Kansas Half Marathon Race Plan

We ran for Boston today – a run at lunch with a friend and a run tonight with the local running store. Runners throughout the world are adding up the miles dedicated to those affected by the tragedy.  In a way, this is our prayer. We run for those who can’t, we run to show support, we run because it feels right. And as we run, we meditate on lives lost, but more importantly on the amazing show of humanity and love in the outpouring of support that has surrounded and lifted up those affected in Boston. We will continue to run and we will be strong.


This Sunday is the Kansas Half Marathon, and with everything that has happened, it will have a little bit different meaning for every runner who is there. I will be wearing the Runners United to Remember bib as I attempt to reach a new PR.

I am still working toward breaking that 2:00:00 barrier, so I am aiming to get closer with this race. My previous PR of 2:16:43 was at the Kansas City Half in October. Despite being a PR, it was not my best race, and I believe I can greatly improve on the time. My hope is to finish close to 2:05 and my plan to achieve that is to start running with the 2:10 pace group to warm-up and then increase speed after mile 6 of the race to attempt to catch the 2:05 group. My goal time is 2:06 (10 minutes faster than my PR) and my stretch goal is anything faster than 2:05. I would be ecstatic if I managed to break 2:00, but I’ve never yet managed to sustain the pace required for that amount of time, so not sure I’m there yet.

The weather should be perfect for running on Sunday morning, starting with temperatures in the mid-40s and rising to no higher than 65 that day. I’m planning to wear capris and a tech t-shirt with a long-sleeved quarter-zip to begin the race. I’m going to carry my own water and Honey Stinger Pink Lemonade gummies for my race day nutrition. On my long runs, I’ve been practicing taking one chew about every mile starting around mile 3, and it’s worked pretty well for me, so I’ll stick with that for this race. Here’s my packing/wearing list for Sunday:

  • Boston remembrance bib
  • Fuel belt & water bottle
  • Honey Stinger Pink Lemonade chews
  • Garmin watch and HRM
  • Running capris
  • T-shirt
  • Long-sleeved running shirt
  • Gloves & Hat/headband
  • Socks/Sports bra/Deodorant
  • Hair tie & Bobby pins
  • RoadID
  • Brooks PureFlow shoes
  • Cellphone & $$
  • Banana & Almond butter for breakfast
  • Change of clothes for post-race

My plan is to have everything laid out and ready to go Saturday night, so I don’t need to think about anything at the crack of dawn Sunday in time to leave the house by 4:50am to leave town by 5:00am. That will put us at the race start around 6:15am to pick-up our packets and have a nice cushion of time before race start at 7:30am.

The rest of this week’s training will be focused on tapering for the race on Sunday. My plan is to run an easy ~5 miles tomorrow afternoon, do a short but fast 2 miles on Thursday, full rest on Friday, and an easy 1-2 miles on Saturday to loosen up my legs. I’m also hoping to do a little yoga tomorrow or on Thursday. I’ve opted to skip the weights this week to avoid any unnecessary soreness on Sunday. My other major goal for this week is to get enough sleep. I’m off to a bad start, but my goal is to be in bed by 10pm the rest of the nights this week.

I’m sure I’m forgetting something, so I may update this post as I think of other aspects of the race that I need to worry about.

Do you have any races planned? Do you write a race plan ahead of time? 

Today’s Training:

3.04 miles run + 3.07 miles run = 6.11 miles total

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For Boston

My heart is in Boston today, and all my thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this senseless attack.

I have no wise words, no deep insights today. Please just join me in thinking and praying for Boston. If you have a race coming up, consider joining the “Runners United to Remember” event and wearing the remembrance bib.  This is not a fundraiser, it’s just a simple act to show support and solidarity with the runners, volunteers, spectators and locals affected in Boston today.

For Boston, for Boston,

we sing our proud refrain

for Boston, for Boston

’tis wisdom’s earthly fame

for here are all one

and our hearts are true

and the towers on the heights

reach the heavens own blue.

for Boston, for Boston

’till the echoes ring again

For Boston, for Boston

thy glory is our own

for Boston, for Boston

’tis here that truth is known

and ever with a right

shall our heirs be found

’till time shall be no more

and thy work is crowned

for Boston, for Boston

thy glory is our own

– T. J. Hurley

(Boston College Fight Song…seemed appropriate today)

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Brew to Brew 2013 Race Report Part 2

To see part one of the Brew to Brew race report, visit here.

