Because I Like It?

Why DO I do this, anyway?

Running is kind of a weird sport, because it really seems to bring out strong reactions in other people. Tell somebody you’re a runner, and prepare for the onslaught of reasons why that person doesn’t run, or a spate of questions about why you do.

Other sports don’t seem to have this effect. Tell someone you like to play softball, and they are likely to say, “good for you,” “that’s cool,” or possibly, “I was thinking about doing that. Where do you play?”

But running seems to bring out a need in people to explain why they don’t. Maybe it’s the fact that literally everyone can do it but most choose not to. At any rate, among the population at large, people who LIKE to run are a minority.

Non-runners think that those of us who do it must be genetically gifted but from what I have seen, that’s not the case. Go to a running event and you will see all types there, from the truly athletic Boston qualifiers to those who normally only run for beer.

I enjoy running, I work at it, but I also accept that on some level I will always be working with my own particular limitations. I’m a middle of the pack runner, and with a lot of hard work I can probably move forward to the front end of the middle of the pack, and maybe even place top 5 in my age group – perhaps better in an uncompetitive field. This may not sound exciting to anyone else, but to me it’s a goal that inspires me to get out 4 or 5 days a week and see what I can do. What’s the best I can do, working with what I have – to wit: knock knees, fallen arches, and a sort of paddling gait?

That’s the question I want to answer.

I don’t do it because I want to win races. I don’t do it because I want to have a perfect body. I do it because it feels good to move my body and be the fittest me I can be. I do it because every day I get a chance to measure myself and try to be just a little better than I was yesterday. Even on bad days, I can look back and see that I’ve come a long way in just 9 months. Who knows how far I might go in another year?

So that is why this blog is not so much about running or food, it’s really about feeling good, enjoying life, and moving forward – which I think is is achievable for everybody.

Maybe I’ll never run an 8 minute mile again. Maybe I’ll never place 1st in my age group in a race. Then again, maybe I will. Who knows?

That’s one of the things I think is great about running – you never know what you might achieve if you work hard enough. Doing the work is actually the fun part.

So the answer is, I do it because I like to. I do it because I can.

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Snohomish River Run – Race Recap

For two weeks our weather has been very foggy with no rain, and the weather report for today was supposed to call for clear skies this morning. So what do you suppose woke me up this morning at 6:45, two hours before race time?

That’s right – pouring rain.

I seriously considered rolling over and going back to bed but then I thought about my race fees, and how much I hate wasting money. And then I thought about how hard I had worked to get ready for the race and forced myself up and out of bed. Besides, I thought, if you are going to be a runner that lives in Seattle you simply cannot be the kind of person who backs out of races because of weather. And so, I got dressed, ate some oatmeal, drove through Starbucks for a latte, and arrived at my parking spot one minute before they closed the road.

Perfect timing.

Given the change in weather I had to make some last minute changes to my race day attire. Out with the lightweight capri tights and in with the UnderArmour cold gear long pants. I opted to add a second lightweight jacket under my soft shell, to keep warm before and after the race. I also swapped out my lightweight running socks for wool, since if my feet had to be wet, I wanted them to at least be warm. Under my two jackets I wore my official race shirt, a blue long sleeved tech shirt. It got a real test today and it passed – I felt warm enough and dry the whole time.

My parking spot was about a quarter mile from the start. Definitely worth the $10 to have guaranteed parking near the start and not have to ride the shuttle. On the other hand, I did have to arrive an hour before start time to use the parking spot. The best part was really after the race being able to go right to my warm car and straight home. I think the shuttle would have turned into a real hassle on the way home.

I parked the car, drank all the water in my bottle (decided to pre-hydrate and not carry – when it’s cool I don’t usually feel the need to drink on the run), and chugged the rest of my coffee. Next thing, time to scout out the porta-potties. An hour before race time there was already a line about 30 deep and the potties were running out of TP. Not a good sign for later, so I decided to get that taken care of sooner rather than later. I walked a little further and arrived at the start, where everyone was milling around in the rain.

