Evaluation

I don’t normally run very far on Sundays, but last Saturday I missed my long run, so instead I ran seven miles on the concrete path around the lacrosse fields the next day. I hadn’t done that in a while, so it was a nice change of scenery.

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Because Texas

After I finished, I wondered if perhaps I’d made a tactical error running seven miles the night before school started. But even though I was on my feet a lot the first couple of days, I didn’t feel any ill effects from pushing my long run to Sunday night.

Today it was back to normal–Sara and I met at 6am to run ten miles. I am not a fan of this route, but the temps were a little cooler and it’s getting light a little later, so it could have been worse. The hills sucked, but we ran them–albeit slowly.

Three miles in.

Three miles in

Ever since that Post-Race Incident last December, I’ve been experimenting with fueling options–different gels, Sport Beans, you name it. And the Sport Beans work pretty well, but then I read an article about carrying actual food for mid-run sustenance. I know that’s kinda common for endurance events, but I thought maybe it could work for me as well. So twice now I’ve run ten miles with pretzels (the little sticks about the size of toothpicks) and Fig Newtons, plus the Sport Beans as a backup. The first time I also brought raisins, but I forgot them this morning.

I ate a few pretzels at each water stop–roughly every two miles–and a Fig Newton at the halfway point. I had a few pretzels left over and ate them when I finished my run. I know it’s difficult to prove a negative (what will help me NOT feel like shit at the end of a long race?) but so far, I feel like my hippie, crunchy-granola plan has been successful. No queasiness or Gatorade Re-Appearance. So I’ve got that going for me.

I also enjoyed watching my Vivofit step counter climb to 25,000 before 10am. Let’s not discuss the fact that I’ve only managed another 1000 since then, ‘kay?

Anyway, compared to this time last year, I’m really pleased with my progress. My summer Fit to Run classes and Fitness Blender workouts helped me drop more than ten pounds and wear Those Jeans again. I ran ten miles twice in August–slowly, but considering the summer heat, I consider just doing it a victory. And I still have six weeks before the Army Ten-Miler. Official training starts after Labor Day!

More than a game

Eleven years ago this month, I went to the dermatologist to have a funky blotch on my thigh checked out. It had been there since college, about the diameter of a pencil eraser. It never changed in size or appearance or looked suspicious as those things go, but a friend had to have some spots of melanoma removed, and she encouraged everyone she met to get checked out. So I thought I’d go to the doctor like a grown-up.

She biopsied a chunk of it using some kind of punch that left a deep-ish hole the shape and diameter of the ink tube in a ball point pen. I didn’t know what kind of result I expected, but there’s no way I could have predicted what it turned out to be.

Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis.

My doctor called a few days later and explained that she’d never seen anyone with this particular diagnosis before, and she asked me to come back in so she could re-examine it, then remove the rest of it. She also warned me not to Google LCH–it primarily affects children, and it’s almost 100% fatal for them. But in adults, it’s practically harmless. I had a little spot on my upper thigh–in kids, those lesions take over their bones and bodies. (seriously, don’t Google it.)

My doctor removed the rest of the blotch along with some of the surrounding skin and tissue and closed it up with seven stitches. The resulting scar is about an inch and a half long, and after a round of steroid treatment, that was pretty much that. She suggested I have occasional blood tests to monitor liver values just to be sure nothing unusual shows up, but otherwise it really needed little follow-up. In fact, I mostly forgot about it over the years.

But Thursday, a friend of mine asked if I was interested in playing in a charity softball tournament to benefit a foundation called Haleycurls for Hope. Among other things, they decorate children’s rooms at Dell Children’s Medical Center and help families who have sick children.

I haven’t hit a ball with a bat in … decades? so I wasn’t sure I was brave enough. But my friend assured me it was all for fun and a good cause. So I clicked on the link she sent me and learned that the foundation is named after a little girl who died at age three, of LCH.

So I agreed to play.

Our first game was at 11, but I had gotten there earlier (yay for a parking space!) and hung out watching the early games.

