Monday, March 31, 2008

Downside of a Nice Day

After a great weekend for running, I knew that today had to be a rest day. Particularly if I intend on buddy running on Tuesday and Wednesday.

But what a day to miss! This morning was the first pleasant walk I’ve had from my garage to work—not only was the sun almost out, the wind wasn’t chappy and the air smelled like spring. I’m pumped about how this walk will feel in the summer.

On the way home, I drove with the windows down and itched with jealousy at all the runners I saw on the streets. Good news is that the rest of the week—short of some chances of showers—looks quite agreeable. It was opening day for the Indians, so I kicked up my feet and ate dinner with high blood pressure as the team pulled out another close one.

I wondered whether Cleveland fans have, on average, higher blood pressure than other sports fans. Can other teams possibly be in high-stress situations on such a regular basis?

But I didn’t relax for too long. After dinner, I made… attempted to make a vanilla chai smoothie. My blender, however, had other plans. I poured in the chai tea, ice and vanilla probiotic drink; the chai, ice, drink poured out. The bottom. You’d think I would have stopped there, but no. I tightened the bottom and blended.

Clean freaks beware. This story gets dirty.

The blender exploded! Not only did the blade bust off and glass pitcher break, my would-be smoothie sprayed everywhere. It came out the top, the bottom, the sides. Ugh. My rest night unraveled into a night of scrubbing.

What’s even worse: I tried to make a vanilla chai probiotic drink by hand, and it turns out you can’t mix anything with Danactiv. It tastes kind of gross by itself; it tastes pretty bad with anything else. I’ll still drink it periodically for my stomach health, but I’ll nix my probiotic smoothie shop idea.

With the blender catastrophe behind me, I did some aerobic exercise and then settled in with my computer. It was a pleasant surprise to get an email from an old bud Lisa, who worked with me at Kent State before heading to NC.

She was driving home from work today and listening to NPR when she heard (gulp) a letter I wrote. The note didn’t exactly come across as I intended (it never does) and they cut it short (they always do), so my one shining moment wasn’t all I thought it would be (it never is).


And I found myself gasping like Tom Hanks in You’ve Got Mail: “Well, that’s not all I said…” Oh well.

Your Arms, My Arms and a Run Around the Neighborhood

Where are your arms when you run?

I wrote briefly about arm movement over a year ago and, while I’ve gained experience since that post, I don’t think I know much more today than I did then.

I googled arm position a year ago and found an interesting quick piece from the University of Hawai’i track coach, who recommended keeping your elbows at a 90 degree angles and swinging your cupped-not-clenched hands like pendulums so your thumbs grazed you hips as they swung by. And I tried to keep it in mind.

Not that it did anything for me.

My arm movement is a mix between a soccer player running with her arms in no-handballs-for-me mode and a swimmer paddling through the air. Which makes sense because I’m coming from a history of playing soccer and swimming. But it doesn’t make sense for running. At all.

So, here I am at square one. Again. I realize no prescribed arm position or movement will work for every runner, but I’d like to start looking more like a runner and less like a person who just plays a runner on TV.

Step one, I realize, is to loosen up already. Plenty of what I’ve read is that your arms have a natural motion they take when you’re actively running, which will be more efficient than tensing up and focusing on my goofy arms more than the ground.

Because running isn’t as integral a part in human life as it once was, however, that natural motion isn’t necessarily the most efficient. We use our arms for balance when we run, as well as synchronization. Some say that pumping our arms has any effect on our leg reflexes, so the quicker you pump, the faster you’ll run. To an extent, of course.

If you’re into research papers, you can check out the effect of rhythmic arm movement on leg reflexes and why we hold up our lower arms while running.

One of the most important points I gleaned was that your swing should move your arms directly back and forth from the shoulders. Obviously swinging your arms too far across your body will be counterproductive in your forward motion and even your balance. It’s a common mistake women make—maybe we’re just trying to cover up.

Movement from the shoulders, though, is an important thing to note: I know when I get tired or in a hurry, my motion comes from my elbows. Perhaps I think throwing ‘bows will get me somewhere fast. I guess if your legs aren’t doing the job, someone has to step up…

All of these leads me to ask: how are your arms today?

I’m curious to learn whether I’m overthinking this whole arm position thing or if you’ve ever received some key advice that helped you get your body in synch. No, I’m not looking for a magic fix, but just some clue of what on earth I should be doing with these excess limbs while I’m running.

On a semi-unrelated note: the advice available online is diverse and varied, but one thing is certain, I now have no doubt how to move my arms doing the running man:

I started thinking (again) about this whole arm thing yesterday when I ran around Euclid (we haven't moved yet, but that's not stopping me from running there) for a brief 3.75-mile run that was supposed to be a slow follow-up to Saturday's long run.

Well, turns out I get excited when it's sunny and pleasant outside after months of hibernation and I took it at a pace around 8:00/mile. I know, I know, I know: way to slow down during your recovery, girl! But I honestly had no idea I was running that pace until I was done. It felt just fine!

What gets me the most: I don't run that fast when I'm racing. Melissa has pointed out that I have a slight overthinking problem when it comes to racing. Apparently I have a slight nonthinking problem when I'm training. If only I could blend the two.

Note to self: turn brain off when racing, turn brain on when training.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

LOVE/hate... the New Balance

If you haven't caught the new New Balance LOVE/hate campaign, I'll post the commercials over the next couple of days. I'm going to go ahead and say there was a runner in the room at the ad firm. While I'm a Mizuno girl, I'm always a sucker for marketing.

Running to Lunch with Landon

Rocking in Ohio CityDid you know that I have a slight control problem? I can’t control my speed. I can’t control my mind. I can’t control my urge to overdo everything. No joke.

But that’s why I’m friends with people who wisely advise me. Like Landon.

Summary: Landon and I have known each since eighth grade, when our close-in-alpha-order last names paired us for school life and I forced him to be my friend. He’s run marathons, half marathons and everything in between and was the one person—without him knowing it—who pushed me to run.

While Landon wasn’t a runner growing up, he started casually running a few years ago and then racing after that. A couple marathons into his career, I realized that, well, if he wasn’t a born runner and could run so well, then I didn’t have to be born into the sport either.

See, at that point I had been tri-training for nearly two years. I just wasn’t running; I hated running. And I thought I was predisposed to stinking at it. Here was Landon, however, tearing it up on the concrete. Where was my excuse then?

Silly me.

Now I’m a little over a year into running and he’s back in Cleveland for a few months. It’s been way rad running with him the past couple weeks. Not only have a learned what it’s like to run with someone (he’s housebreaking me for future running buds), I’ve totally dug running with the friend who got me started in the first place. Thanks, Landon!

Edgewater Park in ClevelandWhat’s even better? He makes stellar running routes. Today we started at Johnny Mango on Fulton and Bridge in Cleveland. We wound through the hip Ohio City streets before hitting Edgewater Park, where I always read about people running, but have only visited twice in nearly 30 years of Cleveland living.

