Thursday, December 31, 2009

A last look back

In 2009, I only logged 350 miles run, but it was still a big year for me as a runner. Here are the highlights:

Jan/Feb: I managed to get out and run after work a few days a week. Decided to break a PR in the spring and knew that I needed to stay fit.

March: I began a 5K training plan and increased mileage dramatically. Have miserable fond memories from the beginning of the month of frozen eyelashes and running without being about to feel my toes.

April: Bought a Trek mountain bike and couldn't wait to cross-train. April 11: Run to Read. April 25: Main St. 5K. Two races that I hoped and expected to PR in that I didn't. Reached a plateau and was pretty frustrated.

May: Ran farther than 5.5 miles for the first time in my life. Became very motivated to increase my mileage.

June: Continued increasing mileage. June 20: O'burg 5K. Tied the PR exactly.

July: Continued increasing mileage. July 25: Branchville 5K. Broke PR by 9 seconds!

August: Continued increasing mileage. August 6: Christmas in August 5K: Broke new PR by 1:12! Continued increasing mileage until shins started hurting even when I was not running. Stopped running altogether.

September: Total rest, except a few miles the week of Sept. 12. Sept 12: Skylander 10K Challenge My first 10K!

October: Total rest, physical therapy, and the continuation of shin pain. Suffered from acute running withdrawal.

November: Bone scan revealed no stress fracture. Rested and began to slowly ease back into running.

December: Took it very easy and kept to a very conservative mileage increase. Brainstormed fun events and ways to train for next year.

So there it is. I still can't believe that I only ran 350 miles. I guess that I'll just have to stay injury-free next year and see what the mileage comes out to then. Can't wait to see what 2010 will bring!

Happy new year, and best of luck to anyone setting running goals for themselves!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2010 List O' Fun: Part 4

The new year is fast approaching, so I'll continue my list of fun running things to do in 2010 with something that has been growing in my mind for the past couple of months:

#1: Run a half-marathon
#2: Run on single-track bike trails
#3: Do some speedwork
#4: Run in the mountains

I've always been the first one to say that a hill on a run was tough or to blame hills for my fatigue or a bad race time. I want to do more of them, though, and I want to enjoy them. I want to be able to take my training all the way up a mountain and not be daunted. I want to run up to the top of the ridge and look out and be utterly overwhelmed by the view and the knowledge that I climbed that height.

I really started thinking about this after I started reading Geoff Roes' blog. He is an extremely talented ultrarunner from Alaska who also has an ability to put into words what I've never been able to describe about running, and he runs his best - physically and mentally - in the mountains. I've been wanting to run on technical trails, and mountain trails would be a greater challenge and immerse me even deeper into the natural, wild environment that I love running in so much.

Technically, I don't know if the mountains here classify as mountains. The ones I'd be running have an altitude of about 1,300 feet, but even "hill" tops can give a spectacular view. Just take a look at this one:

Monday, December 28, 2009

Holiday cheer from the threshold of Hell

Happy holidays! I hope that any and all readers had a very merry Christmas. Mine was very nice, spent with both my family and the support staff's family. I actually found some neat presents for my parents this year, and I was happy to be able to surprise them. For example, my poor dad is used to getting bbq spatulas and coffee makers, so he was very surprised to get kayak accessories instead. It made me so happy to see that he was happy with it!

I also received some great fitness gifts, for which I really have to thank my family and support staff. The first I opened up was Wii Fit from my parents. "Pretty cool," I thought. Then I tried it out, and it's much more than just "pretty cool." The yoga and strength training sections are like workout videos, except that the platform senses your motions and center of gravity and it tells you how to readjust your positioning for the proper movement. Very, very, very cool. I'll be working on flexibility and strengthening my core for better posture with this.

My parents also got me a calf-stretcher, which is very useful for me, since my calves are always tight. It gives an even better range of motion than standing on a stair-step. I definitely recommend one if you have trouble with tight calves.Then there was the support staff's gift: a bike trainer - a stand that you prop the back wheel on that provides resistance so you can ride indoors as a stationary bike. I had been wanting one of these for a long time because I want to even out my running and biking, and now it's hooked up to my old Diamondback just waiting for me to ride! I've already done about 40 minutes of cycling on it, even though I haven't moved it to its permanent spot by the treadmill. The support staff will probably help me with that when he comes over to help install a speedometer to go with it.

I made use of all of these fitness gifts this week, so I didn't feel too badly about slacking off with my already minimal runs. I ended up only doing one mile all of last week. I've been reading about running, though, in Once a Runner by John L. Parker, Jr. I like this book, although my running intensity has never been anything like the competitive collegiate track atmosphere that it describes. The book points out that recreational runners don't truly understand the mindset and training of a competitive miler, which actually made me feel slightly offended. In fact, I thought to myself, "Ok, Quentin Cassidy (the protagonist) may run over 100 miles a week and be existing in a state of perpetual exhaustion, but he's never known the pain of running with menstrual cramps."

Famous last words.

Was I trying to jinx myself? (This is where I come to the part of my post in which I describe how I decended to the threshold of Hell this weekend.) It seems that I did jinx myself. I was getting ready Sunday to go into Manhattan to see the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center with my cousin, her husband, and my sister, when I started to feel some cramps. I prepared myself somewhat in case the inevitable came around, and began on my merry way. I drove an hour to my cousin's house, which is about 25 miles from New York, and we took a bus into the city from there. The bus ride should have taken about an hour, but it was a beautiful day, and everyone else and their cousin also decided to go to the city, so the ride took 2 hours. During the course of this (bumpy stop-and-go) ride, the inevitable did come around. I was uncomfotable with cramps, but I figured that it was no big deal and I could handle it. Until we pulled into the Port Authority and took the escalator down into crowded stuffiness and I knew that I was going to throw up.

Maybe it was just that time of the month, maybe it was the bus ride, maybe it was not eating anything for several hours beforehand, maybe it was a lot of things, but when I found myself running along the New York sidewalks to keep up with the group while stripping off winter gear because I was desparately hot and realizing, on top of that, that the cramps were so bad that even standing upright and extending each leg to walk was unbearable, I think I had Quentin Cassidy topped. And then, when I threw up in a trash can on the sidewalk in the middle of New York City, I was truly at the threshold of Hell.

But I returned, and I can try to use the memory of it to help me with my running. Mainly, I have never, ever, felt such pain or had such an overwhelming sense of misery than I did leaning over the trash can knowing that I was a 2-hour, motion-sick-filled bus ride from my cousin's house and an hour's drive home from there. It was far worse than any of the cramps I've had while running, so maybe I'll remember and be hardened in future runs. Of course, I hope never to experience that feeling again, but maybe I'll remember that I did, indeed, return in one piece. In fact, I actually ended the night by drinking eggnog and eating cookies. Ah, to be well again!

Thank God for health and happiness, for so many new fitness opportunities, for my cousin and her husband, for my very supportive support staff, and for a merry Christmas this year (notwithstanding the whole Hell incident)!

I'm feeling much better and had a great 1.5 mile run on the treadmill this morning. I warmed up by walking and doing a few minutes on the bike, and I felt pretty good. Much better than I did last Tuesday when I only did a mile. Here's to more good training days this holiday week!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Ice Ice Baby

This coming week, I'm going to bring my mileage down and rest for the holidays. Bring on the ice for my legs and the hot cocoa for my tummy!

Last Saturday, when I made my triathlon contestant video, I ran on the trail through some snow. Because I was talking for the video, I was feeling pretty tired and out of breath by the first mile, but I kept going, and by the end I felt strong and even that I could have gone a lot farther. I felt that it was a really great run.

Tuesday I went for a 2.5 mile run and, because it was well above freezing and all of the snow was melting, I decided to do it on the street so I wouldn't have to slip and slop through mud on the trail. I couldn't believe how difficult those 2.5 miles were. I was exhausted by the end. I didn't run again until yesterday, when I did 4 miles on the trail with 3 walk breaks, and I woke up this morning feeling tired and sore.

