out of town, out of shape

Ahhh, home sweet home…

I just got home last Friday after a three-week whirlwind road trip to visit my sister, who lives outside Boston. We’ve flown to Boston before, but my parents and I discovered that we really love driving and visiting all the awesome places between here and there. On the way out, we went to the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan; a short stop in Mount Clemons, Michigan to visit one of my mother’s childhood homes (she was an Air Force kid); and Kinderhook, New York to visit the home of Martin Van Buren, the 8th president.

On the way home, we went to Hyde Park, New York to visit the homes of Franklin Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Frederick William Vanderbilt; Cleveland, Ohio to visit the home of James Garfield, the 20th president; the National Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio; Huffman Prairie Flying Field and National Historic Site in Dayton, Ohio; and the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site in St. Louis, Missouri.

And, oh yea, we helped my sister clean up her new house in Wakefield, Massachusetts, for a week. :) We did find time to visit her “second” home in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. (she lives in Boston but works in Portsmouth.) It rained, so we couldn’t go to the beach (boo!), but we did spend plenty of time enjoying the city.

Whew! Yes, it was busy and crazy and I loved every minute!

Over the weekend, I got out for my first run in much too long – a month, perhaps?

I am soooo out of shape. Seriously. For the first time in months – years, maybe! – it was HARD.

Admittedly, it was hot (92 degrees Fahrenheit) and humid. Still, I was really surprised by how much I struggled! It didn’t feel good at all.

It kind of reminds me of when I first started running, over four years ago. Only that was different. When I first started running, I knew I was bad. I knew I would be slow, and it would be hard. I wasn’t sure if I could do it, but I was filled with the enthusiasm and determination to try. That was what carried me through the hard days, until it got easier.

Now, it’s definitely different. For one thing, I’ve done it. I’ve run many thousands of miles since I began. I don’t question whether I can do it again. Oddly, that also removes some of the challenge.

I also don’t have the naive enthusiasm of a beginner. I’ve often thought that the best race I’ve ever run was my first – a little 4-miler at the local zoo. I love running, but I know I’ll never be able to replicate the exhilaration of that first race.

Getting myself back into shape this time requires a different type of enthusiasm and determination. This time, it’s like I’m reclaiming something. Some of my favorite runs have been my long (and unscheduled) Saturday runs. Not races, not runs with other people – just me on a Saturday afternoon, jogging through my city and enjoying every minute of it. I want that again. I want to run six miles, eight miles, ten miles, feel the air running over my skin and the sun on my shoulders, and love every moment of it. I want to wonder how fast I can run down a hill, then run down it even faster.

Whoa. Started to get all poetic there. Sorry ’bout that!

I got out for another run today. It was still hard, but definitely better. The weather was better (83 degrees!), and it just felt better. There were even a few moments when I caught myself settling into the run – those moments when my mind is empty and it’s just my feet and the road.

I’m sore, by the way. Oddly enough, it feels great. :)

I have one more business trip/vacation later this summer – to Colorado, of all places. That will probably challenge me because of the elevation, but I’m determined to run while I’m there. (I could probably write a whole post on my reasons, but I’ll save that for another day!)

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World Cup running!

The world is converging on Brazil right now for the World Cup. In addition to kicking and heading the ball while playing soccer/football/futbol, here’s an amazing statistic for you:

Those guys run an average of 7 miles per game!

That’s over 10k, sometimes up to 15k, PER GAME! Wow!

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busy summers

I don’t know why I always think my life is going to slow down during the summer. Ever since I graduated college, summer has been insanely busy, and this summer is no exception.

The broken laptop computer I referenced a few weeks ago has been part of my challenge. The computer works, but the display is broken. Right now that means I have to “borrow” the monitor off of one of our desktop computers every time I want to use the computer. It’s a bit of a hassle and I find myself needing to schedule my time on the computer very carefully. Because of that, it’s much more difficult for me to break away for a midday run, and my exercise schedule has been suffering. Later this summer, I will probably be able to get an extra monitor from my sister, but until then I have to make do.

