Monday, July 30, 2012

Weekly Report: July 23-29

This week was really strong. My goal was 10 miles and exceeded my goal. Okay, only by half a mile, but I'll happily take it! I took two days off this weekend, and have been feeling some pain in one of my ankles, but  today is an "on" day, and I plan to run 3 miles.

Wednesday I'm going to be up at 5am-ish to run before work. When the students return, K and I plan to run twice a week in the mornings, and then go for a longer run on the weekends. We'll see what that does for my mileage, because I'm a pretty weak morning runner, but I'm excited to try it. The only problem with morning runs besides the early wake-up is that we can really only do 30 minutes at a time, or we'd be late for work. So unless we want to get up earlier, that will be something we'll need to work around when training for our next Half officially starts.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sticker Shock

One of the great things about being married to M is that our parents all live in the same city, just under two hours from us. On our way home from the cruise port, we stopped there for a rest. This particular city has one of my favorite running stores, called Fit2Run. The people there are always friendly, knowledgeable, and they carry an awesome selection.

On this particular rainy Sunday, we ventured over just to check some things out. But like most addicts, I couldn't leave the store without a purchase. One thing that caught my eye was a perfectly-sized oval car decal. You know the kind. "13.1". Not too big, not pink, not an eye-sore. Just perfect. Only $2!

I actually abstained from buying it because I wanted to buy two exactly the same, and they only had one. (I did, however, get a water bottle and a new singlet.) I decided to find some online. In my search, I came across an interesting debate. Apparently, there are people out there who believe that runners or tri-athletes who post distances on their cars are 1) show-offs, or 2) weak. One poster even claimed they were personally offended by such stickers.

Now, most of the people who have posted these sorts of blogs aren't runners themselves. They may play other sports, but they have little understanding of long-distance running. They claim a Half Marathon is just that - half a race. "Why post that you quit at the halfway point?" they sneer. Or worse yet, "Real distance runners laugh at Half Marathon stickers; 13.1 is nothing." This vitriol (and believe me, some of it was really hateful, which is why I won't post the links to the sites here) was shocking at first, and then disheartening. Would people judge me if I stuck a 13.1 sticker on my car, after only finishing one Half, and in a time I wasn't pleased with? Was I weak, or show-offy, or lame?

Here's the thing: I love seeing those stickers. Seeing them is like seeing a runner on your way home from work; it's motivating and makes you feel like you've seen a soul common with your own. You feel an instant connection. You think: ah, look! Another of the tribe!

As many commented on the posts, we shouldn't judge people for these stickers. Even a 5k sticker means something to the person who put it on there. These stickers aren't about bragging; they're about tipping your hat to fellow runners. It's like a secret handshake, a welcome sign...sometimes, even, just proclaiming a way of life. It's akin to having a political sticker, a band name, or a stick-figure family on your car. It states, "This is important to me; it is part of my identity." If you're going to put a sticker on your car in the first place, you'll probably offend someone in doing so. Running distance stickers seem so innocuous in the grand scheme of things.

People also pointed out that a Half isn't half a race. It takes a different kind of training and strategy to complete than a full marathon, or a triathlon.

Veteran runners should understand and remember that we all start somewhere. The runners who want to tear down those who are still working up to their goal distance are missing the point, and clearly don't want to be part of this beautiful, competitive, encouraging family. I will never understand runners like that. I would never scoff at a 5k sticker, because completing that race/distance must mean a lot to that person if they bothered to put it on their car.

I remember the days when completing a mile without walking was a pipe dream, never to be attained, and cannot fathom laughing at someone for being proud of a 5k. Moment of humbling honesty here: I am still proud when I finish a 5k.

I want a 13.1 sticker for a few reasons. 1) Because I ran one, darn it! 2) Because I want to get to the point in my running where Halfs are my usual race goal; it would be motivation for this new way of life. And finally, 3) to offer a little salute to those other runners who, seeing the sticker, will feel a jolt of recognition, pride, and solidarity upon seeing it.

As for the negative voices...well, if they need to tear others down to make themselves feel good, then I guess they're running for way different reasons that I am. More power to them, but it seems an exhausting and miserable way to live life. It seems a heavy burden to carry during a long run, that's for sure.

I say, if you want a distance sticker, and you ran that distance...get it! You don't need to explain yourself to those who don't get it, and it may serve to encourage those who do.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Weekly Report: July 16-22

I am going to start posting my weekly reports from Daily Mile. My goal over the last three weeks was 9 miles/week, and I was short by one mile this week. My goal for the next three weeks is 10/week.

