Rocks in my shoes

My last few Saturday long runs have been mentally challenging–miserable weather, long stretches of road with no end in sight, oh and miserable weather. But today’s run was more physically challenging because about half of my 12 miles involved uneven gravel trail. I know many people prefer the lower-impact of trails over concrete sidewalks, but for one thing, I tend to get rocks in my shoes. And two, I find that to get sufficient traction on the trail, my body has to work harder, and therefore tires more quickly. That’s what happened today.

I like this route pretty well, from a mental standpoint. It has five or six distinct segments, which breaks the distance up into smaller pieces in my head. The tradeoff, though, is that for a 12-mile run, the middle six miles happen on the gravel trail. I’d hoped to test out my ability to maintain my race pace on this run, but on the gravel, I just couldn’t do it.

Regardless, it was a pretty day, albeit a lot colder than I had anticipated. I warmed up quickly though, and I got to the Brushy Creek Dam just as the steam that had been rising from the lake floated gently away, leaving a perfect glassy surface behind.

IMG_7059I passed a few familiar faces on the out-and-back as I plodded along ever-so-slowly, and my fifth Stuff You Should Know podcast ended just as I hit the alley behind Rogue. I finished much more slowly than I wanted, and my legs and hips felt really sore, but I didn’t dwell on it because I had plans to meet friends for lunch.

Last night, knowing I had a long morning in front of me, I’d posted on Facebook asking if anyone wanted to meet for Mexican food after my run. I ended up making plans with a couple of long-time friends (we go back to 7th grade) to meet at El Arroyo. This is pretty much my favorite restaurant on the planet, so thoughts of Enchiladas Del Mar motivated me to finish my run and get home–I didn’t even stop at the Starbucks a few doors down from Rogue. And that’s saying something.

Good company, hot coffee, those enchiladas, and now a fire in the fireplace pretty much nailed my recovery.


Do you prefer running on trails or more stable surfaces like concrete or asphalt?

How the hell do you keep from getting rocks in your shoes?

What’s your favorite post-run recovery food? Activity?


Friday Five: 2013 gratitude edition

I know, Thanksgiving was last month. But still, as 2013 winds down, I want to write about things I’ve been grateful for this year. Kind of a gratitude-meets-year-in-review post. So at the risk of sounding like an Oscar acceptance speech, here goes.

  1. 2004


    My dog lived to see her 17th Christmas with us. When B was born, Shadow was already seven or eight years old; we figured he wouldn’t really get to know his dog or remember her when he got older. After all, the vet said she had some problem with her kidneys and wouldn’t live to be very old. But she has defied all expectations (including having major surgery at age 16) and is still with us. She’s unsteady on her feet and is a bit senile, but we’re grateful for every day she wakes up.

  2. The Texas Capitol and 17,000 of my closest friends

    The Texas Capitol and 17,000 of my closest friends

    I live in a running-friendly city. There are dozens of trails and parks that are well-maintained and safe. It’s also not uncommon to see runners (and walkers, and cyclists) passing through neighborhoods as well. While I’ve written about the occasional perils of running in my neighborhood, in general Austin is a safe place to get your feet on the street. Also, the city hosts a number of established, well-organized races, many at a time when other cities pause their distance racing calendars for the winter. Yeah, it’s hot during the summer (definition of summer: May through October) but training in those conditions pays off when the aforementioned winter races roll around.

  3. Travel. My job is challenging in a zillion different ways, but every summer I get to take a break and recharge so that I can go back and do it all again for another year. My summer vacations have given me a chance to run in different cities, which is a great way to explore somewhere new. In the summer of 2013 I ran through a park in Monroe, Louisiana, on the campus of Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, through Nashville, Tennessee. I ran at Lake LBJ, and then we ran a beach race in Galveston.
    Apparently it's not usually this crowded out front.

    Apparently it’s not usually this crowded out front.

    I’m also fortunate to have saved up quite a bit of personal leave, so I can get away a few long weekends each year. Returning to Cleveland for the first time in more than two decades was an amazing walk run down memory lane. I also ran with J around Arlington, Virginia when I visited with my NJHS students, and I came back to D.C. for the Army Ten-Miler in October. I’m tentatively planning on doing both of those things again in 2014, and I have my fingers crossed that I’ll get to visit the second weekend in June as well. Later in June, the family is planning a trip to the Florida Keys–it is a requirement to go for a run on Marathon Key, yes?

  4. They see me rollin'

    They see me rollin’

    I’m (relatively) healthy. Growing up, I was an active kid, but as a teen and young adult, I got lazy. After B was born, I lost the pregnancy weight but seesawed over the next couple of years. I’m 43 now and am about to begin my fourth year of running–I can confidently say I’m in the best shape of my adult life. Yes, I’ve had a stubborn hip flexor issue and my left calf is a bit funky, both of which caused allllll kinds of problems this past spring, but at the moment both appendages are working properly and I’m hopeful that with proper care and feeding (AKA foam rolling and periodic visits to my sports chiro), they will stay that way. And like I said in a previous post, my finishing times are dropping, I ran a 10-miler only slowing through the water stops, I’ve lost 15+ pounds, and I had to buy running capris in a smaller size yesterday. To offset that boost of confidence, however, I just got back from the eye doctor–I hadn’t had my eyes checked since college, and it turns out I need glasses. So yeah, there’s that. But overall, I’m in good health.