(Yes, I am planning to buy a new laptop. Eventually. I rarely buy computers without excessive amounts of research.)

I got out for a run on Saturday. 3.66 miles. My pace wasn’t super fast, around 16:15, but given how little I’ve been running lately, it was definitely faster than I expected!

It’s hot, humid, windy, and I really don’t know what the rest of this summer will hold. I’m running less, but I *am* writing more, so who knows? Maybe I’ll have a publishing cred before the season is over…

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frustratingly busy

Ugh. When it comes to running, May has just not been a good month.

It’s a poor excuse, but my life has really been crazy this month. Just last night, I finished the Citizens’ Police Academy at my local police station, which was WAY COOL, but took up a fair amount of time. My computer broke – thankfully it was a repair I could make, but it took time. Ironically I also had a higher-than-usual amount of computer-based freelance work – a variety of computer tasks that I do for private clients. I had several days this month when I was already committed to volunteering through my church. We traveled to a family reunion in Nebraska over Memorial Day weekend. Add in all the regular work I do, the stuff that pays the bills, and running didn’t even make it to the priority list.

I attempted to get outside yesterday for a run, and I was really frustrated and disappointed by how much fitness it seems I have lost. It was pretty warm – mid 80s Fahrenheit – and very humid. I could barely finish two miles before my legs refused to go on, and those first two miles were pretty miserable. My body was just not into it at all. It didn’t feel free or flowing, like the runs I have really loved. I’m sure part of it is mental, too – I know I’ve always struggled with the mental game.

I guess I’m “back to square one”, at least for now. This weekend will be crazy – we have family visiting us – but hopefully next week I can get out for a couple of real easy runs, Gallo-run style. It’s annoying to struggle, but it’s worth it to get back to running free and flowing. Because that is a feeling I just cannot replicate any other way!

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Independence Park Trot 2014

May has been such a chaotic month! Running has taken a backseat to everything else in life. Hopefully this summer will be a bit calmer! Meanwhile, here’s a race recap from earlier this month. (which I’m just now finding time to publish…)

The Independence Park Trot is one of my favorite 5ks every year. The location is not far from my home, and the race is very flat and fast. The park surrounds a Bass Pro Shop, and a small lake makes for a very picturesque run. My mother and I left our house on Saturday, May 3 morning around 7:30 – “early” to most of the world, but just a normal Saturday for most runners.

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The race was scheduled to start at 8:00. We found an excellent parking spot near the start/finish line, which was important for my mother, who has a bad knee. We were still a bit early so we stated in the car for another ten or fifteen minutes. We left the car about ten minutes before the start time and wandered over to the tents set up near the starting line.

Most of them were filled by hosts and sponsors from the community – a health food store, the hospital, a physical therapy office. One was filled with information about the Independence Health Department, who organized the run. A family friend works for the health department and was handing out complimentary bottles of water. We stopped to chat with her and saw another friend who was running the race.

At about five minutes to eight, one of the race officials got on the loudspeaker and announced that, due to a significant backup of vehicles entering the park, the race start would be delayed to give them a chance to arrive. My mother and I chatted while we waited.

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At the Eagle Egg 5k earlier this year, I ran the first mile and half or two miles much too fast, and was out of energy to push during the third mile. For this race, my goal was to focus on saving myself for that last mile. On the night before the race, I read an article by Jenny Hadfield in which she recommended using colors for 5k pacing. Think of the first mile as “yellow”, the second mile as “orange”, the third mile as “red”, and the last .1 as “fire”. I liked this and intended to use this to pace myself.

At last we all crowded around the start line, the air horn blew, and the race began. During that first mile, I had many chances to see what kind of people came out for the race. It was a large and varied crowd, with several handicapped people (a wheelchair, a few prosthetic legs) and runners of all shapes and sizes. I focused on running “yellow” and forced myself to slow down.

