#mathfail, sleepy run

I went for a run this morning. It wasn’t spectacular, but it happened. 

I expected my pace to be slower. After running hard at the end of the week last week, I figured my legs would need time to recover. Unfortunately, that was complicated by a fair amount of sleep deprivation. I didn’t sleep well Saturday night/Sunday morning, which was particularly frustrating because I had a full day planned on Sunday. I only got perhaps 3-4 hours of sleep that night. 
I went to bed Sunday night as early as I could, which unfortunately wasn’t very early. I calculated the things I needed to do on Monday morning and set my alarm accordingly. It still wouldn’t be a full nights’ sleep, but I figured that the ~6 or so hours would be enough to get me through today. 

In what can only be described as an epic math fail, I woke up, got dressed, set about my day… when I realized that I had miscalculated the time and had awakened ONE HOUR TOO EARLY. Doh!

 

I still ran. It wasn’t easy, it seemed extra sweaty, and I had to really push myself – but I did it. Good enough for me. 

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not a morning run (but still outstanding)

I woke up, worked, and finally dragged myself out the door at half past noon. It was a BEAUTIFUL day – overcast and around 70, even at noon. I had commitments beginning at 2:30 so I knew that if I was going to run today, I had to get out the door by at least half past noon. (Talk about waiting until the last possible second!)

The first mile started slowly. Within the first quarter-mile, I got a text from a friend that I knew I needed a response. I paused my workout for text. Kind of a slow start.

Once I got to running, though, it went surprisingly well. I began my run telling myself (as usual) that I wasn’t going to try to hold myself to any particular pace, just go with the flow. My legs felt strong.

 
About a mile and a half into the run, I forgot about my determination to go with the flow (as usual). My pace was STRONG. Surprisingly strong. Remember how I was surprised earlier this week to run a 13:30 pace? Today I was running at under a 13:15 pace – sometimes as fast as 13:04.

When I got to the halfway point (~1.8 miles) and turned around, I realized that I’d been running with the wind at my back. It wasn’t a strong wind, but it must have been enough of a breeze to make a difference – my pace dropped from 13:04 to 13:16.

As luck would have it, I was about 2.5 miles in and approaching the hill that I’ve named Hampton Hill. It took me many years to overcome Hampton Hill – to be able to run all the way up it, nonstop. It’s long, and steep enough that I feel it. Today I went into that hill focused even more than usual on maintaining even effort. I didn’t expect to gain on my pace, but I didn’t want to lose significant time. And doggonit that was a tough hill today!

My goal, from this point on, was to maintain 13:15. Of course I was pleasantly surprised when I beat that. Of course I dug in for the kick during the last half mile or so. And I’m thrilled that today I ran 3.6 miles at 13:10 pace, with NEGATIVE SPLITS (just barely).

 

When I got home, Sadie gave me a tongue-bath. Adorable. 

I switched up my shoes today and wore the pair that’s been giving me a little trouble in the heel area. I didn’t have that trouble today – a little udder cream on my heels seems to have solved the problem – but the remnants of an itchy bug bite on my ankle rubbed a bit, and that was mildly painful. 

 
I do have a spot on my heel that might be a blister, but it didn’t feel uncomfortable. 

 

What do you think?

Happy running!

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The morning run that almost wasn’t

There are days when the sun is shining and the birds are singing. I feel fantastic. When I get out of bed, I have a spring in my step. I can’t wait to run. 

This was not one of those days. 

I overslept this morning. When I finally woke up, my head felt fuzzy. I got out of bed reluctantly and dressed in my running clothes, mostly because those were the only clothes I laid out last night. I did NOT want to run.

I sat on the couch for nearly an hour, doing some light reading for work and generally procrastinating. I knew I should run – I just didn’t want to. 

Last night I talked to my friend Theresa, who was planning to run this morning, and I agreed to run also. It’s a good thing too. If I didn’t know she was running, if I hadn’t agreed to run, I probably wouldn’t have run at all! (As an aside, Theresa needs a nickname. Any suggestions?)

I finally dragged myself out of the house and began running. It wasn’t easy. I wasn’t surprised – the first mile is usually difficult, as I’m finding my rhythm. But I kept running. 

 

I wouldn’t say it got easier, exactly, but it got better. As I found my rhythm, it was hard but it began to feel slightly more comfortable. 

At the 2 mile mark, I was chased by an adorable black Lab puppy. Her owner had brought her into the yard, and she (presumably) wanted to go for a run! She was cute, and I didn’t mind the interruption. 

 

After another quarter mile or so, I discovered this penny. It’s not much but it’s a pleasant surprise. 

Considering how much I didn’t feel like running, my pace was surprisingly strong. By the last half mile, I was holding a steady 13:30 pace, which is outstanding for me right now. 

