Sunday, March 11, 2012


If you're still here and reading, hello! Sorry for the extended absence. I haven't had much to write about on a blog primarily devoted to running, seeing as I haven't run in 19 days. That's my longest bout of not running in quite a while, and it's going to continue for another month.

I was officially diagnosed with a stress fracture in my right leg about 3 weeks ago, and I've been in a very attractive boot since then. My orthopedist said no running, cycling, or swimming, in the interest of healing as quickly as possible. Admittedly, nothing feels quick about this. I have one more week in the boot. Once I'm out of it, I have a week to go before I can begin cycling and swimming. Two weeks of cross-training and I can start running again. Slowly. That's going to take a lot of discipline to not add the miles too quickly.

I've been trying to figure out how I got here, as a stress fracture is typically an injury of overuse. I was adding my miles gradually and really wasn't changing the frequency of my runs, so the only culprit left is speed. I didn't know speed could be a culprit, but it makes sense. I really didn't do any legitimate speedwork, but I was running faster miles. Plus, those sub-8:00 miles I would bust out at the end of some of my runs may not have been all that great for me. Who knew? (Well, I'm sure plenty of people knew, but I wasn't one of them.)

To add insult to injury, literally, I have been unable to find a buyer for my marathon bib, which leaves me out $95. I went from having two potential buyers to none, which is rather disappointing. This makes for the second race I've paid for and not run in the last year -- that's not cool, especially since I'm in grad school. I'd like to run the Baltimore Marathon in the Fall, so I think I just have to close my eyes, bite the bullet and sign up, because running a marathon is one of my goals for 2012; and I'm not going to give up this easily. Even if I can't eat for a month because my grocery money pays a race fee! (Ok - that's a total exaggeration, obviously. Don't worry!) Another goal was to finish the year with 1,000 miles under my belt shoes, so I'm very anxious to get back to running. I don't know if I can cover the 1,000 while recovering from an injury, but I'm sure going to try.

The goal now is to train smarter, not necessarily harder, which means I'll be incorporating more strength-training into my regime. For now, though, I can only dream about running, which I do, regularly.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Day ? - I Lost Count

Well faithful readers, I'm afraid bald girl running is coming to a rather abrupt end, sans marathon medal. After a visit to the doctor to follow up on the leg pain I mentioned briefly in a previous post, I've been ordered to rest for two weeks, at least. I'm still waiting on x-rays to be read, though stress fractures rarely show up until the bone is actually starting to heal, or so I'm told. Once my two weeks of no running is up, the doctor will reassess to decide whether or not I need to be in a walking boot.

Of course I am disappointed. I've been training since October, and I'm so close, only 3.5 weeks out from the race. I worked really hard, juggled a lot of scheduling, woke up really early and went to bed really late, picked running over hanging out with friends and eating food that actually had flavor, and spent countless hours trying to stay out of my own head in order to finish long runs. I also ate GU, which you clearly do not do for fun. (To chew or not to chew?) It's disheartening to make it to a long run of 21 miles only to then be injured and have to mentally prepare to not run the race. So much planning and discipline, and for what now?

After my 21-mile run two weeks ago, I said a few times, "Even if I couldn't run the race, I'd be satisfied because I trained this much." When I didn't know better, that was true. Now? Not so much. It's really sad, and it feels wasted. I know in my head that it wasn't wasted, but my heart is trying to catch up to believe my brain. Give me some time for that one.

I'm already looking at other races, but I was so excited by the prospect of running this race - the only marathon to have all 26.2 miles in the District of Columbia. I love DC, and I love running in DC. The first "replacement" race that came to mind was the Marine Corps Marathon, but I'm waiting on a friend to have a schedule that would allow training and running together, so I'll reserve that for another year. The Baltimore Running Festival is another option, especially since I ran a leg of it last year and could easily train in the city. Financially, I'll have to wait. (Did I mention that I lost a nearly-$100 race fee here? Yeah... about that.)

For now, I guess I'll be swimming and cycling. I'm going to miss running. I think I'll start praying we get a massive snowstorm the weekend of the race. How selfish is that? If you know me, you also know that is drastic, because I hate winter and all things winter-related. Fine, I won't pray for a snowstorm...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Day 94 - Blerg, Nertz, Shark Farts, and Other Liz Lemon Expressions of Discontent

The view from here - RICE (rest, ice,
compress, and elevate)

Today I ran a total of .68 miles before I knew I was being foolish. Actually, I knew I was making a foolish decision as soon as I set out, but I've been ignoring that voice for a while. My stubbornness is astounding. I have handled this potential arch/calf pain with as little seriousness as possible, hoping it would just go away and ignoring it when it didn't. After all, nothing hurt during my runs, only after. And inconsistently throughout the day. I tried to elevate and ice it away, to no avail.

About 10 steps into today's planned 8-miler, I knew running was a bad idea. I can taste the marathon, which is a month away now. I keep thinking, "I'll just finish training and run the race, and then I'll tend to this pain." Today I even told a friend, out loud, that though my leg was hurting I was going to stick it out until the race and then probably be in a boot. That's dramatic, especially since I have no medical proof of what's wrong or that it would lead to a boot; but the sentiment behind that statement is so Leslie of me. I'll just push myself until I run into the ground, and I'll stop when I literally have no other choice.

So I'm stopping, which actually now takes more discipline than running 40 miles each week. That's weird. I'll rest for the next few days and see how I feel before starting again. In the words of 30 Rock's Liz Lemon: "Nertz! ... Shark Farts!"

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Day 93 - I'm Going to Run a Marathon

Assuming my legs don't fall off between now and March 17, I'm going to run a marathon. Researchers currently are calculating the probability of my legs falling off; I'll get back to you when I know. But seriously... This just hit me tonight, as I was counting miles -- miles completed during training (397) and miles to go (112). By Friday, my miles-to-go will be in the double digits. Crazy! It feels as though I've been anticipating this for so long, and now it's almost here and yet still 31 days away.

31 days is not very many, though, especially when you have a busy schedule. It has already been a bit harder to juggle schedules to get runs in this semester. I've done a bit of shuffling, woken up super early some mornings, and passed on quite a bit of sleep. That's not ideal, but I'm getting the miles in. I'm already working on a post explaining why your first year of graduate school is both the best and worst time to train for a marathon.

After my internship today I hit the streets for 6 miles at an average 8:34 pace, which was created mostly by a very fast last mile in the 7's. I was scheduled for 5, but I felt pretty good and the route I chose mid-run was going to take me over the limit. As I approached my last intersection, I saw I'd reach my normal stopping point at about 5.75. I'm a stickler for all things even, straight lines and symmetry, so I knew I could get 6. (Further evidence of this neurosis is that, when gas did not cost $1 million per gallon, I used to top off such that the total cost was rounded to a tenth, rather than one-hundredth. Yup. I'm over that now, though.)

Tomorrow I'm scheduled for 8. I don't know where it's going to fit, but it'll go somewhere.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Day 93 - Womp Womp

I woke with some pretty serious calf pain this morning. This was strange, because the calf pain I initially had on Saturday dissipated after my short recovery run/walk and stretching. It returned with a vengeance today and continued on-and-off. I'm trying to be wise about training, because I don't want to be injured, so I decided to get a quick 5 miles on the trainer in, instead of running. It actually works out alright since I'm pushing my long run back to Sunday this weekend in order to run with a friend, so I can resume the 5-8-5 miles pattern starting tomorrow, assuming all is well with the leg.

Nothing else exciting to report. Things are busy here; time is simultaneously flying and dragging. That's such a weird phenomenon.

Until tomorrow...

Monday, February 13, 2012

Day 92 - Olympic Race Walking

There are enough blog posts circulating the Internet in honor of Valentine's Day about how running is like a dating relationship; I'm not going to add to that pile. Instead, I'll move from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Olympic Race Walking.

