Saturday, September 29, 2012

Working Through Self-Doubt

This week was one of potential setbacks and self-doubts. After my last post, we had a rest day. It also happened to be Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement. This high holy day is observed by fasting from sundown to sundown. After dinner Tuesday (my last meal for 24 hours), I went to the gym for weight-training. Needless to say, I spent Wednesday weak, grumpy, tired, and dehydrated. But I ate dinner Wednesday night and planned to run Thursday as scheduled.

I didn't necessarily feel weak Thursday, but once more I just couldn't get a handle on my run. My stride and pace seemed off and my breathing wasn't smooth. I had planned 4.5 miles (three times around the outdoor mall we ran on Tuesday), but stopped at three, and hardly shambled through another half mile after a ridiculously long walk break (during which K finished the loop a third time). I left the run discouraged and upset. Was the run bad because the route bored me, or was I still recovering from Yom Kippur? Or, worse yet, was my body over-taxed and suddenly regressing? Would this inability to even complete a normal run continue?

In the past, issues like this have led me to take time off, which of course leads to a long hiatus...really, it leads to quitting. I turned to the Sub-30 Club on facebook, which is comprised of other runners of all levels who struggle with completing a 5k under thirty minutes. The members of the group are so helpful and non-judgmental, and they offered all kinds of great advice. (Honestly, just being able to rant about my disappointment in my performance seemed to help!) I decided to suck it up and go back to a tried-and-true route to boost my confidence before our long-run Saturday. Also, I wore my headphones so that K could pull ahead of me and run her own pace, and I would have my music to keep me company.

This worked really well for me. We ran a route I like, and I was able to complete the full 4.5 miles without a walk break. My pace was much slower because I was being more true to myself, but of course the downside here was that K enjoyed the run less and didn't get to run as a fast as she wanted the entire time, either.

(We are working on finding new routes to combat boredom and motivate both of us equally; I wish more streets where we live were well-lit and had wide sidewalks!)

Today we had our long-run, and it went very well. We kept the pace around 10:30, although we took the first mile or two a bit fast and ended up slowing down a bit in the end. We did a little over 7 miles. Friday's run helped improve my confidence again, and I'm feeling ready to conquer next week.

Today after the long-run, K's family, M and I had breakfast together, and then M and I went kayaking. I am horribly terrified of manatees, but luckily none were out today. The bad part of the day was that I had exerted myself so much in the morning - and without a nap in between - that I ended up exhausted. M had to trail me behind him some of the way back! But we stopped at a nice inlet and took a break in the water, and when we finally got home I took a long, indulgent nap.

Overall, a nice Saturday. And as for this week...I still got in my 20 miles, so even those two rough runs in the middle of the week ended up showing me that I'm at a point in training where I can have a few bad days and still bounce back.


PS: Our 5k on the 6th is on a golf course...more than half of the race is on grass. I HATE running on grass! I always lose my footing. It will be a nice run to train on, but now I'm thinking this may not be the time to test my sub-30 potential.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Weird Run

Last Friday when I posted that K and I "only" ran 3.5 to rest up for our long run, a running friend of mine pointed out that, not too long ago, 3.5 miles wasn't a short, easy run for me. It's awesome to go back and see how far I've come in such a short amount of time.

This morning's run was interesting. We ran a new route along the perimeter of an outdoor mall in our area. Because it's a bit farther away and I hadn't factored drive-time into the morning, we decided to do just three miles. It was nice and cool out, and we took off at a fast clip. The perimeter ended up being just under 1.5 miles, and we kept our fast pace up into the second mile. I began to feel I was lagging behind, though, especially as K began to pull far ahead of me.

What's funny about running with a partner who can out-pace you so easily is that, unlike in a race, you don't necessarily have an idea of how fast you're going compared to anyone else. There's only one person to compare your pace to...and if you're me, you sometimes forget that K can run a sub-9 without really meaning to. So, I saw K pulling ahead and assumed I was slowing down. I felt tired and couldn't seem to keep a good breathing rhythm, so I tried to let up the pace a bit for about a quarter mile, then ran the end full out (by which time, K had already finished and was waiting for me).

K told me to check my splits; she was sure I'd gone faster than I thought. Sure enough, I kept each mile well under 10 minutes, and saw negative splits in mile 2. I finished the three miles in about 28 minutes; with a 5k coming up soon, I hope this bodes well for race day.

