Thursday, April 30, 2009

TIART - Time and Balance

Today's theme for Runner's Lounge Take It and Run Thursday is Time and Balance—how to find the time to run and balance running with everything else in our lives. I actually wrote a very good blog post about priorities and balance back in November, and you really should read it because it's very good. (And thoroughly footnoted.)

So that leaves me today wondering if I have anything more, or new, to say on the subject. I read a few other posts on this topic earlier this morning on my Google Reader at the Y, and they were mostly (maybe entirely) by moms who have to balance their running with childcare and child rearing obligations. I can see that would be difficult. Every day I see people who can barely manage balancing child raising with life, let alone trying to work in running. In fact, as a childless person, I probably don't even have standing to claim that there is some kind of a time and balance need in my life.

But still. I do have a job, which requires some sizeable portion of my day, and I need to sleep, which some authorities recommend consume up to a third of your time. So if you put aside eight hours* for sleeping, and nine to ten hours** for work (including transportation, which is negligible for me as I live only a couple of miles from where I work), that leaves at least six hours in each day that can be used for running and working out, as well as house and garden work and a social/personal life. Not bad, right? Except when you take away time to prepare and eat breakfast and dinner (at least a hour and a half); shower, dress, and groom (30-45 minutes***); stop at the grocery store (half an hour); and do something with the dishes (load and unload dishwasher) (15 minutes)... well, the time available is getting smaller and smaller. (And I haven't even mentioned really important things like feeding and petting my cats!)

In that remaining three hours or so, I devote an hour (plus) to running or working out in the mornings, and about an hour and a half to working out at the Y most evenings (Monday through Thursday most weeks). The rest of my weekday time? Pretty much watching TV and reading (plus petting cats and eating). I now do most of my blog reading with the Google Reader while I'm on the ellipticals at the Y.

Housework? Yardwork? That's for wusses. I mean, that's for weekends! Weekends also give me time for a social life of sorts, shopping, skiing in the winter, more reading, the occasional movie, and still working out on Saturdays (usually) and running on Sundays (usually).

In all seriousness, my major time management solution is running in the mornings before work (or going to the Y on alternate days). I have voluntarily given up an hour or so of sleep in the morning to make sure I get a cardio-enhanced start to the day. As much as I'd love to spend that time curled up under the blankets, it's worth the sacrifice for the great feeling it gives me (at least when I'm done), and the knowledge that even if everything else falls apart schedulewise later in the day, I've already got at least 600 calories (out) and a few miles in before the workday begins.

This puts me on a very tight morning schedule, I'll admit. I do have a hard time getting up, so instead of hitting the road at 6 a.m. (which would be ideal), I'm out there at 6:30. With a bathroom stop and lights, an hour run takes 75 minutes, then I have another hour at home to make and eat breakfast and get ready for work, before heading out the door. I usually squeak into court just by 9:00, and I'm sure I'm considered (by some) to be a slacker who can't seem to get her act together enough to be early!****

Even though I occasionally run in the afternoons (as I did today*****), and don't usually hit the road, or gym, very early on weekend mornings—and occasionally, though rarely, enjoy a non-running lie-abed morning—I think this morning running and working out scheme is the only thing that has allowed me to consistently keep running over the past three-plus years. I am not really a morning person, so I know that I would not use that early morning time for any other productive purpose, like cleaning house or going to work early. I just wouldn't do it. If I didn't get up and go run I would lie in bed, pushing the snooze button and watching the Today show. Instead I make myself get up (after a certain amount of snooze button pushing), throw on my running clothes (which are laid out nearby), put on the electric kettle (for a head start on my tea later on), eat a few chocolate espresso beans (for a caffeine pick-me-up), and walk out the door. I may have been miserable when the alarm went off, but by the time I walk back in the door I will be sweaty but energized and ready to face the day. And that's worth an hour or so of my time any day.

*I don't really sleep eight hours a night, though I should. I do, however, spend a couple of hours falling asleep with the TV on, so perhaps that can be included in the eight hours.

**I don't always spend nine or ten hours on work, either.

***Probably should be more, I just don't have time for that.

****I am hoping that the earlier sunrise and warmer weather of spring and summer will help me get going a little earlier, at least for those months.

*****This afternoon I did an off-schedule 4.75 mile run as my "last run" before Bloomsday on Sunday. I want to take both Friday and Saturday to rest my legs, but didn't want to leave Wednesday as my last run of the week. Plus, it is a beautiful sunny day, which gave me the opportunity to "enjoy" the sunshine, as well as force myself to run at a temperature which is a little warmer than I'm accustomed to. Yes, it was only 60-something degrees, but that's a good 20 degrees warmer than I get at 6:30 a.m.! It was not an especially easy run for me, though. A little bit because of the warmth, maybe. But all kinds of muscles in my legs decided to give me grief (quads, calves, mostly on my right leg), and I was irked by all kinds of things, like too many people and cars out (that I had to veer around or wait for). I only planned to do four miles, and after two mildly grueling miles I was already looking toward the end. The next two miles were easier, and faster, though. After four miles and a bit I stopped at Starbucks for a much needed bathroom break (another thing that was making the last mile difficult), then finished the last .64 miles at a speedy clip. By the time I got to QFC I had forgotten I was having a miserable run! (I actually went a little bit further than 4.75 miles... when I first started the Garmin had a freakout and in one minute recorded that I had run 1.21 miles at a 50 second per mile pace. WTF??? I cleared the data and started again. Splits 10:36, 10:03, 9:39, 9:37, then .11 mile at 10:09 pace, and finally .64 mile at 8:47 pace. Plus I walked about a mile from my house to office after I locked myself out, then walked half a mile home after finishing the run at QFC.)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Thinking about hills

On Sunday I dodged the big hill by getting a ride up the last three miles to Sun Mountain Inn (because, as you will recall, I had already run a couple miles further than I planned to and time was running short). I could have run the rest of the way uphill, if I'd had the time and inclination, but it would have been very slow and painful and possibly involving some walking on the steepest portions.

I am not unaccustomed to hilly roads. I am lucky to live in a city with plenty of hills, up and down, on my running route. That allows me to get some hill training in without having to make a special effort at it. Last year, in preparation for the Whidbey Island Half (very hilly route) and the Race to Robie Creek (nine miles up a mountain, four miles down), I made special efforts to do hill work, running repeats up the longest nearby hill and making at least one excursion to run the hilly trails of Discovery Park.

Thanks to these efforts, I have done okay in races with hills. My 10K PR and the prior 10K PR both come from the Mukilteo Lighthouse run, which is, as anybody who has been to Mukilteo will know, on a very hilly road. My half-marathon PR is from Whidbey Island, and last year's time wasn't bad either. Some of my less auspicious results, on the other hand, have occurred on pancake flat routes.

