Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Health Post

It's truly amazing how strong I'm feeling this week. I did four miles Monday, pushing myself beyond my goal of 30 minutes because I just felt so great. I was tired from it Tuesday and ran 3, and did a recovery 1-miler with Matt yesterday.

While I think "rest days" are important, especially when training for a race, the recovery mile was perfect for what I've been doing, which is just building my base back up. Today I did an interval workout to get some speedwork in. I did it at the gym because it's been a few days since I've lifted weights, and I wanted to get both workouts in.
Have I mentioned before that I have really bad social anxiety and hate going to the gym alone?
The intervals went really well, but looking at the graph I see that my changes in pace weren't as drastic as I wanted. I was changing the treadmill speed between 6.3 and 7.3, and I definitely felt the burn at the faster pace. I was dripping sweat and really pushing myself. I felt great.

But my pace barely altered by 10 seconds. Is that what a +1 mph difference is on a treadmill? Or do I just run weirdly on the treadmill?
Beat my plank-a-day time by 10 seconds & had a great run! (Also, it was really day 32. Score!)
While this has been a good week so far for mileage (and no pain at all! Knock on wood), it's been a rough one health-wise.

I suffer from all kinds of weird illnesses and ailments. The one that's been plaguing me this week is my angioedema. Angioedema is a swelling of the skin, usually (well, for me, always) around the eyelids and lips, that is intensely itchy or painful. It's related to hives, but occurs deeper in the skin and forms a big welt instead of multiple small bumps.

I have idiopathic angioedema, which means no one really knows what causes my flareups. It's really frustrating. Through the years, I've found that lack of sleep, overheating, certain foods, and alcohol can sometimes exacerbate the issue. Along with...exercise.
Nothing like a pile of prescriptions to remind you how much you appreciate insurance.
The worst part about a flareup is that my entire face burns. I cannot explain the intensity of the pain in my entire face when I'm sweating, and trying to wipe it (or pat it) with a towel only makes it worse. Because my skin is so sensitive during a flareup, I can't even rinse it with water at the gym unless I remember to bring my moisturizer because allowing my skin to dry naturally makes it worse.

So why am I sharing this? I've talked before about the things we sacrifice or put up with for our love of running. This is another. I would rather take my Prednisone (and multiple other medications I use as preventatives), carry my EpiPen, and deal with a fiery face than give up running.

I also think it's important that I stay honest here. I've been having a really good time with this running streak, but I want my readers to know that I struggle, too, and that running remains a more ways than one.

I'm going to leave you with something that made me smile know, just to lighten the mood.
Confession: I personally find birdie pictures far superior to cat pictures. Take note, internet.
What obstacles do you power through to keep running?
What's a treadmill workout you love and want to share?


Monday, June 24, 2013

Milestones and Motivation

This is going to seem like small potatoes to all those seasoned runners out there, but yesterday I noticed something about my shoes that I'd never noticed before.

I tend to rotate shoes a lot because I had trouble finding the right pair for me. My Kayano 18s were the first pair I've run in consistently, and now that they have almost 300 miles on them, I can safely say they're truly worn in.
I've successfully rubbed a hole in the heel on both shoes!
Yesterday I ran on the treadmill at the gym, and just felt good. I purposely set my pace slower so I could add a mile, and I definitely had more in the tank at the end. (Because I'm still streaking and don't get a rest day, I didn't want to push it up to 4 or 5 miles just in case it was too much.)

I realized that running shorter distances has increased my pace, but it's also caused me to forget how to monitor pace on my own. I need to relearn that.

On the bright side, I'm kind of loving being able to run a mile in the 8s!

Outdoors, I'm going out too fast. Indoors, I can increase my pace as I go.
As someone who was so anti-treadmill in the past, I'm really glad I'm beginning to see the benefits of it. Not only can I control my pace and my splits, but I'm loving the relief it gives my legs with this whole run-daily-on-concrete-with-no-rest thing.

