Back on the horse that threw me

Okay, I think it’s safe to laugh about my horrible race on Sunday. The word “vomit” is funny, right??

Sitting out for the better part of two weeks helped heal my hip, but clearly I traded that for endurance. So now it’s time to double down. My goal race is just over five weeks away, and clearly I have a lot of work to do. Can I go from personal-worst to personal best in five weeks? Can I train hard enough to get there without re-injuring myself in the process?

Well, it won’t happen if I sit around wondering, so on Monday I went to core class. I was surprised that my quads still felt really sore, but I knew the instructor had just run a full marathon the day before so she’d take it easy on the leg stuff. She focused more on upper body and stretching, which was perfect for both of us.

Then last night–still feeling some residual achiness–I joined my training group for a speed workout at the middle school track. We ran two laps at 10K pace, one lap easy, and one lap at 5K pace. Rest, repeat. The second set was definitely harder than the first and my paces were on the slow side, but I really didn’t feel too bad after I’d finished. No worse than when I started, anyway.

Tomorrow is the last day of the semester, so I’m looking forward to having some down time over Winter Break. If you consider the insanity of the holidays, plus applying a renewed focus on training “downtime,” that is. ;)

Someday this will be a funny story

Saturday afternoon, we drove from Austin to College Station. It’s about a two-hour drive, and we went straight to the expo, which was held at one of the high schools. The place was crowded, but it was well-organized and we retrieved our bibs, participant shirts, and Swiftwick socks quickly and easily.

Participant shirt

Participant shirt

From there, we checked in to our hotel, then got ourselves organized for the race. We had dinner plans with friends later, but in the meantime we just kinda kicked back until it was time to go. Fortunately the restaurant–Grub Burger Bar–was only a block or two away, so we walked. I needed to move around a bit after the drive, especially since I hadn’t run in a week. I had a plain cheeseburger and some onion rings–nothing unusual or different the night before a race!

After dinner, we set our alarms for 5am. The race started at 7am, but their emails recommended we arrive by six. I slept better then I thought I would, and by 5:30 we were heading out. The weather was about 60*, but unfortunately the humidity was something like 95%. Yikes.

The race started at Wolf Pen Park, adjacent to the Post Oak Mall, which provided the parking. As promised, it was easy to get in and park, and it was only a short walk to the starting area. We met up with our friends, took a couple of pictures, made last-minute bathroom stops, and it was time to go.

I was not in Corral 1.

I was not in Corral 1.

The first three or four miles went by pretty quickly. My ipod was picking good songs and I tried just to get lost in the mile I was in rather than worry about how far I still had to go. I spent a long time contemplating the slogan on the back of someone’s shirt, and I wondered what possessed one homeowner to paint the house Highway Department Yellow.  The streets were not in the best shape, and I had to pay attention to cracks and holes and other dangers.

At about Mile Four, the full split off from the half, and I still felt good. I was holding a decent pace and did not have any pain. This part of the course ran through residential areas, and neighbors had come out to cheer the runners. I could have done without the woman who was smoking in her driveway, but I loved seeing the one guy wearing a Longhorn sweatshirt. It seemed like every person in this town was decked out in Aggie maroon, so I waved “Hook ‘Em Horns” at him and he cheered.

By now my watch was ahead of the mile markers, and it hit six miles long before the 10K split. At this point I was starting to feel some soreness in my hip flexors and it slowed me down a bit. At Mile Seven we turned into the Texas A&M campus itself, where many of the streets were brick. Lots of spirit organizations had come out, and around Mile Nine volunteers had not only oranges and bananas, but gummy bears and Twizzlers. YUM.

As I ran around the football stadium, my ipod selected Django Walker’s song “Texas Longhorn,” which cracked me up. A&M and Texas are (were?) huge rivals, but we haven’t met on the football field since 2011 (a game Texas won). And I was tired of all the maroon everywhere, so I think my ipod was trying to cheer me up. Because by now my legs were really sore and I’d slowed down a lot. By Mile 10 I knew my loose goal was gone, but I had another problem: I was alternating between dizzy and queasy. I ran until I thought I would pass out or barf, then walked until I could run again. I usually don’t think three miles is terribly long, but today it was interminable.

