Saturday, July 18, 2015


How to recap the past few months.

During training for the Ogden half, managed to overtrain somewhat, then caught the spring flu from my kid.

Made it to the start line with a brand-new inhaler.  Coughed two minutes before the start; threw out back.

Ran ("ran") the race anyway.  It was 40 degrees, and rainy, and miserable, but I'm glad I managed to get to run down the canyon; the race is usually sold out so it's no guarantee I'll get to do it next year!

Took a week off; returned to building a base.  Became more and more tired.  Still wheezy.

Appear to have developed anemia, and more worryingly, asthma.  Working with docs for a solution.

TL;DR: this sub-2 is going to be harder than I thought.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

So, this blogging thing

Man, I'm not good at it.

I did, however, today run the longest I ever have:  14 miles.

Fourteen is a lot of miles for a newbie.

More soon!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Trying to run while having a job

Last week I had to travel for work.  The hotel where I stayed had a nice exercise area, but I know from experience that my personal limit on the treadmill is about an hour, plus time would be somewhat limited.  

So I planned this for last week, meaning to move the long run forward a couple of days:
Monday: easy, 50-60 minutes.
Tuesday: easy, 50-60 minutes.
Wednesday: easy, 80-90 minutes.
Thursday: off (travel day)
Friday: 50-60 minutes
Saturday:  8-10 hill repeats on the treadmill. (Wednesday's workout from the following week.)
Sunday: off (travel day)
Monday: 90-105 minutes (the long run)

Wednesday would get the fartlek run originally scheduled for today.

What actually happened.
Monday: 6.2 miles, easy (treadmill)
Tuesday: Eight inches of snow meant no chance to get to the road, trails, or gym.  Half an hour of Jillian Michaels, half an hour of weights.  Good workout, but not a run.
Wednesday:  So I woke up at 5AM to get to the gym.  I figured the roads would be slick,but they weren't, but I was already committed to the treadmill.  I should have come home and changed and run outside.  I wasn't feeling motivated, my body was stiff and sleepy, and by the time I managed to get out the door and warmed up, I would have had at best 70 minutes for an easy run, so I pushed a hard 50 minutes instead. 5 or so miles, with hill intervals.
Thursday: My flight got in at midnight instead of 2PM.  I got to the hotel by 2AM.
Friday:  hahahahahaha run wasn't happening.
Saturday: 3 miles + weights.
Sunday: 3 miles + core.  Flew home

Today: screw it.  Warm-up, 10 x 1 min fartlek 1 one minute recovery, cool down.  5.4 miles total.

Best laid plans gang aglee up in here....

So, I'm just pretending the weekend didn't happen.  Trying to make up mileage is a recipe for injury.  For whatever reason, the long run is the "workout" that bothers me the least.  I missed this weekend.  But I really have no fear that I'll pull two hours on Saturday with no trouble.  Long runs are mentally easy -- you just run gently, and don't stop till you're done.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Minimalist Movement Went Flat Because It Was a Trend.

Hixson argues that minimalism went flat because "[the runners who switched to minimalism] were either unprepared or continued to run with poor technique and didn’t reap the benefits they thought were theirs."   I think this is wrong.  I think it went flat because it was a trend, straight up, and trends simply don't last.

I liked Born to Run like everyone else I knew in 2009, and why not?  It's a great tale of a completely insane race, and it holds out the promise of being special to every middle-aged hobby jogger out there.  You have the lineage, it says.  You and all human beings are to the manner born, the manner of running free and easy.

A lot of my friends -- as an educated late-20 something at the time, I was basically the target audience -- fell in love with the book.   Vibrams seemed like the sensible path for a bunch of city dwellers, and away they went.

A solid majority developed stress fractures.

Now, you can say this is a case of too much too soon.  And perhaps it was, although my friends adhered scrupulously to the guidelines.   You can say they ran with poor technique, but the thing is, they weren't getting injured in traditional shoes.  I believe that many runners could benefit from changing their running style, but the minimalist movement, or at least elements of it, seemed to argue that people should change their style solely to fit the ideal promised by a book.