After the first exchange point, we all piled into vehicles and headed toward the second exchange. We did have some trouble finding a few of the exchange points early in the day, but they got easier and more obvious as the day progressed. We lost the other vehicles on the way to the second exchange point, so we spent a little time texting and calling to try and get them to the right place. Despite the lost time, we had a little bit of time to kill even after everyone else found the exchange point. Leg 2 was 5.3 miles, so we were expecting our runners to finish in about 40 minutes. We sat in the car for a bit to stay warm, and about 7:25 am we got out to cheer for other teams while we were watching for our runners. Before long, we spotted green shirts in the distance.


They were together and approaching at a breakneck pace! We cheered them in as our next runners got ready to take on legs 3 and 4.


Double exchange 2 complete! This photo looks posed and perfect, but I swear it was real! The leg 2 runners absolutely rocked their leg and it took them a little while to recover before we could snap a photo of them.


We had plenty of time to get to the next exchange point, so we hung out for a bit and dug into those muffins I had made. I was going to be running next, so I was a little hesitant to eat a muffin. I decided to just risk it since I was hungry and still had at least an hour before my leg.  I think in the future I will need to do a better job of preparing nutrition to run non-consecutive legs, but I hadn’t put much thought into it this time around.

After we finished eating, we decided to go out to the next exchange point to cheer our runners even though they were running through to finish two legs. We parked and walked up to the road to cheer for the other teams till we saw our runners coming through.

IMG_3050 IMG_3051

They had just a little over 2 miles to go at this point to complete leg 4, so we hit the road quickly after cheering for them and headed to exchange point 4. I was running leg 5, so I started getting ready to run in the car on the way. I got my fuel belt adjusted and shed my outer layer to just wear shorts and a t-shirt for my run. When we got to the exchange point, we made a quick port-a-potty stop and headed down to the course.

Before long, our first runner was approaching. The two runners on this leg had gotten split up, but I knew the second runner who I was relieving would not be far behind.


Leg 4 completed and leg 5 begun for team 2!


A few minutes later, and I started leg 5 for team 1! I knew I had to run about 4.7 miles, and I wanted to catch up as much as possible to the other team’s runner to get the teams back in sync, so I started at about a 9:00 min/mile pace. Initially, I had planned to run this leg quite a bit slower, but I felt great so I just went with it. My legs never got tired during my run, and the course was fun, flat and fast, so I felt like I was cruising. I passed a few runners, and thought I caught a glimpse of our other runner at one point, but I wasn’t able to catch her. She finished her leg and handed off for leg 6 to begin.


I finished my leg in just about 42 minutes, which was just under 9 minute miles. I handed off the slap bracelet to my hubby and he took off for a hard 3.3 mile uphill run.


We regrouped at the station, and took a photo to commemorate the end of the leg before driving to the next exchange.


At this point, the two teams had to diverge a bit as the race coordinators split up teams into exchange points A and B at a few different places along the course to reduce the congestion at the exchange points. For our early start, it wasn’t really needed as there were few teams running that early, but I expect it’s really helpful for the volunteers to keep things moving smoothly as the day gets busier.

We drove to exchange point A to start leg 7. Curtis killed his hilly leg and ran those hills like a champ.


We were finished with more than half of our total miles, with just four legs left to run.


We met up with the other team again at the next exchange point. It was in a small Kansas town and there were delicious grilling smells wafting around, making us all very hungry! I decided it was time for some more food as I’d be running again at leg 9, but I had to pass on the burgers. 😦 I settled for some banana and a Power Bar.

Leg 7 is interesting because the runners have the option to either run an extra mile or take a short boat ride across a creek. It sounds like the vast majority of runners take the boat, and our runners commented that they didn’t see an option to go by the road. The actual mileage for the A course and the B course are drastically different, so this is something to remember and be aware of next year, as my notes did not have this info when I was putting together the teams.


The leg 7 runners came in very close to each other, so the teams were getting back into sync again.


After leg 7, it was time for me to get ready to run again. I strapped my fuel belt back on and stripped my long-sleeved shirt to get ready. The last few legs are all on gravel/dirt roads through small farms. Our teams congregated at the exchange to wait for our runners.


We didn’t have long to wait before it was time to take off for leg 9!


I felt ok as I started my leg, but it didn’t take long before I felt the 5K from the day before plus the earlier leg that day catching up to me. Leg 9 is on a rolling gravel road. My shoes were slipping on the gravel quite a lot, and I was tired by this time in the day. I think that I could have done a better job of fueling to help get me through this leg. I finished the 4.2ish miles in 10 minute miles, so quite a bit slower than my earlier leg, but it was about all I could push myself to do. The very end of the leg has a bit of a “fake out” exchange station where you have to keep running about .25 miles after you see the first vehicles to get to the actual exchange. I tried to pick it up as I ran down the hill to meet my team.