Now, I've never claimed to be a particularly fast runner, but I am somewhat distraught (not really) that these athletes can walk faster than I can run sprint. Still, their disjointed style of walking kind of makes my hips hurt. I'm just waiting for something to dislocate. The women are especially disconcerting, as most of them look incredibly unhealthy. And also ridiculous. And like they are making their joints do things they absolutely should not do, as evidenced by the lead contender's demise.

I'll stick to running, thanks.

[Thanks for sticking with me for this ridiculous post. This summer, I plan to watch this event, even though it's probably one that is shown at 3 am.]

Tomorrow: back to running!

Day 91 - Yummies

Don't tell running, but there are a lot of things I enjoy more than running. One of those things happens to be eating good food. More specifically -- eating good Mexican food. Surely I've mentioned my "recovery burritos," in which I often indulge after a long run. Or a short run. Or no run at all.

The truth is plain and simple: I love Mexican food.

Today, after church, I headed over to Tortilleria Sinaloa with a friend. I went there for the first time about a month ago and spoke briefly with the owner. Today, she recognized us when we walked in (+3 points). We arrived at the same time as about 10 other people, and the place is pretty small, so I was a little unsure as to where we would sit (-1 point). However, as soon as our food came out, Melissa, the aforementioned owner, went out of her way to clear us a place to stand by moving a big basket of chips and some other things (+4 points). She then proceeded to talk with us for about 5 minutes, which was so delightful (+5 points), before a spot cleared for us to sit (+1 point). Melissa was super attentive, even though it's basically self-serve once you've gotten your food (+2), and the food was fabulous, as expected (+2 points).

There's nothing scientific about my scoring system, but Tortilleria Sinaloa is clearly in the positive for dining experience. The food is excellent, the prices are great, and everything feels special. Plus, I feel like I'm supporting the "little guy," even though the place is hardly unknown; it has about a bazillion accolades from various sources. If you're ever in Baltimore, go here. And call me, because I want to go with you.

Moving on to my other most frequently discussed topic... after getting a bit of work done this afternoon, I got in 10 miles on the trainer for my Sunday cross-training. It's been a while since my last ride, and since my last real cross-training in general, so it was nice to get the miles in. Also convenient was the fact that I strapped my iPhone to the handlebars and watched an episode of Law and Order: SVU on Netflix. I can't hear my computer over the hum of the trainer, so the iPhone was the perfect solution because I could have it close enough to use headphones. What a nerd!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Day 90 - A Little Yog and Some Crafting

Let's be real: saying yog instead of jog is so much cooler. Moving on...

My very stiff muscles this morning required a little jog/yog. Well, I suppose they didn't require it, per se, but it was necessary if I planned to use my legs today. Coincidentally, I did. Even though I'd eaten breakfast, I discovered 1.5 miles in that I didn't have enough fuel for the machine. I quickly grew weak and nauseous and power-walked the 1.5 miles back home, which was actually fine, as it gave me enough additional blood flow to do some good stretching. Then, I stuffed my face with about two meals worth of food. I think I've recovered all the calories/carbs/etc. burned during the 21-miler. Just to be safe, I've continued stuffing my face all day. :)

I also did some crafting today -- a pretty easy and fun project from Pinterest that required only tiles from Home Depot, mini-felt pads, modgepodge, and some maps (which you can get from AAA for free if you're a card-carrying member). And voila! You have these great coasters. I've also seen people do these with race bibs; it's the same idea.
I did DC, B-more, NYC and SF.
By now, I'm certain you've heard of Whitney Houston's passing. It's sad -- an incredible voice and a gifted performer, but such a tragic off-stage life. I'd like to remember her like this (a great song to run to, by the way):

Friday, February 10, 2012

Day 89 - 21


Today I ran 21 miles. By myself. On the same trail (BWI Loop) that nearly killed me two weeks ago. Remember? The one where I was despondent and unable to finish 20 miles. Yeah; that one. Today, I killed it; twice.

I spent 3 hours and 8 minutes with myself. (That works out to about an 8:57 pace, in case you were wondering.) 3+ hours in my own head, all the while telling my legs they had to keep moving. And I made it out alive -- an impressive feat given the way my mind wanders. :) But seriously, I actually enjoyed this run. There were some miles in the middle where I felt so strong. I wasn't running super fast, but I was steady and sure. For parts, I ran at a very controlled pace without really focusing on my Garmin too much. I found my groove, and I stayed in it. That was so encouraging.

That's not to say this run was without trials. Miles 10 and 16, both miles in which I took a GU, were slow. They both happened to begin with an uphill, just as I was focusing on opening a GU and getting it down. This slowed me significantly for those miles. Apparently I have not perfected the art of keeping pace, opening and eating GU, and running uphill. Something to aspire to... The last three miles were touch-and-go, too. I finally started to get bored, but I knew I could make it. My legs were tired, though. I was out of GU, because my fourth packet had fallen out of my hydration belt somewhere along the way; I was also out of fluids, and I was pretty thirsty. I counted by tenths-of-a-mile and watched the seconds tick by, which only made things worse.

About two miles from the finish I got caught at one of the few intersections the trail crosses that actually has enough traffic to require obeying the crossing signal. Of course, I had the hand. I slowed and tried to bounce around at the intersection while waiting for it to change. When I started running again, I thought my legs might actually give out. I'd lost so much momentum just from that one stop. It was killer, but I pressed on, chanting to myself, "You are a powerhouse. You will do this." And I did! I even ran 21.05, because I set the goal of a particular fence post that I knew would take me through to 21. At that point, I needed a landmark, not an obscure distance.

Post-run, I hobbled to my car to take off my hydration belt and get my phone. I called my dad to tell him what I'd accomplished and that I'd worn my RoadID for the first time while doing it. (It was my Valentine's Day present. Best dad ever.) Thankfully, no one needed the information on it! I hobbled back over to a bench, laid down on the ground, and elevated my legs while watching the planes come in to land. (The loop I ran circles BWI airport, and the small park where I parked my car is basically at the end of some of the runways.) I stretched and then came home. My legs were hurting like crazy for the rest of the afternoon/evening. I think they just wanted to know what I'd put them through. Understandably so.

Still, I had plans tonight, and sore legs weren't going to stop me. A bunch of people from school got together to celebrate a friend's birthday by going duckpin bowling. That's a Maryland thing, through and through; so if you aren't familiar with it, go Google it. I had a blast, of course. Also, last week my dad bequeathed my grandmother's bowling balls to me, bag included. It was so fun to use them. She and my grandfather bowled in a league for a number of years. As it turned out, everyone seemed to think those two balls were good luck, because we all bowled significantly better while using them. Good fun!

I'm now resting and icing, reflecting on a really successful run day and reminding myself to be thankful. Before I ran, I prayed God would give me the grace to accept defeat, or the grace to give Him credit for a good run. Either way, I'd need grace. He was generous, giving me both a good run and the knowledge that He enabled every step.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Day 88 - I Make Running Fit My Life

Not the other way around.

I've rearranged by weekend training schedule... again. I will run my 21-miler tomorrow, instead of Saturday.

There are several reasons:
1. My right leg has been hurting something fierce since last night, though it seems to have subsided earlier this evening. A rest day did me some good.
2. It's supposed to rain and snow on Saturday but be sunny and 52 tomorrow. Duh.
3. I have a birthday party tomorrow night. It would be hard to not eat birthday party-esque foods, which would undoubtedly bode poorly for a run the next day.
4. Because I want to.

See you on the other side of 21 miles... I hope!

Day 87 - Dad Knows Best

Today's scheduled run: 5 miles

Today's completed run: 5 miles
Pace: 8:27 avg

Today was perhaps the most yucktastic of my training days thus far. That's pretty good, considering I've been training all winter. I suppose the weekend it snowed was the worst, but I'd already gotten my long run in, so I didn't have to do anything in it. Today I had five miles to complete and was ready to hit the treadmill. Ready, I said; not excited. As I was preparing to head out, I heard my dad's voice in my head: "You have to train in anything, because you never know what it will be doing on race day." (Or something like that.)