In years past, the health department peppered the race route with signs containing little health facts, like “quitting smoking reduces your risk of cancer” or “the calcium in milk leads to stronger bones”. This time, the only signs were the mile-marker signs. For what it’s worth, I have no complaints about this. It’s a free race, and I would gladly sacrifice some signs to save money!

In mile 2, the crowd had stretched out, with the faster runners ahead and the walkers somewhere behind me. An aid station at the halfway point handed out cups of water, which I appreciated. I had a hunch that my pace was good – faster than my training runs, but slow enough to hold a bit in the tank.

When I got to mile 3, I thought again about the colors. Mile 3 is red. I dug in and really pushed during this mile. I really went onto autopilot – every thought, every bit of my energy went into my legs. I would use other runners to pace myself – trying to narrow the distance between myself and a particular runner, or passing another runner. It was both an incredibly long and an incredibly short mile!

Finally I came to the three-mile sign. During that last tenth of a mile, I really let go. I did not have much energy left, and honestly wasn’t sure if I could maintain my pace to the finish line! I crossed the finish line, but I couldn’t even speak for several minutes because I was breathing so hard!

My mom snapped a photo of me, then I stumbled over to the health department tent for another bottle of water. I was REALLY thirsty! Once I’d quenched my thirst, I went back to the finish-line area and clipped off my chip timer for the race company. My mother and I got into a (surprisingly long) line to get my chip time. Last year, I was given a defective chip and did not know my chip time. This year, thankfully, the chip timer worked. My chip time was 38:58.1.

After we came home and cleaned up, I looked up my Nike+ time and splits.

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Woohoo! Check out those splits! This was definitely a champion race!

I’m going out of town this weekend, and my to-do list is a mile long. I’m determined to squeeze in a good run tomorrow – preferably a LONG run! We’ll see how that works out!

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Happy Birthday To Me!

Today is my 31st birthday.

Legally, I am old enough to drive and to vote. I can buy alcohol or cigarettes. I can carry a concealed weapon. I can rent a car. (I cannot, however, be elected President of the United States. Bonus points to anyone who knows why!)

I suppose I should have some kind of philosophical observation about this, but I don’t. I’m a year older and, I think, a little bit wiser, though I know I still have much to learn.

I don’t feel like I’m 31 years old. Truthfully, I feel like I’m just figuring out how to be a teenager. I am both physically and emotionally stronger than I’ve ever been in my life. I am loving life in a way I didn’t know was possible.

I truly believe I lost my late adolescence and early 20s while I was recovering from my accident. It’s been a long and difficult process, and medically speaking, it will never end. But at the same time, I’m incredibly proud of how far I’ve come. I’ve found that defying expectations is a lot of fun.

Life is unpredictable, and it’s safe to say I did not expect that I would wind up where I am now. I live with my parents – an arrangement that we all enjoy – and work as a freelance writer. I have a bachelor’s degree in education, which is ironic because I have no desire to be a teacher, but which proved to my therapists and doctors that I COULD, in fact, graduate college.

I was born and raised in the United States, but I’ve lived in west Africa and visited a couple dozen nations in Asia, Europe, and Central America. I love traveling and learning about the world.

Dorthy was right when she tapped her ruby slippers together, though. There’s no place like home! I love my hometown. As a youth, I could not imagine living here as an adult and planned to move away as soon as possible. As an adult, I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

I am happily, blissfully single. I have no children and no boyfriend. In fact, I really can’t remember the last time I went out on a date! It’s been several years – maybe as long as eight or nine. As I get older, I’ve found that I’m just not that interested in playing the game. Don’t get me wrong – if Prince Charming came along, I would gladly let myself be swept off my feet. In the meantime, I would rather spend my time writing, building my career, and challenging myself physically.

I’ve been running for four years now. I hated running as a child, but began running soon after my 27th birthday when several people who I thought were my friends showed me otherwise. They’ll never know how thankful I am. The emotional devastation they caused pushed me to make the best choice of my life.

