Saturday, December 31, 2011

Day 77 - Permission to walk - DENIED!

All along I knew I would be celebrating New Year's Eve with a 10-mile run. Does that count as a celebration, I wonder? Day 77 dawned gray gray gray. It was cold and just miserable. It was also my first 10-miler since the marathon in October in 2010. I didn't especially feel like driving out to Kensington either - or anywhere for that matter. Two different forecasts promised sun from 1-5pm, so I woke up and waited for said sun. And waited. And waited. At 2:30 I finally set out, resigned to run in the blah yuckiness.

I tried a completely different strategy today. Rather than do one enormous lap, I know two target points that are exactly one mile apart, so I did 5 laps of two miles each. I didn't even think of it as a 10 mile run, but as ten 1-mile runs.

I also cheated shhh don't tell anyone! Rather than walk, I stopped for two minutes after each mile to breathe and relax and mentally reset. The logic was that I was still running full miles. When my mind got lazy and wanted to walk mid-mile, I said NO and kept going. Time-wise it was a great strategy. My total time was 1:40:56, exactly where I want to be for this distance. The strategy won't work in the actual race, but it worked today.

The per mile breakdown:
Mile 1 - 9:22
Mile 2 - 10:08
Mile 3 - 10:46
Mile 4 - 9:50
Mile 5 - 10:06
Mile 6 - 9:45
Mile 7 - 10:26
Mile 8 - 9:58
Mile 9 - 10:22
Mile 10 - 10:08

I am seriously dragging now. My legs hurt, my back hurts and I'm absolutely exhausted!!!! My body is screaming "never again!!!" yet my mind says "H@ll yeah! I did it!!!!"

Here's a really gross note to end the year: Over the course of the run, I lost 3.4 pounds of sweat, even with sucking down a Gatorade Pre-Pack after 6 miles. I warned you it was gross!

See you all next year :)

Friday, December 30, 2011

Day 76 - The real truth about cold weather running

I read this online at Fit's It 360. Truer words have never been written :)

"We’ve all heard it before – “You can’t exercise outside. It’s 15 degrees out there!”

The warnings began with our parents when we were young. They said it was too dangerous for our bodies, rather, it was really about the fact that they didn’t want to go out side with us. It was cold after all.

I’ve heard about “frozen lungs” and experienced them myself when I was out running in the winter time. So I felt that with the temperatures falling all over the country, that it was time to put this to bed once and for all.

If you have ever ran or exercised outside in cold temperatures, you know the feeling. That cold air rushes into your body, fills your lungs, and “freezes” you from the inside out. Some people, including myself, hate running in the winter only because of that particular feeling. So we made up a myth that your lungs will become temporarily, maybe even permanently
damaged from intense exercise outdoors in cold temperatures. We even tried to justify it by using anatomical terms like, “Damaged alveolar sacs in the lungs due to increased volumes of frigid ambient temperatures.”

What a bunch of crap.

I have been doing some research on the subject for a while and I have yet to come across a case of someone who suffered extensive damage specifically from running in frigid temperatures.

Want to know my take on the matter?

We used the laziness of our parents (sorry Mom and Dad) to justify us not having to go outside to train. I’m as guilty of it as anyone else. There is always going to a certain level of discomfort while exercising. In the summer, it’s too hot. In the winter, it’s too cold. That’s the name of the game. It’s just another excuse to be lazy. Just because something is uncomfortable, doesn’t mean that it’s dangerous.

There are some things, however, that you should take precaution with once you’ve pushed past your excuses and you’re ready to go outside. The first and most important one is to cover your body. Wearing layers and covering all of the skin surfaces protects yourself from frostbite. In the winter time, it may already be in the 20′s, add in wind chill, and the fact that you’re running, and 30-60 minutes is plenty of time for skin damage to take place.

You also want to allot yourself extra warm-up time. Extend your warm-up to ensure that your blood is flowing, your muscles are loose, and you have a good sweat going before you take off for the open road or trail.

Basically, I’m telling you to quit your crying, lace up your shoes, and get outside. I’ll be right behind you."
The New York Times concurs there's no real danger in cold weather exercise.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Day 75 - The greatest thing I did all day

Ironically, it's easiest to run when I have a full schedule. I know when it has to happen and if it doesn't happen in its time slot, I won't run at all. It's much harder to run when I have nothing planned all day. When there's nothing I have to do, that's exactly what gets done, which is society's fault because.... (If you don't get the joke, look it up :)

Thursday was no different. I woke up around 11, watched Jeopardy!, Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and Hot in Cleveland off the dvr. Emailed a lot, texted a lot. At 4 pm I was still in my pajamas. I hadn't showered yet and felt dirty, so I finally dragged myself outside to run. It was only 3 miles (which always becomes 3.13) and I could have done it 8 times over in my procrastinating.

It was cold, but my time wasn't too terrible. Well the overall time was, but my first mile was 10:09. Not bad. My final mile was 9:02. It didn't feel like I was going anywhere near that fast, but had I known, I would have gone two steps faster to run a sub 9-minute mile. The 1.13 in the middle was atrocious, but I finished. It's cold, it's gray, it's miserable and I could have stayed indoors in my pjs, but I ran in the low 30s misery. Time schmime.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Day 73 - Choosing between two bad options

I searched for "Allen Park Michigan snow" and one of the first hits was the world's biggest tire on I-94. Not quite the pic I was looking for, but ummm ok.
It's day 73, the schedule says "short run - 3 run." Easy enough, except I definitely did not want to do it. I didn't want to do a single mile. I wanted to stay in my pajamas all day and eventually dabble with my thesis. Maybe watch something off the dvr from March? The options were endless!

In reality though I had two choices: run and be miserable for 30 minutes or don't run and feel self-guilt and self-disappointment for the entire day. It was easier to be cold and winded for a half hour than constantly beat up myself for being lazy and wasting time when I could have been productive.

I dressed for the Arctic, stepped outside and thought hmmm it's not that cold. NOT THAT COLD?!? It's freaking snowing!!!!! Yet I realized today - much like humidity is the real measure of heat, wind is the true determination of cold. In the complete absence of wind, it wasn't that bad, despite the dark gray skies and constant snow.

For the first mile or so my feet felt puffy and not in a good way. They were cold and slightly numb, so I couldn't necessarily feel the contact with the ground. In a few minutes it passed, as did the miles. Good runners - please recommend how to keep my feet warm! For now I wear SmartWool socks and pull the bottoms of my tights over my heels to cover the ankle gap.

Now I can put on my Detroit Tigers sleep pants and veg without feeling any guilt or disappointment. Isn't that what Christmas break is about, anyway??

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Day 71 - Some clarifying definitions

Courtesy of

hob·by    [hob-ee]
1. an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation.

ex·er·cise   [ek-ser-sahyz] noun
1. bodily or mental exertion, especially for the sake of training or improvement of health.

ob·ses·sion   [uhb-sesh-uhn]
1. the domination of one's thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire, etc.
2. the idea, image, desire, feeling, etc., itself.
3. the state of being obsessed.

com·pul·sion   [kuhm-puhl-shuhn]
1. the act of compelling; constraint; coercion.
2. the state or condition of being compelled.
3. Psychology . a strong, usually irresistible impulse to perform an act, especially one that is irrational or contrary to one's will.

I celebrated Christmas Eve with another 8-mile run at Kensington. I drove my mom to my brother's house, said hi to my niece and nephew and abandoned the family to run in the cold. Yes, I actually walked away from my little niece hugging me and following me around, asking "Chel? Chel?"

The surprising thing was how busy the park was. I counted 12 people going the opposite direction of me. A pretty safe assumption is that as many were going the same direction, which means 25 people were at the park at any one time.

I can accept that a lot of people don't have families or places to celebrate Christmas, but for those of us who do, how do we explain the decision to exercise? At what point does a hobby become an obsession? When does exercise become a compulsion?

