Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Throughout September and October I faithfully went to PT, and after nearly two months of PT on my SI joint (did you know your pubic bone can dislocate?  it can!), I had no piriformis pain that couldn't be massaged out, and I was off and running, both figuratively and literally.

I'd put together a maintenance routine for myself, using advice from Ready to Run and the famous MYRTL routine, to keep everything limber and fluid.  I put blue Superfeet in my Kayanos.  I warmed up before my runs in the dark, during which I wore a headlamp and the most brilliant reflective shell for safety.  I increased gently to 30 miles a week.  Something flu-like knocked me out for a week, but I figured I'd use the time off to rest, and I still managed ~93 miles in November.

And two weeks ago I felt a twinge.  A slightly tight thigh.  Okay, so I rumbled into action.  Foam rolling.  The stick.  Mobility upstream and downstream. Couch stretches.  Smash!  Floss! Epsom salt soak.  Good to go!  Ran up some trails.  Ran gently and easily in the morning.  Noticed my pace was dropping off but figured it was due to the mileage increase.

Then I ran a Turkey Trot.  The local hospital joins with several local charities to produce this fun low-key race that covers the hills in the nearby neighborhood.  Entry is a donation to charity, and the timing is just a man with a watch who tells you your time as you cross.  It's charming, and there was also a two-mile walk, so the husband and the toddler got in some quality stroller time while I ran.

I was feeling a little tight so I just decided to pace it, hoping to come in under 45 for five miles.  The race stopped at 4.65 miles by my Garmin, and I finished in  41:35.  As the man running next to me quipped, that's one PR that will stand for a while.  I was happy to run relatively even splits.

I kept running, and then Sunday did an achingly tight 5 miler, then yardwork, and now I'm limping.   My guess is that it's my hip flexor.

Sometimes this sport is really annoying.

Friday, November 21, 2014

So, it's been a while.

Work kicked into high gear as it does this time of the year, and I had time in the past month to run, work, and be a mom.  Blogging couldn't happen, and frankly with next to no readers it wasn't a hard call.

But the siren song of the internet calls me again, and new posts will be coming soon, as I am continuing my quest to define "middling" with respect to running.

And, I signed for another half.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Recap Part One: Huntsville Half Marathon. The rain.

I had so much fun.  In the rain. The course was beautiful, if wet and rainy, and the race was well-organized, staffed by volunteers who were as cheerful as they could be given the downpour. 

Did I mention the rain?  Autumn finally blew into Utah, and so while Friday topped out at a sunny 90 degrees, Saturday dawned wet and rainy and 55 degrees.  There was worry that the race would be canceled due to lightning, but we were lucky and at 9:30 AM, it was on, and we were soaked.
This was my first ever half, and my first race where I really was racing -- where I had a time goal, and hoped to meet it.  I finished the course with nothing left in the tank.
Nevertheless, looking at the splits, it's a bit of a classic newbie race.
Miles 1-2:  Go out way too fast.  In my defense, I was staying with the pacer for two hours, who also went out fast.  I didn't want to slow down because it was feeling easy.  The first part of the course is a significant downhill, which surely contributed to the insane splits I had.
Split 1:  8:37.2 
Split 2:  8:33.9
Miles 3-4: Have a nice chat with CPA from Idaho whose son is interested in philosophy and has read lots of Great Books.
Split 3: 8:38.2

Split 4: 9:10.1 First water break.
Miles 5-9: Settle into a nice comfy pace that seems to be getting harder for some inexplicable reason, like maybe I'm trying to run 13.1 miles.
Split 5: 8:57.1 
Split 6: 9:02.9 GU (probably should have taken this at mile 5)
Split 7: 9:19.5
Split 8: 9:01.3
Split 9: 9:13.5 
At this point I'm running at around an 8:55 average, and I'm feeling great, and I'm sure that even if I slow down, I'll nail my sub-2 goal.  Legs are starting to tire a little but I'm feeling loose and happy.
Now I worry.  What if I hit the wall?  I decide that I'll take a GU at the next water station.  It cost me time, and I'm pretty sure it didn't kick in in time.

Split 10: 9:10.4 
Mile 10.6: O HAI, WALL Wow.  It was as if I suddenly ran out of air.  So, that's new.  So, that's what hitting the wall feels like.  Here on out it was a slog.
Split 11: 10:00.5
Split 12:  9:23.7 (think the sugar kicked in.)
Split 13:  9:30.4
SPRINT! SPRINT! SPRINT!  Bite me, say the legs.
Split 14: 8:55

Total time: 2:00:07.  Seven goddamned seconds.  
(to be continued.)

Monday, September 22, 2014

So, it's been a while

Six days until the race!  I've been wildly busy with work and life, and once I added physiotherapy for my creaky SI joint, I've had no time to blog.

Fortunately, I have basically negative two readers at this point, but for you, I apologize for keeping you hanging.

Training has been going well.  I never thought eight miles would feel like an easy, relaxing run, but nevertheless, there it is.  

Rehab's been interesting.  The problem is that my lower core is weak, despite my efforts, and my left hip rotates forward, and then my tailbone pulls out of alignment.  This makes everything hurt, and screws up my stride.

So, part of the work is for the nice physiotherapists to pop my hip back into place.  Today, that involved also realigning the symphysis pubis joint, which cracked painfully and loudly, like a bunch of firecrackers went off in my pants.    I saw stars, and then yelled, and then apologized.  But then, when I stood up, I felt lighter and straight.

This is apparently what normal feels like.

The rest of the work is retraining the glutes and core so they can stabilize my pelvis when I run.  Lots of marching bridges and variations on leg lifts, and lots of getting my tired hamstrings to stretch just a bit further.

I think it's helping, but I also think it will be a while coming back.  The PT says essentially we have to retrain my body to recognize normal as normal, instead of settling back into the misalignment that I've had for months.

The race is Saturday!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

More Tips For Safe Running

(inspired by)

  1. If you feel an urge to beat up someone who is out for a run, seek help.  Tell a trusted friend what you're feeling, and have them stay with you until you can get in touch with a doctor or counselor.
  2. If you feel an urge to beat up someone who is out for a run, run in a group.  Odds are good that your companions won't want to beat up other people, and they can keep you from hurting someone.
  3. If you are tempted to catcall someone out for a run, try wearing blinders and listening to music, so you can distract yourself in the moment of temptation.  If that doesn't work, try muffling yourself with a gag, or pinching yourself until the urge passes.  Be creative!

You get the idea.  Look, I'm realistic.  I live in the real world, and I know that there are creeps that brutally attack women who are out for a run.  Taking basic safety precautions is something everyone should do:  run in groups or with a friend if you can; let someone know where you're going and when you plan to return; carry ID, a phone, and water; stick to well-traveled paths, roads,  and trails so that if you do get hurt, someone can find you and help.  

To be clear, this is advice anyone should follow.  Men are often bigger and stronger, but they can be targets of violence, too, and defending oneself in the middle of a long run or hard workout is easier said than done.  And an injury can strike at any time.

