Friday, May 30, 2014

And This Is Why I Don't Mind

So, those changes to my training schedule I mentioned? Continuing in the theme of surrender, I've found that to the extent that I can go with the flow, good things follow...

That trail hike we took on Sunday had two purposes (besides just being, you know, a hike). First was to practice getting out of the city and to try out a new book I picked up, 60 Hikes within 60 Miles Chicago.

The Dude and I have deliberated for years about whether to move out of the city, either to the suburbs (ack) or to a different part of the country altogether. The last time this came up for serious consideration we decided to be deliberate about planning a move... and started with our bucket list for Chicago. When we came back together a few days later to discuss our lists we realized they were so long there was no way we could ever accomplish all of them... so why were we thinking about moving? Aside from the obvious (affordable housing, a good school system) the main thing we miss about this city is easy access to hiking and camping. So Sunday's hike and this new book were the first steps in our new program of find (and get to) some good outdoors activities.

Oh, and the book was dead on in its descriptions of the trail and how to get there, etc., so now we're a lot more willing to try some other ones. Maybe even one recommended for kids...

Then the second sneaky purpose to this hike was to suss out the conditions of a race I want to do in October, on this trail (the Des Plaines River Trail). All signs were good and on Tuesday I went online to look at the schedule again. And found that what I thought might be my first 50k... was actually 50 miles.


Not ready for that.

Well, shoot.

And then I thought, no, this is a good thing. 'Cause I'll be taking on a couple of other challenges with this race - driving myself there being foremost among them. (Did I mention that my license expired and I have to go renew it? As in, retake the written and driving portions because so much time has passed between it expiring and now? And that's because I don't drive?!)

But our trip out there was an easy drive, and the trail conditions are as good as one could possibly get, and the start time for the marathon is late enough in the day that I can just drive out there, instead of having to go out the night before and stay in a hotel, etc. etc. So, all good things.

Speaking of good things, exploring the trail was only the first of many good things that happened "outside the box" over the last two weeks...

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

This Is What It Looks Like (Ha)

Last week was a great training week:

Sunday: Rest (time in pool with kids = water massage!)
Monday: Tempo run - hit my paces
Tuesday: Run commute a.m., Boxing p.m.
Wednesday: Easy swim
Thursday: Long run
Friday: Run commute p.m.
Saturday: Gym (rowing & bike)

With assorted stretching, recovery techniques, and strength training sprinkled throughout.

Picture, if you please, an idealized training plan printed out for the next 14 weeks. It would look much like that, with steadily increasing runs, and alternating speed work for the tempo runs on occasion. A thing of beauty.

Now, this week so far:

Sunday: 7 mile hike, mostly pushing a stroller since Goo pitched a fit whenever The Dude pushed it. Not a rest day by any stretch of the imagination. Okay, I can go with the flow. I'll just make Monday my rest day, right?

Monday: Another day off with the kids. Pool, picnic, football. Punctuated by standing on my feet in the kitchen, making meals and cleaning up after them. Mmm... not exactly restful, even if not a high intensity day.

Last night couldn't sleep between the heat and the puking cat. Seven miles in the morning looked like a great way to have a lousy boxing class tonight. Cut the run to three miles.

Looking ahead... Oh, The Dude is away this weekend. There goes the gym on Saturday. And I'll need to bring the kids with me to my race on Sunday...

And this is all more than okay.

But it's also why I pencil in my workouts.

Taking what I can get,

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Okay, forget anything I wrote about not continuing with boxing. I went to what I thought would be my last class last night (after taking a week off the week before) and found myself just as in love with it as the first time. And this was after having run seven miles to work that morning...

This time, in addition to the intoxication of the speed/power/form/skill/thinking of the actual exercise, we spent a fair bit of time discussing the different types of boxing and what they focus on. (We ended up skipping a whole jump rope segment to talk about this - thanks to those seven miles earlier I was quite happy to skip that!) The other woman has recently started going to another gym to be able to qualify for amateur fighting, and had a lot of questions/complaints about how things are being done there. Our trainer comes from a professional background so was explaining the difference between the two. Which gave me room to voice the teeny tiny issue of what about this whole hurting people business...