I think that running in the snow last week was rough on my ankles and lower legs. Feeling sore is natural, but I'm going to be very careful because I still might be in danger of inflaming/bringing back my shin splints. I've been icing after my runs, but I'm going to ice throughout the day as well, as a precaution. Ice, ice baby!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

2010 List O' Fun: Part 3!

So, in my last few posts, I've discussed how I want to run a half-marathon, run single-track trails, and how I don't want to belly flop into the Hudson River on national TV. Now to continue my List O' Fun things to do in 2010:

#1: Run a half-marathon
#2: Run on single-track bike trails
#3: Do some speedwork

This sounds like a pretty simple, every-day, not-exciting thing. I've never really done it quite right, though, and I think that it could change a lot of things for me. I also have a special place in my heart for a 400m track. And doing some workouts there - done correctly to show some results - would be pretty special.

I spent a lot of time alone at the track during my senior year of high school trying to train myself to be good enough for the track team, and I feel like that was a defining time for me. Before that, I had been caught up in the general impression that I just wasn't the athletic type, and my parents never encouraged me to join any kind of organized sport, especially in high school, because it would be a big hassle for them to drive me home from practice. So deciding to join the track team was actually was one of my first steps toward independence.

Thanks to knee issues, my track career turned out to be one single JV race, but the experience of training and then joining the team was powerful. This post shows one of my memories of that experience. It's just a snapshot of an evening alone at the track, but it's one of the best examples I can think of as to "why I run".

So that brings me to doing some speedwork on the track this coming year. Once I started running in 5Ks, I tried to revisit the track to do speedwork -- without having a base. My experience of track in high school was as a sprinter, so I never had to do very long distances. The miles warming up and cooling down were the farthest distances I ran in those days. So, when I started running in 5Ks, it didn't seem odd to do speed workouts when I was only running 10 miles per week, although I can say that those workouts never had much of an impact.

I got pretty frustrated in the spring of 2009, when I was doing pace and speed intervals once every week and could not, for the life of me, break my 5K PR. I couldn't imagine why I wasn't getting faster. Then I started running longer distances and running just for the fun of it, and my speed increased dramatically. Like by a minute and 20 seconds in the 5K! Oh yeah, that "base" thing people talk about. That's what they mean...

So one thing that I would love to do in 2010 is to go back to the track after I've built up a base and do some real interval workouts. If having the base alone could decrease my times so much, I'd love to see what incorporating speedwork will do.

As much as I love the freedom and natural environment of the trail, there is still a competitor in me that loves the thrill of racing on a track, and I definitely want that as part of my running experience in the next year.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sometimes I'm just crazy...

Sometimes I'm a little crazy (by which I mean a lot crazy). Like this weekend, when, for a few hours, I thought it would be awesome to enter myself for a chance to go on CNN and participate in the NYC Triathlon.

It happened on Saturday morning when I was eating breakfast and watching the news. The medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, came on and said that in July, he would be doing the New York City Triathlon, and that he was looking for 5 people to do it with him. CNN would send trainers to your home and you'd be awesome and train for the next 6 months for the triathlon. It's called the Fit Nation Tri Challenge. I thought, "Hey! I bike. I run. I could do a triathlon! And, who wouldn't want a personal trainer checking up on your progress for 6 months?!" I went on the website and saw that to enter yourself for a chance, you needed to submit a video of yourself explaining why you would be a good candidate.

All of the videos were of people sitting on their couches. I thought "Hey! They look like couch potatoes! Why don't I do a video of me explaining why I should be a triathlete - while I'm running..."

So I went out for my scheduled 3-mile run (with my ancient digital camera in hand) and took this video of myself:

It's a big file, so I don't know if it can even be viewed in increments longer than 5 seconds, but I tried. It's a little goofy. Or crazy.

Anyway, after the run, I took a closer look at the submission guidelines. Look at what I found: "Costs and equipment used to participate in or prepare for the Challenge, such as bikes and personal trainers, will be the responsibility of participant."

Wait, what? I have to pay for the personal trainer they send to my house? Well, I'd better find out how much the race itself will cost to enter. I went to the event website, and it turns out that the race is sold out, so there was no registration fee posted. So I have no idea how much this whole escapade would cost me.

Then I started browsing through the site and saw that the swim segment takes place in the Hudson River. Can you see me diving into the Hudson River? Neither can I. Honestly, the last time I ever even tried diving into a pool, I did a belly flop instead.

Belly flop into the Hudson River while being filmed for CNN? Let's just say that made up my mind against submitting my video. It would have been fun and really exciting, but between entry fees, a personal trainer, a wetsuit, a road bike, a 1- or 2-night hotel stay in NYC, and the whole diving into the river thing, I'll have to pass this time. Dr. Gupta, if you're out there reading this and want me to run a marathon with you, I'll do it, but I can't afford a triathlon.

A mini sort of triathlon is upcoming on the continuation of my List O' Fun things to do in 2010. That one is sprint distance and includes canoeing instead of swimming. I'll save that for another post, though.

Before I end, I want to congratulate bloggers Jenny and Jeri for success at the Dallas White Rock Marathon/Half-marathon yesterday! While I was home being crazy, they were out being awesome. Congrats to Jenny for setting both a PR and a BQ in the marathon, and to Jeri for a PR in the half! You guys are really inspiring, and I enjoy reading your blogs. :-)

Friday, December 11, 2009

2010 List O' Fun: Part 2

In yesterday's post I discussed how I am looking forward to running a half marathon in 2010 as a way to expand my running horizons and enjoy my hobby as much as possible. Now it's time for the next one up on the list:

#1: Run a half-marathon
#2: Run on single-track bike trails

I normally do a good deal of my running on a flat, level trail. It used to be a railroad bed, so there are no steep ascents or descents, no sharp turns, and few tree roots to trip over. It's great for injury recovery or long runs when I don't want to overwork myself with hills, but even during those runs, I sometimes wish for it to be a little less tame.

Every once in a while when I come to a rock cut, where the path was blasted out of a hill for the railroad to pass through, I'll run up the side of the hill to get a different perspective and give some alternate muscles a chance to work. It feels so good, after the repetitiveness of a flat surface, to nimbly jump over roots and dart around rocks to the top and then pick my way down the other side. These types of trails are calling me, and I can't wait to answer.

There's a state park located about a half-hour away from my home with miles of single-track trails. If I do little else in 2010, I want to get out to that park and run on those trails. I know that I'll enjoy the technical aspect of the trails, the scenery will be gorgeous, it will be good for training, and it's an opportunity for the support staff to keep me company on his bike. Given all of these points, I can't believe I haven't done it before!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

2010 List O' Fun

Why did I sign up for a half-marathon 7 months in advance at a time when, on doctor's orders, I couldn't even run? Good question. The answer is #1 on my 2010 List O' Fun. Read on and I'll explain.

There have always been different reasons why I run. In high school, it was because I wanted to prove that, geeky as I was, I could join a sport and be good at it. In college, it was to lose weight and relieve stress. After college, it was to participate in road races and feed that competitor in me that didn't get enough in high school track.

I started out 2009 with that competitive motivation. I was determined to lower my 5K race times and place higher in my age category, and when I couldn't keep up with my running buddy, I increased my mileage so I wouldn't be left behind. Then something interesting happened: I went out for long runs and didn't look at the stopwatch. I really liked these runs. I started looking forward to them all week. My self esteem was boosted, and instead of running to lower my race times, I ran because it was my hobby and I wanted to do more of it. I became more laid-back about races and ended up running my fastest times ever in the 5K. Most of that is because I had, unwittingly, built up the base needed for speed, but a lot of it was also that I was having more fun.

And now, after getting shin splints and not running for 3 months, I have a long list of ways that I want to have fun by running in 2010. In some ways it is like a list of goals, but in other ways, it's just a brainstorming of ideas. I expect that I'll be running for many years to come, so there's plenty of time - I'm just so excited about it all that I want to do everything as soon as possible. I'll start working on it in 2010. So here it is, my 2010 List O' Fun! Instead of listing everything right now, I'll focus on one item per post.