My run was pretty terrible. I didn't want to be out there - I wanted to be inside eating cookies with the kids, cuddling and playing with monster trucks and baby dolls. I was scheduled to run 6 miles, yet when I hit 3 and had the opportunity to turn around and go back to the car, I kept going, opting instead for the full 8-mile lap. Getting started was definitely the hardest part, but why did I start at all?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Day 68 - A completely distorted perception of temperature

For as long as I've been running, I've had definite ideas and opinions about temperatures. Anything over 75 was hot. 65-75 was tolerable. 45-65 was my temperature sweet spot and anything under 45 was cold. Running outside only happened between 45 and 75. Anything outside that range was too extreme and merited a trip inside the heat or a/c.

In the past few months, however, everything I ever believed about temperature has changed. I've run outside in 88 degrees, convincing myself it was in the low 70s. I've been out in the mid-20s, doing everything possible to stay warm. One of my adult students asked "Well isn't it cold?" Of course it is!!! The cold is exactly why I knew I had to be outside consistently all the way from 70 degrees downward. The gradual change would be bearable. A sudden change, not so much.

Being outside and running outside has changed every perception I have of weather. In the past if it was snowing, that was reason enough to go inside and skip the run, or go to the Y and run inside. On Saturday, it merited only a "sh^& it's snowing" on the way to the Metropark.

Further acceptance of the cold happens almost every morning. It's almost Christmas and I don't wear a jacket most days. Instead I open the front door, think hmm it's warm and I'm off. Warm in the low 40s? Never thought I'd say that one!!!

Equally cool but not nearly as distorting, Thursday's run was the normal short 3-miler. I hit the lap button when I had one mile left to see if I could do it under 10:00. End time? 9:14 and that was even with stopping to pick up a quarter. "It's a great thing when you realize you still have the ability to surprise yourself."

While I'm quoting American Beauty, this is just too funny to pass by:

"I figured you guys might be able to give me some pointers. I need to shape up. Fast." Lester said to his gay neighbors as they ran by.

"Are you just looking to lose weight, or do you want increased strength and flexibility as well?" Jim clarified.

"I want to look good naked!" Lester announced.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Day 67 - "Sh*% girl, why are you doing this?"

Saturday dawned cloudy and gray. I had 13 episodes of True Blood to watch, but before that, a hot date with the metropark to run 9 miles. Rather than drive all the way to Kensington, I decided to stay local and run at Willow. Their website boasted of a 4.5 mile paved track. I figured I'd run two laps and call it a day.

I ran into two problems, however. The first was that the park is much further than I was expecting. I knew where it was, I knew the location on a map, yet actually driving it was farther than expected. The second problem was the track. I was looking for 4.5 miles, but after I finished a lap, I was nowhere near where I should have been timewise. It was closer to 3.5 that I ran. It seemed like everywhere I looked there was an intersection and I didn't know which way to go! So rather than tracking absolute distance, I tracked time and figured it would be close enough.

It was cold and largely empty and at one point, while running uphill, pouring sweat and gasping in cold air, I asked myself what exactly I was doing and why I was doing it. I sure wasn't enjoying it! Every run feels like torture, yet I keep going back for more. Why?
Wishing everyone a happy winter solstice. At least now we've reached the darkest day of the year and will start gaining minutes of light.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Day 61 - When showing up is the hardest part of all

After my exhaustive Saturday run, I really haven't been feeling it. I did my recovery walk on Sunday and rested on Monday without any problem. Tuesday, however, I had to drag myself out of the house and around the neighborhood. Every step of the 3.13 felt terrible.

Wednesday was even worse. I was scheduled to do some speed work, but I never made it. The actual run time was 30 minutes, but to drive to the Y, warm up, cool down, shower, get ready for night work would make it at least an hour. Add in driving time and dinner and I would be rushed the entire time. I had 2 1/2 hours between jobs and I like to relax for a few minutes during the day. I want to make some Christmas presents, which are still ideas, and I had to run around buying the supplies, which each came from a different store, naturally. Since I couldn't stop time while I worked out, I missed a day.

Thursday morning was great. I woke up and put on my puffy coat to go to work, then stepped outside into a spring day!!! Where did that come from?! Yet after working all day, it was cold and gray and windy, a horribly blah sort of evening. I procrastinated and sure didn't want to go for a run, yet if I can force myself to change into my running clothing, eventually I'll make it outside.

Another 3.13 miles finished and they felt really good. Showing up to run was absolutely the hardest part. The actual run was easy. Running a marathon is a choice and a commitment I have to make every single day. Crossing the finish line sub-5 hours will make it all worth it.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Day 57 - "You must be a jogger"

For the past year I've been working on a teaching methods initiative with the Michigan Department of Education. Several times a year we meet in Lansing and this week was one of the scheduled times. Unlike the other meetings, however, this time we met on Friday and Saturday. My boss was willing to pay me for the Saturday hours, so of course I was going to stay both days. The problem, however, was the 8-mile run I had to do.

I was massively dehydrated, suffering from lack of protein (the meals were all continental or vegetarian) and when I stepped outside for a minute, it was FREEZING!!!!

The later the day went on, the less and less I wanted to run. One of our activities, however, involved a beach ball. They were really difficult to inflate and the trainer said to just wait and use a pump to inflate it. So naturally, I sucked in a huge breath of air, chomped down on the valve and inflated it.

The trainer was surprised that I had managed mine. "You must be a jogger!" she exclaimed. It was the first time someone has identified me as an athlete without knowing about my running and it gave me confidence and re-determination to run. Besides, my running gear had filled half my suitcase - I wasn't going to waste that space!

I changed before I left the conference so I had one less thing to worry about, or one less thing to help me change my mind. I stopped at the UnderArmour outlet on the way home looking for my favorite bra at a cheap price. No luck there, but I did find two pairs of lined pants. I wore one pair out of the store and pulled into Kensington Metro Park just before the sun set.

It was cold and hard to run, but it was also really relaxing and mind-clearing to have no thought other than finishing. If I had had my camera I would have relaunched the daily photo project. Since I didn't have my camera, I found a few pics online :)

Every time I run I sweat a lot. When it's warm I wear a bandana to keep my hair tied back and the sweat off my face. Around 50 degrees, I use a fleece hat. My hair hangs about an inch longer than the hat and I have to wring out the sweat. Gross! It was no surprise then that I was sweating and it was pooling in my hair.

What was a surprise happened around mile 6 when my hair felt really heavy. Hair shouldn't feel like anything! On the left side I felt something solid that reminded me of a big wooly caterpillar. I didn't have any hair ties or clips in my hair, so I nervously reached my gloved hand to my left side to investigate. It was an icicle! The sweat had frozen solid! Double gross!!!! I pulled my hood back over my head, but the inside of the hood had some sweat and had also frozen.

Driving home was rough. I had the heat on full blast, but I was also sitting in sweat wettened clothing. It was absolutely worth it to finish the run, but next time I'll change before coming home! Come to think of it, 8 miles isn't that hard after all :D

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Day 54 - The good - the only - use for a treadmill

Wednesday's agenda was 30 minutes of speed work. I had tried it outside before and I couldn't force myself to go much faster than normal! The one thing that would force my speed was to grudgingly use a treadmill.

The pattern was six sets: jog 1 minute, run 3 at a progressively faster speed, walk 1.

The 6 mph jog felt ridiculously slow. Going faster felt surprisingly good. I reached a high of 9 mph and I felt good and strong, even at that speed. Could I maintain it for the whole 30 minutes? Not right now, but knowing I had 3 minutes or less made it much easier to endure.

Being inside was so easy, but the next day I was back outside for my short 3 miles. I'm trying to stay outside as long as I can this winter! I've already gotten reports that Elizabeth Park and Kensington Metro Park clear the snow, so those are options for the short and long runs, respectively. Yaktrax are on the wish list when REI sends me a coupon. A gaiter should be as well. One way or another I'm going to become a winter runner! Wow, I never ever thought I'd say those words, especially in combination :D

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Day 52 - No one ever said "I wish I hadn't worked out today"

It's cold. It's dark. There's snow on the ground. We haven't seen the sun in four long days. I didn't get home from work until almost 5, I was famished and the only thing I wanted to do was put on my pjs and hibernate. The schedule, however, doesn't have any Tuesdays listed as "hibernate with kitty." No, it said run 3 miles and I had 3 choices.