Leg 10 began and we were on our home run! We left the last exchange point and headed to the finish line in Lawrence, KS to cheer for our final runners. We almost didn’t make it in time to see team 1 finish the leg. Luckily, we were at the finish line just in time.


Our leg 10 runner finished strong to bring team 1 into the finish in 6:44:07, which averages just about 9:10 minutes/mile. Curtis and another of our teammates walked out to meet our final runner from team 2 and run her into the finish line. It was another strong finish for a total time of 6:58:40 (9:30 min/mile pace) for team 2.


After a long day, we finished our 44.4 miles and went out for a well-deserved meal of burgers and beer at a local restaurant.


Overall, it was a really successful day of running. Everyone did phenomenally well and I am so proud to have such awesome teammates. The course was a nice mix of terrain and the exchange points were pretty well organized. This year the weather made for a gorgeous day for running, unlike the unbearable heat from last year. I can’t wait till next year!

If you ever have the chance to run on a long distance relay team, I highly recommend it. The experience was fabulous!


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Brew to Brew 2013 Race Report Part 1

Last weekend was hectic and packed full of fun running events. After Dog-N-Jog on Saturday, I had a little bit of downtime to prepare for the rest of the weekend. I squeezed a tiny bit of studying into the afternoon, then baked some muffins for my Brew to Brew teammates before getting ready to leave for Lawrence, KS to be closer to the start of the relay in Kansas City.

We have been planning for this race for months and ended up having two teams to run the 44.4 mile point-to-point relay from Boulevard Brewery in Kansas City, MO to Free State Brewery in Lawrence, KS. The race is 10 legs and we had 17 runners, with 8 runners on team 1 and 9 runners on team 2. Three runners ran 2 legs each to make up the difference.  Organizing the runners and then the vehicle driving schedule are the most difficult part of planning for the race, but once they were figured out, everything else fell into place pretty well. Everyone traveled to Lawrence on Saturday for a pre-race pasta dinner and team meeting, where we went over our plans for Sunday’s relay race. We hadn’t decided on what we would use as a baton, if anything at all, so we made a last minute decision to use some bright yellow/green reflective snap bracelets that I had as our “batons” for the relay.

Our lovely chefs for the evening.

After our dinner and meeting, we split up and half of us traveled to Kansas City to stay the night, several people went on a beer run, and the rest of us hung out for awhile before bed. We stayed up later than I intended, but a big part of the fun of the weekend is the camaraderie, so it was definitely worth the lost hours of sleep!

4am came really freaking early on Sunday. The crew that stayed in Lawrence needed to be out of the house by 4:45am to get to the starting line to meet our teammates at 5:30am in time to send off our first runners after a team picture. Well, best intentions, right? We were up and at ’em, but leaving a little later than intended combined with poor GPS directions, and we didn’t make it to Boulevard Brewery till just about 5:45am. Luckily, the rest of our teammates were there and we were able to take a quick picture and send our first two runners just in time to begin their legs at 6am.

Last year’s race was insanely hot, so we had chosen to take the earliest start time for this year in case it happened again. It was pretty chilly at only ~45 F, which I know I was unprepared to handle. I brought about every possible combination of clothing that I would need, except I managed to forget a warm jacket. Needless to say, I shivered through the start! The day was slow to warm-up, so we were all bundled for most of the day, but our runners all rocked green shirts during their legs. We had decided in advance that we would wear bright neon/lime green shirts to make it easier to see each other at the exchange points.  Apparently, neon green is very “in” this year because we were one of many teams with the same idea! Next year, we’ll have to get a little more creative and find another more unique color. I’d like to look into having tech t-shirts made for everyone to match if we can do it at a reasonable cost.

This was the start of a very long and exciting day.

Our teams! (Image courtesy of MR)

Since sunrise was scheduled for close to 7am and dawn wouldn’t come till 6:30ish, so our first runners got to contend with running in the dark. We made sure that they were decked out in reflective gear for safety, and they fit right in!

Check out all that reflective gear!

