8.66 miles with a fantastic pace

I had a GREAT run today.

I mean, REALLY GREAT.

I ran 8.66 miles. The weather was lovely – 50 degrees, partly cloudy, light breeze. I had a new pair of earbuds to try – similar to these, but made by Sentry.

I used a different brand of fuel today. The grocery store has a sale on Musselman’s Squeezables. The Honey Cinnamon flavor, incidentally, has 17g of carbs per packet, versus 13g in my usual brand.

I started slow, purposely not trying to pace myself at all. Since I ran quite a bit this week, I didn’t want to overdo it. I was also feeling super cautious because my throat felt a tiny big sore, and I was a little concerned that I was getting sick.  

 I ate (drank?) about a half-pack of fruit every mile. By the two-mile mark, I was feeling surprisingly good. The pain in my throat had disappeared, and overall I just felt strong.

In the third mile, the breeze picked up a bit, and I was running into it. Not easy, but I pushed through it. I ran through a shopping district and passed several people during the fourth mile, as well as several cars.

  
At the halfway point, I stopped at QuikTrip to refill my water bottle and dump some trash. I like this photo – the sweat and messiness is a great metaphor for how I felt. 

  
I pushed back toward my house, through the fifth  and sixth mile. By this point I was feeling it in my legs, but I also knew that my pace was remarkably strong, so I decided to push it and see how well I could finish.

The last couple of miles were hard. I was pushing myself, but at the same time my legs seemed to be moving in slow motion. Yet I knew I was having some success – my pace was STRONG, around 13:00. I told myself that the squeezable fruit was superhero juice in my legs. :) Must have worked!

Edit: can’t believe I forgot to mention this! During the 7th mile, a man driving a black Dodge Charger made a very conspicuous effort to honk at me and wave. I’m always glad when people honk at me (it’s fun to be noticed), but I don’t have the slightest idea who it was!

By the last half-mile, I was running on fumes. Knowing that I only had a half-mile left, then a quarter-mile, I dug in as much as I could and threw myself into running.

And it worked. The squeezable fruit, the beautiful weather, everything worked. I ran 8.66 miles in 1:49:44, with a pace of 12:40. Along with my 4 other runs this week, that also brings me to 23.9 miles for the week. I can’t help but imagine myself at the beginning of my running journey, or even before it. I never imagined that I would be able to run so far at that pace.

I still have some anxieties over my upcoming race. I am still unsure about many things in my running world. (8.66 miles is good, but can I run 13.1 at that pace?) But right now, I just feel good.

A Perfect Weekend for Running

Oh hai there! I should update this site, shouldn’t I?

Running has been GREAT. I haven’t been able to run as much as I would like this month, but I’ve still managed to get I at least two or three runs each week. I’m feeling strong.

It’s been a busy month – work and play have kept my schedule full. This is certainly not a complaint. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

In the past few days, I’ve had two of my best runs in a long time:  

 Last Friday, I set out to run about 3.5 miles. Near the beginning of the run, I happened into Ofc. Abraham, a police officer with whom I’ve interacted before. She was not on an emergency call, and we hadn’t seen each other in a few years, so we had a pleasant time catching up. She recommended a particular community program that would allow me to work with and learn from the police department, which was quite flattering. She believed I would enjoy and be an asset to this program.  

that’s a patch of snow behind me!

That left me in such a good mood that I went on to run my fastest 5k time yet – 35:56. I know it’s only a training run, but it feels so wonderful when I’m able to do that. It’s a huge encouragement.

The weather this weekend has been BEAUTIFUL. Up to 60 on Saturday. With such beautiful weather, I felt that I couldn’t miss this chance to run. I felt so good that I decided to try for 8.5 miles.

I “geared up”, which in my case meant two fanny packs with my fuel of choice, Simply Nature squeezable pureed fruit, and a cheap plastic bottle of water. I wore a tank top and shorts, which felt fantastic.

   

The first couple of miles were quiet. I was purposely trying to run slowly – since I had pushed so hard the day before, I didn’t want to overdo it. I was just finding my rhythm.  

 Around the beginning of the fourth mile, I felt a twinge in my right knee. it didn’t feel like an injury, but I was certainly concerned.