I've walked up part of a hill in two races. In each case I made a studied decision that walking would be faster than trying to run, and I only walked the steepest portion before going back to running. In each case everyone around was walking too, so it wasn't just me! The first time was in the Anacortes Half Marathon in July of 2007; there is a long steep hill about four miles in and I walked a section near the top. (However, when I did that run last year, I didn't walk at all.) The other time was Robie Creek, where I, and virtually everyone else, walked approximately the last mile to the summit. I remember walking along briskly as another runner, a younger girl, jogged slowly beside me. We were both going the same speed, but she was exhausting herself by continuing to run, while I was getting refreshed for the four-mile downhill finish.

On Sunday, when I got into the truck, I commented that I didn't really think trying to run up that extra-steep hill would have much running benefit anyway. Mainly because I probably would have been walking up anyway! No, not just that. I just think that when the hill gets so steep that you can hardly run, you are not going to get much out of it. Running up moderately graded hills seems like a much better training practice.

I will, of course, have another chance to test my hill prowess (or should that be hill insouciance?) on Sunday at Bloomsday. Spokane, though in Eastern Washington, is not pancake flat, and the Bloomsday route has several hills, the final, longest, and steepest being the famous Doomsday Hill at mile 4. I've tried to find some information about the length and grade of the hill, but that seems to be a closely guarded secret as far as Google searches are concerned. Let me just say, from my recollection last year, that it's long and it's fairly steep. Should be a good time!

***Congratulations to Lisa on a great performance in a very hill-challenging half marathon on Sunday!

Monday, April 27, 2009

B-day minus six

Less than one week to go before my big comeback run. Not to put any pressure on it or anything.

Yesterday's 9.32 miles was my last longish run. This morning I intended to go for six miles, but circumstances conspired so that I ended up doing about 6.5, although I shut off the Garmin at 6.36, which was where I was when the timer clicked over to 60 minutes. I jogged home around the rest of the block, timer off because I didn't want to wreck my average pace.

My quads were giving me a bit of grief after yesterday's downhills. Not crippling or anything, but I certainly could feel the muscles tightening up. Still can, this afternoon.

However, I was pretty happy with my progressively negative splits....

1 - 9:45
2 - .55 miles at 9:44 pace (5:19)
3 - 9:33
4 - 9:25
5 - 9:18
6 - 9:08
7 - .81 miles at 9:14 pace (7:31)

The question still remains, however. Is this the best I can do, and thus a predictor of my performance to come on Sunday? Or, as in the past, will the race-day adrenaline kick in and allow me to shave a minute or so off my average pace, and thereby match or beat last year's performance? A month ago I would have said, not likely. But then a month ago I would not have believed I would do a six to eight mile training run at an average pace of less than 9:30 (9:26 this morning).

I checked the weekend weather forecast for Sunday and so far it appears promising—high around 60 and, hurrah, mostly cloudy. (Ideal or good running conditions are often just not the same as what "regular people" would like for their weekends.) The only thing better, of course, would be another ten degrees cooler!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Patterson Lake Trail Run... and then some

I mentioned a few days ago that I hoped to do a moderately long run today while I was still up in the Winthrop area, and then start moderating the mileage and tapering a little bit in preparation for Bloomsday in a week.

What I kind of wanted to do was run from the Sun Mountain Inn into Winthrop, as I had last year, which is an easy ten miles almost entirely downhill. I figured I could log some undemanding mileage at a fast pace, rewarding myself with a latte (and maybe a cinnamon roll) in Winthrop, not to mention a boost to my self-esteem going into race week.

But when I broached that idea to Rod, he was not entirely thrilled with it. Understandably, as it would leave him to load up everything at the inn by himself and then meet me in Winthrop. Plus, he really needed my help to get his Husqvarna bike into the truck, and doing that after dinner on Saturday night didn't seem really appealing.

So I said okay, I would just run down the hill for a few miles then turn around and run back up. That was not an ideal plan in any way, of course. The running downhill would be great, which would make the uphill even more torturous. Running uphill then down is much more doable, but functionally impossible given our location at the top of the mountain!

Rod suggested an alternative (which would not, however, eliminate the uphill portion). He suggested that I turn off the main road onto the Patterson Lake Trail, and then follow that onto some dirt roads, eventually meeting up with the main road again for the return segment. He thought that would be about a seven-mile loop overall,* based on the Forest Service map he had. That way I would be off the highway for at least part of the run. Seven miles was less than I had intended to run, but considering the amount of uphill I was facing, I figured it was an okay substitute.

I agreed (although I am always a little nervous about getting lost). I had a trail map from the lodge, which seemed pretty clear, except that the final portion where I met up with the road again was off the map. (This would, in fact, be a small problem, as it turned out!)

So this morning I got up sort of early and got dressed and loaded up my gear (Garmin, iPod, phone—although service was a problem in the area, money, kleenex, water bottle) and was ready to hit the road at 8:00. Rod asked if I'd be back around 9:15 (giving me a 10:30 pace, which was a pretty good guess), and I said 9:30 was probably better, considering the amount of uphill I would have to tackle. (Oh, if I'd only known!)

I started down the hill on Patterson Lake Road at a nice clip, mostly around 9:30 (although my entire first mile was 9:45), and reaching the Patterson Lake Cabins, trailhead for the Patterson Lake Trail, about a mile and a half along. I almost didn't find the trail, and was resigned to going back to the road, but just before I turned onto the road again I saw the sign and turned onto the trail instead.

I have not really done any real trail running before. Generally speaking, I prefer to walk and hike on trails. I think that allows you to enjoy your surroundings a lot more without having to pay such close attention to your feet, as you do while running. This trail was pretty typical, with tree roots and occasional rocks and a winding, up and down terrain. It would make a great hike, but today I was running, and I really had no choice about that, timewise, anyway.

Even running a trail allows you to enjoy the flora (hopefully not fauna), and here is a picture of flowers that grow wildly in the deserty Eastern Washington hills. I am hoping to identify their name at some point!

Part of the trail was in the woods, but a good portion was in the open, along (but high above) the edge of Patterson Lake. The left side of that part of the trail was unguarded, dropping steeply (and rockily) to the lake. A misstep could be treacherous.

So, obviously, trail running tends to be a lot slower than simple road and sidewalk running (where cars—and okay, tree roots as well—are your only real obstacles). I don't even feel bad that my two miles that were solely on the trails came in at 11:05 and 10:55 minutes. I am assuming that the trail ended sometime after that (the end of mile 4 in total) because my times were quite a bit quicker from then on.

I was amused along the way when I came upon a cattle gate along the trail which reminded of all the gates on the footpaths in England. (I always enjoy things that remind me of England.)

Speaking of mile 4... I had told Rod that if I didn't hit the main road after four miles, I would turn around and retrace my steps, ensuring that I would get back to the lodge by eight miles. Mile 4 ended, and I was not at the road. But I decided to go on for a bit further, since returning on the road, even uphill, would probably be easier than rerunning the tricky trail.

Plus, I had moved onto a dirt and gravel road, which was a much more appealing running track than the trail!

My direction, though not final destination, was now toward "Elbow Coulee," and both the map and a trail sign had confirmed that I was on the right route. The challenge would be turning and getting back to Patterson Lake Road. (Oh, what a challenge it would be!)

