was at the hill I was dreading most, Observatory Drive. It was tough getting up it and even tougher to encounter another hill almost immediately after.

Observatory Drive was just the beginning. But as tough as the hills were, they helped the race go by faster. It was extra satisfying to get past each hill, one by one.

I passed the 5k mark in just under 23 minutes but that was my only time clue throughout the race. All I knew was that I was working hard and was determined to keep my effort the same throughout the rest of the race. With each mile marker that I passed, I knew I was getting closer to the end.

Finally, I ran past the mile 6 marker and knew it was time to kick it in. I was super tired but forced my legs to pick it up. As I rounded the corner from State Street onto the Capitol Square, I could see the finish line clock and knew if I sprinted I would finish in under 46 minutes - a full two minutes faster than my goal time!

Here are the race results:

Time: 45:53
Pace: 7:23
Age Group: 2/137
Gender: 9/674
Overall: 82/1,140

I was so thrilled to beat my goal time and place so well! After training so hard last year only to race disappointment after disappointment and then getting injured, it was especially meaningful to remember that I CAN train and run the way I know I'm capable of. 

Mom and I after the race with our new medals

After the race, Mom and I took a walk down State Street and had dinner at Gino's, an old college favorite for both of us (Mom also went to UW back in the day). 

Tiramisu is the perfect post-race reward!

I can't wait to see what the summer and fall hold for running. I'm taking it easy this week but next week starts my marathon training cycle. But before I can get too excited about righting last year's marathon wrong, I have a half marathon in July. Last year's Chicago Rock n Roll was a bust, but this year I feel like the sky's the limit :)

I hope you all had a great holiday weekend! Here are my questions for you:

  1. Did you race this weekend? If so, how did it go?
  2. What are your favorite places to eat in Madison?
  3. What piece(s) of apparel makes you feel race ready?

I'm in love with my new bunhuggers and am sure I'll wear them plenty in upcoming races!

- ST

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Race Week Nerves + Giveaway Winner!

First off, I'd like to apologize for forgetting to post my GOTR race entry giveaway winner yesterday. The winner is . . . Bethany! Please contact me via email ( to claim your prize.

And now, on to today's bits and pieces:

1. The Madison Twilight 10k is just two days away. Eek! I am full on nervous at this point and I'm trying to remember that it's just a sign that I care about the race outcome. I wish I had been able to train for an extra 3-4 weeks for this one to really work on speed, but I feel confident with the training I was able to do. 

2. For the first time, I'm going to race in bunhuggers. I ordered a pair from Oiselle awhile back but have been too scared to wear them in public. This changes on Saturday. The buns, paired with my Oiselle singlet and Wings Out necklace will help me run my best. 

I wish my abs were as flat as Mac's!

3. Even though I leave my iPod at home when going out for a run, I still associate certain songs with each training period. This time around, the songs include:

  • Stubborn Love, The Lumineers
  • It's Time, Imagine Dragons
  • Carry On, Fun
  • Get Lucky, Daft Punk
  • Blurred Lines, Robin Thicke

4. I think snickerdoodle cupcakes will be a perfect post-race treat. My friend Julie gave me a gluten-free mix awhile back that I'm eager to try. The only thing is I need to figure out is a perfect frosting pairing. 

5. It's been awhile since I've hosted a get together and I think I have the perfect theme for one. Time to get planning. Watch your inbox for an invite ;) 

Your turn to tell me . . .

- What songs have you been listening to lately?
- What type of frosting would you use with snickerdoodle cupcakes? 
- Something random that's on your mind!

Have a great rest of the week!

- ST

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Block Melanoma 5k Race Recap

Sunday was a bit too warm for racing longer distances - but for a 5k, the weather was great! As a result, the Ann's Hope Block Melanoma 5k race was a success!

This race is one of my favorites - it was one of my first races when I started running, the course weaves around the Milwaukee County Zoo and it's just a great atmosphere with lots of excited runners and spectators. This year was extra special because my company put together a 5k team to participate in the event. Team Zizzo had great participation and we all had a blast at the event. It was fun seeing so many friendly faces before and after the race!

Team Zizzo (photo from ZG)

I felt pretty as I lined up for the race. My hamstrings and stomach felt fine and my only concern were the hills scattered throughout the course. Last time I raced at the zoo, I ended up taking the downhills a bit too aggressively and ended up with a nasty side stitch. I hoped to avoid that situation with this race.

