What a difference a day makes

Yesterday’s run started about 8:30am–it was almost 80 degrees and sunny, with 90% humidity. Swampy. And miserable. Afterwards I spent some quality time with the foam roller, but even two hours later my legs still felt sore and tired. Then we stayed out late last night (three words: high school reunion) and slept late this morning. So it was 11am when I thought about my scheduled recovery run.

And then I walked outside.

It had rained on and off all night–we’d gotten doused getting from the bar (of course my class held its reunion at a bar) to the car–and it was still drizzling a bit this morning. But it was no more than 65 degrees. Such a difference from yesterday’s conditions!

I was only supposed to run for 20 minutes, but the temperature was so nice and I found a good rhythm so I ended up going a bit longer and faster. Even if it didn’t do much for my overall training, it helped return my state of mind to something more positive, that’s for sure.

I have two more long-run Saturdays before the Army 10-Miler. I’m thinking of trying for seven on Saturday and nine the following Saturday. The longest I’ve done since July is six–does that seem like a reasonable plan?


Keeping Austin Weird, and other observations

Austin prides itself on its weirdness. But I think if your city has to print shirts with a weirdness slogan, it’s already too late. But still, it’s possible to find unusual things on a morning run around the hike and bike trail:

  • a giant purple pooper scooper sculpture painted with a reminder to pick up after your dog
  • the UT rowing teams gliding across the water
  • construction crews building stages for the Austin City Limits music festival in Zilker Park
  • a huge rat
  • a dead tree art thing in the middle of the lake
  • a guy wearing a fedora while walking his dog
  • a Great Dane the size of a pony
  • groups or pairs of people walking slowly, hogging half the trail
  • a couple of runners carrying military packs
  • a woman driving (riding?) a Segway while texting
  • I didn’t really see them, but I could hear the bats under the Congress Avenue bridge

We were supposed to participate in a charity walk downtown this morning, so I didn’t run with Rogue. But we were meeting a friend, and after we’d already left, she texted me that she was sick and couldn’t make it. So M and B did the 5K walk and I hit the hike and bike trail. I hoped to run six miles, but my legs were tired, I ran out of water, and it was so humid  that after five I decided I was done.

After last week’s success I was feeling kinda good about my training. But today’s run brought me back down to earth and reminded me that I’m nowhere near ready for the Army Ten-Miler on October 20. Sigh.


My training calendar called for a 20-minute recovery run today, after yesterday’s six miles. So yeah, I raced a 5K instead. Rogue sponsored the race, and Rogue runners got a special shirt, so how could I say no to that?

Go Rogue!

Go Rogue!

But it wouldn’t be easy. Last night B and I went to the Texas-KSU football game, which got a little hairy there at the end. So the adrenaline was pumping well past bedtime. B fell asleep in the car on the way home, and it was after midnight when we crawled into our own beds. Probably not the best scenario for a race the next morning. As I fell asleep, I considered offering to volunteer instead of actually running.

Six-ish hours later, we woke up to positively chilly temperatures–the car thermometer read 59* and dropped to 55* before we even got out of the neighborhood. No rain, no clouds–it was perfect running weather.

We’ve run this race the previous two years, but this year with Rogue as the big sponsor, it got a lot more publicity and attracted quite a few more runners than in the past. At least 25 of us were Rogues in our matching singlets. Lots of familiar faces, which means I have finally become a Person Who Knows People At Races.

We ran an easy warmup, and then it was time to start. I fired up my race day playlist and set it to shuffle (“Love Somebody” by Maroon 5 kicked things off) as we crossed the starting line. M and B took off to attempt a sub-30 minute finish, and I set my own pace. It was cool, I had my favorite music, and even though I’d run six miles yesterday, I felt good. We turned the corner and Avril Lavigne’s “Here’s to Never Growing Up” gave me the perfect cadence. I felt myself moving almost as if someone else were propelling me–kind of Zen, you know? Of course, it was slightly downhill so that didn’t hurt. But I had a steady, solid pace going and felt really strong. I slowed for the water stop, but kind of wished I hadn’t–I worried it would break the momentum. So I took a couple of gulps of water, tossed it, and kept going.

