Monday, August 26, 2013

Does Your Garmin Stink? Try Nature's Miracle

As  I was wiping my nose about a month ago on the run (yes, with the back of my hand), I smelled this awful odor!! What the heck??? A few more sniffs told me it was the wristband for my Garmin. It reeked!!  Many of you may have read my previous post on changing out the plastic wristband on the Garmin for the more comfortable and better fitting Velcro one.  Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks of the fabric wristband for the Garmin,  is that it stinks after a while of absorbing all that nasty runner sweat. What to do?

Well the obvious answer, of course, is to wash it. That was my first thought too. I wet down the band got out some laundry soap and scrubbed the band with an old toothbrush. Presto! The band didn’t stink any more. It smelled fresh and clean --- for about two runs.  Pretty soon it was back to being smelly again, and with warmer weather coming on, it really was starting to smell ripe. I was not keen on having to take the band on and off every week to wash it. It is not that quick an easy thing to do.

I obviously was going to need something a bit more heavy duty to deal with this problem. The answer came courtesy of my ever-helpful cat, Roadie. He had been having some kitty “issues” and had been urinating in some unexpected places.  Since we have our house up for sale and cat pee is not high on the list of “smells that sell houses,” we needed some help.  I searched all over the Internet for what to use to clean up pet odors, and after several solutions that only partially took care of the problems, I found the one that was able to solve our problem.

The solution came in the form of Nature’s Miracle, which is a bio-enzymatic odor remover that is used to neutralize and remove organic odors.  (Before I go any further, let me say that I am NOT affiliated with Nature’s Miracle in any way. I just am a huge fan of their product because it has really worked successfully for me.) What this means is that it neutralizes the odor by killing the bacteria that is causing the odor.  After using it successfully around the house on a variety of surfaces,  I decided to give it a try on my watch band.  

The directions on the Nature’s Miracle have you wash the spot first and then treat with the Nature’s Miracle by soaking it with the product and allowing it to air dry.  I removed my watch band (which is not an easy task) and washed it in a solution of dish soap, a half cup Nature’s Miracle, and water. After scrubbing and rinsing, I left it out in the sun to dry.

Once it had dried, I followed that up with a good saturation of the band with the Nature’s Miracle and again left it to dry.  The band was once again fresh and clean and smelled great.  Unfortunately to keep it smelling that way, there is some maintenance involved. About every two days when I finish my run, I rinse the band and spray it band down with the Nature’s Miracle and let it dry. It is like deodorant for a Garmin! This is keeping my band smelling fresh and clean.

For those of you who worry about harsh chemicals, Nature’s Miracle is pretty mild. The ingredients are as follows: Water, nature's enzymes, isopropyl alcohol, natural citrus scent. Apparently, the most toxic ingredient is the isopropyl alcohol. It seems pretty safe to use. It comes in a smaller and cheaper spray bottle, but I buy it by in the larger size and refill because I use it for the pets and the laundry too. It is available at Petsmart, but it is cheaper from Amazon. 


As an added bonus in this process, I also discovered that Nature’s Miracle works in the laundry. I use it to help take the lingering sweat odor out of my running and cycling clothes.  I have just been putting a half cup of the Nature’s Miracle in the wash cycle with the regular laundry detergent. It seems to work great to take out the smells!!   If you give this product a try, let me know what you think. While not a miracle, it has been worth the price for me. 

Related posts:
Changing the Wristband on Your Garmin

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Runner’s Recipe: Quick and Easy Veggie Tacos

Veggie Tacos
I know this isn’t a cooking blog, but besides running itself, the number one concern and favorite activity of most of the runners I know is eating.  I decided that every now and then it would be fun to share some of my favorite recipes.  

First let me say that since reading Eat & Run by Scott Jurek (If you aren't familiar with the book, you are missing a great read. Check out my review of Eat & Run), I have been trying to go more vegetarian in my diet. I have been succeeding for the most part. I have not made the jump to 100% vegetarian yet, but most weeks, I manage to make about 90% of my diet vegetarian, with maybe only one meal a week with meat.

