September Slipped Away

September was a cool month. On the 10th I ran a half marathon (2:10:16), was able to get to Monhegan (and introduce the island to some new people), and get to a lot of reading:

  1. Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Cotterill
  2. Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng
  3. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
  4. Consul’s Wife by W.T. Tyler
  5. Tears of Autumn by Charles McCarry (AB)
  6. Life and Death of Edwin Mullhouse by Steven Millhauser
  7. Four-Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright
  8. Best Game Ever by Mark Bowden
  9. The Trial by Franz Kafka
  10. Which Side Are You On? by Elaine Harger (ER)
  11. Which Side Are You On? by George Ella Lyon (for fun)

AB = Audio book
ER = Early review

Where the Road Ends

Hicks, Meghan M. and Bryon Powell. Where the Road Ends: a Guide to Trail Running. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2016.

Reason read: for the Early Review program for LibraryThing. Perfect, isn’t it?

The first time I laid eyes on the cover of Where the Road Ends I instantly thought “cheesy” and when I glanced through the pages I was reminded a little of a middle/grade school textbook, all glossy and full of pictures. But, that is where the fluff ends. As far as content goes, Where the Road Ends is chock full of great information. Most of it might be second nature to the more experience ultra runner but for beginners this book is a perfect must-have. The layout of information chapter by chapter is intuitive, starting with just learning and ending with full-out racing. In between is a plethora of everything you need to know: how trail running differs from the road, how to navigate the terrain, what equipment to use, how to stay fueled and hydrated (especially on the long desert runs), and so on and so on. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover (or lack thereof). This is a well organized informative book.

Smoothies for Runners Book

Andersen, Lars. The Smoothies for Runners Book. Atlanta: Nordic Standard Publishing, 2012.

I am super glad I didn’t pay a lot for this book (okay, I got it for free). Where do I begin? First of all, it’s supposed to be an e-book. Right in the very beginning, the “How to Use This Book” section it talks about “clickable Table of Content.” Not with print you can’t.

I was also disappointed with the contradictory nutrition information. Andersen writes, “sugar comes in many forms…fruit juices should be consumed in post-run smoothies only” and yet three different pre-run smoothies feature fruit juices (apple, orange and pineapple). Another editing issue was the misinformation about a smoothie on page 49. Andersen talks about the importance of peanut butter as a protein but the smoothie (in the “green” section) doesn’t include peanut butter.
The organization of the recipes is a little wonky. While the smoothies are in three different categories: carbohydrate, multivitamin and green, the pre and post run smoothies are jumbled together. It would have been great to have further organization of all the pre-run smoothies grouped together before the post-run smoothies.
Last complaint – all the recipes come with a black and white photo of the smoothie. That tells me nothing. I’m wondering if the e-book version was in color?

Because Andersen mentioned his other books twice I got the feeling Smoothies for Runners was just a vehicle for promoting his other work. This one just felt cheap.

There are only 36 smoothies in the book and I’ve tried a handful. The “apple, grape, apple juice and honey” smoothie was refreshing but I don’t think it energized my 13 mile run any more than a Gu.

Runner’s World Cookbook

Golub, Joanna Sayago and Deena Kastor. Runner’s World Cookbook: 150 Ultimate Recipes for Fueling Up and Slimming Down – While Enjoying Every Bite. Rodale Books, 2013.

Can I tell you how much I loved this cookbook? When it was due back at the owning library I didn’t want to give it up! It took everything I had not to renew it again and again. Everything about the book was gorgeous, from the food to the photography. This is one book I am definitely going to buy for myself had to buy for myself.

As someone who is starting to take running a little more seriously (as in serious enough to train for something longer than a 13.1 miler), I needed a little help with the other parts of (ahem) training. Stuff like strength training and yoga was the start (and oh so helpful), but I needed even more than that and that’s where nutrition came in. I had heard a great deal about the Runner’s World cookbook thanks to magazines like Running for Women. Finally, I borrowed it from a library and was not disappointed. The recipes are yummy and I have lost 12 pounds. So get out there and eat!

Marathon: the Ultimate Training Guide

Higdon, Hal. Marathon: the Ultimate Training Guide. New York: Rodale, 2011.

Reason read: In a word, Vegas!