I’m pleased that I fought through it and made it out there. Accountability helps. I’d like to get back to running 3-4 miles, 3 days per week, and 6-8 miles on Saturdays. It feels good to be closer to that goal.

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morning runs, starting over?

I didn’t do so well running last week. Life just happened, and the result was only one half-hearted run. Doesn’t feel very impressive, after a couple of good weeks earlier this month. 

Last night, a friend challenged me to run today. Actually, I guess, we kind of challenged each other. She’s also getting back into running after a few off weeks, and I suppose we both needed the push. 

For my friend, mornings are the time when running best fits into her schedule. In a moment of greater-than-usual insanity, I volunteered to run at the same time she did, in the morning. 

 

I am NOT a morning person. I was the college student who avoided taking classes that started before 9:00. (I nearly graduated without any 8am classes – until a teacher changed the time of a required class to 8am at the last second before my final semester.) Now I’m the self-employed writer who freely admits to doing some of my best work between midnight and 4am. Before today, I have actively avoided morning runs, only making exceptions for races. 

I set my alarm but, I will confess, my morning run was not as early as I’d planned. I didn’t leave until 8am. Still, I was getting out and running before noon :) and I’m pleased with that. 

The weather was gorgeous – around 60 degrees. That alone was a good incentive for running in the morning! The run itself was hard – not a huge surprise, given how little I’ve run in the past couple of weeks, but still mildly discouraging. I pushed through the first mile, but I never was able to find my rhythm. In fact, with only a half mile left, I gave in to my tired legs and powerwalked for a stretch. Frustrating!

It was done, though, and that’s worth something. Maybe morning runs will also be a tool in my running strategy. 

By the way – we’re puppy sitting again. When I got home, Sadie insisted on giving me a thorough cleaning: 

 

Happy running!

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On the mend

I went for a run tonight.   

The first mile was rough. It was like my legs had forgotten what they were supposed to do. Once I found my rhythm, though, it was amazing. 

I’m feeling better than I was earlier this week. I still have a bit of a cough hanging on, and my nose is still a bit more productive than usual, but I can generally breathe through my nose again, and I slept well last night.

I was (and still am) slightly concerned that I’ve lost my momentum from last week. We’ll see how the next few days go. I have a good feeling about these nighttime runs – I think they might really help me stay on track. 

As an aside, I haven’t had a chance to shop for blinkers yet, but I’m realizing that I really do not like carrying a flashlight. It just does not feel natural!

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Rhinitis-induced rest days

I have a cold. :(

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me in bed with tissues

To be fair, it’s improved quite a bit in the past few hours. Last night, as I lay in bed, I was completely unable to breathe through my nose, and I didn’t sleep a wink overnight. I was pretty sweaty, also, and suspect I had a low-grade fever. I felt pretty awful. After I got out of bed, took a shower, and took both ibuprofen and sudafed, my symptoms began to improve. Add in this afternoon’s nap, and I’m almost feeling good.

Even with the cold, I’ve been insanely tempted to run. My sleep schedule is off, and running seems like an easy way to tire myself out before bed. I also want to hang on to the momentum from last week. My mother keeps reminding me, though, that it’s not worth it. Since I’m not training for a race, it’s better that I focus on getting healthy. I know she’s right – even if I don’t like it. So there’s been no running this week, just lots of napping and rest and water. Here’s hoping my body responds to the rest by getting stronger.

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Nighttime runs

This has been a really good week.

I ran more than I intended. Does that sound strange? On Monday, I ran a couple miles on the treadmill. On Tuesday, the humidity had gone down a bit and I ran 3.6 miles outdoors. Wednesday was a full day, and I didn’t expect to run at all – I went to a museum with a friend – but at the end of the day, I felt so good and the weather was so nice that I went for an evening/nighttime run (3.6 miles). I enjoyed it so much that I did another nighttime run on Thursday (also 3.6 miles).

Wednesday’s run was my first (official) nighttime run. I’ve been caught outside at twilight once or twice, but this was the first time I intentionally planned to run after dark. It was AWESOME. It was new, novel, and full of surprises:

  • I ran with no headphones. I wanted to be able to hear what I couldn’t see. I was able to hear the cars, but I didn’t expect to also listen to the cicadas. Ver cool!
  • I was also surprised to smell some unusual plants that I don’t get to smell during the day. Does honeysuckle bloom at night? It was neat, whatever it was!
  • Speaking of scents… Several people had brought their trash cans to the end of their driveways so the trash could be picked up in the morning. That also had an aroma, though decidedly less pleasant…
  • Got a laugh from this:

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Utility work!