For those of you who aren't as lucky as I am to have the summer off, I know today is the first day of the work week. So here's some much-needed motivation to start the week off right.

What motivates you?
How do you monitor your pace on a run?
What was your first pair of used-until-they-were-useless running shoes?


Friday, June 21, 2013

26 Down...

One of life's greatest tragedies, I think, is that people rarely live their dreams. How many people have you met who wanted to make a name for themselves and really accomplish everything they set their minds to, but never put any effort into it? How many of us really grow up to be what we wanted when we were kids?

Matt and I have a dream for our future. We want to own a catamaran and spend a few years sailing the world, maybe taking on charters. I could run races and write in different countries; he could get back to his art.
I mean, this should probably just be the new definition of the word "freedom".
Ignore the fact that I'm terrified of water.

Today, we took our first step in realizing this dream by stopping by a company that gives sailing lessons. It was a bit out of our way, and I wore my running clothes because we planned to go to the gym right after. But as we drove home, we passed one of the nicest parks in our area, and I was inspired to do our run there.
The first thing we saw was a redheaded woodpecker. Can you find him?
I only had one mile on the schedule today because yesterday's run was pretty brutal and I was still sore from the heavy workout I did Tuesday. We ran along the boardwalk of the park, over the water (the park is aptly named Lakes Park), then finished our drive to the gym. It was a beautiful diversion, and next time we'll plan ahead and do a longer run there.
It was overcast but humid, a balmy 89 degrees.
Because I'd only done a mile, I spent some time on the elliptical (I use it backwards to work those muscles we usually neglect) and finally braved the stair-stepper. I did six minutes on the rowing machine and called it a day.

I can't believe there are only 13 days of the run streak to go! I think next week I'm going to start upping my mileage two or three times to prepare for my first week of marathon training. It's looming (but in a good way)!

How often do you switch up your usual routes?
What is your long-term life dream?
How's the weather been in your neck of the woods?


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Handling Honkers

During my run today, I had the honor of being yodeled at by a bunch of teenaged boys hanging out of an RAV4. My usual response to this in the past has been a quick flip of the bird.
Listen, if he can do it, I can do it. Best role model ever.
The problem is that, as a teacher, I feel like I'm kind of expected to be "on" at all times. There's definitely a possibility that one of these days, a former student, student's sibling, or even a student's dad will be the one behind the honk.

Maybe I should learn to take it is a compliment. When I pass runners while driving, I have to squash the urge to honk and yell out the window, "Go, runner, go! You rock!" Maybe I should just assume the honk is pure-intentioned.
The problem with having a reaction at all is that by the time I muster a response, the car is long gone and I'm left gesticulating to thin air and the occasional squirrel.
Or the occasional lolcat.
What do honkers want, anyway? It's not like they're looking for a response. They're not pulling over to start a conversation.

I've noticed a trend in honkers, of course. During early morning runs (before the sun is up), honkers are scarce, as if they know that someone running at 4am means serious business. Afternoon and early evening is the top time for honkers; on a mere 3-miler, I've counted up to 8 honks on a good day. As the sun sets, even creepy honkers seem to realize that nighttime honking could be taken as malicious.

Left with the choice to curse, wave, or ignore, I tend to choose ignore. And I might consider updating my wardrobe, if I didn't think it would bring the wrong kind of attention.
Can I get this in a lady's tech tee?
What's your response to honkers?
Do you ever honk at or shout encouragements to runners while you're driving?


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Smile! You're Running!

Remember back in the old days of AIM and AOL, when you could design a profile complete with quotes, fancy colors, and inside jokes? A friend of mine always had this one in hers:

"The first time I see a jogger smiling, I'll consider it." - Joan Rivers

I wasn't a runner the first million times I saw this quote, but now that I am, I find it running (haha) through my head on particularly brutal runs. I think to myself, "Self, that person driving by thinks runners are crazy. Show them how wrong (right?) they are!" And I slap a big ol' smile on my face.

Smiling through a hard run is a great way to turn it around. So yes, I smile while I run. Take that, Ms. Rivers!

