Stick it out

Date: June 22, 2014

Distance: 10 miles

Time: 1:52:51

Yesterday, I completed a ten-mile training run and thought a lot about the importance of sticking it out.

http://www.pinterest.com/irunhappy/run-happy/

http://www.pinterest.com/irunhappy/run-happy/ (Forgive the capital “R”. Not my creation. Like the sentiment, however.

This thought–about the need to be persistent during a particular workout–was most likely brought on by the fact that I chose to run five miles uphill before I turned around and rewarded myself with the much-easier five miles down. I hate hills. They really suck. But, I must admit–sometimes the first couple of miles of any run feels challenging, no matter the terrain or elevation. To get through those first tough miles, I repeated, “stick it out, stick it out, stick it out” dozens of times in order to keep myself focused.

Even after eight years of running, I still have days when I start out and nothing is coming together–I hurt, my muscles feel tight, I can’t get my breathing under control, and–in short–it’s not fun at all.

Thankfully, because I’ve been running for awhile, I know that this feeling is most likely temporary. I just need to stick it out until my muscles loosen, my breath falls into a calm, steady rhythm, and my mind opens up because I forget that I’m running. I just need to stick it out.

For me, things generally come together about 1.5 or 2 miles in. This common physiological reality is probably why people who say they hate to run honestly hate to run. They most likely haven’t ever gotten past those initial couple of miles and experienced “the good part.” After all, why would anyone run if it always hurt and was a struggle? It takes awhile, though, to work up to one or two miles when running and many people simply don’t have the patience or the will to stick it out.

Before I started running regularly, I remember how awful some of my first attempts felt. I used to be in awe of runners who ran “for fun” and genuinely seemed to enjoy running. Blech. I hated it and could never understand how they got to that point. I remember thinking that some people are just built for running and I’m not.

In reality, I just had never given myself a fair chance to build up to the point where I could start to enjoy running–where I could experience the benefits of running. That took me years. I wished I would have stuck it out back then, but I didn’t have the patience.

The idea of sticking it out not only applies to singular workouts–it also applies to an entire training plan or one’s general approach to healthier living and long-term goals. This weekend, I was provided with a reminder.

Being Reminded About the Need to Stick it Out

I’ve often written about my affinity for Bikram yoga. When I practice yoga, I am stronger, I have more clarity, I experience increased flexibility, I have improved balance, I sleep better, and I’m an all-around nicer person. So, why oh why did I quit going to classes about a month ago when I know how beneficial a regular practice is?

As sometimes happens, life got in the way. I had a particularly busy schedule last month and started cutting back on yoga classes–telling myself I didn’t have time. Thankfully, I (mostly) still kept up my running schedule.

After realizing that I had let an entire month slip by without attending a yoga class, I dragged myself to class on Saturday. And, what did I notice? I didn’t feel as strong. I was distracted. I had almost no flexibility. And the next morning? I was SORE!

Rather than beat myself up about my lack of discipline, though, I’ve used this experience as motivation to re-commit to a regular practice.  I’ve got to get back to my twice-a-week yoga routine.

It’s depressing, but it’s reality. It doesn’t take long to lose fitness levels when workouts stop. It’s much better to maintain those levels with a regular workout routine so the many benefits of regular exercise continue.

When life starts to get in the way, or when that training run starts out in agony, I just need to remind myself to stick it out. It’s worth it.

 

 

 

2014 Race for Grief

Date: May 26, 2014

Distance: 6.2 miles

Time: 1:00:04 (gun time); 59:47:37 (Garmin time)

Today was a beautiful day to run. I was glad I had this race on my calendar but was a bit concerned because I spent the past two days fighting some sort of a stomach virus. My goal was to run this in under an hour and I did. Barely, but I did, so I’m happy–that is, if I count my Garmin time, which I will since I didn’t cross the start until a few seconds after the 5K runners started.