The twinge disappeared around the fifth mile. It reappeared later around the eighth mile. I’m not too concerned, though I will be icing my knee for awhile.  

 At the sixth mile, my pace was strong – much to my surprise. I allowed myself to push through the last half mile.

I did have one small technical issue at this point. I accidentally turned off my phone at one point, so it didn’t register about a half-mile of my run. Bummer!

I’d been consuming one or two swallows of fruit puree every mile, interspersed with plenty of water. I felt remarkably strong. My energy levels were high. That, alone, is a HUGE win. I was able to push strong for the last couple of miles, and that felt pretty incredible.
I’m dog-sitting this week, and when I got home I was attacked and given a tongue bath. :)  

My final distance was about 8.5 miles, at about 13:19 pace (like I said my phone didn’t register about a half mile of the run). I was exhausted and happy. That was a long run, at a solid pace, with solid energy. That’s a great weekend.

6.3 miles, 20 degrees, 100% crazy

And I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Winter definitely came in with a roar. Today’s high was, I believe, 21 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s just about the coldest it’s been this season. It was dry, though, with no snow or ice to cause problems.

Perfect weather for a run! I bundled up tightly this afternoon, when the thermometer read 19 degrees. From the top down, I wore:

-a stocking cap and sunglasses
-sportsbra and tank top under a long sleeved shirt
-gloves
-leggings and a pair of shorts
-socks and shoes

Yes, I wore long pants. 😉 One brush with frostbite, and my family’s now very particular about long pants when it’s below freezing! (I will admit, I appreciated the extra layer. It was pretty cold today!)

I was hoping to run long(ish), though I promised my parents that I would turn around if it was too cold. (They worry about me. Isn’t that sweet?) The first mile felt pretty good. I felt a little creaky, pretty normal for the first mile of a run. I had to find my rhythm. It was cool outside but not bad at all.

The second mile was downhill, which made it pretty easy also. I got some text messages on my phone, which was a little distracting (I was eager to get to the 2-mile mark, where I would allow myself to stop and read those text messages) but not bad.

The third mile was when I really found my groove. I was pounding down the path and just feeling great. No other way to put it.

  

 Then I reached the halfway point of the run and turned around…

HOLY COW IT WAS COLD!

There was a slight wind today, perhaps 15mph. Most of the time, 15mph winds are barely a speed bump to me. It doesn’t slow me down significantly. Today, though, the wind was COLD, and I hadn’t realized that I’d been running with the wind at my back.

When I turned around, the wind was in my face, and it was COLD. No other words for it! Even with my head down, my exposed face was cold. At this point, I confess, I questioned the wisdom of my run.  Maybe it WAS a mistake to be out here running inn 20 degree weather…

But I was 3 miles from home, so I didn’t have much choice but to keep running. When I got to the end of the 4th mile, the road curved slightly, and the wind improved slightly. It was still cold but not as bad. The 5th mile was mostly uphill, so I had to mentally push myself a LOT.

The 6th mile was mostly flat, so I dug down and sprinted as much as I could at this point. I managed to knock a few more seconds off my pace.

Total: 6.3 miles, 1:25:46, average pace 13:35. Pace was definitely faster than I expected.

Tomorrow is Sunday, and will definitely be an “off” day for me. I also have to attend an all-day meeting on Monday so I won’t be able to run then. Tuesday is still up in the air, but my (chilly) fingers are crossed!

Rain Power!!

This has been a surprising (and surprisingly good) day.

I worked in the morning, went out to lunch with a friend, and did some shopping with that friend- nothing spectacular, but it was fun and enjoyable. It was raining off and on all day, and I had one eye on the weather. Last night, I was thinking I might try a run today, but once I saw the rain I was not feeling as certain.

I came home, looked at my schedule, and realized I still had a free hour in my schedule…

 
…so I ran! It was about 40 degrees, so I wore long sleeves with shorts. No gloves, incidentally – I thought about it, but then decided it wasn’t quite cool enough. I also lubed myself liberally, since it was raining and I wasn’t sure how wet I would become. (Lubed, slippery toes inside socks and shoes feel a little trippy!)

I didn’t have any particular goals for this run, but to my surprise, I had a fantastic pace – not quite a PR, but very nearly. I’m not sure if it was the rain or the chill in the air or just that I happened to be in a good mood. 3.6 miles total, average pace of 12:19. That’s perhaps the second or third fastest 5k I’ve ever run!

two weeks!