(My natural resting face is quite bitchy looking, and people tend to judge me on that before they meet me; it's almost ironic that my default expression while on a taxing run is a smile.)

I felt the need to toot my own horn a little bit today. For one thing, I set my mind on intervals for day 23 of the streak. Even though the treadmills at my gym don't have a pre-programmed option for speed workouts, I was able to accomplish it, banishing boredom and successfully completing my run.
Borrowed from Remy's World.
I'm feeling ecstatic for being into week three of the RW streak and still going strong. My shin splints are totally gone, and I've been feeling better about pushing my pace and distance this week. Today at the gym I was able to complete my interval run, lift weights, do planks and core work, and do some leg work besides just the run.

All that on my period.

Things that never fail to make me feel badass on a run include running in the rain, running before the sun comes up, and running/working out while on my period.

If I have any male readers, I apologize.
Anyway ladies, remember that regular exercise diminishes symptoms like cramps and bloating. Just another reason to workout!

This post is all over the place. I guess over-exertion is having an effect on my brain. I hope everyone is having a good Tuesday!

Do you smile while you're running?
What element never fails to make you feel awesome on a run?
Share something random with me. Join the random party!


Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Blog in 3 Parts: The Streak, The Wedding, The Dad

Get ready for a long entry with a lot of pictures! Rather than split this into three separate, short entries, I chose to roll my entire weekend into a single post.
First: The Streak

When I first mentioned I would be trying this streaking business, I conservatively aimed to run 34 of the 39 days. One of my reasons was that in June, I would be traveling for a wedding in Ohio. That wedding was this weekend, and I'm happy to say I ran in spite of it!

We drove, flew, and drove some more Friday, and by the time we were checked into our hotel and had said hello to the hosting family, it was 11pm. Still, I convinced Matt to come with me to the fitness center so I could do a mile. At half an hour to midnight, I ran my day 19 run.
Just in time!
(On the way, the groom's sister passed us in the hall and asked incredulously, "Don't you know it's almost midnight?!")

The next morning, I was up at 7:45am for my day 20 run. It seems fitting that my most challenging days (scheduling-wise) would be the halfway mark of the streak. It also seems fitting that I'm so entrenched in this habit now that I made the runs fit in, no matter my crazy schedule.
If you follow my Instagram, you already know I was so tired on this run that my shirt was inside-out.
If nothing else, isn't the streak about showing ourselves what we can accomplish? That basic concerns and excuses don't have to dictate our decisions?

I am as proud of doing two one-mile runs within 8 hours of each other as I am of any other running accomplishments. For me, a person who is (admittedly) often full of excuses, this is a turning point in my mental toughness (I hope).

Something I thought about this weekend as I've been watching people begin various training plans was that so many people seem to be able to hammer out 6 or 10 miles without a thought. I know I'll get to that point, but even when I was at the peak of my training and was running those distances, they were never easy for me. 

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm not a natural runner, and I run because it takes effort and challenges me every step of the way. But I can't help feeling a little envious of those people who can easily complete their long run without much struggle.

Today, after flying back home, driving around for hours, and returning at 9pm, Matt and I got day 21 in. It was my fastest mile in a really long time.
8:58 pace! The streak lives on!
And Now: The Wedding!

Saturday was wedding day! The groom (and his family) and I go way back, and his parents are friends with my parents, so they got to come along (and foot the bill...Seriously, they are the best people EVER). It was a great excuse to see some family. I haven't been back to Ohio in years! We had lunch with my grandparents before getting ready for the festivities.
1. I love that they are matching. 2. Grandma has the best cane collection.
Here are some gratuitous formal wear shots, because I rarely get to dress up!