As soon as our first two runners started, we headed back to the cars, made a quick stop for coffee, beer and some more pictures, reorganized our stuff and drove to the first station to wait for our runners. While we were waiting, we went up and cheered for all the runners coming in – especially the solo racers who would be running all 44.4 miles that day. I am a relatively quiet person, usually, but I will scream and holler and carry on with the best of them at a race. I love it when people cheer for me, so I figure I can pass that on and cheer for strangers, too! If I were running it as an ultra, I know I would appreciate the extra encouragement, so it has become my personal mission to cheer for as many ultra runners as possible on race day. Though, next year, I need to invest in a cowbell, so I don’t scream myself hoarse again by the end of the day. 🙂

Our runners came in right about the time we expected them. They were very close together, so our exchanges went off one after another without a hitch.

First exchange complete!

And the second part of exchange 1 complete!

Our first two runners finished their 3.9 mile leg, getting us off to an awesome start for our day of running.

End of Leg 1: 3.9 miles completed.

I’ll post my review of the rest of the race tomorrow, but I did want to back up a bit and write a little more about the planning that goes into relay races. The relay concept can seem confusing if you’ve never done it before, but with a little work to make sure everyone gets to the right place at the right time, the day can go really smoothly. Last year, not having the experience of a relay race, I did not put too much thought into pacing for our two teams. This year, I decided it would be fun to try and match paces on the two teams so that we could spend more of the day together. This ended up working out pretty well, though there are definitely still some kinks to work out.

After confirming the list of committed runners, I sit down with it and with the course details on each leg and start matching. I had a pretty good idea of each runner’s pace, and I had asked them for any preferences of leg and maximum distance they were willing to run. In the future, I think it would also be a good idea to ask for the minimum distance people would like to run so that anyone getting ready for spring races can use the race as a training run if they like. I just use a spreadsheet so I can copy & paste names into the roster and move people around pretty easily. Once I had all my info, I started with the shortest legs and tried to match runners in pace who wanted to do shorter distances and I also tried to fit as many people to specifically requested legs as possible.  Curtis and I were the only couple this year, but if there were other couples, I would probably try to keep them together on the same team to make vehicle coordination easier later. I leave the most flexible runners to place last, so that I can fill any gaps that don’t have a perfect match prior. This year I did a few iterations of this because we started with enough runners for 3 teams, but unfortunately, we lost several runners for various reasons.

When the teams were finalized, we registered the whole team. Last year, each person registered separately and just entered the team name; this year, everyone had to be registered together at the same time, so I did the main team registrations and then had each person meet me to enter individual information. I thought it would be easier than gathering everyone’s information, but in retrospect, I think it would have been easier to have everyone complete a short form and return it to me to enter. This was all completed about a month and a half prior to race day.

Closer to race day, I worked out the driving schedule for the trip from Manhattan to Kansas City and for the day of the race. For that, I start with the vehicles offered and then just fill them according to team, moving people in and out of vehicles as they finish running their legs. I assume that people will pretty much get where they need to be even if there are some changes on race day, so as long as the main concern is getting the next runner to their exchange point, pretty much everything else follows.

More tomorrow on how the rest of the race went!

Have you ever raced a relay or organized one? 


Today’s Training

10 mile run – last one before the Kansas Half Marathon next weekend!

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Dog-N-Jog 2013 Race Report

Saturday morning was the 2013 Dog-N-Jog 5K race, and Tara’s second running race!  I woke up around 6am to feed Tara and make myself breakfast so we would have plenty of time for our 9am start. I needed to get to the start line around 8am to deliver something, so we left the house around 7:50. I picked up my race packet when we got there, got situated with my race bib, chatted with a few friends, and went for a short walk to work out some of Tara’s and my nerves.

I have a confession to make.

I’ve never really “warmed-up” for a race. I usually run longer distances than the 5K and in the past I never felt that my endurance was good enough to warrant an extra mile or so before beginning my race!  In my training runs, though, I’ve noticed that it usually takes me about a mile to get really warmed-up and into a rhythm for a good run, so I decided to try it for the 5K. Around 8:40am, we set off for an easy warm-up mile. Curtis didn’t race on Saturday, but he joined Tara and me for our warm-up. We ran just under a mile (0.89) at a 10:34 pace, and got back about 10 minutes before the start.

Getting ready for the big race!

Getting ready for the big race!

Tara and I were both pretty jittery and ready to go, but we stood and talked to some friends (doggy and human). Just before the gun, we lined up near the back of the corral and braced ourselves for the start. Just like last year, there was incredible energy at the start. The dogs were ready and raring to go and when the gun started, after a short collective hop, everyone started moving forward. The initial forward movement seemed a little slow compared to last year, but that was probably because everyone was trying to get over the timing mats, as this race was chip-timed for the first time.

Off we go!!

Off we go!!