...because, really, what business do I have learning something that's all about hurting someone...

...except for the fact that I really, really love it (and so far, have not hurt anyone).

No answers yet. That's okay. It's enough that there was room for the question. And I have some idea of where to begin looking for other voices.

One of my favorite writers comes to the rescue:

“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 guess I will just have to fit this into my training somehow, especially as I'd like to start practicing a bit in between classes. Perhaps by becoming stronger and more fit? Well, time will tell.


Monday, May 19, 2014

It's Begun!

Oh, so excited, I sorta started training for my half marathon last week (first longish run since my injury), and this week started with a training plan in earnest.

It's taken me a while to settle on a training plan, and in the end I'm back to using my tried-and-true Runner's World SmartCoach (the free version), but with some new adjustments.

Over the winter I read Matt Fitzgerald's Run: The Mind-Body Method of Running By Feel, which was tremendously inspiring, and got me thinking about what elements work best for me in my training. I then delved into Run Less, Run Faster (since I do love my cross-training) but then also, on the complete opposite end of the training spectrum, the Hansons Half-Marathon Method (because it makes more sense to me and because I've really loved how I've felt when doing higher mileage). And I even started off last week with the idea of doing the Hansons plan.

But I have small kids, one of whom now has sporting events on the weekends. And no treadmill. And a husband who is also training for a half. Oh, and work. And even some travel. And I could just tell that there would be a lot of switching around of workouts to accommodate all that, and probably some skipped ones, and that would all just create stress. And that would not be in keeping with one of the Fitzgerald principles I most agreed with: Run happy.

So on a whim I looked up what the RW SmartCoach would prescribe for me, and I liked what I saw. When I use these plans I pretty much just worry about nailing the high-quality runs (one long run a week, and one tempo or speedwork run), and then fill in the other days as works for me and my schedule that week. From the Hansons plan I am taking the idea of higher mileage and running slow on easy days, but I'm also keeping a cross-training day because I love them and it's a nice break from the running, physically and mentally. I'm feeling very excited about making this summer's training truly my own.

Another thing I'm excited by is that since I started running again, I've taken the opportunity to rework my form, based on this article from Running Times. It was, as promised, a rough transition, but I have been keeping at it and finding it easier and easier to maintain. So last week was my first long run trying to maintain those changes, and today was my first tempo run, and I'm really happy that both went well. I'm not as fast as I used to be, not yet, but I trust with time I will be faster (and less injured).

Oh happy day!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Words for Today

From an article by M. Craig Barnes in The Christian Century:
We all live with many callings in life... but most of all we are all called to glorify and enjoy God.
Nothing gets in the way of this highest of all callings more than trying to get the right answer on which fork to take in the road. God owns all the roads. As C.S. Lewis once said, "God can use even the wrong road to get you to the right place." That right place is not to a particular job, but deeper into the divine heart.
 Good news for people like me.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Bits and Pieces, Again (Again)

Bits of randomness...


On the boxing front, while I still enjoy the class, I don't plan to continue with it. Already in the second week I was a bit resentful of how it was impacting the rest of my training week (since I've started training for my half). Plus I missed my evening with the kids!

And there's the question of what would I do with boxing if I continued... the natural next step would be to train to fight, but that's a level of fighting I'm not interested in. I really don't want to inflict (or receive) a black eye... missing tooth... concussion...

On the other hand, taking these classes has shown me that I would like to return to martial arts training, someday. I don't know what style. Though judo is compelling...

I'm not going to actively pursue this now, I figure at some point what path I follow with it will become clear. There's certainly no lack of opportunity in this city.

But this certainly makes more sense of my visceral response to good fights in movies.


Starting a new Runner's World Big Guy Blog* Challenge. Take the number of miles you want to run in the next six weeks, then do the same number in minutes for stretching in that same time, and then multiply it by 10 for your number of pushups (standard or modified) in that time. Since the training program for my half has me running close to 30 miles per week pretty soon, my goals are 180/180/1800.

I already stretch for at least 5 minutes after each run, so for this challenge I'm doing an additional 30 minutes of stretching each week. And I'm going to include foam rolling in that as well. I will be impressed if I really can get in 30 minutes of extra recovery work in each week. I'll need it to accommodate the increased mileage.