So, like I said, today's run was interesting. I felt tired and slow, I didn't particularly like the route, and toward the end I was thinking to myself, just get through it, which is the true sign of a bad run. But, as it turned out, I ended up with a very successful run. I guess that means that sometimes even a bad run can be a good one.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Weekly Report: Sept. 17 - Sept. 23

Nothing really tops this feeling of total satisfaction and awe at such a successful week. Adding just one long run to the week drastically increased my weekly mileage by about 50%. Here I was, struggling to hit 10 miles a week and over-the-moon when I started logging 12 or 14 miles a week. And here we've got an easy 19+!

I'm feeling confident, but I need to make sure to stay on track. I was too exhausted today to run, and considering that we did our 70-minute long run yesterday, taking today off seemed like a fine choice. But I don't want to fall into complacency; training continues...we're nearly halfway there!


Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Long Run

I am feeling hyped up, excited, strong, and unstoppable today. Why? Because K and I had our first long run of training, and it was fantastic.

I had been nervous leading up to this run. The idea of upping our run from a 4-miler to 65 minutes was daunting. All I could think was that at the end of a 40 minute run, I feel wiped; how would I ever run 65 minutes?

But providence must have smiled on us today. We met at K's house at 6am and the weather was cool and dry. We kept the pace slow and steady, although I think both of us felt so strong in the first mile that we wanted to bolt. But we needed to keep the pace slow so we wouldn't burn out early on.

I had mapped out the route yesterday, basically creating a mash-up of routes we take anyway, but with the added benefit of our turning point being at a park. Water fountains! By the time we'd  hit 4-miles (our usual stopping point),  we were already on the way back. I think this did wonders for my mental state. It doesn't seem so bad adding another two or three miles if you're already on your way home.

By the time we got to our main turn, with 1.25 miles to go, I knew we were on our way to a super successful, strong, empowering run.

We finished in 70 minutes, having run around 6.8 miles. We kept the pace really steady and even saw some negative splits. I didn't feel winded or tired until we stopped. I had some twinges on the inside of my left knee, but around mile 5 those faded.

This run has boosted my confidence. Even though it wasn't fast, we didn't take any walk breaks. (We stopped for water but then went right back into the run.) I now know that I can complete this distance for our 10k in late October. I know that if we wanted to up our weekday mileage to 4.5 or 5 this week, we can do that. I know that I am halfway to the Half, and it feels great.

This is the first time I've run over four miles for training purposes. My last "10k" was part of the Half in 2011; I've never done this mileage as a stand-alone run. And now that I have, I feel braver and stronger than ever.

I am ready to get my game face on and go to the races!

One last thing before I sign off for today. I've had a few running friends who are struggling with feeling motivated in the past couple weeks. Sometimes the problem is a boredom you don't 't know you feel (like I mentioned in my last entry). Here is some advice for reigniting your motivation:
  1. If you signed up for a race before your motivation took a dive, remember that you need to stay on top of that training so as not to injure (or embarrass) yourself. If you haven't, find a race and sign up pronto! Having a tangible goal is extremely motivating.
  2. Change up your runs. Add tempo runs, go outside if you usually run on the treadmill, or find some new paths (even if it means driving to your starting point). Also, setting a new distance or pace goal can be very helpful.
  3. Add some new music to your running playlist and shuffle up the songs. If you don't have "Call Me Maybe" or "Gangnam Style" on your playlists yet, you're slacking! It's amazing what new songs - or even a new order to your songs - can do.
  4. Go buy new running shorts or bras, especially ones in fun colors - new accessories always make me want to run. This doesn't have to be pricey. My new favorite running shorts were $16 at TJ Maxx. Outlet malls have great deals on name brands, too, if you're picky about that.
  5. Pencil the run into your schedule so you HAVE to go. Also, make a friend go with you so you're held accountable. If you have no friends that run in your area, enlist a friend to text you daily to ask if you've run. (I highly recommend finding running groups in your area via Facebook or; running buddies are the best.)
  6. Go on and read some articles. I especially love the portraits they write on celebrity runners, but there are tons of options to choose from. The blog at is really awesome. Check out Olympic race videos on Youtube. I find that reading about or seeing others struggle/overcome/succeed is one of the best motivators. Soon, you'll be feeling the urge to get out there yourself!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Personal Victories

In the summer of 2011, after taking a long break from running, I hit a personal milestone. I began running 4-milers.

Four miles doesn’t seem like much. After all, I’d run a Half that January. What’s four miles? But there was something special in those runs. For whatever reason, K and I weren’t running together a lot that summer, although we were still updating each other frequently on our logged miles. I think it had something to do with my ITB injury post-Half. But I finally rejoined the running world, and was running about three miles every-other-day, and she upped her distance to four.