This race is a nice event that brings together parents who have lost babies. Others also run the race commemorating older loved ones who have passed away, and there’s a nice spirit of shared support at this event. I’ve found it to be a very satisfying way to take time and honor Melanie, whom we lost four years ago.

Shirt and medal

Shirt and medal

I wrote in more detail about the event last year at this link.

This year, they added a 5K option and moved the race day to Memorial Day, which I thought was a great move. For me, it’s especially meaningful. Melanie’s middle name, Irene, honors my Grandma–who would have celebrated her birthday tomorrow, if she were still with us.

As long as this event continues to be held, I’ll look forward to running it whenever I can.

Peace to everyone today who is remembering and honoring service men and women, and family members and friends who have left us too soon.

Happy Memorial Day to everyone, and Happy Birthday, Grandma Irene. I know you are taking care of Mia until we get to see her again.

Indianapolis and Cincinnati…another back-to-back

Date: May 3, 2014

IN shirt & medal

IN shirt & medal

One America 500 Festival Mini Marathon

Distance: 13.1 (Actual more like 13.2)

Time: 2:30:06

_____________________

Date: May 4, 2014

Flying Pig Half Marathon

Distance: 13.1 (Actual 13.3)

Time: 2:38:02

_____________________

For the third time, Denise and I completed two half marathons in one weekend. This time, we knocked out Indiana and Ohio (states #28 & #29). These were both really fun races and I would do either one again in a heartbeat.

Indianapolis Race

Denise in front of IN Capitol Building on our way to pick up race packets.

Denise in front of IN Capitol Building on our way to pick up race packets.

The Indianapolis race touts itself as the nation’s largest half marathon. The race is capped at 35,000 participants and –according to the website–has sold out for the past 12 years. The race does not include a full option so everyone running is doing the half, which I think is a really great feature of the race.

The best parts of this race are the crowd support, the mostly flat course, and the fact that–starting at about mile six, runners get to run an entire lap around the Indianapolis 500 Speedway track.

I’m not a car racing fan at all, but I still thought that lap around the speedway was one of those amazing, once-in-a-lifetime moments. Now, every time I see a television clip showing a car race there, I’ll immediately think, “I’ve been there! I’ve run on that same track!”

In terms of crowd support, this race had more aid stations than any race I’ve ever run–we could count on being able to get water or Gatorade almost every half mile. Also, there were more musicians and bands along this course than any Rock and Roll marathon I’ve run (and that’s the branding message for the R & R races).

We stayed at the Marriott Courtyard by the capitol building, and that was a convenient choice–in the morning, we only had to walk about three blocks to the starting line. It was pricey, though, and jacked up by $50 per night over the regular hotel rates. Oh, well. The convenience and that later race start (8:15 for our corral) was worth it. I honestly felt as though I got to sleep in for this race and that was well-appreciated.

Really loved this race.

Flying Pig

At start of the Pig. Football stadium ahead.

At start of the Pig. Football stadium ahead.

The Flying Pig is a very well-known race. And it, too, includes ten of thousands of participants. The entire weekend is filled with various races–kids race, dog race, relay races, 10K, 5K, a full, and the half. There are more related events, I’m sure. Let’s just say it’s a huge party for several days.

The half course takes participants along the Ohio River, past the football and baseball stadiums, over three bridges, into Kentucky for a bit, through a park, and all through several downtown areas. It was hilly, but I loved it. The crowd support was amazing and the scenery was among the best of any race I’ve run. It, too, offered very frequent aid stations and some towards the end even offered oranges, licorice, Swedish Fish, and Jolly Ranchers. I skipped the oranges (too sticky), Jolly Ranchers (afraid I would choke), and the licorice–but only because I didn’t really notice them until I had passed by. I certainly grabbed a handful of fish, however.

The race finished at the baseball stadium, only about six blocks from our hotel so we were able to walk to and from the race in Cincinnati too. I love not having to deal with shuttles or driving to the start, that’s for sure.

View near the finish.

