Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Long, Hot, and Slow

Yesterday was my first long run in a long time --- one where I pushed myself to go significantly longer than my previous long run and also the first where I needed to think about fluid/nutrition intake on the run (8 miles). It's funny, there was a point in my marathon training where it felt like "8 is the new 5" - that is, not really a long run at all - but right now 8 is the new 12. Or 14.

The first two miles were hard (it was already 90 degrees when I started and I was feeling tight and sore), then the middle four miles felt great, and then the last two miles were hard again. Here's what I learned from the day.

1) I tried out Clif Shot gel for the first time. I'm a big fan of Clif products as a rule, so I had been wanting to try this anyway, but it's also what will be offered at the Women's Half that I'm doing. A win! It tasted good and I had no tummy troubles afterwards.

2) Early last year I had bought a Nathan hand-held bottle, looking for something lighter than what I was using.
When I used it the first time it seemed like a lot spilled out, so I assumed I had a faulty one and wrote to the company asking for a replacement, which came promptly. But then I got pregnant and didn't use it. Now, over a year later, I tried out the replacement. The liquid didn't so much spill out as shoot out, which made me realize that was the design --- it's made to be easy to drink from while running. You just have to make sure to hold it upright (and not squeeze it) when not drinking from it. Once I got used to that I really liked having it. It's possible to buy a small attachment for it to allow for holding gels and I might do that.

3) About halfway through my run I came close to a water fountain and questioned whether I should stop, take a drink, and fill up my bottle. I still had 1/2 a bottle left so I didn't and continued on. Note to self: if you're asking the question, the answer is YES.

4) Same thing with the walk breaks. Take them early, on schedule, and you might be able to skip some at the end. Skip them early (especially in this heat) and you're almost guaranteed to have to take extra later on.

So, not an easy run, but a good one. I finished strong, and felt of good mind throughout. These first long runs of the season are about learning what you need to do (training the mind) as much as about training the body to run long, so, success!

Friday, May 25, 2012

She's Mighty, Mighty

I woke up this morning feeling tight from a hard night with the baby. I wanted to swim for the physical release it would bring (and because I hadn't yet this week), but I wanted to run for the emotional release it would provide. What to do?

The answer came while nursing: why both, of course! Instead of walking to the pool I could run there (with a little extra just for fun), and then run home. Not all that much different from what I do on swim days anyway, just a little added distance and then my shower at home instead of the pool (much nicer anyways). With the baby still nursing I popped over to the computer to map out my routes, to make it an even two miles there, one mile home. Now I just had to make sure I made it to the pool in time.

The boys cooperated, I dropped them off, and started my run. It wasn't until I started that I realized this was essentially a brick workout*, and it wasn't until my swim that I realized I was already doing the distances in a sprint triathlon (1/2 mile swim, 3 mile run). Now, in the past I've sworn never to do a triathlon, but I have to say, I had a lot of fun this morning. It felt a little weird when I started swimming, and again a little weird when I started running again, but within a short while I felt back in the groove. And my swim ended up being the fastest I've done that I can think of --- shows what can happen when you warm up first!

I had so much fun I think I'll do this on a regular basis --- it's a nice way of getting in an extra workout. I did find myself noticing that having different gear would make the transitions easier... I may be getting sucked into the dark side of triathlon after all. Now where did I put my bike?

*Training on two disciplines in the same workout, a triathlon term.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mash Note to NYT Book Review

New York Times Book Review, how do I love you? Let me count the ways...
  • For referencing my favorite unknown writer on motherhood (Sarah Blaffer Hrdy) in a sensible review of two recent books on mothering/children/feminism. Thank you, Judith Warner.
  • For reviewing children's and young adult books. 
  • For your mini book notes on the best sellers pages.
  • For your thorough reviews of nonfiction books that allow me to get a sense of the book's main points --- without actually having to read the book if I don't have the time to. Which is most nonfiction books these days.
For a brief time I had a weekend subscription to the NYT. It was glorious, and the Book Review and the Magazine were my favorite parts. Alas, even the weekend subscription is expensive as hell, and I had to drop it. But some kind soul at work has recently been bringing in the Book Review and leaving it on the lounge table, oh bliss. I make sure to return it when I'm done so that the good karma fairy keeps nudging that person to continue...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