I wondered if I could do that. At the time, I was running a path that had gotten stale. I had a horrendous mental hang-up associated with this route, and no matter how many times I ran it, I couldn’t get well over two miles before I needed a break. The path was a straight out-and-back, from my driveway, up the street, out to the main road, turn around at the corner intersection and come back. The particular corner is a bit of a sharp turn, and there’s enough brush there to block your view of the main road if you don’t continue all the way to the curb or turn the corner completely.

One day, spurred on by K’s increased mileage, I turned the corner. Where we live, the sidewalk corners at big intersections are covered in yellow plastic, signifying a crosswalk and stoplight. Usually, I’d get a foot on that yellow mat, pivot, and turn around to go home. But there I was, faced with the corner, the stoplight, a turn, and I went forward.

Down the road I continued, and as I ran, I felt a weight lift from my mind. Here was a new, unbeaten path. Here was freedom. Here was unchartered territory, a wide sidewalk that stretched for miles, all there for me to claim should I feel ready to claim it.

I hadn’t yet discovered mapping a run, driving to the starting point, and going from there, so I’d grown bored with my start-at-home-run-straight-out-run-straight-back existence. I didn’t really know I was bored, of course. All I knew was that the run seemed sluggish, boring, and weirdly difficult for such an easy distance/pace. But when I turned the corner and saw beyond the hedges all that wide open sidewalk, I knew I’d discovered something. The brain-shackles fell off and the lightbulb went on.

The first time I ran four miles, I had to walk. But soon I was running four miles under forty minutes, running even the last two-tenths that put me over my goal distance because I knew I could do it. Running 4.1 and 4.25 and onward.

Four miles doesn’t seem like a far run, but this was the first distance I had ever really run on my own, for fun. (Before I ran the Half, the farthest I had ever run was a 5k. That’s including “training”. Remember how I said I didn’t train for that?)  It was the first time I realized I really could go farther, and that there was no limit because my body is an amazing machine that will adapt, progress, adjust, and grow strong.

This fall, as K and I hit four miles for our training for the Half in November, the running is for a different purpose. We are actually sticking to a training plan. Our route takes us down the street where I originally added the distance, and I sometimes I can hardly believe that it used to be so difficult to take that one extra step onto a new road.

Looking forward to this weekend and our first official long run of training, I feel a little daunted. The first step to an increased distance is always humbling. But I know, thinking about the pride and awe I felt when I ran a 4-miler for the first time, that the struggle will be worth it, and in the end I’ll have faced and conquered yet another obstacle, another fear, and will have come out victorious.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Weekly Report: Sept. 10 - Sept. 16

Only three runs this week, but like I explained in my last post, it was a week of rest that was apparently much-needed and appreciated. This week will be a stronger training week.

Upcoming races include a 5k on 10/6, and then a 10k and 8k in October as well. A race-heavy month always makes training a little more fun.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Light Week

This week ended up being an unplanned rest week of sorts. K and I ran Monday morning, the first of a week of 4-milers. The run went well, and if not for the insistent humidity of Florida (it's September already, cut it out!), I think we wouldn't have needed the short walk break we took. Still, the plan was to run Monday and Tuesday with a walk break, take Wednesday off, then run Thursday and Friday without breaks.

I woke up an hour before my alarm Tuesday, covered in sweat and suffering from sharp stomach pangs. My first thought was food poisoning of some sort, and I texted K that I was too sick to run. By 6:00am, when I got up for work, my symptoms were gone. Still, I figured we'd run Wednesday through Friday and just use Tuesday as our day off.

The week ended up being one of those where, for some reason, I just couldn't get a handle on my exhaustion. Part of this was that I wasn't running, and running gives me the energy I need for the day. But we also had benchmark testing in school, so I had no planning periods for two days. "Planning", for you non-teachers, is 45 minutes allotted time for paperwork, calling parents, putting in grades, collaborating with fellow teachers/writing lesson plans, making copies, having a snack (lunch is at 12:50 for me, and breakfast is at do the math), using the bathroom, and taking a mental break between blocks. Without planning, I'm going straight through the day from 8:00 - when students first arrive - til 3:00, with a 27-minute lunch in the middle.

I was at school late every day catching up on the things I couldn't do during my non-existent planning time, so by the time I got home I was just done. On K's end, she had a sick baby and all the difficulties that come with that. So really, we were both okay with missing some running days. Neither of us asked the other if we'd be up for a run in the morning. We just let the days off happen.