Running has changed myself, my body, and my life in so many great ways. I’ve run three half-marathons and several shorter races. I’ve discovered that, to my surprise, I love running more than I love racing. Sometimes, a long solo run can fix every other problem in life.

I’m quite the homebody. When I was younger, I thought I was a party person. Turns out I was wrong! Outside of a few rare exceptions, I would rather stay at home with a good book than go to a party.

I have discovered the absolute joy of living so close to one of the best library systems in the nation. I don’t know why I didn’t appreciate it more when I was young.

I have the best family in the world, hands down. My parents and my older sister are incredible. They’ve never given up on me, even when it wasn’t easy. I’ll never be able to thank them enough for being so incredible.

This is me. 31 years old and loving every minute of it.

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faster paces, long runs

What a week. I have been simultaneously busy and having a GREAT time. I’ve barely had time to do anything “fun” on my computer – though I’ve been so busy having fun that I haven’t missed it! I’ve been involved in a class through my local police department that has been fantastic – I’ve learned all kinds of information about the department. On top of that, I volunteer at my church and have been needed more frequently than usual this week/month. I write whenever I can, I run every day or two, and I’ve had just enough time to finish everything, but I’ve enjoyed it all.

One fantastic element to my “fun” this week has been running, of course! On Monday, I ran 3.68 miles with an excellent pace, so on Wednesday I felt good when I began my long run. I wasn’t too sure what to expect. The wind was quite strong, 25mph, and I expected my pace to suffer, but the sun was shining and the temperature was moderate.

And the wind did blow! I ran the first half of the run into the wind, and especially during that first mile, I questioned the wisdom of running on a day like this! During the third mile, I had to run uphill AND into the wind. OH MY, that was tough! I really had to put my head down and just push through it.

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Not sure why but I really love this photo!

At about 3.2 miles, I turned around. The change was remarkable. With the wind at my back (and a pretty long downhill stretch, too!), I felt like a new runner. What goes down must come up, and I did have to go uphill a bit – challenging but still not as bad as running uphill AND into the wind!

I listened to the voice of my Nike+ app, and used that last half of my run to push myself. It wasn’t too much, but I am confident that I knocked several seconds off my pace.

At about mile 5.5, I was running along a residential road. Ahead, I could see a woman working in the garden in front of her house, with her small dog running around the yard unchained. This in itself is not an unusual sight. Unfortunately for her, me, the dog, and the driver who was forced to swerve and slam on the brakes, the dog choose to run across the road to greet me at the same moment an SUV was passing. Kudos to the driver, who did NOT hit the dog. I picked up the ornery pooch and returned him to a grateful and apologetic owner. (Perhaps you should put your dog on a leash next time…)

Around mile 6, I kicked a stone into my shoe. Normally I would stop and remove the stone, but I was less than a half-mile from my home and my pace was fantastically strong! By the time I got home, the stone had lodged itself squarely beneath my heel, forcing me to alter my gait slightly and run only on my toes. :) But I was SO CLOSE!

I also noticed, in this last part of the run, that my left bicep was beginning to feel a bit cramp-y. My armband was wrapped around that arm, so perhaps I’d pulled it a bit too tight.

One observation from this run: By the time I reached the halfway point, I was getting VERY dehydrated. I don’t think it reached dangerous levels, but it was VERY uncomfortable. As good as my pace was, it probably suffered because of this.

I ran a total of 6.38 miles, with an average pace of 14:24 – a personal best for this particular route! The rush I get when I beat my personal time like this is just absolutely incredible – beyond words!

I also noticed, both during and after the run, that I had a little stiffness in my legs. I think this might be an issue related to my – ahem – “recovery.” I rarely do anything special after my run to help with my recovery, and I’m wondering if I need to add ice baths or more-frequent appointments with my foam roller.

