40 miles

Today I hit my goal of 40 miles.
Today I hit my goal of 40 miles.

Each month during “running season,” I set a mileage goal. Most of the time it’s 50 miles, but this August I cut it to 40 so I could add strength training to the mix. Some months it’s down to the wire in terms of whether or not I’ll hit that magic number. In fact, one month it seemed so unlikely, I pretty much gave up.

Last month was another close call. On the very last day of July I ran a personal long of over six miles in order to pull out a victory.

I was very proud of myself, but I’m not a fan of close calls. I just can’t stand the tension. So although today would’ve been optimal for cross-training, I opted instead to head out for the winning miles.

For my troubles, I spotted a deer. And although I wasn’t able to snap his picture, I was able to at least say hi before he dashed back into the woods.

All in all a challenging but satisfying run.

runkeeper FB

Today, again, I ran.

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 10.23.08 PM

And it was a great run, too. I lifted weights yesterday, which means squats among another things. And although my legs started to feel it toward the end of today’s 3-miler, I really can tell the difference. I really love the difference.

I saw my two regulars today. I’ll call Ivan and Dan. I’ve never spoken to either of them except breathless good mornings or smiles or waves. They are both mustached men. Ivan bikes. Dan runs.

Ivan and I often arrive around the same time, which is interesting to me since I don’t have an official start time. But time and again, there we are. He pulls up in his Jeep, unloads his bike, straps on his helmet and rides off into the distance as I’m walking up to the start. We don’t see each other again until the next morning I’m out for a run.

Dan, on the other hand, doesn’t arrive when I do. Most of the time I go out for a stretch – anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 miles – then I turn around and come back in. I’ll usually pass Dan on the home stretch. He’s a walker. His stride is an interesting cross between a brisk march and a stroll, all while his head tilts a bit to the right. In case I miss the gait, the mustache peeking underneath the army green baseball cap gives the game away. And sure enough, the hand juts out in greeting just as we pass.

A few mornings I’ve gone running much later than usual, only to find Dan on the home stretch while I was just starting. And the other day, I took such long rest breaks, Dan walked past me on the way and turned around and passed me again on the return.

I like seeing them. The regulars. The other day I recognized Ivan’s jeep approaching as I was preparing to turn on the main road leading to the Greenway. And when we both arrived, his wave was a little more vigorous than usual. It had been a few days since we saw each other.

Today, again, I ran. And Ivan biked. Dan walked. We waved and smiled good morning.

Welcome back, power.

Greenway creek spotted during a run break.
Greenway creek spotted during a run break.

I lift weights from time to time.

It’s not my favorite type of exercise, but I enjoy it enough to give it a go for weeks or months at a time, and the benefits are definitely worth the investment. A few months ago, I retired the weights for a while. It felt more of a drag than a joy and besides, the weather was finally warm enough for running. Like most things that resonate, I knew I’d pick up the barbell again, but I didn’t pencil it in my calendar.

My runs have been good, but really great. My legs had stamina but lacked power, and I didn’t see any improvement in the offing. For me strength is sexy and it was time to bring sexy back.

About a week or so later, I pulled out my barbell and dusted off my Pump DVDs. I decreased my monthly mileage goal from 50 to 40 to make room for strength training. As expected, the first runs post weights weren’t easy:

But today? Today was a different story. I started off faster and maintained my pace longer. And unlike recent weeks where my legs worked hard to keep up with my lungs, today they put in equal work.

Welcome back power, I missed you.

A Runner Begins

He invited me to the Navy Ball. Originally, he had a date, but for reasons, he decided she was a bad idea. So he nixed that plan and asked drama-free me T-minus eight days away from the event. I shrugged and agreed. No biggie. We weren’t dating, I wasn’t busy, and I already had something to wear.

Hanging in my closet was a tea-length champagne dress I had worn to the Vanity Fair party at the Cannes Film Festival a year or two earlier. Something urged me to confirm the short, backless, halter would indeed be appropriate attire.