I groaned, audibly, even though I was alone, and traded my shorts for my fleece-lined running tights and a waterproof jacket. Weatherwise, I had wintry mix, snow, and plain old rain. The wintry mix/snow portion lasted about a mile, while the steady rain lasted for the remaining four. Ick. I don't like the cold, and I don't like being wet while cold. Does anyone?

Still, I was so glad I ran outside! I also decided not to obsess about pace and let my body decide what it could and couldn't do. I've been watching my Garmin like a hawk these last few runs, which can stress me out. It was really nice to just run for the first four miles (8:51/8:28/8:31/8:45). Hey - I never said I was a consistent pacer; that's typically what I use the Garmin for. As with several of my recent runs, I pushed hard to run the last mile at a sub-8:00. I achieved that goal with a 7:47, which explains the 8:27 average pace for the whole run.

I like ending with a fast mile; it's like I leave everything on the road. Whatever happened in the miles leading up to that last one doesn't matter, because I'm going to run my heart out for the last one and end strong. There's something to be said for ending strong. There's also something to be said for the fact that this post is starting to sound like the commercial designed by Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt's characters in What Women Want. With that in mind, I'll stop while I'm behind. :)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Day 85 & 86 - Oops

Clearly committing to blog once a day may have been a little over the top. Once "real training" is over, I don't think a blog per day will be happening. Day 85 was yesterday -- my normally busy Monday with some other things to make it even busier. It was also a rest day, so I have nothing related to running to report.

Today's scheduled run: 5 miles

Today's completed run: 5.17 miles
Pace: 8:37 avg

I wanted to run this morning, before my first class; but going to bed close to 1:00 am rendered me useless in all efforts to get out of bed and get moving. I was a little bummed but planned to run after my second class of the day. Then, wonderful surprise of all surprises -- my 9-12 class got out early, at 11:30, so I was able take advantage of the extra time and run in  some beautiful weather. I thought the wind would make it colder than it really was, so I was overdressed, but it was still a pretty good run. My legs felt a little heavy but nothing too serious. It was a lovely day to run around Baltimore and the Harbor. I think it's supposed to snow tomorrow, so I'm thankful for another day of warm weather in February. Hopefully it comes back!

It's hard to believe I have less than six weeks of training left. I have some pretty big weekend runs planned in there, which makes six weeks seem like a long time; but experience tells me those six weeks will fly. I can hardly believe how far I've come in training, particularly with regard to the mental aspect of running. All that running alone has turned me into a mental machine; I can occupy myself with the best of them.

But I'm still looking for running partners... Anyone?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Day 84 - I'm Really Bad at Cross Training

And by that title I mean that I did nothing notable in the form of exercise today, and I'm okay with that. I did eat a lot of really good food, though, which was excellent.

I'm gearing up for what I expect to be a busy week, especially after not getting everything done that I wanted to get done this weekend. Story of my life. I think it'll be a week where I retroactively add things to my to-do list, just so I can cross them off for some form of accomplishment. Is that weird?

Today was an up-and-down kind of day, but this weekend was a weekend where I was reminded of how incredible my friends are. I think I had one of these last weekend, too. What can I say? It's a time of having awesome friends who bless me so, so much. I found (and will leave you with) this excellent quote from Katherine Mansfield:
"I always felt that the great high privilege, relief and comfort of friendship was that one had to explain nothing."

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Day 83 - Mt. Vernon and W&OD Trails

Today's scheduled run: 13 miles

Today's completed run: 13 miles
Pace: 9:40 avg

Today held something wonderful: a run with two other people. It was so nice to talk with people while running! We paced in the 10:__s for the first 8 miles before they headed in and I continued on to finish. My last five were strong, making me think I definitely need to come out of the gate slower to warm up. I know this isn't rocket science, but I needed to prove it to myself.

My last two miles were sub-8:00, which I never thought I'd see myself run. Ever. Mile 12 was 7:53, and mile 13 was 7:19 (a PR). This was definitely a mental game. I told myself, "You are going to PR," which meant breaking 7:44. And I did. It's amazing what the brain can make your legs do.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Day 82 - Running Free

To the left is an icon making its way around Pinterest and other corners of the Internet that is an excellent tie in for what I want to write about today, a non-running rest day. It strikes a bit of a chord because running is something I regularly take for granted. Sometimes I go well beyond taking it for granted and complain about having to do it. I don't expect I'll ever arrive in a place where I gleefully leap out the door every day to head out for a run, but I'd like to practice a bit more intentional gratitude for being able to run. It is a gift to be able to run whenever and wherever I want.

A gift that is not extended to the estimated 27 million men, women and children who are held in slavery around the world today.

27 million. Let that sink in. Now, let's expand on that outrageous number. 27 million in miles is the equivalent of 192,034 Ironmans; 270,000 100-mile ultras; 384,068 Ironman 70.3s; 540,000 50-mile ultras; 1,030,534 marathons; 2,061,068 half marathons; 2,700,000 10-milers; and 8,709,677 5ks. (This is a running blog, after all.)

IJM - Introduction Video from International Justice Mission on Vimeo.
I could give you piles of data and numbers until your brain explodes, but isn't it enough to know that even one person is enslaved? Isn't it enough to know that somewhere a girl is being sold? Or that a little boy has never known a life apart from enslavement in a brick kiln? Or that an innocent man has been in jail for a majority of this life because of a corrupt system?

The thought of that one girl, one boy, and one man makes me want to cry out for justice. Multiply it by 27 million and you have one loud cry. But my voice alone would be small, so I'm joining the voice of 27,000 others. Will you be one of them?

International Justice Mission is inviting us to do so, calling on 27,000 Americans to urge President Obama to end slavery. They need 5,000 more signatures to reach the goal. That's all it takes from you -- a signature -- to advance the movement to end slavery. Maybe you'll be compelled to do more, too; but won't you at least sign? Go here to do so, or click the banner over in the sidebar.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Day 81 - New Shoes and a Groundhog

Today's scheduled run: 5 miles

Today's completed run: 5 miles
Pace: 8:33 avg

Old pair (L), new pair (R)
Two great parts about today's run: shorts and new shoes. It should be obvious as to why these two things would be a favorite part. Shorts -- because it's February. This time two years ago we were getting ready for 55 inches of snow. I'll take the warm temperatures, thanks. New shoes -- because they're new shoes. Duh. I purchased a second pair of Brooks Adrenaline (11th edition); this new pair is a bit more colorful, eh? This will allow me to swap shoes, something sagely runners suggest you do. I'll wear my already worn-in but still great pair for shorter runs and the new pair for longer runs.

In other news, you probably heard that Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow today, which means 6 more weeks of winter. The buzz on Twitter this morning was basically this: if temperatures in the 50s and 60s are this year's version of winter, we'll take six more weeks. For sure! I could not have been handed a better "winter" to train for a marathon!

A top-hat man, member of the Inner Circle
A few winters ago, in 2009, I had the distinct honor of waking up well before dawn to walk over to Gobbler's Knob for the Groundhog Day festivities. While other attendees had been out in the cold all night to secure their views of the rodent, my friends and I had VIP passes, courtesy of a friend who's uncle was in the Inner Circle. We were escorted right down to the front for what was one of the weirdest experiences ever. Did you know that Phil's teeth are so sharp his handler wears gloves with chainmail underneath? Me neither, until that day. It was one of those things that you do once in your life and are glad you did it, even though you don't ever plan to do it again.

Anyway, let's hope Phil's right and winter as we've known it these past few days is here to stay for six weeks.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Day 80 - Morning Run Take 2 and a Review

Today's scheduled run: 8 miles

Today's completed run: 8 miles
Pace: 8:48 avg

Knowing that I wouldn't be able to run at any other time today given my schedule, I rolled out of bed (well, more like tripped because one of my slippers was in the way on the floor) and ran this morning. The run was pretty good, overall. Unless you live under a rock, you've probably heard that the weather everywhere on the east coast has been absolutely amazing. It got up to 70 today! If this is the new face of winter, I like it. It was 54 when I ran this morning; I consider that the ideal running temperature. Running along the water to the rising sun was as beautiful as ever, even though one corner of the Harbor boasted a pretty nasty smell. That's beside the point, though.