As soon as we got through the chute, Tara started moving and picking off runners. We made our way through the pack pretty quickly by going around runners in the grass. The field opened up a lot by 1/4 of a mile into the race, and we were cruising. I checked my watch and realized I was on a much faster pace than I anticipated. I have never beaten 9 minute miles in a race, and I was on pace for a bit faster. I considered slowing, but felt great and decided to keep up the pace as much as possible. Tara was running strong and still wanted to overtake the runners. We passed a number of people and only got passed by one guy with a dog right at the end of mile 1.

Starting to pick up our speed out of the chute!

Starting to pick up our speed out of the chute!

Curtis joined us for a short bit of the race to run us into the finish area. I still felt strong, so I think I probably still have more to give with these shorter distances.

Still going strong!

Still going strong!

We kept pushing the pace as much as possible till we came to the home stretch where we sprinted as much as we could through the finish chute. Our final time was 26:58 (8:41 minute/mile pace!!!!), which is a PR by about a minute and a half. I finished 8th female (out of 91) and 17th overall (out of 132).

Running in for a strong finish!

Running in for a strong finish!

This was the strongest I have ever felt running a race, so it seems that my winter training has been paying off! It might be time to pick up the speed in my training to keep improving in this area. I felt like I was stagnant and destined to run consistent 10 minute miles forever, but I’m finally getting faster!

I was really proud of Tara’s and my efforts today, we both started strong and ended strong and she was very well-behaved. I can’t wait to do this run again next year and maybe even PR again!

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Race Day Tomorrow!

The Dog-N-Jog 5K race is tomorrow morning at 9am (I should be sleeping right now!). I’m super-excited for tomorrow’s race. I can just remember the high of the energy at the start line of last year’s Dog-N-Jog and can’t wait to be part of it again. 🙂 This race marks the start of my whirlwind “season”, with another race on Sunday, and the half marathon in two weeks!

Good luck to all my friends and classmates running tomorrow! I hope you and your dogs have fun!

Today’s Training
2.41 mile run to loosen up

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Dog-N-Jog and Brew to Brew Race Plans

This weekend, I have a 5K race on Saturday (Dog-N-Jog) and a relay race on Sunday, in which I’m running two legs for about 9 miles total. Both races are more “for fun” than major goals for me. I’m very tempted to go for a PR on my 5K at Dog-N-Jog, but knowing that the start will be insane with all the people and pooches, I think it is more important to just enjoy the event without setting any race specific goals. My major goal for the Brew to Brew relay race is that the day goes smoothly and everyone gets to the exchange points on time!


I’ve toyed with the idea of going to the gym in the morning to lift, but I think I am going to prioritize sleep over an extra workout this week. My plan is to do a light 3 mile run around the neighborhood right after class ends in the afternoon.  I want to leave plenty of time to get my studying done so I can get to bed at a reasonable hour.


Classes don’t start till 9am on Friday morning, so I should have time to fit in a short yoga routine to stretch and loosen up in advance of the race Saturday morning. Otherwise, my time will be spent in class in the morning and then an exam in the afternoon. Packet pickup should begin by the time I get out of my exam, so I’ll grab my bib/chip before I leave school. Then, Friday afternoon/evening, I’ll prep everything for the 5K and lay out my running clothes and Tara’s gear:

  • Timing Chip/Bib
  • Leash/Collar
  • Poop bags
  • Water bottle(s)/bowl
  • Heart rate monitor/Garmin
  • RoadID
  • Running shoes
  • Socks
  • T-shirt/Capris/Sports bra
  • +/- Race belt
  • Hat/Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen!
  • ID badge


The race doesn’t start till 9:00am, so I have plenty of time if I get up by 7am to eat breakfast and be out the door by 8:15am. That should put me at the race start early enough to do a quick warm-up and hit the bathroom before lining up.  Last year, I think the race started a little late, but they’ve enlisted the help of Manhattan Running Company to do the timing this year, so I’m hoping we start right on time. As I mentioned, I’m not setting a goal time, but I expect to be done in around 30 minutes give or take depending on how congested the start is. After the race, I need to remember to stretch well so I’m not stiff/sore for Sunday. I might take a short nap before getting packed and ready to head out to Lawrence, KS for the night.

Packing list:

  • Change of clothes and shoes for after the race on Sunday
  • Neon green tech shirt, sports bra, and long-sleeved shirt
  • Running capris and tights (just in case it’s colder than expected)
  • Rain jacket
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • RoadID
  • Garmin/Heart rate monitor
  • Race belt
  • Hydration belt
  • Water bottles
  • Snacks and Breakfast foods
  • Running shoes
  • Running socks
  • PJs for Saturday night
  • Toiletries
  • Small first aid kit for the car
  • Cooler
  • $$$

We’ll pick up a few of our teammates and head to Lawrence around 5pm to all have dinner around 7 or 7:30pm and a brief race meeting. Then it’s early to bed for a really early wake up call.

