Monday, December 30, 2013

December in Review

Miles covered: 59.3


Races: Color in Motion

Reflection: You know the best thing to add to holiday stress? Training for a half marathon. But, hey, you can totally eat another cookie and call it carb loading, right?

But seriously, this has been a tough month in general.

The week before Christmas always tends to be the worst of the season for me. The novelty of the holidays has worn away. Deadlines to mail things, buy things, make things, bake things, attend things loom large. The Child has another series of inevitable breakdowns that result in calls with teachers and strategy-developing. I long for simplicity but can't seem to break the straitjacket of society. Simply saying no is a difficult discipline. The low-level background noise of missing my mom also becomes a little louder at the time. I know it was probably all a facade, but she just seemed to do Christmas well and remember the little things that I just can't seem to master.

So, needless to say, my Blerch and my Black Dog have been double-teaming me. Not that this about the weight, but my mental state and the number on the scale (which I have been actively avoiding) are inversely proportional.

But there's that Half staring me in the face, so I do the running at least. Even though there's no time limit, I feel horribly undertrained. My rational mind can look at the distances I've covered and know that it will be just fine, and I know I will finish (probably in a little over 3 hours); I'm just not sure about the rest of me.

I'm kind of okay with letting this month just go away.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Race Report: Color in Motion

Finish Time: Somewhere around 43 minutes (Dude, tag me on Runkeeper!)

Charity: Girls on the Run

I thought I was pretty done with the throwing-color-at-you races, but I had to do this one.

Back story: for the medical insurance at our work, we are required to do a biometric screening and do a minimal amount of health maintenance; otherwise, we have a financial penalty. That's all I'm going to say about that. However, if we exceed the minimal amount of activities, we are put in drawings for various things.

Win$low--proving it is, indeed,
hard out there for a pimp.
Team Forced Fun means
dressing like Grumpy Cat
I was ambivalent about the whole additional activities thing until I ran into a friend at work who said he was going for the platinum level--for irony cred and possibly a Wii. This friend (let's call him by his hip hop name, Win$low) is one of the funniest, most curmudgeonly people I know (and I know a quite a few). So when Win$low said he was doing a color-throwing run, my ears perked. When I found out his team was Forced Fun, I was in!

We met in plenty of time before the race to be annoyed by the fog, the cold, the loud music. I am beginning to realize my love-hate relationship with novelty races, and it was fun to be hanging out with someone who can be as snarky as I am.

I did a fun run once.
It was horrible
As Captain of Team Forced Fun, Win$low had put together a chant:
Is this fun?
Are we having fun?
Which is really running in a nutshell.

Now, both of us feeling curmudgeonly toward our fellow runners was neither here nor there.  Youngsters covering each other in colored powder and jumping around before the race even started is just how those crazy kids are going to act. However, as we looked out over the parking lot that was to be our course, we both noted how sketchy the terrain looked--uneven, potholes, gravel, slick, muddy.

Kids today, amirite?
Once the race finally got going, it turned out our comments about the course were not far off. Less than a half mile in, I took a spill. I could tell that I had torn up my left hand and right knee pretty badly; but I could also tell that the damage was pretty surface, and I wasn't going to be a wuss over a scrape. So we kept going.

So many places
to hide our corpses...
Apparently to our doom.

At about the mile mark, the course left pavement for tall grass and muddy bogs. And then led into some woods with a steep dip at the entrance and frequently only two-persons wide. Keep in mind that this, being a "fun run," includes strollers and little people and walkers and people stopping to take pictures of themselves. Our general course of action was to keep moving; when the undead attack, they will go for these slower people first despite the scent of blood that I'm giving off. At last, we finally left the woods in a schlurpy section of mud and finally made it back to pavement. But I felt bad that I was so skittish about keeping up a run for fear of falling again.

Oh, yeah, and there were those color station things. No water station, though. No clear finish line. Not really a medical tent to check my road rash when we finished; there was an ambulance that had gone out toward the bog, presumably to attend to someone with far worse problems than a few scrapes

All in all, I would avoid any event that lists Sam Houston Race Park as the location. Actually, the original locale was listed as Reliant Park, which I have run several times. I would recommend avoiding this organization as well.

That being said, there were some good things. I did enjoy Win$low's company. I got a lot of good responses for my Grumpy Cat t-shirt (even though a couple people asked me if she was my cat, proving that there are, indeed, people who are more out of touch than I am).  have now done a race in a tutu (which cleaned up pretty easily since they only used powdered colors). And, after I report this to the benefits department, I should be at the gold level.
The "on purpose" color
The "not on purpose" color
Was it fun?


Did I have fun?


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thoughts on My 43rd Birthday

On my 40th birthday, my stepmother asked me if I was dreading the entrance into a new decade. I answered, Not at all! I felt courageous and capable! These feelings only multiplied when I took up running at 41.

Today, I am 43. I am beginning to feel old.*

It's been nibbling at me a while now and in the weirdest ways:
  • Was that a hot flash? I believe it was!
  • Those weird hairs that show up in the most inconvenient places are now turning white!
  • Just in time for me to need bifocals.
  • Both my parenting and running friends are in their 30s. This should not matter. Until you realize that they have never heard of the cartoons you used to watch. 
  • I am not the first stop when people at work are having trouble with their computer. Not only that, I have moments when I blank out on technobabble and have to secretly look up what a coworker is saying.
  • I am one of the few who retains a shred of institutional knowledge at work. (Yes, kids, I even remember using vacuum tubes. For reals.) 
43 does look pretty good, though.
I'm trying to approach the aging thing like I do the weight thing--I can do marvelous things right now; if I wait until I am perfect, nothing will ever happen. But while I can lose weight, I can't shed years. Feel younger and stronger, yes; but those other things--they are part of the landscape now, baby.

