Thursday, September 20, 2012

Running in the Dark

The alternate title of this post could be, "Mistakes Were Made."

It all started nicely - a wind-free, warm late-summer evening, the empowerment that comes with moving beyond a 10-hour workday to motivate one's self to run, excellent company in the form of my boyfriend's very athletic 11-year-old daughter whose taste in running shoes can only be described as impeccable. I even had a great route idea for the recommended 2.5 miles (which was actually 3.13 miles).

The one thing that I did not consider was the extent to which Seattle streets and sidewalks are falling apart and how much worry an errant step can cause.

With most of the run behind us, we were picking up our pace a bit around where Raye turns into 8th. As we rounded that dark corner of sidewalk, my foot landed in an uneven pothole and rolled out and forward. I could feel a bunch of things stretching and clicking and snapping as I moved and screamed bloody murder. (Be proud, folks. I did not use a single word that would raise an eyebrow). Perrin, my running companion, asked me if we needed to stop, but after a few strides, the pain was bearable and we continued our run.

And now, this is what I have to live with:

Pothole aftermath

Luckily, the pain has not really set in (yet). Riding my bike doesn't seem to be an issue, and walking feels just like it did before, but hurts a bit to go down stairs and flexing my foot also reminds me that, as stated, mistakes were made. Plus, it looks so ugly! I'll be interested to see how tomorrow's (Friday's) run goes with this new lump of glory. Until then, happy trails to all of you non-existent readers!

Monday, September 17, 2012

On the Road Again

I always manage to forget that September is really the reason to live in Seattle. The weather is remarkably comfortable, the rain is another month away (maybe two months in a good year), the sun comes out to play, and the light starts falling in that gorgeous autumn way that makes you feel like you're living in an instagram picture all the time. Unlike the summer months, September also seems to be okay with waiting until midnight to really cool down. The temperature at dusk is still warm enough to allow for a delightful bicycle ride or run in short sleeves. Let's not forget the leaves. I cannot get over the oranges and yellows and deep reds, especially on top of Queen Anne hill.

Training in this weather is absolutely ideal, even if the race itself will be quite a bit cooler. It's easy to establish the habit of running 3-4 days a week when you actually want to be outside. And really, I couldn't ask for a better time or setting to launch into my half-marathon training schedule. I started a week late to do the full 12 weeks that my schedule calls for, but I feel comfortable enough with my running that I can immediately dial into a week that involves 2 miles, 3 miles, and 4 miles with a 2.5 mile recovery.

One thing that's changed is my acquisition of the MapMyRun app on my Droid which is probably just like a Garmin, except I get to see my route mapped out as I run. I had never really run with a pace-keeping device before (despite my very sweet boyfriend thoughtfully buying me a Garmin as I was training for the San Diego Rock 'n Roll half-marathon in 2011). At the time, I just did not have the patience or time to learn how to use it and instead just pre-mapped my runs and timed myself with a stop-watch. Such a luddite! Anyway, the ability to track my pace has been a great training tool for me. I'm learning to push myself better on hills or to back off a bit when my pace is too fast. It's been fun to see how my mood affects my starting pace or how my eating (or lack thereof) will dictate the last quarter of each run.

With this in mind, let's look at how Seattle Half-Marathon Training Week 1 went:

Wednesday, September 12: 2 miles

Let's first talk about Monday. I work with a personal trainer every Monday, which I kind of need because if I'm left to my own devices, I absolutely will not do weight training. My trainer is the same one who helped me peel off 25 pounds of fat when I was 24 years old and saw me through my first two half-marathons. Anyway, Monday consisted of 3 super-sets, two of which included squats. The first super-set had 3 sets of 20 normal squats and if my calculations are correct, I was lifting 75 pounds for all of them. The final set included 3 sets of 15 "hack-squats" (like a dead lift, but the bar is behind you and you stop lifting when the bar hits the back of your legs), weight unknown.

Long story short: my legs were absolute jello. And what's the best kind of run to do two days after you've destroyed your legs with squats? Hills, of course!

I waited to run until after I'd gone back home. My boyfriend's younger daughter is a very athletic 11-year-old who is developing interest in distance running. She spends Wednesdays with us and I like to give her the option of running with me. Unfortunately, she's been dealing with a nasty cold for the last couple of weeks, so it was a solo run for me. Good thing, too, because I was slooooow. After the initial climb, my back was really, REALLY bothering me. I felt like I couldn't move correctly, like my butt was sticking out too much and like I couldn't fix it. I'd initially planned to run a few more miles that night, but turned around when my phone said I'd done one mile. I went home, head hung in shame, and spent some quality time with my foam roller.

