Changing up routine turns 10-mile endurance test into a fun run

Weekly 10-mile runs have been a fall ritual for my sister and I ever since we started running together back in 2010.

That first year, those runs came on weigh-in day during the final stages of my 90-pound weight loss and really helped seal the deal. Now, whether or not we’re training for a specific race, it just seems like the time is right to get those 10s in again.

Trouble is, we’ve always used the same out-and-back paved course, starting on Bluffton’s River Greenway and turning around at the Ouabache State Park campground. That can be a lot of pounding on my sister’s achey joints. After all these years, on Saturday we finally realized we could cut over in the park and run a section of our favorite dirt trail to arrive at our same turning point.

It was a huge boost both mentally and physically. The rains this summer derailed our trail running, so it almost felt like a homecoming to enter the woods. And Traci could feel the difference in her knees and hips almost immediately. It turned what can sometimes feel like an endurance test – this was our third go at a 10 in as many weeks  and the first where we intended to run the whole way without walk breaks – into more of a pleasure cruise.

It didn’t hurt that it was much cooler running at 8 a.m. rather than midday, or that we’d stashed Powerades at the gatehouse ahead of time. As it turned out we weren’t as desperate for hydration on this run as the past two, but it was still a psychological boost to know we had an aid station we could hit once on the way out and again on the way back.

Changing up a familiar route had paid off in another run earlier in the week, a 6-miler on our hills course. Usually we do three sets of out-and-back 2-milers over two different sections of hills, but this time we extended one of those so we only had two turnarounds instead of three. It turned what usually feels like a grind into more of an adventure. No matter how many times you drive down a road – this was a familiar route we always took to our Grandma’s house – it just looks different when you run it.

My sister’s fear of dogs sometimes keeps us from trying new roads, but in this case it gave us some extra juice because she insisted we pick the pace up to try to get past a house where a Fed Ex truck was distracting a large dog. It wound up being a pretty fast run on a cooler-than-average August day, and that felt like the turning point that helped me get my confidence back for Saturday’s 10-miler.

Shooting out of the woods at our turnaround gave us plenty of momentum heading back to the gatehouse.

“You know, I think our training plan is paying off,” Traci said. For the fall we were aiming to do a 6-mile speed workout, 6 miles of hills and a slower-paced 10-miler every week. It felt awesome to be building in an automatic 22-mile base. And this week, because this 10 was coming on a Saturday instead of a Sunday, we’d have a 32-mile week on just four runs.

After picking up our Powerades at the Gatehouse we slowed the pace down a bit, toting our surprisingly full bottles. We’d expected to guzzle them, but we just weren’t as thirsty this time. We wound up stashing them behind the White Bridge and settled in for the last 2 miles back on the Greenway.

We’d forgotten about a 5K run that had been setting up as we took off earlier that morning until we came across some volunteers at the race turnaround point. There were no runners or walkers in sight, but we picked up the pace, thinking we might overtake some stragglers. But it was a pretty small race and we were probably about 10 minutes too late to really get in on any of it, though as we “finished” somebody did try to give us a 5K time and someone else insisted we take a bottle of water from their cooler.

We wound up cutting at least 5 minutes off last week’s 10-miler, finishing in exactly 2 hours for a 12:00 pace. Regardless of the time, it felt great to run the whole thing without trying to maintain a 3:1 or 4:1 run/walk ratio.

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A kids’ point of view: My love-hate relationship with Athletes With Purpose

By Colleen, age 12

The word AWP brings feelings of both hate and appreciation. I hate it because it is one of the hardest workouts I have ever done.

FullSizeRender (2)I appreciate it because I know it makes me a better basketball player.

AWP stands for Athletes With Purpose. It’s a sports facility where you can go to basketball workouts. It’s kind of like having a personal trainer, only they make you do all this basketball stuff — and everything is full-out sprint.

The drills they have us do are really good skill builders. That being said, I find myself dreading the day of the week when I have to go. But at least my friend Briley went along. That made it more fun.

I hope to get more of my friends going to the Y now that they offer free memberships to seventh-graders. Then we can play even more basketball!

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Do you know what your carb-tolerance level is?

If you’re like most people – including longtime Atkins’ fans – you likely have no idea.

Heimowitz considers herself "the keeper of the diet" since Dr. Robert Atkins' death in 2003.

Heimowitz considers herself “the keeper of the diet” since Dr. Robert Atkins’ death in 2003.

To get there, you have to figure out what level of carbs helps you maintain your desired weight without gaining. In an interview last week for a story I’m working on, Atkins chief nutritionist Colette Heimowitz told me hers is 60 grams a day.