#1: I want to have fun by running a half-marathon.

I've had this goal ever since this summer when I realized that my long runs were just a few miles shy of a half-marathon. Now, although it's not until May, I can't wait for the experience. It will be my first really large race. I can't wait to get into the corral at the start and feel the energy from all of the other runners and then have lots of crowd support during the race. It's always been nice to wave to people who stand on their porch as a 5K takes place on their road, but I think that this will be a different experience. And I'll be able to be a spectator as well! After I'm done, I'll be able to watch the full marathoners cross the finish line. And there will be professional race pictures along the course (the support staff will probably be relieved not to have photographer duty!). There is so much that this race will have that I've never experienced before, and I can't wait to enjoy it all.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Forgot one teensy little thing...

I had 1.5 miles on the trail to run today, so I walked a half mile, ran a half mile, and then turned around and ran the mile back. I just forgot one teensy little thing -- to stretch! I don't know why I thought that walking would be enough of a warm up, especially since the weather was chilly. I felt a little stiff as a result, but other than that, it was a good run. It snowed a few days ago, and there was some snow and ice left on the trail, but I tip-toed through it and didn't slip. I actually felt more stable running than walking, since there's so much less contact with the ground.

I'm really pleased with the fact that my shins aren't a problem anymore. I'm more confident about being prepared for the half marathon, and I can't wait to see what other adventures I'll find for myself in 2010. I'm really looking forward to running more technical trails, and maybe I'll do some running at higher elevations. Depending on how things go, I might even sign up for a marathon...

But first things first: I have 20 more weeks before the half-marathon. I have to safely work up to being able to finish that. The rest of my week looks like this:
1 mile on Thursday, and then 3 on Saturday -- the longest run since September!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Another good run

Yesterday I got in a 2-mile run before sunset, and I am happy to say that my legs once again felt great. I tried to pay attention to form -- concentrating on keeping my back straight and lifting with my quads with every step rather than pushing up with my feet and lower legs -- and my shins didn't hurt at all. The pace was not hard, but it was a bit brisk, and by the time I was done, I was out of breath, and my legs were a bit shaky as I stretched out. They've been out of training for a long time, now! It was a good run, though.

At night I got a kind of reward for the 10k I ran in September. Since the course was improperly marked and official times could not be given, all participants were given two free tickets to a show of choice at the local community college's performing arts center. Last night the support staff and I redeemed them and saw a great production of Oklahoma! It wasn't a fancy medal, but I appreciated it as a reward for the 10k.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A little longer and feeling great!

I decided to go for 2 miles today. It fit into the schedule, and I felt ready for it, and....yes! I felt great the whole time. My legs felt like they're supposed to feel, and I was able to just run and listen to my breathing and feel the motions and try my best not to slip and fall in the mud. It put me in such a great mood.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Nice weekend

I didn't run a turkey trot this year, but I also didn't stuff myself to discomfort on Thanksgiving, and I got out quite a bit over the next few days for a nice weekend. I was scheduled for 2 miles on Saturday, but I was free on Friday and decided to split the miles between Friday and Saturday. So, on both days I walked a mile on the trail and ran the mile back. I can tell that I really lost most of my fitness. I was pink in the face and breathing hard after only a mile. It still felt good, though.

I wanted to run again on Sunday, especially because I saw the movie Saint Ralph, but in the interest of sticking to my slow mileage increase, I went biking instead. It was a really beautiful day, and I think I saw more people running on the trail during my bike ride than I had for the past month. I was in a great mood and felt very optimistic about running. I am really looking forward to the upcoming months as I build up a base again.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My blog turns 1 today!

One year ago I was so excited and worried about a 4-mile trail run that I spent hours surfing the web looking for training tips and info about trail runs. I came across a lot of blogs and the idea that I should have an online training log appealed to me. So, here it is one year later.

It's funny to think how worried I was about 4 miles. I consider that an average run for me now. And being worried about a trail race? Lately I've been fantasizing about running single-track bike trails and possibly even running on the stretch of the Appalachian Trail that passes through my town. Yeah, I'm not so scared of trails now! It will be interesting to see how much my goals/fears change in the next year.

Ever on!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Slow and steady, steady and slow...

Miles walking: 0.75
Miles running: 1.5

It was another short, slow day of running today as I continue to get back into the swing of things. I was kind of weighed down by heavy baggy pants (I wore them over shorts so that if it was raining, I could take them off when I was done so as not to get my car upholstery wet), and it seemed a little more difficult than it should have, but I think part of it was just that I have lost a lot of my fitness and have to work back up to it. Well, I have plenty of time to do so.

Monday, November 23, 2009

It's ok to walk. Really.

I was adventurous on Saturday and added a half-mile to my scheduled 1-mile run. I took a short walk-break in the middle and was surprised at how anti-walking I felt. I was actually afraid someone would see me and think I'm a slacker. Then I came to my senses and remembered that it's ok to walk. Really. When I continued running, my legs felt fine, and I finished up feeling good enough to go home, put the bike rack on the car, and go right back to the trail for a bike ride with my sister, who was home from college for the weekend. I wish there was more daylight left in the day so I could fit in bike rides and runs more often. I thought about taking the bike out again on Sunday, but I was pressed for time and settled for a walk instead.

Miles walking: 0.5
Miles running: 1.5
Miles biking: 4

Miles walking: 2

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Half-Marathon Training, Day 1: Success!

Someone at work today commented that I really had a spring in my step today - no wonder, considering I went for a great run this morning that kicked off my half-marathon training!

The race is actually 24 weeks away, but I haven't run on a regular basis for three months, so I need a lot of time to safely build my base back up. I began today by walking a mile down the trail and then jogging a blissful mile back. It seems like nothing, but I know that starting off slowly is important, and I enjoyed it, short as it was.

I can't wait until Saturday for my next run! For now, I plan on doing all of my runs on the flat dirt trail, which is only open during daylight hours, so my runs will only be on Tuesday mornings, when I work a late shift, and on Saturdays. In December, when I will need to increase the weekly mileage a bit, I may also add a mile on the treadmill on Thursdays. Whatever I do, I'm going to enjoy myself.

I wanted an image to convey my excitement, and I found this picture at the right with a Google image search for "happy running girl". Would you believe that this "Random Running Happy Hobbit Girl" from popped up in the results?! I love how she even plants her foot toes-first like I do. I guess it's a sign as I begin another Eowyn Challenge for myself.

Ever on!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Almost ready to resume running!

Since my doctor's appointment last week, I've done a lot of walking and biking. Yesterday the weather was perfect, so the support staff came riding with me. We rode about 6 miles and had a great time. Maybe I'll take this time to thank him for being so...supportive. Running doesn't interest him that much, but like a good support staff he listens to my ramblings about training plans and running gear and really, everything running related that comes into my mind, even if we're biking. So, thank you! I really do appreciate it!
Now that I've gotten some doses of exercise, I'm ready to start with some very slow jogging tomorrow. My goal is 1 mile. We'll see how it goes!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

No stress fracture!

I met with the doctor this morning to get the results of the bone scan, and there's no stress fracture! He said that it's shin splints, so I can stop running for however long it takes for the pain to go away or just run through the pain. I asked if running with the pain would cause something worse, like a stress fracture, and he said no. He also said I should go to a specialty running store to get fitted for sneakers according to my gait.

So, I now have peace of mind knowing that I can run. Honestly, I was going crazy without it. The stress was building up, and on a lot of days I avoided posting because I didn't want to sound like Debbie Downer. Now I can't wait to get back on the road/trail, but I know that for my legs' sake, I should do so gradually. The doc said that it could take up to 6 months of rest for the pain to go away. The half marathon I signed up for is 6 months away, and I am determined to run it, so resting for that long is out of the question. Then again, I don't want the shin splints to get so bad that I'll be miserable for the race, either.