Most of the race winds through a residential neighborhood, and a couple of families had come outside to cheer us on. But mostly it was quiet. The faster runners (like this guy–I saw him on his way back as I was hitting the first mile marker) were way ahead, the slower runners and dog-walkers way behind. The crowd had spread out a bit, so it was just me and Bon Jovi, Barenaked Ladies, Train, more Maroon 5, and “Danger Zone” from Top Gun.

Last year, I’d spent much of the race passing a mom and her son–they’d run by me, I’d pass them when they slowed to walk, repeat. About a mile into today’s race, I realized I was behind them again. But by the mile two marker, I’d left them behind. This made me irrationally happy. But a woman in pink had taken on that role this year, and I was determined to stay ahead of her the last mile.

Normally I take advantage of the water stops for brief walk breaks, but as I rounded the corner I realized I didn’t want to slow down. Let me say that again: I skipped the water stop because I didn’t want to slow down. Besides, slowing down would allow that woman in pink to pass me again.

Remember the downhill Zen feeling I had earlier? Well, I had to go the opposite way up that street, and it was decidedly less Zen. But as I was losing steam, Katy Perry’s “Roar” came on. I kid you not, this song pushed me up that street to the last turn. It’s cheesy bubblegum pop, but it was just what I needed right then.

I intentionally hadn’t been paying attention to my overall time on my Garmin–just pace and distance. But I realized that I’d started off strong and never really let up, except for that first water stop. I knew I was having a good race (even though the woman in pink had gotten in front of me again) and the finish line was in sight, maybe .25 to go. Katy finished roaring and those first distinctive notes of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin‘” came through my headphones.

This race ends on a slight incline, but even though I’d pushed pretty hard over three miles, I still felt strong. Rogues cheered from the sidelines, and I spotted B and M near the finish line. I saw M do a double-take at the time, so I suspected I might be finishing faster than any of us expected. I got my high-five from B and broke into a sprint.

If you look at my Garmin graph, my splits are almost dead-even all the way through. Except that last tenth. The blue line shoots up like the Matterhorn. Not only did I run three miles at a consistently faster pace than ever before, I also had enough left to sprint the last 20 yards or so!

I’ll be honest–I have no idea what happened to the woman in pink. That last tenth, my vision narrowed to my Rogue friends and my family cheering me on, and the finish line. I didn’t see a race clock as I finished and stopped my Garmin. I walked a bit, trying to shake off that foggy, slightly nauseated feeling that comes with physical effort while I waited for M and B to catch up. B asked if I wanted water, and only as he led me away did I look at the overall time on my Garmin.


Not only was it a new PR, I’d beaten my old one by almost a minute and a half. Roar, indeed.

Her Flintstones top probably isn’t good running attire, though.


And on the seventh day…

Last Saturday, I kicked off my half-marathon training with four miles. On Sunday, I ran a short 20-minute recovery run. Monday was core class, Tuesday I went to half-marathon training. Wednesday I swam laps for 30 minutes, and Thursday I ran for 40 minutes. On Friday, I fell over in exhaustion. A busy seven days.

The temperature started with a six this morning--I busted out the long pants.

The temperature started with a six this morning–I busted out the long pants

And this morning, I got up and started it all over again.

I told B to wake me at 7:15–technically, the morning Rogue run starts at 7, but I knew a lot of the fall marathoners had double-digits on the schedule. Since I only planned six, I figured I could get a later start and still get back before some of the long long runners. But alas, I heard the elderly dog tripping around at 5:45, and so I got up early anyway.

It was still dark when I set out from Rogue, but I wore my spiffy new hat with built-in lights, so I was good to go. Yesterday, storms rolled through all day, but this morning it was dry and quiet and cool. I felt pretty good and cruised along comfortably for about two miles.

The road goes on forever...

The road goes on forever…

Just after I made the turn onto Brushy Creek Road, I felt a spasm in my back. Oh hell, not this again. So I slowed a bit and tried to loosen it up. I hate this stretch of road as it is–now I have weird pains that screw up my momentum? I walked for a bit, ran some more, and eventually it felt decent enough that I could mostly ignore it.