Our teams start at 6:00am Sunday morning, so we’ll need to meet at the race start to coordinate and get into the right vehicles by 5:30am. Once the first racers go off, we’ll start the crazy carpooling and driving around to exchange points to cheer in runners before moving to the next exchange point. I’m running legs 5 (4.8 miles) and 9 (4 miles) so I’ll have awhile in the car before my legs, and will need to eat around the time the race starts and probably snack after my first leg is finished. Hopefully the day will run smoothly and we should finish around lunch time. 🙂

This will be my first attempt at running two races in one weekend. The overall mileage is pretty reasonable, so I’m not too worried about the physical challenge. I do think this weekend is going to be just a little mentally exhausting, especially since I’m going to try and fit in studying anytime I have some downtime!

Have you ever done a relay race? 




Wednesday’s Training

4.6 mile trail run, easy

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Beginning Running with your Dog

There’s no running partner quite like a dog. The uncontrollable joy when you grab your dog’s leash is infectious and is almost guaranteed to get you out of the house to hit the roads or the trails. And who else can we convince to run in rain, snow, sleet, and even a stiff Kansas wind with us? Whether a seasoned runner or a newbie, your dog can help keep you motivated in your toughest moments and be there to share your greatest runs. My dog, Tara, has helped me train for five half marathons. She keeps me going on those tough long runs when I just want to take a break and she races me, pushing me faster, when I’m working on speed. In honor of our upcoming Dog-N-Jog race this weekend, I’ve put together 10 tips for beginning a running program with your pup.

Home stretch of our 10 miler and the snow is just starting to stick to Tara's fur.

1. Warning: Always Consult a Physician Before Beginning an Exercise Routine

We see these signs and warnings every time we go to the gym or read about starting a new exercise routine, and the same goes for our dogs. It’s a good idea to take a trip to the veterinarian before beginning an exercise program with your dog, particularly if she hasn’t had a complete physical in awhile. Just like in people, we want to make sure there are no heart, lung, or musculoskeletal abnormalities before beginning a running program. Also, ask your veterinarian to teach you how to evaluate your dog’s Body Condition Score to determine if she’s at a good weight, which will be helpful for you to evaluate her condition as you increase your mileage. And if your dog is under two years old, make sure to ask what age it is okay to start running so that the repetitive physical stress does not affect joint and bone development in young dogs.

2. Know Your Dog

It’s obvious from the vastly different physical characteristics that different breeds of dog were bred for different purposes and have different strengths and weaknesses. While our herding dogs and sledding dogs may be able to accompany you on even your longest distance runs, smaller breeds and dogs with flattened faces (e.g. pugs, bulldogs, etc.) may only be able to run shorter distances due to their conformation. It’s important to recognize your dog’s abilities and keep your expectations in line so that you are not pushing your dog beyond his physical capabilities.

3. Start Slowly

If your dog has been a couch potato her entire life, or even if she’s active but has never done any endurance running, it’s important to build up slowly to avoid injuries. I follow the same general rules for building doggy training plans as for people – build weeks increasing no more than 10% total mileage and no more than 10% long run distance interspersed every 2-3 weeks with a step back or recovery week. If you are already running consistently, you may want to plan some runs in which you can run a short loop with your dog, drop him off at the house and then continue on the rest of your run until you’ve built up your dog’s endurance.

4. Be Aware of the Weather

Unlike people who can sweat, dogs use panting as their primary mechanism for cooling themselves. Because dogs are also extremely willing to please, they may push themselves past the point of safety on hot days. If you notice your dog is excessively panting, trying to seek shade, or lay down during a run, it’s time to stop and let them cool down. Tara is fairly heat tolerant for a German Shepherd Dog, so my general rule of thumb is no more than 3-5 easy miles when it’s over 80 degrees F. You will need to find the comfortable point for your own dog, and avoid pushing him beyond his tolerance.

5. Hydration

And on that note, if you need water on a run, there’s a good chance your dog does too! For short runs (under 6 miles or so), I don’t carry water and have found that Tara will not drink even if I offer it. On longer runs, especially on warm days, I offer water every time I take a sip. You can teach your dog to drink from a bottle or there are small collapsible bowls you can use that will fit in a hydration belt. Since Tara has never learned to drink from a bottle, in a pinch I will pour water into a cupped hand and let her take a few sips. There’s no need to gorge themselves on water, just enough to quench their thirst.