So what should I do? Enter Jeff Galloway and the walk/run plan. I think that I'll rest for another 1 or 2 weeks and then begin walking with some intervals of light running. If I don't push it with the running, I might be able to build up the miles without pain. I'll also really focus on stretching my calves, Achilles tendon, and ankles. I think that this is a reasonable and safe way to get back into running, and with shoes selected specifically for me at a running store, I should be posting in 6 months about how awesome the half-marathon was...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A memory

Eight years ago I stayed after school for a club, then headed up to the track to run. It was cold out, but I didn't have any real running gear, so I wore a sweatshirt and gym shorts. I stretched, jogged two laps, and stretched some more. Then I started some repeats from a workout from the track coach to help prepare me for spring track.

I didn't have a stopwatch, nor could I judge what 80% effort was, as dictated by the workout, so I just ran. After each interval, I stopped and walked.

It was getting dark, and deer had wandered within the fence around the track. As I came around the bend at the 200m mark on one of the intervals, I startled them, and they scattered. Most leaped over the fence, but one just ran alongside it, parallel to the straightaway, where I was sprinting. I heard its hooves behind me, and I surged faster -- faster than I had ever run before -- and as I did, the deer pulled up alongside of me, and we were running side by side. I didn't think about anything. I was just flying over the track with the deer. There was nothing but the sound of its hooves and my breathing. Then I fell behind, the deer leaping away to the gate at the end of the straightaway, and I was left alone, panting, and feeling more exhilarated than I ever had before.

This memory always flits through my mind at this time of year, when the days get shorter and colder. It reminds me of those evenings alone at the track when, even if I didn't become a track star, I did become a runner.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Good weekend

I may not have any medals to show off for running achievements (I would have gotten one at a race in June, but I had to leave to go to a wedding before the awards ceremony started), but I can now display a trophy for best Halloween costume!

The support staff and I were Gilligan and Maryanne from Gilligan's Island. Some friends of ours have a big party every year, and since we were colossal disappointments last year when we showed up without costumes, we decided to be more festive this year. We put together our outfits with some clothes we already had, with the addition of a sailor hat and a red shirt. I was afraid that I wasn't distinctive enough, so we also made life preservers that said "S.S. MINNOW". We had a good time, got a lot of compliments on the costumes, and I won a t-shirt and a snazzy trophy of a skeleton holding its head.

The day before Halloween, I got my bone scan. I'm itching to find out the results, which should be sent to my doctor today or tomorrow, but I won't hear anything until I meet with the doctor during my appointment on the 10th. 8 days and counting...

Yesterday was a good end to the weekend. The support staff and I celebrated our 29 month "anniversary". We ended up helping my parents rake leaves for most of the time that we hung out, which is not the most romantic activity, but it was a special day nonetheless. It was also the day of the New York City Marathon, which I got pretty excited about. I tuned in to the tv coverage when the runners were in the last 5 or 10K of the race and watched the re-cap from the rest. I was so excited to see an American win 1st for the men! I was rooting for Ryan Hall, mainly because I felt bad that the cover of last month's Runner's World said: "He's special. But will he ever win?" I kind of wanted to see him win just because of that, but I was not disappointed to see Meb Keflezighi on the podium instead. I have to say, though, my favorite part of watching the marathon was a commentator discussing the slowing pace of the women's race: "Something must be wrong. They're running a 5:50 mile. That's pedestrian." Pedestrian? If that's pedestrian, I probably classify as tortoise! It just goes to show how awesome those marathoners are. :-)

Anyway, I hope everyone had a great Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A wii bit sore

For the time being I shouldn't run or do other weight-bearing exercises, and I'd rather not go for a bike ride in the rain and mud, so what's a girl to do for exercise? Not too much, besides an ab workout...and playing wii, of course! My library loans video games, so I brought home a new game to try out. Honestly, I didn't think it would be much of a workout, but my biceps are really feeling it!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Needed to blow off steam

Miles: 2

I didn't want to do any running until I get the bone scan and discuss the results with the doctor, but today I was furious with my sister and needed to blow off steam. She posted family pictures on facebook, and when I asked her to remove one in particular that my parents would have been mortified and very angry about, she blocked me from seeing everything except when she's shared music or become a fan of something. It's really not a big deal, and I didn't want to be a baby about it, but I was so angry that I had to blow off the steam. It was raining out, but I laced up my sneakers, put on my reflective vest, and hit the pavement running. I ran 2 miles. It wasn't a good idea, because my shins hurt, but I really had to do something to get rid of that pent-up energy.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Maybe soon!

I scheduled my bone scan for a week from today, so soon I might know what's going on and what kinds of exercise I can and cannot do, and just maybe I'll have a time frame for when I can begin running again.

I really can't wait. I found myself completely engrossed in a local high school field hockey game on the community tv channel last night. I never played field hockey, but all of a sudden I really wished I had. Then I stepped back and looked at the situation and self-diagnosed it as running withdrawal. Hopefully I won't have to wait too much longer, though. I've made an effort lately not to do anything that will aggravate the shins, so I hope that I'm on the road to recovery. :-)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Unattainable standards

When looking up a reference question today, I came across an op-ed piece in the New York Times titled "Should photos come with warning labels?," which was accompanied by this photo of an unrealistically-proportioned model. It's about how Photoshop-manipulated images are giving women (and men) unrealistic and physically unattainable standards of beauty and how lawmakers in some countries are trying to ban them or require warning labels.

I think it's wrong to suggest banning these images, but I don't deny that they are probably causing a lot of harm. However, even if they do deserve warning labels, what good would that do? Don't we already know that the faces and bodies on magazine covers are not true to life, but we still find them beautiful?

A week or two ago I caught a few scenes of Die Another Day, the James Bond movie with Halle Berry, when it was on tv. When it came to a scene where Halle was wearing an evening gown that was open all the way down her back, I remembered when I first saw the movie years ago and had made a mental note to lose some weight and tone up my back muscles. I would have been happy to look half as good as she did. Then last week I walked by the latest issue of Vanity Fair on the magazine rack at the library. Penelope Cruz was on the cover, showing an equally-shapely back, and, having never been able to make the slightest difference in my rolls of pudge, my self-esteem dropped several rungs on the ladder.

It's really not just a magazine-cover thing -- most often I compare myself to real people -- but I think that the standard set by the magazines have ingrained themselves in our minds and really are a problem. This summer I went to the beach with three girl friends, and the criticisms from them about other people on the beach have effectively fueled my own negative body image in the months since then. Comments like: "You know, she's not fat, but some people just shouldn't wear bikinis." were among the comments made about people who looked not too different than me. I hadn't considered myself anywhere near bikini-ready, but hearing criticisms like that pretty much banished the idea. Would my friends have made those comments if picture-perfect models didn't smile plastic-ly from the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition?

In September, the Chic Runner addressed the issue of Photoshop in this post. It showed a picture before and after Photoshop, and the difference was striking. It was a very good argument for feeling good about your natural appearance.

Unfortunately, I was drawn to the New York Times article today because no matter what anyone says about being beautiful just the way you are, I haven't run regularly in over 2 months, and I feel like I've let myself go by not running. I can't deny that for me, a part of running has always been to stay in shape. I participated in the Eowyn Challenge for just that reason - to get in shape and break free of the cage caused by self-esteem. Now that I'm not running anymore, I feel like every thing I eat is sticking to me. (I made the mistake of stepping on the scale over the weekend and have to remember not to do that again. Nor should I measure my waist, hips, thighs, or chest.) I still have to schedule a bone scan to check for a stress fracture, so it might be a while before I run again. I guess that I'm just going to have to deal with it. My dedicated support staff is very supportive in this area, and I'll just have to trust him (and the Times piece, and the Chic Runner's post) that I am fine just the way I am. After all, I have to admit that I do not want to look like the shrunken-hipped model in the picture.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Almost Halloween

Halloween is almost here, and I'm going to be doing some shopping today to get the final materials for the paired costumes that the support staff and I will be wearing this year. I'm very excited about it: we're going to be Gilligan and Maryanne from Gilligan's Island. I already have my costume set, but he still needs a red shirt with a white collar, and I'm going to look for two white Styrofoam rings to make circular life preservers that say S.S. MINNOW. It's going to be awesome.