I made my first mistake by turning left when I got to a left-hand turn. I figured out pretty quickly that I was wrong when I looked at the map and saw that I needed to go past a pond before turning, and I was at the beginning of the pond. So onward.

The next intersection with a lefthand option finally arrived, and I turned. The problem now was that I was heading off the map, and the rest would be on faith and logic. Faith I had some of, but logic, apparently, not so much.

At about mile 5 (that is the end of mile 5), I reached another intersection, and thinking that the map told me to do this, I kept following the road to the right. I went on, and on, and on, and still the road showed no sign of meeting up with the main road. I was concerned! (And now turning back and doubling my mileage seemed an increasing impossible option.)

After another mile, I spotted a camp site where I could see actual people walking around. I scrambled up a small hill and called out. "Do you know how I can get to the main road from here? Patterson Lake Road?"

One of the guys pointed back in the direction I had come from. It seemed that my veering right had been wrong. "Oh shit." I couldn't help myself. I don't think they were offended.

"It's about five miles back," he said. This time I only thought it—"Holy shit!" And even when I got to the road, it would still be several miles back to the lodge. Although I had my doubts about whether it was really five miles to the road—people are always bad about guessing distances, and I had come all the way from Sun Mountain Inn in six miles—I still had a lot of miles ahead of me, and it was almost 9:30 already. That was my projected return time!

I started checking my phone for a signal every half mile or so. I wanted to call Rod at the inn and tell him what was going on. But no luck. I got to my wrong turn at seven miles, and felt strangely relieved then. My mistake was now over. The big mistake—the total estimated distance—was not my fault. (We know whose fault it was, don't we?)

In mile 8 I somehow picked up the pace, finishing in 9:42. I don't know if this is because it was a good running surface, slightly downhill, or just that I felt pressure to move myself along. And I hit Patterson Lake Road at the end of that mile. (Not five miles along, only two, thank heavens.) The road I came out along was called, not surprisingly, Elbow Coulee Road.

Now, though, I was facing the long uphill. Just how long, I learned shortly, when I saw a sign—Sun Mountain Inn 4.3 miles. That was a low moment indeed. It was approaching 10 a.m. and those last steep miles could take me almost an hour! I was pulling out my phone again to pray for a signal when, miraculously, the phone rang! It was Rod. "Are you alive?" he asked. I may have sounded a bit overwrought when I responded. "This was way further than seven miles! And it's still 4.3 miles back!"

"I can come get you," he said. Of course, I agreed. I had not planned to run 12+ miles this morning, and there was no time for that.** I told him I would just keep running up the hill until I saw him.

I probably went another mile or so (like 1.3 miles) by the time I saw the truck. Luckily I was on a level portion as he approached and was able to run towards him like a runner, instead of staggering uphill. In that last mile, actually, I had started walking on the steeped uphill portions, figuring it hardly mattered at this point, and I was probably more efficient walking on the steep hills than trying to run. I must say, though, that once I decided to walk, it was really hard to make the judgment call when I should resume running again. Walking is a slippery slope! (And oh, it feels so good. I'm great at walking uphill!)

So I terminated my run at 9.32 miles (15K). Perfectly respectable and in line with my original intentions for today's mileage, but without the ego boosting speed. My overall results, when I looked at the Garmin, were still pretty reasonable for a longer run, even without the trail and hill factors. The total was 9.32 miles with an average pace of 10:38. Here are my splits:

1 - 9:46
2 - 10:14 (first half mile downhill road, second half on the trail)
3 - 11:05
4 - 10:55
5 - 10:29
6 - 10:16
7 - 10:43 (I think I was in a bit of a downer mood at this time)
8 - 9:42
9 - 11:47 (a little bit of walking)
10 - .32 miles in 4:12 (13:05 pace - again, some walking)

(Here is the Garmin report, map and all: Sun Mountain Lodge and Patterson Lake.)

We got back to the inn at 10:00, and I thought checkout was 11, so I hustled through a quick, hot shower, got dressed and quickly packed up my stuff. (Checkout time was actually noon, but it was good to get on the road.) I felt pretty good about the run, now that I was done and the element of the unknown was gone. I wouldn't mind running on those trails again (or walking/hiking), but I'm not sure if I want to include returning up the hill. I think a bottom-of-hill meet-up or pick-up is definitely the way to go.

Since I was appreciative of the rescue, I restrained myself when I discovered that Rod had drank all the coffee, two mini-pots worth! I did mention that I was surprised to find an empty coffee pot, and he said he had been saving a cup's worth for me, but when I was late coming back, he went ahead and drank it.*** No matter, I would get a latte in Winthrop anyway.

So that was it, we were checked out before 11, loaded up the bike and the other stuff, and headed towards Winthrop. Tomorrow I'll post a few pictures of the scenic North Cascades Highway (mostly borrowed from other websites since I took very few myself).

Tomorrow morning—another run! And a mini-taper towards Bloomsday.

*He was wrong.
**It's not that I couldn't have finished the whole distance, we just didn't have time for that. And running 4.3 miles uphill would have taken close to another hour!
***Was it because he thought I wouldn't have time for coffee, or because he thought I was dead and wouldn't need it anyway?


I have eaten a turkey sandwich for lunch three days in a row now. Friday in the car en route to Winthrop, Saturday in a bag lunch at my CLE, today in the car again on the way home from Winthrop. On both Friday and today that turkey sandwich lunch followed a longish run, and I have read any number of times that a turkey sandwich is a good post-run recovery food, so I felt okay about that choice. (Even though this article promotes a healthier version of turkey sandwich. C'mon, I'm eating in a car here! Gimme a break!)

On Saturday I ate the sandwich and apple in my brown bag lunch, and set aside the items in the picture here. (Unfortunately my photo was a bit blurry.) That little bit of editing cut about 500 calories out of the lunch! (Potato chips 210 calories, mayonnaise 120 calories, apple juice 80 calories, dry tasteless granola bar* 90 calories.) If I'd been really diligent, I could have removed the cheese slice (Tillamook cheddar, yummy) and the top slice of bread (eliminating at least 200 more calories), but honestly, I wasn't quite up to that kind of deprivation.

Of course I probably made up for the savings with all the cups of coffee and cream I drank throughout the day, and if not that, certainly with the extremely delicious Patterson Mountain Burger I had for dinner. With the Point Reyes blue cheese, applewood smoked bacon, and grilled apples, of course. Now that was "scrumptious," to quote the gentleman at a neighboring table!

*And by the way, was this meant to be a "healthy" substitute for a real cookie? In a lunch that included potato chips? Please!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Post Run Treats

Yesterday (Friday) morning I hit the road for another 8-mile pre-Bloomsday run. I was feeling a little bit slower than Wednesday, pretty much sticking to an easy 10-minute pace. I haven't downloaded my Garmin data yet, but I had a look when I finished and my average pace was just under ten minutes. And, in fact, most of the miles were very close to ten minutes, mostly a little below. A slow first mile and faster finishing miles rounded out the average.

I felt very practical and efficient because I incorporated two bank stops into the run (one to get cash from ATM and the other to pay a credit card bill), saving time later in the day. I hit eight miles just before QFC and stopped there as well to pick up sandwiches for lunch later. And, perhaps, a post run treat.