If you think about it, this gets it backward.  Most of us attempting to run in minimal shoes aren't naturally talented human runners, and years of sitting, injuries, weight gain, years of living have left their imprint on our bodies.  For many of us, starting slowly and easing into isn't enough.   Why not buy shoes that work, instead of those that fit a story?

I never went fully minimal.  When I started running in fall 2013, I began by walking in a pair of Vivo Barefoot I had bought at the height of the craze.  Then I ran in Altra Torins, and learned that I have better rearfoot control in a zero-drop shoe.

Unfortunately, I also learned that better rearfoot control is not good rearfoot control. My hip has to take up the slack, and while I don't have weak hips, they aren't strong enough to control a foot that developed bunions at age 13.

I'm fit.  I foam roll, mobilize, everything, but I do not have good feet for running.  They are fine and flexible, but trying to pretend they're really strong doesn't make them rigid.  I believe the lighter shoe might have worked well, if I had different feet.  No amount of toe exercises is going to change bone.

I can't believe I'm alone.  I'm glad the trend happened -- it's nice to have lighter shoes, and I really like the 8mm offset Saucony adopted across the board.  But the trend didn't last just because it was a trend.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Heavenly for now.

The Northeast is under what the local news was calling the Siberian Express this morning, with record low temperatures, but here in Utah we have record highs.  My tulips and daffodils are sprouting, which is no surprise, but my entire landscape of waterwise plants are peeping up, too, and I'm trying to convince the yarrow and lavender that February is NOT an ideal time to send up shootings, but they just point to the western feather and the hyssop and say "says you."

We are going to be so dried out come summer, but in the meantime, it was a gorgeous day for a hike with the kid.  He was very excited to see the Ergo come out and we headed out for a hilly two mile hike.

Hiking with a toddler on your back is interesting.  I'd recommend it, but I'd admonish anyone who tries to remind themselves that a 25-pound squirmy baby is not the same as a 25-pound pack, and that of course a toddler is going to squirm.  To touch the boulders bordering the trail, to play head-shoulders-knees-and-toes, to grab at branches.

 For safety's sake, I'd recommending hiking poles, except that it turns out that the toddler loves those, too.

Monday, February 16, 2015


I'm a little upset that my easy paces are so slow lately.  There are some good things; I'm finishing runs energized, and I'm running mileage in the high-20s without an injury.  I'm running now what was my peak mileage during my first half training cycle.

So I'm improving, clearly, and I have no hip pain, which is huge.  But somehow I'd thought that mid-way through February I'd be at least holding 9:30 as an easy pace, and instead I'm just getting slower and slower and slower.

Now, I'm not sure that it's a problem that I'm getting slower if I'm simultaneously building up mileage and re-introducing a strength program.  I don't start speedwork for another month, and so I'm trying to be patient with base building.  But I feel like I've lost the ability to run paces I ran ten weeks ago, and it's a little demoralizing.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Week Three: Keep on Shufflin'

Planned: 50-60 minutes, easy.
Actual: Big fat zero, zonk..

Honestly not sure what happened here.  Maybe the race caught up with me; maybe I'm underfueled.  But in any case I couldn't manage to get up at 5AM to get the run going, and then work was just too busy.  By 5pm I was dragging; by the time the baby was asleep and I zombie-walked through the dishes, I just decided to call it.

Planned: 40-60 minutes, easy,
Actual:  56 minutes (11:15)

The weather here in Northern Utah has been unseasonably warm, which is creating a total #firstworldproblem for me.  I always wear my reflective jacket when I'm out in the dark; it's a bright neon yellow reflective shell with wide reflective strips. The delicate piping on most gear doesn't strike me as enough protection, and I have too much going on to have time to get hit by a car.  I also have  headlamp and two handhelds as I like to see where I'm going and don't have the best night vision.

Nerding it up, yes.  Anyhow, the trouble is that at 40 degrees (in #$%^ing February!) it is not warm enough to wear the jacket alone over a sports bra, but putting it over a shirt means sweating to death.  At least I'm a visible ball of grossness, but honestly, if this weather continues I'll have to find a harness instead of a jacket.