It was a great way to welcome in February, though I can hardly believe it's already February! 44 days until the big day! I'm excited and a little anxious but looking forward to feeling a great sense of accomplishment. Now if Competitor would just release the course map...

January was a big month of running for me. It was definitely the most running I've ever done in a month, with a total of 126 miles. I also ran my fastest mile ever -- a 7:44, which was mile 7 of an 8-miler. I'm a bit of an accidental runner, i.e. I didn't do anything in particular to get that mile time other than decide I wanted to run fast. It's basically a fluke, but I'll take it. It also is evidence as to how mental running really is.

I'm scheduled for a total of 140 miles in February, and I'll begin tapering (decreasing mileage) at the end of the month. Mileage will be light in the two weeks of March leading up the marathon, and then I plan to sleep for the rest of the month.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Day 79 - A Run and Nothing Else

Today's scheduled run: 5 miles

Today's completed run: 5 miles
Pace: 8:30 avg

A good morning run. Although I don't normally run in the morning, I always love the feeling of finishing before 8 am. The day feels that much more productive, no matter what happens. It was another good time of thinking and praying and listening and finding silence even as rush hour was beginning to pick up.

It's a beautiful day in Baltimore. Thankfully, over the course of this blog and winter, I've been able to say that often. It'll be in the 60's today and tomorrow, barring a weird weather crisis. I'll take winters like this any time. It was chilly when I set out this morning, hovering at about 40 degrees, but the sunrise across the water made it well worth dragging myself out of bed, which is no small feat since I can't seem to get to bed before midnight these days.

Enough with the weather talk, though. I'm off to resume with the normal Tuesday crazy. Be well, blog readers!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Day 78 - Friends

I hope you have friends as awesome as mine; but my suspicion is that you don't, because mine are really, really, really awesome. Really awesome. Friends who read this: thank you! With you, life is half as hard and twice as good.

Thank you for reading this life-related, running-unrelated post. I shall resume with the running thing tomorrow.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Day 77 - Nothing but the Sound of My Feet

Today's scheduled run: cross-training

Today's completed run: 5 miles
Pace: 8:33 avg, with a sub-8:00 for the last mile

I tacked on these miles after yesterday's run, which was a little weird because it's been years since I've run on a Sunday. Aside from a Sunday morning race, Sundays have always been rest days. Other than feeling strong, especially compared to yesterday, there was something really cool that happened.

 I ran downtown, which is usually pretty busy, or at least carries with it the ambient noise of city life. Today, however, there were some points during my run that the only things I could hear were my breathing and my feet hitting the ground. Baltimore was absolutely silent, void of cars and other people. Much of this happened while I was running along the water. It was so serene and peaceful. Really, it was a gift. This run gave me the chance to think and pray and be silent. I'm so thankful for that.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Day 76 - The Day Running Broke Me

Distance and pace are insignificant here, just know that I didn't meet my goal for today. But something important did happen.

Today was a beautiful day in Baltimore, and I was excited to run. I headed out toward the airport, where there is a paved trail that circles the airport grounds. It's about 12 miles around, so I planned to run the full circle and then do an out-and-back on a portion of it to get in my full miles. I was excited, too, because I'd be running with GU for the first time.

Other than a few sore muscles from yesterday's Pilates class, I started off feeling good about running. Still, I was struggling to keep target pace. In fact, I was struggling to stay in the 9:15-9:30 range, which is a good 15-30 seconds slower than where I normally run for long runs. This was disheartening and compounded by some lower GI issues and some side cramping. I pressed on. Then, everything sort of fell apart.

I felt like I didn't know where I was or that I'd taken a wrong turn. I was winded. I couldn't pick up my pace. I was lonely. I didn't want to be running anymore. Eventually, the melodramatic side of my brain convinced the rational side that I was lost (on a circular trail, mind you) and that I would never make it home, or at least that the sun would set before I could make it back to my car. And I was despondent.

But only for a moment, because I soon realized how ridiculous (and wrong) it was that I was so upset about not getting in the miles I'd planned. It would be okay to be disappointed about that, because it's kind of a bummer; but I felt like a failure. Not just a failure as a runner, but a failure. That was when I knew that somewhere in the last few weeks, especially since I'd started upping my mileage, running had become something I didn't want it to be -- a priority above the rest, a god, an idol. It began to define me, and I began to derive from it a sense of self-efficacy that should only come from an identity sure in the Lord.

I sat down on a bench, regrouped and prayed, and continued on. I was still feeling directionally challenged, but I was able to pick up my speed a bit. I thought I might be able to make it the full miles I'd intended, but then I realized that the point of my miserable run's lesson was that my greatest discipline and obedience be rightly placed, not misplaced toward running. I'm not to be mastered by running, because in the end it's just another thing that I do.

So, I stopped. And tomorrow, with my priorities better placed, I will finish the mileage.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Day 75 - Pilates

For the longest time, I have stereotyped Yoga and Pilates instructors as flexible people who meditate but could be snapped in half if pushed too hard. I know instructors like this exist, and they may even be the majority, but my Pilates instructor is not one of them. Despite the huge pile of dreadlocks that sits atop her head and the hippe-esque jewelry she wears, she's a rough-tough-cream-puff. I mean, seriously, the woman could probably dropkick Chuck Norris.

Today's class was my first Pilates class ever, and I had no idea what to expect. In fact, I may have even asked my friend what the difference between Pilates and Yoga was. Now I know. I enjoyed the exercises for the most part, though it definitely would have helped to be more familiar with the positions and transitions. I suppose that comes with time. I was overzealous with my weights. Silly me; I know I have zero upper-body strength. That made some of the positions very challenging, but I felt really good otherwise. I think this could be a great way to strengthen and build my core, which is pretty pitiful at this point.

I kept thinking, "If I could only be doing all of these things with my legs, then I'd be good to go." Alas. I was relieved that we focused on upper body. On the offhand chance that I'm sore tomorrow, I'd rather it be up there than in my legs, which need to carry me 20 miles tomorrow.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Day 74 - Recovery Food, Not Fuel

Today's scheduled run: 5 miles

Today's completed run: 3 miles
Pace: 9:07 avg, on the treadmill

This is my third post in a row about food. It would be cool if I was a nutritionist or dietician and actually knew what I was talking about. Instead, I come to you only with my own empirical research, both good and bad. Yesterday, you may recall, was a day of good fueling and, consequently, excellent running. Today started off as a good fueling day, until some friends invited me for Mexican food after class. I knew it was a bad choice, but I literally cannot say no to Mexican food. (Well, that's obviously an exaggeration. The truth is, I choose to never say no to Mexican food and friends.)

Anyway, the nachos were just a bit too much to take with me for five miles tonight. In addition to stuffing my face, I had to hit up the treadmill because it was dark and raining by the time I was ready to run. I really despise the treadmill, so on top of feeling very full, my run was less than stellar, because I couldn't get out of my own head.

I'm doing Pilates with a friend tomorrow, as well as going with her to pick out her first legitimate pair of running shoes, i.e. shoes that she is fitted for by people who know what they are talking about. This is exciting! Then, Saturday holds 20 miles for me -- let's hope they aren't 20 burrito-laden miles. I promise I won't eat Mexican food until I finish.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Day 73 - Goodbye, Slump; Hello, Power

Today's scheduled run: 8 miles

Today's completed run: 8 miles
Pace: 8:25 avg

There are several important things you need to know I need to remember about today's run:
1. It rocked.
2. I wore shorts. In January.
3. I hit a personal record (PR) for my mile time - 7:41 min. And I did it on mile 7.
4. I ate well all day leading up to the run.
5. I got enough sleep last night.
6. Matt Chandler's sermons on Ecclesiastes continue to rock and challenge me to think deeply. I listened to the second one today.