What's frustrating, however, is that when this advice is targeted at women, it shades easily into "you should stay indoors to be safe."  I don't think anyone means to lock women indoors.  But when my mom hears about such attacks, her response isn't "what a bad man" but "maybe you should think about not running on the trails."

Stranger attacks are fortunately very rare, but they are often horrible, and they make headlines.  I'm not inclined to change my behavior much for an extremely rare incident, when I weigh the risks against the benefits of being fit, and so forth.

Harassment, however, is much more common.  And the thing is, it's not my fault if someone harasses me.    The fault of the harassment is on him, and while it makes sense for me to take sensible precautions that any runner should take, the burden of change should be on him.  If I can run only when I have friends to run with, then it would be impossible for me to train for a half.  I might get out once a week.  I have a job and a toddler and a husband who dislikes dogs, so I'm not going to get a dog just so I can run.  It's good advice not to wear earbuds when on the trails, but that's so I can avoid being et by cougars, not because that extra awareness would keep me from getting attacked.  

Plus, if fewer women are outside running, then any woman who does is an outlier, and looks like more of a target to those creeps.

So this makes advice difficult to give, and I completely understand the delicate balance.  On the one hand, one doesn't want to be naive and ignore good safety advice, and there are creeps that target women, and women need to know that.  (Advice about routes and social media apps strike me as particularly important, because it's not always obvious how much those give away.)  

On the other hand, such advice runs the very real risk of reifying the idea that public spaces are not safe for women, and that women who leave their houses should be on their guard not just for practical reasons, but because if they don't, what happens to them is their fault because they were unprepared because they didn't adopt and train a puppy before starting a couch to 5K program.   Ms. Waddell didn't do a damned thing wrong.    This attack wasn't her fault, and removing an earbud wouldn't have made a blessed bit of difference.  

I wish there was an easy solution.  But on balance, I'm inclined to think that the risks to men and women who run outside are roughly equal, and so the advice given to them shouldn't differ.  Everyone needs to be careful.  Everyone has the right not to be harassed or harmed when they're enjoying the outdoors.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Time keeps on slippin'

Between a crazy week at work and the rest of life, I've had no time to both train and blog.  But there is much to look forward to:

  • A review of the Saucony Mirage 3.
  • Update on my SI joint and PT exercises.
  • Video of my footstrike on a treadmill.
  • My first GU (tm.)
But for now, you get a picture of a flower.

Saturday, September 6, 2014


I did it!  13.2 miles in around 2:20 today.  This morning there was the most beautiful rainbow over the valley, and the sky was pink.  A friend and I ran a point-to-point course starting at the top of one trail, running along the Bonneville Shoreline trail, down the Birdsong trail, and then looping along the Ogden River Parkway.

It went well -- my only goal for this run was to make the distance without aggravating my back too much.  The initial climb on the trails always slows me down, and I'm an extremely novice and inefficient trail runner, so it was easy to keep a relaxed pace.

Around mile eight I ate some Extreme Sport Beans.  These are quite literally glorified jelly beans. They're made by Jelly Belly and have caffeine and vitamins.  I was experimenting with refueling on the run.  Usually I don't bother, but I figure I might need to during the race and I didn't want to find out in three weeks that they upset my stomach.  Not bad, but hard to get down quickly, so perhaps I'll stick with Gatorade at the water stations.

I do think I didn't time the Beans (MAGIC BEANS) right.  Around mile 11 I started to struggle a lot, and my legs felt dead, but half a mile later my energy levels returned, so I either got a second wind or the sugar kicked in.  (Wondering if "second wind" just marks the body's transition from burning glucose to burning fat stores.  Anyone know?)

After walking a mile for a cooldown, we headed home, where I drank chocolate milk, stretched, "rolled some foam", and then had a nice relaxing day of mowing the lawn, doing laundry, going grocery shopping, and picking up the toddler, which at this point is basically a workout with a 21 lb, wiggling, kettlebell.

I'm just going to call it active recovery.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

And the winner is....

... the SI joint.

So, I missed my long run this weekend.  My back was tight and spasming whenever I tried to bend over and after sitting for long periods, so ten miles wasn't going to happen.

I treated myself to new shoes!  Asics Gel-Kayano 19, for $50!  These are a stability shoe.  I'm trying something new.  I noticed that my Nikes had creases on the medial midsole, and so I think they have worn out.  If I am overpronating, which I think I might be based on the depth of the creases, while I may have high arches, I'm probably need the support.  I don't need a squishy feeling in my shoes, so I can run on a firmer surface.  It's worth a shot.

(Reasons to support your local running store:  end-of-season clearance sales.)

So, eventually, there will be a new review coming your way.

I began to feel better with a bit of rest, and so Monday I went out for an easy four miles with a friend.  Running along the river parkway was nice, and flat and stable.  My back and left glute were tight, but didn't seem to get any worse.

Tuesday I did six miles on the treadmill.  The only real problem with this is that my mental treadmill limit is about forty minutes, so it took a lot of Sportscenter on the TVs to get me through those last fifteen minutes.  I start mentally subdividing the tenths of miles into seconds.

So far, the new shoes are working out well.

And then in the evening I was off to the sports doc.  He treated my shoulder when I separated it a couple of years ago, and his first recommendation is almost always PT, which I appreciate.  Anyhow, after some fun confusing the newbie resident -- I'm flexible so it's hard to generate symptoms -- the doc determined that my pelvis is rotated on my left side, which is stressing the piriformis muscle.

It's about what I expected, given the location of the pain and my inability to stretch it out.  I'm just glad that there seems to be no disc involvement.  His guess is that the instability originates from having the baby, and that running has basically stressed it enough that my back clenched up.

I told the kid it was his fault, but he just grinned and tried to feed me goldfish crackers.  Toddlers.

I'm fine to keep running if I want.  The plan is more 'mill tomorrow, then an easy four Friday, and then thirteen on Saturday, and then I will be the happiest newbie that ever tapered.  PT starts Monday, and I'm hoping they can sort this out.  Once the race is done I have to rebalance lifting and running  -- because it's curious that as soon as I cut back on strength training, a nagging pain became a huge pain in the rear.


Friday, August 29, 2014


Last night I headed out after dinner for a quick four or five mile run.  This week's training has been going swimmingly.  I've knocked out the mileage, held good easy paces, and even had a nice run with a friend on Wednesday.

Those whom the gods would destroy, they first give a good week of running.

It was a warm night but nothing too uncomfortable, the route one I've run fifty times before, and the sun was just beginning to sink below the horizon.  I'm not great at running after a full meal, and so I kept the pace slow and even, just trying to get the miles in before today's rest and Saturday's ten miler.

Four miles into the run, my right lower back, which had been tight but not worrisome all day, began to get tighter, and tighter, and tighter.  I had to stop.  I walked the half mile home, where I realized something was not right.

None of the usual suspects hurt.  Right foot & ankle, fine.  Left hip-and-glute-posterior-chain-of-doom, fine.  But my lower back hurts, and while I'm fine if I'm standing or walking tall, sitting hurts, and bending or leaning over and straightening up is next to impossible.