Can you believe I didn’t run at all for almost TWO WEEKS?

I know- crazy! At least for me… for the past five years, I’ve been running, consistently, at least a couple times per week. But life happens – my sister was visiting for Christmastime, plus opportunities to spend time with other friends and family.

Yesterday, though, I (finally!) ran:

  

 Man oh man, it felt good. I forget what a big role running plays in my mental health. Even if I get nothing else done, on the days when I run, it feels like a good day. Plus there’s the feeling of the wind on my cool skin, or the sound of my breath- just incredible! (Can you believe I actually enjoy the sound of my breath now?! What a change!)

I ran again today:

   

Both days, the temperature was just above freezing (about 34 degrees Fahrenheit), and I wore shorts. Yes, it was crazy, but it felt good.

Here’s hoping I can continue running pretty frequently – I have to get myself ready for my spring half-marathon!

the psychology of athletes

Yes, I’m still running… some. But this month has not been one of my best running months. I’m only squeezing in two or three runs a week. That’s still a lot, I know – but I hate that I can’t do more.

Christmas seems like it really snuck up on me this year! I know, I probably say this every year, but it’s true. I’ve been working like crazy this month to accomplish all my Christmas-related duties on top of work.

The weather has been relatively warm this month. Quite peculiar. I don’t think I have worn long pants at all this winter, and I’ve worn short sleeves surprisingly often. Sheesh, today I wore a tank top!

Yes, on December 22, I wore a tank top with shorts.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a runner, or an athlete, or even just a human. I suppose it’s because I haven’t been running as much. What is a runner? Is it a person who runs a certain number of miles, or trains a certain number of hours, each day/week month? Is it a person who runs at a certain pace? Is it a person who wins races?

Over five years ago, I subtitled this blog, “My Journey to Becoming an Athlete.” Here’s my strange truth: After running with remarkable regularity for five years, I still don’t feel like an athlete.

Running has been good for me, no doubt. There’s the obvious benefits: I’m healthier, I’ve lost (some) weight, I feel stronger. Then there’s the mental benefits: Running has given me a way to unplug from the world, a time to reset my mind, a way to ward off the insanity of life. Distance running has given me successes during the seasons when the rest of my life hasn’t gone so well.

It’s been bizarre, in its own way. As a kid, I avoided running (and exercise in general!) like the plague. That attitude wasn’t exactly discouraged by the teachers and adults in my life. I was an academic. For the most part, I don’t think those adults were actively discouraging me from participating in athletics. It seems like it was just assumed that I would excel in academics but that I would be too busy to excel at sports – an implied understanding that I didn’t need to waste time with sports. I certainly NEVER imagined that I would be a runner as an adult.

I suppose that childhood attitude had its own negative effects, though. I never considered myself an athlete, and even though I started running, that didn’t really change. I run, and I love running, but I’m not fast. Not by any objective measure. When I read blog posts written by runners who complain about “not really running” because they “only” ran a 12:00 pace, I want to slug them. I’m not fast… I just get out there a lot. Even on a crazy busy month like this, at least I’ve gotten out there a couple times each week.

I know I’m hard on myself because of my pace. There’s so many running blogs and magazines out there, and it seems like they’re always writing about 8:00 or 10:00 paces. Too often, I feel like the slowest runner out there. I’ve put in a LOT of miles in the past five and a half years, yet my pace has only improved slightly.

I’m not even sure where this train of thought is going right now. It’s 10:30 at night and I’m waiting for family to arrive from the airport. It’s time for Christmas to begin. I think I’ll shelve this thought for now. Come January, I can begin focusing on training for my race in May. In the meantime I’ll let my subconscious dwell on the psychology of athletes…

3.6 chilly miles

  
3.63 chilly miles today. The thermometer read 44 degrees Fahrenheit, so I wore long sleeves and shorts… I didn’t realize there was brisk, cold wind. It felt more like 30-35 degrees! Brrrr!!!

Seems like winter is here to stay. Yesterday was the last day of a five-day-long rainstorm… nonstop cold, wet, and dreary. Temps hovered just above freezing. I’m digging out my winter clothes from under the beds and in the back of the closets, and far too often I still feel cold. 