Choice 1: skip the workout and move backward in training
Choice 2: Go to the Y and deal with the after-work crowd. Use either a 1/10 mile track or a treadmill, both of which would bore me to tears
Choice 3: Suck it up and run outside.

After much grumbling and complaining, with a huge side dish of procrastination, I dug out my tights from the clean laundry pile, found my hat and dressed for the Arctic. Stepping outside, I registered two immediate thoughts: geez it cold! and What in the world am I doing to myself?

I really didn't think I would get through it. My mind was in no place to run, yet my body fought back and promised to drag me through it. One step after another I plodded along and I finished. Now I can enjoy TV TUESDAY without any self guilt :)

Since it was night I switched from street running to sidewalk running. That just seems like a duh factor change :) I turned down the music to the point that I could barely hear it. One good difference was that I couldn't read the street signs so I didn't know how far I had gone - or more importantly, how far I still had to go. Most runs I want to know exactly how much longer I have, but for some reason the uncertainty worked this time.

Running at night wasn't bad at all. What have I been so worried about all this time???

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Day 50 - A night run

The running program I'm using builds mileage for two weeks, then recovers for one. After long runs of 6 and 7 miles, this Saturday was a shorter 5 miles. I slept late then had a difficult time getting going. Who wants to run when Harry Potter is on tv all day???

I finally dragged myself outside after 4 on a dark, gray, cloudy day. Almost immediately I ran into twilight, which is when I have the most trouble seeing. It's too dark to really see in the natural light, but too light for the street lights. I kept going one step after another and it became night. Thankfully I don't have to be inside when the street lights come on! Saturday was the first night run I've done in probably ten years and it was great! It was calm and quiet and enjoyable. Something else great was that I ran in Southgate and I swear the streets are wider than in Allen Park!

Around 3.5 miles my legs finally warmed up and the final 1.5 miles felt great! At that point I felt like I could have kept going indefinitely, yet I was also singing along with my iPod - singing out loud! - and I realized I was going way too easy on myself if I could coherently sing so I kicked up the speed.

What a relief to discover I don't have to finish my run before nightfall!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Day 47 - Work or run?

I had a bit of a dilemma today - I was asked to sub a night ESL class, but Thursday is also my late day at my day job, and I didn't have enough time to run in between, because it's not just the run. It's warm up, run, cool down, shower, get dressed, redo hair and makeup. So the dilemma became - which do I value more? work or running? My gut said run, but my brain and my financial side said work.

I compromised. I left work a half hour early so I could manage to run. It wasn't a total financial loss - I found 27 cents while doing my warm up walk. I wonder though how much money I'd give up so I could run. Today was a half hour, but it makes me wonder, would I miss a full hour? Two hours? How much money is worth a really good run?

Today was a terrible run. It was cold and I started cramping almost immediately, yet if I knew without any doubt it was going to be a killer run - like Saturday's at Kensington - what's the price on that? I don't know, yet some days I really value running more than work. Who doesn't? :)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Day 44 - The million dollar question

Another Saturday, another long run - 7 miles to be exact. My sister-in-law had invited me to the Christmas parade in Milford and my brother asked for help with the Christmas lights. I said yes to both, but I had to run before we did lights, otherwise I knew it would never get done. He suggested I run at Kensington Metro Park. I hadn't been there in years and the 8-mile track sounded interesting, if daunting, certainly no worse than running through the streets and around blocks.

Before I left, however, I had the most enlightening conversation with my nephew who's not quite three. He looked at me with big sad eyes.
"I want you to stay and play with me," he said.
"I'll come back," I promised. "Give me two hours."
"I don't want you to go."
"I'll be back. I have to run."
"Why?" he asked, raising the ultimate question.

Why indeed? What makes us leave the comfort of home, the comfort of bed, of sleep, to pound our bodies into the pavement for hours on end? Every runner must have a different answer. Mine circles in the cloud of endorphins and weight control. I can't say definitively why I run. I like to cross the finish line? I like to have structure for my work outs? I like to eat Jet's Pizza and not gain weight? I don't have a good answer and I couldn't tell my nephew. I just patted him on the head and went.

Finding my motivation was difficult, but after a McDonald's breakfast, parade candy and a candy cane "for energy," running at the park was great!!! My lungs are still a little weaker from the cold, so I ran what was comfortable (6 to 11 minutes) then walked one. I finished all 8 miles in 83 minutes, slow, but I'll take it! It was great to have no cars to worry about, no traffic, no cross streets to look at. Even better - two days after Thanksgiving and I was outside in shorts!!!!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Day 40 - The Mizuno stash

How many shoes is too many? I have one pair remaining from my January purchase, plus the six new pairs, all nestled between my green storage cabinet and extra vacuum. When I look at them, it doesn't seem like that many and I've thought many times that I should buy a few more pairs while they're still under $60 and more importantly, while they're still available! Compounding this thought is reading reviews for the Mizuno Rider 14, which it seems most people don't like as much as they liked the 13.

Then I actually think. If each pair lasts 6 months - a conservative estimate - most of mine last between 9 and 10 months - I'm set shoe wise until fall 2015! 2015! It's absolutely comical when I realize how long I'll be shod in the 13s. I do appreciate the irony that I have a stockpile of the ugliest running shoes I've ever bought!

Wishing everyone a happy Thanksgiving. Personally, I'm more excited about Nickleback than the Lions!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Day 38 - Clouds under my feet

I've done plenty of silly things, but running with a cold when it was in the low 30s, dark and pouring rain wasn't going to be one of them! I knew my options were hit the Y and run laps, or skip another day. Grudgingly I chose the Y. I haven't run there in months - probably since April and I didn't know how my lungs would fare post-cold.

To my surprise and amazement, it felt great! The whole time I felt as though I were running on clouds, as though my feel were never actually making contact with the floor. There was no joint jarring, no pain anywhere. I've never felt that before and I liked it!

I didn't want to push it too hard, seeing how I felt on Sunday, so I ran my three miles doing a pattern of run 5 laps, walk 1. Even with the walking I got through it in a respectable time.

Part of me never wants to go back and deal with the sheer monotony and boredom of lap running. Another part, however, is tempted because it's so easy to run in a climate controlled environment, and running 10 laps to the mile is the ultimate way to shut off my mind, which leads to the best running.

Must force myself to continue outside!!!!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Day 36 - I should have stayed in bed

I started feeling sick on Tuesday night and I feel only marginally better almost a week later. This morning, however, was warm (50) and sunny. It felt more like a spring morning than mid November and I knew I had Saturday's 6-miler still hanging over my head.

I woke up and told myself I'd finish it, even if I had to walk most of the way. The first half mile wasn't terrible - at least I could breathe. Just past one mile, everything fell apart. My nose started running profusely, which I didn't like, but I could handle. I was woozy and weak, but I could push through that as well. Once I started dry heaving, however, it was time to turn around and say the heck with it.

I managed 1.74 miles, which is actually farther than I had expected. The revised plan is to ease back into running with my normally scheduled 3-miler on Tuesday then trade Wednesday's speed work for a 6-miler. Thursday and Friday as normal, then complete a 7-miler on Saturday, fully back on the schedule.

At least I found out that Rite-Aid carries TheraFlu capsules. They're the only cold med that actually works and after not finding them anywhere for 2 years I had begun to assume they had been discontinued. It's good to know they're still on the market!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Day 35 - Explaining it to someone who has never been a runner

I work with the greatest people.

In the days after the marathon, a first grade teacher asked if I was still running.
"I'm trying," I said.
"But you didn't do the marathon," she replied.
"No, it was sold out."
"I noticed you're walking normally." was her proof, mentally comparing it to last year when I hobbled for the week after.

On a separate occasion, another teacher asked why I'm training for a marathon. She's never been a runner, so I explained it as follows:

It's only six months. God willing I'll turn 33 in six months. The time will pass either way, so I may as well do something with it. I'm in no shape whatsoever to run a marathon, but I can run 2 miles, I can run 3 miles, etc. If I approach it one day at a time - not even one week - but one single day at a time, I'll get there. I can turn 33, or I can turn 33 with a sub 5-hour marathon under my belt. I know which option I'm choosing!