If she wants to lose weight, she cuts back to 40 – which just happens to be the recommended number in the revamped diet known as Atkins 40.

That’s twice as many carbs as the original diet, which is all that most people ever attempt or remember. Trouble is, Heimowitz said, “the first phase of Atkins is not sustainable.”

Most people yo-yo back and forth between the protein and veggies Phase I and falling off the wagon. They never get to the part where they learn how to add carbs back into their diet – which explains why they have no idea what their carb-tolerance level is.

“There is no one size fits all,” Heimowitz said.

Many younger men who are physically active could easily tolerate well over 100 carbs a day. As for Heimowitz — “I’m menopausal, I sit at a computer all day, I can’t run anymore” (thanks to too many miles on the New York City pavement) — she starts to gain if she takes in more than 60 grams a day.

That gives her room for a low-carb wrap with her salad most days, or berries and cream for dessert. Not to mention all those new 3-carb Endulge candy bars and other treats the company has come out with.

“You can budget your carbs anyway you want,” Heimowitz said — though when I asked if that means you can have a doughnut if you feel like it, she suggested “a bite of a doughnut” would be a better fit.

“Again,” she said, “it’s all about budgeting.”

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Breaking out of a slump (I hope)

It’s weird to think that even though I’m coming off my first 30-mile week* in God knows how long, there wasn’t a run I felt good about until yesterday – kind of.

First the heat and humidity derailed last week’s first 10-miler of the season, which my sister and I completed but at such a pitiful pace we never bothered to note (or admit) the time.

Two days later, caught up in a low-carb diet kick, I tried a 7-miler to see if it’s true what they say about teaching your body to burn fat rather than carbs. The whole way out I was just rolling along, jamming on the idea of running forever on my seemingly limitless fat reserves. But then coming back the heat and humidity started getting to me and I kept thinking about about that Capri Sun lemonade pouch I’d stashed in a ditch by the woods and whether or not I wanted to waste 14 carbs on it (despite the fact that it was a mere 50 calories).

Well, you can imagine how that went. The same person who can never leave food on her plate was not about to leave a Capri Sun pouch unmolested in the ditch. I walked about half a mile before the “reduced sugars” in that kids drink worked its magic and I was able to jog it in home from there.

On Thursday Traci and I were scheduled for 6 miles of hills. This time it was cooler and less humid, perfect weather conditions, really, yet I completely bonked about 4½ miles in. One minute I was blathering away and the next thing I knew my voice just faded out. This low-carb thing was clearly not working. I slowed way down and then had to walk some of the last mile.

On Friday I ate a peanut butter sandwich with a few raspberries on it before our 4-mile 30-20-10 workout and I made it through that just fine – except for the fact that I always wonder, when my sister is the timekeeper, whether she’s secretly making us do more than what the clock says just to burn more calories.

On Sunday our plan for the 10-miler was to run 3 miles to the state park gatehouse, then keep going at a 3:1 run/walk ratio just to make sure we got in the distance and a baseline time to beat for next time.

Colleen had gone ahead on her bike, and we intersected as she was coming back out of the park in a case of perfect timing, considering that she had my park pass. We pawed through her Camelback for our drinks before she headed back toward town and we continued on into the park.

We were feeling pretty good, just relaxing into a long run after so many runs lately where we’re constantly trying to mix things up with the watch. The 3:1 intervals were different in that we weren’t increasing pace, just jogging along with an occasional recovery break, so we weren’t in that “how much longer til this set is done” mindset.

Still, after a while it got to be tedious and even kind of nerve-wracking trying to make sure we heard the beep on Ben’s GPS watch. In the din of late-summer insect chatter and our own yakking, I basically never heard it at all and Traci only heard it intermittently.

On the way back Traci got something in her eye that interfered with her contact lens, and so after having missed the beep on several intervals and running straight through for several minutes, we walked a couple of minutes just to let her get her eye straightened out.

We were still feeling decent, other than Traci’s eye, but heading back toward the gatehouse we started thinking how good those drinks tasted. We wished we would’ve stashed our bottles at the gatehouse, but we hadn’t thought about it. Traci called up Colleen, who was heading into Hardee’s for a cool post-ride drink of her own and wasn’t in the mood to pedal back to us.  Traci, being her aunt instead of her mom, neither begged nor ordered her to. “That’s ok,” she said in a falsely cheerful tone of voice.

We were both getting sick of the watch. In some ways it seemed like it would almost be a relief to give up those 1-minute walk breaks in exchange for not using up the mental energy to fret over whether or not we were hearing the alarm. Just jogging it in from here made sense except for one thing: My busted confidence.