Nicole & Halle @ Vanity Fair in Cannes (2006)
Nicole & Halle @ Vanity Fair in Cannes (2006)

To my horror, no. Attendees would be in conservative, floor length gowns. It was a ball after all, not a party.

With a week to go, I reconsidered my quick, uninformed yes. How many graduate students do you know with extra money for ball gowns lying around? Before I panicked, I searched my closet and found a dress that would work. Floor-length black gown, with a (less dramatic) halter top and a deep fuchsia splash down the back. Little fuchsia beads adorned the halter. I wore it years ago in a faculty fashion show. It was muted and elegant.

There was one problem. It no longer fit.

I could sort of wear it. Sort of means I could get into the the dress, but I couldn’t zip it all the way up. I’d only gained a couple of inches and a few pounds, but too many of each to wear that dress in a week.

I’m not big on magazines, but for reasons I can no longer recall, I remembered reading that celebrities lost “those last few inches” for the red carpet through strange diets and/or super intense workouts. A couple of them said running was their magic slimfast. I wondered if it could be mine, too.

Because of previous bouts with runner’s itch, I wasn’t sure it would work. I’d try it, prepared to opt for a new dress if pounds and inches were more stubborn than I was. I had no plans to make any dramatic shifts with food. I would increase my water intake, but I wasn’t planning to go hungry or mix any olive oil cocktails.

Sunday afternoon, I headed to the stuffy little room known as my apartment’s fitness center and mounted the treadmill. I decided I’d jog – slowly – until I got tired. I had no idea how long that would take or how far I would go. I called it quits at the 3-mile mark and no one was more surprised than I was. I thought I’d be done by mile one. I felt pretty good, all things considered, and decided to return the next day.

Monday was another slow jog, another 3 miles. I drank a little coffee before the run and I got a nice burst of energy near the end.

Tuesday, same deal, same results. Nine miles in three days. No runner’s itch, no overly tired muscles. And in fact, I felt even more energized this time. After Tuesday’s workout, I tried the dress. The zipper damn near made it closed!

Another day, another three miles on Wednesday.

One last day to run – Thursday. The ball was Saturday. Would I have to shop after all or could I make this work? Friday’s test was zipping and breathing.

So five days and fifteen miles later, victory! The zipper went up with no hesitation. Breathing? No problem! Sitting posed a bit of challenge unless I employed perfect posture and tightened abs. Given the fact that dinner was also part of the proceedings, I’d have to suck it up, literally. But there I was, in that dress.

Me, two months after the ball, now running outdoors.
Me, two months after the ball, now running outdoors.

Who could’ve known that I, a former high school sprinter, would  enjoy running short distances? And who would’ve believed I’d lose enough inches/weight to wear a dress on Saturday that I couldn’t zip up the weekend before?

Because of a slow jog on a treadmill?

I was sold.

And thus began my foray into the world of running.

Discipline, composure and victory.

It’s not often you’ll find me in front of a television, but this weekend I caught a few minutes of the Penn Relays. I was in for a treat. As a high school runner, I enjoy a good track meet and I immediately bond with a team or athlete, wringing my hands and/or cheering until a given event is over.

I tuned in just in time for the Women’s Sprint Medley Relay. For the uninitiated, each member of a relay team runs a specified distance, then passes the baton to the next member, who does the same. Sometimes all members of a relay run the same distance as in this brilliant world record win by the USA Women’s Olympic Team:

But for a medley, the legs vary, and you must employ different strategies depending on your distance. This particular race featured two 200s, a 400-meter and then the 800-meter anchor leg.

By the time Ajeé Wilson received the baton, she had a serious job to do. The final runner, she had 800 meters to run, and she was behind the leader by a good 15-20 meters.

You have to pace yourself on the 800. It’s two full laps around the track. If you start too fast, you’ll be completely out of gas by the final 200 meters. And if you go too slowly, hoping to keep some kick until the end, you’ll get too far behind to catch up. You’ve got to determine your pace and run your race.

