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? :)