Monday, September 28, 2015

It's Time

You know what really starts to wear on you and mess with your mind? Multiple rough long runs.

While my shorter runs are finally picking up some speed, I've been fighting brand new (to me) issues on my long runs. I'm talking calf cramps, side stitches, stomach cramps, the threat of impending vomit, and the threat of...other gross issues.

Needless to say, my last two long runs have been disastrous. But hey, at least I went.

I've been doing a lot more walking than I'd like because of all these problems, and that leaves me feeling even worse about the whole situation.
Two slow and kind of miserable long runs.
When our bodies revolt like this, it's a sign. I'm a seasoned enough runner that I know this doesn't mean I'll never run a successful LSD again; but this is definitely a wake-up call from my body.

It's time to actually crack my calendar and get all my weekday runs done as planned so my long runs don't feel as hard.

It's time to check my eating habits. We've been eating out more often since I went back to work and since the kitchen demo, but that doesn't mean I need to eat junk. And our stove and grill both work; I should be cooking meals at home.

It's time to get back into morning runs. I switched back to evening over the last couple weeks, and that means I'm skipping more runs because time gets away from me.

Basically, I've been really slacking. I haven't been applying the knowledge I've gained over the last few years about training for races, and if I honestly have any hope of PR'ing at BDR, I need to get back on track. I need to want it as much as I keep saying I do.

And boy, I do want to ring that PR bell!
Ever since Sean told me about the PR bell, I've been dying to ring it!
I have a 10k scheduled for mid-October. I think focusing on it will help give me a sense of urgency that I've really lost. I'm going to keep experimenting with fueling during runs and, more importantly, eating and drinking like an athlete.

I've been complacent. It's time to step up; a marathon is a big deal no matter how many you've done, and I've only done one! I won't reach a PR without putting in some real work.

It's go time, guys. I'm feeling my determination and inherent motivation coming back, but I know I'll need your help and encouragement over the next few weeks!

What's the best way to tough it out when you're just not feeling it?
How do you keep tough runs from getting you down?


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A New Adventure

When Matt and I bought our house last summer, the plan was a very slow flip. Our main goal was to tear out the kitchen and do a major overhaul. That overhaul is finally underway...And hopefully it will be finished before Megan comes to visit for BDR! (No promises, though; a friend is doing most of the work pro-bono so we're at the mercy of his schedule.)

Here is what our kitchen looked like when we moved in:
Our house was built in the 70s, and I don't think the kitchen has been updated since then.

I absolutely hated the cabinets. They're thin, unadorned wood painted beige; the paint on the handles is chipping and the bottoms of the drawers were all in danger of falling out. Also, weirdly, the cabinets opened in the same direction instead of meeting in the middle and opening in opposite directions. For some reason, that drove me nuts.
Our additional room is full of cabinets.
They're beautiful! We got a few fun, snazzy features I'll share once they're installed, and they're soft-close, even though we didn't spring for that upgrade! I guess it was free! We haven't decided on hardware yet.
The biggest logistical problem was the position of the dishwasher and oven. The doors would catch on each other and that corner was really cramped. I'm having the sink and dishwasher flipflopped to fix that issue.

I also hated how closed off the kitchen was. When I was cooking, I felt secluded from the rest of the house, and it was impossible to get any light in there.

This weekend, we cleaned out the cabinets to prepare for the first stage of the update: demo!
We put everything on the dining room table and covered it with a tablecloth to protect it from dust.

Then, Matt and the crew got to work.

Here it is now:

The view in from the living room. That PVC pipe has already been rerouted back into the wall, so the window is fully open.
The view from the kitchen!
I was adamant about losing that wall. That meant moving some plumbing around. The cabinets will be installed within the next couple weeks (they need to finish drywall and electrical stuff first), so right now our kitchen is basically useless.
My "kitchen" right now.
We put a deposit on some dark gray granite for the counter tops, so the kitchen will look bright and modern once it's finished! I can't wait! My dream-kitchen would have a wired island and a state-of-the-art dishwasher, but this is a good start.

Have you ever done major renovations on a house?
What does your dream-kitchen look like?


