Monday, May 2, 2016

First Time in a Long Time

I ran eight miles on Saturday. This was my longest run since the marathon, last October. So kind of a big deal for me. And the best news was that it ended up not being a big deal at all.

I had my usual tea and a swallowful of leftover coffee before leaving the house, along with a banana and dates. I brought a small bottle of the endurance drink I use (Tailwind) and a gel - both things I've had no use for since last fall. Since I was carrying a bottle I broke out my race vest - again, this has sat on a shelf since the fall. Kind of nice to have it out again.

I started off slow and took walk breaks every half mile, with a sip of Tailwind with each walk break. I've had a bad habit in the past of not refueling soon enough so while this was a relatively short long run, as runs go, I didn't want to make things any harder for myself through anything I could prevent. I did feel kind of slow and stagnant to begin with - I had to remind myself that non-caffeinated runs feel that way to start. (On weekends I start my day with decaf tea because I know I'll be drinking more regular strength coffee than I usually do - at work I switch to decaf coffee.) I also entertained myself by looking at the different parkways as I passed. We'd like to do more with ours and I've been collecting ideas as I'm out and about in the city.

Miles three through five felt more energetic. I took my gel at mile four - Hammer Apple Cinnamon flavor. It was chilled from the air and felt refreshing and really tasty - not words I usually think of with gels. But I like the Hammer brand. At mile five I started to get a little tired so turned on my iPod and was treated to a whole bunch of Prince for the rest of the way. That was also nice. It was a gray, chilly morning and I saw very few people on my route, so it was just me and Prince, hanging out together under the cherry moon. A lot worse ways to spend an early Saturday morning.

I felt pretty good the rest of the way, made sure to stretch thoroughly when I got home and to put my feet up later in the day, and had no soreness the next day. So I think, barring any odd problems, I should be okay with the remaining long runs before the Soldier Field 10M and with the race itself, as long as I keep taking things nice and easy.

With relief,

Friday, April 29, 2016

What's Next

The weeks of short runs have shown me that I'm quite content to keep doing that for a while, in fact, it sounds like an awfully good plan for this year. I'd like to see if I can get faster so I've been thinking about finding a couple more 5Ks that I can train for, maybe one in late summer and one in late fall.

However, I did sign up for the Soldier Field 10M on Memorial Day weekend back at the beginning of March in a fit of optimism. Back then I was back up to 6 miles in my Saturday long runs... unfortunately I've barely run any farther than that since then.

For several weeks I toyed with the idea of just not doing it so I wouldn't have to worry about those long runs (it's also a drag having to worry about getting back by a certain time so the kids don't wake up The Dude, whether on purpose or through just being very ACTIVE). But as I've been feeling a bit better it just feels a shame to miss it, I do like that race even if I'm not able to race it. So I will make a stab at it after all, starting with a planned 8-miler tomorrow morning.

With lots of walk breaks.

And enough fuel.

And good tunes.

Wish me luck (and no rain) -


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

What's Been Going On In Running

What's been going on is more of the same as last fall.

To recap: In September I came back from my trip to Germany, ready for my last month of marathon training, to find that running had suddenly become hard. Like, really hard. As in, four miles suddenly seemed as if it was too much. I did not know how I was going to run 26.2 in six weeks time.

I wasn't sick, I wasn't feeling impaired in any other way, I just couldn't run. Not fast, and not far without a lot of effort.

I figured I had been overtraining - I had been hitting some pretty high mileage - so I cut way back for a couple of weeks until running felt comfortable again to me, and then slowly resumed a moderate running schedule. I pretty much stopped training at this point, I just wanted to feel that I had enough miles on my legs that I could cover the distance, but not push myself so much that I flamed out again and couldn't run at all.

And I got to the starting line, and I crossed the finish line, and that was my 2015 Chicago Marathon.

Afterwards I cut way back on my running, just doing enough to feel I was doing something. And then between being sick and the holidays and being sick again and not wanting to get up early and go out running in the dark I didn't run very much at all in January. But I assumed that when I started again I would have no trouble getting back into a comfortable routine.

Only that didn't happen. February came and went and March came and went and April came and I couldn't get any consistency at all. Some of it was scheduling - the usual interruptions of work and kids. Some of it was still having trouble getting up early enough yet having no other time to run than early morning. But even when I was running I couldn't know from day to day how it was going to feel, and it took a lot longer to recover from longer/harder runs than in the past, so I couldn't count on one day's good run meaning that things were better. I had races on my calendar - including a 10-miler in four weeks - and would try to plan a training schedule for them, and then I'd have a string of poor runs and know I wasn't going to be able to maintain that schedule.