An eight-mile run ostensibly burns around 900 calories (so they say, I have my doubts). Under most circumstances that should easily accommodate a goody like a scone or doughnut, which have about half that many calories. But this week I have been trying to be less self-indulgent (fairly successful in that), so I was torn whether I should succumb to the lure of the doughnut or not.

I stood in front of the doughnut cabinet for many minutes, deliberating and trying to pull up the calories in maple bars and old-fashioned doughnuts on my BlackBerry. Although I wasn't having too much luck with that, I did get a number of suggestions that either might have as much as 460 calories,* particularly, perhaps, the old-fashioned doughnut, which is denser. (Although, of course, the maple bar was bigger....)

Anyhow, the information I obtained, and the time I took to find it, prompted me to turn away from the doughnuts and revert to the more healthy and filling option of a double fiber English muffin with peanut butter. Or almond butter as it turned out. Perusing the nut butter aisle, I spotted on the bottom shelf packets of Justins Peanut and Almond Butter, which I just read about on another blog** a couple days ago. They even had the maple almond butter,*** which might be a nice substitute for a maple bar, right?

So I bought some packets to bring home. Each packet is 32 grams, which is about two tablespoons, and 190 calories. When I toasted the two halves of my muffin and squeezed out some almond butter (after kneading the packet to distribute the oil thoroughly), there was enough almond butter to toast another half for the extra. So the calorie count for my substitute treat was 355 calories. I also ate a small banana (100 calories), so yes, that added up to the equivalent of the maple bar. But look what I got for my calories. Protein from the almond butter, good fat from the almond butter (as opposed to whatever's in the maple bar), about 12 grams of fiber from the 1.5 muffins, plus whole grains (I think the muffin has whole grains, I'm not positive). Also potassium and whatever the banana has to offer. I'm pretty sure that this was all more filling than a single maple bar would have been, as well. (By the way, this was my breakfast, not just a random treat!)

So, all in all, a productive morning. A solid run, errands done, and a delicious post run breakfast. What more could I ask for? How about Friday morning off work and a trip to the Sun Mountain Lodge in Winthrop for the weekend? Okay, done.

*Further research has sort of confirmed that information, although results obviously vary depending on the size of the doughnut. I also got a result that a Dunkin' Donuts maple bar has 200 calories and a Dunkin' Donuts old-fashioned doughnut has 300, which could be very tempting if we actually had Dunkin' Donuts in my area!

**I would love to link to that blog but I can't remember which it was.

***Yes, it has maple sugar in it, and ordinarily sugar added to nut butters is probably not desirable, but this is maple sugar! Yum!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I don't want to get over confident, but...

I'm feeling pretty good about my prospects for Bloomsday. I'm feeling quite good about my prospects for not feeling bad about Bloomsday, and I'm cautiously optimistic about doing well enough to feel pretty good about the result. "Pretty good result" means something similar to last year's finish time (1:06:52, 8:58 pace), or anywhere in that ballpark, either a little bit slower or faster.

My positive mood is thanks to another good run this morning, 7.52 miles in 1:11:50, for an average 9:33 mile pace. This was the result of an interval-type run where I alternated "slow" (approximate 10-minute pace) with "fast" (approximately 9-minute pace) miles. The first 1.51 miles were my warm-up, then I did my fast-slow intervals (each split one mile, except for the second one), with interesting results:

1 - "Warm-up" 10:25
2 - "Warm-up" .51 mile at 9:46 pace (5:02)
3 - "Fast" 9:19
4 - "Slow" 9:56
5 - "Fast" 8:55
6 - "Slow" 9:57
7 - "Fast" 8:49
8 - "Slow" 9:20

By the time I got to the last "slow" mile, I was able to run a 9:20 mile that felt like a resting pace—at virtually the same speed as my first "fast" mile! Now, granted, there was a substantial downhill at the beginning of that final mile, during which I noticed a lot of 8:30 neighborhood times on my watch. That clearly helped get a faster time even with a slowdown in the last half mile to my house. But throughout the run, pushing myself on those fast intervals made the ten-minute recovery miles seem easy.

I believe that this type of a run also helps me with the skill of regulating my pace, slowing down when I want to but also being able to pick up the pace again after running at a slower speed. Often in a race I want to speed up in the last mile or two, and I noticed this winter that this was kind of hard to do, even though I have done it in many past races. Or I find myself lagging partway through a run, and want to rev it back up. It's nice to know that I am not just limited to one speed—that being the pace my body wants to go on a given day.

If I ran Bloomsday with a result like today, I'd be okay with that. (If I could eliminate the resting miles I would be even better with that!) And a good thing—I checked the conversion of 12K to miles, and it turns out that it equals 7.46 miles, which is 6/100ths of a mile less than I ran this morning! I'm hoping that means I have the distance in the bag.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

One more thing about yesterday's run

In the last few weeks I've had a number of objectives in my running. First and foremost, of course, was to get out of my winter slump and pick up the pace, both generally speaking and in whatever future races I might enter. I think I definitely have managed the first of those; the second remains to be seen. Soon.

Upon rereading that paragraph, I realize I've condensed all my running objectives into one, actually. Run faster and better. I guess what I meant to say was that I've gone about working on that objective in a number of ways. I've made a concentrated effort to keep my average pace as close to, or below, ten minute miles as often as possible. I've reintroduced simple speedwork into my running, including interval/pickups, progression/negative split runs, and tempo runs. This weekend I started bumping up my mileage, in anticipation of the longer Bloomsday run coming up.

Yesterday I was going into another moderately long run for the second consecutive day, and my legs were already a little tired, so I didn't make myself any big speed goals or expectations. Instead I decided to see how I would do if I ran at a comfortable pace, not pushing myself but also not sinking into plodding. The results were quite acceptable, though not stellar. As I said yesterday, my average pace was about 9:45—actually 9:44—and my splits were 10:16, 9:50, 9:18, 9:31,9:41, 9:42, 9:40, 9:57. (Would you call that a degression run? A regression run? A run in which the sun was becoming progressively warmer?)

This method of "run without pushing" worked really well for me in one of my favorite races last year, the Fairhaven Waterfront 15K. My goal for that race was to see what kind of time I would get if I ran without trying too hard, hoping to conserve energy for the Maine Coast Half Marathon the following weekend. My 15K efforts then yielded an average pace under nine minutes, not a 15K PR but close to my other 15K times, all of which seemed to fall in the same general area. (Of course, since this race occurred within a month after my 10K and 5K PR races, I was obviously still riding my peak before heading rapidly downhill.)

What I would like to do this week is keep all my runs up there in mileage at 7½ miles or more. This may be totally impractical, even impossible. It was easy enough to do eight mile runs on Sunday and Monday when I could start whatever time I wanted and my timelines were minimally invasive. But tomorrow, Wednesday, I have to be to work at the usual time, and adding more than a mile and a quarter to my typical distance* would require at least twelve extra minutes that I usually just can't spare on a weekday. Get up earlier, you say? Please! (Things might be a little looser on Friday morning, we shall see.)