So while I have the courage to dye my hair purple or wear animal hats or use "awesomesauce" in casual conversation, my mom saying, "There's no fool like an old fool" rings in my head. It's probably for people like me that goofy purple poem was written.

I'm still holding to the ultimate goal of running long enough so that I finally qualify for an age group award. But until then, yes, tell me I look healthier; tell me I look thinner; but, above all, tell me how young I look!

* Yes, yes, I know that this is going to be a lot like the parenting thing--some will be in wide-eyed innocence while others will laugh knowingly and say, "Oh, just you wait ..." But this is my space, so let me rant!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

November in Review

Miles covered: 58.9

Firefly Run
Step Out - Walk to Stop Diabetes
TXU Energy Turkey Trot

How I See Myself Doing Yoga
(Your reality may vary.)
Even though I had a couple of not-great race experiences this past month, I see myself leveling up a bit as a runner. I'm able to run for 60 minutes without a walk break (slow and steady; no speed records yet). I've incorporated weight work and yoga into my schedule, and I'm seeing how much more supported my runs are. The next step is going to be adding some speed play and longer distances; a decent half-marathon training should do that (suggestions welcome!).

I've made my yearly goal of 500 miles with change, even with being grounded in early summer.

5Ks are now "quick outings" and routine. I'm endeavoring to do the same with 10Ks. I had intended to run one this weekend for my birthday; a funeral came up, and, well, some things are just more important than races. I had hoped to get a Christmas-themed race in during December, but my work schedule isn't leaving me much room for the races that I had wanted to do. I do have a silly 5K on the 14th. And there's always that slender, slender chance that I'll be able to do the half on New Year's Day.

For the most part, I will try to embrace an Advent way of running--prepare and be present.

In the meantime, if anyone is still wondering what to get me for my birthday or Christmas, I love race registrations.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Race Report: TXU Energy Turkey Trot

Finish Time: 1:21:35

Charity: Sheltering Arms

As awful as the last race was, this one was in the Goldilocks Zone in so many ways.

One of my constant anxieties is arriving to a race on time; at the same time, I have never been able to figure out how to adequately warm up for the event itself. Even though I awoke at 3:30AM and never managed fully falling asleep again, I managed to awake on time and leave with an adequate cushion to navigate traffic and park. I parked far enough away so that I had a decent warm-up walk and could slip into the starting corral with 15 minutes to spare.

Another one of my anxieties is dressing adequately. It was cold and clear and sunny perfection. In that moment of insomnia, I thought to layer my Thanksgiving tee over a long sleeve tee rather than using sleeves and wear gloves that could be stowed easily. I wasn't too cold pre-race thanks to not waiting around too much (see above) and the body heat of my fellow participants. I shed the gloves at mile 2 and was comfortable the rest of the time.

As for my performance, I was able to keep up a steady pace until about mile 4. Normally, a race becomes a lonely experience fairly quickly. This time, even though I was passed by many, I was able to keep up with the pack for a good 2/3rds of the route. I saw the lead runner coming from the turn-around at mile 2. I saw the tail-end of the 10K runners well into mile 4 (almost mile 5). So, no, I didn't run the entire thing, but I also didn't settle too much into a walk; considering my gallbladder was exploding my last 10K, a PR was pretty much a guarantee.

I also made the decision to run with joy--whether I ended up taking walk breaks or whatever, I was going to have a good time. And there was much fun to be had! I'm thinking of developing a turkey trot Bingo card--turkey hat, full turkey costume, cartoon character costume, funny race signs ... I was worried about clogging with the 5K participants; but the course seemed to separate at just the right time, and the starts seemed adequately staggered. Each mile was marked (a feature of which I am fond), and there were enough water stations that I probably could have ditched the fuel belt.

ZOE_0003The best part was the finish--but not for obvious reasons. I pushed through the last mile and gave a kick toward the end. As I crossed with a grin (noting I had shaved off 8 minutes from my finish time last May), I saw a handsome guy in a neon-colored Jayne hat! My daughter suggested meeting me there, and her daddy agreed. I was content to take myself, but having someone to cheer me at the end made the whole experience completely wonderful!

IMAG0009Oh, and he brought hot chocolate and drove me back to my car.

This race is definitely on the annual list. Granted, much of my enjoyment was due to circumstances (not to mention my attitude), but I give a huge tip of my hat to the organizers, supporters, and volunteers. This is the kind of race that makes me want to run another one as soon as possible.

For little things and big, for family and friends, for the ability to move and delicious food--for these things and more I am truly grateful and give heartfelt thanks.

May your Thanksgiving be full of love and your Hanukkah be full of light.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Race Report: Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes

Finish Time: GPS never kicked in; I'm guessing about 45 minutes, give or take

Charity: American Diabetes Association

That was miserable.

The weather has taken a sudden drunken turn to rainy and cold--one of those sudden drops that go from mid-70s to mid-40s in the past 24 hours. But that's just an opportunity to show how bad ass I am, right? Except when I'm standing in the rain and soaked through just to pick up my bib. Bleh. Even though the rain let up a little into the run, my feet were drenched so much that my toes were numb, and I'm pretty sure my socks gained at least a pound each with the water.

The route had two paths--the 5K for runners and the 3K for walkers. I could tell at the line-up that it wasn't going to go that great. There were obvious walkers* in the front of the line that had to suddenly get out of the way when the runners started. I settled into a steady pace and watched runner after runner pass me. I tried desperately not to let this throw me. But evidently I was so slow that a police officer made ME stop so that traffic could go through.

At least I looked cute.
And then we joined up with the Wall of Walkers.

Right before going up the hill.

Again, I tried to not let this throw me. I dodged, weaved, and frequently yelled, "PASSING ON THE LEFT!" to no avail. I was nonplussed by the walkers who thought they were "funny" to head back before the turn-around. I was annoyed with the water stop (only one when two were promised) that was simply an unmanned, wrapped slat of water bottles.