Friday September 14, 3 Miles

Work was long and boring. Really, who holds a 4 hour "how to write your scientific reports" meeting on a Friday afternoon?! With frustration and boredom driving me, I was hot out of the stable when I started my 3 mile run at 6:30pm. I ran my 3 miles in 23 minutes - a faster pace than I plan for my half-marathon. I certainly wasn't disappointed, especially considering that I was running on a near-empty fuel tank, a mistake that I most certainly felt by the end of the run. I also still felt the lower back pain that I'd encountered on Wednesday evening, which slowed me in the second half of my run. I may have been in some pain, but I was satisfied as I rode my bicycle home and into the weekend.

Sunday September 16, 4 Miles

AKA long run #2. Joby and I spent a lot of time cleaning, building furniture, and being overall domestic and boring this weekend (excepting brunch with AM and a visit to Heather). After hours of cleaning and frustration on Sunday, I calmed myself down, threw on my running shoes, and went out for my 4 mile run. Unlike previous runs on Queen Anne, I chose to walk up the really difficult initial climb, treating that bit as a warm up, and then stretched my lower back out pretty substantially before I jumped into my run. The afternoon was lovely and I felt pretty good starting out, as is reflected in my 7:58 min/mi pace, but things got kind of weird after that first mile. Some creepy-looking dude in a silver VW jetta started circling blocks and looking ominously at me as he passed by. I got a bit freaked out and started altering my route to try to avoid him, but he kept circling around. My initial instinct was to run faster, hoping he wouldn't catch me. The rational part of my brain (yes, it does exist) kicked in, telling me that outrunning a car is not realistic and that the best thing to do is find a very public space. I high-tailed it to Kerry Park (where you and the regular stream of tourists can get the post-card view of Seattle's skyline) and hang out there until I no longer felt like I was in danger. Considering the view and the weather, I correctly assumed that it would be packed. I forgot to pause MapMyRun when I stopped, so the pace is a little weird for those couple of miles.

Kerry ParkSeattle skyline from Kerry Park

Once I felt safe, I continued on my run, but felt a bit exhausted after climbing back to 7th and walked a bit. I was dealing with some shakiness, too. Nobody likes to feel endangered, especially by another human being. It's amazing how that feeling can stick with you. In any case, the pace I achieved for the majority of my run is about what I want for my half-marathon, so apart from creepy VW dude, I'd consider this run a smashing success.


All in all, not a bad way to kick off training season. Music has been good, too. Perhaps I'll dedicate one of this week's posts to the songs that I most enjoy while running. Until then, here's to happy running!

Monday, September 10, 2012


Seattle was dry for a glorious 48 days and though the gloom and gray and reliably constant precipitation could be partially blamed for my immigration to Seattle from Montana, I cannot say that I missed the rain at all. In fact, I didn't really even notice that it was gone. Rather, I found myself a little bit exhausted from feeling so happy all the time. I biked, ran, ate, walked, strolled, picnicked, swam, and lazed outside in warm, dry weather, just like every other person normally does during a summer season. (Granted, the warmth was only here for about two weeks, but after 2011's Neversummer, I'll take it).

Considering the date and the return of the rain, I suppose it's time to mourn the passing of yet another too-short summer. But, I don't know if "mourn" is really the right word because despite my undying love for summer and its related activities, I have to admit that there was something comforting in waking up to the sound of rain falling.* I actually found myself enjoying the process of donning my more than knee-high striped socks with my shorts for just a bit of extra warmth (let's face it, 55F is just a bit too warm for full pants but definitely too chilly for completely bare legs), of fishing out my bright pink waterproof rain jacket that keeps me dry and ensures that this city's incompetent drivers see me before they run me over, of pulling my gloves on instead of riding uncovered. And maybe, just maybe, dodging puddles and bracing myself a little bit against the sudden chill in the air offered me a bit of fun as I dragged myself through a sleep-deprived grog during my bike commute to work.

I was shocked to find myself gleefully anticipating the impending autumn. Anyone who knows me well will argue that this makes no sense. My common complaint stems from chills and I sincerely regret the fact that Seattle's summer can normally be quantified in hours rather than days or months (in my opinion, summer = time during which the temperature equals or exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit). But, bracing myself against the wonderfully familiar crispness in the air that comes with the fall, I began counting the ways that I love this season: the leaves becoming vibrant reds and oranges; the aforementioned refreshing crispness in the air; Halloween; pumpkin EVERYTHING; gorgeous sunsets; new episodes of my favorite TV show; my birthday...(oh God, my birthday!)...

