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.

low mileage week, amazing pace, independence half marathon

Aaaannnndddd this is life…

I went for a run on Monday. It was awesome.  

 Then my world filled up on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I’m not at all complaining. I had a lot of fun – but it was all non-running-related activities. Babysitting (for friends AND for neighbors), visiting the zoo (with friends), helping friends… and work of course.

So this will be a lower mileage week, of course. I made up for that today with a run that was AWESOME. Seriously.

 I only ran 3.6 miles but I was averaging just under a 12:00 pace. Which, for me, is absolutely beyond awesome. In fact, by my figures, I ran 5k in 37:12, which beats my best-ever 5k time! And let me tell you, it felt GREAT!

I’m nursing a slight injury this week. Unfortunately, I didn’t acquire it through any respectable or even sports-related methods. I slept on my shoulder wrong, and doggonit, it hurts!

I got an email this week advertising the inaugural Independence Half Marathon, which is coming up this spring. I know I’ve cut way back on races, and especially races longer than 5k – I haven’t run anything longer than that since 2012. But I’m awfully tempted to sign up for this race! It’s a smaller race, so the race fees are lower. It’s pretty close to my house – close enough, in fact, that I could do some of my training on the planned race route. I’m already at a place where I can run eight miles nonstop, with minimal trouble, so it wouldn’t require too much additional training to get myself to half-marathon level. And did I mention it’s close to my house?

There are some cons, of course. It’s on a Sunday. I’ve never run a Sunday race before. Most of my friends will be at church, so I won’t have a very big “cheering section”, if I have one at all. For all intents and purposes, I will be on my own. I still haven’t perfected my fueling strategies – far from it – so those last 4 or 5 miles could be pretty brutal.

The biggest factor, I think, is confidence. On some level, I’ve hesitated to sign up for another half-marathon because I’m not sure if I can get a sub-3:00:00 time. I’m pretty confident that I can beat my PR of 3:16, but not sure if I can get under 3:00:00. My inner cheapskate says that I shouldn’t invest the time and money into a half marathon if I can’t get under 3:00:00 – and my pride tells me I shouldn’t try if I can’t get under 3:00:00.

Having an awesome run today doesn’t make the decision any easier. If I’d had a terrible run, I might have decided against the race and put it out of my mind. Instead, I can’t help but wonder if I should try it. I wonder if I could hold this pace. Maybe.

If I sign up by Monday, the race fees will only cost $39… which is pretty awesome for a half marathon. After Monday, the fee will go up to $49 through January 5, which is still pretty good, and gives me a good long time to think about it. Such choices…

unexpected weeks, decreasing mileage

This has not been the week I expected!

It’s been a good week, overall. I ran a fair bit…

…on Monday…



All of these runs were good, solid runs.

On Thursday, I wasn’t able to run. Not a big deal. I figured I could run on Friday and Saturday, and still put in a solid mileage for the week.

Then Life Happened. I woke up around 2am Thursday night/Friday morning, feeling like crap, and I discovered that I’d started my period. This was normal, but also not something I’d anticipated in my running plans.

I slept horribly last night. Horribly. Accordingly, I felt horrible this morning. I dragged myself out of bed, and the LAST thing I wanted to today was run.

And I was reminded of the struggle I’ve had with this blog, and with my running life in general. You see, running is a huge part of my life. I love running, and I intend to continue running for the rest of my life.

But running isn’t the only thing I love. I have other hobbies. I work. Much as I enjoy running, I can only devote a limited number of hours per week to it. I am not a fast runner, I never will be a fast runner… and the truth is, my distance runs are, objectively, not very far.

Most running blogs star people who, like me, love running… but who allow running to take over their life. They seem to do nothing but run and blog. They run hundreds of miles per week and eat marathons for dessert. They spend a fair amount of money on running clothes and accessories (unless they receive free swag from sporting goods companies for reviews!). They’re always training for another race.

I’m somewhere in between these running superstars and the rest of the world. I run a lot, but not hundreds of miles per month. I love running, but it’s far from the only thing in my life. I was making myself crazy with frequent races, so I cut back significantly. Because of that, I have a great deal of flexibility in my training, and I’m not afraid to let life circumstances change a day’s run.