The finish was downhill and I ran it in. I received my medal, then collected my finisher shirt. Unfortunately they had run out of my size (grr) so I ended up with one that’s probably a little too big. I grabbed some water, then continued on to the food area. Volunteers handed out styrofoam containers to runners, allowing us to wander around and collect breakfast tacos, burgers, pizza rolls, and some stuff I didn’t see. I got a few things, but I didn’t feel like eating just yet. There was a trailer distributing beer, and next to that were three margarita machines. They didn’t look terribly icy though, so I passed. I found several of my friends, then went to go find the others. I grabbed another bottle of water, then decided to sit on the curb. We were waiting for our last runner to finish, and as I sat there, I started to spiral downhill. Again. This happened after the Army Ten-Miler and the Cleveland half, but both times it hit later. Today, as I sat there on the curb, I knew I was in trouble.

Let’s just say the grape electrolyte drink was better the first time I tasted it.

My friends steered me to the medical tent, and I didn’t protest. Someone gave me a cold towel and sat me on a cot. They asked me a zillion questions, and they figured that even though I’d had water at every water stop, I was probably dehydrated. I sipped water, hoping the worst was over. I tried to stand up, but that was a no-go. I sat back down, and one of the doctors came over to talk to me. She had me lie down with my feet elevated and sip some more water. Someone brought me one of those space blankets–I was starting to shiver–and I sipped my water while I tried to get myself together.

See, we’d taken my car, but my friend couldn’t drive a stick shift. It was up to me to get us back to the hotel, then back to Austin. I needed some time, but the hotel had grudgingly given us just 30 extra minutes for “late” checkout, and time was running out. I didn’t feel okay to drive yet, so I called my husband–I had made the reservations under his rewards account–and asked him to call the hotel and explain the situation. He informed them we’d need some more time, and while they were less than compassionate, they said they would let the cleaning crew know. Thanks, Towne Place Suites, your efforts at customer service were underwhelming.

A few minutes later I decided to try to stand again. I didn’t immediately feel like falling back down, so I took a few tentative steps, then slowly walked through the park to the car. The space blanket flapped in the wind, but I was glad I had it. People looked at me weirdly though–this was a warm, humid race, and here’s this girl wrapped in a space blanket. But whatever, I didn’t care.

The drive back to the hotel took significantly longer than this morning because we had to loop under the highway, sit through a really long light, and make a bunch of left turns, but we got back and showered and packed up only 30 minutes late. I desperately craved an iced tea, so we set out to find sustenance. We settled on a Mexican place–I felt well enough to eat a couple of tacos by then, and although I didn’t finish them both, the iced tea helped a lot. By the time we set the GPS for home, I felt pretty normal. I’m pretty sure even now, half a day later, I’m operating at a calorie deficit though.

This was definitely not the race I envisioned. And clearly I need to rethink some of my fueling strategies. But even though I had to walk a lot, it was my personal-worst time, and I spent nearly an hour in the medical tent, I know I (literally!) gave everything I had to finish this race.

I finished and didn't die.

I finished and didn’t die.

I  heard later that the race director ran in with the final marathon finishers. Throughout the event, I was impressed by the organizers’ attention to detail–my performance was my own, not a reflection on their hard work. I’m also incredibly grateful for my friends who hung around the medical area, carried my stuff, made sure my finisher shirt didn’t get lost, and just generally looked after me. Thank you!

And with that, my 2014 races are finished. But don’t worry, it all starts up again in January!

Race weekend: a Longhorn goes to Aggieland

I’ve just finished packing for a race about two hours from my house. Fortunately, this time we’re driving, so I don’t have to worry about cramming a bunch of stuff into a carry-on suitcase like I did for the Army Ten-Miler. But still, we’re only staying one night–I shouldn’t need a lot of stuff. Right??

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In my defense, my foam roller is in there.

I’m a little nervous about this one, though. And not just because I’m a Longhorn traveling to Aggieland.