The Wall and the Hill ended up winning, and I ended up walking. A lot.  I just never got my mojo back. I tried to make some kind of spiritual metaphor of the whole experience. I tried to remind myself that this was for my mom. My inner coach would scream, "Are you going to let this get the best of you?"

And I would answer back, "Yes."

And the GPS never started.

When the Finish came within sight, I gave a kick, sprinted through, and kept walking right on to my car to go home.

There might have been some crying.
I am grateful, however, to everyone who donated and supported. This is a worthy cause, and although I doubt I will participate in this particular event again,** I regularly give to the organization, and they do good work. I also know that my mom is still honored, not in a one time event but in healthy choices and a generous spirit.

I wanted to earn my Doctor Who virtual run medal with this event too. Yes, I'm counting it because sometimes we save the Universe in a million little choices rather than one giant triumph.

I refuse to let this one get too much in my head, especially with a Thanksgiving 10K next week. Running Momma warned me that these races are notoriously jacked up since there are many participants who don't "know the rules." It can't possibly be more jacked up than this one.

Every day is an opportunity to learn, regenerate, and try to do better. Like the Doctor. Or butterflies. Or me.

* Before I am accused of sounding elitist, someone pushing a regular stroller with layers and layers of coats is an obvious walker.
** I am seriously reconsidering anything with the word "fun" or "walk" in the name.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Day in the Life: Remembering How to Cold and Other Thoughts

I have officially forgotten how to cold.

This morning, it was high 30s when I went out for my run (in Houston, this is considered COLD). So I dressed in layers like I did a year ago. About a quarter mile in, I realized that I had seriously overdressed. At about the 1.5 mile mark, I hit my first walk interval and shed a layer (while adjusting my reflective armbands and still holding on to the dog leash--ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED).

It occurred to me that the change was not so much the weather, but me. A year ago, I was still doing more walking than running. Today, I finished up week 12 of a 10K plan that had me doing three sessions of 18 minutes running with a one minute walking interval. The cold weather was an added plus in my speed (which isn't super important but nice to discover); I actually got to a below 11 minute mile. But I'm definitely going to have to rethink how I dress from now on.

Before I get too self-congratulatory, though, I decided to Eat All the Things at a work get-together and am feeling a little sick and shamed. It's not about the weight, but a little self-control is attractive.

In other news, I intend to kill myself with another hour long session with a Bob Harper video. I did it on Monday (okay, most of it), and I'm still sore. Seriously, how crazy are you when the 5 mile run is the easy day? A colleague asked me why I would even do such a thing if it hurt so much and took so long to recover. The best answer I could give was, "Pushing through it makes me feel more alive. It's a rush."

Yeah, I've become one of Those.

Don't forget I've got a giveaway ending tomorrow.

Also, Step Out for Diabetes is a little over a week away. I'm running in memory of my mom, and any donation/participation/good thought is appreciated.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Giveaway: Nerd Runner Decal

So a cool thing happened--my Facebook page now has over 500 followers.

My blog (and by extension my page) is really for my benefit--it keeps me accountable, it keeps record of ups and downs. Plus, there's nothing I do that I can't talk excessively about it. And if my journey inspires, I find kindred souls, and I have a forum in which to ask questions, so much the better.

That being said, I really have been thinking about what my page and its message/theme. A lot of it is summed up in a decal I have on my car thanks to Gigi of Running on Candy.*

What do I consider the tenets of the Nerd Runner?
  • As Wil Wheaton says, love what you love in the way that you love it. Now add running. Wear a tech tee that shows your fandom. Run in a costume (what I like to call "athletic cosplay"). Use the Run, Zombies app. Plan your training like a game or an RPG. Whatever motivates you, that's what's right for you. 
  • Find others that love what you love in way you love it. I saw a quote that said every runner is a mentor to every other runner. Encourage. Inspire. We all belong here.
  • You do belong here. This is not high school. This is not The Breakfast Club. Yes, there are faster runners. Yes, there are runners who go farther. But if you run, you are a runner. This is your tribe.
  • You can't level up without playing. No one starts with the Final Boss. We all start at Level One. Just go.
Want a decal of your own? Of course, you do. So here you go: Like my page (natch!), Like Running on Candy (who provided said decal), and leave a comment below as to what you believe makes a Nerd Runner. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends Friday, 15 November. (I'll try to find a few extras to toss into the mix as well. Because I love you.)

And because it would be creepy and greedy and mean to make you donate to/participate in Step Out to Stop Diabetes, I won't--but your generosity and good thoughts are always appreciated there as well.

* She also made a 10 mile decal for me too, which is tough to find! Lurve!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

October in Review

Miles Covered: 46.6

While I'm not to my 500 mile goal, I seem to have arrived at Rivendell earlier this month.

No October races.

This month has been about endurance, and my inner coach has been working overtime. Here's the kind of things my inner coach says:

  • Every time you feel like quitting, take a sip of water.
  • You finished C25K in the hottest part of the year while recovering from surgery. You really going to quit now?
  • You completed a 10 mile race in 80+ degree weather and 100% humidity. You really going to quit now?
  • You can run 30 minutes continuously. What's another 15?
  • 15 minutes is just five, then five, then five. You can do five. Just do this five. 
And so on.

Which is not to say that I haven't had some spectacularly bad runs this past month. I've got a ton of excuses that aren't worth typing out. But I've had some good runs too. And I've been able to add in some weight work and yoga as well.

I think I can safely say that I have recovered almost fully from my surgery. There's still some nerve damage around the scar, but even that's beginning to fade.

I have high hopes for November--cooler weather and a ton of races. Bring it!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Race Report: Firefly Run

Finish Time: 0:40:44 (9th in my age group)

Charity: Houston Food Bank

A week out from my race-aversary, and I'm already bored by the fun run.