Planned: 70-90 minutes, easy; strength program.
Actual: 72 minutes (10:20); completed strength program

Hey, look at that!  I hit a respectable-for-me easy pace!  I ran along the mostly flat trails up on the bench, and the loop I chose happened to be seven miles.  I'd hoped, initially, to run closer to 90 minutes but I didn't get out of work quickly enough and eventually just wanted to come home.

Planned: 50-60 minutes, easy
Actual: 57 minutes (11:14)

5:30 AM start again.  It was a nice morning for a run, and I'm feeling a bit more confident running in the dark.  Near the end of my run I saw two charming gentlemen also decked out in headlamps and handheld lights; they shouted hello and I was warmed by their greeting and by our light-up fellowship.

Planned: 105-120 minutes, easy
Actual: 112 minutes (11:06)

Apparently my body's new thing is to have no speed but maintain nearly perfectly even splits (11:16, 11:16, 11:20, 11:06, 10:58, 11:18, 10:55, 10:54, 11:22, 10:40) for ten miles.  I really have no idea how I managed just over (just!) two hours for a half in September.  But the run was easy, with no pain or tightness, and I wrapped it up with a strength workout with my toddler as a coach: ONE, TWO, FOUR, FIVE SIX SE'EN AYCH NINE TEN.

Total Mileage: 27.3

Friday, February 13, 2015

Marathon Mania.

Like Beth, I'm a relatively average runner.  She is faster than I am, but I suspect with work I'll top out right around where she is.  I'm solidly in the middle-of-the-pack, and as near as I can tell, people don't develop speed when they start running in their thirties.  I'm out there, and I enjoy it.

But I wouldn't have been 15 years ago.  I am slow.  I am in the weird position of being fit, but slow; I'm just not a gifted runner naturally, and I have almost no background in it.  So when I tried to take up running in my twenties, there wasn't nearly as much advice, running hurt, and the only people I knew who ran had run for their high school teams, which made it hard for me to jump in.  I had to be in my mid-thirties, post-kid, post-caring, before I could face a couch-to-5K.

In the meantime, everyone started running, including those slower than I, so now I'm in the middle of the pack.

And now it seems like everyone and their mother is running a marathon.  Halfs are even more popular, for good reason.  Marathons are a dumb distance that kills young Greek men.  Halfs are just long enough to disguise the fact that one has no leg speed.

Seriously, though, I can see why it would annoy someone who was a serious amateur athlete to find that their sport is now cluttered up by people chugging GUs for a 5K that they're running in tutus and perfectly coordinated expensive gear.

Still, look, people need to get over it.  Running is a better sport when it has more participants.  Many people are finding a hobby they love and a way to stay in shape, and that's hard to knock.  Plus, more participants means more races; sorry if your finisher's medal for being sub-sub-elite is the same as the hobby joggers, but newsflash: unless you're in the first three, you were racing the clock anyway.  Even if you were totally all-county in high school.

That said, I won't be running a marathon any time soon, because for me, I don't want to just finish it.  I'm in excellent shape.  Of course I can walk 26.2 miles if I have to.  That's not a challenge, just a hell of a long walk.  If I run one, I want to be able to race it at least a little, and I do not have the experience yet to do so without injury, and I'm slow enough that the time commitment for training is rather daunting.  I also wonder if there's too much push to do marathons.  I think some runners of my acquaintance who are running to get in shape would be injured less if they focused on running short distances first.

But halfs are nice.  So far I think they play to my strengths as someone without any speed but with enough willpower to complete a training program.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Race Recap: Striders WRC 5K

Event: Striders Winter Race Circuit
Date: 2/7/2015
Distance: 5K
Field: 692.

Map:  Oh, hell.

Why yes, that is ~300 feet of elevation in about a mile.  Yes, yes, it is.

Every runner I know warned me about this course.  It's straight up the hill!  Just when you think it's done, it's not!  It is not a PR course.

Oh, indeed, they are right.  The first hill starts gradually, and then you think you're done, and then you make a turn, and up, up, up you go.

The Winter Racing Circuit was started by the local running store, Striders, ten years ago.  It's intended in part as training for those that are planning to take on the Ogden Marathon in May, so there are many seriously talented runners out there on the course.