And while I’m a consummate Eastsider who just bought a house in Euclid, I’m not gonna lie to you: the near West Side, particularly by the lake, wasn’t too shabby. There, I said it. No, I'm not switching sides. But I liked the way the land turns and you get an uninterrupted view of the water and the city. Sigh. Nevertheless, I adore my lakefront community, and that’s for a different blog.

I also dug the hills and dales we took on this route, which ran us into Lakewood before we turned back. I’d tell you where exactly we ran, but my consummate Eastsiderness prevents me from really having a clue.

One of many running-with-Landon perks: talking. Sure, there’s my idle gab about work, gossip and Neil, but it’s neat catching up and learning how an experienced runner paces himself, takes downhills and trains in the winter. Plus, keeping up my gab forces me to run at a reasonable pace—that’s neither pokey nor break-leg—if I want to finish a sentence.

Johnny MangoAnd it helps that Landon keeps me honest: I had the bright idea of running about 14 miles to Johnny Mango, which wouldn’t have been a bad trip. Last year. But I’m still rebuilding my legs, my confidence, my endurance, my running-brainpower. After my huffy-puffy last run in the Heights, I was a little nervous about taking a 14-miler so soon. So, I didn’t. It’s cool to have a running buddy who will support the decision.

Isn’t that what friends are for? Support and running for 90 minutes around the near West Side. I couldn’t quite get a grip of our pace, but it must have been between 9:30-45/mile (it was slower than Wednesday, but only a touch). That puts us around 9-9.5 miles. Ish. I couldn't believe the precision of Landon's route-planning—we rounded the corner onto Bridge Avenue at 1:30:47. If I had planned it, we'd still be running. And I'd be crying.

John Heisman in a very Heisman poseThis run gets two thumbs up—I felt great during the run and I’m feeling even better after it—and the company gets three. We completed our workout with a few minutes walking down Bridge Avenue, where we passed the birthplace of John Heisman (yes, the Heisman) and then ended up back at Johnny Mango, where I had a post-run/body-rebuilding meal of grilled chicken and black bean quesadillas. And about three pitchers of water.

Once we move, I think I might run for my meals more often. I might get a reputation as the stinky diner, but it will be worth it. It’s been a good time getting back to Cleveland, and I have to admit I’m getting a little crush on the city. I’m glad I’m coming back.

Even the weather has been cool too. I can handle these chilly-(upper30s/lower 40s)-but-sunny days for running. Today was a hat-and-gloves kind of run. But it was almost all frozen lakefront and 100 percent sunny. Marathon training is finally looking up.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Oh. Yeah.

See? All it takes is a little complaining to get some things done. One poopy-weather post and BAM! A beautiful day. You’re welcome, Northeast Ohio!

I wasn’t going to get caught resting on my laurels with the sun blazing yesterday, so I met Landon at John Carroll again for an afternoon run. While several other training-bloggers have had opportunities to wear shorts in recent weeks, I had my own day in the sun: I went gloveless. That’s right. No gloves on a run. Pretty impressive for mid-March, eh?

Maybe not.

My favorite house on Fairmount Boulevard on a pretty dayBut I was wearing sunglasses and having a swell time. We took off from John Carroll and headed northish on Fairmount Boulevard, running past my favorite CH houses, to Coventry to Mayfield Road. Lovely, lovely, lost-free route.

Hills on this trek weren't visually apparent, but their cardiovascular impact was. At least I imagine it was to Landon because he had to hear me huff-and-puff the whole way (he was just fine).

We ran 7.6 miles in under 1:12:00, which amounts to 9:30/mile pace. I admittedly took us off a little faster than I should during our 20-minute warm-up, but I get so excited when I’m talking about good-job stories, running with friends or getting out on a nice day.

But I paid for it too: not only did I catch a stitch 30 minutes into the run, I had to take a walk break ten minutes from the end of our run for some quick recovery. Have I gone lame-o?

As I mentioned the other day, I've officially begun my Akron Marathon (and Cleveland Half Marathon) training and I'm following the plan outlined in Jeff Galloway's book Marathon: You Can Do It!, which my mom gave me for Christmas. It contains all the nutrition and cross-training information I should have known last year, as well as an interesting recommendation: short walk breaks.

Briefly speaking, walk breaks "vary the use of the muscle and reduce intensity of the work. Because you're not using the muscle in the same way continuously, you significantly increase the distance you can cover before fatigue sets in." Which makes sense. What surprised me is that these breaks, especially when you're building or rebuilding your miles, won't hurt my endurance. We'll see.

If you visit the book's Google Book preview and flip to pages 9-11, you can read Galloway's take on walk breaks.

My need for breaks made me realize, however, that I have plenty of rebuilding to do. This run was my longest (and hilliest) since my October-through-January hiatus. My legs felt strong, but my endurance could use some Vitamin Water or something.

LBJ gone spiffySpeaking of Vitamin Water, Landon mentioned that his friend will appear in a forthcoming Vitamin Water commercial, and I’m eager to learn whether it’s LeBron James’ latest.

News says LBJ plays a lawyer; I don’t know how Vitamin Water helps his case. But in a recent CNN story, LBJ says that if his career had taken a different path, he might have made a good attorney: “I can be real intimidating when I put my game face on,” he says. “And I never lose.”

Who else can make intimidating look so damn good too? Some people were just meant for stardom.

And if plans hold up, Landon and I will be all-stars this weekend: we’re planning a cross-Cleveland run on Saturday morning.

It just got interesting…

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A New Challenge, A New Race Schedule

As if running a marathon weren’t enough, I’ve decided to extend myself a little more. No, I’m not running an ultra or rushing to Ironman. No, no, no.

Word of the day: CakespyTHE CHALLENGE: I’m forsaking sweets until the Cleveland Half Marathon on May 18.

Turns out the, umm, non-religious Lenten forsaking became a two-day affair, which became more of a 40-day sweets feast. In fact, I’m surprised I still have teeth and clothes that fit. What’s my deal?

So, with all my efforts to understand my dietary needs, I figured the first step would be to cut out the treats. For a little while at least. It has benefited me (I’m such a child) to work on an incentive-based system. Finishing the half will be reward number one.

How will I fair? I don’t know. But when you obsess over [fabulous] blogs like Cakespy amidst your training blog rounds, you know you’ve kind of lost control.

Have I mentioned there’s a fantastic sweets maker, The Sweet Spot, who sells red velvet cookies and chocolate-covered cookie dough bites that you can order online? Yes, I have a problem.