Monday, September 21, 2015

Mindless vs. Mindful Running

I've been reading Meb for Mortals in small sips over the past couple weeks. Meb, like most professional runners, is a big believer in being mindful during a run

Being mindful means keeping track of your body. Does anything hurt? Are you on pace? Is your form good? What needs fixing?
This kind of running is beneficial when you're training and looking to improve. But is there ever a time for mindless runs?

I think so. 

Constantly being mindful can be exhausting, and sometimes we run to energize ourselves. 

We run for the pure joy of it, for the freedom it gives us. We run to remember how strong we are and how far we've come. 

Especially when training, running can become a chore. I think a nice, mindless run once in awhile can be cathartic. It helps to reset and recharge our bodies after days of over-analyzing every step.

I think it's hard to find balance between being mindful and mindless when in the midst of training, and I think leaning too far toward either end of the spectrum means possibly losing sight of your ultimate goal - to enjoy running and to make progress.

I've been having a really hard time running lately; it was honestly the last thing I wanted to do this week. It felt like too much time to think, because I've been running mindlessly. But after a more mindful run Saturday night, I remembered that when I engage my mind and push myself, running can be a good distraction.

And with that, I think I finally turned a corner.

Do you enjoy running mindfully?
How often do you run mindlessly?


Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Long Run that Wasn't

I have, unfortunately, enough experience with running-while-grieving to kind of know what to expect. When my beloved dog Toby passed away a few years ago, my first run after her death was supposed to be 7 miles. I walked it in after 3.5; my body and mind just weren't ready for that kind of effort.

I remembered that this time around, but I didn't remember how long it really took me to get back into a running mindset. I skipped my scheduled 12-miler that Sunday. Tuesday I went on a run without a distance in mind. I ended up running way too fast as my emotions fueled me, and then had to walk it in after 2.5 miles. That's okay...I knew that run would just be about getting outside.

I joined Kristin for six miles Thursday morning, but missed my Friday run because I felt absolutely exhausted physically and mentally. Instead I did some free weights.

So my long run this weekend was supposed to be 14 miles, and I got up to go. I had my new Camelbak Circuit packed and ready. I had a route in mind. I knew it was supposed to pour around 8am but thought I could at least get a couple hours in.
Typical Florida weather I guess.
I prepped an assortment of food for the run. The Circuit held it all nicely, and still had room for my sunglasses.
But no. I just...wasn't there. It was too much time to think. Too much time alone. I kept remembering that Archie's been gone for a week already, and once I got thinking of that I just couldn't go on. I did just over four miles and came home, dejected.

I may go out again tonight and finish the rest of the distance, or, because we don't have school tomorrow, I may try again Monday morning. I don't want to shirk my long runs, but my mind and body just aren't feeling it right now.
I took quite a few walk breaks and my legs never really seemed to warm up this morning. Usually after a couple miles I start to enjoy myself, but today all I wanted to do was go back to bed.
I don't want to cut myself too much slack, and I certainly don't want to use Archie's passing as an excuse, and I don't want to keep thinking about it...But I know the source of this lethargy, and I know I just need a little more time. It still feels fresh. I'll persevere, but I need to be patient and diligent.

As for the Camelbak, I liked it. You can definitely hear sloshing but rather than annoy me, I actually like the rhythm. It doesn't bounce and it holds just enough stuff. Along with all the pockets in my running skirts, I'll never need to wear a belt again! It didn't chafe on this run; we'll soon see how it does on a longer run.

How do emotions affect your runs?
At what point do I just need to suck it up and push on?


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Q&A - What My Husband Thinks of My Running

I borrowed this fun little survey from Kristina. Matt is pretty good about listening to me drone on and on about running, so it'll be interesting to see how much information he really absorbs.

My commentary is in italics.

1. Does my running make you want to run?
Not usually. It makes me want to paddle. But there are times when I’m at a race, that I wish I would have done it with you. 
Matt recently told a local reporter that he was inspired to paddle his 33-mile race this October because I run marathons and he needed to balance our relationship! I'll post on his race as it gets closer.
Also, Matt says no, but history shows that he has actually run quite a few races with me...albeit most were before he began paddling.
2. What do I eat before I run?