I do have to remember to keep up with my ab exercises, though. My Maryanne costume requires showing my midriff, so I need to do all I can to get that area as un-flabby as possible. (Translation: stop eating junk food -- especially while not exercising! I'll have to hold off for a while on the hot cocoa with Marshmallow Peeps.)

I'm also going to look for new shoes for work while I'm shopping. The one's I've been wearing are old, have 2" heels, and are probably contributing very much to my shin pain. I'm going to have to bite the bullet and get flats with cushy soles instead. :-( Oh well. I know that it's for the best, even if they will make me look short and frumpy. I'll just have to keep up with those ab exercises and try and find a time to go bike riding when it's not snowing out or being otherwise poor bike-riding weather.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Feeling exceptionally perky

I was really determined to get the Trek out on the trail this weekend. It's rained a lot lately, so I haven't been able to get out as often as I'd like, but it turned out to be a beautiful autumn weekend -- perfect for riding (that is, unless you don't like to get muddy!).

Since I did not do the EMS bike tour on Saturday morning, I went out on my own that afternoon. The sky was just starting to clear up, and I decided to ride southwest on the trail for a change.

After about a mile and a half, I turned around and took my usual route in the opposite direction. It was there that I started to get muddy. There are a lot of horse trail rides that go through this section of the trail, and the horse hooves tear up the ground almost as badly as bicycle tires, so there are a lot of deep, mushy, (and unavoidable) muddy spots to ride through.

This is what I (and my previously white sneakers) looked like after splashing through a few of the really wet puddles:

I had a good time, although, admittedly, I went a little camera happy. I actually don't mind the mud, as long as I don't get my wheels stuck in it or get it on my car upholstery.

I rode 11 miles and I am so excited because I just went to G-maps Pedometer and found out that the trail is now labeled on their maps, so it will be so much easier to map my runs and rides on it. Yes!

Anyway, after my ride, I went home, cleaned the mud off, and did my ab and resistance-band exercises, which include a lot of lunges and squats. I've been noticing that my legs are not quite as thunderous as they used to be, so I'm trying to do all I can to help the improvement along.

On Sunday, I woke up to a beautiful, bright, sunny morning. I ate breakfast and then called my support staff to see if he would like to join me for a ride.

A little while later, we met up at the half-way point on the trail and set off for a really great ride. I was really tired after all of my biking, lunging, and squatting from the day before, so I lagged behind quite a bit, but it was such a great day, and the company was so enjoyable, that it was impossible not to have a great time.

The last time we had ridden this part of the trail was in August, after a really bad storm that may or may not have included a tornado. The path at that time was completely blocked, with downed trees piled so high that it was totally impassable. When we rode through yesterday, it was to a drastically different sight. It looked like the park service removed about 75% of the trees. I wish I had a picture of what it looked like before, but here is how it looks now:

It is still quite a sight, even after being cleared.

Our ride ended up being 7 miles long. My legs were ready for a rest after that! It was a really great ride, though, and I was in a good mood for the rest of the day. When I got home, I checked out the blogosphere to see how everyone was doing with their races, since half of the bloggers whom I follow were running marathons! Congrats to the Chic Runner, Mrs. CJ, and Runblogger for not only finishing your races, but PRing!

I would love to hit the trail again today, but I don't think that my tired legs would take me very far, so I'm going to sit back, read, drink hot cocoa with marshmallow ghost Peeps, and enjoy my day off. It's good to know that I have a substitute for running that will keep me smiling and feeling so ... perky :-D

Friday, October 9, 2009

New goals

Since last winter, I had the goal of speeding up my 5K pace to an average of 8 minutes per mile. I came very close with my last 5K, which had an average of 8:07 per mile. (That was actually my fastest mile time in high school, so I'm happy to see that I'm in better shape now than I was then.)

I'm confident that if I had been able to continue running throughout August and September, I would have been able to reach the 8-minute mark. That didn't happen, though, so I'm re-setting that goal for next year. For now, I need the time to rest and recover from whatever is wrong with my shins. If I let myself recover fully, I should be able to slowly get back into running over the winter and build up safely to the half-marathon in May.

I'm not going to think about a plan for reaching the 5K goal pace yet. I think that the half-marathon training will give me the base I need, and then I can work on that elusive goal-pace next summer, or even next fall.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

More rest

After my shin pain returned last week, the physical therapist wanted me to bring my mileage down to 2 miles at a time instead of 3. On Tuesday morning, I went out and did 2, with a little pain in the beginning that went away after I warmed up. Then yesterday, I ran up the stairs in my house and felt the shin throb a bit. After that, I noticed it here and there if I stood a certain way. When I went to physical therapy a little while later, the therapist wasn't too happy to hear about it. And when she heard that I had never gotten an x-ray, she decided that I should stop all running and physical therapy for now and get a bone scan to check for a stress fracture, as the doctor suggested I should if the pain continued/worsened.

I can bike, as long as it's on flat ground, so I can keep fit, but I have to say that I'm pretty frustrated. I haven't been running regularly since August. It's October now! I thought that even if it were a stress fracture, it would have healed by now, but I guess that the 10K, the runs here and there throughout, and the physical therapy have probably prevented it from healing, whether it's a stress fracture or shin splints. At least I can still ride my bike.

Speaking of my bike, I had wanted to participate in a fundraising ride for a local EMS this Saturday, but I found out that someone I don't want seeing me in Spandex might be there. He called the reference desk and asked for information about it, and when I realized it was the ride I wanted to do, I had to refrain from letting out a great, cringing "Noooooooooo!" (see below) in the middle of the quiet library. Anyway, there might be hills on the course, so I'm definitely going to skip it. Maybe I'll go out for my own ride on the trail instead.

Friday, October 2, 2009

So, yeah, I was supposed to go to my last physical therapy session today. Until I decided to have an awesome run yesterday and went and got my shin all irritated again. So after $70 in co-pays, $80 for new running shoes, and a month and a half after I stopped running in August, I'm back where I started.

At least the run was worth it. It really was awesome. I had a lot of fun and felt great. It was a short 3 miles, so I kept at a pretty quick pace for most of the time. I felt strong and like I had a nice stride with quick foot turn-over. I had to slow down from that pace a few times because I was out of breath, but was able to bring it back up again and really felt good. The shin didn't start to hurt until after I was done.

My physical therapy was consisting of massage and exercises to increase the flexibility in my ankle. Today they did some ultrasound massage too. The entertaining thing was, before deciding to do it, the therapist asked how old I was, since they don't use ultrasound on teenagers. Come on. Do I really look like I'm still a teenager? Really?

So I'm not allowed to run more than 2 miles at a time for now. I have two physical therapy sessions scheduled for next week. We'll see how it goes...

I don't want to end on a sad or frustrated note, so here's a massively fluffy angora rabbit that I cannot look at without laughing:

Are you laughing yet? Because I find it hilarious. And adorable. Which reminds me, there was a commercial on TV yesterday that was totally making fun of me. It was filled with fluffy bunnies dressed up in cute outfits, and high-pitched voices were in the background singing "Oh so sweet." My reaction was "OMG look how cute and sweet!", when a deep, sarcastic voice interrupted the singing saying, "You know what's sweet? Winning a million bucks after only paying 1 dollar. That's sweet." It was so making fun of me. Oh well. :-)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Long Branch Half, Here I Come!

It's official! I mailed in my registration for my first half marathon, which will be held on May 2nd, 2010.

I'm so excited! I have plenty of time to train, and it's being held at a great spot on a beach where I've run before. The half is held along with the New Jersey Marathon, so I expect that it will be a really large race - the biggest one I've ever run in. I asked my running buddy if she'd be interested in running it with me, so we'll see what she says. I might have some company! (And the support staff as well, since my buddy's husband and kids usually come to watch.)

So, it's official. And luckily, I didn't have to chase down the mail truck this time. :-)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Squelchy run

Miles: 3

The rain kept the support staff and me from taking the mountain bikes out yesterday, but today was bright and sunny, so I went for a 3-mile run.