When I registered back in June, I was coming off a pretty decent spring of improving times and better endurance. But then The Summer of the IT Band Injury happened, and everything changed. By September it was healed, but to get there, I’d only run three days a week, and I was behind in my training. I felt sluggish and slow–I finished both of October’s ten-milers seven or eight minutes slower than my April one, despite better weather conditions. I mostly chalked it up to injury recovery, but I knew I needed to step it up in November and December since I have two half-marathons on the schedule.

So naturally, just when I was getting into a groove and feeling some results, my right hip protested.

Including the Turkey Trot, I’ve run a grand total of 11.5 miles since Thanksgiving. I’ve seen my sports doctor several times, I’ve foam rolled my hip within an inch of its life, and I’ve skipped six training runs with my group to give it time to heal. The last time I ran anything close to a half-marathon distance was 12 miles a month ago. So today I’m heading out with more than a little trepidation.

On the plus side, I’ve heard this is a fantastic race. A few friends ran it last year after Dallas got canceled two days out, and they spoke very highly of the experience, especially they way BCS accommodated and welcomed their last-minute entries. And I’ve been really impressed with their race director. I emailed him a while back about something, and he responded within the hour. The last two weeks he’s been posting updates and information on their Facebook page–he’s so enthusiastic, it’s infectious. The race swag is spiffy too–a long-sleeved shirt, a dri-fit finishers’ shirt, Swiftwick socks–and I love their attention to detail regarding food (and having enough for slow people like me–especially after that article calling out runners who hoarded post-race food) and portapotties and every other aspect of race day. They call themselves “the best race in Texas,” and I am looking forward to being a part of it.

Last week, race day weather looked pretty heinous. Temps in the low 50s at the start, with a 90% chance of rain. Yippee. I went out and bought a bunch of .99 rain ponchos just in case.

Better than a trash bag

Better than a trash bag

So naturally, as the week went on, the forecast improved. You can thank me later.

A little warmer than I'd like, but at least the icon has clouds and not lightning and rain

A little warmer than I’d like, but at least the icon has clouds and not lightning and rain

I have a loose time goal, but honestly, I’ll be happy if I finish without significant hip pain. I have no idea if that’s a reasonable goal or not–guess I’ll find out at 7am tomorrow. I hear there are margaritas at the post-race party, so I’ll either be drowning my sorrows or celebrating. Wish me luck!

I had a great 3.5-mile run. Unfortunately I was out there for 6.5 miles.

Other than my failed half-mile attempt a week ago, I haven’t run since Thanksgiving because of this annoying hip pain. I’ve stretched and foam-rolled, I saw my sports doctor, and I tried to take it easy. My next half-marathon is a week away, so I hoped to get out and run six-ish miles this morning so I wouldn’t feel completely unprepared. But I didn’t want to get up before dawn and drive all the way out to Rogue only to bail the first half-mile again. So I slept in, and around 9am I headed out on the Route That Wasn’t from last week.

The weather was overcast, windy, and 50-something–more or less what I can expect next weekend. I wore a loose long-sleeved shirt to give me an idea of what I might want to wear for the race. With the breeze, I was pretty comfortable.

The first 1.5 miles wound around my neighborhood. Everything felt good–no pain, decent pace, yay! After 1.5 miles, I reached the Mexican restaurant where M and B were having breakfast, so I stopped in and got a drink of water. They had just ordered tacos-to-go for me!

From there, I crossed the main road and headed toward the high school. It’s a pretty straight shot down this street, but I had to pay attention to oncoming drivers because the lane striping is weird and no one can navigate it properly. I still felt good, and I started to envision a triumphant Facebook post finish at my driveway, stoked about conquering yet another injury and giving me a confidence boost going into next weekend’s race.

I reached the park and was semi-surprised to see a WWII-era Jeep just sitting there. I mean, M has half a dozen old military Jeeps out at his family’s ranch and I’m used to seeing them in that context, but I didn’t expect to encounter one in the park.

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Doesn’t everyone encounter WWII Jeeps on their morning runs?