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And then it was our turn. I hoped they’d put me somewhere I could do the least damage. I mean, I can run but I don’t trust my hand-eye coordination with a bat or a glove. At first that was left field, but about halfway through I switched to right field since there were fewer left-handed batters. Unfortunately one of them hit to me, and although I fielded it, it hit my forearm before landing in my glove. For a while, my skin very clearly showed an imprint of a softball. Soft, my ass. Seven hours later, it’s still a little red.

I got on base once because in co-ed rules if the pitcher walks a male batter, the female batter up next gets to walk too (sexist? ok, but I’ll take first base anyway, thanks). I didn’t get past second, but hey, it was a start. We lost that game pretty badly. I connected the bat with the pitch a couple of times, but let’s just say I am not a power hitter.

The second game went much better. I got on base with my own walk (not from the guy ahead of me) and ended up scoring a run. And I stayed out of trouble in right field. We won by eight or ten runs, I think.

The third game (it was a double-elimination tournament), I moved to catcher where I was advised, “Don’t get hit in the head with a bat.” Wise. This game went down to the wire. We had a lead, they kept subbing in pinch runners, and they had the ball at the end. We lost by one run.

But we had a good time, and it was for a great cause.

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I felt like I did a lot of standing around, but my Vivofit counted 11,600 steps and my legs are kinda sore, I guess from periodic sprints from base to base or after the ball. A different kind of running than I’m used to, with a couple of bruises to boot. Definitely out of my comfort zone, but I’m glad I did it.

I think I’ll wear my participant shirt to B’s triathlon tomorrow. Glad it’s his race, not mine!

Time flies

Monday was the last day of my summer vacation.

gone

Tuesday and Wednesday, we sat through meetings and trainings all day–rotating sessions on whatever new district initiatives, programs, and systems we’ll be expected to wade through this year.

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After I got home Tuesday, I attempted to run my 4.25-mile loop, but it was hot and I was sluggish. I think I stopped for water six or seven times–the traffic light out and back, the park out and back, and a couple more times along the way. After I got home, I had a headache and felt kind of funky–I’m pretty sure I overheated. Wednesday after work I completed a Fitness Blender workout, mostly lower-body stuff in my air-conditioned living room. My back was stiff from sitting around most of the day, and this helped loosen it up.

Thursday, I spent seven or eight hours performing various kinds of manual labor–arranging furniture, unpacking boxes, and restoring some semblance of order to my classroom. Three huge, heavy boxes of books had been stored on top of a bookcase four feet off the ground, and after struggling for a while, I (all 5′ 2″ of me) had to admit I couldn’t move them to the floor by myself. With all the trips up and down the stairs, moving everything around, plus the previous day’s workout, my quads were a bit sore by the time I got home.

But it had just rained, and the temperature hovered around 75. At 4:00 in the afternoon. In August.

sorcery

So I took advantage of the 20-degree drop and headed out for that 4.25-mile loop again. This time, I ran about a minute per mile faster, and I only stopped three times–the traffic light out and back, and the water fountain my second time through the park. Despite the humidity (and the fact that my headphones died within the first mile) it felt … easier.

Tomorrow, instead of running double-digit miles, I’m playing in a charity softball tournament. I say “playing” like I’ve put on a softball glove since elementary school. But it’s for fun and a good cause, so what the hell. Sunday, B is participating in a youth triathlon, and Monday morning the madness begins again.

But for now, my Vivofit says I’ve been sitting here too long. Time flies!

I like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain

A mile or so into our double-digit run this morning, I commented that it would be so much easier if we could do the whole thing in the dark. I mean, once the sun comes up, the heat just sucks the life out of me. But we lucked out–even after sunrise, cloud cover kept us from baking.

Our route required no mental expenditure–after the first 1.25 of the usual zigzagging toward the high school, we made one right turn … and that was it, at least for me. It dead-ended about four miles later. Sara wanted to run 12 so she turned left and kept going while I stopped for water and a snack before turning back.