I had originally signed up for this because: 1) I really enjoyed the Electric Run; 2) there was a Groupon; and 3) when I mentioned the name of the race to Mister, his response was, "So, it's a race where dresses like the crew from Serenity?" To which I replied, "It is now."

I aim to misbehave.
I fear, however, that the race experience wasn't what I had hoped it would be. Here's what I didn't like:

  • The original start time was pushed back an hour to 8:30PM because of a game that was in the same area. That meant that, even though I arrived an hour before, it was pretty dark already. It was hard to see signs to the event itself, and I couldn't appreciate the costumes as much.
  • No one commented on my hand-knit neon-colored Jayne hat. I'm going to blame the darkness, not the ridiculously young crowd.
  • Start time was 15 minutes late (did I mention it already being pushed back an hour?). While there was some dancing on the stage, I was there to run. It's about this time I had the realization that I may be getting too old for this--like the time I got mad at people commenting during a midnight showing of Young Frankenstein when I just wanted to watch the movie. 
  • The starting corral was very disorganized, and the waves uneven.
  • Unlike the Electric Run, there were no light elements along the route whatsoever. I basically ran in the dark, which I do in the morning anyway, only with a bunch of people who didn't understand the concept of slower to the right. I was bored.
  • Did I mention that slower people/walkers/families with distractable children should stay to the right? They didn't. Much bobbing, weaving, and occasional "Passing on your left!" (Yet another sign that I may be getting too old for this.)
  • The finish line was poorly marked. Normally I like to give a kick at the end. The only sign was a few more spectators/volunteers, and then suddenly the clock. It read 46 minutes. I went out in the second wave, and my Runkeeper said 42 minutes. I turned it off a couple minutes after what I guessed was the finish; I'm waiting on chip time to determine how I actually did.
  • No water handed out at the end. Minimal free food (I think there was some yogurt somewhere).
Hanging with Optimus Prime
Here's what I did like:
  • Free massages, short line.
  • Some good costumes.
  • Great reflective, light-up bands in the packet that will be great on my morning runs.
  • Cool weather. It was so cool that I wore compression sleeves while waiting to start; I quickly ditched these as soon as I got moving.
  • IMAG2328
    A Tron Guy (not THE Tron Guy)
  • My intent was to finally run a 5K all the way through, and I mostly made that goal. I walked through the water station and up the last hill. Other than that, it was a steady pace. I don't know that I completed the run any faster than my previous time, but I'm proud of myself that I kept it up. I suspect I will do even better at Step Out to Stop Diabetes in a couple weeks.
So, yeah, only a year later, and I sound like a running snob. But, really, had I not taken advantage of the Groupon, I would have considered this one a rip-off in terms of night running experiences. I'm already signed up for the Glow Run (which at least offers a medal), I have high hopes for the silliness of Bad Prom, and I definitely would be interested in the Electric Run again. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Opportunity: Step Out - Walk to Stop Diabetes

I run a lot of races for a lot of different reasons. Mostly it's the experience, but sometimes it's the cause.

This time, it's the cause.

Mom at about 17 years old
 On Saturday, 23 November, my family and I will be participating in Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes. Our team is Mimi's Butterflies, in honor of my mom.

My mom, whose grandchildren called Mimi, was a loving and generous woman. Every Thanksgiving, she set a place at the table for someone who might not otherwise have anyone to share the holiday. She adored all shades of pink and had a thing for butterflies. She also developed Type 2 diabetes later in life and had many health complications. She passed away May 2005, and I miss her every day.

On 23 November, I run for her.

Mom and me (I think I was about 25)
I will also run for family and friends who have diabetes as well--many who have made changes in their lifestyle to control their condition. In a way, I run for myself too--I am well-aware of my genetic inheritance; I started walking (and now running) on a regular basis to maintain mental health and avoid larger health problems.

That's another reason why I chose a butterfly for this outing's symbol. It's not just that my mom loved them (and she did), but I believe in the Butterfly Effect--seemingly small changes can make a big difference.

Here's a little something you can do:

1. You can donate to my page.
2. You can donate to our team.
3. You can join our team--there are two locations in Houston (we will be downtown), but there is also an option to join us "virtually" and walk wherever you are. Butterflies are optional.
4. You can make a little change in your life--go for a walk, give up soda for the day, meditate for 1 minute, make a piece of art ...
5. You can make a little change in someone else's life--read to a child, give someone a ride, bring lunch to someone, listen to a hurting friend ...

Whatever you choose, every flutter of a butterfly's wings counts. Even an "attagirl" is appreciated.

And thank you. Very much.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

It Happens

Defy the Blerch every single day.
Horrid, horrible, icky, terrible attempt at a run today. Just bad. Just plain bad.

I got a hint it wouldn't be the greatest when I noticed how hot it was. When I checked later, it was 77 degrees, 100% humidity; heat index made it feel like 88 degrees.

Tried to keep it slow and steady, despite the distraction of many dogs out and my Luna in a social mood. Lots of folks doing landscape as well, which translates into Leafblowers Are Scary to Large White Wolfdogs.

At about mile 2, after dog spooked yet again and I felt vaguely like vomiting, I decided to check how much time I had left before cool down. Turns out my app had turned off in mid-workout. At that point, I just gave up and walked the last mile home.

The first inclination, of course, is to wallow in FAIL. Maybe it's that I've had to deal with a lot of butthurt this week, but I just didn't see the point in beating myself up. My body knows the mileage, and everybody has a bad run now and again. The point is to lace up and go again.

And maybe program Runkeeper instead of using the app. Where there's a will, there's a hack.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Season Change

A week later, and I'm still feeling post-race let-down. I was a bit directionless for a while. But thanks to Fall finally arriving and a new short-term goal, I'm feeling back on track.