At three miles out, I stopped to stretch my calves and  hip flexors, then turned back. But oops, I forgot to restart my Garmin. This is getting to be a recurring problem with me, isn’t it? I realized it about a quarter-mile down the road. D’oh.

I finished with six miles, some walking, mostly slow running. I am okay with that because last week I only ran four, so even though I bumped up my mileage a bit, I took it easy to offset the increase. But my 10-mile race is a month away, and I’d really like to hit that 10-mile mark beforehand–I haven’t run that distance in a while, so running 10 before the race would build my confidence a bit.

They see me rollin'

They see me rollin’

After I got home, I fixed my coffee and spent some quality time with the foam roller. My 16-year-old dog supervised. Which reminds me, we have a charity 5K tomorrow, benefitting the Williamson County Humane Society. Last year I PRd in this race in a pouring rainstorm. I expect neither rain nor PR tomorrow, but it should be a good time.

A day in the life

My friend at You Signed Up for What? wrote about a day in her life, which inspired me to do the same.

My day starts with the alarm at 5:45am. I’m not a morning person, but I hate sitting in traffic even more than I hate mornings. So I get to work at the ridiculous hour of 6:45. I drink coffee in the car, then make another cup at my desk. The AC hasn’t even kicked on yet, but here I am, wading through emails and stacks of tests. This morning my son eats his breakfast while making a Fortune Wookiee. He brushes his teeth and heads off to school, a short walk up the hill.

There's a whole series about the adventures of Origami Yoda, Darth Paper, and Fortune Wookie.

There’s a whole series about the adventures of Origami Yoda, Darth Paper, and Fortune Wookiee.

For the next hour, I get organized for the day. A student comes in to make up a test he missed (hooray–he showed initiative!) and I pop in the DVD for the Jackie Robinson movie “42.” I’m teaching an excerpt of his autobiography tomorrow and want to use a clip of the film to bring the man to life for these 12-year-olds. I leave it running in my laptop’s background while I find a source for printer ink and update my class website.

This will get progressively messier throughout the day.

This will get progressively messier throughout the day.

Turns out choosing the film clip is going to be more difficult than I imagined. The scene I want to use includes Harrison Ford Branch Rickey trying to provoke Robinson, in an effort to test his anger management skills. The deal was, Robinson would face incredible racism, in both words and actions, but he was not allowed to fight back. The courage he demonstrated continues to amaze me. And my students complain when I take off late points. Anyway, I have a dilemma because Rickey uses some, erm, language in the film that does not appear in the excerpt. In theory we should be less concerned that it is in the story and more appalled that it actually happened. But in reality, it’s a PG-13 film (most of my kids are 11-12 at this point in the year) that uses language that is offensive to many people. Not that I don’t hear random curse words in the halls, but still. I don’t settle the issue before my first class arrives.

My students have 15 minutes of free-writing time today. They can write about anything they want, but I always give them a topic they can use if they’d like. Last week it was a picture of Indiana Jones face-to-face with a cobra (we were reading “Rikki-tiki-tavi” that day), and on September 11 it was a picture of the surviving staircase from the World Trade Center. Today it’s two pictures of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London: one taken during the Blitz and one from present-day. I ask them to think about the concept of resilience, and I play quiet classical music in the background.

Welcome to my classroom.

Welcome to my classroom.

The rest of the 90-minute period involves note-taking on some literary concepts and a discussion over “Rikki.” Most students had trouble figuring out the inference at the end–they are very literal at this age–so we worked through that for a while. This class is tiny, and very quiet. Getting them to share their ideas is like pulling teeth. Well maybe that’s not the best analogy, since last week one of my students was so determined to avoid doing what I asked, he actually did pull out a tooth. Ah, life in the seventh grade.

After my first class ends I have a conference period, which on Wednesdays generally means meetings. We try to make these as efficient as possible, but my district likes to throw up many obstacles, usually in the form of extra paperwork. I have tests to grade and copies to make, plus I have to figure out the “42” thing, but today that is not to be.

At lunch, I manage to eat my salad without spilling anything on my white shirt. Go me.