Numbers 2, 4, and 5 are a magical combination of wonderfulness (yup) that lead to numbers 1 and 3. First of all, running in shorts today made me realize that I may have been overdressing. Suiting up for winter runs is hard for me, because I spend most of winter being extremely cold. My internal thermostat is wonky; I wear leggings under my pants as soon as it gets to be 45 or below. This constant coldness likely has been leading me to wear too much while running for fear of being cold. Today, it was 48 degrees - the temperature where I never know what to wear. But it wasn't windy, so I went with shorts; and it was the best decision, as I kept a wonderful body temperature the whole time.

As for numbers 4 and 5, I know what you're thinking -- Duh! And you're right; these things are obvious to most people. If you eat well and sleep enough, your performance will improve. For some reason, I'm still learning this.

Number 1 is most important because, as of yesterday, I felt like I was in or heading into a slump. Apparently, I just needed some sleep and some fuel. As for number 3, well, it's just exciting. I've really enjoyed improving as a runner this year, but I don't have aspirations of being ridiculously fast. I don't have the body type (i.e., long legs) that runners who were clearly born to run possess. I'm okay with this; I run for distance, not for speed. Still, it's exciting to run a sub-8:00 mile, on mile 7 of 8, no less.

I needed today's run to propel me forward in training. We all have days where the run is miserable, but the days where the run is amazing significantly outweigh those. A run like today will carry me through several miserable runs in the future. (Please remind me of that after Saturday's 20-miler.)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Day 72 - Gotta Feed the Machine

Today's scheduled run: 5 miles

Today's completed run: 5 miles
Pace: 8:24 avg

I tried something new today: running during the two hour break between my classes. I have class from 9-12 and 2-5 on Tuesdays, and all last semester I struggled with knowing what to do with that in-between. It's just enough time and yet not enough. Because I couldn't drag myself out of bed to get my miles in before class this morning, and I knew I wouldn't have time between my second class and small group, I ran during the two hour break. This was a good idea and the weather was wonderful, but there were a few problems.

Even though campus is only a 10 minute walk from my house, the two-hour window wasn't enough time to walk home, gear up, run, cool down, stretch properly, shower, eat, and then leave for another class. I did everything in urgency mode, except for the run, which suffered because I was SO hungry. This is normally my lunch hour, after all. You know... the hour where I eat. So, push comes to shove I can use this window, but I don't plan on making a habit of it.

I did start listening to a new sermon series today on Ecclesiastes out of a church in Dallas -- The Village Church. I know that doesn't seem like a great topic to run to, seeing as the book essentially proclaims that everything under the sun is the same and meaningless; but the first sermon was great, and I expect the others will be, too. The pastor is witty but also drives his points home well and with much wisdom. I'm sure I look goofy chuckling while running, but I'm okay with that. It's nice to be stimulating my brain and heart and thinking about important things rather than just listening to bad pop music.

I'm already thinking about this weekend's 20-miler, and I'm getting nervous. People told me to find a training partner for long runs, but no one wanted to join me in running the marathon, so I've gone without. I am a total extrovert; I can only stand being with myself for about an hour before I get a little weird. I guess I'll make several of those sermons my running partners that day...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Day 71 - Impromptu Hiatus

I realized just a few minutes ago that the last three days were void of any real exercise. This was somewhat accidental. After running my long run on Friday, I expected to do a short recovery run on Saturday and normal cross-training on Sunday, but icy/snowy weather and weekend travels prohibited both. Ironically, the three days of rest came just as my training is reaching its peak.

This week, my weekday mileage rises to the highest it will be during these 18 weeks of training. It's a 5-8-5 trio for Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday. I'll repeat it for a few weeks before I begin a sort of taper and then head into my actual taper and then... the marathon! It's approaching quickly, and now that school things are picking up again, I know the time will really begin flying soon. It'll be here before I know it; I hope I'll be ready!

Speaking of school, all of my classes have started again. This semester will undoubtedly be more challenging than last semester, which I'm looking forward to, because parts of last semester were stupidly easy. I have some great professors, and I'm getting into more specialized topics in my classes, which is so exciting.

Tonight, I left class (Industrial Social Services and Social Policy) so confident that social work is exactly what I'm supposed to be studying. This was incredibly encouraging and needed. Maybe one day I'll write a post on how social workers do so much more than work for the Department of Social Services. Until then, I'm content to tell you that this MSW is going to prepare me to do exactly what I want to do: help people do what they set out to do well. That's really what I care about.

Okay, I have 5 miles to run in the morning and I'm already feeling a little tight, so I'm off to get some good sleep. I'm looking forward to hitting the road again, even though I really wish it was summer!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Days 69 & 70 - Living Life

This weekend made a bad blogger out of me. Of course, it made a bad exerciser out of me, too, which translates to bad exercise blogger.

After Friday night's snow, I decided not to do a recovery run on Saturday. I had spent the night in DC with some friends, so I didn't have access to a gym. And, let's be honest, I'm a wimp with a complex fear of breaking my tailbone (again) in a fall. So, I decided against dodging slush and ice. Instead, we went shopping.

I spent the afternoon with a friend from college in Northern Virginia. We don't see each other too regularly, but it was so wonderful to catch up. As an aside, she's written a great post on grief and how we so often do it wrong. Our time together was blessed. Continuing with the friend theme, I spent the night with another friend in Northern Virginia. This particular friendship is one of the easiest I have ever experienced. We've known each other for less than a year, but it feels like we've known each other for a long, long time. Another blessing!

Today also allowed no time for cross-training, which was technically on the schedule. I suppose I could get on the bike and ride right now, but that just seems not very fun. I hope this isn't the start of a slump, because now is not the time in my training to be unmotivated. Anyway, I'm hoping a week of normal schedule and an upcoming weekend where I'm not traveling anywhere can get me back into the swing of things.

I suppose I did cross-train a bit today. My mom and I took my niece bowling, which worked a muscle and joint in my wrist that must not get a lot of exercise otherwise... Okay, so maybe that's not legitimate cross-training, but work with me on this.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Day 68 - The Longest Run Yet

Today's scheduled run: a rest day

Today's completed run: 18 miles
Pace: 8:58 avg

Because of a less than favorable forecast for Saturday, I moved my long run to Friday. This is the second time I've done the long run on a Friday rather than Saturday, and I must say I really enjoy it. It feels like I give myself the whole weekend as a present. It's a good thing I did, too, because we have snow on the ground here in DC where I'll be for the beginning part of the weekend (and where I'd planned to run the 18 miles). It's not much, just a covering, but it's enough to make me unhappy. I expect it will turn to a sleety, slushy mess, in which I would not want to run 18 miles. Depending on the weather, I'll consider a short recovery run, but I'm not holding my breath. I don't really like winter, in case I hadn't told you that.

I felt good for most of today's run. It's actually pretty cool to reach the double digits and feel like it was just a normal run. It's also very encouraging to hear myself think, "Ok - only five more miles." It doesn't seem like all that long ago when five miles was a Saturday long run. I have to keep reminding myself that I'm accomplishing something here. It's easy to criticize my performance by calling to mind people who are faster, better, etc.; so I have to remember that I'm training for a marathon. It's no small feat, and it's something of which I should be proud. I hope you feel the same way about your accomplishment, both fitness related and others.

I just heard a plow go by. Maybe I'll get that recovery run in after all. Until then, I'm 18-miles tired and off to bed.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Day 67 - The Many Greetings of Runners

Runners are weird. We run in spandex and compression gear and suddenly want to wear it everywhere. We count tenths and even hundredths of a mile; we measure minutes per mile, not miles per hour. We carbo-load while others do the Atkins Diet. We spend more on a pair of shoes than some people spend on their monthly utility bill. We even have our own mid-run language with which we greet other runners. I give you some of the more common runner greetings: 

The sing-song: This is the chipper runner. They may sing-song a "Hell-lo" or "Good morning" to you. Depending on where you are in your run, this will either encourage you or make you extremely angry. You will respond accordingly, with a kind reply or a grumble that disguises an "Oh, shut up."