There is no way I'm running this weekend.  I'm pretty confident that if I were to do nothing the rest of the month, I could finish my half, which is my first goal of course, but if I aggravate this I'll miss it completely.

Kind of bummed.  Trying not to cope by eating all the M&Ms.  And I have a doctor's appointment for Tuesday.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

It's a month away!

I ran a nice easy 4-miler with a friend today.  Our half is only a month away, and from our conversation I think our feelings are mixed.  On the one hand, we're both in the hardest part of our half marathon training programs, and so I think we're a bit ready to be done with training.  I'm really ready for tapering just so some of my nagging non-injuries have a chance to heal.

But I have to decide which shoes I want to wear for the half:

  • My workhorse Nike Pegasus 30s.   I have nearly 200 miles on these now, and they're still holding up great.   They're a bit squishy, however, and I find myself wondering how much energy I lose compressing the sole.
    • Pros:  I know I can run twelve miles in these without trashing my legs.
    • Cons:  I think they force more of a heel strike than I'd like, and I think they might slow me a bit.
  • My Saucony Mirages.  These are sort of the stability version of the Kinvara, with a plastic insert on the medial side and a stiffer, less flexible sole.   They're very light and they feel fast.The uppers don't fit my feet as well as the Nikes, but I ran 6 miles at an 8:48 pace in my last race in them, and they are extremely responsive.
    • Pros: Quick, light feels.
    • Cons:  Worried the lack of cushioning will trash my legs if my longest run in them is six miles.
So, I'm really not sure.  I'm tempted to take the Mirages on a longer run, but I'm worried that I'll introduce an injury before the race.

What should I do?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Coconut Lime Paleo Sorbet

Sundays are rest days, which is good, because I swear every joint from my back to my feet is not happy that I ran yesterday.  Two more weeks until the taper.  I'm going to back off on strength training a bit, both due to time, and because I think I'll benefit more now from just focusing on core work.  I can hit the weights once October rolls round.

Today was a good day for a garden party hosted by a friend.  It was potluck, but figuring out what to bring was a challenge.  My diet is mostly healthy, but completely omnivorous.  I eat bacon.  I eat bread.  I eat tofu and chickpeas and chard and melons and tomatoes and cheese, and well, you get the idea.  Of no party or clique when it comes to nutrition, except for minimal reliance on processed, packaged foods.

Of the twelve or so people attending, three are strict paleo, and three are strict vegetarians.  Almost everyone is giving up grains. As a result, it was something of a challenge, as usually I bring homemade cookies or ice cream.

Here's what I came up with.  To make it best, you have to hum "put the lime in the coconut and shake it all up" while you mix it.   Total time: about forty minutes, including churning.


  • 1 ~15oz can coconut milk.  Don't skimp on the fat here!  
  • 3 very ripe bananas.  You know the ones lurking in your freezer, waiting for you to make banana bread?  Their ripeness is ideal.
  • 3 limes.
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup maple syrup, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.  

Zest and juice the limes into a glass container -- I use my 4 cup Pyrex.   Add the bananas and mash them up.  Add the coconut milk and vanilla extract.  

Sneak a taste, and then add as much maple syrup as seems necessary to you.  You want it to brighten up the coconut without overwhelming the lime; how much depends on exactly how much lime juice you used, the ripeness of your bananas, etc.

Then, pour the whole thing into a blender or in batches in a Magic Bullet (what I did), and blend it until it's smooth.  It will look like melted ice cream.  The flavor is mostly lime, with slight coconut notes.  The banana disappears, providing texture but little banana flavor.

Freeze in your ice cream maker according to its directions.  When it starts to look like soft serve, scoop it out into containers, and freeze it for at least two hours, to allow it to ripen. Serve plain, or with paleo granola or nuts sprinkled on top.  

Bask in the admiration of your happy, becitrused friends.

....lime in the coconut and shake it all up....

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Too much Radiolab?

I think I've hit the point in the training cycle where I am wondering why on earth I thought it would be fun to have running as a hobby.  The 12-mile run last weekend was a slog from the very first step, and while the week improved, I've been dragging all week.

The seven miles I was supposed to do on Tuesday turned into 6.68 on Wednesday.
The interval workout on Thursday went great, even though I had to do it on a treadmill.  Ten minute warm-up, 8 x 1min with 2 minutes of recovery, ten minute cooldown.

I switched the speeds between 4 mph for the walk breaks, and somewhere between 8mph and 9mph for the run intervals, with most of them hitting in around 8.5mph, which I think is about a seven-minute mile.

Friday was an easy quick 3 miles.

Today was eight miles following a night in which my son decided that night-time was for shrieking, and a morning full of thunderstorms.  I managed a good workout but I felt awful from beginning to end.

It didn't help that I somehow managed to put only one episode of Radiolab on my iPod Shuffle.  Most days, and most runs under an hour, I don't bother with music or any audio, unless I'm on a treadmill.  But today I knew I was feeling a little off, so I figured I'd listen to Radiolab, and This American Life, and that would carry me through a workout that I didn't feel like doing.  

The episode was a short, the Robert Krulwich birthday episode.  This was a lot of fun, as most of the episode was a retrospective of some of the more hilarious events in his career.  But at the end of the segment, I heard the familiar pop-hum of the Radiolab opener. My shuffle was repeating the episode!

I have no idea where the This American Life episode got to.  I suppose I must have forgotten to load it.  But here's the thing.  It takes me about an hour and twenty minutes to run eight miles.  The birthday episode?  Only about 28 minutes long.

So I listened to the birthday episode three times, because while I am fine with running without audio, I am not so fine with running without audio while my headphones dangle and bounce.

I have to remind myself that I'm doing this voluntarily, and only two more weeks before tapering starts, and that I've come so far in the ten months that I've been running.

Still, it's one of those days where I think my next hobby will be competitive napping.  Who has the most comfy quilt?  Who can sleep the longest?  What teddy bears provide the best performance for your long nap?

Maybe there's a niche here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The running philosopher.

What would it mean to take a philosophical attitude toward running?

Here is the Stoic Sage Epictetus:
In every affair consider what precedes and follows, and then undertake it. Otherwise you will begin with spirit; but not having thought of the consequences, when some of them appear you will shamefullydesist. "I would conquer at the Olympic games." But consider what precedes and follows, and then, if it is for your advantage, engage in the affair. You must conform to rules, submit to a diet, refrain from dainties; exercise your body, whether you choose it or not, at a stated hour, in heat and cold; you must drink no cold water, nor sometimes even wine. In a word, you must give yourself up to your master, as to a physician. Then, in the combat, you may be thrown into a ditch, dislocate your arm, turn your ankle, swallow dust, be whipped, and, after all, lose the victory.