Besides, I exercise more consistently with a program and a clear goal to focus on. I know six months are going to pass by in the blink of an eye, and no matter what I do I can't slow it down, so I'll make it valuable and make it count for something.

Six months isn't even that long. It's a baseball season. With consistency and determination, we can all do great things. See you at the finish line!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Day 33 - A waste of two days

Last year I had 3 colds before Christmas. This year, thankfully, none, at least until Tuesday night when I started with a sore throat. That's always the first sign. Wednesday morning was sore ears, and by dinner I had a full-on cold, with its accompanying wooziness. Wednesday was scheduled for speed work, today 3 miles. Neither are getting accomplished. Could I do something else, maybe bike? Sure, but why? I'm woozy and any physical exertion would make me weak and dizzy. Walking from the parking lot to the Y would be difficult enough. I'm also dehydrated due to lack of water caused by the sore throat making food and drink difficult. I'm just a mess.

Compounding everything is that I've been waking up before 5 am all week, not intentionally, but unable to fall back asleep. It's 4:11 pm and I'm in my pajamas. The plan is to lay on the couch and fall asleep very very soon. I'm getting sleeeeeeeppppppy. (Can I hypnotize myself into sleeping for 12+ hours? I wonder)

I know in the grand scheme if I have to miss days, it's better to miss short days, and do the long runs no matter what, it's just frustrating to get sidelined in week 5. Sidelined by a cold, though, is completely different from sidelined by injury. This one is predictable and will pass.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Day 28 - A Sunny Saturday in Shorts

Saturday was the weekly long run, this time 5 miles. Much to my delight, it was sunny! Even better, warm! 60+ degrees warm! I didn't have to worry about covering my legs, or wearing a sweatshirt or gloves or anything. With my legs joyfully bare in shorts, and only a long sleeve t-shirt over a tech wick t-shirt, I was off!

The run felt incredible! I could breathe easily, my heart was happily ticking along and knees felt soft and pliable, easily absorbing the impact of every step. The plan was for 5 miles, but I felt so great that I did 5.25.

The pattern thus far has been lousy wet Thursdays but warm sunny Saturdays. If I can have great weather for the long runs, I'll gladly deal with bad weather on the shorter days.

Today was another recovery day, this one at Elizabeth Park in Trenton. I strolled along for 2 miles or so then ate everything I could find...Here are a few pictures from the park:

How about tomorrow? Can I park then? :D

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Day 26 - The weather is lousy, must be Thursday!

I woke up at 7:30 to a gloriously sunny day, absolutely perfect to run. I had plenty of time to do so before work, but did I? Nope! I rolled over and cuddled with my kitty, the result of staying up too late watching American Horror Story then being too keyed up (scared) to sleep.

It wasn't that warm today, but sufficient to go to work without a jacket. Within the 20 minutes it took to drive home and change, however, the sun was replaced with dark, ominous clouds, the wind picked up and it got cold! I put it out of mind and opened the front door to the worst surprise. IT WAS SNOWING!!!! IN NOVEMBER!!!!! YUCK!!!!!!!

Yet, with a big sigh I closed the door behind me and set out. The first mile or so, my hands were simultaneously numb from cold and sweating from my gloves. On days like this, my mantra is the faster I run, the sooner I'll be done.

Something happened though, after I turned the corner and ran past the chiropractor's office with the clock / thermometer display. It was either 30 or 38 - between the fog and twilight I couldn't really tell, but I had the most amazing thought wash over my entire body: "I can actually do this!" I'm the biggest baby about the cold, yet I realized that yes, I can run in the cold without dying, without my lungs burning and my heart screaming.

Of course it'll be a different world when it's below zero, but that's exactly why I'm easing my way into cold temperatures.

The wind died down, I took off the gloves (after 28 minutes lol) and had a great run! The thought of cold weather running has always been an anathema to my running, but today felt like it's just another obstacle I kicked over en route to the finish line. See you at the finish!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Day 25 - The two-a-day

I had the easiest day yesterday, but when I got home, I just didn't feel well. My stomach was a little upset, my head was a little woozy and I was completely exhausted. I was also scheduled to run 3 miles. I knew I would feel better if I laid down for a little bit, but I was also fighting against the fading daylight. My best bet was to run before work this morning.

The alarm went off, I grabbed my clothing and went. I didn't take the time to check the weather beyond peeking out the window. For some reason I thought it was cold and rainy so I dressed in the full fall outfit with a fleece hat, hooded sweatshirt and gloves. A quarter mile in, I realized it really wasn't cold. In fact it was pretty warm, especially for the second week in November. Three miles later I was pouring sweat, but a little sweat never hurt anyone!

Went to work, had a good day, felt great.

At 4 o'clock though, I wasn't done for the day. Nope it was time to complete what was scheduled for Wednesday, which was 30 minutes of cross training. I hopped on my favorite bike at the Y and finished my 30 minutes, completing 7.5 miles.

How do I feel after one of very few two-a-days in my life? Great!!! I don't feel any worse for the wear and I was able to log my mileage and work on my cardio capacity :)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Day 22 - Recovery!

Starting with week 4 and continuing through the race, Sunday is recovery day. The plan I'm using describes it as such:
The good news is, the day after your long and slow training runs you get to recover. The bad news is that doesn't mean sitting in front of the T.V. all day! You will be stiff and sore following a long run and one of the best ways to help the body to recover and rejuvenate is to do some light aerobic exercise.

This helps to remove any waste products like lactic acid that has pooled in the muscles and can also help alleviate muscle soreness. You have a choice here...

You can either do a cross training session or go for a walk. The key point to remember is that it must be low intensity. Competitive games of basketball or squash are definitely off the menu! During these sessions you are NOT, I repeat... you are NOT trying to improve your fitness. You are recovering - it's just that you will recover faster with 20-30 minutes of gentle movement than you will with bed rest!

I only ran 4.04 miles yesterday and felt fine ten minutes after. 24 hours later, I was perfect. I've followed the program to a letter thus far, though, so I wasn't going to deviate on something so easy. It was 57 gloriously sunny degrees today, so anything at the Y was obviously not on the radar! That left me with walking outside. I didn't care how far or fast I went, so I abandoned my normal routes in Allen Park and headed up to the Rouge River Parkway in Dearborn. I meandered for 3 miles, taking about an hour to do so.

I wore my Vibrams and intentionally bad form walked, just to see if I noticed a difference. Wow, did I ever! When intentionally landing on my heel, the front of my shin hurt from cranking the toes so far! It was harder to walk that way, with my heels digging in and braking my movement. I didn't realize it would be so obvious, or that good-form walking would feel so natural! Ten steps later the experiment was done and I stuck with whole-foot striking!

Since time wasn't any consideration whatsoever I took my camera and stopped when inspiration struck. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Day 18 - Sale! Score!

Last year I bought three pairs of Mizuno Rider 13s, my new favorite running shoes. I blew through one pair, and the second is well under use. I still have one brand new pair in the box, but that never seemed like enough. What am I going to do when that pair gets worn out? Try another pair and risk another injury a la the pink ones???

I've been looking online because Mizuno has replaced / redesigned the style, yet most places still want brand new price for them. In January, however, I found them on Amazon for $57 and I don't want to pay a cent more.

Tonight after work - $55 a pair! Score!!!!! I bought six.... Yes, excess, massive excess, but they are my perfect running shoes, they're hideous and have worked perfectly without any pain or injury for 14 months. The credit card bill will hurt, but I get paid this week, my car is paid off through the end of the year and I have my shoes taken care of for 4 or 5 years depending on my mileage.

Hurray for Amazon! Hurray for sales!!!!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Day 17 - This is funny as Hell

Evidently there was a photographer at the race who posted his pics online. Here are some of the good ones:

Gumby jumps for joy!

Right behind Gumby was this guy. I'm not exactly sure what he's supposed to be, but I feel like I should write some bad joke about the 1980s.