I went to the gym Thursday and planned to do just two miles (still nursing my toe, which is still a little puffy and tender), but ended up doing four. It was a hard slog. Without K, it's hard to motivate myself to keep going, and the treadmill and I aren't bosom buddies by any means. (I mean to say, I hate the treadmill, but like a two-faced middle school girl, I will continue to use it as it suits my needs.) I took two walk breaks, did the four miles, and did some much-needed weight training.

Everything was back to normal Saturday, and our families got together for dinner and a movie (we watched Mulan, at the request of K's two-year-old) with a plan to run in the evening, but by the time we had eaten it was just too late. So we got up this morning and did our four miles.

If we were on track, this would be our 5-miler week, but we're thinking instead of sticking with four and adding in a long run with some fartleks this weekend instead. We don't have a work Monday (just another reason to enjoy Rosh Hashanah), so I think that will help us in our recovery and getting back on track, too.

Physically, the light load this week was nice. It allowed my toe to rest, allowed me to catch up on some sleep, and re-energized me. Mentally, it allowed me to step back from the stress of being so disciplined with our runs, while still seeing that we can pick up where we left off without difficulty, which really boosted my morale.

All in all, I think taking a few days off was really helpful. And now this week, we're back into it. I am feeling incredibly more motivated and confident. Routine is good, but sometimes a break is better.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Weekly Report: Sept. 3 - Sept. 9

This was a good week. I like that, as mileage increases, 4 days of running still accomplishes solid miles. This week we're up to 4-milers. When we hit five, we plan to start working in long runs. Our Half is in late November, so we're right on track. No weight-training this week, though. I need to get back to the gym this week because my knees have been twinging a bit.

I was reading an article on marathon training using a 3-days-a-week schedule. While I think that's cool, I have to wonder about it. I mean, I crave running; I wouldn't be satisfied with three days a week. But when you're at that level, you're running for the race, not for the run itself. I guess that's just not really the kind of runner I am, which then begs the questions: how many types of runners are there?


Thursday, September 6, 2012

So, I've Got All These Bibs...

I'm going to come right out with a confession here: I am a slob. I'm not dirty. But I'm certainly not a tidy little homemaker, either. As you may have gathered from the origin of my impaired toe, I tend to leave things lying around. Our kitchen table is basically just a big shelf to me. I leave shoes around the house until M gathers them up and deposits them in the closet. (Usually while counting...I think my record for most pairs strewn about the house was 11.)

When I get home from a race, I drop my stuff on the nearest "shelf" (chair, couch, table, counter...) and leave them there until the next run, or we have company, or it's laundry day. But I am careful with my race bibs. By careful, I mean they're not crumpled up all over the house. They're stacked - relatively neatly - on my bedside table.

What? That seems like a perfectly good place for them...

Oh, right, except it's not, as proven by this photo:

What? A girl needs a tissue box + 4 packs of travel tissues + tons of junk
I honestly don't know why all my junk accumulates here, but I currently have an empty Kindle case, an iPod, approximately 50 pens, 4 packs of travel tissues (plus their original packaging), a bleach pen, eye drops, a sunglasses case, numerous hair ties, an empty cough syrup bottle, playing cards, a metal bookmark, lavender sheet spray, and various other non-essentials piled up beside the bed.

In a neat stack on the corner are my race bibs. All of them. "All" isn't very many, but even bibs that are years old are hanging out in the most asinine storage place ever. They go there even after I carefully label the back of each one with my finishing time. And when I look at these bibs, I think, "Someday I'll do something really cool with them. I'll put them in a shadow box. I'll make a quilt. I'll frame each one individually and decorate an entire room in our house and make it into a special runner's den with a password and secret handshake..."

But actually, there is a means of organization I've been coveting for months:
women's race bibs display
Etsy is simply teeming with wooden plaques for race bibs and/or medals. They come in a rainbow of colors, and you can choose the wording for the title. I'd love to get one and be able to casually display my bibs. I can't really justify the cost, especially because I think M and I could whip one up if we set aside time to do it, but every few weeks I'll go back to the listing...just to visit. Hi, race bib display board. I love you.

Of course, there are lots of other things to do with bibs, and that's also why I haven't gotten one of these babies yet. Coasters, magnets, and wallpaper are just some of the things listed in this article.