View near the finish.

One of my favorite parts of this race, related to the great crowd support, was seeing all the creative motivational signs.

Signs along the course or shirt slogans that made me smile:

If you are behind me, that means you didn’t train for this race either.

Ryan Gosling, puppies, and wine are waiting for you at the finish. (If you don’t get the Ryan Gosling joke, check out some of these Google images).

If Brittany Spears can survive 2007, then you can survive this.

You look like you have good stamina. Call me.

If this race were easy, it would be called “your mom.”

And, another mom one (held by two young boys): Hey, Mom, Hurry up. Dad said we could get ice cream when you finished your race.

OH shirt and medal

OH shirt and medal

So funny. And, having great crowd support really does make a huge difference. It had been awhile since I had run a large race like both of these were, and that made the weekend really fun.

Denise and I run our next race together in September. Before then, though, I’ve got the Missoula Half Marathon planned. Looking forward to it!

Albuquerque was good to us

Date: April 19, 2014

Distance: 13.1 miles

Time: 2:25:06 (gun time)

Cheap race shirt and medal.

Cheap race shirt and medal.

Really, really liked Albuquerque. Will definitely go back to explore. Everyone was so friendly and the town felt much smaller than the half-million population. The race, too, was great.

The race was small–fewer than 700 people ran the race. Packet pick up was at a local running store, and the course began and ended at a local elementary school. Much of the course was on dirt or gravel roads or through neighborhoods. The weather was great, Denise and I felt pretty good for the race, and we enjoyed the morning.

Can’t say the post-race food was good, and the shirts were cheap cotton, but we didn’t really care. The entire weekend experience was enjoyable, relaxing, inexpensive, and we were able to take in some of the local flavor–including a visit to two local brew pubs Saturday afternoon following the race.

This weekend will be a nice contrast to our next race weekend in two weeks. We will be running the largest half marathon in the U.S. and another huge marathon the next day. The weekend will be hectic and the expo, parking, and races will be filled with crowds of people–a Niser Albuquerquesharp contrast to our small, leisurely, relaxing race weekend we just enjoyed.

Highlights from NM:

Ron, the Long Island-born bartender at the hotel, who is back in Albuquerque to take care of his ailing father.

The 27-year-old flight attendant and Great Dane owner we met at “The Tractor” who answered our many questions about Albuquerque.

Our Garmin, that insisted we take numerous, unneeded u-turns every time we relied on it for directions.

Our friendly hotel front desk manager who lined up our post race shot in such a way that it looks like I have a most unusual hat on my head.

Albuquerque post race

Antlers or a grand puba hat, perhaps?

Twenty-seven states are done! Yahoo.

Maybe shouldn’t have done that.

Date: April 5, 2014

Distance: 10 miles

Time: 1:39:24

Today I ran the Emigration Canyon Ten-Miler, despite my better judgement.

No medals in a ten-miler, but you still get a shirt.

On Thursday, I woke up with a sore throat and extreme exhaustion, which prompted me to call in sick yesterday when I also woke up with a headache. I rested most of the day and was feeling better, but still wasn’t great by evening. In contemplating whether or not to run the race, I told myself, “I’ll only run if I wake up feeling good AND it’s not raining.” (Honestly, I was thinking I would most likely put in a few miles on the treadmill at the gym).

Surprisingly, I woke up at 5:00 without my alarm, and the updated weather forecast predicted no rain until 10:00. I was also feeling decent–no sore throat, just a bit of nasal and chest congestion–so I got up, made coffee, and ate. Still felt pretty okay, so I took some cold medicine and headed out the door by 6:15.

This race finishes at “This is the Place Heritage Park,” so runners were encouraged to park in the lot there and ride buses to the top of Emigration Canyon to the start. Good plan, so after the race, it’s easy to simply jump in your car and drive home.