On Sunday I may do a long run of nine or ten miles, if I can manage it. I'll be in Winthrop for a conference, and there's a great route from Sun Mountain Lodge to town—largely downhill—if I can work in a couple of hours for a run.

After that, it's mini-tapering to the weekend. (The race is on Sunday.) On Monday and Wednesday I'll plan on a normal five to six mile run. I'm in the air about what to do on Friday. I'm strongly tempted to take Friday off from running, or any leg-straining exercise, as well as Saturday of course, to ensure fresh, non-achy legs for Sunday. Maybe, depending on the weather, I could do a short, easy run on Thursday instead of Friday. Maybe, in fact, I should schedule a massage for Friday to coddle my legs further!** Now that's a thought. A really good thought! I think I'll make the appointment call right now....

*And these 6.25 mile runs have been pushing the limit on getting ready for work and to work on time as it is!

**This is not simply a self-indulgence, sports massage is a well-known technique which may enhance performance, help prevent injury, and improve circulation, muscle tone, and flexibility. So there.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Quite a day

Today turned out to be quite an idyllic vacation day for me. Of course, I realize that it wasn't the kind of Big Fun that most people might expect on a day off.* Originally I was just going to take off enough time in the morning to watch the Boston Marathon, but the schedule was light so my secretary just marked me out for the whole day. Well, okay....

Activity number one: The Boston Marathon. I had complained about the switch from the Versus television channel to Universal Sports, but once I located that channel on the TV I was perfectly satisfied with their coverage. In fact, I think this channel might have a lot to offer in future running events (last night I watched some of the men's Rotterdam Marathon, which had a tight finish like the women's marathon this morning).

Coverage started at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time, so I didn't get to sleep in or anything, but on the other hand I didn't have to get dressed to watch either, so it sort of balances out. I love watching marathons on TV, even though some might think 2½ hours of running on TV would be boring. Not so! Although I think I dozed off for a little bit about an hour in, that is more a function of me reclining on a couch than anything I was watching. I saw more of this marathon than of many movies I've tried to watch on TV or DVD.

Everyone already knows the results, there's no point in hashing over that again. I must say, though, that I felt so bad for Kara Goucher. It was so close, up until that last mile. I can certainly understand her tears at the finish.

After the marathon finished I continued to lounge about, watching parts of the Today Show and The View. I wanted to go for a run, and intended to (and eventually did), but even though I put my running clothes on it still took a bit of will power to get myself out the door! I finally headed out around 10:30.

At least for today, it was truly springtime in the Pacific Northwest. The sun was out, the sky was blue, the air was warm. Very warm, to someone who is used to running at 6:30 a.m., often in the cold and drizzle. I wasn't really prepared for running in the heat, gear-wise, so I had to keep my jacket to carry my key, money, and phone. Unlike yesterday, I just tied it around my waist straightaway. That actually worked fine; it wasn't so hot that this would be a problem for me.

I decided to run a four-mile loop that I had done with a friend recently. In fact, I decided to run it twice (though keeping the option of ditching or shortening the second loop if I felt like it).

The "loop" is actually almost rectangular in shape, with each "side" about a mile long. Because of the heat, I decided to pause for a drink of water after each mile or so, which also concurred a turn into the next segment. The first stretch is actually a little longer, about a mile and a quarter, then the second section is shorter. That second section is, however, home to a long, moderately steep hill (about half a mile, I would guess), which for today I called "Heartbreak Hill" in consideration of Boston. I also considered it good practice for Doomsday Hill which I will face in Spokane less than two weeks from now.

The third leg, however, cruises back downhill nicely and that particular mile came in around 9:15 (the others were slower). Finally, another curvy stretch took me back to the starting point for my second loop.

Although I was very hot and sweaty, I felt up for a second round. In the beginning I felt a little sore in the hips and legs from yesterday's run, but that eventually went away. I was, however, quite a bit slower than yesterday. My Doomsday Hill was even more punishing this time around. My pace was about 10:15 to 10:30 going up the hill, but I was still able to average under 10 minutes for the mile.**

I took a turn about ¾ along and headed towards Safeway. I managed to hit the eight-mile mark across the street from Safeway and so I turned off my watch and went in to buy a salad for my lunch and some unsweetened green tea lemonade from Starbucks. (No cinnamon scones today! I am now officially being good.)

I cooled down a lot in the store and walking home, but my running clothes were still soaked and my face was grainy with salt from evaporated sweat. Stepping into a hot shower was pretty much heavenly! After I was dressed in clean, dry clothes I ate my lunch.

Soon I was ready for a nap. But I didn't! But I also didn't clean house or do anything noble or useful. Instead I called my mother and it didn't take much for her to suggest we take a trip up to Skagit County to look at the tulips and buy a few bunches, for her to give to her lunch group ladies (several very old retired teachers), and perhaps I would bring some for the folks at the office tomorrow.

Since the weather around here has been so cold, both during the winter and in the recent spring weeks, the tulip fields are way behind schedule. Usually by this time, mid to late April, they are in full bloom and close to being cut down. (After they bloom, growers slice the heads off of most of the field tulips so that their energy can go into developing the bulbs, which is the major crop of the tulip fields. A small percentage are sold as cut flowers, but those are taken early, before the buds open much. A beautiful tulip in full bloom is, technically, past its prime.) Anyhow, this year the fields are just starting to show lots of color, and there are still entire unopened fields. Unheard of!

Since this was a rather spontaneous trip, I didn't have a regular camera with me, but I did take some nice pictures with my BlackBerry. I love walking in the tulip fields. There are dirt roads winding through the fields, so you can walk out into the middle of a sea of tulips. The dirt in the roads (when it is not muddy and drenched with rain) is a strange spongy hard pack that gives gently when you walk on it. It has got to be easier on the legs that anything. Running on it would probably be wonderful, although it would take a lot of loops through the fields, vast as they are, to build up any mileage!

After my stroll into the fields (my mother had a sore knee so stayed back at the edges), we bought armloads of tulips to carry away. Even though the price per bunch has gone up over the years, they're still a pretty good deal. Each bunch has 10 tulips (twice as many as bunches in the store) and costs $4.50, although if you buy five, the fifth bunch is free, which brings down the average nicely. We had no problem getting several multiples of five, in pink, orange, purple, yellow, and variegated red and white.

After our tulip excursion, we headed into LaConner for an early dinner at Seeds, a charming bistro-like cafe with a garden theme. The restaurant is in the building that used to be Tillinghast, a venerable seed and garden store that was a fixture in LaConner for dozens of years, until the owner retired several years ago. The owner also runs the Calico Cupboard Cafes and Bakeries, and the food is delicious at both.

All in all, it was a very lovely day.

*Nor was it the "great accomplishments around the house and garden" that other people might achieve on a day off.

**My average pace for the entire run was 9:45, a bit slower than yesterday.

Go Kara! Go Ryan!

So, third place isn't bad for a couple of Americans. Great race!
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Patriot's Day

I'm observing Patriot's Day* by taking the day off work so I can lay on the couch drinking coffee and watching the Boston Marathon on TV.