Many different things: Gu gels, cookies, energy gummy chews, cereal, granola bars. 
Especially cookies and cereal. A couple cookies actually seems to be great fuel for me, but a bowl of cereal - which I'm addicted to - is pretty awful because I always get sloshy-stomach! 

3. How far do I run most days?

2-5 miles during the week. Longer runs on the weekend. 
It's more like 4-6 on weekdays right now because of training. I rarely run anything less than 4 unless I'm coming back from significant time off.

4. What kind of running shoes do I wear?

Asics Kayanos. And you are VERY particular about what color they are. And you stop using them based on how many miles are on them, not what they feel or look like. Which I get, but is very weird to me since I wear all my shoes/sandals until they literally fall apart.
Ha! Yeah, I will drive to a dozen stores if my usual running store isn't carrying the color I want in my size. Color helps me run faster! And yes, Matt literally will wear his shoes until there are holes in the soles.
He's totally right. I tried these GT-2000s but am going to get a new pair of Kayanos for long runs. I just like the feel better, and I'm shoe-loyal.
5. What is my favorite race? 

Hmmmmm….The Sanibel 10k? Or maybe the Lakewood Ranch half marathon since it goes through your parents’ neighborhood.
These are good guesses! I do love the Sanibel 10k and try to run it every year. I liked the Suncoast Half, which is what he meant, but I actually think my favorite half is the Ft. Lauderdale half I did on my birthday this year. It was perfect before, during, and after! I also loved Ragnar...picking a favorite is hard!
How can you not love a race that has a beach sunrise, great cheer squad, and falls on your birthday?!
6. Do you like going to my races?

Yes. You train for them for so long and they are big accomplishments. I can’t see any good reason to not go and support you there.

I feel really lucky that Matt feels this way. I've seen in my running groups that some spouses not only don't go to races, but are vocally opposed to the time their runners spend running, so I think I'm a lucky minority here.

7. What have you learned from having a wife who runs?

The importance of training and eating healthy. I have also learned how healthy it can be for a relationship when both of us are focused on fitness goals.

So...if he's learned from me the importance of eating healthy, it's from me being a great NON-example! Did you catch the part where I fuel for runs with cookies? But I definitely agree with the second part.

8. If I could run with anyone living or dead, who would it be?

You always used to ask Archie to run with you, but he never did. Probably because birds aren’t especially good at running. I’m guessing he would be at the top of your list right now, though...

Ugh, this hurts. I did always ask Archie to come run with me (or do our laundry, or the dishes, or vacuum...but obviously his lack of thumbs got him out of most housework). If I'm trying to avoid being a sobbing mess, though, I'd say Stephen King. We'd probably walk more than run, but I'd love to pick his brain and he's well-known for liking to take long walks.
Archie always wanted to run with me, but we couldn't find shoes to fit his little dinosaur feet.
9. Bonus: name two of my running blogger/online friends.
I’ve met a good number of them in person before. And I can picture all of their faces in my head. But I am absolutely terrible with names. So, for partial credit, I’ll give you the name of the online group most of them are a part of: The Sub-30 Club!

This was totally unfair of me to ask because he truly is the worst when it comes to names. Matt's met Kristina and a whole bunch of women and men from the Sub-30 Club! And this December, he'll get to meet Megan!
Matt took this photo of the Sub-30 Club with Bart Yasso, but apparently couldn't remember anyone's name...Even those he's met more than once! It's nothing personal! Sorry guys!
Thanks for the idea, Kristina! I urge you guys to share this survey; it's fun to see yourself through the eyes of the person who knows you best!

What question would you add for your SO?
What question would you ask Matt, if I did another survey post someday?


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Book Review: "What I Talk About..."

This summer, a student of mine (who's now a junior in high school - how does time fly like that?!) was accepted into an elite summer art program at U. Penn. While she was there, she spent some time browsing used book stores, and in her last week, she stumbled upon Haruki Murakami's memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. She wrote me that she wasn't sure if it was any good, but it made her think of me, and she dropped it off at school during my first week back.