It was an unusually nice morning.  This winter has been so mild that as of the first week in February, my tulips and daffodils are poking up their heads.  February, guys!  It was nearly 60 degrees at 8AM on race day, but I fully expect Mother Nature will be all "fooled you!" and we'll probably have six feet of snow in June.

Anyhow, the race.

Personally, it wasn't great.  This past week I added in my weights routine and I was surely feeling the effects of being two weeks into a mileage build-up.  I wasn't fast, and I had to walk part of the hill.   I finished in 30:06, which is quite a bit over my PR, but I'll take 29/92 in my age group given how sluggish I felt.  I joked at the finish line that I'm counting this race as a separate race than a normal 5K.

I'm the one that looks like she's going to die if she doesn't pass Stripey Pants.

The race non-personally, however, was great.  Striders sold the circuit this year to the GOAL foundation, which also runs the Ogden Marathon, and support was fantastic.  The course was on the open road, and the Ogden PD kept everyone safe.  At the finish there was coffee and hot chocolate provided by Daily Expresso, and bananas and orange slices and granola bars.

I also really appreciated that the course stayed open until the last finisher came through, and the announcer gave everyone a heads-up about ten minutes beforehand so people knew to stay and cheer. Heather's experience in her half really gave me a great appreciation for how important it is for the back of the field to have the same experience as the front of the field.  And while it's less of a safety issue with a 5K, a 5K is also often the first distance a newer runner does.  Not good if the experience is being alone on a road after everyone's gone home.

So, props to the GOAL foundation, and the next race is the 10K, on the 21st.

Yes, there's another hill.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Week Two Recap

Health: Hey, look at that!  I can breathe!
Injury: Hip feels pretty good; right big toe is acting up a bit.
Sleep: Good, but I am feeling beyond worn out.

Plan: 50-60 minutes, easy.
Actual: 53 minutes, easy (10:15)

A quick five+ after work today. My usual route in winter, when I'm stuck on the roads, is reasonably hilly, and today I added an extra hill just for the variety.  I'm not great at climbing hills, but they're very good for you, like broccoli, and I think they help my form.

My form is still all over the place.  I'm not in any pain during or after the run, but I feel like I'm cheating my stride length, running choppy instead of smoothly.  It's already so much better than it was three weeks ago, so I'm trying to be patient, but I really liked having 9:40 feel easy and it's been mentally a bit rough to see my leg speed so far off.

Plan: XT or 40-60 minutes, easy
Actual: 39:52, on a treadmill, with no music (9:52)

The run did not want to happen. I was going to run from work.  It's been unseasonably warm, so I packed for a 50 degree run, but as I changed into my gear, it started to drizzle.  So I decided not to tempt fate and instead headed over to the treadmill, whereupon I discovered that a) I had not packed my iPod and b) that the weather was just going to threaten rain for an hour.

Plan: 70-90 minutes, easy
Actual:  82 minutes, easy (11:37)

Man, this day.  The kiddo woke up, so the run before work didn't happen.  Sometimes I sneak in a few miles after work, but I had meetings and so I didn't make it out until after dark, running around with my lights like, a passerby observed, a bionic woman.  Very tired legs and no leg speed, but a gentle, easy run, followed by weight training.

Plan: 50-60 minutes, easy
Actual: 58 minutes, easy (11:24)

Another slow run in the dark.

Plan: Striders WRC 5K race!
Actual: Race (30:06), then weights, then another hour of easy running.

I will recap the race soon.  Suffice it to say that I had a hard but disappointing run, but the race itself was fabulous.  Since I didn't feel like I managed a good effort in the race, I tacked on the miles I would have had scheduled for a long run.  Might have been a teensy bit of a mistake, but it was an odd 70 degree day in February and it did me good to get outside.

Total mileage: 29.7

The exhaustion is pretty severe, so I've switched to a multivitamin with some iron just in case I'm running a bit low.


Thursday, February 5, 2015

What a stinker.

Often when I return from a run and try to stretch, my son swarms all over me.  He imitates me, doing little squats and downward dogs, with his head fully on the floor.  Then I shower, and I tell him I have to shower because "Mommy's stinky."