Since it was a gun start instead of a chip start, I lined up within the first few rows of people and before I knew it, we were off! Before the race, I decided my goal time for the race was 22:30 - Slower than my PR by about 40 seconds, but fast enough that it would feel like a race and take effort and concentration to maintain pace. I wanted to avoid racing all out since I need to save my legs and mental strength for my first 10k race this upcoming weekend!

I also decided to again race without a watch - just to see how close I could come to my goal time while running by feel and effort. 

 Someday, I'm going to do something awesome with all my race bibs :)

Mentally, I broke this race into four segments - mile 1, mile 2, mile 3 and the final 0.1. Mile 1 went by pretty fast and I felt pretty decent at the end of the mile, at least as far as 5k races go! Mile 2 is always a struggle for me and I had to push to keep my pace even. What helped during this race was picking out a woman who was ahead of me and telling myself I was going to pass her by the end of the mile. It definitely helped to have specific challenge to focus my attention on and sure enough, before the end of the mile, I managed to run past her!

The rest of the race I ended up running with a few guys and we were all working hard. When we saw the mile 3 marker, they all took off and outkicked me up the hill to the finish line! I tried to keep up, but my legs weren't turning over fast enough and I'm sure they were all extra motivated to not get "chicked" at the end of the race :)
Here are my race results:

Time: 22:31
Average Pace: 7:15
Age Group Place: 2/90

Overall Place: 37/794

I'm happy with these results and feel like I accomplished my goal of running a controlled race. Also, I ran within one second of my goal time - without a watch - so I feel that was pretty good pacing by feel!

Now it's time to look forward and start preparing for my goal spring race - the Madison Twilight 10k. The race is less than a week away and I'm already feeling a bit nervous with anticipation. This is one that matters and you better believe I'm giving it all I've got :)

A few questions:
  • Has your company ever put together a team for a run/walk event?
  • Did you race last weekend? If so, did the weather affect your race?
  • Are you racing Madison this weekend? If so, I'd love to meet!

Hope you're all having a great start to the week!

- ST

Friday, May 17, 2013

Check it Out: GOTR + Race Entry Giveaway!

Hey Everyone! Today's post is all about Girls on the Run of Greater Milwaukee - a nonprofit organization that does great things for girls in the community! I recently got involved with the 5k race committee and it's been a great experience. I'm thrilled to do something that benefits the community I love, while also raising interest for the sport I love!

In case you're not familiar with Girls on the Run (GOTR), the organization runs a youth development program that combines an interactive curriculum with running to inspire self-respect and a healthy lifestyle in preteen girls. The program's core curriculum addresses the girls' physical, emotional, mental and social well-being with lessons to provide the tools to help them make positive decisions and avoid risky adolescent behaviors.

At the spring 5k race, participants get to demonstrate what they've learned throughout the 10-12 week program. It's also an opportunity for local runners and walkers to support the organization! 

This year's race theme is Superheroes! When you think of superheroes, thoughts instantly go to characters that are strong, smart and brave. On the big screen and in comic books, these heroes often wear masks and capes - but in real life, there are superheroes all around us. GOTR is excited to celebrate these superheroes as well as the superhero in each of us.

Here are the race details:

What: GOTR of Greater Milwaukee Spring 5k Race
When: Sunday, June 9 @ 10am
Where: Greenfield Park
Cost: $30 - proceeds benefit the GOTR organization
Additional Details: Costumes encouraged but not required. On race day, you can design your own superhero mask or get your face painted. Music, food, activities and games will make the day fun for the entire family!

Remember - community members are welcome at the event. Men, women, boys and girls of all ages are invited to participate! Sign up for the race here.

The Giveaway!

I'd love to see all of you at the event and to help encourage participation, I have one race entry to giveaway. All you need to do to enter the giveaway is tell me your favorite superhero in the comments section below. I'll pick a winner on Wednesday, May 22.

In the meantime, check out GOTR on Facebook and Twitter!

Hope you all have a fantastic weekend :)

- ST

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Art of Racing Through Pain

There's no way to sugarcoat it - racing hurts. It doesn't matter if your fast pace is a 6 minute mile or a 12 minute mile or if you're racing a 5k or marathon - if you're pushing with all you've got, it's going to hurt (mile 2.5 of a 5k) before it feels good (crossing the finish line with a new PR). 

To be clear, I'm not talking about pushing through an actual injury such as a strain, sprain, break, etc. The type of pain I'm referring to is of the burning-lungs-and-legs-I'm-might-lose-my-breakfast-on-the-side-of-the-course variety.

Working the furrowed brow/in pain/I will not let that Santa pass me look!