When you have evaluated all this, if your inclination still holds, then go to war. Otherwise, take notice, you will behave like children who sometimes play like wrestlers, sometimes gladiators, sometimes blow a trumpet, and sometimes act a tragedywhen they have seen and admired these shows. Thus you too will be at one time a wrestler, at another a gladiator, now a philosopher, then an orator; but with your whole soul, nothing at all. Like an ape, you mimic all you see, and one thing after another is sure to please you, but is out of favor as soon as it becomes familiar. For you have never entered upon anything considerately, nor after having viewed the whole matter on all sides, or made any scrutiny into it, but rashly, and with a cold inclination.

Thus some, when they have seen a philosopher and heard a man speaking like Euphrates (though, indeed, who can speak like him?), have a mind to be philosophers too. Consider first, man, what the matter is, and what your own nature is able to bear. If you would be a wrestler, consider your shoulders, your back, your thighs; for different persons are made for different things. Do you think that you can act as you do, and be a philosopher? That you can eat and drink, and be angry and discontented as you are now? You must watch, you must labor, you must get the better of certain appetites, must quit your acquaintance, be despised by your servant, be laughed at by those you meet; come off worse than others in everything, in magistracies, inhonors, in courts of judicature.

When you have considered all these things round, approach, if you please; if, by parting with them, you have a mind to purchase apathy, freedom, and tranquillity. If not, don't come here; don't, like children, be one while a philosopher, then a publican, then an orator, and then one of Caesar's officers. These things are not consistent. You must be one man, either good or bad. You must cultivate either your own ruling faculty or externals, and apply yourself either to things within or without you; that is, be either a philosopher, or one of the vulgar. 

Epictetus aims his counsel at anyone who would seek achievements, but there's a lot here to think about as a middle-aged weekend warrior.  More on this later, but here's the question I wish to entertain.  Is the pursuit of physical excellence, as an adult, valuable?  If so, why?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Twelve miles a-runnin'

So, I would not recommend a two-day car trip plus subsisting basically on caffeine and sugar as preparation for a twelve-mile run.  My lungs were fine, but my legs decided that they were going to hang out on the slow end of my easy run pace and refuse to turn over any faster.  After three miles in I figured out that it wasn't that I wasn't warmed up, but that I wasn't going to go anywhere quickly.  GI tract was not happy after a week of junk food, and halfway into the run I had to search for a bathroom.

But all twelve miles got done in a little over two hours.

I'm starting to wonder if my sub-2 goal is too ambitious.  It's really hard to say.  I'm an inexperienced racer, but I can run a 10K in around 54 minutes, so if everything goes well, I should be okay.  Huntsville is a fast course.

I found this podcast to be really interesting.  Greg McMillan (yes, that one) talks about, among other things, whether a sub-2 goal is reasonable.  My takeaway for myself was that it's really hard to say.  It's my first one, and I have almost nothing to judge my speed or preparation.  I think right now I'm hoping for sub-2, but I'll be pleased with anything under 2:15.

Achievement is weird, isn't it?  Here I am, a beginning runner with no discernible natural talent, and running thirteen miles is almost already something I'm willing to regard as not really an achievement unless it's under a completely arbitrary time.  Keeping this in mind is important, I think.  A year ago, four months after a rough labor and delivery, I wasn't sure I'd be able to run at all.  And now, I'm wondering how fast can I go?

Probably sub-2.

Unless I fuel with Timbits for a week first.

Saturday, August 16, 2014


Nothing like coming home from a week long trip and picking a quick dinner out of the garden.
Rainbow chard, tomatoes, carrots,
 lemon cucumbers, and Teahive Cheese!

Nothing like a car trip the day before a twelve mile run, except possibly a ten mile run before a car trip.  

Happy Saturday!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Ups, downs.

I had another great day with the weights yesterday.  It was a relatively easy workout, consisting of form work on power cleans (Coach has ambitions of getting us all into powerlifting), deadlifts at 85%, and a quick circuit, but it was followed up by simply hanging from the pull-up bar until we had to let go.

First set, I made it 45 seconds.  Second set, 41 seconds, with ten pounds weights added.  Third, 30 seconds, and then my grip said NOPE NOPE NOPE.  All in all, a lot of fun.

Today I was too tired to get out of bed early, so I tried to sneak in a workout at midday.  It's only 78 degrees, I figured.  Not too bad.  But the sun was beating down and by three miles in I was completely cooked.  I had 4-6 on the schedule and called it at 4.3, walking the rest of the way home.  I think it was the right call; I need sunstroke like I need another hole in the head.

This is an odd article.  I mean, fascia isn't that mysterious.  Ever take the skin off a chicken breast -- see that white membrane?  Fascia.  It holds muscles together and sections off the body.

I am completely willing to believe that we don't know much about whether massaging fascia helps, and I'm completely willing to believe that many practitioners are full of non-scientific woo.  That said, there are a lot of athletic practices, like foam rolling, that seem to work even though the science is shaky, and the tricky part is figuring out when the science is not there because it's not there yet, or because it's not there because there's nothing there to test.

For now, massage feels good and you will pry my Stick out of my clenched fists, so I'll keep it up. But it's worth keeping in mind how little we know.  Rolling might be good for you and have nothing at all to do with the fascia.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Oh, ew.

Hey, look, pictures of a doofus from Skirt in the Dirt!

Is it possible to like your own race pic, ever?  I think not.

Yesterday we had a massive cloudburst-style thunderstorm.  Rivers of water pouring down the streets, poor little xeriscaped plants not knowing what to do with themselves with all this water.

After the storm ended and everything drip-dried a bit, I went for an easy 5 mile run.  Usually I'm in my Nike Pegasuses on the trails unless I'm doing hills, but I grabbed my actual trail shoes due to the puddles and the mud. (Saucony Peregrines -- review on them after I have 100 miles on them, but man, these are a great light shoe.)

The humidity was not bad compared to places that actually have humidity, like the armpit that is the East Coast this time of year.  But for northern Utah it was a swamp, and within a few minutes I had a sheen of sweat covering me instead of the usual instant salt wash resulting from a normal evening run.  I dodged puddles and kept a good pace, even when I had to run through a cloud of little flying ants that swarmed the wet trails.

I arrived home and prepared to stretch, when I noticed a couple of little flying ants had stuck to me.  Ew.  I then looked in the mirror.

It turns out curly hair doubles as an excellent bug catcher.  Screw stretching.  Hit the showers!

I sometimes hate nature.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Back to the bar!

The last two weeks I've slacked off on strength training because after the trails caught on fire and I missed my long run, I felt like I should take the run options in my training plan instead of crosstraining.

Yeah, enough of that.  I think right now I do a bit better if I run four days a week and strengthen train for two, keeping one day as a rest/yoga day.  

So today I hit the gym with some friends for a leisurely weights workout, by which I mean Coach taught us some new ways to be completely exhausted by the end of it.

First up, the Turkish get-up.  

(That's not me.  This is Neghar Fonooni, who is evidently a badass.)

 Second, the push press. A push press is a regular overhead press, but instead of standing still and beginning the press with your arms, you bend your knees slightly and then explode up, transferring the force from your legs to your arms, and then you press it up.  The idea is to use your legs to power the weight above your head -- it makes the press significantly easier.