Here I am - I look fat! I guess tutus aren't meant to be worn over layers!

Lastly - it's always funny when men dress as women. Well sometimes it's scary if you can't tell whether it's a man in a bad costume, or an extremely unattractive woman. I'm pretty sure this one is a man :)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Day 15 - Run through Hell on Halloween Eve

After last year's Run through Hell on Halloween, I knew if it was repeated this year, I was definitely there! After waking up at a hellacious hour in the morning, I set off nice and early, remembering full well the hell of traffic jam last year. We were backed up from the Hell Creek Ranch all the way onto Darwin Road - obviously we all needed to be nominated for Darwin awards :)

Not wanting to sit through that again, I left early and jammed to - what else? "Highway to Hell." It was cold, but still warmer than last year. The sun was nice, the frost on the ground (!!!!!) not so much.

My costume this time was a ballerina, with a tutu I wore in 8th grade :D Other good costumes were plenty of Where's Waldos, Wonder Women, a man dressed as Pamela Anderson a la Baywatch, a man dressed as Daisy Duke. Gumby finished, as did the Easter bunny.

Here are Tammy and Roy as a pig and frog. It must have been hotter than hell in those costumes!

When it was all said and done, my time wasn't great - 32:01. Not the time I wanted, but look at my placement! I've never placed that well, which is not to say I had a good race, but it was a pretty weak field. Whatever. It was hilly and I have done absolutely zero training for hills. I don't even entirely know what I should be doing on hills. Speeding up? It seems I do slower in races than in training, mostly due to the uncertainty of where I'm going next and how far along I am. Yes, I had my stopwatch to help with timing, but the poltergeists in the area paused it and I didn't notice until the turn around point.

The shirt is cute - the same design as last year, but it's a t-shirt, not a tech wick. I'll definitely wear it to work tomorrow - I hope the principal doesn't give me hell for wearing a t-shirt :D

Since I was already dorked out in the costume, I modeled the t-shirt with boxers over tights. Whee!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Day 12 - I need to buy some pants!

Today's weather was awful! Cold, raining, gloomy. In other words, not so good for running. My secretary sympathized that it was awful and she was glad she wasn't running, but I keep telling myself that if I can't run in the rain when it's 43 degrees, what am I going to do in January? The Y is not an option! (at least not yet!!!)

Yet at 4 pm, I walked outside of the building and into the greatest surprise - it was sunny! Hallelujah! 43 degrees suddenly looked tons easier, maybe even enjoyable. One of the school teams was running by and all the boys had taken off their shirts. Why aren't kids fazed by weather like adults? So unfair!

Unlike the boys, when I got dressed it included a fleece hat, a wicking t-shirt, hooded sweatshirt, gloves, the whole shebang. As soon as I opened the front door, I got another weather surprise - rain! yuck!!! I was dressed, I was ready, so I pulled the hood over my hat and set off. As soon as my sweatshirt got covered in rain, it stopped and now, less than five minutes after finishing, it's sunny again. What's that line about Michigan weather? If you don't like it, wait a few minutes...

The first half mile was hard, but if I can make it that far, the remainder is do-able. First half time 9:53, second half time 10:01. Total time: 19:54, 22 seconds faster than last Thursday.

The run felt great, I was happy to improve my time, but golly I need to buy some pants!!!!! Pretty soon I'm going to run in jeans, if nothing else, just to keep my poor little legs from turning blue!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Day 9 - The problem with moderation

I'm not sure about this year's training program. It's absolutely gorgeous outside - low 60s and sunny with a mild breeze. If I looked up "perfect running weather" this would be the first hit. I feel great, I feel healthy, I have a ton of energy, so why am I sitting inside "resting?" I only ran 3 miles yesterday (I love it!!!!! A few months ago, 3 miles was difficult, now I barely think twice about it. Progress is AWESOME!!!)

I have a problem doing things in moderation. If I'm training for a race, I want to be running 5 or 6 days a week, really pushing myself. I don't want to be limiting myself to four days a week. It seems like a waste of good weather!

Yet I know I'm just starting training for a two marathon year and I can't overdo it and burn out - or worse - get sidelined by another stress fracture!

Conceptually I understand the theory and purpose of resting and slowly, gradually building mileage, but it sure is hard to accept on days like this!!!!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Day 7 - We have a date!

The Free Press marathon is October 21, 2012. Going that late into October scares me - I don't want to run in the snow!!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Day 5 - Running in the rain like an idiot

I work until 4 on Thursdays and it now gets dark at 6, which doesn't leave much time for running. I have no idea what I'm going to do after day-light savings. (I've always hated it, can we boycott it this year?) With the only other option being the Y, I knew I had to run right after work, when it was cold and miserable. To make it even better, it was raining! < / sarcasm>

I donned my hat and gloves. I told myself the faster I ran, the sooner it would be over. It was cold and miserable, but after I got over the gasping of trying to breathe in the cold, and settled into a groove around a half mile, it really wasn't that bad. With the gloves, I barely noticed it was raining, although a hood would have been nice to keep my neck warm and dry.

At least most of the Allen Park homes and yards are decorated for Halloween so I have en-route entertainment :)

But seriously, what kind of idiot runs in the rain??? Whenever someone was deliberately doing something foolish, my grandma would call him a damn fool. That's exactly what I was and the worst part - I knew it and did it anyway!!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Day 4 - now accepting applications

I realized on my day 3 run that two things would make running and training so much easier: a coach and a partner. I'm looking for someone to motivate me on the hard days and to help with pacing. I realized a 4:33 finish requires me to average 10:25 an hour. When I did the 2010 Free Press, my fastest mile was 10:33. Obviously this will be a problem and it might make more sense to shoot for a 5-hour in April, then spend all summer getting it down to 4:33.

Also problematic in looking for a partner is my running schedule, which is sporadic at best. Some days it's early, some days I run late, I go in Allen Park, in Lincoln Park, in Southgate, pretty much whatever suits my fancy at the moment. I need someone who can respond positively to a phone call or text at any time to say "Let's go. Now!"

Oh yeah, I can't afford to pay the coach either...

Anyone interested???

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Day 3 - I can't breathe!

What is it about cold weather that makes it near impossible to breathe? Why does a change in weather cause an instant collapse in lung capacity? It happens every year and it sucks! I spend the summer getting into moderate shape then the first day of cold - bam! - it's like day one all over again.

The worst part is that it wasn't even that cold. At 51 degrees, it will be considered balmy in December, yet it's still October and I'm not ready to give up on outdoor running, so I found a hat, gloves and an old sweatshirt before I set out. I don't have any running pants, so I even looked online for SmartWool knee socks to wear with my shorts. If I was this miserable in the 50s, what in the world am I going to do when it hits single digits?

I know I have two choices - go back to the gym or learn to deal with it. After running outside for 3 1/2 months, the thought of going back to the Y is dreadful, which leaves me with learning to deal with cold weather running. Ultimately this is the better choice because it's extremely likely an April marathon will be on a gray day of 30 degrees. Besides, if I went back inside, I'd have to acclimate to outside running all over again.

My yoga teacher always tells us a good way to build lung capacity is to bend over, touch your toes and just breathe, so I tried it today. I can't tell if it worked or not.

I felt heaps stronger today though and the run seemed tons easier than it did on Sunday, for one reason only - the treadmill is #$#% boring!!!!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Day 2 - the vitamin d plan

The specified activity for today was "rest." Rest from a 2-miler? I'm not sure that necessitates more than a few minutes, but ok. Rather than rest like a sloth, however, I turned it into a vitamin d day, the grand extent of which was taking a vitamin d supplement and sitting outside for 10 minutes without either sunblock or sunglasses. It feels almost as good as endorphins and helps with bone strength. This is my kind of running program!