I’d never seen Ajeé run so I didn’t know how it would go. She grabbed the baton and dashed off, then locked into a steady pace. I noted how comfortable she looked, as though that were her normal, speedy, yet measured stride. The problem was, she wasn’t making up any distance.

I was tense. This was my team and I wanted us to win! Was she going to dig a little and pick up the pace, or maintain this speed and distance and possibly never catch up?

Me, mesmerized. She, calm, composed, maintaining her stride, looking almost relaxed. “She looks really comfortable,” I repeated twice more. But I had no idea if I was glad of that or not.

That is until the back turn.

Suddenly there she was, kicking on the final stretch. She closed the gap, walked down the front runner, and went on to win the race for her team. It was truly a magnificent run.  There were lessons in its brilliance:

  1. Don’t give up. There were time and distance left on the clock, and she didn’t sell herself short. Ajeé remained calm and composed. She ran through until the very end.
  2. Be undeterred. After the second 200, the team was behind, and although they made up a little ground during the 400, it looked bleak. Regardless of the circumstances, Ajeé knew her pace and ran it. I can only assume she experienced a fair amount of physical and mental stress, but she kept focus and heart, and excelled.

I’m proud of the team and inspired by Ajeé’s talent and confidence under pressure. May we all be so graceful during life’s daily races.

In the home stretch

It’s always an interesting exercise to blog every day for 30 days. As the month wears on, it gets alternately easier and more challenging. Mostly easier. I look back and realize there were a couple of interesting posts in the jumble of freewrites, last-minute entries, and comments on other people’s writing. That’s nice to see.

I have a little over a week in this particular challenge, and as usual, I’m thinking about my public vs. private writing. The things I want to write about and the things I end up blogging are often different. I have mixed feelings about this. But as this is my fourth time engaging in this sort of daily blogging practice and my findings have been the same each time, I’m going to act on the findings instead of opting to collect more data.

Today I ran. It was my 6th run this year. I started at 2.20 miles the first run, and have been steadily increasing a bit each run.

Today’s run was 3.25, a 5K. When I get up to 4 miles, I’ll be back at my average distance.

I’m thinking of making 5 or 6 miles be my new standard, or perhaps running 7 miles once a week and keep the other runs short (and faster with intervals).

Not sure yet.

I’m going to leave you with a quote I saw this morning; one of my long-standing favorites. It’s attributed to Goethe, but it seems unlikely he actually wrote it. Still, it vibrates with power, and isn’t that the best way to start off the work week?

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.


Slow and steady

Yesterday’s run was my first in months. Despite my consistent cardio and weight-lifting regimen, nothing works the body quite the same as running. During the run my breathing was labored. I had to stop a couple of times because of runner’s itch. When I was done, I felt good, but I was wheezing.

It was tough overall, but a great baseline.

I woke up a little sore this morning and ready to run again. The only thing that gets the body more conditioned is more conditioning, so out I went. As I thought, today’s run was markedly better. Less itching, easier breathing, and I was able to lock into a comfortable, albeit slow, stride.

My legs have that comforting I’ve been working out ache. I’m excited to be back on the pavement.

Today I Ran

Today I ran.

Mostly, I jogged, if you want to get technical. I wasn’t out there sprinting or going particularly fast. But I was out there. And it was great. Tough, yes, but really nice to be outside again.

My last run was a PR!
My last run was a PR!

It was my first run since my milestone of November 2013. Five months to the day. I didn’t realize that when I decided today had to be the day. I just knew it wasn’t too cold and the sun was beckoning.

I decided to just go out a mile and back. I hit my target pace of 10 min/mile. I had some difficulty breathing on a few stretches and some histamine reactions in my muscles. Both of these were to be expected.

The breathing will take care of itself as my lungs remember the work. The histamine reaction is a new/old problem I’ll have to solve, so I’ll be keeping the mileage low while I sort that out.