We're nearing two hours for the women and Kara Goucher is still holding strong near the lead. Only a few miles to go! Ryan Hall has dropped back significantly, after an early lead, and seemed out of it. He's 18 seconds behind.

Heartbreak Hill ahead.

And get this, Colleen DeReuck, age 45, is in the lead!

*I know it's only a holiday in Massachusetts, that's why I had to take the day off instead of being entitled to it. We need some of these extra days off in Washington. Oh yeah, now we have them, they're called furlough days. (Technically I don't have furloughs, but since court will essentially be non-functioning, I get them by default).
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Almost a tempo run

Two weeks till Bloomsday, and up to today I think it had been three weeks since I'd done a run longer than 6.6 miles. Bloomsday is 12K (about 7.5 miles), so... it was time for a longish run.

All sorts of good conditions came together this morning. The weather was lovely, slightly hazy sun, so not too hot but definitely balmy (and warm enough that I had to take off my jacket pretty quickly). I had a low-pressure time deadline, a baby shower to attend at 2 p.m., so I had to get out sort of early but not at the crack of dawn. I ended up leaving my house a little before 9:30, which was perfect. I could actually have left by 9:00, but I chose to be lazy and read a little and allow breakfast to digest before I hit the road.

I had a nice carby breakfast plus caffeine before I went. I actually had a little too much breakfast, as I ate a mini-breakfast cookie around 8:00 and then Rod made oatmeal, which I hadn't planned on, but I didn't want to admit scarfing down the breafast cookie, so I had breakfast number two and a cup of coffee.

I figured eight miles would be a good distance. Not too huge of an increase in what I'd been doing but a decent number. Plus I could easily pad my usual the route by adding an extra half mile in the middle and a mile or so near the end before I turned for home.

I started out with a spring in my step. In fact, as I was running up the hill that's about a quarter of a mile from my house, I passed a guy going to his car who called out "keep up the pace!" That's not typical!

I finished that first mile in 9:40, which meant that it was entirely realistic to plan on keeping the entire run under a 10 minute pace. In fact, my average pace by the end was under 9:30,* which felt "comfortably hard," although slightly slower than an ideal race pace, so I think that it just about fit the definitition of a tempo run.

My splits were 9:40, 8:44 (again, that freaky mile 2 cannot be trusted), 9:19, 9:23, 9:31, 9:45, 9:27, 8:41, and then just .01 mile at 8:24 pace (how that small a distance can even be measured, I don't know). The only indication that I was taking on a longer distance that I was accustomed to was that gradual slowing in the middle, although I did manage to pick it back up for miles 7 and 8. Okay, I admit that most of those last two miles were on a downhill incline, and a down hill for the final half mile!

I put on a real burst in the final full mile (Garmin says I reached a fastest pace of 7:01), and perfectly coincidentally, crossed the 8-mile point as I got to the intersection of Broadway and Everett Avenue, across from Starbucks and QFC. I bought myself a latte and (ahem) a cinnamon scone, and walked the remaining half mile home as a cool down, enjoying the mild euphoria that comes from a good, intense run.

*9:19 according to Garmin, although that could be wrong if the timing on mile 2 was askew.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A few pictures from Bath

I splurged and spent mega-pounds on the downloadable picture package from the Bath Half. It truly was a splurge, as in the end there were only a few of the pictures that I could actually stomach (that didn't make me look like I weighed mega-pounds as well). Furthermore I can't quite figure out how to properly download all this content, so it is very possible that in a day or two or few I will lose everything except the ones I have particularly saved!

So here, for posterity, are some gold-plated photos of my run in Bath.

This first one must be near the beginning. I deduce that because it was the first one in the series.
We are still in the city here, as you can see from the buildings in our background.
I must have seen the photographer here... there are several in a row where I am grinning broadly and I can't imagine any reason why except for the photo op! You will notice from these pictures that I, and most of the people around me, have green bibs. The bib color signifies our starting wave, which is based on our estimated finish times. The white bibs are the fastest groups, then the greens, then the oranges. You can see, in the pictures, that most of the bibs around me are green. This is encouraging, because at least I was relatively holding my own! In the second photo I did, however, spot a speedy orange bibber at the left front, as well as, what's this, a white bibber behind me in the the third shot!

I never wrote a real race report for this run because, from a racing standpoint, it was a real disappointment to me. But now, a month later, the scars have pretty much healed—although I still don't like to think about my time—and I can remember it in a more positive light.

There were a few things about this race unique to any run I've ever done (other than the excrutiatingly slow time).

First, and definitely coolest, I got to see the front running racer (and probable winner) go by with all his entourage. This happened because the race was essentially a double loop. About a mile or so after the start in Great Pulteney Street, we did a big loop through town, which took us to about 10K. Then we repeated the town loop, and finally traced our original steps back to the finish line, at the same place as the start. Somewhere during the first town loop, we heard sirens and megaphones directing runners to keep left; then on the right we were passed by a vehicle carrying the time clock, followed shortly by the lead runner. He was quickly on his way, never to be seen again (by me).

The other new experience I had was something I'm sure other people have seen in other races, but which has been uncommon in the rather modest, sedate runs I've done in the past. That is, of course, runners relieving themselves by the side of the road. Mostly men, although I'm sure I also saw a few women ducking off into the bushes. There seemed to be certain spots along the way—all outside the town center—that were magnets for peeing runners. I suspect there is some kind of a tradition relating to this race, and perhaps the regulars take pride in marking the side of the road as they go!

There were, by the way, porta-potties along the route, all of which had some kind of line when I passed them. So not everybody was willing to drop trou in public!*

Unlike the U.S races I have done, the water stops were stocked not with paper cups of water, but small bottles instead (just like the elites). The stations alternated between water and Lucozade, which is a Tang-like orange bottled sports drink. I had actually started the race carrying my own mini-bottle of water, so I bypassed the water stations until after I threw away my empty bottle. I'm not crazy about carrying a bottle—I think it slows me down, although I do it when I'm running at home—but it was a warm day and I was loathe to give up my water. In fact, a while after I ditched my bottle I became quite thirsty, enough that I was desperately awaiting the next station. That happened to be a Lucozade station, which I took happily, hoping not only to quench my thirst but perhaps get a boost from the sugar in the drink! I kept that bottle until I traded it for a new water bottle sometime later. Since they were providing whole bottles, the stations were not as frequent as they might have been if the water was only provided in little cups. In fact, I think the water station where I got my bottle might have been the last one in the race.

It was a sunny, warm day, and since the race didn't start until 11:30—delayed from 11:00 due to difficulty clearing traffic—we were running in the height of the day. What is it they say about mad dogs and Englishmen? I had left the hotel a little past 9:00, wearing a jacket, but by the time we actually started I had taken the jacket off and tied it around my waist. I wished, desperately, that I would see my parents on the route so I could throw it at them and be done with it, but of course, with hundreds of people lining the street, that didn't happen.