The grimace: This runner wants to smile at you and extend a friendly greeting, but they cannot bring their face muscles to do it. Perhaps all the blood has left their face to tend to the muscles doing all the work. What they intended to come out as a smile may come out instead as a strange facial contortion, leaving you wondering if you make them want to hurl. Take heart; they would smile at you if they could. 

The nod: This person has only slightly more energy than the grimacer, meaning they are able to muster up a head nod for you. The central movement of the nod is found in the chin - it either dips down or up. For those with energy levels somewhere between the nod or grimace, you may see a slight eyebrow lift.

The wave: The wave can come in a few forms, though the most common seems to be created with a bent right elbow, palm facing toward the oncoming runner, fingers spread. Sometimes accompanied by a mild smile or nod, the wave signals your fellow runner is pretty friendly. 

The stare-straight-ahead-with-intensity: This person is pretending like they are running too intensely to see you. Unless you happen to be passing Ryan Hall while he is running an Olympic trial, it is unlikely that your fellow runner cannot see you. I don't like these people; they take the community out of running. 

The heavy-breather: This person is either half-dying as a result of extreme exertion (unlikely), or they want you to think they are working hard. Typically, their lips will form an O-shape as they push air out in order to make a noise that is as intimidating as it is unattractive. Unless they happen to be sprinting up a gigantic mountain, this noise is likely for dramatic effect only. 

The improved-form: This person will visibly straighten their back, lock their elbows into 90 degree angles, and land with a perfect mid-foot strike every time. They also will be looking straight ahead, which may mean a combination of improved form and stare-straight-ahead-with-intensity greetings. Still, this improved-form greeting could be accompanied by one of our friendlier greetings, such as the wave. 

The stare-intently-at-watch: The cause for this greeting may be multi-fold: 1) The runner is too nervous to make eye contact, 2) The runner is too intimidated by you to make eye contact, 3) The runner wants you to think they are intently pacing themselves by watching the seconds tick by, and/or 4) The runner is nearly dying from exertion and cannot wait to reach their planned running time.

Can you think of any others? What's your greeting of choice?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Day 66 - Yawn

Today's scheduled run: 8 miles

Today's completed run: 8 miles
Pace: 9:03 avg.

After yesterday's fast 5.75-miler, I think my legs were a little sleepy today. Also, even though I thought I exceeded yesterday's training mileage by .75, I actually exceeded it by 1.75, because I was only supposed to run 4 miles. I don't know where I got 5 from, though that's the schedule for next week. Alas.

I really struggled with pace today. I couldn't keep it below a 9:00 for very long. Tiredness is one plausible explanation. Along with it was the whipping cold wind (25 mph down by the water) that seemed to always be blowing as a headwind. A blessed tailwind gave me 8:58 for mile 6, but that's the best I could do. Oh well; there's always tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Day 65 - Dark and Rainy

Today's scheduled run: 5 miles

Today's completed run: 5.75 miles
Pace: 8:37 (avg)

I had to run this morning, rather than later in the day, because of a busy schedule today. I don't mind running in the morning in the summer, when the sun comes up at 6 am; but waking to run on a dark, cold, wet winter morning is not my idea of a good time. After a fervent internal debate, I got out of bed and headed out. I thought it was going to rain all day today, so I was pleased that it was just damp and cloudy, with some light rain toward the end of the run. Overall, I felt strong. I definitely came out of the gate too swiftly, running an 8:02 mile, even after slowing myself down. One day, I'm going to test myself on a mile and see if I can go sub-8:00. I think I can.

Now, I'm plum tuckered out, so I'm off to bed. One last note, though - the sun came out around noon and the afternoon was stunning. I also got out of my afternoon class early, which left me with plenty of time I could have used to run in the sun at a reasonable hour, rather than in the dark rain at an unreasonable hour. Story of my life.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Day 64 - Yoga'd, Yogad, Yogaed, or Yogaded

I'm still searching for an alternative to the verb phrase "did yoga," but for lack of a sufficient substitute, I'll just tell you that I did yoga for the first time ever today. I've been so resistant to it for so long, but I know I need to work on balance to improve my running. No, not because I fall all the time, though I did fall during the first race I ever ran back in 2006. I've read that balance, along with core strength, can really help you improve in any type of athletic performance, so I'm giving it a shot.

I plan to take a Pilates class at the gym on Fridays, but I employed a Jillian Michael's DVD for my yoga workout today. I knew I could count on Jillian (yes, we're on a first-name basis) to get right to the exercises and steer clear of the meditation/"spiritual" sides of yoga. That's just what she did. At one point, she said some silly yoga term like "melt your heart into the floor," or something, and then laughed, saying, "Or, in plain English like the rest of us speak, stretch as far as you can." I appreciate that.

I have done her workouts before and always leave feeling challenged and encouraged by her. She's fun but also no non-sense. We'd definitely be friends in real life, but first I have to get some muscle so I could feel not-so-shrimpy next to her.

A few more times of doing it and I think I'll feel a bit more comfortable with the positions and transitions. Overall, I'd say it was a success, particularly because I know I worked muscles I don't typically use while running. I like this idea of using my own body weight for resistance, too. I look forward to reporting back about my first-ever Pilates class on Friday, too.

On an unrelated note, check out this drawing my step-mom sent me:
Family portrait
This is a portrait of our family that she drew with one of her clients. Can you guess which one is me? Haha! Love it. If I had Facebook, this would definitely be my profile picture.

Day 63 - The Day I Loved Life

That title is a bit of a misnomer, as I love life on most days. Still, today was really a day where I was so happy to be alive, in Baltimore, knowing the people that I know.

My morning included some putzing (what a great word) around the house before church. Church was phenomenal. I'm so thankful for the community I've found there and the way the Lord is working. One time, I will tell you about it; but 12:40 am is not that time. Post-church, a handful of us headed over to Fells Point to eat at Tortilleria Sinaloa. I'd never been there before, but I will definitely be going back. It's totally legit, and I loved it.

By the time I stopped by the grocery store and then came home, I only had a short time to get some sort of cross-training in, so I got in 5 miles on the trainer. Not really a big deal, but it was something.

A friend from the DC-area arrived around 5:30 and after chatting we drove over to Fells Point to revisit Tortilleria Sinaloa. Yes, it was so good that I would eat there twice in one day. Much to my disappointment, it was closed. We didn't see anything else in Fells Point that caught our attention, so we headed over to Harbor East and stumbled upon Talara, where we feasted like kings on some amazing food. It was so good, in fact, that we ordered a second round of one of the dishes we got. So, if you live anywhere near Baltimore and you like to eat, I'd definitely recommend both of these places.

In short: awesome day, awesome people, awesome eating.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Day 62 - Don't Eat the Chocolate Lava Cake

Today's scheduled run: rest day

Today's completed run: 12.18 miles
Pace: 8:52 (avg.)

Technically, I was supposed to race a half-marathon tomorrow, according to my training plan; but I couldn't find any in the Baltimore/DC area. Plus, I wasn't really in the mood to cough up a bunch of money for another race. At least not right now. So, I planned to shift the 13.1 to a normal long-run-Saturday and make attempts to do it at a race pace.

I succeeded for the first 7 miles, but then everything fell apart. Well, that's how it felt; nothing really fell apart. However, my lower digestive system went on strike (TMI?), with no bathroom in sight. It is ill-advised in any city to knock on a random door to use a stranger's bathroom, so I wasn't about to do that. Unfortunately, my chosen route didn't really provide me with a viable option, so I stuck it out until 1 mile to go, at which point I had to stop for fear of internal combustion.

That's a bit of a disappointment, but my splits show a pretty good run, despite exploding insides. Still, I was a little bummed out when I got home. I kept wondering what I ate that affected me so poorly. I think it was the chocolate lava cake from Trader Joe's. Then I kept thinking, surely I could have just toughed it out and finished the mile. Yeah, maybe if I'd wanted to ruin my new fleece-lined running tights. (TMI again, sorry!)