From there I looped around the high school. I passed a coach instructing five or six athletes on the pole vault, and I discovered that the fire station seems to have been turned into a boot camp gym.

Around the back side of the school, I had to stay on the sidewalk because the street is narrow, many cars pack along the curb, and there’s not a lot of room. But the sidewalks aren’t much better. Tree roots and neglect have pushed up chunks of concrete in some places; in others, the concrete has all but disappeared, leaving only dirt and small, loose rocks.

And then there was the mud. It rained on and off all week, and apparently someone had driven into an empty lot and spun around doing donuts.

Not Dunkin Donuts, just donuts (sadly)

Not Dunkin Donuts, just donuts (sadly)

The grass was torn up and mud was all over the sidewalk and the street. I stopped to stretch my hip flexors, then continued on, dodging the mud as best I could. But by now I knew my hopes for a pleasant, comfortable 10K run had been dashed. My sports doc had given me strict orders to stop if it hurt, and while it wasn’t a sharp pain, I felt a lot of soreness and knew I needed to dial things back a bit.

Unfortunately, I still had about three miles to go.

I ran-walked the rest of the way back to my house. No triumphant finish, no injury-conquering. And certainly no confidence boost. Honestly, I’m pretty concerned about completing a half-marathon next weekend, let alone clocking some kind of respectable time.

After got home, I ate my tacos, foam-rolled, and took some ibuprofen. Here’s hoping the coming week will bring some magic and things will fall into place for the race.

Reparo!

I iz no run

A little history: back in the fall of 2011, I developed an indeterminate hip flexor injury. Saw an orthopedist, had an MRI, took two months off, went to a sports massage therapist, and eventually it stopped hurting. I had a flare-up in late 2012 and went to a sports doctor, which pretty much did the trick. In early 2013 I strained my calf, and while it generally doesn’t bother me, occasionally it feels tight if I don’t keep up with foam rolling it. And then there was the Great IT Band Episode of 2014. All of these mishaps occurred on my left side, but evidently I’ve run out of left-side appendages to bother me, and now I’ve got something wrong with my right hip.

At first, it felt like a like I’d bruised it. I’m short, and very frequently I bump my hip on school furniture–student desks are at just the right height for that. So I chalked it up to clumsiness and figured it would be fine in a few days. Except two weeks later, it’s not.

Last Tuesday, we ran just over six miles, the middle 3.5 at 10K pace up and down some minor hills. By the end of the run, my hip was pretty sore. And it started to feel less like a surface bruise and more like it’s deeper in the hip flexor–the same pain I used to get on my left side. Fantastic.

Thursday’s five-mile Turkey Trot was a hilly course, and by the end I was hurting. I took it easy Friday, then decided to skip Saturday morning’s run to give it more rest. Because I have a half-marathon in two weeks, I was only supposed to run 90-minutes this weekend, and it seemed smart to take an extra rest day and try it today.

At 9AM, I headed out the door with the idea that I’d run up to the high school, loop around the back, and return the same way. It’s a route I’ve run before, pretty flat with good sidewalks and few street crossings. Except that I only got a half-mile down my street when I started to feel the pain returning. As much as I didn’t want to wimp out, I knew it would only get worse if I kept going. So I bailed and walked home.

Guess it’s more foam rolling and rest for me today.

Turkey Trot 2014

In Austin you never know what kind of weather you’ll get for the Turkey Trot. Over the last two weeks the overnight low dropped into the 20s and 30s, but by Thanksgiving morning it had warmed up into the high 40s, and the forecast for the 9:30 race was into the 50s. I struggled with my race wardrobe, but eventually decided to wear short sleeves with arm warmers.

We drove downtown and headed for our usual parking space. It’s close enough to most downtown races that we can walk, but far enough that a lot of people don’t want to park there. But we were in for a surprise:

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Sign of the Apocalypse

 

I’ve lived here most of my life (M was born and raised here) and paid parking on a random side street outside of the main downtown area seals it for me: the last vestiges of old, cool Austin are completely gone. The good news? Holidays are exempt, so we didn’t actually have to pay. But I’ll bet by next year the whole street will be covered in condos and hipster joints, and even paid parking won’t be an option. Sigh.