And the pushups? Well, it will be a nice way of continuing the upper-body work once boxing ends. Plus, I sometimes do modified pushups at work (off the handicapped bar in the restrooms) since it's a nice pick-me-up if I start getting tired or antsy. My count for today is 105 so I'm not too worried about meeting this part of the challenge. Maybe by the end of the six weeks I'll start doing standard ones as well.

*This is the guy that started the online running groups I take part in.


Took my first bath with Epsom salts last week. Why have I not used these before?! It was definitely an odd feeling but I felt much better the next day. Plus my skin was unexpectedly smooth! A nice way of getting to some of the little, hard-to-reach muscles I've been working lately (through boxing but also changing up my running form).


My greatest treat from Mothers' Day weekend was the chance to try out some new recipes from the Runner's World Cookbook. I like trying new meals but the family is sometimes resistant to them, especially if they suspect they might be "healthy". I tried three new things and two were a win (a pasta dish and a stir-fry) - the healthy berry crisp was not a success but I have some ideas on how to tweak it. And even then I will probably be the only one eating it, which is fine. I don't feel the need to share yummy berry crisp with ungrateful small fry.


Speaking of the small fry it's time to head home to get them. Homemade tacos tonight - I'm hoping to get Goo involved in the process, I figure he can probably cut up mushrooms without too much drama. We'll just hope more end up in the bowl than on the floor.


Friday, May 2, 2014

Floating Like a Butterfly

I know I owe a race report, and it's coming, I promise.

But I had my first boxing lesson on Tuesday and I had to write about it.

Some background: Our gym offers small-group 4-week personal training sessions for an additional cost. The Dude asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I have a hard time not asking for practical gifts but thought that this year I should ask for something that would really be a treat. When I looked up the class offerings boxing was the one that stood out for me, and May was the month where it best worked out for both my weekly schedule and my training plans.

Some more background: Many years ago I studied Indonesian Kung Fu for a couple of years. I loved it, and had hoped to continue with it when I moved to Chicago, but for a number of reasons that wasn't possible.

So, cut to Tuesday. I was so excited, and so nervous. I had no idea what to expect. I had so many emotions... so I knew this meant a lot to me. Didn't know why. Still don't, exactly.

Class Description:

It was just the trainer (Carlos), and one other woman, clearly experienced. It was circuit based, so we spent the same amount of time on each of the components, but not both of us on the same component at the same time:

  • Jumping rope (single-foot and both feet together);
  • Working with Carlos as he wore pads for us to hit and called out punches;
  • Working with the double-end bag (this is small and is attached by flexible cables to both the ceiling and the floor - we were supposed to throw light and work on form);
  • Working with the heavy bag (for strength);
  • Shadow-boxing (against our reflection in the mirror);

And then after going through several rounds of the circuit we ended with a speedwork and strength drill, meant to wear us out thoroughly and mimic how we might feel after many rounds in the ring.

With each turn through the circuit Carlos gave more instruction and added new components, such as dodging blows.

All his instructions were based on what we might experience in an actual fight, and it all made sense. A lot more sense then I was expecting, really, my limited sparring experience from kung fu came back to me quickly. But enhanced by what I've learned in the meantime about body mechanics, movement efficiency, race technique, training practices, etc. And enhanced by a fierceness that I did not have fifteen years ago - or at least was not willing to let out back then. And certainly an increased sense of fearlessness.

It was fascinating to listen in on his instruction to the other woman, who was getting ready to visit another gym this weekend and who is planning to fight. And really, it didn't sound all that different from the instruction he was giving me, just more advanced.


Three days later and I'm still on a high from class. Though boy howdy, was I sore yesterday (delayed onset muscle soreness). I had to go swimming today, slowly, just to feel I was knitting my body back together.

There was something incredibly intoxicating about working on the combination of skill, form, and power in what we were practicing. Similar to what I've learned in running, but heightened. I have three more weeks in this round and I'm looking forward to them - I suspect there may be more in the future.

And I feel there may be a lot more emotional "unpacking" I need to do for myself over those weeks...

But for starters, I need an adult-size jump rope for practicing at home. Kept tripping myself up on the kiddie ones!