Somewhere in the initial stages of my wallowing, I saw this tweet from Josh Cox, who ran in Houston today but didn't make it to the Olympic team. (Still, wicked fast and an amazing run.) The quote -- "How you think when you lose determines how long it will be until you win.” -GK Chesterton

Next weekend, I'm going to kill an 18-miler.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Day 61 - Resting

Today: a rest day, from exercise and life.

I did some therapeutic shopping and cleaning. Now, I will sleep. Tomorrow: 13.1 miles.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Day 60 - Old Faithful

Today's scheduled run: 4 miles

Today's completed run: 4 miles (or 3.9998, if you consult Garmin's non-rounded- number)
Pace: 8:24 (avg)

I felt really strong today. Helping me along was the little guy on the left. In case you are actually technologically advanced and are unfamiliar with this small white thing, that is an original iPod Shuffle. Released January 11, 2005, this baby was all the rage when I got it, which I think was shortly after it's release date. I even have an armband made just for it. I guess if I was really cool I would have used the lanyard attachment that came with it, but I can only handle so much cool at once.

My family in NC returned the shuffle to me while I was home for Christmas, informing me that it no longer worked. I was skeptical. This is an Apple product after all; they don't break... ever. (Except for that one iPod touch I have that's only ever given me trouble, but that's not the point.) Anyway, back to the point - I occasionally enjoy running with music, and I've very much appreciated it during these last few runs, which I fear would have been sluggish and boring otherwise. However, I really hate running with my iPhone - it feels so big, and it doesn't ever seem to sit on my arm properly. Enter: Gen. 1 iPod Shuffle, which I was certain would work despite my family's statements that it is dead. Needless to say, I was right; and this little stick of an iPod has made the perfect running companion for me.

I'm all about technological advances. I love my iPhone, and I love my MacBook Pro; but I can honestly say that Old Faithful has carried the day better than the iPhone for running. I guess it's carried the day better than my MacBook, too. Could you imagine me trying to run with that?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Day 59 - Erratic Pacing

Today's scheduled run: 7 miles

Today's completed run: 7 miles
Pace: 8:55 (avg.) with splits ranging from 9:07 (slowest, mile 1) to 8:34 (fastest, mile 7)

I successfully yet inadvertently completed a negative split, the term used when the second half of your run is faster than the first. I would like to know myself well enough as a runner to be able to know that my paces are that erratic. I think the Garmin will help me in this area, because I can see instantly what my pace is and know how I feel. Strangely, though, the first two miles, which were moderately-paced, felt torturous, while the last 3, which were quickly-paced, felt awesome. I think it was just a weird running day. It was also cloudy and rainy and almost dark. Still, the miles are done.

I've been having some weird Rocky Balboa moments while running around Baltimore. I suppose the city and Philly are somewhat similar in appearance depending on where you are, i.e. more industrial, a lot of row homes, narrow streets, etc. Every now and then, particularly around train tracks, I imagine myself also climbing the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and throwing a few punches. Depending on where I am and how I'm feeling, I might throw the punches mid-run anyway, just for kicks. Or punches. This is especially prone to happen if "Eye of the Tiger" is playing. (The '90s were too cool for school.)

I do often find myself running through Little Italy, just like Rocky. However, no one has ever started cheering for me or high-fiving mid-run. Then again, I also don't hurdle benches. And the whole city of Baltimore doesn't run after me with encouraging shouts. But those are just a few minor differences between us.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Day 58 - Getting Out the Door

Today's scheduled run: 4 miles

Today's completed run: 4 miles
Pace: 8:36, 8:29, 8:15, and 8:32 (Thanks, Garmin, for making me a numbers girl)

Megan is right - most of the battle is found in getting your shoes on and getting out the door. That could explain why it took me over an hour to get out of my house for this run.

I confess, it was pretty cool to run with my new Garmin Forerunner 405. I didn't worry about planning a route; I simply chose a direction and headed out. It was also helpful to watch my pace change and learn just a teensy bit about how I control that. Obviously I knew that I was controlling my pace, but I'm so bad about knowing whether I'm going fast or slow. I had a great run today, which was very encouraging given Sunday's yucktastic ick.

I also had some really sweet moments at field placement today, including a gigantic hug from a beautiful little first-grader and some laughs from a sixth-grader as she tried to incorporate my last name into a rap. Yup. I really enjoyed being a school social worker today.

In running/fitness related news, I finally got my act together and "joined" Operation Hardcore Fit, which was started by Megan over at Watch Me Go Run. I expect it will be fun to see other people meeting their goals, even as I hope to meet mine. Ah, the camaraderie of pain... I mean, success.

And finally, in completely unrelated, uninteresting and mundane news: currently, there are zero e-mails in my inbox. I sat down tonight with great focus to clean it out and I exceeded my own expectations. I normally try to keep it under 15, but I've been hovering around 25 for the past week now, including some that desperately needed responding. It's a relief. I know that those of you who keep hundreds or thousands of e-mails in your inbox at all times are shaking your heads right now, wondering what kind of weirdo I am, but I can't help it. I'm a minimalist when it comes to my inbox.

Goodnight, friends.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Day 57 - New Furniture

Today was a rest day, but not really, because it was my first day back at my internship, which meant the day was actually pretty crazy. How I wish I could tell you the stories... Alas, I cannot.

I can show you the piece of furniture I got today for my sitting room.
The Bianchi
After I raved about my time on the trainer while I was in NC for break, my dad offered to bring it up to Baltimore for me. I'm definitely looking forward to using it, though for tomorrow it's back to running.

Until then...

Day 56 - Trials

Today's scheduled run: cross-training

Today's completed run: 2.5 miles
Pace: 9:something (yes, I used my new Garmin, but I'm too tired to get up and read the actual pace)

I moved like a sloth this morning. I thought I might try and get four miles in, but I felt as though I was running through quicksand. Obviously, I don't know precisely what that feels like, but I can theorize. There are several contributing factors: going to bed at 2 am and waking at 8 am, not eating before leaving the house, and the emotionally exhausting trial through which I am currently walking.

Saturday morning brought with it a significant life change unrelated to running or baldness. I'm not trying to be over-dramatic or secretive by not telling you what it is; I'm trying to find a balance of sharing with you that I'm going through something really hard while not unsafely baring my soul. The point is: this is a season of trial and discomfort and growth with regard to interpersonal relationships. I am praying for great fruit to come of it.

Thankfully, in just 24 hours, I have seen some of that fruit in the form of a rallying community. I tweeted this earlier today: "We cannot walk the road of trial alone. Find someone to walk with you, or accompany someone on their journey." Even yesterday, I was blessed by two times of relaxation and conversation with two different friends. Today, as I looked into a lonely afternoon, I was prompted to reach out to exactly the right people. I was blessed by not one but two church homes - New Song in Baltimore and Grace DC in DC.

There is grieving and lamenting to be done, lessons to be learned, more mistakes to make, more grace to receive, and more fruit to bear; but this is a start. And I will take a start.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Day 55 - Book Review (1)

"The Nonrunner's Marathon Guide for Women: Get Off Your Butt and on with Your Training" by Dawn Dais

My little brother got me this book for Christmas, which was very sweet and thoughtful of him. Despite my distaste for the word "nonrunner," because I believe anyone who runs is a runner, I was excited to read it. From the way it's written, it seems as though Dais went from no running to marathoner, which is pretty impressive.

She writes with loads of wit and levity, which I so appreciate and need as I get further into my training. It's easy to take training too seriously and to get bogged down by pace and mileage, but that really takes the fun out of it. Competition with yourself can be good, but not when it's extreme.

Another thing I appreciated about Dais' writing was the frequent acknowledgment that running a marathon is a huge accomplishment. Moreover, she emphasized that training itself is a huge accomplishment. It may be that the training itself is a greater accomplishment than the actual running of the race. You dedicate four months to training for something, which basically takes over your life - that's a pretty big commitment and lesson in discipline. I appreciated that encouragement from her.