Ever since my disastrous hydration and fueling problems last year, I’ve experimented with several different options. I’ve found that Sport Beans work pretty well, but last week I came across an article suggesting regular food as an alternative to gels. I really had nothing to lose, so I decided to try it today. I packed a small container of fig newtons, pretzels, and raisins. I also tossed in the Sport Beans just in case. I took a few bites at three miles, five miles, and seven miles.

With three miles to go, I noticed raindrops spotting the pavement. Maybe a quarter-mile later, the skies opened up, torrential rain causing rivers of water to cascade down the street. Within a minute or so, I was completely drenched–I was glad I’d worn grey and black and put my phone in a ziplock bag–and my shoes squished. It was glorious!

The downpour kept up for the next mile and a half. Instead of baking in the sun, I had cooled off and even felt something of a second wind. But if you’re doing the math, you know 7.25 + 1.5 does not equal ten miles.

Gradually, the rain let up. I took a walk break and ate another fig newton. And then, as I stopped at the last water cooler (one. more. mile to go), the sun came out. My sunglasses, which had been on top of my head the whole time, were speckled with raindrops. My shirt was soaked too, so I could only smear the rain around. I left them on top of my head and ran the rest of the way back squinting a bit. But I finished with nary a fuel or hydration problem.

After convincing my new Garmin Vivofit that I am a lazy slacker with 2345 total steps (the mail delivering it came late yesterday) I think today’s ten-mile run totally confused it by reaching 24,000 steps before 9am today. But now the Red Bar of Inactivity is glaring at me, telling me need to get up and move around. No rest for the weary, I guess.

I hope it doesn’t expect me to put in that kind of effort every day. ‘Cause I could really use a pina colada and some escape time on the couch watching Netflix.

pina coladas

Jumped on the bandwagon

The fitness tracker bandwagon, that is.

I’ve thought about it for a while, but a couple of things held me back. One, I wear a watch (a custom-made one M gave me for my birthday five years ago) on my left wrist and a bracelet on my right–no upper appendages available. And two, I already have a Garmin GPS watch for running–adding another gadget seemed superfluous. Expensive too–these suckers cost around $100.

But M has one I bought him a year or so ago, and every evening I hear him announce, “I’m a Fitbit overacheiever!” because the device has told him so. He’s the opposite of a technology early-adopter, so if he likes it, I wondered if maybe I should reconsider. Still, I never really got past the “thinking about it” stage.

But I was poking around Amazon the other day and ran across some discounted devices, both Fitbit and Garmin Vivofit. I guess new versions have recently come out, so the older ones are on sale. Even better, I found a Vivofit further discounted to under $50. It’s bright blue, but $25 cheaper than the rest of the Vivofits. I tossed in a $3 black replacement band and called it good.

Thanks to the magic of Amazon Prime, the Vivofit arrived today (the extra band probably has to take the slow boat from China). Unfortunately, it was after my 90-minutes of Fitness Blender workouts this morning, so after getting it set up, I’ve managed a grand total of 270 steps.

But tomorrow morning I’m meeting a friend to run ten or eleven miles, so I’ll get to break it in properly.

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Runnin’ with the devil

This is my last full week of summer break, so I’m gonna enjoy a few more days sans alarm clock. That means I get up too late to run, though, so I’ve put it off until it cools down a little.

Central Texas had a mild start to the summer, but the last few weeks, someone’s turned up the temps. And all of those “How to beat the summer heat!” articles in running magazines only state what is brutally obvious to anyone who lives in this region: hydrate often, wear loose clothes, and don’t run in the heat of the day. Maybe this passes for advice in other climates, but in Texas in the summer, we select parking spaces not on proximity to a store’s entrance, but availability of shade. “The heat of the day” pretty much starts with sunrise.

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Yep, still 95* at 9pm.

So for the most part, I’ve been running in the evenings. By 7:30 it’s not really cooler, per se, but at least the sun is low in the sky and not actively baking my skin. I take an electrolyte capsule before I leave, I wear sunscreen and a visor, and I run with water and stop every mile or so. It’s unpleasant, my pace is sluggish, and I end up swimming in sweat. But if I waited for temps below 90*, well, there’s always late September.