A little disillusioned, we got out of the car and headed to the starting area. It was a beautiful morning!

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They say the state bird of Texas is the construction crane.

 

This year is the 24th edition of the Thundercloud Subs Turkey Trot, and more than 22,000 people were crowded onto the First Street Bridge for the start.

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That’s a lot of people on the bridge.

 

By this time, it had warmed up nicely and I jettisoned the arm warmers. I shoved them in my belt, fired up my headphones, and stretched my calf and hip, both of which had been bothering me since Tuesday’s workout.

IMG_9565

Start

In the past we’d run the untimed race, just something fun to do together as a family. But every year I get jammed up at the back and end up dodging walkers the first quarter-mile. So this year I signed up for the timed race so we could start a little closer to the front. Neither M or B had run much at all since the Chuy’s 5K back in May, and I wasn’t sure about my hip, so perhaps we were a bit ambitious with the timed race, but I still figured it was better than starting behind the walkers.

We took off to the sounds of ACDC’s “Thunderstruck” and headed up Lavaca Street. Downtown is mostly flat, but this section of Lavaca runs uphill to 8th Street, then uphill again to 15th. So for the first mile, we were running up an incline. At 15th, we turned left, only to hit … more incline. There’s a short, steep hill, a long downhill, and a long uphill section. I ran all of it, albeit slowly, but my hip did not like it.

IMG_9570

Not all of Texas is flat.

 

The rest of the race was mostly downhill, which I think was harder on my hip than the uphills had been.

I spent a lot of the last two miles getting stuck behind people walking three or four abreast. Because we were middle-of-the-pack, it was semi-crowded most of the race. I could usually navigate around them, but one part of the course was very narrow–one car lane wide–and a couple of times these people would run ahead, then stop to walk, jamming up everyone behind them. Another time I was distracted briefly by a girl wearing headphones and singing–very badly–along to “Living on a Prayer.”

M and B ran ahead, then slowed for me to catch up, repeat. This started to annoy me. I mean, I’ve been training since September. Five miles is not a huge challenge for me, but I couldn’t consistently run with two people who were almost completely untrained? Frustrating.

Having said that, even though I was slower than last year, I felt good about finishing in the middle of the pack. In fact, the whole race we were passing people. I also recognize that I have better endurance than I did this time last year. My 8-12 mile training runs have been solid, with no walk breaks, even though my pace has been a little slower.

In the end, this is always a fun race, and this year was no exception. People dress up in turkey costumes and are just out to have a good time. And I burned a couple hundred calories before sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner.

Hope y’all had a Happy Thanksgiving!

Remember that time? I forgot. Remember that other time?

These days, I feel like a walking Maxine cartoon: I’m forgetful, my body hurts, and I need more coffee.

The fall semester is always a whirlwind, and on top of that I’ve thrown in a demanding half-marathon training schedule. And just when I think I’m juggling it all successfully, I do something that brings down the whole enterprise. Two weeks ago, I managed to forget some important piece of equipment for each of my training runs that week–my Garmin, my reflective lights, my running belt. Last week I seemed to have it together, ending with a successful eight-mile run on Saturday. But last night’s failure was epic.

I got home from work, ready to enjoy my Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Food, family, and football with no obligation for gift-giving–what’s not to love? But Tuesday night is training night, so I started getting organized. I have a backpack full of gear I might need: gloves, chapstick, blinky lights, more chapstick, sunglasses, flipbelt, bluetooth headphones, hair ties, hats, a windbreaker, a dry shirt, all that kind of stuff. But the other day I’d looked for one of my lights and couldn’t find it, so I dumped everything out on the bed and sorted through it all. I found the light and packed it all back up.

I drove out to Rogue, which is in the same parking lot as a big grocery store, a liquor store, and a Starbucks. Normally I don’t have trouble finding a parking space, but evidently folks were stocking up for Thanksgiving. I finally found a space, went to get my stuff out of my trunk, and found… nothing. I’d left my backpack on the bed.