Today, after a poor night’s sleep and a fair amount of cramping, I decided not to run at all… and I gotta tell you, I’m feeling awfully relieved. Removing the pressure to run in spite of feeling poorly makes me feel better. It’s just not worth it to give running that much power over me.

Tomorrow is Saturday, and I’m honestly not sure if I’ll run or how far. I’m a tiny bit disappointed that I won’t be accomplishing another 23-mile week, but I’m far more relieved that I’m allowing myself to take a break.

mid-week long runs and high mileage weeks

I’ve been working on some graphs, trying to visualize my progress as a runner and the effect these high-mileage weeks have had on my training. I can visualize what I’d like to see, but since my computer is not cooperating with me, I don’t have those yet.

I can report that I successfully completed that Thursday run I was wanting last week! 8.37 miles, and it felt GREAT. I was incredibly pleased with finishing this run DURING the week. A quick recap:

    • For the first time, I used squeezable fruit pouches. I was actually very pleased with these as fuel, although I’m still quite unhappy with the bulkiness.
    • I took three pouches: two in a SPIbelt and one in an armband. (I also carried a second armband with my phone. Stylish.) I pushed myself to consume all three pouches, and I actually think it helped to consume more carbs. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how I could carry any more fruit pouches, for any runs that extend longer than ~2 hours.
    • The pureed fruit was (obviously) much more fluid than the fruit snacks, and I needed less water, a surprising (and fascinating) development.
    • I greased up as best as I could: udder cream on my thighs, arms, breasts. Unfortunately, the chafing wounds on my breasts from last week’s long run still reopened, and a new chafing sore appeared on my double-armbanded left arm. Boo. However, I know it would have far worse without the cream!!
    • I saw (and heard) this random gentleman playing bagpipes behind a shopping center. Makes no sense to me, either!


  • Mile 2. See the extra armband?
  • Mile 4. Refilling my water bottle at QT. 
    • Mile 6:

After the run, I had evening plans, and I admit I was pretty stiff and slow. My body was still recovering from the trauma! It was worth it, though. My legs loosened up after a couple of hours, and I felt fantastic that I had done it.

One slightly surprising discovery: I slept HARD on Thursday night/Friday morning. When I fell into bed that night, I could barely keep my eyes open and I nodded off quickly. I awoke feeling surprisingly refreshed on Friday morning – so much so that I immediately noticed how good I felt.

On Friday, because I’m crazy, I decided to run again. This time it was only 3.62 miles and (not surprisingly) a really slow pace- nearly 15:00. Once I was out there, I could tell that my legs were tired. I probably should’ve taken a rest day. 

They’ve been doing utility work in my neighborhood, and I saw this thoroughly random (and fairly deep!) hole in the sidewalk:

I must confess that I had a pretty intense mind-vs-body fight on Saturday. The total of my five runs from Monday through Friday was, again, just shy of 23 miles. Technically, I had just enough time to run three miles or so on Saturday. Even though I’d just run five days without a break, including a long run, it occurred to me that if I ran on Saturday, I would have a 26 mile week. That’s more than 25! That’s more than 23! Wouldn’t that be great?

I was painfully tempted, even though I knew on some level that my body needed to rest. What convinced me was not (as it probably should’ve been) my need to rest, but the knowledge that another run this week could have a very negative effect on making next week another high mileage week.

I’ll update with those graphs as soon as I get them figured out. I’m struggling to visualize my pace vs. mileage. From just glancing at the list of numbers, I think I might see a correlation between an increase in mileage and decrease in pace. I’m not sure, though – that’s why I want to graph it! If I can’t get my computer to behave I’m going to be pulling out a sheet of graphing paper!

Aiming for an encore…

Having a 23-mile week has really gone to my head… enough that I want to do it again!

So I’ve been running, a lot…


3.6 miles on Monday…


3.6 miles on Tuesday…


3.6 miles on Wednesday.

I have a commitment on Saturday afternoon/evening, so I doubt if I’ll be able to run more than 3-4 miles on Saturday. Therefore I am going to have to adjust my long run… if I have time, I’ll do it tomorrow (Thursday); if I can’t do it then, I’ll do it Friday, and if I’m in a real pinch I’ll do it Sunday.