The trail was nice and squishy from yesterday's rain. It was either deep, black mud that sucks your sneaker down and makes squelchy noises, or slippery, slimy-leaf-covered mud that you could slip on if you weren't paying attention. Once I almost landed on my butt, and I was very glad that I didn't, because even the towel I brought to protect my car upholstery probably wouldn't have done its job.

I didn't have any shin pain, which is a good sign, although I've noticed that they feel a little sore when I walk around wearing heels (which is all the time at work). I know that wearing heels isn't good for your feet/legs and it will be better for me to use flats instead. I wouldn't be surprised if my constant high-heel wearing is a major factor contributing to the shin splints.

After today's run, I've been trying to devise a way to ease back into running without overtaining. I'm thinking of starting at 9 or 10 miles this week, keeping the mileage the same for 2 weeks, and then only increasing by a half mile every other week. That's really easing into it. It's probably not enough training for me to reach my goal 5K pace by the end of 2009, but it might be a nice, slow, safe way to build a base for a half marathon in the spring.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Keeping it going

Miles: 2
Pace: ??

It feels good to run again. I did a quick 2 miles yesterday, with a walk break in the middle when I felt a little soreness from Wednesday's physical therapy. I think that will be it for the week in terms of running. Today I'm going to try and do some ab and resistance-band exercises to keep up the rest of my fitness, since I've been neglecting that for a while.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Let's eat!

At the risk of no one ever looking at this blog again due to issues of supreme dorkiness, I would like to wish readers a very happy Hobbit Day.

Hobbit Day falls every year on September 22nd, Frodo and Bilbo Baggins' birthday in The Lord of the Rings. It was the day that Bilbo held his long-expected birthday party, as well as the day on which Frodo left Hobbiton on his journey, which would turn out to be the story of The Lord of the Rings. It is a real day as far as Chase's Calendar of Events (a reference book at the library) is concerned, so I'm not just making it up.

So what does that have to do with running?

For me, a lot. My return to running was driven by keeping track of my miles and comparing how far I had gone with the distances traveled by the Hobbits. Today I totaled up all of my miles since January, which was the last time I had checked where I was in Middle Earth. I was on the way from Isengard to Rivendell, following the Hobbits' journey home at the end of the book. Ironically, I was only 16 miles from Rivendell, on this day in which Frodo set out on his journey to Rivendell in the first place. This morning I ran 2 miles, which brought the distance down to 14 miles.

This whole thing is ridiculously dorky, I know, but there is a lot of sanity to it as well. Tolkien was a talented writer who had not only a great love of nature, but also an excellent capacity for describing it. So almost every time I head outside for a run, I see a place that reminds me of something I've read in Lord of the Rings.

So, besides journeying through Middle Earth, Hobbits also really love to eat, so celebrate Hobbit Day by enjoying something good to eat! (And then run it off later...)

P.S. It is wrong of me to celebrate Hobbit Day without a mention of another recent holiday: International Talk Like a Pirate Day, which just occurred on September 19th. Too bad I can't make any connection to running with that one. Anyway, happy Hobbit Day. Let's eat!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

On the run...from jury duty

The physical therapist doesn't want me doing high-impact exercises for a little while yet, so this weekend I did some biking, stretching, and resistance training. That is, except for a little bit of running that involved returning a jury summons.

I served on the jury of a murder trial just 7 months ago, which means that I am exempt from further jury duty in that court for 3 years. Well, someone forgot about that last week and sent me a jury summons. So on Saturday morning I filled out the return part and went to the mailbox to mail it. I was a little annoyed to find that the mail had already come. I brought it all back up to the house and decided to drive to the post office later that day so I could mail my jury response asap.

Two hours later the mail truck drove by. I was sitting around in the house when I saw it stop at my (empty) mailbox. There was a few second delay as I processed that it must have been yesterday's mail in the box, and that if I ran fast, I might be able to catch the mail truck when it turned down a dead-end street that connects with my road.

I put my sneakers on, grabbed my jury response, and proceeded to run after the mail truck.

It wasn't really a big deal, but I did not manage to catch the mailman. I was surprised that I am kind of out of shape. The fast pace made my lungs burn after less than half a mile. I guess that's something I'll have to work on whenever I get back to my normal training.

Speaking of normal training, I took a look at my list of goals, and the only one left for 2009 is to run a 5K with a pace of 8 minutes per mile or faster. I came close this summer with 8:07 per mile at my last 5K, but my training has obviously been disrupted. I'll probably try for that at a turkey trot or the "Beach Blast" 5K in December. (That's a race in which participants are urged to run in swim suits. The temperature last year was 18 degrees with the wind chill.)

I'm getting really psyched up about running again. I can't wait to meet more of my goals, like running a half-marathon next year. I was just reading Mrs. CJ Running's blog. She just ran in the U.S. Air Force half-marathon, and it seems so exciting! The home stretch before the finish was lined on either side with planes. How cool is that?! I've been looking at potential races for myself, and I'm thinking about the half held along with the New Jersey marathon. It's held at the same spot on the beach where I ran last April when I stayed there for a convention for work. (Yes, a library convention.) I had such a great time running there that I know I would like to race there, too.

As much as I can't wait to run, I'm going to take it easy for a while longer. This weekend I did a lot of biking instead. I did 10 miles on Saturday and 6.5 with my support staff on Sunday. I really love running, but there is something really special about biking that I feel a lot when I'm out on the trail on a nice day. I can't really describe it except that most of the time, I finish the ride feeling as if I just added several days to my life. The support staff and I are going to try and go biking every weekend, if the weather permits, so we should be able to get in a lot of good autumn rides. I'm looking forward to it. :-)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My first 10K!

Distance: 10K
Time: 1:06:30
Average Pace: 10:42

Although I was worried about injuring myself and not having trained for the past 4 weeks, I ran my first 10K race on Saturday. It was raining steadily, but the support staff came along as well to cheer me on. The race was being held at the local community college, and the events for the day included both a 5K and 10K. I picked up my packet and tried to stay somewhat dry under a pavilion before the race. Based on how wet I was just warming up and walking to the starting line, I knew that I'd never be able to see out of my rain-splattered glasses, so the support staff held them for me. As I wandered around in a world of blurry shapes, I hoped that the course was very well-marked so that I wouldn't end up following the 5K course or something. I should have asked, because I didn't even know if the 5 and 10K courses were different.

Because of the shin splint/possible stress fracture problems, I was not racing this 10K. I began way at the back and started off very slowly. We ran through some parking lots, out the back entrance of the college, and made a left onto the road. We had been given a map of the course in our packets, so I knew that the 10K course went a little way down this road and then doubled back. Not 30 seconds after we turned onto the road did the front-runners come flying past me after having turned around. A woman ahead of me asked a volunteer where the turnaround was and was told somewhere around mailbox number 50. That was a little odd, because we were passing mailbox 200 at that time. Those front-runners must have been running really fast.

We stopped seeing people coming back from the turnaround. Does that mean we missed it? Was I following a line of people wasting time by running down this road in the wrong direction? Was I following 5K runners instead of 10K? There weren't many other 10K runners around, but we all started talking about it. We didn't come to any conclusion, so we just kept running. When we did turn around, I should have asked the volunteer if it was both the 5K and 10K course, but I didnt. I doubled back and then headed out to another road, which was a long, steady down-hill. Of course, what goes down goes back up again in most races, so once I reached the bottom of the hill, I turned into the school drive-way and began the trek up "college hill". I took quick and light little steps and didn't have too hard a time of it. Up ahead I saw where the 5K runners branched to the right and the 10K runners continued to the left. People were shouting and waving signs, so I knew where to go. I continued on and saw that I had another hill. This one was steeper than the last. I continued with the little steps, although I can't say that they were quick or light. I almost felt as if I would be faster if I walked, as everyone around me was doing, but I kept running.