This was kismet! I had literally just added it to my reading list. It seems to be one of those essential reads, like Born To Run and Once A Runner, and I couldn't wait to dive in.
The book, being used, smells like perfume. It makes me wonder about its last owner.
At first, the structure of the memoir threw me off. Murakami doesn't really write linearly, but as I got into the rhythm of his writing, I grew more comfortable with the stream-of-conscious style he seems to employ.

The foreword is titled "Suffering Is Optional"; that's how you know you have a good running book in hand. Runners know better than anyone that growth lies in discomfort, that you have to learn to "embrace the suck", as they say. But living through discomfort doesn't mean suffering. We can transcend pain and choose, in a way, to enjoy it. As Murakami writes: "Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional."
The memoir meanders through Murakami's life as a new runner, his music choices, and his dalliance with ultramarathons and triathlons. Within these memories, he has scattered little stones of wisdom to be picked up and pocketed. By page 11, I was reading with a pencil in hand so I could underline and annotate.

I won't go through every stone I myself picked up. I'm sure what spoke to me will be different than what speaks to others, but I think that's the beauty of this memoir. Its honesty and simplicity will speak, at times, to any kind of runner.

The strongest reaction I had was to chapter six, wherein Murakami recounts his first ultra at Lake Saroma in Hokkaido, Japan. Murakami's account of how his legs felt during his ultra is how I felt during my marathon! I guess that sheds some light on the difference between us, as if there were any doubt that we're not exactly the same kind of runner.

He writes that he had the desire to run on, but his legs had other ideas, grew "disobedient", and refused to move how he wanted them to. I read that part thinking, Oh, that sounds like mile 21!
He writes of the ultra that, "You'd expect it to afford you a special sort of self-awareness. It should add a few new elements to your inventory in understanding who you are. And as a result, your view of life, its colors and shape, should be transformed. More or less, for better or for worse, this happened to me, and I was transformed."

And I think anyone who has ever run a marathon - or perhaps any race outside the realm of "normal distance", whatever that may be for an individual - can wholeheartedly agree. I came out of the marathon a different person than I was at the start. Somewhere along 26.2 miles, who I was as a runner and a person changed.

That's the beauty of distance running, and Murakami captures that beauty perfectly.
I will say that parts of the book dragged for me, but I think others would find even those parts engaging. This is one I'll pull out to read again, in parts, as I continue my running journey.

Have you read WITAWITAR? (Whew, that's a long title!)
What running book do you recommend I pick up next? I just started Meb for Mortals.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

"And it came to me then that every plan was a tiny prayer to Father Time"

The outpouring of support and love in the wake of Archie's passing has been overwhelming and so very appreciated. Matt and I are...Well, we're hanging in there. We have so many questions and so much self-recrimination as we turn over in our minds the events of Saturday. What did we do? What did we miss? How did this happen?

We cleaned Archie's cage and put it in storage Sunday, so that we won't be faced with it every time we go into the living room. It was harder, more final, than digging his grave for some reason. Grief has left me feeling weak and exhausted; I felt alright to go to work today, but after a full day of pretending everything was fine for the benefit of my students, I feel hollow and fragile again.

I didn't want this post to focus on Archie, but I have to address it. I'm distracted and off-kilter, but I'm attempting to move forward.

Last week, I had an (almost) perfect running week. Every day I planned to run in the morning, I ran. I was ready to conquer my long run, but I obviously skipped it. I haven't felt up to running. I do hope to run Tuesday evening and then get back on track for morning runs, even if my mileage is lower.

Last time a pet passed, running was too much time to think. It was awful. But I want to stay in my routine; I think it will help.

I just finished Haruki Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running and have a full review planned for this week, so hopefully that will help me ease back into blog posts that aren't maudlin.

But I just wanted to say thank you, and that your words have meant more than you can imagine. They've been a balm for an ache I think will never disappear, but has eased at least a little.


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Goodbye, Little Bird

I wanted to end this week with a report on my training, but I can't bring myself to write it.

Archie passed away unexpectedly on Saturday. He was his usual energetic self all morning, but he started showing signs of illness sometime after lunch, and he stopped breathing around 4pm. Matt and I had been nursing him and we tried CPR, but to no avail.