After a 25-minute lunch, I have one high-maintenance class, a 30-minute babysitting advisory, and an advanced class. Afternoons are hectic with no breaks. Hope I didn’t drink too much water with lunch.

It's a fine line between "adequately hydrated  and "bathroom emergency."

It’s a fine line between “adequately hydrated
and “emergency situation.”

Naturally, as students write, Pandora quits working. The kids say they heard it has been blocked by the school’s wi-fi, but since it worked this morning, I don’t know. It’s always something. But teachers are resourceful, and I plug my iPhone into the speakers and connect to Pandora that way. Boom.

I make it through the day without mishap, white shirt or otherwise. B and I get home around 4:15 but we don’t stay long. I have an appointment with my sports therapist at five, and we are going to try lap swimming at the YMCA after that. I went to core class Monday night and half-marathon training last night, so I want to do something that gives my lower body a break. Thirty minutes of laps should do the trick. So we change clothes and head out.

At my appointment, he tweaks my hip flexor and calf muscle, done and done. But it’s right at 5:30, and I start to think maybe the YMCA is gonna be super-crowded with after-work folks. The parking lot looks full, but the pool isn’t too bad. B gets his wristband and jumps in. But unfortunately for me, there’s only one lane for lap swimming–apparently they’re having lessons in the only other marked lane–and two people are already sharing it. So I start swimming along the outside of the last lane, just winging it for a while. My goggles keep filling up with water, though, and I stop a couple of times to fix them. After a while, the lap lane clears up, but pretty quickly two guys replace the two women who exited. At this point I’ve been kicked a bunch of times by random swimmers, since I’m not actually in a lap lane, so I duck under the ropes and join the two guys in the lane. But the etiquette confounds me. The two guys aren’t following each other in a rectangle (like I’d always done on lap swims at other pools, which allows for more than two people to share a lane) but are each going back and forth on their side of the lane. I manage to dodge them both, but I must have annoyed one of them because he goes back to swimming on the outside of the marked lane. Seriously, what IS the etiquette here??

I swim what feels like a strong 30 minutes–mostly freestyle, a few laps of breaststroke. It’s good that I finish when I do–as I get out, the lifeguards add a “Class Only” sign to the lap lane. Note to self: in the future, finish before the big group lessons start.

The rest of the evening goes quickly–dinner, showers, homework check. I still have a stack of ungraded papers, but I decide they can wait. I pop in the DVD for “42,” returning to that job I started twelve hours ago.

According to Douglas Adams, 42 is also the answer to life, the universe, and everything.

According to Douglas Adams, 42 is also the answer to life, the universe, and everything.

By 8:00, I narrow it down to two scenes. I’ll show one as an introduction and one after they’ve finished reading the excerpt. That done, my work day is officially over.

Because my half-marathon training has started again, I’m looking at a six-day-a-week schedule. In order to keep up with a full time job, my family, and my training, I can’t skimp on sleep. B will be in bed by 8:30 and I’ll crash by 9:30. It’s crazy, but it’s the only way. If I were to post another picture, it’d be of the insides of my eyelids.

And that’s a day in the life of me.

And so it begins… again.

This week marked the beginning of my third training program with Rogue Running. And unfortunately, I missed the first session because it was the same night as my school’s Back-to-School Night. And I was so exhausted from this week, I almost decided to sleep in this morning. Wouldn’t that have made an awesome first impression on my new coach?

But that’s not in my nature, so I went to bed early last night and dutifully showed up for the 7am run. Since I’ve decided to follow the intermediate program instead of the beginner one this time, that meant a four-miler this morning.

Sunrise over the high school football stadium

Sunrise over the high school football stadium

It was cool–in the low 70s–when I left the house. Since I’ve been running mostly in the evenings (in 95+ degrees) the lower temps felt great. I ran the whole two miles out (even up the hills!) and while I was definitely slow and rusty, I felt pretty good.

At some point on the way back, probably when I was fiddling with my phone to change podcasts, I must have touched the stop/start button on my Garmin. I realized it when I was about a quarter-mile from the finish, so while I know I ran four miles, my stupid Garmin thought I only completed about 3.25. While this particular incident was probably user error, my watch has been driving me crazy lately with its wonky behavior. I really don’t want to replace a $200 device after a year and a half, but I also don’t want to rely on something that’s becoming unreliable, either. Yarg.