So, naturally, he announces "Stinky" when he sees me in running gear.  With a friend, ready to head out the door. Or when my husband takes a clean tech shirt that he recognizes out of the dryer.  Or when he pulls my workout clothes out of the drawer.

Stinky.  Stinky.  Stinky.

Thanks, kid.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Almost Hansons. Almost.

While I was out with an injury, I read running books voraciously, mostly with an eye to finding a plan that would facilitate my stepping up from a plan where the goal was to finish the half upright, to beginning to race it.  More mileage, but something that's sensitive to a beginning runner's lack of speed.

I started with Hansons Half Marathon Method, which is a version of their popular marathon training program aimed at the half.  The first part of the book explains their training philosophy, which centers on running, running, and more running, because they argue that the non-cardio benefits of running are what really improve a runner in the long run.  Hansons marathon plan became known as the plan that demanded only a 16 mile long run, but what the buzz failed to mention is that the long run topped out at 16 because all of the rest of the mileage comes during the week.

They build their training program on the principle of cumulative fatigue; throughout the training cycle, the runner's legs will always be tired and never fully rested, which will not only simulate the last leg of the race, but also ensures that the runner has to take the easy days easy.  It's hard to race your training accidentally if your legs are always a little heavy.

I liked a lot about the plan.  The "Beginner" plan, aimed at beginning racers at the distance, tops out at 48 miles a week, which would be a challenge.  Every run is planned, with intervals and tempo runs included every week.  Best, the book includes all of the pace charts that you could wish for to get you through training, and it's extremely well-organized and edited.

Here's the problem.  I want to do this plan so badly, but I don't think I can handle six days a week of running.  I know I can manage five without an injury.  Every time I've pushed it to six, the sixth run of the week is horrible and I wind up hurting.

I want to destroy my half marathon, but I also want to keep from losing hours a week to PT.    So this cycle I'm sticking to three principles:

  1. Run no more than five days per week.
  2. Off days are off.  No weight training or extra core work.
  3. Mobility work every day on hotspots.

So I've shelved Hansons for now.  Maybe next time.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Week One Recap

I decided for my second half to increase my mileage somewhat.  The Another Mother Runner basic half marathon plan was great, but I've read some research that suggests that about 40 miles a week is optimal for fitness (beyond that is necessary for small improvements, but there are diminishing returns.)

I wanted to run more, so I shopped around a bit for a plan.  I read the Hanson's Half Marathon book, which I'd highly recommend, but I don't think I'm up for running six days a week yet.  I know I can manage four or five and keep the injury bug at bay.

So, McMillan's plan from You (Only Faster) was the winner.  I think the book will be more useful once I have a little more experience.  I don't know how to tailor a plan to my strengths, because I don't know whether I'm oriented more toward Speed or Endurance.  I'm leaning Endurance right now because my half time way out performs the predictions based on my 5K time.  But I do  like interval workouts, so we'll see.

Week One is the first of eighteen weeks, and designed to begin the process of building up a mileage base.

Health: Meh.  Last week I had flu symptoms which resolved into a sinus cold that has clogged my head.  Not awful, but not ideal.
Injury Status:   Hip gets tight during runs but I am no longer having troubles with extending it.
Sleep:  The kiddo has decided that he needs to sleep touching me.  He wakes shrieking in his crib and then comes into bed.  I haven't been this tired since he was nursing twice a night as a newborn.

Plan: 40-50 minutes, easy.  Actual: 54 minutes, easy (avg: 10:21/mile)

Easy paces for me are supposed to be between 9:31-10:27; barely kept that one together over all the hills.  And it went a little long because I was conservatively shooting for the lower end of the range to keep my weekly jump in mileage reasonable, and completely misread the chart.

Plan: 40-60 minutes, or cross train, easy.  Actual: 49 minutes, easy (10:29)

Plan: 60-70 minutes, easy.  Actual: 61 minutes, easy (11:15)

I changed at the office, ran, and came back, where I ran into a colleague with whom I run occasionally.  She asked how it went.  I said, "Some days, it's just time on your feet."   The run was a slog from start to finish.  I would not recommend not sleeping and a head cold as a training regimen.