With mom, ready to go!
With dad, pre-ceremony!
I wish he wore a suit everyday!
33 years (next month) and counting!
I've known Joey since I was three. We grew up together and were best friends-almost-siblings until I moved out of state when I was 13. We visited each other fairly often, and we have kept in touch all these years.
Yes, people mistook me for a boy ALL THE TIME.
Really examine these costumes; they're funnier every time I see them.
It's the weirdest feeling to watch someone I've known since childhood get married, and now I know how he must have felt when Matt and I tied the knot three years ago. He and Danielle were there to celebrate with us, and it filled me with unspeakable joy to return the favor.
All grown up :o)
Danielle looked gorgeous in a perfectly selected gown, and Joey looked dapper in his gray tux. It was awesome to see old family-friends and catch up with everyone.

I love seeing Matt all dressed up, love dressing up, love love! What's not to love about a wedding? Even better, what's not to love about a marriage built on mutual respect, unwavering devotion, and common dreams and goals? I know these two are in it for the long-haul.
Finally: The Dad
This brings me to my dad. After all, if anyone has taught me anything about how a lasting marriage should work, it's him. And by the time we were home from the festivities, it was Father's Day! He deserves a shout-out.

My dad's not at all the bumbling and well-intentioned sitcom dad you see on TV. He’s not over-protective and doting. My dad is more the “Go on, try it, I dare you” type. My dad can have a prickly exterior and can be hard to get to know. He's a little like Jay from Modern Family: self-made, confident, and blunt. But he's also loyal, stalwart, and ridiculously hilarious.
Stephie and me with dad in Ohio.
I can always count on my dad to humble me, and to encourage me. I owe my good grades and success to him, because I lived for his approval and hated to disappoint him. He's the epitome of success and the American Dream, and his life inspires me. As I posted on Instagram this week, I want to be him when I grow up.
Undergrad graduation
As I get older, I realize how like him I already am. I'm so lucky to have a dad who has been willing to support me - financially and otherwise - and teach me the importance of budgeting, planning, organizing, dedicating yourself to what matters, making wise choices, and having a realistic view of life.

His interest in politics fed my interest in politics. His dry, sarcastic humor shaped my humor. His honesty helped me get over the fear of being honest with others, even if it might mean that not everyone will like me. My dad doesn't sugarcoat anything, and in a way that makes his approval, support, and love even that much more special. I wouldn't trade him for anyone else in the world.

My, how we've grown.
 Thank you for everything, dad. I owe you more than words could ever say.

What's your favorite thing about weddings?
What's the best thing about your dad (or any father-figure in your life)?


Friday, June 14, 2013

In the Still of the Night

Once in awhile, scheduling gets away from me and I'm left wanting to run well after sundown. If Matt can come with me, he'll often join for the safety of it. But tonight he was going to the gym, so I found myself alone, much to his dismay.

Nothing like zero visibility for a good run, right?
I planned to run my go-to nighttime route, which is a well-lit neighborhood loop about a mile around with a nice parking lot. However, when I pulled in, a police officer kindly informed me that the lot now has rules about parking there after dusk, and I was in danger of being towed. He was very apologetic, but that didn't change the fact that my once dependable well-lit path was now obstructed.

I was able to drive not too far and park in another well-lit area. I ended up running a loop that took me into that nice neighborhood (now complete with a sentinel police officer!), and gave me the two miles I was hoping for.

Here are some tips for running after dark:

1. Before you go, tell someone where you'll be and when to expect you back. (I often let Matt know that I'll text him when I'm back to the car so that he knows as soon as I'm done and can stop worrying.)

2. Carry MACE and your phone. Again, this is something that I recommend for any solo run, but holds especially true for nighttime runs. I love my jogging MACE; it doesn't impede my workout at all. 

3. If we're talking about a summer nighttime run, of course you're going to want some bug spray. Those mosquitoes can get nasty.
I love this bug spray! It dries quickly, smells nice, and keeps those bitey critters away!
4. Run where it's busy. I prefer residential streets or well-traveled roads. In theory, if I need help, it's not far from me.

5. Run where there's sidewalk.

6. Leave your headphones off. It's really important to be able to hear everything going on around you, especially because darkness automatically means your eyesight is impaired (unless you're part galago).