I took the day off on Thursday (from running, not work!) and ran again on Friday, though only 3.68 miles this time. This time, I didn’t feel strong during my ran. I ran, and I got it done, but it didn’t feel “easy.” I pushed myself, and I told myself that I’d already had two outstanding runs this week, so it was okay if I didn’t feel great. I was delighted when I finished the run and discovered that, although my pace wasn’t as good as earlier in the week, it was sub-15:00 AND it had steadily increased throughout the run. Negative splits and sub-15:00? Yes, please!

On Saturday, I knocked out another 3.05 miles. I didn’t really expect to be able to run on Saturday, due to the weather forecast, but we had a nice window of balmy weather in the afternoon. This run was only so-so, not an outstanding pace, but I tried a different route and had a good enough time so I didn’t really care.

And this has been my week. According to my calendar, my upcoming week will probably be just as busy as the week I just finished. I’m incredibly thankful that being busy has been so much fun!

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3.68 miles with improved speed

The past couple of weeks have been pretty chaotic, and I haven’t been able to do a whole lot of running. To be fair, I haven’t gotten a whole lot else done either :) but it’s glad that I survived and that this looks to be a much calmer week.

Last Saturday I ran 5.03 miles, and it was pretty lousy. I got out there and got it done, but it was a struggle, and I thought I must be losing some fitness due to not running much for a couple of weeks.
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Imagine my surprise when I went for a run today and completed 3.68 miles with an average pace of 13:28! This was phenomenal! Usually I only run sub-14:00 paces when I’m in a race and have all kinds of external motivators pushing me. I don’t know why or how I was able to run this pace today, but I liked it, and I’m hoping I can continue to push my pace like this!

I am debating adding some new programs to my fitness routine. Specifically I’m considering doing the 100 pushups program. I don’t have a ton of upper body strength, so this would make sense for building that. I’m also considering other ways to to record my progress – specifically videos. I don’t have a lot of good video equipment, but my selfies feel a little monotonous, so I wonder if I should try a few video blogs. What do you think?

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eagle egg 5k, wednesday seven, saturday six

April has started out to be a surprisingly busy month, so my apologies this late(r) post.

pre-race selfie

Pre-race selfie with my mother

The Eagle Egg 5k was one week ago, and it was excellent. It was a fun race, especially since it’s been nearly a year since I last raced. This race is sponsored by and raises money for Summit Christian Academy, where my mother teaches.

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Just beyond the starting line

My time was good, an improvement on my time last year on this same course, but I ran the first mile WAYYYY too fast – nearly a 10:00 pace!! – and I am positive that affected my overall time. I even suspected, during the race, that I was going too fast – but it is SO hard to slow down when I’m just flying like that! So, so fun!

There was an aid station at the halfway point. In addition to water, each runner was given one of those cheap plastic Easter eggs, with a Dove chocolate on the inside. :) I joked afterward that Dove chocolates are so much tastier than gels or chews, and the marathons should adopt this strategy at their aid stations!

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The finish line!

I crossed the finish line at EXACTLY 40:00. I didn’t get my official time until several minutes later, but it was nice to know that my time was at least under 40:00. I was a tiny bit surprised when, after I crossed the finish line and stopped running, I became very dizzy. I wasn’t too shocked, though, because this has happened to me before after a hard run. I made my way to a nearby curb and sat down for a few minutes until the dizziness passed.

My chip time was 39:45.2.

Last Wednesday, I ran 7.35 miles. I’m not sure why I ran that far – I started out with plans to run my usual 6.4 mile route – but I had the idea to add this particular stretch of road, which added almost a mile. I was quite pleased that I’d pushed myself, but at the same time, it was probably kinda dumb to add that extra mile. All I had was a bottle of water, no sports drink, no gels, and no money to allow myself to BUY some kind of nutrition. So that last mile turned out to be pretty brutal, because I had NO energy left in the tank. It’s funny, because I remember I was “digging deep” and really pushing myself through that last mile – but my pace was pretty slow. :) My legs just had nothing left in them.

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Halfway through my crazy run

I was out shopping later in the day, and while I was pleasantly surprised that my legs weren’t overly sore, I was amused that my “walking pace” was slower than usual.