I stopped at Aldi’s today and was positively THRILLED to discover a 4-pack of Simply Nature Squeezable Fruit pouches for $1.79. That’s going to be my next test for long run nutrition. Now, I still have hesitations – namely, these things are BULKY and it will be challenging to carry a sufficient number with me. (Admittedly, I also do not know how many I will need!) But it’s cheap, which makes me happy, and I’m looking forward to giving it a try.

23 mile week

What a crazy busy week!

I ran a lot this week, in spite of the busy-ness, which felt really good. Like I already posted, I ran 3.6 miles on Monday and Tuesday…  

 …then 3.6 miles on Wednesday…

 …and 3.6 miles on Thursday!

I knew I wasn’t going to be able to run on Friday, which was part of my incentive to run earlier in the week. My runs were all solid – nothing outstanding, but I was pleased that I was out there each day. In fact, my pace dropped just a tiny amount, but steadily, throughout the week – from something like 12:30 or 12:45, to 13:15, to 13:30, to 14:00. I figured that was because I wasn’t taking rest days. My legs still felt good so I wasn’t too worried.

I did have a small surprise on Thursday’s run…  

 This little puppy. I recognized her – I’ve seen her with her owner before – but she approached me a good quarter-mile from her house. In the street. Her owner has complained about not having time/money to put up a fence. I have to resist the urge to tell her that she shouldn’t get a dog if she can’t take care of it.  

 I picked up the dog – she’s still small, maybe ten pounds – and carried her to her home. Walking, of course. She’s awfully sweet, and she was awfully happy to see me, so I let this one go… but in another month or two, when she’s grown into a full-size Labrador, if they don’t have her restrained, I will be calling animal control.  

 I also found two cents on Thursday. Penny saved, penny earned?

 On Saturday, with my fresh legs, I ran 8.43 miles. It began slowly. It took me a mile to find my pace, but it felt good. I was also pleased that I was maintaining a slow(ish) pace, so I didn’t wear out my legs.

I didn’t have a chance to go to Walmart or the grocery store this week, so the only nutrition option I had was the fruit snacks. I wasn’t wild about it, but I figured it was better than nothing. I “front-loaded” the snacks, eating a little bit more at each stop during the first half of the run (about 4 fruit snacks/mile).  

 The first few miles were okay. I found my pace and was just doing my best to enjoy the feeling of the sun and the wind. I (briefly) considered turning around early, but reminded myself that I had to get to QuikTrip to refill my water bottle, and that meant I had to keep going.  

 QT felt great. Getting that far was an accomplishment. I went in through the side door and paused by the fountain drinks to recover and re-hydrate.

There were also a couple of people who commented on how hard I was working and how impressed they were by my running. Good for my ego. :)

I began to really feel it during mile 5. The bone in my shoulder, which I broke years ago, started aching. Referred pain, maybe? I also was becoming acutely aware of some chafing between my boobs. I think I had a spot where my skin was already raw, and during this run it rubbed along the length of my sportsbra’s upper hem.

At mile 6, I stopped to get a couple of fruit snacks out of my SPIbelt, plus a drink of water. I tried to swallow, but it just didn’t work. Before, I didn’t exactly love the taste of the fruit snacks (just wasn’t working during a run), but I could tolerate it. Now, it was like my body was physically rejecting the fruit snacks. I gagged and spat the fruit snacks into the grass. I could taste a bit of stomach acid in the back of my mouth, and I just stood still for a couple of minutes, wondering if I was going to throw up.

I didn’t even think to take a photo. I was too busy feeling crummy!

The feeling passed. I just knew that I couldn’t swallow any more fruit snacks, and that I would have to white-knuckle the last couple of miles. It wasn’t easy, but I pushed. Hard. I really threw myself into it.

It was not easy. For the next two miles, I gave it everything I had. It was not easy. I could feel the exhaustion in my legs, and it took a lot of focus to not let my pace slide because of it. At one point, close to the end, I was screaming out loud to myself, “Dig! Dig! Dig!”