I’ll be honest – I read this in sporadic fits. I didn’t sit down and read huge chapters all at once, but rather only a few pages at a time. Yes, Hal Higdon is a master at the marathon. Yes, he has run hundreds of races all over the world. Yes, he deserves all the accolades showered on him. But, but. But! It’s a little off-putting when he’s the one tooting his own horn. In the beginning his statistics on how many visitors his website gets, how many people download his marathon plans, and on and on got a little wearisome. His stories of besting other runners left a bad taste in my mouth (one incident in particular – a runner passed him during a marathon and was really excited to have “beaten” the great Higdon. Higdon couldn’t let the runner bask in this feat and instead assured the man he wasn’t racing this marathon but simply running it.) Having said all that, this is not a book that should be ignored. By all means, if you are planning to run a marathon, read this book. I’ll say it again, read this book. It’s a wealth of important information. Everything from nutrition to cross training is there (all the typical information)…and even some advice you might not expect, like a training plan for women designed to work around that time of the month. Yes ladies, there is a plan for your period. So, hubris aside, this is a great resource for every kind of runner.

Runner’s Diet

Fernstrom, Madeyln. The Runner’s Diet: the Ultimate Eating Plan That Will Make Every Runner (and Walker) Leaner, Faster and Fitter. New York: Rodale, 2005.

Reason : yup. Still on the running kick.

Author fact: Dr. Fernstrom is the founder of the Weight Management Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Book trivia: don’t expect recipes.

The Runner’s Diet is chock full of information, both about running and nutrition. While a great deal of the information is pretty standard stuff, I took it as necessary reminders (keep your head up when you run and be diligent about portion control, for example). Despite the basic hand-holding I think I was looking for more structured information, maybe even specific diet plans. I know that comes from not having the imagination to come up with menus of my own.

Tales From Another Mother Runner

Tales From Another Mother Runner: Triumphs, Tips, and Tricks From the Road: a Collection for Badass Mother Runners. McDowell, Dimitry and Sarah Bowen Shea, editors. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2015.

Reason read: for the title alone. I’m not a mother but I love a book with a great title.

Dimitry starts the introduction and right away you can tell what kind of person runner she is. Even with a bad stress fracture she “needed to go the distance” not as a spectator but as a runner at the Nike Women’s Marathon. Sounds like someone else I know.
I had to wait three months before getting this book from a library almost 200 miles away. It was worth the wait. Tales From Another Mother Runner isn’t just for running mothers. I should know I’m definitely not a mother and, with only two halves under my belt, I’m barely a runner. This book is for anyone who has to juggle running with other parts of their lives (and not just kids, too). Husbands, jobs, injuries, fears, you name it. These tales cover every aspect of running from first steps to last miles and features every kind of female runner from the speedies to the barely jogging (but just don’t call it jogging). Like the art of running there are highs and lows, funny stories mixed with sad ones. I identified with dealing with depression as well as the more lighthearted nuisances like trying to find a anti-chafe remedy for all areas (and I do mean, ahem, all areas). I enjoyed Tales from Another Mother Runner so much I’m going to look for McDowell and Shea’s other books.

Never Wipe Your…

Robillard, Jason. Never Wipe Your Ass with a Squirrel: a Trail Running, Ultramarathon, and Wilderness Survival Guide for Weird Folks. Barefoot Running Press, 2013.

This has got to be the strangest guide to running I have ever come across. Okay, to be fair it is chock full of useful information and thensome. Hey, you even learn the names of clouds…as in cirrostratus and stratocumulus. I kid you not. That’s the tame stuff. Azz wiping is even more informative. But. But! But, it’s all organized in a bizzarro way. Here’s an example: you are reading all about wilderness dangers (because nature can kill). Robillard is covering what to do in cases of ticks, snakes, even cougars. Then all of a sudden he jumps to information about foam rollers and stretching. Just when you think he’s moved on from the hazards of nature he returns to tripping on tree roots and the importance of learning to fall correctly. More safety information. The stick/roller information seems really out of place. Having said all that, one look at the table of contents and you know this isn’t your typical runners’ guide. I would say beginner runners shouldn’t attempt to use this book as a serious guide. Serious ultrarunners will know everything he’s talking about and I would say, the more experienced the runner, the funnier Robillard gets.

Can’t quote anything from the book, even for a review…mostly because I’m too lazy to seek permission. Pretend I inserted funny examples of why you should read this book here -> “—-“(p).

Reason: okay, I admit it. The title caught my attention.

Author fact: Robillard likens himself to Tucker Max. I would say Robillard is just as funny except his writing is more interesting.

Book trivia: Oodles of typos. Not sure what to make of that.

Mastering the Marathon

Fink, Don. Mastering the Marathon: Time-Efficient Training Secrets for the 40-plus Athlete. Guilford, CT: Lyons Press: 2010.

Reason read: the Toronto half marathon.