Sunday, April 13: Julie Zajac Memorial 5K Run
John Carroll University

Sunday, April 20: City to City 5K
Tower City in Cleveland

Saturday, April 26: Hermes Cleveland 10-Miler
HOB Cleveland

Sunday, May 18: Cleveland Half Marathon
Cleveland, Ohio

Sunday, June 1: Boys and Girls Club 10K
Cleveland, Ohio

Sunday, June 22: A Most Excellent Race 10K
Cleveland Heights, Ohio

Saturday, July 19: Winking Lizard Shot-in-the-Dark 4-Miler
Cleveland, Ohio

Saturday, July 26: Refuse to Lose 5K
Hudson, Ohio

Sunday, July 27: Football Hall of Fame 5-Miler
Canton, Ohio

Sunday, Aug. 3: Cleveland Triathlon - Sprint
Cleveland, Ohio

Sunday, Aug. 10: Greater Cleveland Triathlon – Olympic
Mentor, Ohio

Sunday, Aug. 17: Perfect 10-Miler
Lyndhurst, Ohio

Sunday, Sept. 7: Portage Lakes Triathlon – Olympic
Akron, Ohio

Sunday, Sept. 28: Akron Marathon
Akron, Ohio

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Running: Lift Us Up Where We Belong

OK, I admit it: I ridicule Northeast Ohioans who complain about the weather.

It’s not just any weather (to an extent, we’re entitled to some quips); it’s mostly snow in March. I can appreciate your need for sun, spring and no more snow, but when in the past twenty years has uninterrupted spring arrived with the vernal equinox?

Being a ridiculer isn’t something I’m proud of. I just don’t think anyone should really be surprised anymore. And among everything else in the world, weather is the one thing we just cannot control.

You can imagine my surprise (and shame) then when on Saturday I was not only queen ridiculer of the NEOhio unfaithful, but I was also a client.

It’s not the snow, the cold, the roads that have gotten to me this year; it’s the limitations for running in any given area. Run in Cleveland Heights: spend two hours walking back in chest-deep snow; run in University Heights: spend 45 minutes running through chest-deep puddles; run in Cleveland: fall into a sink hole and then get splashed by a passing car; run in Hudson or Stow: spend the whole time dodging angry cars who don’t want you running on the street.

None of it’s the end of the world, but I’d like to take a non-track run in which I spend more time focusing on my workout and less on worrying about my life.

Running on the street isn’t bad at all. In quiet neighborhoods. Because of my common schedule (run after work), I’m often running in rush-hour traffic in a younger neighborhood chock full of people willing to drive 50 mph down a 25 mph street.

And I’ve been just waiting to cross paths with the guy who hit me last year to see if he has any vengeance left in his system (and if he ever fixed the palm-dent I left on his hood).

What’s more is this weather makes my blogging kind of bland because each of my runs becomes just another 9:30-10:00/mile run for 30-60 minutes in one of three neighborhoods. Blah blah blah blah blah.

I’ll do another hour run tonight to the tune of mid-30s and sloshy stuff in my shoes. But now I have renewed motivation: on Monday I officially started my six-month training plan for the Akron Marathon on Sept. 27, 2008. Yippee!

How's that for a change of pace?

I’m still having trouble envisioning myself running over 26 miles (in a row), but that realization will come with the six months of training and, well, miles 1-25 at the race, eh? It’s nice to have goals again (which will also include the Cleveland Half and a late-summer Olympic tri) and I’ll post a 2008 race schedule later this week.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Three-Minute Swim Break

Just a few quick tips from Coach Janet for swimmers in the crowd. I've done such a poor job since my early-January 6,300-yard workout (my last), I thought I'd remind myself what swimming actually looks like. And what do you know, it does look vaguely familiar.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Pop Quiz; Plus: Running With Others

Pop quiz about YOU!Stop your worrying: this isn't another one of those tagging games (to which I'm admittedly not opposed). Just a pop quiz about everyone's favorite person: YOU!

If you have a moment, I'd like to get your take on the following questions; you don't have to answer all. Because I'm new to running, I love nothing more than hearing other people's stories. What's yours?
  1. How long have you been running or tri-training?
  2. Why did you start running or tri-training?
  3. What's your most memorable race?
  4. What's your favorite race to run (distance and/or specific event)?
  5. What's the best advice you have ever received?
  6. What's the best advice you never followed (that you should have)?
  7. Where do you train?
  8. What are your long-term goals?
  9. What's your favorite pre-race meal?
  10. What's your favorite post-race, PR or goal-meeting reward?
Landon and I were out in that 5 p.m. sludge anyone near NEOhio experienced yesterday. But there’s something about running with someone else that makes getting hailed in the face more bearable. Not that I would have really known that.

As we pushed off from John Carroll, we both not-so-shyly admitted we had no idea what we were doing running with someone else. I still don’t know if I ran too slow or if I talked too much or if Landon wanted to punch me in the face for leading him down every single slush-flooded street (sorry, man!) in University Heights.

Wheatberry saladBut it couldn’t have been too bad: I believe we ran for 45 minutes and walked a cool down for close to ten back to our cars and off to Whole Foods (where I picked up a wheatberry salad mixed with multigrain tabouleh for dinner and a chunk of cornbread the size of my face).

For the past year I’ve been apprehensive about running “with” people. Now I’m not. I think we’re going to make this running date a regular thing. And you can’t beat that.

You're already getting a sense that this will become one of those things — like yoga, cupcakes or commuting — that I obsess over and can't write enough about, aren't you?

Next up: Monica!

I’m Sorry Mr. Clarke

According to Neil, I just killed Arthur C. Clarke.

See, I have this strange belief that famous people die in the threes. And when two go, I always say to him, “Uh-oh, Britney Spears better watch herself…” so Neil can curse me for cursing someone else.

I don’t actually believe there’s some cosmic pattern-making in the deaths of celebrities, but the three-to-go trend is just something I noticed years ago and like to point out to Neil. Because it freaks him out and makes him think I have special powers. And anytime I strike fear in someone on that level, I like to take advantage of the opportunity.

Beware the G!

Believe me: I’m not playing willy-nilly with people lives, and I definitely had nothing to do with Heath Ledger’s death. On three very odd occasions, however, my words on celebrity deaths have struck a little too close for comfort.

Richard AvedonExample 1: Flipping through a New Yorker issue that feature a retrospective on Richard Avedon’s photos for the magazine, I looked up and said to Neil, “I want to become a renowned writer (or renowned anything else, for that matter) and have Richard Avedon take my portrait for The New Yorker before he dies." That was September 30, 2004. He died the next day.

Arthur Miller and his babe.Example 2: Two days before my 25th birthday, I finished reading a short story by Arthur Miller. Marveling at the brilliance of his fiction-writing, I said outloud but to no one in particular, “All I want for my birthday is to meet Arthur Miller before he dies.” He died Feb. 10, 2005. My birthday.

A. C. Clarke, geniusExample 3: One week ago I was re-reading some materials from a software engineering class I took in college with an awesome professor. We read plenty of Arthur C. Clarke’s work on technology, the future and ethics for the class. And as I finished reading a piece on the responsibility of technology, I said, “Arthur C. Clarke would be an incredible guy to know. I hope I can meet him before he dies.” Sigh.