  5. The family that runs together...

    The family that runs together…

    Support of family and friends. My training and racing schedule over the last year and a half has required some juggling on the homefront, but my family has taken it all in stride. They run with me, they cheer from the sidelines, and they don’t bat an eye at race fees or the cost of new shoes. And thanks to the wonders of modern technology, my running friends cheer me on from near and far. For Cleveland, K and I trained together via text and had a blast. On the morning of the Army Ten-Miler, I got texts and Facebook messages from a dozen people wishing me a good race. Special shout-out to JE, KS, JM, GE, KP, and CS–you know why! I even got to meet a running blogger–hi Suzan! And training with Rogue has brought me a whole new set of friends–I’m no elite runner, but I don’t have to be. Rogues are the most encouraging group of people I’ve ever met. #JFR indeed.

Thank you for spending another year with me and my blog, and best wishes for a happy and fulfilling 2014!

Will run (faster) for cookies

You may have observed that I’m kind of a planner. I work out race day playlists and stalk weather forecasts in advance, I get to the expo early (what if they run out?!), figure out my wardrobe the day several days before, and at some point when the race starts to get close, I work out my strategy to achieve whatever goal I’ve set for myself.

So with 3M three-ish weeks away, I’m starting to think about the details. Yeah, I have the Rogue 10K ten days from now, but I’m treating that as more of a tune-up for 3M than as a goal race itself. See, at last year’s 3M, I missed my goal time by four minutes, and it’s been hanging over my head for eleven months. I tried to vanquish it in Cleveland, but my nagging injuries got in the way. Since September, I’ve been training hard, my average pace has dropped, and I’ve set new PRs at the 5K and 10-mile distance, so I am optimistic. But I’ve dumped all my eggs in this proverbial basket, so I’m kind of becoming a basketcase.

I go to training on Tuesdays, but with Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve both falling on Tuesdays this year, training is canceled. That means I’m left to my own devices, which allows my hyper-planning mode to kick into high gear.

So what does that look like?

I have an iPhone app called Race Pace in which I can enter my goal time for any distance and it will tell me what my average pace should be in order to achieve that goal. For the half-marathon distance, it also breaks it down into one-mile, 5K, 10K, and 10-mile splits. So now that I know this magical number, I’ve focused on running faster than that average pace all week.

Monday, Wednesday, and today I achieved that pretty easily, although I only ran three or four miles each time. On Tuesday, I ran 1.25 miles to the track, then did some interval work (ran hard down the straights, rested on the curves) for two miles before running back home. Because of the resting segments, my average pace was wonky, but I can live with that. The tough part will come Saturday when I’m supposed to run 12-14 miles–it looks like the route is going to be a hilly one along a gravel trail. But the 3M course is almost completely downhill, so if I can even sniff at that average pace on a more difficult route, I will be satisfied.

So yeah, even with the holiday I’ve gone running every day. But I’ll be honest–part of it was training, and part of it was cookie-related.

Tomorrow is a scheduled rest day, although I may go to the YMCA and use the elliptical or swim some laps. Or I may sit here on the couch with a fire in the fireplace, catching up on Netflix. Kind of depends on the cookie situation.

Walk this way

What does one do the day after running 14 miles? Walks seven miles, obviously.

The Rogue Distance Festival is two weeks from today, and we volunteered to walk part of the route hanging cards on residents’ doors alerting them that the race travels past their houses.

IMG_7026The original 30K map had the race running right past my driveway, and I was excited because that meant after I finish the 10K, I could go home and park myself in my front yard to cheer on the 30K-ers. Alas, the organizers had to change the route for some reason, and now it travels through the adjacent neighborhood where I sometimes run. It’s only a quick hop through the empty lot across the street, so I’m still planning to cheer, but it’s slightly less cool than camping out in my own driveway.

IMG_7028Our door-hanging route map covered two sections of neighborhood and totaled about six miles, all said and done. Some streets, we zigzagged, covering the whole street in one direction; others, we walked up one side and back the other. One resident asked if the race is why he saw a guy riding the bike with the police escort a few days ago. I’d seen him too, and now it makes perfect sense.