But I finished strong, picking up the pace down the last stretch. First week, done. Now bring on college football!

Do you have a running watch you love?

How do you spend your Saturday after you finish your long run?

Galveston Sand Crab 5K

Last year, this race was in August so it was pretty easy for us to spend a couple of days doing the tourist thing in Galveston. This year, they pushed it back a month–the idea was that hotel rooms would be more plentiful (and affordable) after Labor Day. While this is no doubt true, when I first heard about the date change, I wasn’t sure we would be able to make the trip since it was after school started. But in the end, we decided we could drive down Saturday morning and make a quick overnight of it.

We arrived on the island around lunchtime and headed straight to packet pickup. From there we dropped our stuff off at our hotel and walked down the seawall to Jimmy’s, one of the few remaining structures built over the water. The food and the views were excellent.

After lunch we met my friend J who had driven in from Houston to run her first 5K with us. My ten-year old is a sponge for all things WWII aircraft, so the four of us headed to the Lone Star Flight Museum. Earlier we had seen a few vintage planes fly overhead, and as we stepped into the museum–which is also a working hangar since most of these old planes fly a couple of times a week–we saw the flight crews returning the P-51 Mustang and T-6 Texan to their spots on the floor.

B raced around like a tour guide, telling us all about each plane. There was a B-17 Flying Fortress, a B-24 Liberator, a B-25 Mitchell (which was painted like one of Dootlittle’s Raiders), a P-47 Thunderbolt, a F4-U Corsair, the PBY Catalina (a sea plane whose fuselage was basically a boat hull), a Stearman biplane, an SPD Dauntless, a TBM Avenger, and an A-1 Skyraider. He explained each plane, what it was known for and what it could do, and insisted on having his picture taken with each one. He was in heaven.

The dark stripe near the bottom marks the water line from Hurricane Ike.

The dark stripe near the bottom marks the water line from Hurricane Ike.

One of the most fascinating displays, however, was an American flag hanging on the wall, the bottom third marred by a dark, muddy stripe. Turns out that was the water line from Hurricane Ike. I thought of these priceless historical relics underwater–a mile inland–and stopped to look at their display of pictures taken right after the storm. I think they flew many of the planes out ahead of the storm, but it was obvious from the pictures that some stayed behind. We’d seen some damage–broken windows, mostly–on the Catalina, and I wondered if perhaps that was storm damage rather than old age. If its boat hull floated around the hangar in eight feet of water, it could have bumped into all manner of equipment. Upstairs in the gift shop, they’d painted an Ike waterline on a column–it was as high as B’s shoulder. Amazing.

Water spout

Water spout

From there, we decided it was time to play miniature golf. Magic Carpet Golf is one of those iconic places with giant obstacles shaped like conch shells, pirate ships, and flamingoes. I got a hole in one about halfway through the round, but the windmill proved to be a challenge for all of us.

The clouds had appeared threatening all day, in the distance. But as we played, they creeped closer. And then a water spout developed. Living in Tornado Alley, I was kind of freaked out by this sight. But over the water, evidently, they’re no danger to us on land. Still, freaky. And we began to wonder if these storms would impact our race that evening too.

After we finished our game, we headed back to the hotel to get organized for the Sand Crab. We’d planned to take the hotel shuttle to Porretto Beach, waaaaaay at the other end of the island, because I’d remembered parking had been so difficult–and expensive–last year. And since the city had begun charging for parking along the seawall, driving held little appeal when a free shuttle was available.



We packed up our flashlights (the weather had cleared up, but I tossed my phone into a ziplock just in case) and boarded the shuttle van. As we walked across the sand to the starting area, we noticed one crucial difference between last year and this year: the rain had packed down the sand, making it much easier to traverse. Excellent–no marshmallow sand this year! We took the obligatory pictures, and B built a couple of sand castles while we waited.