I averaged a sub-14:00 pace. I’m still struggling with pushing myself beyond six miles – that’s where the exhaustion really pulls me down. The chafing between my boobs was (and still is) pretty bad, and I also got a mild spot of chafing below one arm. Of course it was frustrating to have my nutrition fall apart mid-run. But overall, I’m pleased. It’s a great pace, especially considering all the challenges.

This also brings me up to nearly 23 miles for the week (3.6 miles on MTWR and 8.4 miles on Saturday), which is definitely more than my usual. I don’t know what next week will bring, but here’s to many more miles!

midweek runs and long run fuel thoughts

I went for a run yesterday, and it was AWESOME. It was seriously one of those runs I wish I could bottle up. My legs felt strong, and I just felt glorious. I went to a movie last night so I didn’t have a chance to blog about it right away, but trust me, it was an incredible 3.6 miles.
I went for another run today, also 3.6 miles. Not as good as yesterday’s run, but I had a good time. Today’s run was a clearing-my-head run. I was frustrated with work, fighting writer’s block, and I went for a run since I knew I wouldn’t get anything done otherwise. (Did I mention I had writer’s block?!?!)

I’m still pondering my options for mid-run fuel. Since the fruit snacks didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, I want to choose something different for my next long run. I’m aiming for 15-30 grams of carbs per hour. I’ve narrowed it down to three:

Gummy Bears
14 bears=30g carbs
Pros: Cheap. Sweeter than fruit snacks, so it might be easier to swallow. Easy to carry.
Cons: Still chewy. Still requires swallowing. Might still cause me to gag.
This wins on price and bulk, but I really am worried about the gagging thing. It’s not going to do me any good if I start throwing up mid-run on a regular basis.

Gatorade Prime “gel”
One 4oz packet=25g carbs
Pros: Relatively cheap – I can buy it at the grocery store on sale for $1 per 4-oz tube.
Cons: Messy – no way to close the packet once it’s been opened. Kinda bulky.
For an eight-mile run, I’d need two 4oz packets (approx. one packet per hour). It would be cheap, and I think I could deal with the bulk, but the mess would be a problem. I wonder if I could find a gel flask that was pretty easy to carry. On the other hand, I would still have to carry at least 8oz of gel, which might be awfully heavy.

Energy gel (Gu)
One 1.1oz packet=22g carbs
Pros: Small, easy to carry. Potentially easier to swallow.
Cons: Expensive- $1.50 per packet or more, often sold in boxes of 24 or more. Difficult to find – not sold at grocery stores.
A far-out winner for density of carbs. An eight-mile run would probably require 3-4 packets (1-1.5 per hour). I’m a little concerned by the density of calories – would my body be able to handle that many calories at once? And it’s pricey. Then again, it may not be too bad if only need a couple of packets.

Pureed fruit (BuddyFruits)
One 3.2oz packet=15g carbs
Pros: Resealable lids. Reasonable price- less than $1 per packet.
Cons: Bulky. Very bulky.
I’m guessing I’d need 4 packets for an eight-mile run (two per hour). This stuff is is BULKY – four packets of this would be a lot to carry. And the cost would add up. However, it wouldn’t be messy thanks to those lids. And it might be pretty easy to get down.

All that, and I still haven’t drawn any conclusions. I’m leaning toward the pureed fruits, if only because that’s probably the easiest for me to acquire. Though gummies would be pretty easy too. We’ll see.

8 mile nutrition experiment

Yesterday, I ran 8.38 miles. 8.38 glorious miles.

I hadn’t planned too far ahead, but early Saturday afternoon, I realized that I had both time for a two-hour run and time to prepare for a two-hour run. I packed up my SPIbelt (a chrismas gift from my sister) with two packets of fruit snacks, slipped my iphone into my armband, and grabbed a chilled bottle of water from the fridge (one of those throwaway 16.9oz bottles).

This was the first time I’ve ever run with fruit snacks. Truth be told, it’s the first time I’ve ever run with solid food. In my past half-marathons and longer-than-6-mile runs, I’ve relied on Gatorade for my nutritional needs. That worked. However, the more I run, the more I wonder about other options. I knew I couldn’t run more than about 6 or 6.5 miles without bonking, unless I had some kind of nutrition, and I wanted to try something different.