When I neared the top, I heard my support staff cheering me on. He was waiting at the very top of the hill, and it was so great to see him there. As I came by him, he started jogging with me. He told me that a lot of runners were complaining about the course not being marked well. I chatted with him about how I wasn't sure if I had run the right course or not. He ran with me through the parking lot at the top of the hill and stopped when I started down toward the back entrance, around where the race had started.

When I was on my own again, I was confident that at least this time, I was in the right place, since the volunteers were able to direct each runner. Somewhere here I noticed that I had blisters under my toes and that my right knee was starting to hurt. I stopped a few times to let the knee click and crack and kept going. At the turnaround point, someone took a picture of me, so unfortunately I may see my rain-soaked face on next-year's promotional info. A volunteer was commenting on how her poncho made her look like a penguin, and she asked me if I was tired. I said yes, even though I really wasn't. My feet just hurt. And my knee.

When I reached mile 5 I felt like cheering about how we were almost done, but there were no spectators around, and I figured that would be really dorky, so I saved my breath. I enjoyed the long downhill slope, took a sip of water at a water stop at the bottom, and then began the last leg up college hill. Like the first time, I didn't have much trouble, except my right knee started hurting very badly toward the top of the hill. It began to hurt so much that I started limping, and if the ground hadn't leveled off there, I think it might have given out. I heard my support staff cheering me on there, and I turned to make a loop around some of the college buildings before heading to the finish. I kept the pace steady, and once I began to get close I picked up the speed. I made it through the chute and there it was: I had finished my first 10K.

It turns out that the people who had passed the rest of the pack so early in the race had made a mistake and cut off almost a mile and a half of the course. Because of the mistake, no awards were given or times posted. The support staff reports that my time was 1:06:30, give or take a few seconds, so I at least have a good idea of how I did.

The most amazing thing about this race is that my shins didn't hurt at all. Not even the slightest bit! I don't understand what went right for me to feel so good during it, but I'm certainly not complaining!

I am so excited about having run my first 10K. I knew before the race began that I would have no trouble finishing the distance, but it's a good milestone. I'm already planning my next distance goal: a half-marathon next spring!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

If only I had a hammock...

The weather lately has been perfect for running. It is sunny, dry, and comfortably cool. The leaves and grass are green, and the sun, at the right time, shines golden through the branches.

It's also the perfect weather for lying in a hammock with a good book. I've just begun reading The Rule of Four, which is about some Princeton undergraduates who uncover a mystery surrounding an ancient Italian text. It won't be long until I'm finished with that, though, and I'm tempted to pull out The Lord of the Rings again.

I've read the entire LOTR trilogy several times already. I admit that that is excessive, but reading it, especially the beginning of the first book, when they begin the journey, evokes such warm, comfortable feelings, that I can't help but want to return to the book time after time. All year long I come across experiences or feelings that remind me of something I've read or felt from LOTR. And every time I read it, I find something else about it like a flash of insight in a quotation or a description that resonates particularly true in my life.

I woke up this morning after yesterday's 2-mile run to discover soreness in my shin the moment I put weight on it. It's not very painful -- in fact, I can barely feel it now -- but the fact that it's there is troublesome to me. I know that running in the 10K on Saturday will aggravate it, and I hope that it will not inhibit the recovery too badly. I hope even more that it is not a sign of a stress fracture, as the doctor indicated may still be a possibility.

The sore shin means that instead of running this fall, I'll have to do a lot of biking, which I find a very agreeable substitute. (I just re-read that sentence, and it sounds like it came from Jane Austen. Maybe I've been spending too much time in the library...) The picture above is from a bike ride last week. I had intended at the beginning of the summer to bike the 20 miles or so from my house to the support staff's apartment, but I focused so much on running that I never worked up to that on the bike. Maybe, if the trail has been cleared of all of the fallen trees from a storm a few weeks ago, I can work up to that goal. Hopefully he'll be able to come with me most of the time, as well. After all, one of the most enjoyable aspects of the Hobbits' walk through the Shire was the company along the way.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


I finally took a chance and began running again. I had not run for 3 and a half weeks when I drove to the trail on Monday for a light 1-mile jog. I walked a mile to warm up and then ran back. And guess what?

No pain at all.

I went out again today for 2 miles, and this time, in the beginning, there was a very slight feeling in my left shin, but it didn't linger and really did not bother me. If anything did bother me, it was my shorts riding up and looking ridiculous.

For this run, I broke out the new sneakers I bought this week. (Decided I should take advantage of the Labor Day sales.) They're New Balance. I was torn between them and a pair of Asics, which looked a little nicer and felt almost exactly the same. The ultimate deciding factor was that the way the Asics laced up, there wasn't enough shoe string left to make a double knot. (And I don't like what happens when I don't double knot my sneakers.) Anyway, they felt great on the run today. They're nice and light, and the front is made of lots of flexible meshy material which gives my toes room to splay out and do whatever else it is they do when they hit the ground. The doctor last week told me that one of my problems was that I needed new shoes. He reminded me that I should get new ones every 500 miles (although I don't think I had reached 500 yet with the old pair...), so I'm going to do my best to track my shoe mileage on this blog.

So after two successful runs, I think that I'm going to do the 10K on Saturday. I was so worried that I wouldn't be able to do it. I had actually been pondering whether I'd be allowed to walk it. Of course, I'm going to take it easy, since I don't want to push too hard. It's my first race at that distance and my goal is just to complete it and enjoy myself. It will be a celebration of being able to run!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Cautiously optimistic

I have to be optimistic after my very depressed-sounding last post. Sorry for such unhappiness! Anyway, I went to the sports doctor yesterday, and his diagnosis is shin splints - not a stress fracture! Of course, a fracture isn't completely ruled out, but I'm pleased that he thinks it's the shin splints. He said that the bone was probably weakened and on the brink of fracturing, but I probably caught it and rested it in time. Part of the problem is old shoes and tight Achilles tendons, so I'm going to buy a new pair and go for physical therapy. I can run if the leg feels good. If I don't feel good, and it gets worse even after physical therapy, I'll have to go back for a bone scan to check for a fracture. We'll see how it goes!

Ever on

Thursday, August 27, 2009

5 Days before the judgement

I miss running. I really, really miss running. It's been two weeks since my last run, my leg (sometimes both) still hurts, and I have a sneaking suspicion that I will not be able to run in the 10K on Sept. 12th. I have an appointment with a sports doctor on Tuesday, and I can't wait until then so I can find out when I'll be able to run again. I went for a bike ride a few days ago with the support staff, but it was after a really bad thunderstorm/possible tornado, so most of the trail was blocked by fallen trees, and we couldn't go very far. Maybe the trail will be cleared soon so we can head out again.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Watkins Glen

For a few days, my support staff and I reversed roles: It was my turn to be the dedicated support staff. I retrieved tools, provided water bottles on request, took pictures and video, and provided general moral support as he tore up the track at Watkins Glen, NY in his red fox-body mustang.

He has basically built the car from the inside out, machining a lot of the engine pieces himself and even fabricating his own roll bar. He had been working on the engine for a long time, and it had actually been over a year since he had driven the car because of all of the work he was doing on it, so he was really looking forward to driving it again. It turns out that all of his hard work was well worth it. Besides a few hiccups here and there (which called for some trips to NAPA and a junkyard), the car performed up to and beyond expectations.

This driving event was not a race -- just a chance to drive fast on the track. There were all kinds of other cars there, and although I didn't do any driving or riding, it was a lot of fun watching.

We didn't get much time this year to hang out around Seneca Lake or do that much sight-seeing in the town (last year we visited the auto-racing archive there!), but our trip to the junkyard to find a new throttle body brought us through some really beautiful scenery. Hills, valleys, streams, and trees were everywhere. It was just gorgeous. I really like scenic overlooks, and the track itself is high up on a tall hill with a view down across flower-dotted fields toward Seneca Lake below. Half of the time that we driving to or from the track, I was glued to the window. We even passed a field of sunflowers, which are one of my favorite types of flowers. We would have stopped and picked some on the way home if a storm hadn't rolled in and sent some heavy downpours.