Rather than push forward toward a half right now, I decided to work on my duration. I'm already signed up for a 5K at the beginning of November, and I plan to run that non-stop. I'd like to stretch myself to continuously running a 10K as well, and a Thanksgiving race is perfect for that (added benefit: eating with reduced guilt).

I'm using a free C210K app that just adds time to each run. I know ideally I should be incorporating speed-play, but right now I just like the idea of settling into long, easy, mindless runs for a while. I started this morning at the beginning of week 7 in the program, which is 25 minutes continuous running. Since this app is just a timer rather than using GPS, I didn't get instant feedback. Instead, I merely enjoyed the moment--finding Orion in the sky, letting thoughts ebb and flow, feeling my breath and body regulate itself. Very slow, but very sustainable and renewing.

Yes, a part of me is saying I should push myself more. But after these months of recovery and hard work, I'm glad to return to the joy of running. I'll be training for a half-marathon soon enough.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

September in Review

Miles covered: 57.9


If I were travelling from Bag End to Rivendell, we would have past the Stone Trolls and met Glorfindel.

Race: Katy 10

I can't express how glad I am to have that elephant of a race out of my head. I'm still sore and a cold has settled in, but the memories are starting to shift from the pain to the pride. It's a little like theatre. Or childbirth.

I'm not sure in what direction my training will go right now. I had wanted to repeat the very first race I had run a year ago, but it appears they are not having it this year. None of the races this coming month really appeal to me. I do still have a virtual to knock out, so that may be that.

I have signed up for the Firefly Run in November; I'm going to run as Jayne Cobb (ba-dum-bump, nerds!). Ideally, I'd like to run the whole thing; but if it's like the Electric Run, I might get slowed down by people taking pictures with the light elements. I certainly don't expect a PR, but it should be fun.

As for December, I had planned a destination race, but circumstances are getting in the way. If things work out, I'm tempted to run a half marathon on my birthday weekend. But it's really just wait and see.

Feeling powerful? Maybe a little.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Race Report: Katy 10

Finish Time: 02:24:08 (chip time); 02:25:13 (gun time)
Charity: Race 4 West, TX

So many things could have gone wrong. I had miscounted my work schedule, so I was scheduled to work this afternoon; a colleague graciously switched Sunday shifts with me. I worked yesterday, but I wasn't too worn out. I stayed overnight with a friend (a million thanks, Tanetti!), and I could have tossed and turned with anxiety; instead I nearly overslept. We watched lightning play across the sky on our way in. My friend forgot her bib and had to dash back home to get it.

MRTT Katy Chapter members
But, yes, we managed to get in place on time. Had a good time chatting with members of the Katy Chapter of MRTT (and finally meeting one irl). Also ended up next to a lovely woman with whom there was much nerd talk (the costume will do that).

Once we got underway, I think I ran pretty smart. I watched my intervals, kept my pace slow. The first five were actually a little zen. The route was flat, mostly residential with moments of green (at one point, I watched a hawk hunt and an egret circle). I loved that hydration stations were set up at every mile mark so that I could count it down. Of course, my confidence sagged a titch when I was passed by the lead runner long before I reached the halfway point, but I kept going.

It was the second five miles that was my heart's work as much as my body's. I took my mantra from the show A Game of Thrones:*
What do we say to the god of death? Not today.
It had started lightly sprinkling at this point (the humidity never let up and temps mid-70s to low 80s). I was able to count down the miles. Six: this is where my gallbladder exploded last May. Seven: the mileage left is that of my first race a little over a year ago. Eight: the mileage left was my run on Thursday morning. Nine: the mileage left is a fun run I do with my daughter.

It was tough, though. My left foot--well, everything, really--started to hurt. Most of us at this point were walking, not talking, not making eye-contact. I had the impression that we were spaced apart like telephone poles, and if a wire were strung between us, it would hum with sheer will.

Achievement Unlocked
I ended up keeping pace with a woman wearing a Houston Half-marathon Finisher shirt. She and I would switch-off the lead several times. But when the finish line was in sight, I had it in me to put on the speed and fly past her. It was a race after all.

I earned my medal--50th out of 53 in my age group, 415th out of 450. Not last. Far from.

After we got home, I took a shower to wash my hair, and then a soak in the tub with a Lush bath bomb I had been saving for a special occasion. Tonight I'll have curry and a beer. Tomorrow I'll have a full rest day.

If you asked me at mile 9 if I would consider a half, I'd say, hell no! But now ... well ...

Would there be a medal?

* Yes, I know it's a book series. I've read part of the first book. Let it go, nerd.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Every Race Its Runner, Every Runner His Race (A Ranty Pants Moment)

For the first time in ... well, since I started this running thing, I ran into a detractor. I'm used to people rolling their eyes when I start talking running and races and such. That's called #runnerworldproblems. But when I mentioned a medal for finishing a 10 mile race this coming Sunday, she outright laughed. "So, like, one of those everyone who participates gets a medal?!"

No, sweetie, everyone who finishes 10 FREAKING MILES gets a medal. And that's not everyone.

I know she's not a runner herself, so I mostly shrugged it off. Mostly. But I see article after article about how running as a sport is being "dumbed down" for the masses by tossing in finisher medals or gimmicks into fun runs. Like somehow, having a run with paint thrown at you or no timing chips means We Can't Have Nice Things at the Olympics.

I came to the following conclusion: if you are offended by that race, then it is not your race. Find the race that's for you.

In my civilian (aka non-running) life, I'm a librarian. I hear similar things about books--that if it's not Capital-L-Literature-with-a-British-Accent, it doesn't count as reading. But we librarians adhere to Ranganathan's Laws, the second and third of which are every reader his book, and every book his reader. Yes, I can pull out peer-reviewed articles on how well educated the average romance reader is or the different types of brain functions that occur when reading a comic book, but will that change the opinion of the elitist who thinks James Joyce is the only legitimate kind of reading? Probably not.