Once that was done, it was onto maxing the squats.  110lbs for me!  It was a soft 110, but I didn't really want to push it as my IT band is a bit achy after last week's adventures.  We closed out the day with some push-ups, dips, and split squats, and some well-deserved stretching.

Not sure what to make of this set of lifting standards, but it's interesting.  I'm solidly in the novice-intermediate range on all of the lifts that I've done.  Maybe I've got the wrong sport prioritized as I'm clearly in the turtle range on distance running...!

Who else here strength trains?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Up, up, up.

I usually run on trails, but most of the time the ones I choose are relatively flat, with a few rolling sections, but nothing too technical or challenging.  This I do largely for reasons of timing.  I run in the morning, as soon as it's light, and I try to be back before the baby wakes up, which means at most I have about 70 minutes.  I'm not great at running trails.  I take about a billion steps and I'm extremely inefficient, which makes it harder to squeeze a workout in.

But this morning, I met a friend for an eight miler (for me -- six for her.)  Rocky, steep in sections, and I really should have opted for my Saucony Peregrines over the Pegasus, but I didn't, and this is what my Garmin has to say:

Elevation Gain: 1,440 ft
Elevation Loss: 1,467 ft
Min Elevation:4,649 ft
Max Elevation:5,327 ft

This is what my body has to say:

Owowowowowowow.  Right toe, IT band, and ankle are all tight tonight.

I had to walk in some sections, but the nice thing about trails is that because I'm so remarkably inefficient at them, I don't really care much about my time.  That's a nice thing on a long run, where I sometimes fight the temptation to turn it into what I would call a tempo run if I had any solid idea of my race pace yet.  8.1 miles in 1:36.  

It was a beautiful run.  The Bonneville Shoreline Trail and associated feeders and canyons snake high above the city, and we ran most of it just as the sun cleared the mountain.

Not a mountain, but a nasturtium!

Tomorrow is a rest day.  I wonder -- do rest days preclude yoga?  Because I think I could use a little mat time....

Friday, August 1, 2014

Oh, Snap!

I've loved snapdragons since I was a kid.  Squeeze their cheeks and they open and close their little mouths!  Snap, snap, snap.  So when a friend offered me some of her volunteer (read: self-seeded) snapdragons, I jumped at the chance to use them to fill out my garden.

Snapdragons are supposed to be annuals, but in northern Utah, it's just warm enough that it's possible for the seeds to winter over.  As a result, what were originally ordinary solid-color snapdragons pollinate each other, and turn into gorgeous tie-dyed, ombre manic dragons.

There's probably a halfway decent metaphor in here about hybrid vigor and friendship and beauty and strength, but the last thing the Internet needs is some hobby jogger trying to squeeze a metaphor out of some pictures of some flowers.

Yesterday's run was a comfortable, tentative five miles, in which my main goal was not to fall on my face again.  Achievement: unlocked!  Today I hit the Birdsong trail again, because not only is it so pretty, but it's sufficiently challenging that I have to take it as an easy run.

Eight miles tomorrow, in which I hope to explore a new (to me) trail!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Protip: Don't faceplant!

I'm feeling much better after Tuesday's adventure.  My chin is still swollen and my jaw is still tender at the right TMJ, but it's getting better.  Yesterday I went for a walk and took it easy.  The schedule called for cross-training or a rest day, but I figured that my body had enough going on trying to repair my face that I didn't need to stress it.

So, first rule of injury prevention: don't fall down.

Second rule:  your hips are weak.

But I run fast, you say.  But I am healthy, you say!  But I've been doing this longer than you have, emmbee, you say!

That is true.

Still, your hips are weak.  Especially if you're female, and especially if you've had a baby.

I'm a new runner, but I'm an old pro at starting running programs and giving up due to knee and IT band pain.  I knew my feet were flexible, and that I overpronated moderately, so I bought motion control shoes, and, well, I still had pain.

Then I had a baby who liked to eat, and I spent many hours nursing and reading books about running on my Kindle.  And I learned that many of the aches and pains of runners can be attributed to weak hips.

Here's the deal.  When you run, you take about 3000 steps per mile, give or take.  Your body is a marvelous machine, so imagine any other machine you like.  A bicycle, maybe, or a stand mixer.  Now imagine a tiny problem with its mechanics -- maybe a slightly wobbly tire, or one tooth on a gear slightly out of position.  How would it last after 15,000 repetitions?

Why would your body be any different?

Now, this is not all to say that we need to have the same form.  Your personal history and movement patterns are stamped on your body.  But if something small is out of balance, it can lead to greater problems down the line.

Think about your hips and glutes.  If they're not strong, or if they're not firing, when you stride forward powerfully, as you do when you run, your leg will cave in slightly.   Assuming you don't fall down (see protip #1), some other muscle and joint has to compensate to absorb the force.  That means that your foot rolls in more, and your quad and IT band have to tighten to catch you.  Do that 15,000 times, and you stand a good chance of injury.

Often, it's not a matter of pure strength.  If you want the easiest, no brainer fix, just find a trainer and learn how to squat and deadlift.  Once you can do those, you'll have sorted out your hip and glute issues.  But you might not be into cross-training, nor might you have time or access for a gym, and the thing is, there is no savings account in strength training.  You have to work these muscles all the time.

So, what to do?

There are so many things, but here's what I like as a starting point:

  1. Stand tall.  (If you do yoga, think of mountain pose.)  Stand with your weight equally balanced on your feet, with a neutral pelvis, tail neither tucked nor popped.  Your weight should be over your heels; check this by wiggling your toes off the ground.
  2. Now, think of rotating your knees outward from the hips.  You won't actually move your knees --- you're just trying to find that little stabilizing muscle.*  What you're thinking of is moving your glutes (buttcheeks) together without clenching them, rotating your femurs outward without moving your feet.  
  3. Now, notice what it does.  Pay attention to your body!  You'll notice that your knees separate a bit, and your legs are straighter.  Your arches will lift slightly.  
This is what you need to get your body to do while you run.  Obviously, you're not going to be able to concentrate on that, so you do strengthening exercises to get those muscles to fire.