I picked up Mastering the Marathon because even though I am only running a half I thought the information couldn’t hurt. The unfortunate thing was I didn’t have time to use the “secrets”. The book is begins with the outline of “three magic bullets” and exactly how effective each “bullet” is to your training. The bullets are actually three different workouts designed to maximize your potential as a runner. They are as follows: marathon pacing sessions, long runs and higher-intensity repeats. I know what you are thinking – they sound like a variation of the three specific training runs you should already be doing to train for any distance. In other words, tempo, long and fartleks. The difference is Fink outlines training plans based on how fast you want to finish. The typical 16-week plans are broken down into finishing time and how much running you want to do throughout your training. Let’s say you want to finish 26.2 miles in 3-3.5 hours and you want your training to consist of only running. There’s a training plan for that. You want to finish in 3.5 – 4.5 hours and you want your training to consist of only running. There’s a plan for that. You want to finish in the same times outlined above but you want to do less running and add cross training – there’s a plan. Finally, you want to finish in the same times outlined above but you want to do the minumum bare-bones running. You guessed it, there’s a plan. A great deal is made about these training plans throughout the first part of the book. In chapters 1-4 Fink refers to them (in chapter 5) no less than a dozen times. By the time I got to chapter 5 I felt like I had reached Mecca.

But, Mastering the Marathon is not just about different training plans and the three magic bullets. Fink also includes success stories of runners who have improved their times with the help of his coaching. While they were a little repetitive (he predicts everyone will continue to get faster), I was more disappointed in the fact most of the stories were about seasoned runners than individuals who ran their first marathons after the age of 40. For every four stories about a seasoned runner there was only one about an over-40 new-to-marathons runner.

Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition

Clark, Nancy. Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, 5th Ed. Champaigne, IL: Human Kinetics, 2013.

Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook is jam-packed with all sorts of information, including eating disorders (anorexia & bulemia), which is something I didn’t encounter with other nutrition-for-athletes books I have read. While a great deal of the information is useful I also felt there was a great deal of repetition and common sense “fillers” that took up space (like her comment on plastic water bottles which has nothing to do with sports or nutrition, just her opinion). I enjoyed the clean and well organized chapters but didn’t try any of the recipes in the back. Although I initially borrowed this from a library, this is the kind of book I would buy to keep on my personal library shelves in order to refer back to it again and again.

Reason read: the Toronto Half Marathon is less than a week away. Talk about getting some last minute advice!

Book trivia: while most of the illustrations are interesting and well-meaning, some are downright goofy.

New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition

Fitzgerald, Matt. The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition: a Cutting-Edge Plan to Fuel Your Body Beyond “the Wall.” Boston: Da Capo Press, 2013.

Reason read: So. I have this little run of 13.1 miles in Toronto in less than two weeks. I’m just now thinking I should research nutrition for this jaunt.

As much as I love books that are designed to make me a better anything my eyes glaze over when the information becomes too out-of-my-league. Take, for example Fitzgerald’s recommendation that runners should know “basic” information: body weight and V02 max. I can jump on a scale and figure out BMI, weight, fat % and bone density… but V02 max? I’m a middle-aged housewife just looking for a little more information on nutrition for runners. Obviously, The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition is for consumers who are much more hardcore about running than I am! But having said all that, there was a plethora of take-away information that I could (and probably will) use. Pre-race nutrition was especially helpful, as was the nutrition training plans and the chart of diet quality guidelines.

Author fact: Fitzgerald has written a few other books about running, nutrition and the like.

Book trivia: Kara Goucher, two-time Olympian, wrote the foreword for New Rules. Ryan Hall, also an Olympian, endorsed the book as well.

Running for Women

Goucher, Kara. Running for Women: from first steps to marathons.New York: Simon and Schuster, 2011.

Reason read: running. Duh.

Kara Goucher is an Olympic distance runner. I decided to read her book partly because I was looking for a new perspective on an old theme, running for women. All in all, I found Goucher’s Running for Women to be informative, if not a little disorganized. I realize Goucher probably wanted the information approachable and therefor used a very deliberate tone, but I felt like it wasn’t serious enough or thought out enough. For example, in the section on running a marathon there is a little box titled “The World’s Simplest Marathon Training Plan (15 weeks)” (p 248), with the admonishment, “Before reading the plan, please review chapter 7 to learn…where you need to be fitness-wise…” (among other things). I went back to chapter 7 because I didn’t really remember that information. In searching the chapter I found Goucher’s personal marathon story, tips for organization before a race, advice on sex and food the night before a race, what to wear the day of a race (including extra deodorant), how to wear your hair and get your head space together…all sorts of interesting things, but nowhere did I easily find the information I was asked to review before reading the plan. Short of rereading the chapter I still don’t know where I need to be fitness-wise before running a marathon.
I mentioned disorganization. Let me elaborate. All of Goucher’s advice, quips, comments, answers to questions and personal stories are great, but they are all over the place. On page 106 she mentioned getting away from running every once in awhile. On page 110 she says the same thing, more or less, when she says, be okay with regular breaks from running.
Did I get anything out of reading Running for Women? Yes. I liked the nutrition section a lot. I appreciated her honesty when talking about her own relationship with food. I even enjoyed her advice for new moms even though I didn’t need the information.