We’re just two weeks out from what was supposed to have been one of my goal races for the year, and I’m clearly not in half-marathon shape. This is the first week where we’ve put in much distance and I’d consistently fizzled on nearly every run. Technically, as far as races go, I’m one for one, having won my age group at the Bison Bash. But considering there were maybe only 40 people in the whole race, it wasn’t much of an accomplishment.

It seems laughable now to think about competing for an age-group title in the Parlor City Trot Half Marathon on Labor Day weekend. I’m not sure I could finish the darn thing without some strategic walk breaks.

Heck, I wasn’t even sure I could close out the last couple of miles of this 10-miler without another walk break.

But just then Colleen showed up with those drinks we’d all but given up on. Thus refreshed, we trotted to the finish line.

*Technically this post describes 40 miles of running, but yesterday’s 10 is the start of a new running week.


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A kid’s point of view: A game-changing bike ride

By Colleen, age 12

Last Friday was a game changer. That is the only way to put it. I rode all the way into town, about 12 miles because we went the long way to Aunt Traci’s house.

FullSizeRender (2)I was kind of nervous that Mom would have to call Grandpa to come and get me because I’d never ridden that far before. The most I’ve ever done was 8. Once we got past 124 I knew we were definitely going to make it. And then when we got to the Greenway I started riding faster because I was excited and also because I wanted to get there before Traci’s garage sale was over. We just made it. It felt awesome to come riding up the driveway on my bike!

After this ride, my confidence skyrocketed for the Tour de Donut. On Sunday I said yes to a 10-mile ride in a heartbeat because I knew I could do it. I actually wound up going about 15 miles that day.

Since then Mom and I have been going on more rides and now I’m not afraid to get out of my comfort zone. Maybe that’s because my comfort zone is a lot bigger than it used to be! That one ride was the turning point in my cycling career.

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A kayaking couple’s amazing quest

“The hardest part of doing anything is simply deciding to do it.”

John Abnet, who along with his wife, LaNae, kayaked 1,591 miles from the origin of the Wabash River in an Ohio farmer’s field to the Gulf of Mexico 

John and LaNae Abnet at the Gulf of Mexico at the conclusion of their 98-day journey.

John and LaNae Abnet at the Gulf of Mexico at the conclusion of their 98-day journey.

I had a lot of fun talking to the Abnets about their quest for this week’s News-Sentinel column. It would’ve been so easy for them to put off this dream. John had to quit his job. LaNae made 720 dehydrated meals from scratch, using mostly food from their garden, to make it more affordable. They had a grandchild born while they were gone over the summer.

One thing I forgot to mention in the article is that John is a terrible swimmer. When the current in the flooded Mississippi got so strong that it was sucking shipping-lane buoys under, he was putting his faith in both God and his personal floatation device.

There were a lot of reasons to put off their dream, or to do what most people do and just never get around to it. But the experience changed their lives — and is inspiring others to live life and not merely dream about it.

The Abnets leave New Orleans and head toward the Gulf of Mexico near the end of their journey.

The Abnets leave New Orleans and head toward the Gulf of Mexico near the end of their journey.

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Offbeat triathlon game cures lazy-butt syndrome

Recently a friend posted on Facebook, “If I rode my bike, mowed the lawn, and then walked, does that count as a triathlon?”

It was a joke, obviously. But it got me thinking about how sedentary some days can turn out to be once you subtract the daily workout.

Sharing a car with my 17-year-old son the last few months has added some extra biking into the mix. Reading Melissa’s post made me think about adding some yardwork on those days when I bike home from a run.

Sometimes I avoid doing yardwork because I don’t want to get sweaty and dirty. If I’m already in need of a shower, that roadblock is erased. All I need to do is switch out of my running shoes, top off my fluid levels, and I’m good to go.

One day I caught a ride into town with my son, met my sister for a 30-20-10 workout on Bluffton’s River Greenway, rode my bike home (it’s about 10 miles since I avoid the most direct route due to traffic), then spent half an hour or so picking up sticks and pulling weeds.

Friday morning I dropped the car off at school after running some errands and ran home. I was planning to catch a ride back into town that afternoon with Ben, but he forgot to stop by the house on his way to work. So Colleen and I wound up biking into town so we could help our oldest daughter move out of a house she’d been renting.

So that day’s “triathlon” totals were: 3.5 mile run, 12-mile bike ride, one hour of physical labor toting boxes and furniture.

I don’t play this game every day, but it’s kinda fun when it occurs to me. I’m also hoping it helps me keep up with the leaf raking this fall.

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