Here's my three favorite hip strengtheners.  
  • Air squats.  Standing tall, squat down to parallel or just below, and then stand back up.  Here's what you need to think about while doing this:
    • Remember that little stabilizing muscle in your butt?  Think about it.  Feel it push your knees outward as you squat and rise.  You want to keep your knees from collapsing in, and you want that to happen from your butt.
    • Power yourself back up with your glutes -- you want to avoid tipping forward.  Keep your weight over your heels as much as you can.
    • I like to do these after runs, maybe 20 or so.
  • Monster walks.  For this one, you need one of those stretchy elastic flat bands.  Loop the band around both legs, around your calves or ankles.  Stand with your feet about hip width and bend your knees into a high squat.  Then, keeping tension in the band, step sideways.  
    • Do ten steps in one direction, and then come back ten steps the other way.  You'll feel this in your hip rotators, too.
    • Three sets of ten should do ya.
  • Roll-outs.  For this one, you need that flat band again, a soccer-ball sized rubber ball (like the kind your kids want at the supermarket), and a chair or a stability ball.
    • The band goes around your legs just above the knee.  Your butt sits on the big ball.  The little ball goes between your knees, feet about hip width apart.  Keep your hands on the little ball.
    • Think about that little stabilizing muscle, and feel it work as you roll your feet to the outside -- your legs will part, and you'll feel the band stretch.  Then, return your feet to neutral, and squeeze the little ball between your legs.  You're basically doing a clam shell, but while sitting, with a little added resistance.
    • Three sets of eight should be good.  If you Kegel as you squeeze the ball, and lift your pelvic floor, you'll get a good workout there, too.  (Important for us mother runners.)
And you're on your way!  Bulletproof.  Just don't fall on your face.

Technically, it's all these little muscles.  But they're hard to tell apart, and you're looking for a feeling of rotation.

(Standard sort of disclaimer:  I'm not a medical doctor, just a hobbyist, so think critically when deciding whether to listen to some loon on the Internet.  Ta!)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Well, hell.

Today's run was going to be great.  Sunday's rest day followed by an invigorating yoga workout yesterday primed my body to be ready for a good effort.  My various aches weren't feeling too bad, and I slept in a bit, but as it's cool (well, 75 degrees) and rainy, I figured I'd be okay with a later start.

Because of the rain I figured I'd hit the roads instead of the trails, and I set off for an easy seven.

First two miles were great.  The rain was misting gently. Warming up, legs feeling good, ready to push it a bit:

Avg Pace

Pretty cool, huh?

Then, WHAM!  I slipped while crossing a road and face-planted.  My chin hit the ground hard, and gushed blood.  Some construction guys came over to see if I was okay and offered me a towel and  a bandaid.  

I limped the two miles home.  Total time: 1:03.  No seven miles.  A tender jaw and chin, and various abrasions and contusions everywhere.

Not the medium length run I was hoping for!  I'm not the whiniest person in the house only because the baby has a fever.

I think I'm going to hunker indoors today, surrounded by soft pillows.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Check in, tune up.

As I'm beginning week seven of training, I'm nearly halfway there, and I thought it wise to take stock of what's well and what's whining:

  • Left glute/hip
    • This side has been the bane of my existence since about the 32nd week of pregnancy.  I can't quite figure out what's wrong, but it's as if the entire posterior chain on that side is just about half an inch too short.  Stretching helps, but a basic forward fold is really tough on that side right where the hamstring cups under the glute.  It does not seem to be worsened by running, but it's been frustrating for a while.  Interestingly, what seems to make it worse is sitting in my desk chair.
      • Remedy: sitting on exercise ball, lots of stretching.
  • Right IT band
    • Just a tiny tweak and tightness right above the outside of the knee.  It's noticeable if I try hero's pose or squat deeply.  
      • Remedy: It gets better with rolling or Sticking, but I need to keep on it.
  • Right heel
    • Some pain on the outside of the foot near the heel.  This started after I stumbled while trail running and stoved my foot hard.  It's tighter in the morning, but loosens as it warms up (which sounds like PF, but it's in the wrong place.)
  • Right bunion
    • This is just the worst.  I've had bunions since I was a kid, which just seems so unfair.  Where were the years of stilettos?  I have a narrow midfoot and flexible feet, and I think as a kid this meant just that my toes had to grip to keep shoes on, and over time, this forced out the big toe joint.  Anyhow, lovely hallux valgus, but no mobility limitations.  My left foot is visibly worse, but does not hurt.  My right foot, however, is driving me nuts.  It seems to be worse if I tie my shoes too tightly over the instep.  
      • Remedy: Yoga Toes stretching, lacing properly, maybe look into taping.
Reflecting on this I wonder if perhaps I'd do better with a lower drop shoe or a stability shoe to help out that right leg a bit.  No knee problems, though, which for me historically is when I can tell a shoe doesn't work.  

I think I need to recommit to doing more core and hip stability work, and to doing a brief yoga session after runs.  (Too often I skip stretching in favor of showering, and too often I miss showering in favor of waking up the baby.)

But despite my whiny body, I'm actually feeling really good so far in the training cycle.  The long runs haven't left me as wiped or hurting as I thought they would; aches and pains are noticeable, but not to the point where I feel like I need Tylenol every day to function.  

Today's plan called for a fun workout.  I haven't done yoga in months as limited training time has been spent on lifting, but tonight called for a lovely yoga session in my living room as the evening breeze blew through the house, bringing the promise of thunderstorms (but maddeningly, as of yet, no actual rain.)  

Check out what I did!  Ron's classes are great.

Seven miles in the morning.  

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Skirt in the Dirt 5K recap!

Event: Skirt in the Dirt 5K
Location: Fort Buenaventura Park, Ogden, UT
Type:  Trail race/fun run
Participants: ~500.
Swag:  Pink tote bag + champagne flute for finishers
Awards:  First place overall, age group, prizes for best costumes, teams, and spirit.

This women's only trail race consists of two loops through woods, across a stream/river (6 times total), through sand, climbing over logs, and so forth.  As they say, it's not a course for a PR, but it is a lot of fun.

Normally, the trail also climbs a set of stairs and then runs along the top of the ridge before descending to the finishing area for the second loop, but this year, the first couple of runners were attacked by bees, so they shifted the race to the lower level second loop.

The race brings together a lot of people, and there's basically two groups of people running it.  There are people, like me, who are running it as a race -- not taking it particularly seriously given the terrain, but who are at least trying to run it.  And then there are people who are partaking in the fun run aspect of it.   Tutus, fabulous costumes, and no concerns about time at all.  These women are great, and I especially love seeing moms run with their little daughters.  The little ones are so cute.  (And one badass girl finished eighth!  At ten years old!)

The organizers court both groups.  It's billed pretty heavily as a fun run in the mud with your girlz, but they also sweetened the deal this year -- anyone who participates is guaranteed entry to the Ogden Marathon, which ALWAYS sells out very quickly.   T

None of this would be a problem except that the course loops, and some of the water crossings and obstacles are narrow.  So the front runners lap those who are trailing behind, and there's a lot of congestion on the trails.  Most everyone is great about it though -- the racers try not to step on the fun runners, and the fun runners usually get out of the way.

I've run this race once before.  It was the second race I'd ever run, and I was six weeks pregnant, feeling awful, but I didn't drop out because I wasn't ready to announce that I was pregnant yet and I was running with a friend who totally would have guessed.  It had been a hot day in August and by the end of it I felt whipped.

Today was great.  I had no real time goals, as I was mostly using this as a recovery run.  It started at 8am.  Temperatures were in the 70s when we started, and the sun was just starting to shine.  I arrived two minutes before the start (parking took longer than I'd expected), and everyone took off.  I just tried to keep an even pace while my legs warmed up, and after the first big water crossing, I sped up.