Bottom line: If it's not your book, then it's not your book. And that's okay. But it may be mine.

Corollary: If it's not your race, then it's not your race. And that's okay. But it may be mine. No one made you the Gatekeeper of Running.

Most runners I know are amazingly supportive and encouraging to one another, no matter their experience or fitness level. I have friends who run marathons without even training. I have friends who started running after I did that run longer and faster than I do. I'm not going to pretend I'm not jealous sometimes, but I know that their journey is not mine. And that's okay. I have friends who struggle with a two minute run. I have friends who never want to go beyond a 5K. And that's okay too. But we are all runners.

We. Are. Runners. Period.

Whatever gets you up and moving is right for you. I'm over the color-flinging races myself, but if that still brings you joy, do it! If you want a full marathon, do it! I like running costumes. Some would argue that doesn't make me a "serious runner." If "serious runner" means speed, then you might be right--I am very slow and I make a ton of newbie mistakes. But don't tell me I'm not serious if I'm getting up before dawn in all weather on a consistent basis.

And don't laugh at me for being motivated by a medal.That bauble is the difference between What I Already Know I Can Do and What I'm Not Quite Sure I Can Do But I'm Going to Damn Well Try. If that isn't the spirit of athleticism, I'm not sure what is.

It's my race, and I'm going to run it.

I may wear it to work on Tuesday just to show off my awesomeness, gorramit.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Finishing 10 Miler Training

Forgive my silence please. I have written and rewritten entries, but I've not be satisfied with my results. I've mostly been trying to shake my negativity. I figure it's a cocktail of insomnia, hormones, work stress, home stress, and possibly training fatigue. I just haven't been into it the past couple weeks. Had I not already paid my race fees and put in the training, I probably would have quit.

But I finished an 8 mile run this morning (maybe 8.5 mile, give or take--my GPS was drunk). This may have been a mistake, as I am super tired and sore this afternoon, but I'm afraid my self-doubt would have been even more crippling. I was mostly able to keep up 10/5 intervals. The 10 minutes of running seemed to work since I was able to settle into a pace for long enough that I wasn't screaming. The 5 minutes of walking was long enough that resentment didn't set in but short enough that I didn't stay in the walk mode for too long. (Running Momma thinks I can shorten this to 3 minutes, and I think she's probably right.) I played the Can't Drinking Game (every time my brain started in on negative thinking, I took a sip of water) as well as popped Scooby Snacks along the way (aka some kind of Gatorade energy gels thingies I got in a Stride Box). All in all, it took about 02:10 to finish. While I still think a DFL is possible, I'm having much more confidence that I'm going to finish this sucker.

Next week is Taper Week, and I'm going into it in a better place. My Euphemism will be done. The plan, for the most part, is catch up on sleep, short easy runs, and yoga.

Beyond that, I'm really not sure about my plans. I have one 5K I've signed up for in November that should just be fun. I'd like to repeat the race that was my first 5K, but I haven't seen sign ups for it yet. December has possibilities, but I need to pin a few things down first.

And then there's that longing for the 13.1 magnet for my car ...

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Fighting Dragons

I'm not sure today was the best day for my long run. This has been a rough week all around--rough at work, rough at home. My mood is erratic. Sleep is sporadic. I've self-medicated through eating.

I've had to switch around my running schedule a bit. This week was supposed to be a recovery week in terms of mileage. But due to balancing my work schedule and Mister's Navy Reserve schedule, I elected to do my short run on Saturday, long run today (my day off), then short runs through the end of the week.

Saturday, I started out at my sustainable pace and kept it going for a good mile and a half. However, I had moments where I stretched my stride and went a little faster thanks to a creepy guy at one point of my route, sprinklers (aka Hissing Watersprays of Death in Luna-dog World) at another, and just wanting to see if I could right before my cool down. It felt ... good. I was able to speed up and yet return to the slow, sustainable pace (which was not walking). It makes me think that I need to start pushing a little harder, maybe try adding in some fartlek.

Heh heh heh ... fartlek.

Today's run was a lot of walking to be honest. The first three miles was pretty steady, but I was yelling at myself internally the entire time. The second three miles, my brain wandered all over (mostly running costumes), but I wasn't able to keep up the running for very long. The last mile (nearly two by my final calculations) was pure pushing forward will. All told, 7.72 miles in just short of two hours in 80+ degree weather.

Self-doubt is really battering me in terms of this upcoming race. No matter how I do the math, it's going to be a close call in finishing within the time-frame. I'm trying to push through this doubt, but it's a constant companion. Today's run helped though.

I know part of my mood is letting myself be battered by circumstances. Part of it is hormones. Part of it is lack of sleep. Part of it is poor eating. But all those parts together seem to be a  pretty formidable dragon right now. Just gotta keep fighting.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

August in Review

Miles covered: 56.5 miles

If I were travelling from Bag End to Rivendell, I would have entered the land of the Trollshaws and the path would be getting steeper.

No races this month. 

Although I ran no races this month, a major triumph was completing the C25K program, at least to the extent that I can run 30 minutes continuously. Actually continuously running a 5K has yet to be tested. Since I have a couple of virtual races that I need to knock out, I will probably make the attempt either Monday or Tuesday.

My focus has now turned to the 10 miler I will be doing at the end of the month. This morning I completed six miles, something which I have not done since my gallbladder exploded in May. It was a slog--hot and humid. While I did see a general improvement on my feeling of endurance, I did not see improvement in my time. FAIL Voice keeps reminding me of my time limit for the race--02:45:00. Although I don't want to "think into being" anything, I've been preparing myself for a DFL.