We were only there for 3 days, but we had a great time. The car performed well and is ready for more track time, so hopefully we'll be able to go on some more trips to other track events over the next year.

Here's some video I took showing the car flying past another red mustang on the straightaway:

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Bad signs

About a month ago, I wrote in this blog that "I was a little sore in places deep within my calves." That soreness never really went away, and now I'm starting to get really worried. I figured that I was working muscles and tendons that usually didn't get used and that it was good to strengthen them. One thing that seemed a little odd to me was that, although I had some sensations on both legs, there was a point on my left calf - that initial deep, sore spot - that has been tender to the touch. Now I'm feeling pain - not bad pain - but a feeling that something's not right in that spot as well as odd, shivery, shooting sensations and pulsations in both legs. I feel these things even when I'm sitting or laying down.

I am calling off all running for the time being. I do not want to end up like my running buddy with doctor's orders not to run for 4 months. Maybe it's nothing, but I'm afraid I may have done too much too quickly and might be developing a stress fracture or maybe already have one. Some time next week I'll make an appointment to see the general practitioner to see what he says.

At least I have some really exciting plans for the next few days that will preoccupy me from my possible injuries. It will be running of a completely different sort - I'm going with my dedicated support staff to Watkins Glen where he will run his mustang on the track there. It's not a race - it's what's called a "high-performance driving event" - in which the participants learn tips from professional drivers while having a lot of fun driving as fast as they can. He's been waiting for over a year for this, and I'm happy that it's finally here. Since I won't have any training to blog about, maybe I'll have a Watkins Glen report when I come back.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


After breaking my PR at the July 25th 5K, I promised myself that I would splurge and buy myself a CD or DVD that I had been wanting. I couldn't decide which one to get, though. Being the Lord of the Rings nerd that I am, I really wanted to buy another one of the movie soundtracks. I also have a list of bands/artists like Jethro Tull, Matchbox Twenty, Loreena McKennitt, and Nancy Anderson whose CDs I'd like. I am kind of bad at making decisions in the first place, and this was too many options. Breaking the PR a week and a half later in the August 6th 5K made the decision-making easier, though - I'd get myself two CDs.

But which two?

After far too much thought, I finally settled on The Two Towers soundtrack and Jethro Tull's Stand Up. I also bought my running buddy a 13.1 decal for her car.

This week I've run 2.5 miles on Tuesday, 5 on Wednesday, and 2.5 today. I'm going to rest full tomorrow and hopefully fit in 10 on Saturday for another 20-mile week.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A bike ride and surprise run

Miles: 9.5
Pace: 11:54

Yesterday I was supposed to do a 9.5- or 10-mile long run in the morning before going to a co-worker's barbecue. Unfortunately, I got up late and didn't think that I had enough time for the full run, so I decided to give myself a rest, just going for a quick bike ride instead, and plan the run for today. I biked about 8.5 miles on the trail. It was another beautiful day.
After the barbecue, I got home and lazed around a bit before hopping online to plan today's run. Weather forecast? Rain and thunderstorms all day today. 95 degrees and humidity tomorrow. Uh, not really running weather, and I do NOT want to do any long runs on the treadmill. I looked at the clock and saw that if I got out the door ASAP, I'd be able to fit in the run before the sun set. So I mapped out a 9.5-mile course on G-Maps Pedometer, grabbed some Gatorade, and set out. It probably wasn't the best idea considering I ran my fastest 5K two days earlier and biked a pretty fast-paced 8.5 miles in the morning. But, I had had about 4 glasses of Coca-Cola at the barbecue, and I think I was powered by the caffeine.
As I ran, I thought I was going much slower than I usually do, but the pace comes out to be 11:54 per mile, which isn't too bad, considering I was shuffling up some steep hills, which I never have to contend with on my long runs on the trail.
Because it was so late, I wore my reflective vest, so I didn't feel too pressured to go faster than I was comfortable with, nor did I feel pressured to cut it short (I had mapped it out so that I could cut off about a mile and head home early if I needed to). I didn't need to, and by the end, I experienced the same second wind feeling I had gotten at the end of last week's long run, where I had lots of breath and ended strong.
The 9.5 miles brings last week's mileage to...20.1 miles! That's the first time I've reached 20, and I hope to keep it between 20 and 25 regularly. Yesterday notwithstanding, I think I've been working up to it safely. (I admit I probably overdid it yesterday, although I'm feeling good today.) I think that the increased mileage is a large part of why my 5K time has improved so much. I'll just have to remember not to overdo it too much.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

It's like Christmas!

Distance: 5K
Time: 25:16.5
Pace: 8:07
Minutes faster than previous PR: 1:12

Tonight I jingled all the way home from the Christmas in August 5K. Not only did I have a great time, but I completely destroyed my last PR - beating it by a minute and 12 seconds! How's that for a Christmas present!

One of the fun things about the race (that is, if you don't have an aversion to Christmas music) is how far the theme is pushed. In addition to Christmas-themed awards, decorations, and music, the race organizer dresses up as Santa (red running tank and shorts and a white beard) and starts off the race by counting "Ho, Ho-ho, Ho-ho-ho".

After the success of my last race, I decided that I would enjoy this run instead of being a slave to the stopwatch, so when Santa yelled Ho-ho-ho, I didn't start out too fast, and I watched as what seemed like 90% of the group surged past me. I'm glad that I didn't get too discouraged by that and try and go faster, because I probably would not have been able to handle anything faster. Instead I kept the pace steady and smiled and noticed what a beautiful day it was. It was in the mid 70s with hardly any humidity. I couldn't have asked for a better day!

We ran for a mile through some paved trails in a state park and then onto a road which went steeply uphill for half a mile. Then we turned around and followed the same way back. I talked to some people I was running alongside, and one of the volunteers, who I recognize from a lot of the races in this area, commented that it was great to see me smiling.

I looked at my watch for the last time with just under a mile to go. I was extremely tired and could not catch my breath, so I just tried to maintain my pace and stay strong. I passed a few people, and increased the speed a bit when I got to where I could see the finish. A high-school cross country runner just ahead of me had a coach waiting for her before the home stretch to help get her pace up for the final sprint, and I debated if I should try and keep up with them. My feet were burning and I didn't know how much energy I had left, so I increased my pace, but not to a sprint. Another girl came sprinting up behind me, and I wanted to try and race her, but I really didn't have it in me to push harder, and I knew why when I saw the clock up ahead showing over a minute faster than my PR. I didn't surge, but still finished strong, and I am so excited to have improved so much. I had been so frustrated with the plateau I had reached, but that's far behind now. And, as a nice bonus, I placed 2nd in my age group and got a jar of delicious home-made strawberry preserves.

Like the last race a week and a half ago, I didn't set my expectations too high, and I had a great time and really boosted my confidence. I didn't expect much, but I came home with a new PR and exceeded my goal pace for the end of the summer. It's just like Christmas!

P.S. Thanks again to the support staff for enduring the music!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Beat the Librarian!

I can only say that this is awesome. I love the suit/shorts/Vibram Five-Fingers combination!

So I was goofing off during my break at work this morning looking up funny librarian t-shirts (With sayings like "Don't make me shush you", "Forget the books - check out your librarian, etc") when I found this "Run to your library" shirt:

I showed it to two of my co-workers, and they immediately said that it would be great for the running/walkathon fundraiser that they had been discussing. A run put on by my library as a fundraiser? Awesome! It turns out that, as the mediator between the Friends of the Library and the Library itself, I would be in charge of such an event, so I immediately set to work seeing if other libraries have held 5Ks, and I came up with the Collingswood Public Library's "Beat the Director" run coming up in September. Totally awesome. I see a "Beat the Librarian" run in my future (probably 2 years in the future, when our highly-anticipated new building should actually be in the process of becoming a reality).

So far this week my running consisted of an easy 5 miles on Sunday and an even easier 2.5 on Monday. I won't be doing any running today, because I've planned to run a "Christmas in August" 5K tomorrow. It should be fun!