I also love Mexican food. Having lived in California for most of my life, it was considered a staple. On first glance, it is easy to go vegetarian with Mexican food, just by leaning heavily on the beans and cheese and taking out the meat from most dishes. However, the tendency is to add in large amounts of cheese which really piles up the fat content, something I am also working on.  Plus, that is just boring.

Thankfully, there are many sources of inspiration out there for how to make vegetarian eating exciting and yummy. These tacos got their inspiration from a food truck we have around the Lansing area, usually at farmer’s markets, called Trailer Park’d

Trailer Park'd at East Lansing Farmer's Market

We stopped by there on the suggestion of one of my running/Facebook friends (Thanks, Lolo) to try the tacos. They were awesome, but I always have to fiddle with a recipe to get it just how I like it. 

This is what I came up with. They are the best veggie tacos Jer and I have ever had. As a fair warning, you must be an onion lover to like this recipe. The prep time is about 20 minutes.

4 soft taco flour tortillas
1 large red onion
1-2 tablespoon vegetable oil 
1 ripe avocado
1 package shredded coleslaw mix
4 tablespoons feta cheese
¼ cup fresh or frozen corn
¼ cup canned black beans
Garlic salt
Fresh cilantro (you can leave this out if you are a cilantro hater)
Mexican lime (optional)
Green tomatillo salsa

1. Slice the onion into half rings. Put the onion half rings in a skillet (I like cast iron) that has been preheated with oil and cook over medium heat to caramelize. (For tips on how to caramelize onions, click here.) 

2. While the onion is cooking, put the corn and black beans into a small container and microwave to heat through. Add garlic salt and stir. Then set aside for taco assembly.

3. Check on the onion, stir, and then peel and slice the avocado into small chunks.

4. Lay out all other ingredients close at hand for the assembly process.

5. When onions are ready, heat the tortilla shells. My favorite method is over the burner of a gas stove on medium heat until slightly brown, turning often to avoid burning or the edges catching on fire (If you try this, be careful, and don’t burn your fingers). My boys could heat a tortilla like this by the time they were twelve, but if you aren’t quite so adventurous, you can warm them in a hot skillet, on a grill if you have one, or in the microwave for about 10 seconds. You really lose some flavor, though, if you microwave them.

6. Assemble the tacos as follows: grilled onions, black bean and corn mixture, tablespoon of feta cheese, cole slaw mix, a squeeze of fresh lime juice, and five or six cilantro leaves, to taste.

Top off with green tomatillo salsa (or whatever type of salsa you prefer, but the tomatillo really sets this off). These are best if served with an ice-cold 12 oz bottle of the runner’s favorite post-run beverage, and no I do NOT mean Gatorade.  Give them a try and let me know what you think. 

(Do you have a healthy runner-friendly recipe you would like to share? If so, contact me to do a guest post!) 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Reluctant Race Report: USATF Masters 1 Mile Road Championships

The race reports where I do terrible are always so much harder to write than the ones where I do well. Not only is there a tendency to not want to publicize a failure that most people would not have noticed if it had not been brought to their attention, but there is also a lot of self-examination that goes on when one has a performance of epically bad proportions. That pretty much describes my mile race last weekend.

I run with the Playmaker’s/New Balance Masters Women’s Racing Team. We participate in a USATF Team Grand Prix Series. These are a series of races at varying distances where we can score and get awards not only as individuals but as teams in our ten year age groups. If you follow the blog, you may remember that I reported on the final team championship race last year (and my first race with the team), which was the Cross Country Team Championships.  Playmaker's women’s teams typically do well in these events, with our 60+ and 70+ teams often winning the overall championships.

I am on the 50+ team. One of the problems with the 50+ team is that many of the women are still working or have other family responsibilities that keep them from traveling to team races. We often don’t have enough women for a team (it takes at least 3). I was excited that for the mile championships because we did manage to have both a 60+ and a 50+ team.