I don't know yet what I want to do, and until I decide my bibs will probably remain where they are, surrounded by junk, on display to no one, a silent reminder every morning and every night that I've done it before and I can do it again.

I guess when the pile gets too deep, I'll have to take action. I think that's probably a really good incentive to keep running. Maybe I'll use that as an excuse the next time M sighs, looks at the bedside table, and shakes his head in defeat.

"What?" I'll say. "That tiny pile? It's hardly worth putting on display. Yet."


Monday, September 3, 2012

Weekly Report: August 27 - Sept. 2

Really not a bad week. I didn't put in nearly as many miles as last week, but that was mostly because we had a race. We did up our mileage slightly, and this week we're aiming for 3.5 milers. My foot is almost back to normal. I'll be happy to get a real run in tomorrow morning!


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Dr. Piper Legacy 5k

On Thursday morning I dislocated/severely sprained/possibly broke my left pinky toe.

Last year I definitely broke the same pinky toe (I heard the crack); I've never had a broken bone until then, and it's so stupidly inconvenient. I rested the toe for about six weeks, which of course messed with my schedule. But this was all before the "be more consistent" NY Resolution that started this blog.

Thursday was a rest day, and as I stumbled out of bed to get ready for work, I kicked a suitcase I'd left in my path. I heard no crack, but the pain sent me to the floor, and I could hardly dare look at the toe. When I finally managed to scare up enough courage to face the damage, I was overcome with fear and pure, deep anger at my own stupidity. The toe was sticking out to the left, a tiny wayward soldier wandering away from the strictly-lined ranks of its peers.

I groaned and hobbled to the bathroom to get ready for work, all the while mentally berating myself for being such a slob. The suitcase had been used Sunday night when we stayed with friends in the face of Hurricane Isaac. Why was it still in our room, still packed, still in the most inconvenient place ever?

Bruising Thursday afternoon.

I strapped my pinky toe to its buddy and went to work. By the end of the day (throughout which I iced, compressed, took ibuprofen, etc) my foot was grossly bruised and painful, but not crippling. I decided to run our scheduled easy run on Friday morning because I had the first race of the season on Saturday.

The first mile was painful, and I knew I was overcompensating with my good leg when the quad went tight. But I pushed through the 2.5 mile run at a respectable pace; by the end, my toe was easy to ignore.

It hurt badly all Friday, but the bruising had changed and seemed less intense, and I convinced myself that running my race was a great idea.

Bruised & swollen after two runs.
It's weird about runners, you know? The way they want to ignore an injury even though it means they'll miss training in the long run? If I could just take a full week off, I bet I'd be back on track without any problem. But I don't want to take a week off. My plan was: run the race Saturday, then rest Sunday and Monday. 

The 5k itself was, in fact, great. I woke up with minimal bruising and iced my foot on the way to the race. The first few walking steps of the morning were excruciating because my foot was stiff. But once I got moving, the pain melted away. I ran at an easy pace the entire time, refusing to push myself too hard.

It's funny, because I stopped feeling any pain at all except for a couple times when I put my foot down wrong. My right leg didn't feel like it was overcompensating. My gait didn't seem uneven or affected.

The worst part of this 5k (which benefited the Dr. Piper Center for Social Services) wasn't my damaged toe; it was the heat. A 7:30 race is excellent in winter, but in the last days of summer it's a brutal endeavor. The sun was up well before we started to run, and with the sun came the expected heat and humidity.

The last 5k I ran was in June at the same time of day. That race saw me walking and struggling to finish at a sprint (which I like to do). My time was 33:16 for that one. Today's 5k was a much better experience. It was a road race, which is my preferred terrain, and I was able to avoid walking. I finished at 30:26; my original goal for this race was to come in under 30, but with my injury I felt my time was respectable.
K and me pre-race.

And the best part is that I know once the weather cools down, I'm going to be much, much faster.

K and M both ran today, and K blew me out of the water with a time of 27:41. M pushed himself to keep her pace for the first mile and ended up falling behind us both. He ran the middle of the race with me, which was nice, but he's not very happy with his performance. He definitely didn't run his usual race today.

M and me pre-race.
I came in 32 of 85 women and 82 of 162 total runners. I almost always place dead center, so these results are consistent. I do think running in the mornings made this race easier than it would have been if I were still running in the evenings.

 I'm looking forward to continuing my training for the Half. Our next race, according to our training schedule, is Oct. 6, which gives me plenty of time to heal and meet that goal of another sub-30 5k.

Now it's time to enjoy a long weekend filled with family, elevated feet, and tons of grading.