A quick inventory of my purse turned up a chapstick and iPhone headphones. I borrowed an ankle light from my coach and bought an inexpensive shoe light. I was wearing a white shirt, so that was the best I could do there. I managed to fit my phone and chapstick in the little pocket in my pants, although after a year of running wirelessly, I’d forgotten how to deal with the annoying headphone cable. At least I had my watch.

The workout was the same one we’d done a few weeks ago: a 1.5-mile warmup to a spot where three parallel streets run up the same short incline. The map looks like Poseidon’s trident here, if you need a visual. We ran up and down the first street at 10K pace, then ran an easy pace over to the next street, repeat. After the third street, we returned to the starting spot for a breather and a water break. Half-marathoners ran that set four times, which worked out to almost four miles. On the fourth one, the mini-hill took its toll on my hip flexors, particularly my right one. It’s been bothering me a little lately–it feels almost bruised on the outside of my hip, unlike my left one that sometimes hurts more inside the hip. By the end of the four sets, it was pretty painful, and I still had a 1.5-mile run back to the store for a total of 6.25 miles. I spent some time foam rolling and stretching, but it was still sore when I got up this morning. 

I’m running the Thundercloud Subs Turkey Trot with the family tomorrow, so I think today will be a rest day. If you need me, I’ll be on the couch with a book, my coffee, and a cat or two.

Happy Thanksgiving!

——————————————-

Are you running in a Turkey Trot?

Any other fun plans for the holiday?

Please tell me I’m not the only one who forgets stuff?

Perspective: a case of the onlys

It’s funny how so often we get wrapped up in our own world and only see things through that one lens.

I’ve been training with Rogue for more than two years (with a break or two thrown in) and I’m constantly surrounded by people who are faster, stronger, and run further than I could ever hope to. In this world, I’m the slow, stubborn half-marathoner. Not to be confused with the faster runners, the marathoners, the ultra-marathoners, the Team Rogue-ers. And I judge myself harshly in comparison. I find myself qualifying my runs with “only.” I only ran 10 miles–after all, this other woman ran 28, and that guy ran 22, and this group who ran 12 finished half an hour before I did.

But I realized yesterday that through someone else’s lens, I’m the one doing something difficult.

I was chatting about college football with some students at the end of class, and I mentioned that on Saturday I ran 12 miles, then sat on the couch watching one game after another for almost 12 hours. One student gasped, “You ran HOW far?” Another looked at me, eyes wide. “Whoa.”

And it struck me that in this world, through this lens, my 12 miles was … impressive.

Since seventh-graders aren’t known for being easily impressed (especially by adults, even moreso by their teachers), their reactions spoke volumes. Here I was, only-ing my 12 slow miles in the cold because I didn’t even run a half-marathon that day, and yet a bunch of middle-schoolers thought that same 12 miles was ridiculously long.

Other runners have nothing but positive support for me. Same with my family. But among my running friends, I constantly push myself to keep up–in my mind my performance is average at best. Yet a wide-eyed “whoa!” from a teenager shook up my worldview a little. I’m constantly reminding them not to preface their comments with statements like, “This is probably the wrong answer, but…” that downplay their importance. I tell them to speak their opinions with confidence, not offer caveats.

Caveats like only.

Guess I need to take my own advice now and then.

I almost forgot to write a title for this post.

I’ve been a scatterbrain this week.

When I met my training group Tuesday, I realized I had forgotten my Garmin. On Thursday, I left my blinky smiley face and my ankle light on the kitchen table. So last night, I set out everything I’d need for 12 miles in the cold this morning. And when I got to Rogue, I couldn’t find my flip belt or my backup Spibelt.

I’d worn two shirts, figuring that’d be comfortable given the temperature. But once I realized I only had the tiny pocket on the back of my running tights for my phone, inhaler, gels, etc. I had to regroup. I had a windbreaker with pockets, but that would be too warm with two shirts, so I took off the base layer shirt and stuffed everything in my jacket pockets. Except my chapstick–I forgot that, which I realized about a half-mile into the run. Ugh!