Yesterday I ran 6.41 miles. The wind was phenomenal – gusts up to 30-40mph. This spring, it seems like every day that the temperature is mild, it is accompanied by a STRONG wind! I’ve run in heavy wind before, but today my legs just weren’t into it. I hate to call it a “bad” run, because I had no major training goals and even if my pace was slow, I’m glad I got out there. But this was probably the worst run I’ve had in awhile. That’s okay – once in awhile, it’s bound to happen. :)

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a mid-week long run

Yesterday was CRAZY. Good-crazy, but crazy nonetheless. In the morning, I took a friend’s mother-in-law to the DMV. She just recently moved in with them from out of state and needed to transfer her car’s registration and her driver’s license to Missouri. That was an exercise in patience. MIL has never dealt with bills or paperwork – that was all taken care of by the recently deceased FIL. Patience, patience, patience.

In the evening, I attended the second session of the Independence Police Department’s Citizen’s Police Academy. It’s absolutely fascinating. The IPD is a fantastic group, and IMO the best PD around. It’s large enough to have a drug lab, a canine unit, a dedicated crime scene investigation unit, a crime prevention unit, and more. It’s small enough, though, that there’s a real sense of community. I’ve learned a LOT already, more than I can fit into one post, and I’m looking forward to the remaining 9 weeks! (We may even have the opportunity to get tased during next week’s Taser demonstration. I’m actually thinking about volunteering. The best way to write about something is to experience it, right?)

In between MIL and police academy, I went on a 6.36-mile midday run. It was fantastic. I made a couple of changes from my usual 6-mile runs. The most obvious change was the day of the week – Wednesday instead of Saturday. I also ran with a water bottle – nothing fancy, just one of those 16-ounce bottles. But I think it helped.

It was WINDY yesterday – gusting as high as 30-40 mph. The temperature was around 55 degrees (Fahrenheit), though the wind made it more unpleasant. I didn’t realize how windy it was until I was running! I nearly got blown away. The first mile was rough – in addition to questioning my sanity, as usual, I had many moments when I had to put my head down and fight the wind. Tough!

I also had put the bottle of water into the freezer a couple hours earlier, and the cold bottle against my bare hand was also rather unpleasant. A couple of miles later, of course, the bottle warmed to a comfortable temperature.

The second mile was downhill, and not quite as much into the wind, so it was better. I had a full bottle of water, but I didn’t want to break my rhythm to take a drink. Around this time I started wondering how I was going to manage drinking this water. At the end of the second mile, I stopped to cross a street and solved my water problem. For the rest of the run, I took a swig every time I had to stop to cross a street.

The third mile was similar to mile 1. I was running into the wind, again, and I really had to push myself! The water bottle in my hand was still mostly full, leading me to wonder if I had brought more water than I needed, and if I should dump some of the water to make it lighter. Thankfully I didn’t – I wound up drinking every drop before the run was over!

The fourth mile, at last, was easier. I turned around and was finally running with the wind at my back. The difference was HUGE. It started to get more difficult about midway through the fifth mile. I had to run uphill a bit, which was a mental challenge as much as a physical challenge.

I took the last swig of the water bottle and launched into the last mile-plus. It wasn’t “easy”, exactly, but it felt strong and I was pretty delighted with that. Since I’d brought the water bottle and stayed hydrated, I didn’t have to deal with cotton mouth during this last mile. My legs and feet were tired, but my heart and lungs felt strong. I had some chafing in my inner thighs – I use Udderly Smooth Udder Cream to lubricate my skin, and I got into the bad habit of using it rather sparingly this winter. Luckily the chafing wasn’t too bad – just enough to be noticeable.

I finished strong. My pace was slowish, but I figure the wind added at least a minute. :) I was pleased to find that I still felt strong enough to stand and walk after the run. In fact, several hours later, I was surprised to discover that I was not sleepy or struggling to stay awake in the evening (which I’d expected and feared). It felt so, so good, and I’m so glad I was able to squeeze in this run when I could.

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