Built-in night vision: cute or creepy? You decide.

7. Run against traffic. This is a rule for any time of day, really, but is especially important to abide by after dark. If the driver of a car can't see you, at least you'll see him or her.

8. Wear reflective gear. Again, you want to be visible!

9. Stay on familiar paths. Nighttime is not the time to go exploring. You're more likely to get lost, and you want to be somewhere you know is safe when running in the dark.

10. Last year I posted this about running safety, and those rules still apply as well!

I do love a good nighttime run. Usually, my senses are all hyped up and my adrenaline gets moving. This means my nighttime runs are usually faster and leave me feeling like I've accomplished something real. After all, I could have said it was too late, but instead I chose to get out there and get the run in.

For training purposes, especially during the school year, I need to run in the mornings. And I like having the whole day open after a morning run. But I will always be a night owl, and nighttime runs will always be my preference.

What are some safety precautions you take while running alone?
Are you a morning or evening runner?
What's the most random time of day you've fit a run in?


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Splint Decisions

The third week of the Runner's World Run Streak has begun, and I'm going strong. Well, strong-ish. I've always had a hard time toeing that line between giving up and acknowledging that there is a more important battle to be fought.

When it comes to picking battles in real life, I'm a pro. I know what's important to me, and for the most part I know when to let things roll off my back and when to pick up a sword and start slaying dragons.
I posted this to FB in one of my running groups after Day 15 of the streak. (Can you catch the typo?)
The problem with "choosing my battles" when it comes to running, though, is that I'm not a naturally competitive person. Often, I'm more likely to back down from a daunting run than to face it head-on. Over time, I've grown to a point where I know when I'm shortchanging myself and backing down. But the run streak has really messed with my head a bit.
Here's the face of someone who doesn't know when to quit: the day after that post, I hopped on a treadmill anyway.
Weighing my looming marathon training, set to begin July 7, and this run streak, the training should come first. That means that anything that could risk injury should automatically be put on hold, right? Shin splints are clearly my body's way of saying, back off! I'm tired! You're doing too much too soon! But logically, I don't think one to two miles a day is really asking that much of my body, especially as I'm keeping the pace nice and slow (in the low 10s, sometimes high 9s).
Foam rolling and sleeping in my compression socks seemed to help a bit.
Usually, I would balk at the first sign of pain and take a nice rest for a couple days. But you see, the run streak has re-ingrained in me the habit of running. I had taken so much time off, remember? I had been burned out. I have the streak to credit for my even running at all lately! And if I want to have any base level of fitness before July 7, then I need to be running consistently.
Day 17: Today I tried my luck in another pair of shoes, but nothing much changed there.
So here I am, at a crossroads. Quit the streak, take a rest day or two, then go back to running normally and hope I don't lose the motivation I've finally found again; or run through the shin splints, hope they don't turn into a real injury, and stay motivated through July?

The threat of injury should easily outweigh anything else, but it's hard to take shin splints seriously. Plus, I tried to take yesterday and today off and was so grumpy and fidgety that I had to get to the gym. And once there, I had to run! The rowing machine, the elliptical...yeah, I spent time on those, but in the end I needed to pound out a couple miles before I felt satisfied. Nothing makes me happier than a run.

I know what the seasoned runners will say. I know, as a relatively experienced (if not average) runner, what I should do. But I felt transcendent running through my pain today, telling it to shut up, take a back seat, and let me do my thing. In a way, I think this is something I need because it will teach me not to back down at the first sign of discomfort, and I know when I'm doing 16 or 18 miles during training, I'm going to need to know how to push through some pain.
All the treadmill shots lately can be explained by this.
I need to play the rest of the streak by ear. Maybe call it quits, maybe just see what happens. It was fun while it lasted and I'm grateful for the lessons it taught me. Now it's time to stop hanging my success on a certain number of days, and do what's right for me.