Also great, not only is the Martian a few days before my birthday, it's during spring break. Resting and relaxing will be no problem whatsoever!!!!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Day 1 (of 182)

Today started with beating myself over the head - again! - for missing the sell-out point of the Freep half marathon. After breakfast, however, it shifted to day 1 of the next training program, specifically for the Martian marahon. It's not my first choice for a marathon, but will give me direction for my workouts for the next six month as well as keep me in shape. The actual race is a few days before my birthday and a 4:33 full will be the greatest present. (Not a random time, but a solid two-hour drop from the abysmal time I logged in 2010.)

I went with a different training program this time, from Sports Fitness Advisor. Unlike last time, I looked at day one - run two miles. I smiled, nodded to myself and said "Yup, I can do that."

It's rather apropos that I'm starting on the exact day of the Freep. I saw a heartbreaking story from this morning - a woman had been training all summer to qualify for the New York City marathon and missed it by 3 measly seconds! It would be easier to miss the qualifying time by hours than by such a slim margin.

Anywho I mentally committed to the Martian when it was 70 and sunny. I have no idea how the actual training will fare, especially given that I'm a huge baby about being cold. At the same time, however, I can't see myself running 20 miles at the Y. When there's a will, though, there's a way.

Here we go again!!!

The green eyed monster extends a peace offering

To my friends running this morning, to strangers running this morning, to the 20,000 fortunate souls with 20,000 reasons for attempting what most people consider the impossible: I hope you all have the best morning of your lives! I wish you all physical health, mental strength and for the weather to continue holding off rain. I hope you all enjoy crossing the Ambassador bridge (the highlight for me), I hope the neighbors are outside in Indian Village to give you company and cheer, I know you enjoyed the camaraderie of running in the dark with so many people, to be with so many people in a solitary, oftentimes lonely sport.

From the 4th grade teacher at one of my schools, to the guy I met in August and thought would win, I am beyond jealous of you all. I wish more than anything that I was there with you. Next year I will be! Enjoy the day, enjoy your accomplishment, enjoy the feeling of doing something 99% of the world will never ever do. You're all winners!!! (and no matter how dirty and sweaty you feel after, take the massage, lest you want to be unable to walk for several days!)

See you all in 2012!

Monday, October 3, 2011

The kindest offer I've ever gotten from a stranger

On Friday night before yoga class started, the teacher asked how my week was. I told her the truth - I had to pay $$$ for a new transmission and I discovered the marathon was sold out. From a few stations away I heard an unfamiliar voice "Was it the Free Press?" I assumed it was just a polite question, but the woman asking had registered, then discovered a few weeks ago she's pregnant and decided it's not in her best interest to run that far. In the nicest thing a stranger has ever offered, she asked if I wanted her spot.


Unfortunately it's not that easy. Since it's an international race, the department of homeland security has to approve each entrant, and there are no transfers whatsoever.

I can understand that DHS doesn't want random people showing up the morning of the race, but it seems like surely she and I could both go somewhere together, passports in hand, and make the change. Come on DHS - help me out!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Other options

I have great friends. In the aftermath of discovering I can't run Detroit this year, my friend told me to not worry - she'll find something even better for me to run. Another well meaning friend said I could still do the 5k or find a relay. I know they meant well, but I wanted to do the half! I replied via text that I wanted to stand on my own two feet and do something that matters!

Is it any wonder that I haven't run once since finding out the half wasn't going to happen? I need to for endorphins and weight control, it just seems pointless right now but the excuses have to end.

I guess it's not a total loss - I still have Hell!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A terrible surprise

Despite my early injury and months long motivation problems, I always had the pipe dream of running the Detroit half this year. I ran 5.19 yesterday, felt awesome!, and figured I'm just crazy enough to go from 5 to 13 miles in three weeks. I know I could finish it right now, but I want a respectable time, not a 4-hour half marathon! :)

Periodically I look at the Freep's marathon website site which I did this morning. The first thing posted just about ruined my day: "Please note, registration is CLOSED for the Full Marathon and Half Marathon." What a bummer!!!!!

My friend tried to cheer me up and said she'd find me another race. It's not just about the race - I specifically wanted to do Detroit, but I kept postponing registering to make sure I wouldn't get hurt again, to make sure I could get up to a decent distance. Sure I can do a half somewhere the following weekend, or I can do the Martian in the spring, but it just isn't the same.

Lesson learned: register in January for the 2012 race!!!!! The problem with registering that early, however, do I elect the half or the full?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Mixing up the days

The past several weeks I've found a schedule that works for me:

Monday - walk 3-4 miles
Tuesday through Thursday - run a moderate amount
Friday - elliptical for an hour
Saturday - long run
Sunday - rest

Twice, however, I had to switch the Saturday and Sunday schedules, which worked really well! So well in fact that it's been a permanent switch. Resting before - instead of after - the long run makes for an easier, more successful long run. Besides, walking is a form of rest :)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The best - and hardest - run yet

I had serious motivation problems this morning. I was up within the 9 o'clock hour, but didn't get out of bed until well past 10. I knew I had to do my longest run of the week but I just couldn't get going! I sat at my computer for nearly an hour playing online, just procrastinating the inevitable.

I ate a Kashi cereal bar. I drank some water. I ate a banana - anything to procrastinate! I didn't have any coffee or Kashi cereal though because I didn't want to be 2 miles from home and needing a bathroom!

Finally, a few minutes before noon I dragged myself out of the house and said I had to get it over with. With a rotten, defeatist attitude I set out, and had a super great run, surprisingly!

The plan was to go about four miles. I had an idea of the route I wanted to go but I felt really lousy mentally before I started. If I didn't go, I knew I'd feel guilty about it all day, so I gave myself a kick in the butt, walked .4 miles to warm up, then went for it and just kept going. 4.1 miles later I finished, feeling really strong, feeling that I could have kept going. My breathing was never that atrocious, my legs never hurt, I somehow managed to keep from getting too bored. Everything was working right today!

The greatest part was running 4.1 miles without stopping or pausing a single step. The two times I had to cross the street the lights were with me. Thanks to all the cars on the side streets for letting me pass :)

It was cloudy and cool when I ran - got hot and sunny less than 15 minutes after I finished. Perfect timing!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The awesome side effect of running

I restarted the couch potato program on July 11. On July 13, I reached my highest weight in a few years. Sticking to the running program and the daily plate since then has taken care of 8.8 pounds in six weeks. Not only do I feel healthier and stronger, I weigh less! Other great bonuses are that when I exercise late in the afternoon, it gives me energy, and endorphins are always a welcome side effect from any exercise - nature's magic happy pills :) Pretty much any exercise works, but running seems to provide the most benefit for the same amount of time - notice I didn't say for the same amount of work or effort because running is darn hard! It never gets any easier! but it really is the magic elixir of health!!!!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The bad morning surprise

Today was the first day of school with a scheduled start time of 9 am. Trying to be a good runner, I set the alarm for 6:40 so as to run as soon as I woke up and before work or anything distracted me.

The alarm went off, I woke up...then's still dark at 6:40!!!!! What a lousy surprise :(

I feel safe when I run, yet I also know running alone in the dark with my headphones on isn't the safest scenario I can imagine, regardless of the can of mace hooked to my shorts.

With a bummed attitude, I hit the snooze button and ran after work. Sure I could have gone to the Y before work, but that defeats the whole purpose of running outside and acclimating to running on concrete.

I had the greatest intentions. What a bummer!

Friday, September 2, 2011

A creature of habit

When it comes to running, I'm definitely a creature of habit and I don't do well with change. Progressing from the beginning on the treadmill to an actual race is a huge obstacle for me.

I get used to being on the treadmill in the beginning. It's always the left-most one in the front row and it's comforting. I know exactly what to expect and it's always the same. This works well for me.

The first time I did the couch potato program it was winter so I progressed to running the indoor track at the Y. Getting there, however, was excruciating! I wanted to be back on the treadmill, back in my comfort zone. Given time, however, I adapted.

At least until it was time to go outside. Trying to transition I began running laps at Council Point Park or Elizabeth Park.

The final step was running in the streets and it was a huge mental leap to get there. Every transition seemed like I was starting over at square one. I don't do well with change, yet once I make the change, I can't imagine going back to the previous.