The first mile we ran directly into the wind. My left ear started to hurt. At the first water stop, one off the coaches was handing out tissues, and my running partner shared her lip balm. We turned into the neighborhood where houses blocked the wind for a mile or so, which helped my ear. We wound around residential streets, up and down hills, then eventually reached one of the main roads. The wind had changed direction, and we ran into it for the next two miles.

At the six-mile mark, my friend and I split up. She has a half-marathon next weekend and only wanted to run ten today, while I had committed to 12. It was difficult not to turn around with her, but I knew I’d be annoyed with myself if I bailed on the longer distance.

I turned on my ESPN podcasts and got caught up on the week in college football as I plodded along. This neighborhood has its own airstrip, and I watched a small plane take off. But I didn’t see many people out and about in the cold. A dog and a horse, yes. An occasional runner. But judging from the fireplace smells, I think most people were tucked inside their cozy homes. And when I reached the main road again, guess what? Ran right into the wind. Quite the contrast to the cozy-home thing.

Finally, I finished 12 miles–the first time I’ve run more than ten since the Austin Half Marathon in February. Other than stopping for water, and once to answer a phone call from home, I ran the whole thing. Even without my friend to keep me honest! I’m good at chasing her, but on my own I’ve occasionally succumbed to walk breaks. Not this time though! And more good news: the last couple of ten-mile runs, I’ve felt soreness in my hips and quads as early as five miles, and I’m aching by the end of the run. Today, even with the cold temperatures, I got to mile eight or nine before I noticed some minor soreness. Yeah, I was cold and I was dragging a bit at the end, but I felt pretty good.

What felt better? My car’s heated seats on the drive home.

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I’m pretty sure I made it home with all of my accessories and gear, so maybe my bout with forgetfulness is over.

Dark

After the time change, it’s getting dark much earlier. My Tuesday-Thursday runs with my training group don’t just finish after dark–they pretty much start in the dark. But in Texas, we train throughout the winter because our big distance races are in January and February–there’s no avoiding dark winter evening runs if you’re preparing for one of these events.

Our coaches have stressed the need to wear reflective gear and lights, and we have taken it to heart. Draped in headlamps, reflectors, blinking bracelets and anklets, reflective smiley faces, we look like running Christmas trees.

Not actual size

Still, I don’t always think drivers see me. And sometimes I think they see me, then actually aim for me.

I do everything I’m supposed to: I wear a hat with white LEDs on the front and red flashing lights on the back, my reflective smiley face, a blinking anklet, a white flashing light on my ponytail, plus the built-in reflective strips on my clothing and shoes. I run facing traffic, I turn down the headphones and pay attention, all that stuff. But I don’t always run where there are sidewalks so at times I need to run on the asphalt. Drivers don’t seem to like that–more than once I’ve felt that a driver purposely veered closer to me. It’s scary as hell when I’m hugging the curb or edge of the road and an oncoming car drifts toward me; it’s even worse in the dark.

And then there are the drivers who bright-light me. It’s like that spaceship from Close Encounters of the Third Kind is coming my way.

Turn off your brights please!

Another terrifying aspect of road running is distracted drivers. During the day, since I’m running facing traffic, I can see that approximately every third driver is either talking on the phone, holding their phones in front of their faces texting or whatever, or looking into their laps, presumably at their phones.

I pay attention to my driving and I still managed to be surprised by a deer carcass (yuck) when I changed lanes in the dark the other night. What about these folks whose phones glow from the steering wheel as they drive through the neighborhood? They’re watching small illuminated screens six inches in front of their faces, effectively blinding them to what’s outside their windshields. Kids, pets, and pedestrians are all invisible to a driver focused on his phone at night. There aren’t enough blinky lights in the world to make me visible to this kind of driver.

Austin has a no-texting-and-driving law already, and a stricter cellphone ban goes into effect January 1st, but I do most of my training outside the city where the law doesn’t reach and common sense on this issue clearly is lacking.

What’s a runner to do, short of dressing like this to make sure drivers see me?

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