6. Nutrition

This is a tough aspect to cover, and could fill an entire blog since such a large percentage of dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese. Running is a great way to help your pup get more exercise and lose some of that weight, if needed. You may also be helping your dog live longer, as some studies have demonstrated that thinner dogs may have greater longevity. If your dog is already a good weight – something your veterinarian can help you assess (see #1) – you may have to increase your dog’s rations to fuel the extra exercise. Dogs may also benefit from extra nutrition on long runs (10+ miles), but their smaller size means they probably do not need nearly the number of calories that we do, so it’s important to be careful to find an appropriate balance.

7. Strength and Stretch

I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but just like you, your dog will benefit from strength training and stretching. Cross-training such as swimming, hiking, and tugging can help build muscle strength. You can also use simple tricks such as doggy push-ups, perch training, and backing up to improve body awareness and agility. Learning to do simple stretches and massage on your dog can be a great benefit for them to work out sore muscles.

8. Leash and Potty Training

There are two major training items that can make runs with your dog much more enjoyable. First, is teaching your dog to run properly on a loose leash. I’m not too picky, Tara can run at my side, behind me or in front of me as long as she’s not dragging me around the entire run or constantly crossing my path. I prefer her to run out in front so we’re not stepping on each other on narrow trails, but if she wants to be at my side, who can argue with that? In my opinion it’s easiest to train loose-leash walking then translating that to running. The second major item is teaching your dog to eliminate on command. It’s not a hard thing to teach (simply give the cue you choose every time your dog eliminates) and it saves a lot of frustration on the run. Obviously, when they gotta go, they gotta go, but the less stops the better! Some dogs will catch on to these faster than others, but if you put in the time having both of these “skills” will make runs much more enjoyable. 🙂

9. Observing Your Dog

I’ll never forget the day I was out with Tara and she went completely lame on one leg. She was non weight-bearing, but otherwise happy as a clam. I had no idea what she’d done to herself – there were no yelps of pain, no sudden twists, turns or stops that could have caused it. When I stopped to check her, I found a 3 inch long thorn sticking out of her pad. After removing it, she was back to normal, so we ran home where I was able to clean and more thoroughly evaluate it. It’s incredibly important that you learn to observe your dog for injuries especially through any subtle gait changes. Dogs are so incredibly stoic that they often don’t show us overt signs of pain unless it’s really really bad, so we need to be able to pick up on the little things. Sore muscles or injuries may lead to lameness that requires rest (and possibly vet intervention) for healing. Paw pads are a frequent place of minor and major running injuries, so I try to inspect them daily for any cuts or abrasions. In the summer be aware of the hot asphalt and in the winter, the chemicals and salt used on roads and sidewalks can burn the pads.

10. Have a Blast!

(The obligatory “have fun” tip). Running with your dog is not just a great way to stay motivated and to get fit, it’s fun! Explore new routes, try trail running with your dog, or find a dog-friendly race to do together. Just take the time to appreciate the pure and simple joy that dogs have when they get to go on a run with you. 🙂

What additional tips do you have for running with your dog(s)?

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Disclaimer: The contents of this post and blog are my own opinions and should be used for informational purposes only. The information presented here is not a replacement for your veterinarian’s medical advice or care.



Yesterday’s Training:

30 minutes yoga

New Rules of Lifting for Women Stage 1, Workout A (1/8)

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Running in the Dark

One of my favorite times of the day to run is first thing in the morning – before the sun rises. It’s been awhile since I’ve been willing to brave the freezing temperatures and run before dawn, but this morning I dragged myself out of bed at 5:30am, put on our reflective gear and hit the road with the dog. It was a bit chilly and windy to start, but once I warmed up, I was comfortable.

The best thing about running first thing in the morning is that once it’s done, there’s no temptation to skip that day’s workout. I get to have my entire afternoon free for studying or whatever else and don’t need to worry about trying to fit in my run. Some days, I get to see the sun rise, and you can’t beat that! Though this morning was a little too early, and I was only out till dawn.

When it is dark, it is very dark.

When it is dark, it is very dark.

Running in the dark does have a bit of a learning curve, and I know it’s not for everyone, but it works pretty well for me. The number one most important thing for me to run in the dark is safety. I do have to run on roads in several places around my neighborhood where there aren’t sidewalks and it’s really important that I’m visible to drivers. I wear bright colored running gear (I’m on a real neon kick right now!) and always wear reflective straps – at least around my waist and usually on my wrist or ankle as well. And just in case something were to happen, I always have my RoadID.