I’m not yet ready to set my monthly mileage goals, and I don’t know when my next run will be. For now I’m celebrating today’s return to the pavement as I look forward to many more!

Free write

I’ve set a timer for 5 minutes and I’m just typing stream of consciousness.

I had so many plans when I woke up, and I’ve been working through them, but, well, you know how it goes sometimes. A few interruptions here, a fire to put out there, and it seems there’s been a lot of busyness, but not as much business.

That’s fine. I can still check a few items off my list and create a clear plan of action for tomorrow based on what I accomplished today. And really, that’s the best you can do on any given day. Since the fourth agreement is “always do your best,” I can close out the work day in peace and look forward to a productive day tomorrow.

Me & Blue, after my 1st run in 2013.
Me & Blue, after my 1st run in 2013.

Speaking of tomorrow, I’m excited because I think time and weather are on my side. If I’m correct, I will run my first miles of 2014! I’ve missed running. And although I need a new pair of running shoes (I never really bonded with the old ones), it’ll be so lovely to get outside and get fresh air. Running is one of my favorite forms of exercise for many reasons, and I have some new goals/approaches in store for the running season. I’ll let you know how it goes…

Time up!

Give me my 10s

This was a milestone week for me in many ways, including the fact I finished two 10Ks! One was in miles and the other was in words.

On Sunday I was feeling, as they say, “froggy.” Out of the blue, I declared to myself that Monday I’d run 6 miles for the first time.

This has been a goal of mine for a long time. I know many people who’ve done it, and my personal long was 5.55 miles, from a year ago. I’ve only run five miles or more a handful of times in life, and the 10K/6.2 mile mark seemed scary, quite honestly.

On my days of high energy, I’d think about tackling it, and it just seemed a touch too far. Rather than drown in a sea of what ifs, I generally stopped thinking about it as soon as I felt the telltale adrenaline. I wasn’t sure why it made me nervous, but it did.

But Sunday, I felt up to the challenge. I wasn’t positive I’d actually go for it my next time out, but I knew it wouldn’t be long now. Blue ran with me Monday morning, and when we got to my usual two-mile turnaround point, we decided to go a little bit farther. Then a little more.

After running 6.2 miles on the Greenway.
After running 6.2 miles on the Greenway.

“How do you feel about round numbers?” he asked, taking a peek at his Garmin. I knew we were past two, but I couldn’t gauge how far.

“I like round numbers.”

Eventually we were at an even three, which was guaranteed to get me six by the time we arrived back at the start.

As we passed the 5.55 mile mark, I smiled. I was excited to best my personal long and even more excited to know I was going to finally accomplish a long-standing goal. When we got to the start, we doubled-back a tenth or so and came back to finish the .2.

So that was the second 10k.

The first 10k actually happened the day before, on the 10th of November. And now that I think of it, perhaps the earlier achievement  inspired the latter. After many false starts and absolutely zero words dedicated to the effort, I started my first novel this month.

Well, my second if you include the one I began in middle school (which my peers said was really good!).

In October, I announced my desire to be a romance novelist (among other things), and November, National Novel Writing Month, seemed like a great time to start. I’ve long been familiar with NaNoWriMo, the project which encourages authors to write a draft of a novel (50,000 words) in 30 days. Now, I don’t believe in gimmicks. And because that seemed irrational and unsustainable, I always rejected the project outright. But this month, on the first day of NaNoWriMo, I decided two things:

  1. If I only participated a few days, I would’ve at least gotten started on my novel. That’s more than I can say for the past several years of thinking about it.
  2. Who cares about that 50k goal? I could set whatever goal I wanted. One thousand words a day seemed doable, and again, if some days I couldn’t hit it, see number 1.

So I started. And on the 10th day I hit my 10,000th word. My first 10k!

In honor of my 10s this week, a word from B Scott:

Author’s note: In 2019, I discovered that B. Scott has deleted this epic video from the internet. If it’s reposted, I will be sure to update this entry.