The most pronounced feeling I experienced could probably be summarized as comfort. For me, autumn is comforting. There's something to be said about curling up into one's favorite down blanket after a long run in the chilly weather and busting into a good book while downing a delightfully sinful pumpkin spice latte. It's a cuddlier season because the days get shorter and up here, the darkness really does swallow us. By Christmas, we'll have less daylight than darkness, so we take to staying warm with each other and, in my case, decorating with excessive Christmas lights. Ultimately, though, I find comfort in the actual change of seasons. It reminds me that nothing ever really stays the same (myself included) and that with each new season, I'll learn something novel and I'll discover something worth my while. I'll read new books and see new movies and learn something astounding in my scientific career.

My point is that I will sincerely miss summer, but I'm ready for our new rainy autumn overlords because they signal that the world is still turning and that I'm still getting older and I still have the potential to grow into a better runner/scientist/girlfriend/friend/person. That, and they bring with them the pumpkin spice lattes.

*This statement is inaccurate. I actually woke up to a screaming fight at about 6:20am. About socks. Yes, socks. No, it was not pleasant. It's also a lot less whimsical than waking up to the sound of rain falling for the first time in 50 days. I took some artistic liberty here. Sue me. (Please don't sue me).

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

And here we go again!

I used to relish in the art of blogging. These days, work and my nearly two-years-long relationship take up a lot more of my time and I've fallen out of practice. Rest assured, though, the running has not stopped. I spent the spring training for the Seattle Rock 'n Roll half-marathon. And by "training," I mean, "casually running once or twice a week and only managing to complete 4 or 5 of my long runs in a 12-week schedule." Whoops. Despite my lackadaisical approach, it turned out well. I finished in a respectable 2 hours and 2 minutes and wore a smile throughout the whole thing.
It was a particularly exciting event because my mom and sister were in town and also completing their first half-marathon! They both did a walk/run combination to finish in just under their goal time of 3 hours. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself :) Seattle Rock and Roll Half-Marathon 2012 To be honest, I dreaded the run itself. Seattle in June is notoriously rainy and cold and the Friday prior to the race exemplified the nastiness that Seattle can adopt when everyone else in the country is opening their eyes to the first sunbeams of summer. Come race day, however, the skies cleared, the wind stopped, and the weather held until 2 minutes after my mom, sister, and I, exhausted from the race, poured ourselves back into my apartment for well-earned rest and revelry. The sheer joy I experienced was only slightly adulterated by the notion that, had I trained more thoroughly, had I stuck to my very easy training schedule, I could have gotten a personal best. It was a great learning experience -- I run better when I keep my head out of the negative vortex -- but it's a little sad to think about how much faster I could have finished that one. Despite the disappointment, I think it's exactly what I needed. An inspiration to do better and to be better without falling into the trap of hating the very act of running itself. So, let's try this out. I'll be spending my first Christmas away from home this year, breaking my parents' hearts and, if we're going to be honest here, mine too. To make up for it, I'm taking a full week during Thanksgiving to fly home and be with my family, but I'm flying back a day or two early because I want to return to the course that got me my current personal record. I want to make that gamble on the Seattle November weather and run off my undoubtedly delicious Thanksgiving meal. I'm signing up and I've already begun my training, following the same schedule I used two years ago. I'm hoping to get a bit more speed training in there as well, maybe doing speed intervals on my Wednesday or Friday distances. That said, I am really quite excited to return to something I love so much! Wish me luck!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I'm baaaaaack...

In case you missed the facebook announcement, I'm back from a ridiculous few months and ready to train for something again. By this, I mean that I have signed up for the Seattle Rock 'N Roll Half Marathon! Let's consider it a celebration in honor of paying off the credit card debt that I carried around for 5 years (yes, 5. And I cannot even begin to explain how lovely it feels to be completely debt free!). See you on the road!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

On Giving Up

Dear Portland Marathon --

It was a fun dream, and for a small while, I enjoyed preparing. But, I think it would be better for both of us if we went our own separate ways. Have fun, I'll be thinking of you October 9th as I lament my lack of will while I stuff my face with birthday cake and bourbon.



Yeah. It really came to that. I went out for a 9-mile run tonight, one that was supposed to be taken care of over the weekend. I hit mile 5 when the sun completely disappeared, the wind picked up, and I got goosebumps. In the middle of a run. On the 26th of July.