What I'm most afraid of is a DNF. Part of me wants to go safe and just do the 5 mile race. But I know I will be furious with myself if the only reason I didn't do it was simply because I was too afraid to try. (Not to mention there's a finisher medal at stake.) A month is a lifetime when it comes to training, and this whole journey is about being bold.

Suck it up, buttercup.

Besides adding in distance to my training, I had been struggling with finding cross-training since I still have some post-surgery restrictions that won't end for another couple weeks. After floundering around, I finally settled on my old bellydancing DVDs. These seem to provide the stretching, core work, and resistance training that my body can handle right now. It's finally a "good hurt" rather than wondering if I've damaged something again. I've also seen a noticeable return of my waistline.

Pattern from Knits for Nerds based on
the dress from the latest Star Trek movie.
Difficult to see, but my necklace is
a science officer insignia. I know.
Speaking of, I know I always say it's not about the weight; in fact, I have gained back three pounds since my big post-surgery weight loss. HOWEVER, I am seeing NSVs in how my clothes fit.  I finished knitting a tunic that I had started when I was convalescing in a size that would have once been too small for my bust. My once way-too-tight jeans are now comfortable, even loose. I comfortably wear women's cut t-shirts without worrying about my boobs deforming the design (although the muffin top is still in residence if I don't take care).

Segueing into t-shirts, I've started a Wednesday thing on my Facebook page in featuring nerd-themed tech tees. Subreferencing t-shirts are a staple of most nerd wardrobes, but the only t-shirts I wear regularly are ones that I run in.* (I admit that I have become enough of a running nerd to prefer performance fabric.) Part of embracing this version of me as athlete has been finding a way to fold in the nerd identity that used to hold me back.** Oddly enough, I'm finding others in the same mindset as I am. All this to say that I got a shirt in the mail today that I can't wait to post about on Wednesday.

So much of this whole thing is brain-work, and I know how to do that; the body will follow.

* In my "civilian" (aka non-running) wardrobe, I show my geek pride in my jewelry. That way I can still dress professionally yet still send the correct signals to my Tribe.
**In other words, finally telling myself that "nerd" and "athlete" are not mutually exclusive; if anything, running is probably the "nerdiest" of the sports.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Dog Day Predawn Run OR Let's Play "Will This Freak My Dog Out?"

It's funny how when I started this blog, every morning run seemed to warrant a thoughtful and insightful post. Then it becomes routine. Write a post? Meh.

And sometimes things happen.

Today's run was just 3 miles. (Did I say "just"? Yes, I did.) I figure that even though I'll be working on intervals for the longer runs, continuing to do at least 30 minutes of continuous running is still important for my brain; by establishing a habit of a continuous running session, I can tell my brain to keep going when it tells me that I'm tired on a 3 minute interval. (Seriously, I have to think this way.)

So I'm chugging along, thinking about my Facebook page, my work schedule, my training schedule, what I dreamed the night before ... It felt so natural. There was Flow.

You know what you did. Mom.
I get to the halfway point, and I see the sprinklers spraying over my path that I had encountered on a previous run. I decide to go through since it will probably be refreshing. At this point, I forget that my doofy, derpy dog may be a troublemaker at home, but she is a chicken-heart in the Real World.

Things that scare Luna:
  • Small dogs that are aggressive and/or stand their ground.
  • Car rides.
  • Apparently, sprinklers.
As I start through, she moves away from the spray. I pull her through sprinkler #1. When I reach sprinkler #2, she's hiding behind a bush. I call her and give a yank. She pulls the opposite way. Her collar pops off, and she quickly trots ahead of me. I know that if I chase after her, she will dash away in a panic. I call to her, give commands, try to keep my voice calm and low (again, if I yell, there's a chance she will panic). 

Things that I am thinking:
  • What if she panics and runs away? How will I get her back?
  • If she runs away, I'm going to be late to work.
  • Dammit, dog, I was making good time! Now I've got to correct my Runkeeper!
Thankfully, she pauses after we have safely passed the sprinkler line (aka Killer Hissing Spray of Death), and I'm able to wrangle her into the collar again. I'm able to return to my easy pace and keep it up for the rest of the run.

What I learned:

  • When dealing with most creatures, including myself, keep it calm. The yelling thing only makes me feel better for a little while; however, it doesn't ultimately help the situation.
  • I can keep up a pace. I can return to a pace. This is what runners do.
  • Run around the sprinklers, not through, when I'm with the dog. And check her collar too.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

C25K Wrapping Up OR 10 Miler Reving Up OR End of Summer Blues

I must be the only mom on the planet not looking forward to the beginning of school. School mornings mean fighting to get the child up and ready, as well as myself. School days mean worrying in the back of my head as to whether the Child is following instructions, eating properly, getting her work done--all the while knowing that I have no power to change it. School evenings mean struggling to get all the chores done, deal with any infractions/struggles of the day, check homework, listen to the boo-hoos, get the Child in bed on time, reconnect with the Mister, and get myself to bed on time so I can get up on time to get my pre-dawn run in and start all over.

Summer is hot and humid, but it's get up and go.

I'm seriously trying not to have an anxiety attack about next week.

But this blog is about running, right?

This week I'm wrapping up the C25K program, and I'm amazed at how far I've come. I can run 30 minutes continuously. Not only that, but I have finally found a pace that I feel like I can sustain a good long time. Which is not to say that it isn't difficult. But every time I feel the "can't" rising, I take a swig of water; sometimes those canteens get low, but I keep going. The real test is going to be if I can complete a 5K while continuously running; I still tend to clock it at about 40 minutes.

Now I've got to start shifting into concentrating on distance. The program I'm using doesn't specify how to do that, just the mileage. I've tried going back to the 3-1 intervals. I've tried distance intervals. I'm not sure which I like better or which will be the most efficient. I'm very conscious that I've got 02:45:00 to get it all done. Right now I'm more scared of a DNF than coming in last; at least with last, I'll still have the accomplishment and the medal.