In My Ears

Running is about the only time I have where I can really listen to music, so I almost always have my ipod shuffle with me. Typically I have a mix of jazz, country, and something soul/funk/r&b. I almost always have Michael Franti, Cassandra Wilson, Nina Simone, and Miranda Lambert on there.

Here are the albums I have on there now:

Michael Franti - "Everyone Deserves Music"
"Hunger Games" soundtrack
Miranda Lambert - "Four The Record"
Vijay Iyer - "Historicity"
Ellington/Mingus/Roach - "Money Jungle"
Nine Simone - "Silk/Soul"
Allen Toussaint - "The Bright Mississippi"

And then my running mix. The master mix stays on my laptop and has about 70 songs on it; I typically put about 40 of them on the shuffle. This includes disco, pop, and rock.

I've been listening more closely to music in the past few years, really listening, piano and bass mostly (guitar too, thanks to my rock star husband). I've even been putting on monster headphones at home so I can get a good listen in while I sew. The other day I was listening to a Starbucks compilation from the 60s - Curtis Mayfield, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, etc., and was just blown away by the backing bands. I mean, I've always known they were good but on this day I was really listening carefully and could really appreciate it. Unfortunately, all this careful listening meant that later in the week I was out running and one of my favorite go-to running songs came on --- and I was disappointed in the piano part, it was completely rote and uninspired. And of course then that was all I could hear, even though the piano was really one of the least parts of the song. Dang.

Any favorite running songs?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Breath

I'm going through a book of spiritual poetry written by women (one of the benefits of my job), and found this:

You who want
seek the Oneness

There you 
will find
the clear mirror
already waiting
--- Hadewijch II (13th century)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Beautiful Day

Oh, it was a beautiful day for a run today. Bright, clear, about 65F. I went along an old friend of a route, one that had been my favorite before getting pregnant, and it was so nice to run it again. Hello,old friend. A mix of homes, park, quiet business districts, with gentle hills (plus one hard one to make you feel like you've done something). I took it easy, and steady, stopping only for traffic, and then when my legs still felt fresh quietly moved up the pace for the last mile and a half.

I always try to look around and really see things on my runs --- a friend of mine suggests looking for three new things each day. I've run this route so many times I don't always see new things, but today... ducks! Two mallards snuggled into the grass next to the path. And they made me think of my morning with Buddy, since we'd been talking about waterfowl on the way to school. So an extra little treat as I went about my run.

I noticed my IT band twinging a little as I ran so when I got home I made a point of doing my IT routine. Oh, I have lost so much strength in all those little stabilizing muscles! But now at least I know and can start addressing those weaknesses, before I have gotten myself and my muscle memory set into bad habits for the season.

I am so happy to be getting stronger.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Words To Thrill A Mother's Heart

Sunday evening, I'm making dinner. Buddy comes tearing in to the kitchen.

"What's cooking, Mama?!" he shouts.

I tell him I'm making ham, mashed potatoes, and kale.

"Kale?! I love kale!"

And off he tears again.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

RR 5K Recap

So, Sunday was a beautiful day. Sunny and brisk, perfect running weather. The baby had slept reasonably well for two nights in a row, so I woke up feeling halfway rested. I decided to act as if I could hit my goal, a sub-30 5k. I ate my oatmeal and drank my coffee, nursed the baby, read a story to the boy, woke The Dude, and walked out of the house in my race clothing and nothing else besides my keys and watch.

