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!