I'd recommend this book for new and old runners, alike. It's good for new runners because it doesn't use all of the big words and terms that experienced runners use. Dais is very good about explaining terms she uses. As for experienced runners, it's good for them as a reminder to not take themselves so seriously. We can all use that lesson.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Day 54 - A Date with 16 Miles

Today's scheduled run: 0 miles (technically a rest day)

Today's completed run: 16.06 miles (the long run technically scheduled for tomorrow)
Pace: 8:55 (avg.)

I'm so excited about this run, for obvious reasons. I had the chance to explore new neighborhoods on this run, which is great. Baltimore isn't a gigantic city, and there are places you don't want to run, so mapping out 16 miles is no small task. Still, if your only reference for Baltimore is The Wire, I'm sorry. All of the things you see on that show do happen here, as well as in most other cities, but Baltimore has so much more to offer and enjoy than drug deals and homicides. What I love about running here is that there's always something to look at, which keeps it exciting and keeps my mind off the fact that I can no longer feel my legs. I also love that most people say hello to one another.

My run took me through downtown and out towards a fairly well-known park in the city (Patterson Park), which is just a few blocks southeast of Johns Hopkins Hospital. I'm pretty sure you've heard of that, no matter where you're from. I ran halfway around the park and headed south toward the water, ran a fairly long route along the water, and headed out to Ft. McHenry. I made the loop at the Fort and then headed home, past Ravens stadium. It was such a perfect day weatherwise, and I was glad to be out running and enjoying it. I also used my Nike hydration belt for the first time, which was great. In the past, I have run with a CamelBak, but for such a long run, it was nice to have water and Powerade available. I also felt a little more legit, which counts for something.

As I left this morning, I discovered that my Garmin 405 had been delivered, making me feel even more legit. However, I wasn't able to use it because I needed to get out the door, and it ships without a charge. I might take it for a short spin tomorrow morning, but that depends on whether I can get out of bed or not. Either way, I'm very excited to use it, whenever that happens. As an added bonus, it's green, which is a fun color. I can't really wear green, because it clashes with my complexion and makes me look ill; so I enjoy having accessories in green. I know you were wondering.

I'm already in bed, enjoying my heated mattress pad, which I've been thinking about all day. So, until tomorrow...

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Day 53 - 25 for 25

Today's scheduled run: 4 miles

Today's completed run: 0 miles

Because of some plans I have for this weekend, I'm switching up my schedule a bit and resting today in preparation for a long run (16 miles) tomorrow. Zoinks. I can't think about 16 miles too much, or else I start to worry.

Yesterday I mentioned beginning a 25-for-25 list, i.e. 25 things I'd like to do during 2012, the year I turn 25. I wanted these to be measurable, and most of them are, though some sort of lack specific counts. I give you, the list:

1. Run a marathon.
2. Run 1,000 miles this year.
3. Read 25 books.
4. Re-read all seven books of The Chronicles of Narnia (These won't count toward the 25.)
5. Host at least two people per month for lunch or dinner.
6. Take at least 30 minutes per month to pick a new spot to take pictures.
7. Make creme brulee from scratch
8. Do something/anything with the garden patch dirt pit in my backyard.
9. Go to a baseball game
10. Go to the beach
11. Go to New York City
12. Shoot trap or skeet at a range
13. Go to the Baltimore Museum of Art
14. Jump out of a perfectly good airplane (aka skydive)
15. Learn how to speed read
16. Do 25 push-ups... the real ones
17. Intentionally address people by their name more often
18. Mail at least four letters each month
19. Rent or borrow an awesome car (convertible, etc.) and drive around for a few hours
20. Listen to a new music artist every week
21. Complete five iTunesU courses
22. Wake up (or stay up) to watch a meteor shower
23. Take a road trip, short or long, with a friend(s)
24. Get my nose pierced
25. Eat (and enjoy a choice beverage) at The Abbey Burger Bistro in Federal Hill, Baltimore

Want to join me for any of these? I'm always looking for friends. :)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Day 52 - Frozen Skin

Today's scheduled run: 7 miles

Today's completed run: 7.06 miles, because I took a wrong turn
Pace: 8:48 (avg.)

It was about 30 degrees when I set out today, which is colder than I'm normally willing to run in. Still, I couldn't bear the thought of 7 miles on the treadmill. The top of me was well covered - a skull cap, hat and hood to cover the head, a Nike cold weather shirt and sweatshirt for the core, and running gloves. The bottom of me, on the other hand, was not so well provided for. I was at a loss for what to wear, so I went with what I had - running tights. They are great tights, but I think I need a thicker pair (or maybe two at once?) for days like today. Upon arriving home, I had that obnoxious itch and redness all over my legs. I've always wondered why that happens, so I took to Google. Did you know that your skin can actually freeze? Or that you can be allergic to the cold? So interesting!

Post-run, I had the pleasure of dinner and a movie with a friend from school. Also included in there were some red velvet cupcakes. We watched True Grit, which is one of the best recently released films, in my opinion. Thank you, Coen brothers, for another incredible movie with lines: from, "I do not entertain hypotheticals. The world itself is vexing enough." -Col. Stonehill; to, "Ground's too hard. Them men wanted a decent burial, they should have got themselves killed in summer." - Rooster Cogburn

I also did some thinking today about the coming year. I'm not one for resolutions, and the idea of a bucket list doesn't quite appeal to me for some reason, but I'm beginning to entertain the idea of a 25-for-25 list. This year, on July 14, I will turn 25. I suppose a real 25-for-25 list would begin then and carry-on until July 14, 2013; but I don't like to do things conventionally. So, I'm going to make a list of 25 things I want to do this year (2012), the year I turn 25. More on this once I've completed the list. Who knows? Maybe I'll do this until I turn 85, and then I'll have to devise a list of 85 things to do... from my wheelchair.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Day 51 - Road Trippin'

Today's scheduled run: 4 miles

Today's completed run: 4 miles
Pace: 8:59 (avg.)

I squeaked out that sub-9:00 pace tonight, and it was a struggle. I think that may have been because I sat in a car all day driving back from NC with my dad. That might be an excuse, but I think it's a good one. :) We had a funny drive back, because we are hilarious; but you might only agree with that after hour three of eight.

80's night
Also funny are the treasures I found while sorting through a bunch of stuff at the house in North Carolina. These included many artifacts from high school and earlier.
So many questions...

Grossest find: my hospital bracelet from when I had stitches in my chin after a bike accident at age 9... with the stitches themselves! Yes, wrapped in gauze were the actual stitches. SO.GROSS.

Weirdest find: there are too many to name.

Memory lane finds: lots of books and stuffed animals, trophies from sports, notes from friends, a few college term papers, and pictures, of course.

On the left: an 80's night with some youth group girls in high school. So much makeup! | On the right: me, with EmG - I have no idea where we are, why there is a giant inflatable ice cream cone, or what I was thinking with the Princess Leia buns. I promise to not do those again if my hair grows back!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Day 50 - The View from Here

Pre-sunset, Ashe County, NC

Back to Baltimore in the morning. I'm looking forward to some city runs, trails around Ft. McHenry, dodging traffic and walking most places. Until then...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Day 49 - Hello, 2012

On today's schedule was a bit of cross-training. I came close to trail run, but wind and rain drove me inside, so my dad (cyclist extraordinaire) set up the trainer in the basement for me. I got in 15.9 miles in an hour. It was so nice to be on a real bike, not a silly stationary bike at the gym. Even though the real bike was on the trainer, thereby rendering it stationary, it just felt different. It was a satisfying ride and a nice way to usher in 2012, in terms of work-outs.

Following my little jaunt on the bike and dinner, I headed to the attic to sort through bins full of things, things from high school and college. Gasp! It was funny to look at CDs (what are those, anyway?) and pictures and even some term papers. All the memories came rushing back, which was mostly hilarious.