Birds have evolved to hide illness until it's very serious; he's been sick once before and we must have gotten lucky because he recovered then. But this time...

We'll never know what made him so sick so fast, and not having answers makes this feel like some awful dream. It can't be true. But is is.

We are devastated. Archie was a huge part of everything we did daily. He was so curious and always wanted to be where the action was. If I was in the kitchen, he would be on my shoulder or in a cabinet, inspecting my work.
He loved to cuddle. He'd sit on our keyboards and nudge our fingers with his head when he wanted scratches.
He'd sit on our shoulders and press his beak against our faces when he wanted kisses. He slept in our shirts. He fell asleep in our hands. He would chirp and sing in his sleep. He would enjoy the ride under Matt's hat when we took road trips. 
He loved when we had rice or pasta for dinner, and he wasn't shy about eating off our plates, although he made quite the mess. When he heard me telling a story about my day, he'd hop over to me and get as close to my face as possible. Sometimes he would strut along the floor instead of flying, like he thought he was a little person. 
He loved to get tangled in my hair, and once we had to cut him free. He hated when I wore nail polish, so I never did. He loved to preen our eyelashes and eyebrows. 
He would sit on my shoulder and preen while I washed my face and brushed my teeth, so we always got ready for bed together.  He was truly a part of the family, not aloof or distant like some people might think a bird would be.

He loved everyone. It's unusual for lovebirds to bond with more than one person, but Archie bonded with both me and Matt AND he loved everyone who walked through our door. He wanted to always be near people.

And now the house feels empty and quiet. It was so sudden. It just feels so unfair.

We put him in his little bed and then into a box, which we buried in an underground cairn in the backyard. Archie loved cardboard boxes, so it almost seemed fitting for one to be his final resting place. We bought a birdbath and ceramic bird ornament to finish the memorial. As we were digging the grave, a little rainbow appeared in the sky. As we finished putting in the birdbath, a huge storm unleashed. We sat outside and watched until it was too dark to see. We didn't want to leave him alone out there, when he so clearly belonged warm and soft in our shirts inside the house. We did what we could, but it still feels nightmarish and unreal.
I'm trying to take comfort in knowing that in his final moments, he felt the warmth of our hands and heard the sound of our voices. He wasn't alone. He was such a little bird, and so young to die so suddenly. We did what we could to give him a full, happy life, and I think he knew how loved he was.
Baby Archie, October 2011. Rest in peace, little bird.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Things I Tell Myself to Get Out the Door

In order to successfully move my runs to the 4am hour, I had to play mind games with myself. Now that I've gotten into the routine, it's not so bad. Once I'm up, it's easy, and morning runs leave me with a ton of energy throughout the day. I really believe I'm a better teacher on days I wake up early to run.
It amuses me that my long run alarm is set later than my weekday runs.
Still, I have to cajole myself to get out bed. Here are some things I remind myself that I love about morning runs as I'm shuffling around the bedroom like a zombie:

Feeling like I'm the only person in the world. I very rarely see another runner out that early, and if I do, I feel something like 10x more runner-solidarity than at any other time of day.

The bump it gives my runner reputation. I may not be the fastest, but no one can question my dedication.
One of my wake-up buddies, Montana, and I talked about this the other day. It got me thinking about the people who believe in me. I don't want to let them down!
I don't have to worry about what I look like. It's pitch black! Even if someone does see me, they won't be able to tell how gross I am, or if my run is little more than a hunched-over shuffle.

Cool weather. The temperature difference between 4am and evening is 20 degrees, so I love taking advantage of the cooler weather.
I guess "cool weather" is relative, but 77 feels amazing these days!
Minimal accessories! I don't need to worry about a hat or sunglasses; often I don't wear my headphones on a morning run. Everything just gets simplified.

I'll feel unstoppable the rest of the day because I started it with me-time. I spend all day "on stage", talking and interacting with others, being the most perfect version of myself that I can be. Having some alone time first thing in the morning to get my head right is invaluable.
And of course, I love feeling like a super badass because I woke up when the rest of the world was still sleeping!

How do you convince yourself to get going on a tough workout?
Have you noticed more autumnal weather this week?
What do you love about your chosen time-of-day to run/workout?