It’s affected my running more than I’d like. Between the weather and just general life stuff, I haven’t maintained a very good training schedule. I’m still running, but it’s only been once or twice a week most of the time. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back up over 20 miles during that last month or two before my big race.

I made the observation that, when the weather is cold, I seem to unconsciously increase my running pace. I don’t set out to run faster, but during the winter, more often than not I do. Of course, during today’s run, my pace was all over the place – fast, slower, faster. Still overall faster than I would’ve expected though!

Life, Running, and Fantastic Paces

I have been running, I promise. Life’s just been crazy and I haven’t been updating. I ran about 3.6 miles on Monday the 19th, Tuesday the 20th, and Thursday the 22nd. I had a short running break for the next few days, then ran about 3.6 miles again on Tuesday the 27th, Wednesday the 28th, Thursday the 29th, and Friday the 30th. I won’t clutter this post with all my running selfies, but I promise, I was out there.

After signing up for a spring half-marathon, I have to confess, my emotions have yo-yo’d an awful lot. I’m not worried about finishing the race – I’m confident that I’ll be able to drag myself across the finish line. But I have this secret hope that I’ll be able to PR, and not just PR, but finish in under three hours. 3:00:00. Crossing that big psychological barrier, and a 13:43 pace.

I have moments, usually after a good run, when I think, “I can do this.” I ran a certain distance with a good pace, and I’ll feel good about that. But I have other moments when I’ll remember how tired I sometimes get after four or six miles, how long 13.1 miles is, and I wonder if I’m out of my mind. I’m filled with the irrational fear that I’m going to fail.

Yesterday, I decided to run 8 miles. It was Halloween, and it was Saturday, so why not? The temperature was about 50 degrees Fahrenheit, slightly overcast but the forecast called for the sun to come out. I put on a pair of shorts and a tank top, but for a couple of reasons I decided to wear a jacket as well. The jacket would keep me warm, but also, it had a couple of roomy pockets. I wanted to take four packets of pureed fruit, and paired with my SPIbelt, those pockets would make it a LOT easier to carry. Also, I could shed the jacket and wrap it around my waist if needed.

The first couple of miles were actually pretty tough. My goal was to run, but I was also hoping to hold a pace of about 13:30. My legs seemed to be settling into a pace that was an awful lot slower than I wanted, though – closer to 14:30. That discouragement and fear was hovering right around the edges. “If you can’t manage the first couple of miles, how will you do 8 miles? How will you do 13.1?”

I also became pretty warm, pretty quickly. At the end of that first mile, I shed the jacket and tied it around my waist. I did cool off toward the end of the run, but I left the jacket around my waist for the remainder of the run. Putting it back on was too much of a hassle. :)

I kept running. My pace improved a little bit, though not spectacularly. I really, really pushed myself to stay in a good place, mentally. I didn’t allow myself to say I felt tired – in fact, I told myself I wasn’t allowed to use that word until the 7th or 8th mile (and even then I wouldn’t let myself use it). The sun came out, and along with a light breeze, it was really a pretty pleasant day to be running.

 Somewhere around the halfway point, something switched in me. My pace was improving, my run was going pretty well, and my legs and feet felt good – really good, considering I was four miles into the run.

And so I kept pushing. My pace dipped below 13:30… and I felt good. I can’t explain how amazing this felt. I felt strong. It was incredible.

Mile 7 was mostly uphill. It’s given me a lot of trouble before, and I was definitely concerned about it. But it was okay this time! I thought about my pace and my legs. I spent most of the time looking at the ground immediately in front of me, and didn’t let myself look up (and see how far I had left). I didn’t think about the hills that were ahead, forcing myself to focus on where I was right in that moment.

It wasn’t easy, y’all. It’s not easy to control your thoughts, especially when you are physically worn out. I went into mile 8 feeling good… possibly better than I’ve ever felt in the eighth mile. I picked up my pace a bit, just because I could.

I ran 8.37 miles, with an average pace of 13:21. It’s almost like I crossed some kind of psychological barrier – now I have absolute confidence that I can run 8 miles in under 13:30 pace. I know those last 5 miles won’t be easy, but it’s a big step forward. Today I am one happy (and resting!) runner.