This year I transitioned right from the treadmill to outside. Even so I'm still a creature of habit. I have a 2.81 mile loop and it's always the same. I even run counter-clockwise every time. Changing to clockwise would be too much change!!! It's expanded to a 3.16 mile loop, but again - always the same.

The less I think about my route, the better I do. Not thinking seems to be the trick for me, hence the same route every time, the same playlist, the same outfit. I like continuity.

Having said all this, and being firmly entrenched in the outside neighborhood running, the forecast for tomorrow is hot! At 7 a.m., it's supposed to be 77 degrees. When am I supposed to run???? Not to mention the plan is to bump it up to 3.51 miles. Stupid weather! (Never did I imagine I'd be upset about heat or sun!)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The beer craving

Last week marked the last two days of my summer job, overlapping with the first two of night school. There was a 2-hour break in between, just enough to run if I didn't dilly dally. On Wednesday I got home, changed and went outside without checking the weather or the news or my email or anything. It was sunny, but I told myself it was cool, especially in the shade. In my mind, it was in the low 70s. On the way to night school I glanced at a thermometer and it was 88. Oops!

Thursday I tried a different tactic. All summer long I've been waking up before my alarm, then laying in bed, convinced I'll fall asleep again. I decided I would get out of bed and run while it really was cool, not just when my mind said it was. By 6:50 I was outside in the early morning cool before the sun came out.

All along I've believed I need to consume 400-600 calories and a 32-ounce Nalgene bottle of water before I even consider running. Instead I nibbled three bites of a ClifBar, took two sips of water and set out. I was sure I was going to start side cramping within a few minutes, yet to my surprise I felt fine. Actually I felt great. I was never dehydrated, never cramped. My brain was relatively free, no one was out yet, there was no traffic and I had the best run I've had all summer. Granted it was only 2.81 miles, but I made it without stopping once, without much internal complaining at all.

When I got home I still had plenty of time before work. Standing in front of the open fridge, I was reaching for my coffee cream, when I saw the bottles of Corona on the bottom shelf, bottles that have been there for months because I don't like Coronas. Yet at 7:45 in the morning, my only thought was "Wow, that beer looks good!!!!"

I never understood how or why runners drink after exercising, but maybe I get it now. It's cold, it's replenishing calories that are easily consumable, it's hydrating.

I abstained from the beer - not worth getting fired! But I've hung on to the morning running idea. For the past week - regardless of what time I wake up - the first thing I do is run. It feels so good to have it done early and not hanging over my head all day and all afternoon.

When we go back to school, I don't start until 9, so I just might continue this crazy trend!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Running sick

Thursday I woke up with a sore throat. Friday it was sore ears, both signs of an impending cold. I tried to rest a little over the weekend, even took off Sunday completely from exercising. Monday I didn't feel great but I knew the longer I didn't work out, the progressively worse I would feel and the harder it would be to resume, so I forced myself to go. I couldn't run, but I could walk. Better than nothing.

Tuesday morning I decided I was going to try running because I'd never know if I didn't try. Worst case scenario would be running a few minutes then walking the rest. I have a 2.81 mile loop and I made it. Granted I stopped once, but whatever.

How did it feel? Awful. My lungs didn't enjoy it and I felt like my belly was full of snot. Gross, I know. Only one thing mattered though - I finished :D

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The huge mental block

When I restarted the couch potato to 5k running program, I printed a copy of it so I could take it with me when traveling, and cross off every successful day, just like the first time I used the program.

Everything was going great into week 6 when I ran into the hugest problem, located 100% within my head. The schedule was:
Week 6 day 1: run 5 minutes, walk 3, run 8, walk 3, run 5
Week 6 day 2: run 10 minutes, walk 3, run 10
Week 6 day 3: run 25 minutes

The first two days were easy enough but I was having huge mental problems with day 3. I was absolutely convinced I couldn't do it. I knew I could run ten minutes, I knew I dragged myself through twenty minutes earlier in the month but every time I looked at the print out, I saw an enormous white box covering up 90% of the schedule. Yet I knew I had to deal with it and find a way to get through it.

My first step was repeating day 2, for confidence if nothing else. It didn't help because every time I looked at 25 minutes, my brain refused to accept that I could do it, even though my legs, my heart, my lungs, everything was physically ready. I was absolutely convinced I needed a break in between.

I've spent the summer learning how to coach teachers in an esl method and they always recommend "chunking," which is breaking down the material into manageable sections. It was exactly what I had to do with my running. The couch potato said to run 25 minutes with no walking, so I exploited a HUGE loophole - it doesn't say anything about stopping....

I donned my trusty gray Mizuno Wave Rider 13s, crossed into Allen Park and told myself I had to get through it, no matter what. The first time I ran one song, then stopped in place for minute, then ran another song, until I finished the time. The next time it was two songs. Yesterday I ran 11 minutes, 6 minutes, 8 minutes. Not exactly how the program would have me complete it, but I was having the biggest problem with it mentally, so I did it the only way I could. It got done. Besides I'm not trying to qualify for Boston, just beat my brother through Hell :D

Friday, August 12, 2011

Self correcting

I like to think I've successfully implemented all the components of good form running. Smaller steps and landing on the whole foot are absolutely used consistently. The one I struggle with - and only when I'm extremely exhausted - is correct arm form. The longer a run goes, the more my arms want to tighten up and reach across my body, with my elbows firmly locked at a 30 degree angle and my tightly clenched fists reaching for my sternum. As soon as I notice it happening, I relax my hands and stretch out the elbow angle, making it a point to make contact between my hands and my hip bones. At least that way my elbows are at an ok angle. The other thing I consciously try to do is hit my spine with my elbows. Granted, it's impossible, but if I try to way over-compensating and reach my spine with my elbows (rather than straight back), it tends to even out and get my hands away from my middle body and pretty much settle into the straight forward-straight back motion.

By the way, my toe is great. Still purple, but no pain or swelling. There's nothing to suggest it was broken, just bruised.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The hardest run of the program

The couch potato to 5K running program is great! It's a slow, gradual build and everything makes sense, until week 5, day 3.

Week 5 day 1: run 5 minutes, walk 3, repeat.
Week 5 day 2: run 8 minutes, walk 5, run 8.
Week 5 day 3: run 20 minutes.

Where in the world does that come from??? It seems like the next logical step would be run 10 minutes or 12, but going from 8 to 20 is such a huge jump. I didn't understand it the first time I did the program and I don't understand it now.

Week 6 is back to more moderation and more rational distance building.
day 1: Run 5, walk 3, run 8, walk 3, run 5
day 2: run 10, walk 3, run 10

The 20 minutes seems to come completely out of the blue and it's the absolute hardest day of the entire program. Sure, I finished, but it was hard and at one point I was running below 6 mph. It didn't help that I couldn't go to the Y or run outside, but I had to use a treadmill in front of a mirror. If there's one thing I definitely do not want to watch while I run, it's myself sweating and struggling with breathing. I tend to get distracted by my feet and my arms and gravity, and my form generally suffers, rather than improves with visually monitoring how I look. The difference is that I see it, rather than feel it. Just excuses though.

The bottom line: the 20 minutes seemingly comes out of nowhere, felt terrible, but was finished. I rule!!! :D

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The gradual feeling of....awesome!!!

I wasn't sure how my run would fare today. My toe is still blue under the nail from bruising and yesterday I managed to burn my hips at the beach. Between those two, I wasn't sure at all how I'd do, but I had to try it. The couch potato to 5k program is finally letting me run half mile increments, yet my working out for the week has been yoga, with no running whatsoever since Sunday. I was all set to be a terrible mess, yet it was great! The three half-miles weren't fun, but I felt strong and I felt like I could keep going. I wasn't breathing that hard, I wasn't in agony. It was an altogether pleasant run :)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Stupid stupid stupid

Several months ago I garbage picked a dresser, thinking I would refinish it. I finally decided it was too much work and not worth it, so I returned it to its place on the curb. Except I did so wearing flip flops and seriously stubbed my left 4th toe. It bruised under the nail, is slightly swollen and still sensitive to the touch. The plan is to baby it for the day then see how it feels. Thankfully I know exactly how to fix a broken toe if that's what it is (athletic tape, baby!) Argh what frustration! Of all the stupid things I could have done to get hurt again. This is an easy fix though and should hopefully be resolved tomorrow.
Note to self: wear real shoes when moving furniture!!!!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A forced day off

Today I'm forcing myself to not do any exercise. I had gotten in a really good groove, and had worked out five days in a row, including three consecutive running days. I want to keep going, I want to take advantage of the inertia, but I know my injuries this year were likely due in part to over training, so I'm forcing myself to take a day off. What a drag! I can't let one day become a habit though. Tomorrow I absolutely must be back with the program! The couch potato to 5k program is intended to take 9 weeks and I've already condensed the first three weeks training into 15 calendar days. I don't want to push that too much, but not exercising is a bummer! :(

Sunday, July 24, 2011

9 mph - Wow!