I saw a friend from my gym who was going to run the half and wished her luck as they were calling half runners to the start, which began at 8:30. The 10k started at 8:45 and I was feeling chilly so I went to the coffee tent and got a cup just to hold on to.

While I was standing there, a woman approached me and asked, “so where do the runners start? At the start line?” I politely answered yes, but it did take some self discipline to avoid telling her that they actually would start at the finish line and run in reverse.

I considered taking a selfie but opted against. Did take a picture of runners standing around though.

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At 8:40, they called the 10k runners to the start. I wasn’t really sure whether I should be in the 10 minute or 9 minute pace corral. As I was training for the race, my big goal was just to finish in under an hour. That is about a 9:45 pace. I knew I could manage that pace – but I also thought of the advice I got from a friend on Saturday that said that if I wasn’t sore the day after, then I didn’t run hard enough. It is a race, after all. You’re supposed to go fast.

So I opted for the 9 minute corral but since I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pull off a race at that pace, I stood towards the back.

The gun went off and we all started running. I never bothered to turn on my gps and just ran by feel. I was surprised at how many people I seemed to be passing – I’ve never started that far forward before and expected to be getting passed a lot. I figured out why when we got to the first mile marker and the guy running next to me goes, “that’s 8.”

I asked him incredulously, “8 minute mile??”

He said yes, and I said, “holy cow, I’d better slow down!”

I did back off a bit after that but since I was feeling surprisingly okay, I didn’t back off too much – just enough to where I was breathing easy. At about mile 2 I started shedding layers, at which point I realized I had forgotten to take off the light jacket under my soft shell, which meant I would not have anything dry to put on at the finish. I was kind of bummed about that but decided to take it as a lesson for next time; I really need to write myself a note with things I need to do before the start since when I am excited I really can’t remember anything.

It was an out and back course along the Snohomish River, so we hit the turnaround just shy of 3 miles. As we were running I noticed I wasn’t seeing many people coming back from the turnaround. I figured out I was toward the front of the pack. I couldn’t help but feel pretty proud of myself for that, so as we hit the turn I made all the ladies standing there give me a high five. Yay me – I’m now a front of the pack runner!

After the turn, the pace started to affect me more – the tightness I’ve been feeling lately in my shoulder started really burning, and some new tightness in my hamstrings and hips reminded me that I was at the edge of what I really could handle. I pushed myself to maintain pace anyway though. I had a couple of people that I just stayed with most of the way back.

I enjoyed the course itself but I will say something that surprised me was the smell. It is riverbottom farmland that the course runs through and they must have had some cows around, because there was a definite odor of manure in the air. Didn’t bother me on the way out but on the return trip it did. I think I get more sensitive to smells when I am more tired.

As we made the final turn towards the finish we passed the photographer and I was feeling good so I made some crazy face. Apparently, that sapped the last of my energy because I could not get my body to cooperate when I tried to kick it in to the finish. But I held my pace. I looked up and saw my family right before the finish, and then I saw the clock and realized I had run my race a full 4 minutes faster than I had expected.

In spite of the rain, it was a pretty awesome race experience. I ended up 8th in my age group and was very happy with how everything went.

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Great Run For An Old Lady

I decided to mix it up today and run outdoors instead of doing the treadmill, which is what I usually do on weekdays. I had a short block of time right after I dropped Oleg off at preschool and before I had to pick Max up at the bus stop and decided to take advantage of it.

Although the weather really never warmed up for my run, it was still a good run, mostly because I decided to go pretty hard and prove to myself that my goal race pace really is possible. My goal, if I can make it happen, is to complete the 10k in under an hour. I would be pretty happy with that kind of performance at this point.

Distance : 4.42mi, time: 42:56, pace: 9:43min/mi, speed: 6.18mi/h.
http://mapmyrun.com/workout/410592793

Basically if I could hold that pace for the whole 6.2 miles I would finish in 59 minutes. The problem is that there is always a pileup at the start so that slows things down. On the other hand the course is flat so I may be able to make up time elsewhere. We’ll see.