What I'm really struggling with is the cross-training on my non-running days. I still have some weight restrictions until September. I'm still finding that I'm recovering from my surgery whenever I do any core work; it's a pop and a burn that can be both painful and worrisome rather than a hey-I-worked-out ache. I've tried yoga, Pilates, even belly dance. Most of those things are sort of okay, but if I bend or twist too much, it hurts the not-good way. My midsection will puff and numb a little too, which I don't think is a good sign. Is walking enough? Should I try swimming again? (Again, treading water is okay; but if I do long strokes, the above pain returns.) It's all very frustrating.

On the other hand, I've gotten a couple of comments that my waist is a little more defined these days. I guess the word is moderation ... which I don't necessarily do well.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

In Which Our Heroine Finally Feels Like a Runner

The bib "quilt" on my office wall. Medals earned not shown.
I started this blog a year ago, and I confess that I feel like I've been lying every time I've called myself a runner.

Yes, I know the standard answer is that if you run--no matter how fast or how far--you are a runner. By these standards, I am a runner. I've been told that "hard core" runners run in all weather--rain, cold, heat. I have done all those things (although the coldest was only mid-30s). By these standards, I am a runner.

However, I am only now feeling like I can call myself a runner, and it's for the stupidest reasons that most people use to limit themselves--distance and duration.

Until last spring, I had only ever gone around 3 miles. The FAIL Voice in my head tells me that "anyone can do a fun run." But in May, I completed a 10K race--a trail race, no less, with a gallbladder on the verge of exploding. Now I'm prepping for 10 miles and seriously considering a half marathon.

The FAIL Voice will remind me that I spent a good portion of that 10K race walking, that I never could keep up the 3-1 intervals in my training. I didn't conserve my energy and let adrenaline get the better of me in both training and especially during races. But since the gallbladder surgery knocked me flat and forced me to go slow, I am finishing up the C25K program. Only this morning, I ran 28 minutes continuously--very slow, very steady, and very complete. And whoa nellie--the last three minutes I had one of those mythical runner highs (the front of my brain felt all tingly and happy). If that doesn't make me a runner, I don't know what does!

I used to think running was impossible. But I've clocked 422 miles of running since I started in 2012. I guess I must eat impossible for breakfast.

Am I a runner?

Yes, I am a runner.

Because I run.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Ten Miler Training Begun--Highs and Lows

I'm well into week 2 of training for my 10 miler, and it's been going okay so far. I do, however, foresee some modifications that I'm going to have to make.

Monday: Cross
This translated to swimming at the Y, and I think it's a keeper in the plan. Normally, just switch off between treading water and using the water weights.

Week one, everyone was moved into the racing pool. I ended up doing very slow crawls back and forth. Don't get me wrong--this totally counts; I just feel inept. If ever I were to consider tri, there would have to be lessons for sure.

Week two, I was paying for some overindulgence on Sunday night (worked the weekend, so I thought I "deserved it"). I spent a good portion of that night in pain, and a good portion of that day in the bathroom. So I took things pretty easy for the most part. Lesson learned? Ha!

Tuesday: Run + Strength
Still following the C25K plan.

Week one: The 5-8-5 running intervals were surprisingly lovely. I fumbled around with the 10 lbs. sandbell and exercise ball afterwards. I think I'm going to need some more structured weight workouts.

Week two: Only got in the run, due to a very full schedule. However, I managed a 25 minute continuous run, which I have never ever ever done before.

Wednesday: Stretch and Strengthen
Week one, I tried a Pilates DVD. I was okay, but I'm still seeing that I need to take care with my core thanks to the surgery. I'm only now beginning to lie on my right side, but lying on my stomach is still extremely painful. Also, I ached, not in the hey-I-worked-out way but the I-don't-think-I'm-quite-healed-yet way.

Week two, I woke up too late to get the Pilates in. I picked up a yoga video from the Library and did that while Mister made dinner.* It was gentle--not too much on the stomach, felt good, felt worked, but didn't feel damaged. At one point, I was reaching forward, and Miss pressed on my back "like the [teacher] on the TV" (the instructor was helping one of the students); Mister shooed her away so I could finish, but there was a sweetness to it and I pushed a little farther. Lots of Savasana (corpse pose) incorporated throughout, as well as meditation--good for my mental health as well as my body. Truly, the perfect midweek activity.

Thursday: Run
Last week, the C25K plan called for two 10 minute runs, which I conquered. This week is another 25 minute continuous run, which I'm actually looking forward to.

Friday: Rest / Saturday: Cross
I work on Fridays and every third Saturday. The Y opens at 5AM on Friday and 7AM on Saturday (when I'm almost out the door if I'm working). So I'm going to switch my crosstraining day and my rest day so I can be guaranteed at least one morning that I get to sleep in (unless Miss gets me up on the Saturdays I have off--which she will).

Sunday: Long Run
Last Sunday, the C25K plan was to run 20 minutes continuously, at which I failed miserably. According to the 15K plan, I was supposed to get in 3 miles, which I did do. Fail? Win? At least I got out.

Since there's very little variation to the C25K plan at this point, I'm going to go back to intervals for my long runs. Let's face it--I'm not going to run 10 miles continuously. I will, however, have to learn how to conserve my energy for the distance. The 3-1 intervals that seemed so overwhelming during my 10K training now seem like nothing. In fact, I'm really looking forward to them!

All in all, I feel my body shifting again--stronger, more disciplined. My brain is too in an unexpected way, but that's its own post.

Now to set my Brian Blessed alarm for 5:00AM. Because that's how it's done.

* Mister does the cooking in our house. Good thing too; otherwise we'd be having cereal every night.