My mantra: running with Van Halen in this sauna all summer will pay off in the fall. 

Galveston Gal, part two

After some downtime at our hotel, we changed clothes and headed out to East Beach, the new location for the Galveston Sand Crab Nighttime Beach Run.

I’d done some reconnaissance two weeks ago and knew East Beach had two entrances. The race info hadn’t really specified which one to use, but I knew the southern one had a small free-parking lot, and, always averse to paying for parking, I wanted to try there first, before shelling out $8 for the larger lot. And I was rewarded with quite a few parking options. The soft sand presented a bit of a problem for M’s car, but we found a spot on some of the more compacted sand. No signs of an impending race presented themselves, however, and I became concerned that we should have gone to the other entrance. But B spotted two folks wearing the race shirt walking toward a building a quarter-mile away. I remembered the building from my recon trip–it’s near the second entrance–so we followed.

As we reached the building–restroom, shower, and food facilities for beachgoers–runners wearing race numbers and running shoes mixed with those in swimsuits and flip flops. Someone handed out glow necklaces while the race director announced the kids’ race was about to begin.

The starting area appeared a significant distance from the water (moreso than in years past) , a fact we confirmed with a stroll through dry, fluffy sand. Running one-tenth of a mile isn’t usually a challenge, but I had a feeling snowshoes might be more appropriate footwear for the first and last leg of this race.

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The kids’ race seemed to take forever (I think they ran longer than 1K) and while we waited, I started to wish I’d brought some Sport Beans. Lunch had been many hours ago, and all of a sudden I worried about crashing mid-race. I saw a kids’ race finisher get a bottle of sports drink from a long row of coolers and grabbed one for myself. I drank about half of it and felt like I was good to go.

By 8:30 the sky was dark and it was time to start.

Yep, the first tenth or so felt like running through marshmallows. Or the foam blocks that fill up a rope swing pit at one of those Jumpoline places. Some people–naturally, they were at the front–elected to walk. I found that staying on my tiptoes kept me from sinking quite as far into the sand. I tried not to think about running through this again to the finish line.

Finally, mercifully, I reached the blue lights of the beach police vehicle that marked our right turn. Here, the sand was more densely packed, and after another 100 yards or so, we were running along the water’s edge. I dodged a few sand castles and moats, plodding slowly against the strong headwind. I knew I wouldn’t be running a PR race, but now that I was out of the deeper sand, I felt good.

After a while I watched the returning runners and eventually, amid the bobbing (sometimes blinding) headlamps and flashlights, I spotted M and B. After the turnaround, I decided that Braid Girl was using me as her pacer. Faster than me but unable to sustain it, she’d run past me, walk until I caught up, and run again. I thought I’d ditched her at the water stop, but alas she reappeared.

I came up behind a family walking six or seven wide, taking up the full width of the compacted sand. I couldn’t really get around them, so I tried to dodge between two of them. As I did, their dog (which I hadn’t seen until now) swerved in front of me. Only my ninja-like sideways leap saved me from tripping on the leash and crashing to the sand.

The blue lights of the turn toward the finish (and the loose sand) flashed ahead, and Braid Girl still shadowed me.

I made the turn ahead of her, then felt my Chapstick fall out of my pocket. I hesitated, then grabbed it. The sand became impossible to navigate even on tiptoe. A group of tween girls leapt up and ran with someone nearby, shouting encouragement. I didn’t know how close Braid Girl was–I just kept churning ahead. The last 50 yards or so, the sand compacted again and traction improved. I could see M and B cheering, and I sped up, knowing now, under the lights of the finish line, that Braid Girl was behind me.

I crossed the timing mat grinning like an idiot–definitely the most genuine finish-line smile I’ve ever shown. Usually I’m grimacing, trying to catch my breath. This night, I felt strong. I had fun. And I beat Braid Girl.