What’s the lesson here? Famous-for-good-reasons people need to meet me ASAP before I curse them. Really.

Well, not really. I don’t actually believe I have a magic death wand, but coincidences have a way of freaking me out.

(Note: Bridget has brought up a good fear in the comments below. Let me assure you that my fatal words generally pertain to elderly, mostly male celebrities. In fact, they're typically in their eighties or nineties. And while I hope to see everyone at a race some day, I promise not to curse you.)

Think I’m crazy? You’re probably right. And I was really crazy not to go running last night after work. It stopped raining by 5 p.m. and it was poking above freezing when I was outside. But I opted to rest, again. With good reason.

My plans for today include a post-work run with Landon, which will be my first run-with-somebody trek in a very long time. Call me a running loner. I think my running fitness, however, has improved since my old two-miler days on the track with JG before this generation of me arrived. And I’m looking forward to running into Monica for some post-work running in the coming weeks as well.

It's supposed to rain ALL DAY LONG, so I'm kicking myself for not running yesterday when I had the opportunity (but not the energy) to not get cold, soaked and sick doing it. But who believes these days anyway? Shucks.

Running with others, though, will all be a really nice change of pace; I’m totally into that these days.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Gloomy Day USA

What a gloomy day it is today in Northeast Ohio. Generally I turn on a few lamps in the office and let the window shine (even on cloudy days) on my workspace. Not today. I had to turn on the fluorescents. And they’re sucking out my will to live.

Not that I need another excuse for being lazy. It’s springtime, baby! And I’m ready to start training. I started this new season with Saturday’s race and really kicked off my training with—what else?—a recovery run on Monday.

I realize the recovery should have been run on Sunday, but I was busy doing a whole lotta nothing on Sunday. Between naps, snacking and watching basketball tournaments, I was swamped! Monday would have to do.

I love LucyIt was the usual, slow run around the hood for 25:00 at 10:00/mile. From the time I finished my race warm-up until last night, my calves were tighter than the doctor ordered. I spent most of Saturday and Sunday doing yoga and just kind of hanging out in downward dog, hoping for a calf-stretching miracle. That tightness continued into Monday.

And went away about three minutes into my run.

Recovery runs, believe it or not, are much-disputed territory and much-practiced in the sport. While some runners and trainers swear by the lactic-acid and muscle-repair theories about recoveries, others think they’re just slow, wasted miles. As if any miles could be wasted miles!

Considering the success of my own recovery run, I’m leaning on the side of the recovery-run believers. Not the haters. It's been nice doing yoga that focuses on something other than my lower legs and getting out of a chair without sound effects. But for your own opinion-setting, check out this fresh perspective on recovery runs.

All day Monday, I was eager to get home and take to the road. Until I realized was blatantly lying to me. The site claimed it would be 52 degrees—FIFTY TWO!—after work, and I was ready breathe every available molecule of springy air. Only when I arrived home, it could have been higher than lower 30s outside. Yuck!

Harley chews and tangosFor the next several days it’s going to be somewhat chilly and wholly rainy. So, I’ll have to find my way inside. Somehow.

Good news is I’m making room for more training time: Neil and I are closing in on purchasing our first house. Yeah! We kind of started the process yesterday and waited about 3.5 seconds to start looking for respective dogs. Any suggestions? Neil's leaning toward schnoodles; I want a pound puppy that can run! (Hence the puppy-spirited post.)

While I’ve gotten used to the commute (doing some lower back exercises at home and on the road have eased the physical pain), it will be super nice to have back two of my three hours commuting each day. And I thought my birthday already passed!

Plus, I’ll get back some of my sleeping hours and shed excuses for replacing activity time with naptime, eh? Or maybe I’m just getting old. Tonight, in fact, we’re skipping the Mike Doughty show at Beachland because a) opening act starts at 9 p.m.; b) we won’t get home until it’s time for me to head back to work; and c) it would put me in post-work nap mode for the rest of the week. Someday we'll have social lives again (it's really not that bad)!

This six hours (or less) of sleep each night just isn’t cutting it. But I’m glad we’re changing things before it becomes a problem!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Kicking Off With a PR

One of the advantages to being a running neophyte is that I’ve run so few races that I’m often hit a PR when I run. Plus, going from “only run when chased” to “training for something” has helped move me up the ladder of improvement.

Up the final hill at St. Malachi. Ugh.And Saturday’s 42:57.30 in St. Malachi’s 5-mile was part of that trip. Achieving my goal to beat last year’s time (45:03) puts me in decent shape for my next 5-milestone: 40:00 in the Hall of Fame 5-miler in July. But first races first…

It’s about time my deductive reasoning kicked in: warm-ups, I learned last summer, are a good thing to do before a race. I took a two-mile run before the gun from St. Malachi to downtown Cleveland and back. Whatever caused it, my calves were super sticky after the warm-up, never really loosened, and I’m still stretching to get them back to normal as I type.

The tightness upped my anxiety for a few minutes—thinking my calves might tighten or tear—but I just sucked in race-day air and marched in place near the start for 10 minutes before the race. And within those 10 minutes, the sun pushed through the clouds and burned away some creepy fog just as the race began.

What Neil and Nino did while I was running five miles. Fast.St. Malachi’s route was different this year, but started with the same big downhill and ended with the same dreaded uphill I loved/hated last year. Aiming to run a hair under 9:00/mile, I tried to find a comfortable pace to run and a pace I could maintain for the entire race.

My training runs have been between 9:30-10:00/miles, so I figured I’d push just a touch above training runs. And I did.

So, you can imagine my surprise as I crossed mile one at 7:48. Really? (It was mostly downhill.) I felt fine and still fresh at the marker, but I was a little nervous that I was pushing too hard. Yes, yes, I realize you’re supposed to push hard during a race, but I’m just warming up to racing again! Last time I race, I had a semi-broken leg!

Paranoia crawling all over me, I slowed down. A bit. The second mile had its hills and straight-aways, and aside from some pretty big potholes, it was pretty uneventful. I hit mile two at 16:20 for an 8:38 mile-two split.

After the race, I was amazed at my elbow sweat, which was steaming in the cool air.I could explain enough what near-perfect weather we had for this race. Whew! It was probably in the lower 40s, sunny with most of the morning’s fog burned by the sun. As usual, I overdressed (read last year’s report to get the litany of layers I wore for race one) and had to do some major hokey-pokey to take off my fleece and keep it bunched up around my core. I was burning up. In fact, after the race I was amazed at my inner-elbow sweat, which was steaming up in the cool air.

Another dressing note: I opted for my old Mizunos for this race. I’m beginning to think I should have gone with my gut on my shoe purchase and not taken store advice about buying up a half size. These new Mizunos just feel so clunky and huge. Perhaps it will be nice in the summer when my feet are more likely to swell, but these shoes just aren’t swell right now. Oh well.