On a more cheery note, I'm currently designing my first running tattoo. I've decided to reward myself post-streak (however long it ends up being). I told my parents about it last week, and then received this email from my mom after she had shared the news with my grandparents.
Either Grandma is a master guilt-tripper, or the sweetest lady ever.
How cute is that?

What are your thoughts on running through discomfort?
How do you decide when enough is enough?
Do you have any running-related body art?


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Gear Report: Running Clothes for Newbies

Get ready for some laughably bad photos of clothes.

After my post about my favorite running outfits vs. backup outfits, a surprising number of people came out of the woodwork asking about where to even start when it comes to running clothes. I take it for granted that I now know the dos and don't of running-wear by heart, but looking back now, I realize that I used to make all kinds of mistakes:
My first-ever 5k. What is this look?
Cutoff sweatpants? A cotton, baggy t-shirt? What was I thinking? Well, obviously I was thinking that I had no idea what makes a good running outfit. While a lot of this boils down to preference, there are definitely some rules to go by.

Avoid cotton. This goes for everything from tops and shorts to underwear. Cotton doesn't breathe and doesn't allow for sweat to be wicked away from the body. Ever gone swimming in a tshirt? That baby will stay drenched and cling to you for hours.

Choose clothes you feel comfortable in. I've bought a few things off sales racks and then never worn them because they're unflattering. If you can't imagine yourself wearing it out of the house, don't buy it.

I prefer tank tops and singlets because I feel sleeves are very restricting, but when it's cooler out I go for some nice tech-Ts. Here's a rundown of the brands and styles I prefer:

I wear Thorlo Experia socks. I love the extra padding, they don't slip, and I've never gotten a blister while wearing them. Even though I run in hot and humid weather, I never find my feet overheating from these.

I wear ProCompression calf sleeves during my runs. Even on short runs, I can definitely tell a difference in leg fatigue when I don't wear them. I kind of compare them to wearing a sports bra on your calves: they give extra support and keep things nice and tight.

I wear the full ProCompression socks for recovery, especially after a long run or a long day on my feet. I've worn these to work; I've worn them to bed. They are miraculous.

Confession time: I don't really wear underwear because my running shorts tend to have built-in mesh. But if I'm wearing spandex that doesn't have some netting, my go-to underwear is Target's Champion C9 brand. However, they don't seem to be available anymore, so click here for Runner's World's insight into undies.

I love capris for long races because they cut down on chafing. They're also great for winter,when the temperatures may start in the 50s but by the end of a run are well into the 60s. I overheat easily when I run so I tend to prefer shorts, but Champion makes a great pair of running capris.

Up until recently, I exclusively wore Target's Champion C9 sports bras. They come in so many fun colors and offer just the right fit and support for my build. But I recently scored this fun Patagonia bra, and I am in love with it! It's super comfy; I feel like I'm not even wearing it. Plus, the thinner straps don't cause as much eczema and chafing on my shoulders.

Champion makes their bras with thinner straps, and now that I've tried them, they've moved into my realm of favorites. They're reasonably priced and very pretty!

I will almost always grab a singlet over anything else. The lighter the material, the roomier the neck, and the sleevelesser the arm-holes, the more likely I am to gravitate toward it. I particularly love this one from Saucony (found here). It's lightweight, reflective, flattering, and inexpensive! When I'm looking for long-sleeves for layering in colder weather, I really love my Saucony HydraMAX top:


I'm beginning to see that messy backgrounds are a trend in my house.
These new running shorts from Nike are where it's at! The wide waistband is comfortable and flattering; the legs are roomy but don't give that weird inflated look. The shorts are fully lined, soft, breathable, and have pockets! Suddenly I realize why so many people are brand-loyal to Nike.

The bottom line here is that trial-and-error will help a new runner figure out what brands/styles work for them! I prefer clothes that fit close to the body, but many runners gravitate toward looser tops and running skirts. Try things out; over time, you'll put together a drawer (or six) of running clothes you'll have trouble choosing between!

What clothing tips would you share with new runners?
What apparel questions do you have?
Share links to your favorite running clothes in the comments!