Today's running hovered between 6.5 and 7.5 miles per hour. Just for fun I thought I'd try for 9, just to see if I could. Yes, indeed I could but it was extremely difficult. My legs aren't used to moving so quickly! I noticed too that the faster I went, the stronger I pumped my arms, whereas when I'm in the 6-7 mph range, my arms are more along for the ride. It wasn't pretty - I was sweating profusely, breathing loudly and probably grunting at some point, nevertheless I ran 9 mph (for about 30 seconds!)

9 mph = 6:40 miles, which isn't even that fast when compared to race winners. The last time I watched the New York Marathon, the winning women averaged 5:20 for the entire race. I have a newfound respect for their mad skills. Heck, even Georgie W. averaged 8-minute miles during his morning runs with the Secret Service. (Why in the world do I know stuff like this???)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

What a difference a year makes

I have a few times saved on the iPod stopwatch, the marathon of course, and three other runs that I was particularly proud of, including July 5, 2010 when I ran seven miles in 1:11:44 and I felt incredible after that run. It was over 90 degrees outside and I managed to run 8 or 9 minutes faster than I had the last time at seven miles. 54 weeks later, the 5K program limits me to running in 90 second increments. What a long sad decline from where I had been.

Yet I just spent a few days in Ashland, Ohio where I had attended grad school and all of my friends who had been there last year asked how my leg was feeling. Heck, even the program director asked how I was feeling and if I was running again. It was 52 weeks ago that I was there, unable to walk from point A to point B and biking quarter mile distances to go to class.

It's all a matter of perspective. I can't do the hour long runs right now, but I can run at all, I can move without pain and I'm on my way back. Besides, if not running 7 miles is the worst thing in my life, I have a whole lot to be thankful for!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Why wait?

I've been exercising, but not taking anything too seriously. My running has been sporadic at best and making absolutely zero progress. I had accepted months ago that I wouldn't be able to repeat the marathon this October. I thought about perhaps restarting the Couch potato to 5K program to end in time for the Run through Hell on Halloween Eve, then I asked myself, "Why wait? What are you waiting for? Get in 5-6 mile shape so running a 5k is easy."

On Monday I restarted the program. It's slow and tedious, but it works, and it's been working great this week. The plan was the same for the three days of week 1 - run 60 seconds, then walk 90 and repeat for 20 minutes. I've gone further distances each time and I feel strong during the run. The best part is that I used to struggle to run 6 mph, but now that I'm focusing on good form running, in particular taking more steps, not longer steps, my rate has increased dramatically. I start the run at 7 mph and increase to 8 or 8.5 mph. Wow! I didn't think my body was equipped to run a 7-minute mile for any amount of time.

With changing running or walking every minute or two, I'm spending the first couple days on the treadmill because it's convenient and easy to have the clock right there, and it's remarkable to notice the difference between good and bad form running. Regardless of the speed, when I run my feet are light and the sound minimal. When I'm slowing down to a walk, however, I'm throwing down my feet and it sounds like an elephant is on the machine. The noise discrepancy is even greater in the Vibrams.

My joints feel good, my bones feel good. Running again is definitely a good thing :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A strange email

My brother emailed me this morning at work to let me know that the Y had called him to say they found a pair of my shoes. Calling him makes sense because when I buy a new pair of running shoes, I write my name, his phone number, my health insurance company and blood type on each shoe in permanent pen. That way, if I'm hit by a car or otherwise rendered unconscious, an emergency phone number is available (assuming I haven't lost both shoes...). This was the first time, however, that anyone made the call.

I was completely baffled because while I have a lot of shoes, I didn't realize any were missing. My gray Mizunos were in the car and my Vibrams were in the living room, so I was curious as to which shoes they had found. My only guess was a pair I had donated to the shoe recycling bin and forgotten to scribble over the contact info. It was with great curiosity that I went to the gym this afternoon to see which shoes had been found (and unknowingly lost).

It was.....the cursed pink shoes!!!!!! ach! No wonder I didn't notice they were missing! I can't even fathom how I left behind the shoes - or when I last wore them. It must have been months! My best guess is that I sat on the bench and changed my shoes, then they got pushed under the bench and left there. Much more exciting than the shoes was the pair of wool socks tucked inside. I had been thinking I was short on running socks, but I figured they were all dirty.

I thought about donating the shoes but I took them to wear when I cut the grass if nothing else.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Bucket list #23 - about half done

Visiting Colorado marked another state I've been to, and another step closer to visiting all 50 states. Here are some good pictures of the city:

The 16th St. pedestrian mall, planned by IM Pei.

The view from the dome atop the Capitol.

Cow statues. Mooooooo

The US Mint. No, I didn't go inside - security was worse than an airport. I'll watch the National Geographic channel :D

The flagship REI store

Rain outside REI

A big blue bear peeking into the Convention Center.

I wonder though, does it really count for visiting Colorado? I saw one city, I didn't go into the mountains, I didn't ski. By the same logic, have I really visited Minnesota? I went to the ballpark and the mall for an hour. Does spending 6 hours in a state mean I've seen it? There are other states I'm not sure I've visited. I think I drove through Arkansas en route to New Orleans, but I'm not sure, and if I got out of the car, it was only to get gas or buy snacks. I changed planes in Arizona, but I don't count that. I need to develop some criteria!

I have visited:
New Jersey?
New York
North Carolina?
South Carolina?
Wisconsin (drive through only)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Bucket List #9 - another step completed

The Tigers publish their next season schedule in the fall and I very soon thereafter make my summer travel arrangements so I can follow *ahem* stalk them to NL parks. This year they made three trips - Pittsburgh and LA, both of which I've already seen, and Denver, which obviously became my summer destination. Even better than seeing my Tigers? Ricky pitched!!!

How was the park? Great, but I think it was more the intangibles that I liked. Such as, Ricky pitched, and I had the greatest seat I've enjoyed thus far - 14 rows behind home plate. The score was a total debacle, but the people were nice, there were tons of Tigers fans and the food was good and not too overpriced.

The only real criteria I have of ballparks is that I be able to see the field from every place on the concourse. Aside from the batter's eye, Coors Field met this criteria. The promotion was a Taco Bell t-shirt. Not too sure what I'll do with that one...

Another great? Phil Coke and Andy Dirks added to my 2011 ball (joining Ryan Perry).

Plus Ricky pitched!!!!

The guy sitting next to me said the purple seats are exactly a mile above sea level.

There are 30 MLB parks and Denver was the 16th I've visited.

The parks in my own personal order from best to worst:
1. PetCo Park - San Diego
1 tie. Great American Ballpark - Cincinnati
3. Angels Stadium of Anaheim - Anaheim
4. Busch Stadium - St. Louis
5. Tiger Stadium / Comerica Park - Detroit
6. Yankee Stadium (the old one) - New York
7. Jacobs Field - Cleveland
8. Coors Field - Denver
9. PNC Park - Pittsburgh
10. Turner Field - Atlanta
11. The Metrodome - Minneapolis
12. The Oakland Alameda County Coliseum - Oakland
12 tie. The Rodgers Centre - Toronto
14. AT&T Park - San Francisco
15. Shea Stadium - New York
16. Dodger Stadium - Los Angeles

What's next????