Also, I always take the dog with me when I’m running in the dark and she wears a light so I have a little visibility of the path, as well as a reflective vest, leash and collar so she is visible to drivers and other runners. We both stay alert to our surroundings; Tara is a German Shepherd Dog and is quite good about letting me know if there is something “off” by subtle cues in her behavior – pricked ears or sudden watchfulness.  Fortunately, the most dangerous thing we’ve run into is a skunk that thankfully didn’t spray us! Even though we get a lot of strange looks with all our gear, it’s worth it to know that the cars that speed through the neighborhood will be able to see us.  Many of the runners and early morning walkers that I see wear all black or dark colors and I can barely see them till I’m about 3 feet away, so I don’t know how groggy drivers could possibly see them.

I do usually stick to areas I know well and have smooth terrain or sidewalks as much as possible so I don’t trip and fall in the dark, but for the most part, as long as I keep my feet picked up it’s not too difficult to avoid falls. I haven’t done much trail running in the dark, but I imagine it would be quite a bit more technical. Sticking to well-kept trails and sidewalks, I haven’t used a headlamp yet, but on a trail run I know it would be necessary. Tara’s little light is not nearly strong enough to provide enough light to avoid the obstacles on the nearby trails. I think I’d like to try a night trail race sometime, they sound like a lot of fun.

I’d like to get back into the habit of running regularly in the mornings before school instead of leaving my runs till the afternoon. It’ll make it easier to fit my shorter weekday runs into my schedule. Also, with the hot temperatures fast approaching with this summer, I expect I’ll be doing a lot more running in the dark or at least early in the morning as I try to avoid the daytime heat and ramp up mileage for the marathon.

Have you ever run in the dark? What time of day do you prefer to run?


Today’s Training

4.39 mile tempo run

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A Marathon and Goals for April

Yesterday, I had one of the best double-digit runs, ever.  The weather started a little humid and mid-50s, but cleared up and the sun came out. I ran with the dog, Tara, as well as three other friends and two more dogs. We started on our usually long run route, but instead of doing an out-and-back as we usually do, we mixed it up and turned off at 5 miles to create a loop through town. It’s amazing how a few miles of new scenery can invigorate a long run. On my shorter runs I routinely switch directions and mix things up with new side streets, but on the longer runs I’ve been doing the same route for quite awhile so it made a huge difference to change the route so much.

I think I’ll try to come up with another couple of courses for double-digit runs over the next few months to keep things interesting. It is going to be even more important as I ramp up the mileage for…wait for it…marathon training!  I finally committed and registered for the Richmond Marathon on November 16 in Richmond, Virginia. I am so excited at the prospect of finally tackling 26.2 miles!  My friend, Caitlin, and my hubby are going to run it too, so I’ll have plenty of support in my training here in Kansas and my family in Virginia is already on board with being our support crew while we’re on the East coast.

With such a big race on the horizon, I would like to get back into the habit of setting regular goals throughout the year.  I only set one goal for running for the year and that was to run 1000 miles, which I am a little behind on reaching with my current monthly totals (197.95/1000).  Tomorrow is April 1st, so today seems apropos to start setting some  monthly goals.

Goals for April

1. Run 100 miles in the month. I’ve run just under 200 miles for the year so far, so 100 this month will put me back on track for an even effort in the rest of the year for reaching my 1000 miles goal.

2. Do at least 1 day of weight lifting per week. I would like to start one of the New Rules of Lifting programs again. I’m leaning toward New Rules of Lifting for Women because I’m already familiar with all the moves, don’t need any new equipment, and they’re fairly short routines for the first few months while I’m still in school. My plan is to start by going to the gym this Tuesday during my long lunch break.

3. Prepare 1 new recipe per week. I really enjoyed finding new foods to try and meal-planning during my paleo experiment, and would like to continue adding some fresh new ideas to the repertoire.

4. Do at least 30 minutes of yoga per week. My flexibility is abysmal and running keeps me too tight, so I need to invest more time into stretching and flexibility. I think incorporating yoga into my routine will be a great way to accomplish this.

5. Research the possibility of an early summer triathlon. I’d like to find something to fill the gap between my half marathon training and the beginning of my marathon training. If I find a race that is within an easy morning drive, register and organize my training plan.

Do you have any tips for a first time marathoner? Do you set goals for yourself throughout the year?

Yesterday’s Training:

10.01 mile run

Today’s Training:

Rest day

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