The mile championships were in Pittsburgh this year, which made it close enough for us to travel to. Anyone who follows this blog knows how much I love a road trip, so I was excited to go. However, if you follow this blog, you may also know that I am primarily a marathoner and ultra runner. I am not by any means a miler. In fact, the idea of driving 10 hours to run a race for 7 minutes or less is pretty much the literal opposite of what I prefer to do.  Still, the lure of hanging out with this really great group of women and doing a road trip to run was more than I could resist. Of course, I was in.

Again, if you have been following the blog, you may also remember that I have been in a running slump. I had a spurt of solid training in late April and May, a few good races, including a 5k PR in early June, and then I just kind of lost it. My weekly mileage hovered at a dismal 11 mpw average in late June, July, and early August. In my defense, though, I did do quality for those 11 miles each week (really – I even did two track workouts).

Well the trip to Pittsburgh was as much fun as I thought it would be. Our fearless leader, Ruth, had everything organized. We took off on Thursday afternoon for the Friday evening race so that we could drive halfway, get to Pittsburgh early on Friday to relax and check out the course, and get ready for the race. The ride up was pleasant and uneventful. We got to Pittsburgh early Friday, and except for a brief cloudburst as we arrived at the hotel, everything went fine.

It was too early to check into our rooms, so we went to the USATF room to see if there was any free food. (Hey, we are runners! What do you expect?  What? What do you mean you don’t have to carbo load for a mile?)  While we waited, I spent my time looking up the names of the list of competitors from my age group on Athlinks, did some quick calculations, and realized that the odds were pretty darned good that I would be last in my age group. That was not good news. Oh well, I was there. What was I going to do? I pouted for a few minutes, but then decided to just enjoy the experience. We had time to pose for pictures and do a little horsing around courtesy of GNC, one of the sponsors for the race.

Pittsburgh turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. We were downtown in a really nice Wyndham Hotel. From our room we had a most awesome view of the river and the stadium. 

We went out to explore the surrounding area and scout out the course.

Downtown Pittsburgh was very cool (who knew?), with parks, statues, galleries, theaters, and shops lining the course. It was obviously an artsy part of town.

The race was being run on two main streets in the downtown area, Penn and Liberty, and the finish area was in Market Square. After stopping for a slice of pizza, we walked the entire mile and were very pleased with the course.

We headed back to the hotel to get ready. I was pretty excited because we had just gotten new team singlets made by New Balance. They are awesome! Plus this one fits without making me feel (and look) like a sausage (which is how I always felt in my old one).  We were a pretty good looking group!!

Besides the USATF Master’s Championships, there was also an open public mile race called The Liberty Mile, and elite men’s and women’s mile races. Some of the best milers in the U.S. and a few international competitors were in town for the elite race. We were very excited to run into Owen Anderson, director of the Lansing Marathon and coach of a very talented runner named Chemtai Rionotukei who among other accomplishments had won the FifthThird River Bank Run 25k back in May.  Owen said that they were excited to be competing and that he expected that we would see good things from Chemtai.   

Nerves were high before the race. Except for Ruth, none of the women from our group who were there were short distance specialists.  I was really worrying about the whole being last thing. There were only about 25 women running in our race. The road was two lanes wide, a mile long, and lined with hundreds of spectators. It would be pretty hard to hide how badly I was going to suck. (Another reason to love trail running: When you are in the woods, no one ever sees how badly you suck!)

My friend and fellow 50-54 age group teammate, Sue, and I talked briefly about race strategy and the idea of running together, since we are usually pretty evenly matched, but she had been training hard for triathlons lately, and I had not been training much at all, so I was not optimistic.

Our little group finally lined up at the start and the gun went off. Just as I suspected, a pack of runners took off. Sue and I started sensibly a little behind the main pack. I was hoping to avoid the crash I had experienced at the only other mile I had ever raced (and the getting passed at the end that went with that) so was trying to control the pace. It was hard with the pack starting off like a bunch of greyhounds, but I did manage to go out in the realm of acceptability and hit my first split pretty much right on pace.