I knew I had gained weight over the winter and the year before so that made a difference, but that shouldn't have been all of it - even with the extra weight I'm still lighter now than I have been most of my adult life. And overall I was just generally feeling run down - still needing more sleep, catching more colds than usual and having them affect me more, somewhat achy, just not feeling right.

Finally I went to my doctor (for another couple of issues altogether) and in the visit mentioned that I had been feeling run down for the past eight months or so. She sent me off for a whole slew of lab work - mostly for the other things and it felt as if she were just tossing extra tests in there because, well, why not, I was already having blood drawn. But they came back showing a vitamin D deficiency.

So-o-o... for the past three weeks I've been taking a weekly mega-dose of vitamin D. And I have to say that I'm feeling better in small ways. I'm not as achy. I'm waking earlier in the morning and feeling more alert when I wake. I've been enjoying my runs more and not feeling that I'm laboring as much with them, though I'm still slow. A tickle in my throat here and there but nothing that's moved into being a full cold. And I've felt more able to start re-incorporating yoga and strength training into my routine, albeit in teeny tiny doses. Anything is better than the nothing I'd been doing.

I'm sure the increased sunlight has been helping. I'm sure the sugar fast I've been on has been helping too. But I gotta say, I'm feeling grateful for that little blue capsule I take on Sundays.

Grateful too for health insurance,

Monday, April 25, 2016

So I Ran This Race Yesterday (Ravenswood Run 5K)

I've run it before, a number of times. Four years in a row, to be precise. And The Dude ran it last year when I didn't.

Yesterday was the slowest I have ever run it, aside from the first time (when I was pregnant with G).

I was working it too, training in the weeks beforehand, warming up beforehand (but not too much), managing my energy, pushing myself, shooting for at least a sub-30:00. Which I made (29:35), with a little cushion. That lined up with what I'd been managing to do in my tempo runs and speed workouts.

Training runs aside, I truly did not know if I would be able to run under 30:00 this year. All of my running has been hard-fought this year thus far. And to be honest, because of that, I wasn't sure I really wanted to race this. I would have been quite content if D had decided he wanted to do the full race this year along with me, which would have necessitated a different approach. But he wanted to do the kids' dash this year again - they get t-shirts and medals. The 5K runners just get t-shirts.

(He's quick enough but his strength is in longer distances, not these 100m dashes, so we're not-so-subtly encouraging him to move into 5Ks.)

I've been all over the place in my thinking about my running this spring, which is why I haven't written about it - or anything - these last weeks. Now that I've done this race I have a better idea of what makes sense for me right now.

Not what I want to do, mind you, but what makes sense for me to do.

In the meantime, it was a good race, it was a good family experience, it was a good way to officially start the season.

With some satisfaction,

Friday, March 18, 2016

Spring Forward

The thrill of getting up early to go see the sun rising over the river isn't quite as exciting when the sun is no longer rising that early.

It was still pretty, though.

Friday, February 26, 2016

What Do You Mean, "Retired"?

I've had a couple of people ask me over the last months, when I spoke about taking a break, if I plan to keep running. I've been running for almost twenty years - of course I plan to keep running. And I have been running over the past four months, just not nearly as much as I had been before. A similar question after my last post has been, what do I mean when I say I'm "retiring" from running? It's not from marathons - since I'm hoping to do a trail marathon this fall. It's not from trying to get faster - since I'm training for a 5K right now, and while I don't hope to break my PR at this one, I do have a goal in mind, and will try to PR later this year.

It might be from trying to be fast at longer distances, anything over an hour (so over a 10K for me). Or of road marathons, since my feet and knees complain when I spend too much time on pavement. But I think it's mostly from the pressure I've felt in the past around running.

I do know I can't quit running. Not that I had any intent of doing so, but over the past few weeks I've also come to see that I can't quit the urge to push myself in it. What I suppose I am doing is redefining the terms under which I am willing to push myself, and quitting those aspects that don't serve me.

But I do need to push.

Mentally: Can I do this? I can do this. I can do this but only by applying X tactic or by asking for help or by analyzing my weaknesses or by trying something new or by trying again or by pulling back here so I can move forward there. Until, oh hey, I did this.

Physically: That sensation of pushing against myself, finding those edges of discomfort or what I think is possible and massaging those edges, looking to see how I might do more, find a way around, stretch the edges out. Or sometimes just stomp over them, unthinking, unfeeling, Murakami's running machine. Until at some point I look back and see, oh, that's where I was - but I'm not there anymore.