OFF.  The plan also has running as an option but my preference now is to run Tuesdays, and take Thursdays off completely.

Plan: 50-60 minutes, easy.  Actual: 56 minutes (10:38)

I changed, ran, came back, toweled off with Wet Wipes and ridiculously fruity deodorant, and headed to an afternoon of meetings.  Dinner was an excellent New York strip prepared by the husband, and it was delicious and needed.  Then he decided to stay up with the toddler at night so I could get an uninterrupted eight hours.  I slept in our guest room.  Absolute bliss.

Plan: 75-100 minutes, long.  Actual: 78 minutes (8 miles, 9:49)

Sleep works!  I ran with a friend along the gorgeous Ogden River Parkway.  It's very flat and great for just cruising along.  She had eight on her training schedule so I just ran with her as it met my time goals for the week. Long run paces are supposed to be from 9:33-10:51, so I was glad I nailed it, even with a large positive split.  

Total mileage: 28.7

Lessons learned:  One should not despair when one can't keep up an easy pace with a head cold on three hours of sleep.  One should instead, shake it off and take a nap.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Saucony Omni 12.

So, the month and a half off.  I had just managed to get my SI joint under control, and I went out too aggressively at a cold Thanksgiving 5K, and followed it up with a long trail run, and then gardening, and my left thigh, hip flexor, abductors, adductors, groin, everything, just told me NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE, and that was it.

I limped.  I read Kelly Starrett's Ready to Run and Jay Dicharry's Anatomy for Runners, and both are full of helpful tips for the injury-prone runner, some of which I adopted, and some of which I'll take with a grain of salt, as you'll see,

I'm feeling better now, but minimal cross-training, some lingering stiffness, and Christmas has set me back.

Nevertheless, this week starts the training program, and a few weeks back I picked up a pair of Saucony Omni 12s on clearance.  This is a monster of a stability shoe, but it has several features I like a lot.

First, they're a sharp-looking shoe. Not the most important feature, but still -- they look good.
Mine are in the teal colorway, but with 50 miles on them including one very muddy trail run, they're not quite as pretty as the stock photo!

Saucony a while back decided that all of their main shoes would be 8mm drop, and I really like this feature.  It is noticeable compared to my other standby, the ASICS Kayano, which has a ~13mm drop, but it doesn't feel wrong; I just notice my calf muscles working a bit more.  That's good, for me, because a lower drop means my hip has to do a bit less work to stabilize my foot. 

The heel doesn't flare much at all, which I also appreciate.  It feels sleeker.

The feature I really appreciate, however, is this:
The shoe is very straight, and the last is very stable.  After a decent amount of trial and error, I've figured out that one of my problems is that due to bunions, I have very little ability to stabilize my left foot with my toes, so a softer shoe, or one that curves leaves me with little leverage.

Now, straight lasts mean heavy motion control shoes, right?  Here's the thing -- the Omnis are really light, and their ride reminds me of their Mirage, which I love (except for its durability.)  So, it's a good shoe, I think, for someone like me who likes the idea of a more minimal shoe with a lower offset but doesn't yet have the strength to pull it off.

And that gets me to my last point.  Starrett recommends flat shoes for runners, and working toward them.  I'd wear a flat shoe if there was a stability model, but there's not, and while I completely believe that the right thing to do is work on my hip stability, the thing is, my poor hip needs all the help it can get.  Sometimes I think minimalist movement forgets that the shoe is supposed to fit the runner, not the other way around, and that the shoe is one tool the runner has among many.

The Omni rides a bit firm.  I prefer this -- it's easier for me to control a firmer shoe -- but I also suspect that it's designed for a heavier runner (which makes sense, given the demographics on who is likely to need a motion control shoe.)  I don't feel like I sink into the cushioning at all, and it rides high.  

Mostly, though, I'm just happy to finish a longer run without my hip instantly clenching, and these shoes just may be a winner....

Monday, January 19, 2015

Almost go time.

One week till a new round of half training, and with luck, some more than half-assed blogging!