I warmed up by slowly jogging in the neighborhood, about 3/4 mile, picking up the pace for a last block. I walked the last couple of blocks to the race. I visited the porta-potties, not because I really needed to but because that's just part of race routine and I didn't want to make any changes to my race routine, not today. I lined up at the 10-mile mark (and found a friend from church there); I thought I might try to find someone at my speed and stick with them for a while.

But no go, once we crossed the start line I was out and moving fast. I didn't even want to go fast right then, I just hate being caught behind people, and this was, as it's billed, a neighborhood 5k. So: lots of kids, lots of walkers, lots of people who have never done a race, kids on scooters, running strollers, dogs, etc. All of which is great, we ran this with a running stroller ourselves last year (though we made sure to start at the very back). But even if I hadn't wanted to run it fast I would have still fought to get out from behind.

Once I felt in the clear I tried to rein in my head at least and evaluate my speed. Was I going to be able to maintain it? And of course I hadn't hit my timer when I crossed the start so I couldn't be sure of my time. I tried to just stay as present as I could: to my breath, to my form, to all the people on the sides cheering their folks on, to the trees above and the sunlight filtering through the leaves.

The first mile came and I checked my watch, mentally adding another 5-10 seconds since I'd been late to start it. 9:50ish. Cool, I thought, if I can keep this pace and maybe surge a little at the end I should hit my goal. I tried to keep steady, not trying to pass anyone but also not letting myself get caught behind anyone else. I was already feeling a little tired and knew that it would be a fight to stay on pace the whole way. I reminded myself of the recent studies that give insight into why our ability to persevere is due to our mind and not our bodies (yes, I'm a geek, I read those studies and then use them to motivate me while running). I was starting to weary and was thankful it was only 5k and not 10. I told myself that if I was on track to get below 30 at the two-mile mark than I would do my best to do so (and if not then I would stop trying and just enjoy the rest of the race).

Then suddenly we were at the halfway point and I was cruising through the middle of the street, staying well away from the water stations and the people stopping at them. And then just a little farther and we were at the two-mile mark and I saw that I'd done the 2nd mile in 9:20. Wow. Okay. Guess I gotta see this through then.

And so I fought myself the rest of the way in. My legs felt heavy. I wanted to stop. I had plenty of air but my legs just. felt. so. heavy. I thought I had to be slowing down but had no idea by how much. I like to be able to push things faster during the last mile of any race I do but I just didn't think that would be possible this time. And yet somehow we were passing by the last blocks faster than I thought. I couldn't sustain a push --- in fact I was barely certain that I could even keep going --- so I settled for mini-surges: running hard for three counts of four, and then letting up again. I just kept doing that as much as I could and then there was the three-mile mark with only 0.1 miles to go and the clock read 30:08 but I knew I'd crossed the start line at about 2:00 so if I could only keep going I was bound to finish in time. I was slowing, I was slowing, but all I had to do then was keep going and so I did, and crossed the line, and then I could stop. And I did.

And walked around to keep my legs warm and loose, and looked for the boys, and ran into another friend from church and waited with him for a while (as he waited for the friend I'd started with). Then that friend arrived and they left, and it started to get crowded so I wasn't even sure I'd be able to see the boys and I got too nervous (and cold) to stay put. I walked through the sponsor tents, got a banana and a granola bar for later, a Clif shot blok and bite of cinnamon roll for right then, and walked back up to the finish line where they found me, Buddy still in his pyjamas and Champ tucked in under multiple blankets, and we all walked home together. And then I made pancakes --- chocolate chip because I ran a race --- and eggs.

My final time: 29:09.

So my splits worked out to about this: 9:40 / 9:20 / 9:15 / 0:54, which means that I managed to keep going faster even though it felt I was going through mud. Good to know.

And I came in 61st out of 194 in my age group, so at the bottom of the first third. This also makes me very happy --- for someone who always thinks of myself as slow, it means a lot to know that while I may be slow compared to where I want to be, I am not, compared to the larger group, slow. (And as I get older and do start slowing down these kinds of comparative times will become more and more important to me.)

And best of all?

I'm ba-a-ack!