Anyway, overall the run was good – my shoulder/back/ribs still hurt though. They stopped hurting about a half mile into the run, but started up again after I stopped. Wonder what I did? Stuff like this happens to me all the time – I end up with random bruises all over and no idea how I got them, and weird aches and pains crop up for no good reason.

Part of it is that I am clumsy – for instance on Monday I tripped over the vacuum cleaner because I was not looking where I was going and ended up with a huge purple bruise on my knee. But the other part is that I am getting older, and as you get older, stuff seems to hurt more and it takes longer to recover.

Not gonna complain though, because getting older beats the alternative.

My Workout

Moments of joy from today’s run:
Running through crunchy leaves
Negative splits
A good post run stretch
Hot turkey chili after a long chilly run

I think summer will always be my favorite time to run because the weather here in the Seattle is near perfect, and the the views are spectacular, but fall definitely has its appeal too. There is something about those crunchy leaves and the smell of firewood burning that just can’t help but bring a smile to my face.

Today’s run was a milestone due to being my longest run since my injury, and the longest run I will do before the Snohomish River Run in two weeks. I wasn’t sure how it would go, so my plan was to hold back for the first 2 – 3 miles, then pick up the pace with each mile, which is pretty much what happened, except for the last mile. I started having a little twinge in my hip on an uphill push and had to back off until it went away.

What this tells me is that I can probably handle about a 10:15 pace on race week, maybe a little faster given that its basically a completely flat course (except for one b-word of a hill right before the finish line – damn race organizers, I’m sure that hill will be slowing me down quite a bit). That means a 1 hour finish is within reach, so we will see…

As for today, the rest of the day is going to be about a hot bath, hot chocolate, Market Spice Tea, and finishing up my recipe for Peach Cranberry Pie. Which is awesome, by the way.

I ran with MapMyRun! Distance: 7.15mi, time: 01:14:41, pace: 10:27min/mi, speed: 5.74mi/h.
http://mapmyrun.com/workout/408091919

Slow and Steady…blah blah blah

According to MapMyRun, last week I ran 14.3 miles, which is the most mileage I’ve managed to run since I got hurt. I also hiked about 5 miles in Lord Hill Park with the hubby and kids so all told I put in quite a few miles last week. And there are a couple of mile runs I didn’t log, done mainly to warm up for strength training.

I’ve been pretty good since July about adding on miles slowly, and not worrying about speed. Taking things slow is actually pretty hard for me because I am a competitive person. Not saying I’m fast – but I am that person who normally runs a 10 minute mile, but if someone goes by me at a 9:30, I hustle it up just to pass, then I go hide behind a bush.

Oh, and I’m also sort of obsessive by nature. So doing the boring work of just building the base and putting in the miles, when I see people training for the distances I’d like to be able to run, running at speeds I wish I could achieve…it’s like torture sometimes. It takes discipline NOT to pile on more miles, not to sneak in the speed work, but just to keep it slow and steady and stick to the plan.

My goal right now is to get consistent 4 runs a week (3 treadmill, 1 road) and bring my mileage up to about 16 – 20 miles a week and stay there through the winter. I am mostly focusing on building my base, getting my body ready to handle the increased mileage I hope to add in the spring.

But now that I have said all that – I actually DID start doing a little speed work again. I think it’s okay – I’m only going to work on it one day a week and I do feel a lot stronger since I’ve been doing more strength training. I think it’s okay but I hope that is not just my pre-race ambition talking. Since I have the Snohomish River Run at the end of the month, I can already feel myself getting antsy about it, hating the feeling that I could run faster had I not gotten injured, and wanting to make a sort of last ditch effort to “pick up the plow” and run at a pace I may or may not be ready for. So I’m doing it a little bit, but being careful to pay attention to how I am feeling and dial back if necessary.

With these things in mind, yesterday was my first official speed workout. I did 4 miles on the treadmill, including 4×800 at a 10, 9:30, 9 and 8:30 pace with 200 meters walking/slow jogging between. I fell apart on the last one so I guess that is the threshold right now – I could run that fast if I was being chased by tigers, but otherwise, it is not a level of effort I can (or want to) sustain. As far as a potential race pace for Snohomish, I’d be happy if I could just get anywhere close to a 10 minute mile pace.