I had my car key remote tucked in my bra, hoping that they wouldn't get wet in the deeper portion of the stream, but it was only thigh-high, fortunately.  (Nothing like googling "can you get car keys wet" the night before a race.)

Here's the thing with races.  I'm not very fast, but I love passing people.  This is fun in a race that loops.  About two-thirds of the way into the race, well into the second lap, I set my sights on a couple of women running together who were about twenty yards ahead of me.  Pink Girl and White Girl, I called them (referring to their tank tops.)

I was gaining on them!  I would pass them!  I knew it!  You're mine, Pink Girl!

And then we crossed another water hazard and I got stuck behind some tutus.

I caught up again, but didn't manage to pass them.   I finished in 36:45, 16th overall.

At the finishing corral,to record our times, a volunteer scanned our bibs as if we were produce at the supermarket, and we received our times and places on little cards produced by Runner Card.

The finisher's area featured cupcakes and frosted strawberries, champagne or apple cider in the finisher's flutes, and I don't have any pictures because I ate them all up before I retrieved my phone from the car.  (Phones and water hazards are bad idea.)  So tasty.


Friday, July 25, 2014

Back to back.

It surprises me how much perceived effort can vary.  Thursday's workout called for another series of intervals 6@ 45 seconds with 1 min walking,  following a warmup.

Here's the pertinent details:
Split Time         Avg Pace
1 10:21.9 10:22
3 00:45.6 6:45
5 00:46.6 6:35
7 00:46.0 6:36
9 00:50.9 6:45
11 00:44.6 6:19
13 00:44.2 6:09
15 04:50.1 8:15

Something clicked on interval 3 (split 7) where while I was running fast for me, I also felt light, quick, and in control.   

But what is really interesting to me is how the cooldown lap, split 15 felt.  I was exerting myself, but it felt a lot easier than the warm-up, and I would have guessed I was running in the mid-9s.  All wasn't perfect, though, as I think I mildly strained my right quad.

This morning was a different story.  I could not force myself to run faster.  The good news is for an easy-paced long run, that's okay.  But the bewildering thing is just how much effort it felt like it was taking to run an easy pace.  My lungs were fine, but my legs just wanted to die.

Split Avg Pace
1 10:47
2 10:05
3 10:05
4 10:07
5 10:15
6 10:03
7 10:32
8 10:07
9 9:53

Clunk, clunk, clunk.   What I find interesting is how much harder today's run felt than yesterday's much faster cooldown lap.  The difference?  Today's workout followed an interval day, and yesterday's cooldown lap followed running at close to my maximum pace.  I think it's like the weightlifting phenomenon where a reasonably heavy weight feels much lighter after lifting an even heavier load.

Why were the runs back to back?  Because tomorrow is Skirt in the Dirt!

O Pioneers!

In Utah, July 24th is a public holiday called Pioneer Day.  It commemorates the day when the Mormon pioneers arrived in Utah and Brigham Young basically told them all to stop.  (Legend says it was a revelation; I have to think that Mr. Young realized that once past the Salt Lake valley it's very dry and not terribly habitable.)  It's an odd holiday.  It's part celebration of the old West, with rodeos and parades and fireworks, and part covert religious holiday, for many present-day Mormon residents of Utah had ancestors who traveled with Brigham Young, and some re-enact their great*-grandfathers' journey with handcarts, and so forth.

Utah's odd.  Until the past twenty years or so, it was nearly entirely Mormon, but now there are many people who live here who grew up elsewhere, are not Mormon.  You know how some communities struggle when a bunch of hipsters move in and the neighborhood gentrifies?  Just imagine all of Utah gentrifying, and you have a good sense of its growing pains.

In any case, some non-Mormon Utahns, who don't have pioneer ancestors, cheekily dubbed July 24th "Pie 'n Beer Day."  A way to celebrate the day off!

But it was 100 degrees, and no way in hell was I baking a pie.  So instead, I went to the garden, and picked a bunch of sweet basil, and made sweet basil ice cream.

Making ice cream is easy.  You'll need an ice cream maker.  I have the kind with an insulated bowl that you freeze, and I've found that it works great.

Ice cream is essentially a frozen creme anglaise, which is a thin custard sauce.    This is the base of all ice creams, and it's really pretty flexible.  It's a custard, it's delicious, and you're going to freeze it anyway.

Here's the basic plan:

  • 3 cups half-and-half (get the kind that's just milk and cream.)
  • 4 egg yolks  (more yolks = a richer ice cream.  4 works for me.)
  • 3/4 cups of sugar.
  • 1 cup of packed basil leaves (I always hate this locution.  Ever try to pack a leaf?  It's not exactly brown sugar here.  But goosh them in there the best you can.)
Mix up the egg yolks in a heatproof container.  I use my 4-cup pyrex measuring cup.  Set aside.

Take the sugar, one cup of the half-and-half, and the basil, and put it in your blender or similar blending thingy.  I used a Magic Bullet for two minutes.  You want it to be smooth, without any big basil pieces.

Pour the basil mixture into a medium saucepan, and add the rest of the cream.  Heat it over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the milk steams.

You can see it just starting to foam at the edges.  Perfect temp.

Now, if you were to just add the hot milk to the egg yolks, you'd wind up with cooked egg yolks.  So what you want to do is temper the eggs.  Pour about a cup of the hot milk in a thin stream into the egg yolks, whisking the yolks briskly.  Once that's mixed well, pour the egg yolk mixture back into the rest of the cream mixture.

Let it cook for about 5-7 minutes, stirring continuously but lazily.  It's ready when the mixture is thick enough that it coats the back of the spoon, and if you were to swipe your finger along the back of the spoon, you'd leave a line.  

(If, however, you try to get a picture of this for your blog, but your custard is too hot, and you burn your finger, and nearly drop your phone into your custard sauce, well, that makes too of us.)

This is not an exact science; all you want is for the sauce to be thickened, and since you're freezing this for ice cream, it really doesn't matter all that much.  

If you like, strain the custard through a wire strainer into a glass bowl.  (I usually don't bother, unless I didn't temper the eggs right and they scrambled a little.  Lazy cooking ftw.)  Cover it with plastic wrap, and chill it for at least two hours.  The mixture needs to be cold before you put it in your ice cream maker.

Freeze in the ice cream maker according to its direction.  Mine takes about 25 minutes to get a nice soft ice cream.  Scoop it into a container and freeze it for about two hours.

Then, scoop and garnish with strawberries.  The basil flavor is delicate and delicious.

Ramekins optional.

And that's how you celebrate Pie n' Beer Day, without beer (I had wine) or pie.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

After the fire

My running trail looks like the moon:

No one was hurt, nor was there any property damage, so I am free to appreciate the eerie beauty of the landscape.  The contrast with the surrounding hill is striking:

It smells like over-toasted marshmallows.  

There's a peace to the burned land that is hard to describe.  It will recover in a few years.  I am tempted to seed it with local wildflowers.  Wouldn't that be great?  A spot on the mountain all covered in Western paintbrushes and columbines and globe mallows.  A riot of color.