Around 2.5 miles I walked through the water station (last year, I ran with my first-ever water and had the world’s worst stitch for the whole second half of the race) and turned onto what had to be the second steepest hill in Northeast Ohio. At least at that moment it was. A few people were walking and the thought of walking was all that crossed my mind.

Actually, it wouldn’t have been as bad a hill if I hadn’t been heckled the whole way up. What appeared to be a homeless guy on a bike was riding along side the race, saying, “Wow, I bet you’re really tired now, aren’t you” and “This is one steep hill; your legs have to be killing you” and “good thing I have a bike to ride on the way down; you don’t” the whole trek up. He was just lucky the hill was in my way.

The best thing about steep uphills is they’re often followed by rolling downhills to aid recovery. This route didn’t disappoint. I road the downhill and used gravity as my best friend, cruising into mile three at 24:40 for an 8:20 split.

I was really surprised that my mile-three came in so fast, downhill speed or not. And somehow I still had plenty of gas in the tank (OK, that wasn’t really a surprise; I eat like a growing adolescent elephant before race day).

My inexperience in racing, however, triggered all of my fear reactors and I slowed down again. For some reason I started panicking about not having enough to trek up that last hill—my Everest. Mile four wasn’t rife with hills or obstacles, but I still jogged it out in 9:00, hitting mile four at 33:40. I’m such a wimp!

Needless to say, slowing down mile four a few seconds didn’t really affect my last quarter-mile climb. What did help, however, was seeing my cheering section—mom, Nino and Neil—waiting at the turn before Mt. Everest. Just thinking about the last stretch made me want to start walking, but seeing them waiting helped me skirt my inner wuss.

Mom booked up the hill to the finish.The best part was coming up the final hill and seeing them again!

My three amigos sprinted up the hill to meet me near the finish. And as I crossed Nino and Neil on the sidelines, Neil yelled, “Look! Your mom’s running too!” I turned to look down the hill and there she was, booking up the incline (she’s a little stiff in one leg from a dramatic rollerblading accident a few years ago) and yelling, “Go! G! Go!” I think she actually ran it faster than I did!

I ran with whatever I had left up that stupid hill. As I crossed the finish in 42:57.30 (that’s an 8:17 split for the last mile), I laughed to myself about how my first-race energy powered me up the hill last year.

I remember seeing the finish and kicking it into sixth gear, cruising past everyone on the hill and running faster than the interval sprints that fractured my leg last summer.

But this year I just didn’t have that extra umph! And I realized that I need to find it. That Hall of Fame run ends with about a mile of winding incline, and I have to be ready with some tricks up my sleeve. Or else.

Congrats, again, to everyone who ran this year and thanks to my super-special cheering section who not only rallied me up the hill, but had a dee-lish bratwurst from the West Side Market waiting for me at the finish. Now, that’s love.

Speaking of love, here is a gratuitous photo of my mom's two pups, Harley Tango (papillon on the left) and Lucy Cha-Cha (rat terrier on the right). Neil and I have gone puppy crazy, so I wanted to share the dogs we cuddled all weekend.

Harley and Lucy
Harley and Lucy are rumored to be quite the little runners and should be setting some under-14 records any day now. I don't see any marathons in their future, but I'm thinking they could take me in a 5K.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


What a perfect day for a run! I’m going to wait for my mind to digest the race and my calves to loosen up before I start recapping, but talk about a great time!

My goal was to beat last-year me, and I beat last year’s time by a little more than two minutes. Yee hoo! And considering my, ummm, lack of training, I’ll definitely take it. Here are this year's St. Malachi 5-mile results.

Congrats to everyone who ran St. Malachi this morning. Out of the eight (EIGHT!) people I originally had signed on for Malachi, I was the ONLY person who showed. How sad is that? EIGHT! And then there was one. There’s a reason I don’t trust anyone.

But I do trust my family to always be race-side for me. Thanks to my mom, Neil and Nino for cheering (and running with) me up that last hill. And then feeding me bratwurst. Yum!

Friday, March 14, 2008

And so it begins...

Most of you have already started your 2008 racing seasons — whether it's been on bikes, roads, stairs, tracks or in the water — but mine starts tomorrow morning at St. Malachi.

If you're not registered for the race, will be in the Cleveland area and have nothing better to do: come on down! The weather is bound to be lovely (mid-30s anyone?) and that has to be some swimming involved with all the recent snowing, melting and raining. Woo hoo!

Good luck to everyone in the race and other races around the world. I'm intent on finding TriGuyJT on the road — he has the same time goals I have for this race and the Cleveland Half, so he's going to be my pacer. He just doesn't know it yet.

Well, maybe now he does. Look out!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Lost in the Heights

Oh, not me. I wasn’t lost. The sidewalks were lost when I ran yesterday. I couldn’t find them anywhere!

Even this shoveling job would be a blessing; click photo for original locationAfter changing into running tights and a fleece yesterday, I tiptoed out of work—not because I wasn’t supposed to leave; I didn’t want anyone to see me in tights—and ran from campus, up Cedar Hill and into thigh-deep snow banks that stretched as far as the eye could see.

A quarter mile of slipping and swearing later, I cut off the main road and ran on the side streets around Cleveland Heights. Now that was better! On my way into work I spied cleared sidewalks on Fairmount, so I figured a run through the Heights north of Cedar, cutting across and wandering back to Fairmount would make for at least 60 minutes and six miles. And a good last run before Saturday.

I’m such an optimist.

Sorry, I meant an idiot. Running up and down side streets went well for the first 40 minutes—at least 50 percent of the sidewalks were runnable. Unfortunately, they tended not to be all in a row. The streets were desolate, so the sidewalk situation didn’t matter much. At first.

The good/hard part of the run: the first 45 minutes were all uphill! As I trudged up Cedar Hill, I marveled at how not impossible it was for me and thought back to last year’s St. Malachi race and the hills that killed me. And not just the treacherous final stretch. I’m as susceptible to hill-tiring as anyone else, but it’s nice to know this year I won’t start wheezing when I just see an incline. I’ll just deserve an extra post-race treat. Right?

Needless to say, I was tired but happy after the first stretch of my run. I was also happy to start heading back. And I would have been even happier if I could have headed back. When I finally made my way back to Fairmount, there were no cleared sidewalks. Just four-foot mounds of snow alongside traffic moving over 40 mph.

I crossed the boulevard and ran a few blocks to another large road, which I thought might have some running space. But there were five-foot banks on that street and cars moving at least 45 mph. And I just wasn’t feeling too swell about running against razzled rush hour traffic. So, I headed back to Fairmount.