After that I am not sure what happened. In the second quarter mile, I kind of had a mental lapse and let my pace slide. Sue slipped away a few yards, but I had to let her go. I was pretty much doing all I could to do what I was doing. It is really weird, but I remember nothing of this part of the race except following Sue’s back and seeing the pack up ahead.

I do not even remember hearing the crowd, but I do remember feeling the pain. It is amazing how long 7 minutes can feel when you are running at your max. When I hit the split at the half, I was so mad to see that my pace had slipped to over 7. That was going to make it super hard to get the 6:50 that I was hoping for. I picked it up and tried to hold on.

Finally my watch beeped to tell me that we had passed the ¾ mile. I was not dead at the end (like I had been in the earlier mile I had raced) and for a few seconds I entertained the idea of trying to see if I could catch Sue who was still a few yards ahead of me. It was then I saw the best thing of the entire weekend.

As I was looking ahead at Sue to see if she looked like she might be getting tired, I saw her posture change. I thought, “Dang, she is picking it up.”  Just then I saw why. In USATF competitions we all wear a bib with our ages on our backs. Over Sue’s shoulder, I could see a woman who had fallen off the back of the main pack, with a big 50 on the back of her singlet. She was in our age group!  I watched as Sue ran her down and passed her. It was a beautiful thing!

“Go, Sue!!” I was yelling inside my head, as I struggled for air. I also tried to pick it up, hoping to catch the faltering woman, but it was not to be. As the finishing clock approached, I watched it tick past 6:50  (my goal pace) and 6:55 (my previous mile time). It ticked on toward 7:00. NOOO!! My “C” goal had been to be under 7:00. I crossed the line at what I hoped was 6:57 (but what later turned out to be 6:58).  I was not last in the race (there were women all the way up to the 70+ age group), but I was pretty sure I was last in my AG. How depressing!

I found Sue to congratulate her and tell her how awesome she was. Then we looked for the rest of the team. Everyone (except me) had run really well.  Most had PRd, and the 60+ women had won the team competition. It was awesome! Ruth also was 1st and last in her age group. (She was the only one in the 65+ group.)

Probably the second most amazing thing that happened that night was the performance of Chemtai. She finished third in a really tight race. She was just four seconds behind first and the third and fourth place runners were within a hundredth of a second of one another: 4:35.10/4:35.15, with fifth place at 4:35.90. Talk about close!! That is such an awesome accomplishment for her. I am sure we will be hearing more great things about her in the future!  I could tell Owen was really proud of her.

Owen and Chemtai at Playmakers to promote Owen's book Running Science

Chemtai with her 3rd place award at the Liberty Mile

I do have to say that I was pretty bummed out about my performance. Of course, my friends tried to cheer me up by telling me that I should just feel honored to have been able to compete with some of the best runners in the country. I was honored to do that, but I was also mad at myself for performing so poorly. If I had run well and been last, that is one thing, but to run so poorly and be last was what bothered me because I had nothing to blame but my own lack of training.

One of the things I love about running is I have always believed that “you get out of it what you put into it.”  I believe that saying is true when I have trained hard and done well, but the other end of the stick on that is that it also applies when I have slacked off and done poorly, like in this race. I have a screen saver on my laptop that says “You can have excuses or you can have results. You can’t have both.” I guess it is time to stop making excuses and start training!  

Hot off the Press: Hal Higdon's New Book on the Boston Bombings

Hal Higdon's new book on the Boston Marathon bombings, which includes quotes from Kate Johnson and excerpts from her race report on the blog, is up for sale now on Amazon for only $.99. Get your copy now!!!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Race Report: The Legend 5 Mile Trail Race

I am back!! I can’t believe how great it felt to be back to trail running.  My first trail race of the year was a repeat venue for me, The Legend race at Sleepy Hollow StatePark, but this year I ran the 5 mile rather than the 10 miler which I ran last year (see race report on that here).  There was also a half marathon available, which many of my mileage hog friends took advantage of.