I'm by no means a running expert. But I do race a lot and along the way, I've picked up a few handy tips for the average runner when it comes to working through race pain. Here are a few tips:
  1. Before the race starts, allow yourself think, This is going to hurt. And then that's it. Accept it without focusing or worrying about it. 
  2. Have a mantra ready for when the race gets tough. Ones I've used in the past include "I breathe in strength, I breathe out weakness" "Pay the price" and "The tides will turn". Use whatever works for you - preferably a mantra you've used during training.
  3. Count to 100. Repeat as necessary.
  4. Embrace the pain. Remind yourself that feeling uncomfortable is a good thing and this is how it feels to lay it all on the line. If it feels easy, it means you can push harder.
  5. Remember everyone around you is likely feeling as bad or maybe even worse than you. You're in this together! 
  6. Try to relax. Un-hunch those shoulders. Relax your arms and hands. Focus on your stride - quick leg turnover and landing under your core - not overstriding.
  7. Recall the tough workouts that you were able to push through. You made it through training and you can make it through this race.
If all else fails, just remind yourself there's likely a nice grassy area to collapse in after you cross the finish line and tasty treats to be eaten once you recover. 

Macarons anyone?

You've earned it!

I'd like to know . . . What tricks do you use to push through race pain?

I don't listen to music during races, but if I did, I would probably add cranking up the volume on my iPod to the list :)

- ST

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

One Month Later

It's amazing the difference just one month can make.

At the beginning of April, I was struggling to get back into training. I still had some leftover hamstring pain and was barely running 20 miles per week. All miles were slow and came with the constant worry that I might not make it through the run without having to stop due to pain.

I hardly felt like myself. I'm the girl who likes to run high mileage. I'm the girl who enjoys the pain that comes with a hard speed workout. But all I could do was cling to the hope that my body would eventually heal itself and I could eventually get back to my normal fitness level.

I'm not there yet, but I'll get there soon. Last week, I ran 44 miles and this week I'll hit 46 miles. The plan is to get back into the 50-60 mpw range by end of June and then build to 60-70 by end of August.

As for this week . . .

Monday: 6 miles @easy pace Forgot to set my alarm :(
Tuesday: 8 miles speedwork; core work
Wednesday: 4 mile recovery run (AM); 6 miles @easy pace; strength training
Thursday: 8 miles @easy pace w/4-6 hill repeats; core work
Friday: 4 miles @easy pace
Saturday: 16 mile long run
Sunday: Rest day

Another bit of running-related news: I recently bought a Believe I Am Training Journal and started logging my workouts last week. Believe I Am was created by pro runners Lauren Fleshman and Ro McGettigan and is designed to help users build and foster positive thoughts and beliefs that help them achieve their goals. 

A look inside

This is my first training journal and I'm excited to see how tracking my miles and workouts along with building positive beliefs will help me improve as a runner.

My questions for you: 
  • Has one month ever made a difference for you when it comes to sport or life in general? 
  • Do you use a training journal?
  • Finish this sentence - I believe I am . . . 

I believe I am . . . Capable of running a BQ time!

- ST

Friday, May 3, 2013

Last Night's Experiment: Cooking Salmon

This week, I learned the most amazing thing - I learned how to cook salmon at home! 

I know I'm a bit behind the curve and that most of you have probably been cooking salmon for years. But for me, this was major progress. I like to eat meat, but cooking it has always been intimidating to me. I'm always worried I'll undercook it, which means I end up overcooking it. I also dislike the smell of food cooking, so baking fish was a major concern. 

My fears were unfounded. Cooking salmon couldn't be easier. Earlier this week, I sent a tweet asking for tips and received several great ideas. So many, in fact, that I couldn't decide which to try first, so I made two versions: BBQ and Jerk. 

BBQ next to the sweet potatoes, jerk on the right

To make these "recipes" I portioned a half pound piece of salmon into two pieces. Here's what you need to do next:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place the two salmon portions skin down. Rub the jerk seasoning into one piece of salmon (I used a Wildtree blend) and pour 2 Tbsp BBQ sauce over the other piece of salmon. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the fish flakes with a fork. 

That's it! Both were delicious, but I think I liked the BBQ version a bit more. I hadn't ever thought to combine BBQ with fish but it was a tasty combo! Many thanks to Becky for the idea!

I served the meal with mashed sweet potato (bake a small sweet potato for one hour, mash it with a fork, add a bit of maple syrup over the top) and roasted asparagus (drizzle asparagus with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and bake for 20 minutes).

A perfect post-workout dinner! And since I only ate half of each piece, I have leftovers for tonight's dinner!

Perhaps I'll try your recipe next! What is your favorite way to prepare salmon?

- ST