In death-defying spurts, I ran against traffic on Fairmount (at fire-on-my-butt speeds) one block at a time. It truly must have looked like a scene from a movie. Sad, but true. Once I had tired, I just started walking in the snow. Lucky for me, the dense snow packed under my feet and it only went knee-deep most of the way.

About thirty minutes later I couldn’t really feel my feet, but I finally reached the Fairmount sidewalk I had spied in the morning. Never have I wanted to go home and be home than 6 p.m. last night.

Once I picked up the sidewalk again (it was only interrupted by another 100-yard streak of deep snow-walking), it was a nice 15-minute run back to my car. All down hill.

So, I ran for about 60 minutes at an average pace of 9:30-10:00/mile; I trudged for about 30 minutes as fast as my anger would take me.

It’s no secret that I have minimal patience with snow coverage. And there’s nothing I can do about it. Following a carbolicious dinner stop at Whole Foods, I pulled into my neighborhood with the urge to shovel all the sidewalks in sight. But then I realized I actually have things to do for the next six months, which is how long it would probably take me.

Yes, I have issues.My last run wasn’t bad. And at least it helped me exercise my angry and impatient face, which I don’t use often at all. Going into Saturday’s race, I not only feel confident about the distance, weather and the hills, but any one the road conditions I might face as well. I’ve run through so much snow, sludge, slush, sleet, slippy-dippy schtuff over the past week that clomping into a puddle on Saturday won’t phase me. It will just be par for the course.

Between now and Saturday, I’ll be sticking with plentiful yogaing, while staying off my feet, doing some aerobic work, eating high-energy foods and staying positive. And crossing my fingers that they’ll have Boston Cream cupcakes at MSC this weekend.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Morning-After Yoga

Don’t get me wrong: my six-mile run on Monday evening was stellar. It didn’t take me long to warm up and, while it was a slow run, I didn’t tire at all and felt wholly comfortable with the distance. I even took to a 30-minute run at 10:00/mile on Tuesday night after dinner (remind me to stop doing that). It was a much, much slower-moving day than Monday, but it continued to ramp up my confidence for Saturday.

Thinking back to last year, it makes me giggle to think that my biggest fear was not finishing the race. By last March last year five miles was a hike for me; this year it’s just a breeze. I know that I won’t meet the time goals I set for myself late last summer for this race, but my confidence is riding high about finishing. One less thing to worry about!

My training prep ends with a longer run around Cleveland and the Heights this evening after work. I’d like to run for at least one hour and really get in my last set of hills before St. Malachi.

Obviously squeezing in hills three days before the race isn’t going to magically make me a hill-killer, but I’d like to remind myself what a REAL hill feels like before I make that final turn. With all this downtime, it might take a little more than a bratwurst and a finish line to get me to the top!

What will I do in the meantime? Rest and stretch. Cold weather tends to leave my muscles tight after a run—especially the next morning. Sure, I stretch before and after my runs; I warm up and I cool down; I shower cold and I shower hot. Sometimes my muscles just won’t chill when they’re supposed to be chilled.

Over the past two mornings I’ve put together a yoga flow to stretch myself (focusing on calves, quads and back) and walked away feeling awesome. So, I thought I would share. The full walk-through appears below, but here’s the flow:
  • Child’s pose
  • Cat lift
  • Cat pose
  • Cat lift
  • Downward dog
  • Swan
  • Swan bow
  • Downward dog
  • Swan
  • Swan bow
  • One-leg down dog
  • Plank
  • Upward dog
  • Half locust
  • Upward dog
  • One-leg down dog
  • Crescent lunge
  • Forward fold
  • Chest lift
Combining one breath with each movement, start in extended child’s pose. Inhale into cat lift, hold and exhale into cat pose. Repeat 2-3 times, returning to child’s pose between each lift/pose set.

After the last cat pose, inhale into cat lift and then exhale into downward dog. I like to take 3-4 breaths while stretching each calf respectively, keeping my arms stretched, even and strong as I press down each heel. Once your calves feel evenly stretched, hold downward dog for five deep breaths.

From downward dog, inhale one knee forward between your hands, keeping your back leg extended and stretching back into swan pose. Exhale your forehead toward the floor into swan bow, breathing space between each vertebrae.

Inhale-exhale through 2-3 swan poses/bows, return to downward dog and repeat swans on the other side.

After the last swan, inhale, tuck your back toe under and exhale into one-leg downward dog. Really stretch out your sides, arms and your calf. Hold for five breaths and exhale your leg down. Lower your body, inhaling, through plank position into upward dog. Exhale into half locust, stretching your back and legs. Inhale back into upward dog, tuck the toe on your other side and exhale into one-leg downward dog. Repeat 2-3 times on each side.

In your last one-leg down dog, inhale and step one foot forward between your hands and, exhaling, bring your torso upward into crescent lunge. Hold for a few breaths. Inhale and bring your body forward, lowering your hands and body toward the mat, and then into plank position. Inhale your other foot forward between your hands and repeat crescent lunge on the other side.

Complete your last crescent lunge and bring your feet together at the front of your mat in a forward fold. Hold for two breaths, arch your back and inhale while looking up, and then exhale back into forward fold. Repeat 2-3 times until hammies feel stretched, then lift with a cleansing exhale toward the ceiling, raise your arms into a chest lift and inhale. Then release all your tension with one great exhale and bring your hands into mountain pose. Om…

You’ll want to adjust the flow to your own rhythms and, obviously, modify if it doesn’t fit your needs, if you find something that works better or if my explanation seems to skip something in a bad way. It’s hard to write a yoga flow while sitting in a chair!

But chair-stretching will have to do for now: only three days until the gun blows on my 2008 race season!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Eating on Credit

If you’re a triathlete, duathlete, runner, swimmer, cyclist or any type of fit person at all, chances are you’ve had someone quip to you: oh, I bet you can eat whatever you want and not have to worry about it.


It’s no great secret (in the blogosphere, at least) that I have a little bit of a sweet tooth. But the truth is I’m a healthy eater whose not only conscious about what she eats and what she feeds the people she loves, but knows a thing or two about nutrition and what treats a body right.

I don’t always follow that knowledge, but I have it.

And one of my greatest sins against that knowledge (which is not included in the latest edition of modern sins recently released by the pope) is eating on credit. You know, those days when you KNOW you’re going to run after work so you eat enough during the day on the excuse that you need fuel for later… only to go home, plop on the couch and nap for the rest of the night to the tune of Cavaliers games, Friends re-runs and rom-coms on HBO?

That’s pretty much what 2008 has looked like for me. Gone are the days when I could come home, make and eat dinner, nap and then go for a 5-miler. Or so I had thought.

Following a bill of health-clearing doctor’s visit Monday afternoon, I came home to cook and overeat a high-protein meal with Neil. And just as the Cavs were about to tip off, I could hear my sleepy couch calling my name. I’ll admit I was really bummed about losing an hour for DST. Having light until 7:30 p.m., however, not only kicked butt, but demolished my excuses to nap and not run. Sidewalk or no sidewalk.