There are a lot of great things about this race. One is that it is put on by Running Fit. Their trail races are always top notch. It is at a great venue. Sleepy Hollow has some really nice single track running, as well as a great post-area with a beach (and nice rest room facilities).  The race is growing in popularity, but it is still small enough to keep the friendly low-key feel. The course, at least for the 5 mile, is very runnable – long sections of flat and slight downhills but enough uphills to keep it challenging.

This year an added plus of the race is that I had a lot of friends there. I belong to a Facebook group called Training Academy for Bad AssWarrior Goddesses, and there were several goddesses, myself included, who were out for the race that day.  We got together for a group picture before the race so that we were still looking very goddess-like at this point.

 We had a great day for the race. The weather was perfect. It is very cool here in Michigan for August, but the sun was shining. The pre-race was uneventful, except for the fact that I did actually do some pre-race preparation for this one. I ate before I left the house, drank a Powerade pre-race, and did a warm-up. I had already decided the night before that I wanted to run a “no-excuses” race this time and give it my all (also something which I sometimes don’t do).  I wanted a true look at where my fitness was at this time.

As I lined up for the start, I lined up close to the front. Because of my goal to run a solid race, I knew I needed to start fairly fast so I would not get hung up once we got to the single track. The early parts of the course do have good spots for passing, but I really didn’t want the hassle. It turned out that I had made the right choice and seeded myself correctly because I was only passed by a few runners throughout the entire race. 

When the gun went off, I was out fast. I knew the pace was not one that I could sustain, but I kept the pressure on until we actually got onto the single track (around .5 mile) and then settled in to a more reasonable pace. I was hoping I hadn’t gone out too fast at that point, but knew I would not know for sure until later in the race.

The early part of the race was just tons of fun. I felt good. There were some very satisfying flats and downhills that just invited me to fly along.  I kept trying to watch my breathing and not press too hard. I did try to ignore the watch as much as possible and just go by feel. Somewhere around mile 2.5, though, I started to feel like maintaining the pace was a little bit of work. I was still okay, but I was starting to tire.

Well, somewhere around mile 3.5 things started to get a little ugly. After the 3 mile mark, the uphills get more frequent and more serious. The downhills and flats, while nicely placed, were entirely too brief to be to my liking.  Between 3.5 and 4.25 I struggled some. I got passed by two or three people (one of whom was a woman – Grrrr!). 

I would like to say I made the 5 miles without walking, but it did not happen. On two of the bigger uphills I walked for 15 seconds each. It may have hurt my time a little, but more likely it would have cost me more not to. I have not done a lot of hill and trail work lately, so I think I needed the rest. In miles 4.25 to 4.5 my legs buckled twice, and I almost went down. They were just too fatigued. By then, though, we were out of the woods and coming across the parking lots and grassy areas before the finish. I was able to pick it back up for a strong finish. As I did the last cruel little uphill to the finish and crossed the line, I felt good about the race. My pace was 8:15, which was much better than I expected (I was hoping just to be sub 8:30), and I felt I had a good overall finish.

I went back to the car to check in with Jerry, grabbed my Powerade and a muffin, and went back to watch the rest of the finishers and cheer in my fellow goddesses. One of my favorite moments was watching Jessy cross the finish line with her son. 

The awards ceremony for the 5 mile was next. I was happy to find that I had ended up 1st in my age group, but even more happy to learn that I was 7th woman and 20th overall (out of 206).  I think that taking the time off from the longer trail runs early in the year to work some on the speed is starting to pay off. Also, the bicycle cross training seems to also be working well for me. The award was another Legend mug to add to my collection. 

The rest of the morning involved one of the things I really love about the trail races, hanging out in the finishing stretch cheering on people who are finishing the longer races. Jerry and I joined Jessy and her family to cheer for the finishers and to wait for our goddesses who were still out there  on the course. It was a great way to spend the morning. The only thing missing was the cowbell. Damn it! I forgot the cowbell!! I will definitely need to add that to my running bag for future races!!