The crowd support was fantastic. The papers said hundreds of viewers (and 15,000+ runners), but I felt like there were thousands stretched along the miles. In the more central town parts of the race, the crowd was packed many deep. Only in the most remote stretches were there few observers, and even there we would be cheered by a handful of people every few feet or so. Many of our supporters were children, and every time one stuck out his or her hand I slapped it as I passed. I figure that I was slow enough that the fractions of seconds it would take to high five someone (or a lot of someones) would not make a major difference to me!

Despite the huge number of runners I never felt sardine packed. I was able to run at my own pace easily (unfortunately that happened to be a slow pace). The sardine situation happened only after we crossed the finish line and were ushered into the exit area to pick up our goody bags and make our way to the street. The goody bags included our medals, t-shirts (size large for everyone, very efficient), and some snacks and drinks. I was not the only person ripping open a granola bar as we shuffled along!

That was pretty much the end of it all. I finally got to the street, met my parents over by the Abbey, got an ice-cream cone then walked back up the hill to the hotel. I was feeling a little mopey and depressed over my performance, so I'm afraid I wasn't very good company. It was after that that I decided not to run Whidbey two weeks later, and take some time before doing another race.

In the end it didn't take much time. One month after Bath I signed up for Bloomsday, which is coming in just a little more than two weeks. So, we shall see... I am optimistic!

*I maintained my streak of never needing to stop for a bathroom in a race—although this one was a close call because I had mild cramps throughout, but never amounting to anything urgent enough to stop.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bloomsday blooms again

Yesterday I bit the bullet and signed up for my first race since Bath, the Bloomsday 12K in Spokane on May 3. Bath seemed to be the bottom of my winter decline, as things (running) have improved immensely in the month since then, especially (for some reason) since the start of spring.

Now I do have to make sure I get a few longer runs in before then. The race is about 7½ miles long and I haven't run more than 6½ miles or so at one time for a couple of weeks. Two, hopefully three 8-10 milers should do the trick. I don't think it's been long enough for me to have lost all my distance endurance.

I'm feeling pretty good about my speed. I've been consistently doing a 9:30 to 10:15 pace (sometimes faster), and if I can run about a minute (or even 30 seconds) per mile faster in a race, which I have historically done (even in Bath, it's just that my base training pace was so slow), then I will be very happy. If I run the same pace as I have been these past weeks, I'd be okay with that too, if not thrilled.

This morning I did some simple speed work with one-mile pick-ups. I did two miles at warm-up pace (10:50, then an inexplicable 9:15*), one mile faster (9:20), a mile recovery (9:57), another mile faster (9:23), and the last mile or so recovery (9:43, then .15 at 9:54 pace). I decided to shut off the Garmin at exactly 1 hour, which was 6.15 miles, and walk the rest of the way home. In retrospect I wish I'd just run the other tenth of a mile so I could have compared the average pace of today's run over the 6.25 miles with yesterday's progression-type run. I suspect that the average pace would have been about the same, despite the different pattern of running. (Today's average pace was 9:45, but probably would have been a second or two slower if I'd finished up the full 6.25.)

*For a while I have been questioning the accuracy of Garmin for this second mile in my typical run. It always seems too fast for the type of running I am doing, which is usually still warm-up. My pattern is to run 1.5 miles, pause the Garmin and stop for a potty break, then restart the Garmin when I resume. It's usually the second half of mile 2 that seems unusually quick. I suppose I could be running extra fast after the bathroom break, but it just seems odd!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A much better day

Yesterday pretty much sucked. It was raining when I woke up, and it was so not worth it to go out running in the rain. I went to the Y instead, thinking that maybe I would go running in the afternoon if the rain let up.

Well, it didn't. At 11:00 it was raining and hailing. At 11:30 it was sunny! By mid-afternoon it was pouring. The rest of the day it just rained off and on.

But there were more dark clouds over my head than just the rain clouds. I found out from the accountant that I had vastly underpaid my estimated taxes throughout the year, and had a huge tax bill to pay (with my extension). To look on the bright side, that meant that we had made a lot of money last year, but really, what good is that money if we're just sending most of it to the U.S. Treasury in tax payments? At least that's how it seemed.

There seemed to be no alternative but to eat a lot of candy. All day long. Our paralegals have both given up smoking, and there seems to be lots of goodies around for them to turn to as a substitute for cigarettes. Lorraine has a big Costco bag of tootsie pops, Jolly Ranchers, Laffy Taffy, and so forth, all of which I dipped into liberally throughout the day.

Today, however, is another day. The tax bill remains frightening, though slightly reduced due to some recalculating. I've reduced the candy intake substantially—though unfortunately, not entirely—and the sun has come out this afternoon.

This morning the weather was dry enough to take a Tuesday morning run (as a substitute for Monday's non-run) and it felt good. I got going late so I should have shortened it up, but I couldn't resist going for a full 6.25. My splits were pretty good:

1 - 10:14
2 - .54 mile at 9:56 pace (5:19)
3 - 10:02
4 - 9:44
5 - 9:39
6 - 9:31
7 - .72 mile at 9:18 pace (6:44)
Average pace for entire distance 9:47.

On a non-running note, I heard this song on the radio and liked it enough to seek it out on iTunes and download the album to my iPod. It's not a running song or anything, but it's fun.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Amusing myself

I spend a lot of time at the Y, primarily on the elliptical machines, when I'm not running. I like the low impact of it and the promise of calories burned. But, I must say, it is boring. The new machines have video, so I can watch the Food Network, What Not to Wear, Wheel of Fortune, and other attempted distractions. I am not sure whether that is really any better than listening to the ipod and reading a magazine—but at least I'm saving money on buying magazines.*

But lately I've sought out another amusement to supplement (not replace) the TV shows, which is reading the blogs on my BlackBerry. I started out by just finding them with a browser search, typing in the names of the various ones I read, that I could think of. That worked well with Half-Fast, The Marathon Mama, and Running Into the Sun, which all popped right up in a Google search. When I tried to find Discovering the Meaning of Stonehenge in the Yahoo browser, I got a Wikipedia article about Stonehenge, but fared better with Google. But some names (including my own) found other websites of similar names. Trying to get Pieces of Me, I kept getting references to Ashlee Simpson's song!

But this afternoon I have leapt into 2007 (or so) and set up Google Reader so I can easily access my favorite blogs on my BlackBerry at any time, and even better, only get them when there is new content. Which means you guys had better keep posting frequently so I have plenty of reading material. And it also means, I guess, that I need to stop reading the blogs during the workday** and save them for the elliptical stints. Oh, also, please don't write in overly small type or pale colors because that is hard to read on a 2" x 2.5" screen!

*I can only read the celebrity gossip magazines on the Y, because they lay flat and the type is big enough to see when I am moving. I was buying several magazines every week!

**Just kidding, I don't really do that.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Negative splits

I was quite pleased to see negative splits on yesterday's afternoon run. I wasn't trying for that specifically, although I always hope to at least pick up the pace in the last mile or two. This time I shaved a few seconds off of every single mile...