The problem with that plan (Race Directors, are you listening?), was the way too early bus departure. We all got up to the start by 6:45 and the race didn’t begin until 8:00. Dang it! It was cold up there and we all had to stand around for over an hour jumping in place, pacing around, or anxiously jogging around in order to stay warm. If my cold turns into pneumonia, I’m not blaming it on the race–I’m blaming it on the fact that I had to stand around in the cold for an hour before I could even get started.

I really had no high hopes on my performance for this race. I really was running more out of guilt rather than anything else because I had broken all training rules and hadn’t run at all since my half marathon two weeks ago. With my next race only two weeks out, I felt as though I needed to get some mileage in. In fact, my normal training schedule would have me run 10-11 miles this weekend anyway and I’ve been completing most of my long runs down Emigration Canyon anyway. The timing and location of this race couldn’t have been more perfect.

The Race

The race began at Little Dell Reservoir  so that means there’s a two-mile uphill climb right at the beginning of the race until the top of the canyon where the course winds downhill the whole rest of the way. I started off very slowly–alternating between walking and jogging during those first two miles. I’ve run this course dozens of times and knew how bad that first part is. Get past those first two miles, though, and the downhill makes it all worth it.

I forgot to wear my Garmin today, so I had no idea how I was pacing and had to rely on the race markers along the side of the road to inform me of my mileage. Every-once-in-a-while, it’s nice to run “naked”–as they say in running circles–meaning without technology. (I wasn’t completely naked, however, because I did remember to bring my iPod).

The nice part about running without tracking technology is you aren’t continually glancing at your watch the entire time and, most enjoyably, you are able to set a pace that isn’t dictated by your watch, but is based on how you feel. That was nice today. Even with the all-downhill course, I took a few walking breaks when I felt like it and then, when I was running, simply ran at a pace that felt right. It wasn’t until I crossed the finish line that I realized I had run an average 10-minute mile the whole race–even with the miserably slow first two miles. Wow. Sure wasn’t expecting that.

Looking Ahead

After the race, I headed home and enjoyed a hot shower followed by an hour-long power nap. Not a bad way to start the weekend and get some much-needed miles in before the Albuquerque Half in two weeks. Just hope I manage to get some shorter training runs and a few yoga classes in there before then as well.

 

Feeling old in heaven’s waiting room

Date: March 23, 2014

Distance: 13.1 (13.29 actual)

Time: 2:40:50

_______________________________________

Nope, the time listed is not a typo. Denise and I really ran that slowly–my slowest race ever–due to several factors.shirt & medal

For my part, I will blame my slow pace on the fact that, instead of resting up prior to the race,  I decided it would be a great idea to put in about ten miles of walking the day before I was to run thirteen. For Denise’s part, she had a blistering sunburn and a pretty bad cold when she got to the starting line. Combine those factors with high temperatures, near 100% humidity, and a nasty spill five miles in, and a slower-than-expected pace is sure to result.

Despite our mediocre showing, I must say this was one of the most fun race weekends I’ve had–primarily because I had enough time to play tourist.

It had been four months since either Denise or I had raced, and I was really looking forward to this one. Denise, her husband, and two boys had already planned a week-long vacation in Orlando, Florida so they could enjoy a baseball spring training game, March Madness basketball games, and theme park tours. And, when you are a runner, you often plan vacations around a race. We had found the Florida Beach Half Marathon two hours from Orlando, just outside of St. Petersburg ( in Tierra Verde on the North Florida Beach) that coincided perfectly with their plans.

Largest hunk of cheese ever shipped to the U.S. (mazarrosmarket.com)

That’s one big hunk of cheese!(mazarrosmarket.com)

I flew into Tampa on Friday, checked into our borderline-sketchy motel, and enjoyed a coma-like ten-hour slumber that night. Yep, that felt like vacation. The next morning, I decided to venture out and see how the day unfolded. The only thing I absolutely had to do was pick up our race packets in preparation for the Sunday morning race. I decided the first thing on the agenda, however, was to find a decent cup of coffee to make up for the poor-excuse for coffee I forced down at the free motel breakfast–you know what I’m talking about. We’re talking a six-ounce Styrofoam cup and powdered creamer. Bleh.