  • I ran with a red blinker clipped to the front of my tank top, and a small flashlight on a carabiner. At the beginning of the run, when it was still twilight, I left the flashlight clipped to my tank top and turned off; when it became dark, I carried it (turned on) in my hand.
  • I ran in “city darkness,” not true darkness. I had streetlights along most of my route. Truthfully, I had no trouble seeing and I didn’t really feel like I needed the flashlight for myself. It was mostly useful for making myself visible to drivers.
  • I didn’t really like carrying it, though. My hand was sweaty, so I was a little concerned that the moisture would damage the flashlight. More significantly, though, carrying the flashlight messed with my pace/gait. It was less natural to swing my arms, and it was just hard on my body. I’m definitely going to look into replacing it with more blinkers and/or a headlamp.
  • I need to try to leave more time between dinner and my run, especially when I eat a starchy meal. Bricks in the stomach are not fun!
  • My pace was solid, even tending toward negative splits. Of course, it decreased overall as I deprived my body of a rest day, but it was consistent and I’m happy with that.
  • I was WORN OUT after those evening runs… Which workedout nicely, since I fell into bed soon afterward!
  • When did my hair get so long? Sweaty hair + sweaty body was just irritating.
  • I got a lot of insect bites this week. At first I thought they were all from Monday’s pool party, but then I realized, I probably gained a few from my evening runs!

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This is what I look like when I feel amazing. Special thanks to the streetlamp that gave me a bit more light.

By Friday, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have run even if I’d wanted to run. My legs were exhausted, and I was insanely sore! I babysat for a friend on both Friday and Saturday, which was a perfect cross training activity. :) Chasing after three little girls kept me moving constantly! By Saturday night/Sunday morning, I had found some new sore muscles. Totally worthwhile – I had so much fun, and I would do it again in a heartbeat!

I’m so excited to see where these evening runs take me. This week, I am feeling STRONG!

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treadmills, blogging

My August runs have largely consisted of miles on the treadmill:

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I’m not a huge fan of treadmills in general (boring!), but when it’s as humid as it’s been here, they are sometimes a much better option. I will also admit that I’m better at tempo runs or generally pushing myself when I’m on a treadmill (as opposed to when I’m out on the roads).

It doesn’t help that my home treadmill is jammed into a corner of the basement, not the most relaxing area. The belt works fine but the display is broken, so I can’t look at the treadmill to determine my pace or distance, which is a psychological challenge for me. (I started using Nike+ on my phone to find those values, which is a fair substitute, but not perfect.)

But I’ve been getting down there and running, and I’m pleased with that. Something is better than nothing, and I’m really glad for every mile I put in.

One “perk” of the treadmill – you may notice my toes in the photo above. Running on the treadmill is basically the only time I allow myself to run barefoot. I’ve read Born to Run (great book), and I do agree with much of the science of barefoot running – that it uses different muscles and can be a valuable tool – but I’m not convinced enough to run barefoot on the streets. The treadmill is a perfect compromise.

I haven’t done a good job of updating this blog lately. It’s funny – the older I get, the more intensely private I become. I don’t want to quit blogging. This website chronicles one of the strangest and best transformations of my life. I’ll try to be around more, y’all. You mean a lot to me.

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Washington, DC and a bunch of hotel gyms!

Happy Monday!

Last week I returned from a two-week road trip and vacation to Washington, DC. My parents and I met my sister, who lives in Boston, while we were there. I intentionally chose not to blog during that time, so people wouldn’t know I am out of town. But suffice it to say, I had a blast! I first visited D.C. when I was a kid, probably over twenty years ago. The city has changed a LOT in the years since, and improved a LOT!

We took oodles of photos and I honestly have not had a chance yet to upload and edit them. Since this blog is about running, though, I’ll include these for now:

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If you’ve ever been to DC, you know that it is a walking town, particularly around the National Mall. I’m pleased to say that this has been a very physically active vacation. In addition to walking around DC, I ran an average of 2 miles on a treadmill at every hotel that offered a fitness center (all but 2 of them).

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I also tend to run faster on treadmills with mileage displays- usually a 12:00 pace. I ran barefoot every time, since that’s basically my favorite way to run on a treadmill. (Also it meant I didn’t have to get my running shoes out of the car!)

I used the Nike+ app with the accelerometer to gage my treadmill pace, and it wasn’t too bad. The app never matched the treadmill display – it always measured my pace as 00:05 to 00:30 slower than the treadmill, so certainly not ideal. It’s better than nothing, though, and I’m glad to figure out a sort of baseline for treadmill running with the app.

One other observation: We walked a lot, and spent many hours on our feet as we toured museums and memorials. Normal vacation behavior. On vacations (and non-vacations!) past, my feet have become painfully sore and swollen from all the time spent on my feet. At the end of the day, I would gratefully fall into a chair, desperate to sit. In my pre-running days, most of my blisters came from vacation-time spent on my feet.