So, I pulled on my running tights and some combination of black jacket (to contrast against the snow) and white top layer (to reflect against in the dim light) to run for a hour at 9:30/mile pace on what turned out to be a) near-perfect running weather: an unwindy 35 degrees; b) almost the same conditions of weather, sludge and hills as St. Malachi; and c) good practice for Saturday’s race.

I ran around six miles—give or take a few fractions—that were moderately hilly, persistently puddly and slightly slippery miles on concrete that should mirror a portion of Malachi’s route (that last hill just isn’t replicable this far from San Francisco). So, I shouldn’t have the bulk of surprises I saw last year when I had zero hill, puddle and cold running experience. Sad, isn’t it?

Because I haven’t exactly been running my butt off this year (but have been credit-eating a new butt on), my goal for this race is simple: beat last year’s time of 45:03.60.

While my goal for the year is to average 8:00/mile pace across my races, I’d really like to take this early race in stride and be realistic about where my legs are right now. And they’re just not at 8:00/mile over five miles. Yet.

Besides, if I start reaching goals too soon, what’s the use in devising rewards for my milestones? How will I ever deserve an overhelping of cupcakes and fill up my new Frequent Cupcake Card (you read that correctly) from Main Street Cupcakes?

Once my miles, training, swims and races kick up again next month, I’ll be eating my rewards and enjoying them too. And not cupcake-binging on credit.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

And Then I Said, ‘We Used to Have Sidewalks…'

Had it stopped snowing for at least 20 minutes between Friday evening and Sunday morning, I would have taken my long run and my semi-long run—the last two longer runs before St. Malachi next Saturday. But alas.

Mother Nature intends to beat me at the race.

It took a mere 2.5 hours to drive home on Friday evening. I’ve heard of much longer (time) shorter (distance) commutes during the snow-blitzed rush hour, so I counted myself lucky. Because of the insane traffic—I topped out at 25 mph on the ride home and average maybe 10-15 mph—I could have probably run parts of the trip faster than I drove. Especially the parking lot down OH-8 S. Woo hoo! A small part of me, however, didn’t think leaving my car Michael Stipe-style would fare well with the natives.

Even more lucky for us: I had gone grocery shopping late last week and we were set for food. I played with different dishes and even came up with several post-workout dishes that I’ll share next post. While I ate those meals without actually doing the workouts, my belly didn’t mind. This whole weekend had the color of fattening hibernation. I was just keeping with the spirit.

When we finally emerged from our caves this morning, Neil and I could vaguely make out what used to be our garages and maybe a few apartment buildings. And under about 8-10 feet of piled, fallen and plowed snow, I think there was a street.

They’re not too fond of plowing around here, and I’m just happy I bought my trusty 1998 Jetta last summer and found a brilliant neighbor like Vaughn, who bought and let us borrow a shovel. We used the car/shovel combo to get out of here for a couple of hours, buy more food and, of course, reward of laziness with cupcakes from my favorite shop.

(Without Vaughn, however, expletives might have replaced the cupcakes in this post.)

And talk about service: we slid down an icy street pulling into the cupcake shop and plowed into a snow bank. I stomped out of the car and kicked snow around for a while before Sean from MSC came out and helped Neil push while I executed the arduous task of stepping on the gas pedal in reverse.

It took us two tries before we were out and ready to be cupcaked: I had an MSC Fluff and a Vanilla Sundae; Neil had two classic chocolate cupcakes. (Thanks to Kim and Sean for making our post-blizzard Sunday sweet!)

We nixed snow-tubing plans to stave off frostbite today, but this sweet Sunday had near-perfect running weather. If only I had a place to run! As we drove back from the store, I looked over 8-10 feet of piled, fallen and plowed snow. And then I said, “we used to have sidewalks.”

Our street was about 1.5 cars wide and three inches deep with packed snow. Running just wasn’t happening this weekend. I’ll remember this around miles three and four at St. Malachi next weekend. Ouch!

What hurts most is that stupid hour we lost today. Whose bright idea was that anyway? Among all the cupcakes, napping and sunny weather I enjoyed today, however, I didn’t really notice the difference. Until now.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Sweet, Sweet Truth

I’ve been good at climbing since I was two or three years old. It was really a means of survival. Surviving as a sweets-obsessed kid, that is.

You think I have a sweet tooth now? Well, adult-me is totally under control. When I was a kid I would wait for my parents to go outside, go to work or just get distracted and then climb the kitchen cabinets to get the sweets they stored on the top-most shelves in the house.

The treats were so high, I had to stand on the counter, use props to pull things down and pitch them back to their rightful places. Once I finished eating the sweets, I developed complex wrapper-disposal plans, which generally meant throwing them under my bed or putting them at the bottom of the garbage, to hide my indulgences.

I thought I was so slick. I always felt like I was getting away with something.

That’s how I felt on Thursday evening when I took advantage of yet another “last day before the Abominable Snowman returns” and ran around my neighborhood. Rumor has it that the world’s ending again this weekend, so it really felt like a treat (just like Sunday and Monday) to get out running.

How great is it when running becomes a reward? A treat to do? I remember this time last year when I was fretting over my upcoming first race at St. Malachi (that’s why I’m so eager to go back!). While I had been running for 2.5 months, it hadn’t become something enjoyable yet or something I longed to do. Like it is now.

And the concept that running for 45 minutes after work would be a) relaxing; b) invigorating; and c) a short run would have blown my mind a year ago. Oh, how far I’ve come! Oh, how far I have to go!

The upside of nasty weather is that it tempers you to nasty-but-not-as-nasty weather. Running in last year’s 20-below totally made 15-degree days doable. Granted, this year I’ve been supremely wimpy, but I’ve begun to find 30+ days pretty enjoyable. I may not be the frostbite-loving runner I was last year. Maybe just a smarter version of myself.

Last night’s run was another laid back, squeeze-it-in-while-you-can run that covered about 4.5 miles. I wasn’t keeping track. The only unfortunate thing was that I never seemed to warm up and felt stiff in the shins the whole time. It kind of put a bump in my warm-up time analysis (in prep for race season), but it still gave me some data.

So far, I'm not on any type of training plan; just getting into the swing. But I've been scouring resources, coaches advice, publications and blogs to get a sense for my summer training, and I'm feeling inspired.

Unfortunately for Thursday's run too, it didn’t end with a cupcake. I always treat myself to dessert after dinner, but it’s generally on the scale of cinnamon-dusted fresh apples and pears. You just can’t beat fresh fruit.

Besides, cupcakes will have to wait until next Saturday, following my first race. Main Street Cupcakes reports a new Boston Cream cupcake, which my dreams say will be my new favorite. Move over red velvet and canary crème!