My smart phone (love it), clued me in to the fact that a wonderful sounding Italian coffee roaster/deli was about six-tenths of a mile away so I followed my phone’s lead and found the most amazing store–Mazzaro’s Italian Market. An oasis amid carpet wholesalers, pawn shops, and nail salons, it included a market, deli, bakery, wine shop, cheese shop, and coffee bar. I not only enjoyed a great cup of coffee, but I purchased some crackers, Italian cheese, and a nice “medium bodied Tuscan red,” based on the cheese guy’s recommendation. I also grabbed some chocolate dipped figs, some salami, and novelty chocolates that looked like pimento-stuffed green olives. The place was packed, and I could see why. I could have spent hours in there just browsing.

After unloading my stash back at the room, I waffled between taking a cab or walking downtown to get the race packets and decided the six-mile round trip walk would do me good. Besides, it had been months since I could be outside and enjoy 75-degrees and sunshine. I changed out of my sandals and into my running shoes, and made my way downtown.

I easily found the running store where we were to pick up the race packets, and asked a store employee where he would recommend that I get lunch. He looked at his watch and told me if I hurried, three blocks away was the Saturday Morning Market where I would find lots of food choices for the next twenty minutes. I love street markets! This one didn’t disappoint. It was filled with people, music, art, and food galore. I quickly spotted an attractive, yet inexpensive, painting of tulips that my new artist friend, “Angus,” signed for me and I then found a Cuban food stand. I ordered a shredded pork wrap that was amazing, and I finished eating just as the street market was closing. Sure wish I could have spent more time browsing.

The Hallucinogenic Toreador. (thedali.org)

The Hallucinogenic Toreador. I saw this in person! (thedali.org)

As luck would have it, I noticed directional signs indicating that the Salvador Dali Museum was close by. Since I had a whole afternoon to kill, and I generally enjoy museums, I was intrigued. I followed the signs and spent the next three hours enjoying a formal tour, catching the temporary Andy Warhol display, and checking out “the world’s largest Dali gift shop.” I learned so much during that tour and wished at several points that my family had joined me on this trip. My daughter, in particular, would have enjoyed “The Dali.” I sure was impressed.

After my time at the museum I headed back towards the hotel. When all was said and done, I estimated that I had probably put in about ten miles over the six hours and, with the exception of the ten minutes I sat down eating my lunch, I had been on my feet the entire time.

Soon after I got back to the motel, Denise and her family arrived and we checked in with each other and planned the next morning’s race logistics.

The Race 

The race started at 7:05 a.m. and was about half an hour or so from our motel so our morning started pretty early. This was the first race where I wore a tank top and shorts at the starting line and was perfectly comfortable–that should have clued me in to the fact that I would be a hot, sweaty mess just minutes into the race. During most races, I freeze as I’m waiting for the start and then finally warm up about a mile in.

Only about 1800 people ran this race and, by looking at the list of finishers, the vast majority of runners were from the local area. Things started off normally after the gun went off and we were enjoying the course, which primarily followed a paved running trail through Fort DeSoto Park. While it didn’t provide very many ocean views as I had hoped, the course was a nice out-and-back. Denise and I were pacing only a little under when, at about mile five, Denise caught her foot on a raised portion of the running path and hit the ground hard–bracing herself with the palms of her hands and scraping her forearm and thigh. Could have been really bad. Luckily, the road rash on her forearm was the worst of it and she jumped right up, said she was fine, and kept on going. We had an EMT take a quick look at the next aid station about a mile or so away, and he washed off her arm and wrapped it in some gauze to get her through the rest of the race without dripping blood.