Run or Die

Jornet, Kilian. Run or Die. Translated by Peter Bush. Boulder, Colorado: Velo, 2013

There is no denying Kilian Jornet is tough…and maybe just a little crazy. At 18, as a burgeoning athlete, he had an injury so severe he had to have a metal plate surgically implanted around his kneecap, and still he was determined to train. In the third chapter he describes running the 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail. In the very next chapter…well, I’ll let him tell you”…It was the idea I could run across the Pyrenees in seven days” (p 75). See? Told you. Nuts. Just so you know, he ran just under 87 miles that first day. But, what is really cool of Jornet’s character (besides the crazy ambition) is his appreciation for the world around him as he runs. He is constantly taking note of the snow-capped mountains, the way sunlight dances on water. He really drinks it in as he runs.

Quotes to inspire, “A day comes in life when you have to decide which train to take, and once you are aboard, there is no point in thinking what might have happened if you had caught a different one” (p 14). Amen to that! Here’s another, “A race is a life that is born when you get up in the morning and dies when you cross the finish line” (p 30). I like the finality of that. You do it. You finish it. You’re done. Last one, “Everyone can be king of his own castle, but outside he is vulnerable and can lose his way” (p 124). Too true.

Reason read: training to run. Yes, I went off the plan…just a little.

Book trivia: I am super excited Kilian included a photograph of his 165-mile run along the Tahoe Rim Trail. I needed to see just one of the spectacular views he described.

Author fact: In addition to being an ultrarunner, Kilian is a ski mountaineer.  In other words, he hurls himself down mountains on skis.

Running for Mortals

Bingham, John and Jenny Hadfield. Running for Mortals: a Commonsense Plan for Changing Your Life Through Running. New York: MJF Books, 2007.

If I could, I would read everything John Bingham has ever written on the subject of running. He is, without a doubt, my kind of runner. He writes with authority and humor, something that’s hard to do in this puffed up, I-Run-12-Marathons-A-Year world. He comes across as knowing his stuff but, but. But! decidedly humble about it all the while. We can connect and commiserate with his experiences. It is important to note that both John and Jenny assure the reader runner that it doesn’t matter how tall you are, how thin you are, or your previous experiences with exercise. Anyone can do it. That bears repeating: Anyone. Can Do. It. I am proof of that. To be called a runner, there is no membership. No secret password or secret handshake to get in. If you run then you are a runner. Plain and Simple. John and Jenny just help you become a better version of the runner you already are.

Reason read: the St. Patrick’s Day road race is looming and while I “trained” last year for it, I wanted to do more this year.

Author fact: John Bingham is lovingly referred to as “the penguin” because of his shape and the way he runs. He has embraced this nickname and makes the best of it.

Book trivia: there are no pictures of either John or Jenny in Running for Mortals (that I know of), but there are pictures of exercises (probably more important to the serious-minded reader).

Yoga for Runners

Felstead, Christine. Yoga for Runners. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2014.

I loved this book so much I’m calling it my yoga bible. As a runner frequently plagued by injury, I was hopeful Felstead’s book would help me run with less pain. Notice I didn’t say “without pain.” This is not a miracle cure for those of us with hips and knees constantly out of alignment. But, having said all that, I took a long time to write the review for Yoga for Runners because I wanted to spend some time actually trying out the sequences more than once, especially the hour-long ones. Eager to get right to it, I had to rein myself in and actually read the chapters leading up to the sequences. Go figure. But, I’m glad I did. Each chapter builds upon the next, complete with photographs and testimonials. Each pose is broken down and thoroughly explained so that when you do (finally!) get to the sequences you have a better idea of what you are supposed to be doing (which is a good thing because holding the book open while trying to practice the entire sequence is nearly impossible. In fact, trying to read and move at the same time is the only drawback to Yoga for Runners. I ended up putting an 8-pound weight on the spine to keep the book open. I know, I know. Not good. I would have preferred a spiral bound book that lays flat when opened or, as someone else mentioned, a DVD to accompany the text.
But, back to the good stuff. The post-run sequence is easily my favorite go-to. It’s only 5-10 minutes long so there’s no excuse to skip it. My second favorite sequence is the maintenance routine. It’s over an hour long, but each pose is essential so your time is not wasted. The flow from pose to pose works well for all sequences. I know a runner who is a better yogi than runner. I would be curious to get her take on Yoga for Runners since she has been combining the two activities for years.

Reason read: this was sent to me as an Early Review selection, courtesy of LibraryThing.