Sometimes it's from finding new resources of power. Swing those arms, drive yourself forward, up that hill or through that interval. Straighten that spine, lift your head, raise your gaze and feel breath enter you fully. Let the energy of the day - sun, wind, rain, ground - be your energy too. Or the energy of the music, or a mantra, or even just counting: one, two, three, four. Or double-time: one-and-two-and-...

Sometimes it's finding new sources of endurance/stamina. Lots of mind games here. (And why not "games"? Is this not all play?) Paying attention, fully, to what surrounds me: colors, people, places. Or letting my mind ride some thought elsewhere. Or reminding myself of what I can do. For this I sometimes think of being in labor. Either one will serve; D's was long, days-long, and there was nothing to do but keep moving forward, trying new things, making adjustments, until he finally turned and was ready to move out. G's was fast, out of all control, nothing soothed me, nothing eased, all I could do was roar him out. What's any one run, no matter how long or painful, held next to those? But we forget what power we hold.

I think what I'm retiring from (or said otherwise: letting go of) is any sense that my running has to be for anything more than myself. I know I need running (or other movement that is sometimes meditative, sometimes intense) to feel right in my body, to be settled. And I take better care of myself in all areas when I have that movement. I like to push myself in my running - and I'm still exploring what that desire is about - and having race goals helps me do that. But I think I'm retiring from serious attachment to those goals. My last two marathons I needed to detach from a particular outcome to be able to enjoy them - and I did, but only late in the game when that was my only good choice. My first time out I never let go of that pressure on myself and not only did I not enjoy myself but I barely remember any of it. And every time I remember thinking, what would it have been like to train without having that pressure? Can I even do that?

So I guess I'm practicing that this year. A trail marathon will be a new thing for me, and I know my approach will be different, has to be different. To take a page from the habit-change literature, I'm changing my environment to make it easier to change my behavior (or thinking in this case).

Of course another question, unanswered, is: What exactly is it that makes me want to run so long? I really don't know. Perhaps as I keep running I'll find out.

"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer." ~ Rainer Maria Rilke
(I've quoted this here before but it's a good one.)

Yours in questioning,

Friday, February 19, 2016

Recent Running

I've been wanting to write something about running, but my ideas and goals keep shifting. So I'll just say for now that I have been, and have been getting back into a regular rhythm, one that feels right and sustainable. Enough to keep me on an even keel - since I don't do well when not physically active (and vigorously so) - but not so much that I can't do other things I want to. I've also begin sprinkling in short bits of other activity: strength/core training, running stairs at work, shadow boxing. All things I'd neglected during last year's marathon training, and all things I'd missed (and paid for, physically, in missing).

This is all contingent on weather/work/health, and healthy kids too, of course.

I've got two races on the calendar, both for fun. That is to say, I'm not training for them, other than being able to cover the distance without stopping.

In April there's the Shamrock Shuffle 8K, put on by the same people who do the Chicago Marathon. It's a madhouse, the city's start to the running season, and covers much of the same downtown course as the marathon. But it's done in less than 5 miles.

I last ran this with The Dude, before we had kids. I'm running it again with him this year - which means we somehow need to figure out childcare for the boys. At 6:30 on a Sunday morning. I don't think we thought that through when we signed up for it together. Since this is his regular spring race I may bow out if we can't figure something out for the kids.

Then in May there's the No Child Wet Behind 5K. This is put on by Doulas of Chicago and SWADDLE to collect diapers and raise funds to collect diapers for local service agencies. From Swaddle's website:

Few people are aware of the "Diaper Gap" that exists in the United States. Needy families cannot purchase disposable diapers with most government assistance like food stamps and WIC. Day care centers require a full day's supply of disposable diapers for parents to leave their babies so they can work. Cloth diapers are not allowed in day care centers and most families in need do not have their own laundry facilities and commercial facilities do not allow cloth diapers to be washed in their machines. The need for diaper banks is huge.

I became aware of this need some time ago and a friend of mine is a doula, so I'm hoping to get a bunch of my running friends and colleagues to join me in this.

I've been talking to another running friend of mine about the idea of "retiring" from competitive running. We have different thoughts on what this means to us, but it's a fun idea to throw around. Dark outside, and negative wind chill? I'm "retired". No need to feel bad about missing a run.

But I do miss running as much as I used to, and I miss having a running goal in mind. So I continue to think about what I get out of running and what I want to get out of it, and weigh that against the other things I want to be doing and the mindset I want to cultivate in going about my life. And I'll just keep running.

Lots to think about.