1 - 10:37
2 - 10:14 (23 seconds faster)
3 - 10:06 (8 seconds faster)
4 - 10:05 (1 second faster—hey, it counts!)
5 - 9:58 (7 seconds faster)
6 - 9:32 (26 seconds faster!)
7 - 9:15 pace for half a mile (4:38) (about 8 seconds faster for the half mile)

You can use a race pace calculator to determine what your splits should be to achieve a desired result. Simply use this quadratic curve formula:

Percent of time = (2-4*ø)*(percent of distance)^2 + ((4*ø) - 1)*percent of distance)where ø is the percent of the distance to be covered at half way.

Don't like this?* Then just plug your information in here.

*Too complicated for you, perhaps? High school calculus too long ago? Me too.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The opposite of endorphins is...

A darned cold! With a hacking 4 a.m. cough that makes it highly undesirable, unadvisable, and downright impossible to get up at 6 a.m. to run. Where, I ask, are the endorphins that my body is supposed to produce to counteract the pain of a sore throat? In their absence, I am treating my throat (and myself) with hot lemon and honey (tea optional), which genuinely does soothe the throat and suppress the cough, at least for the minutes it is passing through. It also, of course, sends a constant flow of sugar into my body, which generates a craving for more, more, more! I am slurping this stuff down like little Renesmee and her alternative to mother's milk.* Which could create a problem zipping up my pants** if I (need to) (can't help myself) continue living on sugar water for too many days!

Evening addendum: I braved the cold (my cold, that is) to go for an after work run in the sunny afternoon. 6.5 miles in 65 minutes at 65 degrees—not too shabby. I don't think it (the run) exacerbated my cold symptoms, but I know that it (the cold) has not yet run its course....

*Yes, I am reading Breaking Dawn now.
**Which seem a little looser this week than last.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

High on endorphins

I had two great runs on Friday and Saturday. Yes, running on two consecutive days (and still great)—7.5 miles on Friday at 9:50 average pace, and 6 miles on Saturday at 9:29 average pace. The great victory on Saturday was that every split was under 10 minutes, from about 9:56 in the first mile to 8:58 in the final one.* Every other mile was within a few seconds of 9:30. None of this is what I would consider a desirable race pace, but I was not running a race with anything but my crappy winter runs. And I am winning that one handily!

On Saturday I stopped at the Y for a stint on the elliptical before heading to Starbucks and home; on Friday I just walked home from Starbucks. But on both of these days, I experienced the elusive "endorphin rush" as I took my restorative stroll home. And not thanks to the caffeine in my latte. (I don't think.)

I have a theory that your body has to experience a little bit of pain before it will reward you with endorphins. Not pain as in injury, but rather the stress of pushing yourself a little past what is comfortable and easy. I remember feeling the rush after lifting weights and then doing about 250 crunches, more than was "comfortable," for sure. An easy run can make you feel good—I'm not saying it's necessary to run hard every single time, that could lead to real injury—but I think that extra endorphin boost is much more likely when you run just a bit more intensely. Even if it's just in the last mile, or half mile, or maybe even block!

I didn't just make this up myself. Endorphins are neurotransmitters produced in the brain to reduce pain. Eating hot peppers can produce endorphins, as your body rushes to heal the pain of the heat in your mouth. This article lists a number of other things that can generate endorphins,** including positive thinking, sex, strong emotions, acupuncture, chocolate, fear, sunlight, and laughter. (Okay, that's the list, read the article for the specifics.) Not all of those things are painful in themselves, obviously, but maybe intense physical or emotional sensations trick your body into thinking it needs to turn out some endorphins.

So really, the more of these endorphin producing activities you can engage in, the more euphoric you will be.

So try this for an ideal day. Start out with a long, intense run (and maybe a difficult Pilates class to top it off). Then take a really hot shower.*** Go get a round of acupuncture, or maybe a deep massage.**** Keep in mind that all of things things are making you feel great!***** Sometime during the day take a ride on a roller coaster, walk across a suspension bridge, or go to the top of something really high and look down. Do this in the sun! Then you need to go to a wonderful concert, dramatic or romantic movie, or other artsy activity of your preference. For dinner, eat the spicy food of your choice—Mexican, Thai, Indian, or Italian with plenty of crushed red peppers. Make sure that the food is exceedingly delicious. And don't forget a deep, dark, chocolate dessert. Okay, did I cover everything? Oh, well, you know how the evening needs to end.


*In the last quarter mile, the Garmin was steadily showing a "7" in the pace area.
**Aside from various illegal drugs, which are not recommended!
***Not on the list, but I think a shower that is just a little hotter than comfortable has this effect also.
****My idea again.
*****That's the positive thinking one.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Building myself up by taking others down (not really)

As part of my running self-improvement scheme, I will admit indulging in some secret self-comparison. That is, identifying (to myself) people I know that have either run half marathons more slowly than me, or didn't live up to their potential. The point of this? Reminding that there's still a lot of people who I am faster than (not to mention all the people who don't run at all); plus, that everybody has a bad day sometimes, and it's not the end of the world!

I chose as my basis for comparison the recent Whidbey Island Half Marathon, which I did not run. So I can't really compare myself directly to those who did run it. Of course, as you may recall, part of the reason I decided not to do it was the horror of having my pants beat off by other runners I knew.*

When the results finally came out, it turned out that these people didn't do nearly as well (fast) as I had expected. Which either says that the course was incredibly difficult (in which case I'm glad I missed it), or just that they too were in a slump, or having a bad day, and I'm not the only one that happens to.

No names, of course, but Runner #1, who I expected to finish under two hours or at least close to it (based on past races and the couple of times I've seen her training recently), finished with 2:09. Another person, Runner #2, who I've just beat by a few minutes in Whidbey 2008 and 2007, and who I also thought would be close to two hours, was actually over 2:30. Obviously something didn't go quite right there. Boy, do I sympathize with that.

I also found out about three other people I know who ran, finishing in 2:29, 2:56, and 3:00. The third one is training for a marathon. I don't know how they felt about their times, but I'll bet they're proud of themselves for running and finishing. As they should be.

So that's it. The world is full of people who don't run sub-two hour halfs. Some of them, like me (I still believe) and Runners #1 and #2 above, can do it, but sometimes it just might not happen. Others might not be able to, but can still have the satisfaction of their achievements. As for Runners #1 and #2, and the others above—those people, if they knew I was writing this (which they never shall), can also take satisfaction that they actually did Whidbey and I did not.

*And how awful would that be? Running pantsless and all that.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I'm doing the Boston Marathon!


I did, however, run 6.25 miles this morning, at a respectable 10:15 average pace, first mile slower and last 1.25 pretty fast. And I did it before the snow came (not April Fool's). (It was a wet, rainy snow, but still... it's supposed to be spring!)

*Am I the only one using this joke? I doubt it....

And another April Fool's joke...

I got on the scale this morning for the first time in, well, weeks, and I think someone was playing an April Fool's joke on me! And not a good one. Clearly this is some explanation for my slower running pace... I'm carrying around a hefty layer of cake, cookies and scones. Maybe the shock value is enough to make me turn down the treats, finally!