Could I finish 10k in an hour? I guess we’ll find out in 18 days.

The Adventure Zone

My basic running routine is running on the treadmill 2 or 3 days a week at my local YMCA, with one long outdoor run on the weekend. This is basically for child care reasons. The Y has free child care but I have to stay inside the building, therefore, the majority of running has to be done indoors. They have a big indoor jungle gym called the Adventure Zone where my younger son Oleg plays while I work out. Therefore, we call going to workout “going to the Adventure Zone,” which makes it all sound fun and exciting (and less like I am pawning him off on the nice ladies so I can run).

This arrangement works out pretty well, even if it is slightly less thrilling than the title of this post would suggest. Oleg has a good time there, makes friends and gets some energy out. I get a little time alone (albeit around a bunch of other people) and get my run on. I still would prefer being outside most days, but this time of year it takes the sting out of being stuck on the treadmill when I look out the window and see heavy grey clouds, and rain, and wind. Although today was actually pretty nice – windy and cool, but sunny. But for most of the last couple of weeks the weather has been crap, which makes being a hamster on a wheel seem less tedious.

I usually try to do various things to keep my interest level up while I am on the treadmill. Sometimes I try to work on speed a bit, other times I might focus on form, and sometimes I just do a boring run where I hold the same pace the whole time. Zzzzzz…anyway, I usually try to keep my brain engaged somehow.

Today I worked a bit on form, wearing the Merrell barefoot glove shoes that I have, and also ran some tempo pace pick ups. I can’t hold any kind of pace for a very long time in these shoes – my feet get too tired. You are supposed to land more forward on the balls of your feet rather than pounding down on your heels, which is what I typically do. Since I am hoping to work up to the half and then full marathon distance within a year, I am hoping doing some runs in these a couple times a week will help me to get a bit lighter on my feet and improve form so I can stay injury free.

I like the barefoot shoes a lot, I like how they make me feel more engaged with what my body is doing. But I don’t think I would try to run very far in them – it would probably take years to improve my foot strike enough to where that wouldn’t be colossally stupid. But, I figure I can run a few miles a week in them to sort of change things up and maybe get some incremental form improvement out of it. And that would be a good thing.

I also worked a bit on keeping my legs a bit wider apart, so between the two, it was actually quite difficult to do at the pace I was running. I am definitely feeling it now in my feet and ankles, as well as my hips. No pain, just that feeling when your body lets you know you were doing something different.

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Do you run on the treadmill? What do you do to keep it interesting?

Stormy Weather

I did it – I got out there and did my long run. I ran, even though it was windy. I ran, even though the skies were grey. I ran, even though it threatened rain. I ran, even though I could have skipped it. I ran, and it ended up being a great run. I even lucked out with the weather – there just a few sprinkles, and I even saw some blue sky peeking through.

I am glad I went when I did though. The weather forecast shows that the next wave of this storm will start coming through later in the afternoon. and by tonight, we will be dealing with this. Yuck!

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Here is today’s run according to MapMyRun:
Distance: 6.06mi, time: 01:03:22, pace: 10:27min/mi, speed: 5.74mi/h.
http://mapmyrun.com/workout/396610045

That’s the farthest I’ve run since I got hurt, and makes me feel like being ready for the Snohomish River Run is definitely not going to be a problem. I didn’t push the pace at all today, so I think that I might even be able to get it done in under an hour. That would be pretty cool.

I got to break in the new running clothes I bought yesterday too, and was pretty happy with them. Kept me dry and comfortable but not too warm. I really like my new soft-shell jacket. It is from Mondetta, a Canadian company, and looks really sharp. I wish you could see it in this picture a little better – it has a really cool reflective detail on the sleeve. And yes, that is my Hokies cap. Virginia Tech represent!

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I mentioned the weather wasn’t too bad while I was out, but there was plenty of evidence of the storm front we’ve been dealing with. September is going out with a bang!

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