I know the rest of the country seems to be stuck in the middle of an inferno and that I should really enjoy the cold and complete lack of sun and the unending wind. And I'm sure that I would, with some perspective. Thing is, we had a really difficult spring after a fairly normal winter. I'm ready for some sunshine or something that has some semblance of a real summer. You know, temperatures greater than 62F?

What are the reasons I run in the first place? It keeps the weight off and allows me to be belligerently enthusiastic about food. It helps with my body image issues and normally instills a bit of an endorphin high, which helps me stay happy. It burns stress, it gives me some time to myself. I used to love it because it was a way to get outside for an hour a day. But in the summer that never was, I hate being outside. I hate the fact that I haven't really run in the sun yet this year (excepting my half marathon in San Diego) and that I'm freezing by the time I finish even double digit mileage runs. Every single time I set out for a run these days, it's an obligation. I am not enjoying it.

I have to confess that it's been enough to convince me to skip training runs. I'm feeling out of shape and hopeless. Cripes, I couldn't even finish 9 miles today. Sure, I had a great 13-miler two weeks ago, but 13 is easy. 26 takes a full commitment, and I am not where I need to be. It takes a ton of endurance and strength and a force of will that I don't have this year. Any emotional strength will need to be devoted to keeping myself from completely breaking down from lack of sunshine. It doesn't help that, as soon as I signed up for this race, my weekends from mid-May to mid-September proceeded to fill up. It was impossible to arrange anything around an insane traveling schedule, especially really long training runs. Before I even set out for a chilly jaunt around Seattle, I am exhausted. I am burnt out. And I think i know my limits.

This certainly doesn't mean that I'm giving up on running. The body image issues certainly haven't gone to pasture - something I'll probably have to deal with my entire life. So it goes. And it's not that I hate running. I just hate the weather, I hate spending this much time in it, and I hate constantly feeling like I'm behind of where I need to be. Maybe the lack of obligation will help me remember how much I used to love it, maybe the sun will come out and I'll feel happy again. Maybe someday I *will* tackle the 26.2 miles that so many other people have been able to do. For main goal is to actually get to a point of enjoying it again.

Friday, July 1, 2011


Yep, that really is the title of my post today.

I forget sometimes that running is as much mental as it is physical. You have to learn to expect pain and push yourself through it if you're ever going to improve. Gasping lungs, screaming quads, burning's actually kind of easy compared to fighting the urge to stop. And of all people, I feel like endurance athletes have the greatest mental fortitude. They push themselves through all of it to add distance, to improve times, to be king of whatever mountain that they choose to tackle.

My motivation has, as of late, been lacking. I discussed a lot of my excuses in my last post, but even while running, I have fallen victim to the seductive suggestion of rest. "It's okay, I have 100 days of training left..." Clearly, this will not do. My prerogative yesterday was to tackle that, to retrain my will, to redevelop the cajones that got me back into running and crossing the finish line with a PR. I figured the best way for me to do that was to run exhausted. This proved to be much easier than I expected.

I think anyone who has made their way from Lake Union to the top of Capitol Hill can tell you that the Eastlake stairs constitute a formidable beast. With an elevation gain of nearly 500 ft in less than a mile, they pose one of the more difficult climbs in this fair city. Running them once is insane enough, but I was really looking for flat-out, ready to cry exhaustion. While one round on these stairs was probably enough to qualify me as exhausted, I pushed myself twice. The idea was to put myself in such an uncomfortable position that I would promise my first-born child if it meant I could stop and walk -- but push through and take on a 4 mile run...without stopping, of course :)

All I can say is "mission accomplished." After that second ascent, I damn near died. My lungs felt worse than I've experienced in all my life, and my legs, already jelly from my Wednesday "step 'n sculpt" class, decided to just go numb. At least I had lack of feeling on my side :) I wanted to quit so badly as I pushed myself up the hill through Volunteer Park. I will admit that the absence of cars and pavement made this climb much easier for me, but it was still hard. The entire time, my mind was yelling at itself: "This is for YOU! We're making you stronger, harder, better!" When I finally crested the zenith of my journey, I thought that my lungs would explode and that my legs would fall out from under me. Luckily, I had a good mile or so of descent to my favorite running trail in all the world, and the only real expectation was to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I finished exhausted, having found my smooth on Interlaken. It's like I hit cruise control at a pace that was *just faster* than comfortable, which brought me to the finish line for the day. I was exhausted, but I was too pleased with myself to be upset.

Note to self: this exercise is worthwhile. The mental training is huge and my legs feel fantastic today.

How do you train your brain to push through those times when you want to give up?