The good news was that last night was a Good run. I went with M around 10:30pm. It was outdoors, cool, low humidity, and quiet. I love super-late runs because there's no traffic passing by; it's just you and the great outdoors.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Running on Water

There is nothing that complicates a running goal more than taking a vacation.

This past week, M and I took a cruise for our two-year wedding anniversary. Before that, I'd set a goal via Nike+ to run 9 miles a week for three weeks straight. I've been keeping on track, slowly upping my mileage, and feeling really good. The week of the cruise was the last week of the challenge.

I packed three pairs of running clothes and used the first the night before the cruise left. That meant that I could fit in two runs while on the cruise, and I absolutely planned to do it. Then I accidentally left my Nike+ chip in the car, which meant I couldn't use the actual track on the cruise if I planned to complete my goal while on vacation.

The realization of this hit me with much more force than I could have anticipated. I was basically inconsolable; I can upload my runs manually on Daily Mile, but without "proof" through the chip, my goal-setting on Nike+ would be lost. I would miss my goal, even if I met it.

After I had finished throwing a pretty embarrassing hissy fit, M and I figured out a solution. He uses Nike+ as well, but his iPhone is ensconced in the biggest, bulkiest case ever seen - it's waterproof, shockproof, and Life Proof. The case can only be removed 50 times before it stops being effective, which meant if I chose to use it, I had to strap that monstrosity to my arm. But it was better than nothing, so that was the plan.

One would think the treadmills in the gym on a cruise would overlook beautiful, glistening ocean...And they did. Kind of. Each was mounted with a TV screen that was impossible to see around. Wearing a heavy iPhone, running without my usual playlist, and watching a recap of the port's shopping choices left me feeling frustrated, to say the least. I stopped the run after a mile. The iPhone seemed to think I'd run more than that, but the treadmill was recording me at my usual pace; everything seemed completely off.

But, I returned the next day. This would set a new milestone: three days running in a row. I was determined to get in a real run, despite being tired, hot, and bursting at the seams with free food. The second run was better, but not great. I went further, but felt like my mind wasn't really in it.

I was forced by my lack of clean clothes to spend the last three days of the cruise relaxing - no running allowed.

I'm pretty disappointed with this week. I have three days to run six more miles to hit my 27-mile goal. I know I'll do it. But I wish I had better prepared myself to run on vacation. Packing more clothes would have been a good place to start; double-checking that I had packed everything I needed would have been a smart move.

I don't want to let this week get me down; I don't want to feel like I've given up on my goal. But this week was a good reminder that life gets in the way of running sometimes. We can set goals and then find ourselves needing to adjust them, whether because of injuries, poor planning, scheduling conflicts, inclement weather, whatever! But just because a goal needs to be put on hold, or a deadline needs to be extended, does not mean giving up is an option. This is something I've learned from running: you can't control it all, and you have to make sure to be flexible and learn from setbacks. And when the setbacks have been cleared up, it's time to get back to your goal and give it your all.

Missing a goal isn't the end of the world. I refuse to let disappointment in the execution of my plan get me down. I'm going to push to meet this goal, set a new one, and use what I learned this month to inform my actions and choices next month. (What do you know - it's like I'm using teacher-logic on myself!)

Summer is coming to an end; let's see if I can't close out my last 10 days on a high note.


PS: The trip was great, despite the disappointing running stuff.

Key West, Southermost Point

Sunset from Top Deck, The Bahamas

Friday, July 13, 2012

Sundry Running Things

I just cannot seem to enjoy the treadmill the way I enjoy running outdoors.

Call me crazy, but give me mosquitoes, 84% humidity, 91 degrees, lightning, and rain any day. The redundant clumpclumpclump of feet on the treadmill, the annoying whirring sound, and the impossibility of setting an organic pace just kills me. Not to mention the boredom. I'm not one who can read while running, and watching TV feels almost counterproductive. I'd rather be focusing on my stride, my pace, the excitement of coming to a landmark that signifies the halfway point.

It's funny, really, because earlier in the summer I was so bummed about the heat and humidity. And yes, it's still not pleasant by any means. I come back from a two-mile run looking like I've gone swimming, and trying to add any distance this summer has been a brutal undertaking.

Still, I'd rather deal with all that. The treadmill has been a nice option for when it storms too hard to run through, but the blinking lights of the "track" and the distance/calorie/pace monitors are distracting.

My IT band has been wonderful ever since I began wearing the velcro strap above my knee. I've also begun to use my visitor pass for the gym to do some strengthening exercises. After doing all that research, I discovered the IT band is too big of a muscle to really stretch effectively, and the best defense against injury is strengthening it. So I've been doing some weight-training. I'm excited to see the improvements in my running as my gluts, hips, quads, core, and hamstrings finally grow stronger.