I like to imagine this little guy fought hard.  He retains some green yet.

Here you can see how close the fire came to disaster.  One spark over the fire road, and the town would have been in trouble:


Today was a much needed rest day for me.  Tomorrow intervals; Friday a long run; Saturday, a fun trail race!  More later.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

On track.

Yesterday started inauspiciously.  My alarm went off at 5:30, but I opted to sleep in, reasoning that I had only three miles to do, and they could be just as easily done in the jogging stroller if I left off the strides.

So I woke up for the day at the late hour of 6:45, fed the baby, ran an errand, strapped the kid into the jogging stroller only to discover that the right rear tire had gone flat, again.  I just replaced it on Saturday.  After futilely trying to reinflate it for half an hour, I was out of time and patience, and so I kicked my run to 8pm, after the baby's bedtime.

It was a good run.  3 miles at a good pace, followed by 5 strides.  (The plan said six.  The hell with the last stride, I said.)  I'm not all that comfortable with speed yet, but I managed a good set of strides averaging around 6:30m/m.  

Jogged home, stretched, rolled, but didn't get to bed until around 11.  I'm trying to get more sleep but I have a hard time winding down.  In any case, the only problem with working out in the evening as a catch-up is when the next day calls for six miles at 6AM.

I survived, and I maintained a good pace and cadence, but I was dragging by the end of it.  Very glad tomorrow is a rest day.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Mulligan. (Week Five Recap.)

Not the best week five, I'll grant you.  I plead a sinus cold, insomnia, exhaustion, and the mountain being on fire.

The Plan: 3 miles + strides, or XT.
What I did:  XT, focusing on deadlifts and planks.

The Plan:  Five miles.
What I did:  Five miles.

The Plan:  XT, or rest.
What I did: Strength training, and reviewed my shoes.

And here the wheels fall off the wagon:

The Plan:  3-5 miles.
What I did:  Took a nap, followed by a nap, followed by Tylenol and Sudafed.

The Plan:  3 miles or XT.
What I did:  Ran my favorite trail for 3.8 miles with +/-440 elev.

Friday night:  Did not sleep.

The Plan:  Long run of eight miles.
What I did:  Took a nap.  Elected to move long run to Sunday morning.

The Plan: Rest
My modified plan: Long run of eight miles.
What I did:  Watched the mountain catch on fire; made pot de creme.

Of a planned 21 miles, I managed 9.  Ouch.

I'm still too drained to run, so I suspect the missed long run will turn out to be a blessing in disguise.  I can complete eight miles easily, and next week moves up only to nine, so this shouldn't set me back too much as long as I get out there tomorrow and get back on track.

My goal this week is to figure out nutrition and sleep.  I don't track calories, because it tends to make me nuts, and I usually don't have to worry about sleep.  But I've been so worn down lately that I think I need to get both into gear if I am to keep up with the early morning workouts.

I think I'm giving up on this long run.

It's been an unusually tiring week.  Fitting in runs in this heat means getting up at 5:30AM, and having a toddler means that the longest I ever sleep in is 6:30 AM, and so I think I've been operating at a serious sleep deficit for the past month.  It caught up with me with a sore throat and exhaustion that killed Thursday's run, insomnia Friday night so I lost Saturday's run, but I wasn't worried.

I had a plan.

I'd get to bed early Saturday night, wake up well-rested this morning, and run my eight miles.   In effect, I'd have switched my long run and my rest day, but as eight miles isn't a stretch for me, I figured no harm done.

I went to bed at 9:30, hoping to fall asleep by 10.  I noticed a smell of smoke; queried the spouse, who suggested that it was an outdoor grill or firepit.

The smell grew stronger.  By 11pm, I looked outside, and I saw this.
A fire had started up in the canyon, and as the evening winds picked up, it spread.  Fire crews (totally awesome) managed to contain it above the fire road, and no homes or structures were threatened.  Homes a quarter mile closer to the fire were evacuated, and there was a trail of cars down our street.  This morning it's still burning out, and the entire area smells of smoke.

The toddler woke up when we opened his door to ensure air could circulate into his room.  We had to shut the windows and turn off the swamp cooler due to the smoke.  We hid out in the basement for a bit, where it was cooler and less obviously smoky, and then we lost power, and all went upstairs to go back to sleep once we saw via Twitter that the fire had been largely contained and that the evacuation order had been lifted.

Fortunately, no injuries and no property damage.  But yes, the trail near where I normally run was ON FIRE.  

As a result, I've had maybe five hours of sleep in the past forty-eight hours.  And I've gone from exhausted to drained.   The air quality is horrible, although we might get some relief if it rains this afternoon.

Missing this run won't kill me.  I can do eight; I've done it before.   Next weekend I have nine scheduled, and I can manage that, too.  But I'm itching to get out there.   

Maybe after a nap?

Saturday, July 19, 2014


At six in the morning during the summer, dawn paints the rocks that border the trail a pale mauve.  It is light enough to see, but just so; the street lights are just beginning to wink out.  The canyon winds blow briskly, thrilling me as I imagine for a moment becoming airborne, lofting over the edge of the sheer trail.

(Don't worry, Mom, that hasn't happened yet.)

Over the course of the first mile, it winds down 252 feet to the base of the canyon, and over the second mile, it climbs up 368 until the trail flattens out and provides a swift surface home.

(My splits, typical of this trail: 10:16; 13:59; 8:59; 8:51.)

On ordinary daily runs, I run without music.  I prefer to alternate soaking up the trail with losing myself in my thoughts.  I write in my head; I run; I argue; I console; I plan.

Yet this trail is different.  The dry trail snakes under the Utah sun, bordered by sagebrush, until it passes under some scrubby trees.  In the shade flourish all manner of broad-leafed plants that would not look out of place in any Pennsylvanian forest.  The trail becomes slightly slick here from retained moisture; after rains it's downright treacherous.  There are small rocks strewn all over it, but not many, and for the first two miles, it is barely more than a narrow bit of singletrack, favored by mountain bikers who enjoy the perilous ride, mere inches away from a sheer drop-off.

At six AM, they are still asleep.  The trail is mine, and it requires my full attention.  A rolled ankle or a false step would probably not be disastrous, but it would be unpleasant.  I focus on placing my feet, lifting them lightly.  On roads or flat gravel trails, my stride lopes along at a relatively low cadence.  On trails, I scamper.

Many runners write that running is their stress relief, arguing that the enormous physical effort they put forth serves as a release.  For me, at least, it's different.  The effort is strenuous, true, but the destruction of the stress lies in the intense concentration necessary to navigate the trails.  All thoughts of the world drop away.

The rest of my life rarely demands that focus.  Much of modern life is set up to favor multi-tasking.  I sit at my computer to write, and my phone buzzes with e-mail.  I eat breakfast and grade exams while listening with half an ear to NPR.  I run loads of laundry while playing with the baby.

The world scatters my mind.  Running unifies it.