On this particular route, approximately every one mile, there are natural “stops” in the form of intersections and street crossings. My plan was to eat 3-4 fruit snacks at each of those stops, along with healthy gulps of water. At a QuikTrip convenience store just over 4 miles away, I would refill my water bottle.

I started out at a slightly faster pace than I’d intended – closer to 13:15. I tried as best as I could to slow down but largely failed. (I’ve told you before, I’m TERRIBLE at pace!) I was optimistic about the fruit snacks, and I knew that (based on my pace) this run would be either amazing or a disaster. I reminded myself, several times, that my goal should not be a particular pace, but just to complete the run and not bonk.

After one mile, I stopped to open a packet of fruit snacks. Between the sweat and the moisture on my hands from holding a chilled bottle of water, this was almost IMPOSSIBLE. I stood there for at least three or four minutes, fumbling the plastic wrapper. Eventually, I was able to tear it open with my teeth (apologies to the orthodontist who spent so many years making my teeth straight). I tossed a few fruit snacks in my mouth, washed them down with water, and resumed my run.

The next couple of miles went well. My pace was fast – probably too fast, close to 12:30, but I felt great. I continued eating fruit snacks and drinking water about once a mile, though I found myself struggling to chew the fruit snacks. Somehow my body just didn’t seem to have the energy for my jaw. I wound up swallowing the fruit snacks whole like big old pills.


two miles – feeling good!

The fourth mile went really well. I was in a more populated shopping area, and I just felt incredibly hard core. It was great. My pace dropped even more, close to 12:00, and I thought again that this was either going to be a great thing or a disaster – either I was going to finish this run at a really amazingly fast pace, or I would horribly bonk and barely make it home.


four miles. outside the QT, looking into the sun.

I stopped at the QT and filled my bottle with water. Special thanks to the employees at this location, who didn’t charge me for the water. I still felt pretty good – a little more tired perhaps, but good.


*of course* I stepped in gum outside the QT. sigh.

My fifth mile was also strong. I was able to pull my pace back, closer to 13:00, but I felt strong and I was pleased with that. I had to stop at one point to get a pebble out of my shoe. I knew that, if I was going to bonk, I would probably be feeling it soon. The fruit snacks were not going down very smoothly at this point. Though I was swallowing them, it didn’t feel good. Remarkably my stomach was handling the nutrition okay. They were just hard to swallow.

Mile six was (mostly) downhill, which helped to keep my pace steady, I’m sure. My feet felt okay. My body felt good. This far in, I felt great. Fruit snacks, water, and I was off again.


six miles. still hanging on.

Mile seven, unfortunately, was mostly uphill. I kept running, but my pace dropped off quite a bit – down to 14:00 or 14:30. I mentally cheered myself on (a LOT), but my legs were tired.

At the top of the hill, at the end of mile seven, I grabbed a stop sign and leaned over, putting my hands on my knees to catch my breath. I must’ve looked like a mess, because the drivers stopping at the stop sign were all giving me thumbs-ups and fist-pumps. :-)

I really struggled to get the fruit snacks down. Swallowing them very nearly activated my gag reflex. I felt slightly nauseous. I honestly wondered if I would throw up during this last mile.

With only a mile left, I pushed myself as hard as I could. I had the odd sensation that my tired legs were barely moving at all, and I had to push through that several times. Every minute or two, I reminded myself to push and run a little bit faster.

I got home in one piece, tired but happy. I did not totally bonk, although I’m still definitely struggling with those last couple of miles. I’m not really satisfied with the fruit snacks. My stomach handled them okay but it did not feel natural to chew or swallow anything while I ran. I also feel like one of my challenges may have come from not taking in enough nutrition – in other words, that perhaps I needed to eat MORE than I did. Yet given the challenge of swallowing, this feels simultaneously impossible.

One of my complaints about energy gels has long been that I find them ridiculously expensive. I don’t like the idea of spending $5-$10 per run on fuel. At the same time, I wonder if my problem with the fruit snacks is the fruit snacks or the physical act of chewing and swallowing. If it’s the chewing-and-swallowing, then all solid foods might cause that problem. Gels, or at least some other semisolid food, might solve that problem. I need to research!!!