At 8pm, the kids’ race started. A girl of about eleven smoked the pack, running the kids’ mile in under six minutes. The littlest competitor finished about twenty minutes later. They were cute. And then it was time for the runners’ briefing. Unlike last year where they apparently expected us to run on the fluffy sand in the middle of the beach (but we all ran down at the shoreline anyway) the race director told us the official course actually ran along the water. We were told the water stop would be at mile one (so we’d hit it again on the way back, at mile two) and we must cross the timing mat at the turnaround, which would be clearly identifiable in the dark. And then it was go time.

I started my Garmin a few steps before the starting line and quickly veered off towards the water. I settled into a comfortable pace, the wind in my face and the Gulf to my right. The beach was much more deserted this year, although a few families remained on the beach after dark. Occasional obstacles appeared in my flashlight beam–plastic buckets and shovels, a couple of sand castles and moats, and once, a pole from some abandoned fence or pier. Somewhere along the first mile, I saw a guy taking a picture of something white on the sand, and as I got closer, I realized it was a dead shark. It was about 18 inches long, but still. Shark.

My Garmin beeped one mile, but no water stop was in sight. Finally, around 1.25 it appeared in my lights. I slowed to grab a cup, but I knew if I walked too long I’d be doomed so I gulped some water and kept going. Then I started seeing returning runners–I saw M, then got a high five from B. I didn’t see J, but later she said she saw me. And still no 5K turnaround. I kept wondering if my Garmin was acting up again because by the time I reached the halfway point, I was past the expected 1.55 miles.

It seemed to take FOREVER to get back to the water stop. I passed a few people, and a few people passed me. I felt kind of gratified that others were still on their way out, although the woman who stopped me to ask where the turnaround was kind of irritated me. Dude, keep going until you see it, then turn around.

At the three-mile mark, my Garmin beeped its usual acknowledgement. I was pushing hard, trying to finish strong, but I was damned tired and the finish line was nowhere in sight. I started to think someone had mis-measured the course. An entire song (Maroon 5’s “Love Somebody” if you’re curious) played on my ipod before I spotted the finish line and began to veer away from the water’s edge.

My compadres had finished ahead of me and were cheering at the finish line. I think I actually smiled as I crossed, thanks to them. As the volunteers removed their timing chip from my shoe, I looked at my Garmin. It read 3.27 miles. Um, what? I caught up with the others–they too had been shocked at what appeared to be slower-than-expected times. I could chalk mine up to the quirky things my Garmin had been doing, but not when three of us had the same issue. Something was definitely off. But I’d have to wait until I got home to compare my Garmin data from last year’s race, and to check the race organizers’ website after official results were posted.

We got in line for our BBQ–yum–and tried to find somewhere to sit. Last year they’d set up tables and chairs, but this year we were on our own. We were sweaty–sitting on the sand did not seem smart. So we ended up sitting on the big rope that separated the parking lot from the beach, with our plates propped on what appeared to be a seaweed dune. As we ate, we watched an actual sand crab scuttle along underneath the BBQ caterers’ pickup truck. That was kind of cool.

After we ate, we called the hotel to have the shuttle pick us back up. It took more than 45 minutes, and by the time we got back to the hotel and took showers, it was close to midnight. Needless to say, we all slept well.

Beach wedding!

Beach wedding!

After breakfast, we went to the beach down by the Pleasure Pier. We swam, collected shells, and watched a beach wedding. But after an hour or so, the huge thunderstorm we had seen off in the distance rolled in, ending our morning on the beach. We packed up and checked out of the hotel, then found a place to eat lunch on the patio. After a stop at Rita’s for gelato, it was time to head home.

This evening, I had a chance to compare my Garmin data from this year’s race and last year’s. A couple of things stand out. First, it says last year’s race was only 2.94 miles to this year’s 3.27, but I finished both races with EXACTLY the same time.

2012 vs 2013

2012 vs 2013

Then I looked at the maps. I zoomed in close enough to see the same text or landmark on both, and it’s obvious that this year’s race was longer–the 2013 turnaround was much further down the beach. So even though I’d taken it easy this summer, I was able to improve my overall pace. Not bad.

But while we’re miffed about the distance (and that my inaccurate time will live on the internet forever), we really just came down to run this race and have fun. And that we did. Thanks, Galveston, for another great trip.