Along that some vein of general improvement, I've also added chia seeds into my diet. I'm not really sure what the specific benefits are supposed to be, or how I'll see them, but I used to take flax seed and I've heard chia is very similar. I'm varying my breakfasts with fresh gluten free oatmeal with apples and cinnamon, instead of just my usual cold cereal with banana. This summer has definitely been a time of scrutinizing my routine and changing things that could potentially improve my running. I hope these changes stick when school starts up again.

No matter the changes, the goal is always the same: be a better runner.

The other day I was able to run through a local park, and instead of setting a particular course, I just took the paths wherever the spirit moved me. It was so nice and freeing to There's something almost magical about just following your feet, letting your mind go, and leaving the usual course behind. Yesterday my run was much later, and it was dark and threatening to rain, so I wanted to stick to my tried-and-true loop. The loop is about a mile, and I planned to add distance by completing it twice and then running half of it again. But by the time I'd finished one round, I was already bored. I veered off down the sidewalk and onto the main road and added distance that way. I felt like tethers had fallen off me, and coming back to the loop for the finish was tedious.

I think I need some new routes! But the difficulty lies in timing it correctly. If I run too early, it's too hot out; if I run too late, it's too dark.

I'll leave this post with a brief article on mental blocks and overcoming them. My mental blocks almost always come into play if I'm running a route I've done poorly on before, or if I'm coming off an injury. One of the points in the article is the ability to say "I'm a runner", and the importance of owning this identity. I love knowing I'm not alone in that one in particular; I've overcome it now, but it was one I struggled with for awhile.

One final quick note: my running buddy is healing happily post-birth of her second daughter. I'm so excited to have her rejoin me on our runs in the not-too-distant future!

That's all for now. Happy running!


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Some Change-Ups: Mornings and Treadmills

Last weekend, M and I took a little road trip to meet some friends to celebrate a birthday. Having just gotten back into a running routine post-Israel, I was intent to not miss a day over the weekend. Usually when I pack running clothes for a trip, festivities and socializing tend to take us into the wee hours of the morning, meaning nights are busy and early mornings are unheard of. But something has happened in the five or so years since we all left college: we don't do late-nights anymore. At least, not more than once a week.

So Friday night saw us playing games and turning in around midnight. Some of our other friends are runners as well, one for exercise and one for military training-type things, and I had spent the evening being as annoying as possible in discussing running techniques, times, and accessories. Having talked their ears off about my determination to wake up early Saturday and run, I realized that not doing so might be a little embarrassing. So, proving once again that sharing your goals and ambitions with others is the best way to stick to them, I rolled out of bed at 8:15 (an hour later than I'd planned) and did a 1.5 mile run around the block. I kept the run short for multiple reasons, but mostly because I'm a weak morning runner and it was already more than 80 degrees when I finally got outside.

The morning run left me invigorated and proud. I've been trying to wake up mornings to run for weeks, and I finally accomplished a morning run! I felt I'd overcome a hurdle. (One step forward...)

Back at home this week, faced with more hot weather, rain, and humidity, I opted to actually accompany M to the gym and do my run there. Of course, the gym director wanted me to consider adding my own membership, and I know that weight-training is important to improving my running and decreasing my injuries. We're considering adding me on for just the summer, until it's cooler out.

Anyway, I did some weight-training for my hips, quads, and core before doing my two miles on the treadmill. Even though I was more tired after doing weights, the run was easy enough. But I had forgotten how boring running on the treadmill is! I really prefer running outside, even if it's a tired and overused route; even if it's 90 degrees and so humid I may as well be swimming.

I feel strong but achy today, and I meant to run this morning...but of course, I'm not trying to impress M, and it was so much more comfortable in bed. (...Two steps back.) It's raining again, so today may be another gym day.

My adjusted plan is to try to alternate gym days with running days, so that I'm not overworking my muscles. I'm also going to start adding mileage again; I'm aiming for 9 miles a week by running 2.5 or 3 miles at a time, instead of my usual two.

The next FMTC fun-run is on July 10 (M's and my anniversary!), and I'm hoping to beat my time on that one. I'm also hoping it's not on grass like the first one was!

Making progress and adding/changing routines is part of the fun of this sport, and I'm definitely enjoying experimenting with my comfort zone. Every time I set a new limit or goal, I'm astounded when I'm able to reach it. I'm excited to continue to push myself further this summer, so that by fall I'm feeling more confident and stronger than ever.