OK, so I’m a little big on desserts and I always have been. Thankfully, I was active and dentally hygienic as a kid. Otherwise this blog would be about living as a 900-pound diabetic with sugar crystals in place of teeth. Perhaps an interesting read, but not exactly the life I imagine.

Like most kids, I loved candy. But I didn’t just love candy, I was obsessed with sweets. Cookies, crèmes, napoleans, pastries, truffles, trifles, tartes, tortes, brownies, cupcakes, crepes, fritters, scones, biscuits, mousse, custards, pies and cakes—you name it! I was the under-10 expert on it. And it was all dee-lish.

Most runners I know scold me for my sweet, sweet ways, but it generally calms them to know that I not only make most of the desserts I eat, but I tend to use natural ingredients and rarely use any refined sugars at all. In fact, I’ve tried to curb the unhealthy factor in my sweetventures by replacing cookies with Luna bars or having a bowl of fruit in place of a fruit tart.

Perhaps I'm obsessed and a little indulgent, but I have a good approach!

While the holidays—including my birthday—threw me off the wagon and tossed a few pounds my way (I have to be lugging around 5-6 extra pounds of cupcakes and dobos torte alone!), I’m totally ready for a new season of running rewards and the season of rampant fresh fruit.

Here's to yum!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

My Right to Vote...

...was the only thing I exercised today. But there's something about making history that makes me feel OK with that. I hope you did the same. Whatever your side of the aisle.

And don't forget to...

VOTE!... if your primary is today.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Don't Forget the Short Run

It’s no secret that two years ago I would have rather gnawed off my legs than run on them. I was the person who used the phrase “I only run when chased” and thought it was funny. Two years ago I might have preferred getting punched in the face than going for a run.

What a difference a couple years makes, eh?

One reason running has vaulted itself to the top of my Fav Five: its natural and flexible ability to eek itself into any part of my day. Today, for instance, I had 20 spare minutes when I came home from work. It was 60 degrees outside and there wasn’t an excuse in the world for not hitting the road.

So, I ran into my apartment, changed into some running clothes (oh how I’ve missed my running SHORTS!) and went for what turned out to be a 25-minute run around 9:45/mile. It was totally laid back and relaxing. And it was a good use of time too.

I could have stayed inside and kicked my feet up, watched an episode of Friends or prepared dinner a little early. All of those activities have their advantages. So, I did them all.

It irks me when people complain that they “don’t have time to run.” I agree: sometimes life gets hectic and you just don’t have time to breathe. But if you can’t find 15-20 minutes (even five minutes!) every couple of days to take a walk, jog, run, then you have so reevaluating to do. Twenty minutes is more than enough time to run. In fact, it makes for a worthwhile trip. Those minutes are in your day; you just have to use them.

Is it obvious that I’ve been surrounded by nay-sayers for too long?

Today wasn’t supposed to be a running day for me. I had intended to take my Sunday long run, rest of Monday, then run after work on Tuesday, during lunch on Wednesday, after work on Thursday, rest on Friday and get in some long runs over the weekend. Taking 25 minutes for a relaxing run didn’t throw a wrench into things. It just helped.

The best thing I took away from today’s run was a warm-up estimate. It took me way too long last year to realize that warm-ups are key to succeeding in races. But I’ve never taken the time to evaluate what made for a good warm-up. When I take some distance runs, I generally “warm up” for a mile or for ten minutes—whichever comes first—before pushing my pace to a slightly higher level.

Warm or cold, my body tends to take around the same amount of time to warm up. I just never paid attention to how long that warm up might be. So, today I took note. At exactly 19 minutes I felt my body loosen and at 20 minutes I was warm and cool as a cucumber. Hence the reason I ran the extra five minutes—why stop when you’re feeling just fine?

My knees and thigh were a little crickety when I started running, but I took it so easy and enjoyed my workout enough that it all just faded into the background. Aside from some puddles to dodge ad mud in my shoes, I had one cool run. I didn’t need a pool or a long road to travel; I didn’t need a couple hours out of my day; I didn’t need a helmet or goggles. I just tied up my shoes and ran.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Link Back to this Post When I Forget How Much I Love Running...

Because today just rocked!

Whatever my excuses over the past couple months—fractured leg, influenzad lungs, long commute—I’m totally done with them. Sure, there will be some cold days between now and summer (would it otherwise be Cleveland?), but I’m done hibernating. Effective: 2.5 hours ago.

Talk about a beautiful day. I don’t know if I believe that it was 42 degrees outside—it was probably in the mid-30s—but the sun made it almost seem like spring when the wintry breeze wasn’t biting my butt! For a change of scenery and oomph of motivation, I picked up and drove to Hudson today (it’s only seven miles away) to run in a new neighborhood.

Cupcake deliciousness from my favorite cupcake blog, chockylitUnfortunately, no cupcakes were harmed in the making of this blog post. And this run did not end up at Main Street Cupcakes. Darn it.

I parked my car in the town square, started my stopwatch and took off running at a slower-than-Gina pace. Around 10:00/mile for the first mile warm-up.

What I mean by slower-than-Gina: it’s not a slow pace, it’s a wise pace. Flip through any of my early posts—when I was kicking through 10-mile runs in under 8:00/mile and wise people like Salty, Joe, Jim, etc., were kindly warning me, throwing red flags in my path and doing anything to tell me I was training too fast and headed for an injury—to see my well-lighted path toward last fall’s stress fracture. Pure genius.

Because I’m building up from nearly four months off, I thought it was time to take their advice. Even if it took an injury for me to hear what everyone was saying!

My right thigh was sore before I started running today (I spent about an hour warming it up, rubbing it down, stretching and flexing it), but everything appeared to be in working order once I was warm. Even me shoes felt weightless and well formed.

So, I ran around Hudson for 90 minutes around 9:30/mile and feeling way comfortable. There were a few slick spots on the sidewalks and sidewalks that disappeared under several feet of snow, but I managed to high-step through most of the muck without incident. There were a few ankle teaks, slips and whoops! along the way, but none I’d really want to admit.

For anyone who’s in a rut: I strongly recommend the change of scenery. Until we move (this spring), I’m stuck in a small neighborhood that makes for terrific short runs, especially when I’m out to time myself. I know all of my mile markers and can run mostly flat straightaways whenever I need it. But when I want to take a leisurely run or distance run, doing laps around the same one-mile loop or in/out of parking lots just doesn’t cut it.

Taking trips to Hudson or Euclid have really given me a boost. Think about a change next time you groan when it’s time to run—it’s probably not the running that’s getting you down.

Well, it took two months but my longest run for 2008 is finally in the books: 9.5 miles. At least now I now I can finish St. Malachi!

Neil and I are stopping traffic and directing yours to... older posts. About us.(In case you missed it over the weekend: You can catch required-by-tagging postings of seven odd things about me and then a bonus seven things about Neil.

Neither post has anything, really, to do with running. But everything about two people you may know really well, want to know or don't at all.)