That spill, though, threw everything off. It had caused us to lose some time when we weren’t doing very well pace-wise, to begin with. As for me, I was drenched in sweat and joked that I felt like I was in a hot yoga class rather than a race. And, like I learned in my

After the race--under the obligatory Florida palm tree.

After the race–under the obligatory Florida palm tree.

Cedar Falls race in Iowa, I don’t think I do well on completely flat courses. I find the very flat courses to be more fatiguing on my joints and muscles than courses that have more variety. As we shuffled along, we joked that, at this rate, we will need walking canes to finish off our 50th race. Oh well, we finished. One favorite quote we overheard a walker say, “Hey, I don’t care how long it takes me to finish–I get the same medal as everyone else. The way I see it, I’m just getting my money’s worth!”

Now that’s an attitude we can embrace.

After the Race

After the race we enjoyed some great post-race food, took a couple of photos, and wandered back to the car to drive to the motel. We were beat.

After hot showers, a couple of hours of rest, and our Italian market snacks, we were a bit more revived and met a high school classmate of Denise’s for dinner. Her classmate lives about seven miles from where we were staying and her husband is a St. Petersburg native so they were able to tell us a lot about the area. Most notably, that the city’s nickname was “Heaven’s Waiting Room” in reference to how many elderly people lived there. Now, they enthusiastically noted–the average age is St. Pete’s is probably closer to 50 rather than mid-70s as it has been in the past. When they said that, I immediately thought, “That’s still old.” That is, until I checked myself and realized that I am closer to that demographic than I’d like to admit.

I liked St. Pete’s. Sure, there are parts that are a bit rough around the edges and it does have a very dated feel, but everyone we met was so friendly and we really enjoyed the time we spent there. Next on our list is Albuquerque in a month. At least I know we won’t be dealing with the humidity!

Outside is best

Date: February 15, 2014

Distance: 9.15 miles

Time: 1:34:04

After weeks of long runs on the treadmill due to the cold weather and icy streets, I was thrilled to be able to run outside. Finally.

Looking up Emigration Canyon about halfway into my run.

Looking up Emigration Canyon about halfway into my run.

Back to one of my very favorite runs–Emigration Canyon. It’s not that pretty right now–not like it is during the warmer months of the year–but it was oh, so satisfying. I breathed in the cool fresh air, subtly waved to the bicyclists who passed me, and loved enjoying the scenery. Even the grey, muddy hues were much preferred to the inside of a gym.

Running outside is like playing outdoors where running inside on the treadmill is like playing video games in front of the television.

Heck, the newer treadmills DO have a television monitor and various gimmicky displays. Good thing, too, because that’s about the only way I could get through a treadmill run. Here’s what my long run is like on a treadmill:

1. Step on, push quick start, and wonder what “Fitness Test” would even tell me. Don’t want to know.

And, the view heading down

And, heading down.

2. Start at 2.8 mph for the first five minutes to warm up while I plug my earphones into the audio and channel surf. Watch CNN for the first few minutes, get bored, and then usually settle on the Food Network channel. Or, just listen to music while playing with the displays that show me how many laps I’d be running if I were on a 5-K course around a pond or running on a track.

3. Bump up speed to 5.0 and every tenth of a mile, increase the speed by .1 until I get to 6.5. Every mile do straddle maneuver so I’m off the moving mat while I take a swig of water. I am simply not capable of drinking and running at the same time.

4. Every once-in-a-while grab the bar in front and measure my heart rate–only because I can. I certainly don’t do anything with that information.

5.  Go back down to 2.8 for ten minutes. Then repeat steps 3 & 4.

Or, at that point, advance to step 6.

6. Gut it out at 5.8 (or wherever else feels reasonable) until I reach my planned distance.

7. Wipe down all the surfaces I touched with a provided disinfectant cloth and think, every single time, “Maybe I should have wiped it down before I started my workout, because I bet the person who used this before I did didn’t wipe it down when they were done.”

8. Walk to my car, feel guilty for adding emissions to the environment, and hope for warmer running weather soon.

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