Yet not once during this trip did my feet become painful or sore! NOT EVEN ONCE! While my family collapsed into seats, I was still comfortable standing. My feet did get tired at the end of the day, but not painfully so – in fact, it was more like the full-body tiredness that makes bedtime so enjoyable. (And no blisters!) For me, this is a big deal. I’m sure many factors contributed to this, but I believe the number-one source of my relief is running. Running strengthened my legs and body, which in turn gave me more stamina and the ability to remain on my feet for many hours.

I have a busy schedule this week, but I’m looking forward to it. I have a good feeling about this!

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Stars & Stripes 5k 2015

On the 4th of July, I did something I never imagined I would do.

I ran a race under someone else’s bib.

It began on the night of the 3rd. I texted my friend Theresa because I knew she had signed up for the Stars & Stripes 5k on the 4th of July. I also knew that her schedule had changed at the last minute, and that attending the race would not be easy. At this point, to be honest, I was scheming. I was encouraging her attend the race, partly because I was planning to surprise her by standing along the race route with a poster and cow bell to cheer her on.

Theresa wasn’t feeling it. She was stressed with all the other things in her life at that moment, and she just didn’t know how she would be able to run that weekend, much less run a race. I encouraged her to at least pick up her packet (get your free t-shirt!), and to try finishing the race with a different goal – for example, see how fast you can finish 5k if you are walking the entire distance. And then she blew my mind…

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I really can’t express this moment. The idea of running in her spot had never even crossed my mind. The gift of running in her spot was just HUGE to me. I didn’t even know how to respond. What do you do when someone offers you a gift like this?

The next morning, I rose early for the race. Since I hadn’t planned for this race ahead of time, I wasn’t fighting any pre-race nerves or jitters. I’d slept like a baby. I was relaxed and ready to run.

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I went to the packet pickup line and requested the packet for Theresa. This was the moment of truth – this was when they could’ve refused to give me the packet. They were rushing to hand out packets, though, and no one blinked at my request. I took the packet, bib, chip timer, and t-shirt.

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My mom was my support crew. She helped me pin the bib onto my shirt. We had never before explored the shopping center hosting this race, and we were pleasantly surprised to discover a lovely pedestrian area.

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The race was pretty big… a couple thousand runners, I guess? I’m not very good at estimating race size. It wasn’t long before we sang the national anthem and lined up to run.

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The race was advertised as “flat and fast”, and it was. I started the race strong, running about a 12:30 pace. The first mile was uneventful. I spent a lot of that mile getting my legs loose and getting my mind into the right place to run.

The weather was BEAUTIFUL. It was maybe 70 degrees, slightly overcast, with a light breeze – very cool for July, and perfect for running!

During the second mile, I purposely slowed my pace down to around 13:00. We were running behind a business park, and it was during this mile that I saw an adorable wild rabbit. It was really quite comical. The rabbit was running back and forth on one side of the road, clearly wanting to cross the road, but unable to cross the road due to the mass of runners.

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The third mile was, by far, the most fun. At the beginning of that mile, I overheard a nearby cluster of women discussing their ability (or lack thereof) to do a cartwheel. One woman dared another to do a cartwheel right there in the middle of the race, and she declined. I chimed in, “But wouldn’t that be the BEST road rash story?”

My new running friends laughed and agreed. They began to tell the fictitious story: “I thought I was ahead during the race so I decided to showboat by doing a cartwheel. That’s why I have this great scar on my leg, and no front teeth.” I don’t remember the rest of the story, but I know it got pretty silly!

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We pushed each other during that mile. We were close to the end, and we knew it. One of the women compared us to turtles – slow and steady but always finishing. Finally, with perhaps a half mile left, I let it all out and threw everything I had into the race. I’d already picked up my pace (to about 12:30) during the third mile, but I just threw it down and ran as fast as my legs would carry me to the finish line.

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My mom found me in the finishing corral. I’d gone straight for a water bottle (no surprise). I didn’t know my chip time, but when I crossed the finish line the clock read something like 39:30, so I knew my time would be good. I felt amazing.

The line for the official times was LONG, and I knew the times would be posted on the website later, so I focused on the rest of the post-race celebration. One booth was offering free face-painting for kids. A local band was playing. Since it was the 4th of July, there were several patriotic events. Panera Bread was giving away free bagels to the runners. But my favorite booth, by far, was sponsored by Belfonte and giving away free ice cream!

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And that was the race. That was my amazing 4th of July race.

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I got a message from Theresa later in the day with my official time: 38:43.6. For all intents and purposes, that is a PR – the only race that might have been faster was in 2013, when I had a broken chip timer and thus got no official time. But even that, I suspect, was not this fast.

I’m really pretty overwhelmed by it all. This race was a smashing success, and it was all an unexpected gift from my running friend. I can’t express how thankful I am. Theresa, you are the best friend I’ve ever known. Running this race was an experience I’ll never forget. May God bless you the way you’ve blessed me.

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