Many houses were covered in Christmas lights and other festive decorations. This was my favorite:

IMG_7027Other observations:

  • Not a whole lot of people were outside. A few worked in their yards, some kids rode bikes, and a couple of folks ran or walked dogs. But despite the sunshine, most people stayed inside.
  • I saw no fewer than six different out-of-state license plates: Oklahoma, Florida, Tennessee, Arizona, New Mexico, and Louisiana. Clearly, people continue to move to Austin. Sigh. No wonder it takes me 40 minutes to drive 13 miles home from work these days.
  • Quite a few people had not retrieved packages (and phone books) delivered to their front porches.
  • Dogs don’t like people approaching front doors. Once, what sounded like a large dog threw itself against the front door with a thump. And another time, a huge Rottweiler peeked over a the top of a six-foot fence at us. He obviously had some kind of elevated structure inside the yard, but all we could see was his head as he barked at us.
  • Every other driver had a phone glued to his/her head.
  • A lot of people drive way too fast down residential streets.

Fortunately, the weather was much more pleasant than yesterday. I wore last year’s Rogue 30K/10K shirt (I ran the 10K) and a jacket, which was mostly sufficient except when the wind picked up. Still, the sun was shining and we worked off that Tex-Mex lunch from earlier.

IMG_7031After we covered our assigned route, we rewarded ourselves with hot beverages from the neighborhood coffee shop, then walked the last mile home. According to Runkeeper, we covered seven miles. My training plan called for a 20-minute recovery run or cross-training. I’m going to say I achieved that.

And just in case the title of this post didn’t get Run DMC/Aerosmith stuck in your head, here you go:


“Climate is what we expect. Weather is what we get.” –Mark Twain

As late as Friday night, the weather forecast for Saturday morning predicted drizzle and temps in the 60s. But when I woke up, it was 43 and pouring. Perfect weather for 14 miles, yes?


This is a lie–it never got above about 45.

Based on the forecast I had originally planned to wear short sleeves, but what I saw out my back door made me change into a long sleeved shirt, and at the last minute I grabbed the Columbia jacket I’d bought back in May when it looked like rain at the Cleveland half. I tossed my phone into a ziplock bag and headed out.

The route starts through a residential neighborhood, then turns onto a wide concrete path that runs alongside a major highway. Somewhere around mile five, as I ran into a 45-degree headwind, I asked myself why the hell I signed up for yet another half marathon. Even with my jacket, I was cold, and I had so far yet to go. I regretted the capris and wished I’d worn my warmer tights. The exposed skin of my shins had turned a rosy pink from the cold.

It seemed to take forever to get to the seven-mile turnaround. Long stretches on busy roads led me to make bargains with myself–things like “run to that stoplight, then rest while waiting for the crossing signal.” This strategy afforded me few walking breaks, though, since I think I encountered only four stoplights along the three-mile stretch of road.

Finally I reached seven miles at an intersection with a convenience store on the corner. Their “Fresh Tacos!” sign taunted me–I wanted nothing more than to stop for a taco. But I settled for a watermelon Gu Chomp and started the return trip.

I thought perhaps the most interesting thing I’d encounter was the cattle drive mural under the highway.

Only in Texas

Only in Texas

But I was wrong. As I took this picture, I noticed the drizzle turning to real raindrops. And in the two minutes it took the light to change and give me a Walk signal, the raindrops got bigger and more numerous. I dropped my headphones into a ziplock and stuck it in my jacket pocket, checked that my phone was sealed in another ziplock, pulled up the hood on my jacket, and crossed at the light. By the time I hit the path, it had become a downpour. Thunder and lightning cracked in the not-so distance. For a while, as I ran up the path along the highway, I was the tallest thing around, which made me kind of nervous about the lightning. But I did the only thing I could–kept going.

They say if you don’t like the weather in Texas, wait a minute and it will change. No such luck this morning. For the next four miles, I ran through sheets of rain and the resulting ankle-deep rivers of runoff. My shoes and socks were completely saturated, and I saw no point in jumping over puddles. Did I mention it was still about 45 degrees and windy?

As I approached 12 miles, a car pulled alongside and asked if I wanted a ride back to Rogue. Damn, that was tempting. It took massive willpower to say, “Thanks, but I’m okay.” A couple of minutes later, another Rogue stopped with the same offer, and again it was tempting. I was touched that folks were looking out for us and appreciated the gesture, but I was determined to finish under my own power.

And eventually, I did, although it took me forever. My shoes squished, my gloves dripped water all over Rogue’s floor, and my entire lower half was soaked. My jacket had done a decent job repelling the worst of the rain, but my shirt was damp. One of the coaches offered me a t-shirt from their freebie pile, which I accepted gratefully. After some foam rolling and general defrosting, I activated the heated seats in my car and headed home.

On this run, I burned more than 1500 calories. So for the rest of the day, I think I will sit by the fireplace and work on correcting that deficit. So far I’ve had coffee, a breakfast taco, and three pieces of pizza. Naturally, now that I’m done, the sun is coming out and things are warming up, but I’m going to enjoy the first day of my winter break on the couch.

Did you #JFR today?

How do you recover from a long run?

What’s your favorite post-run food?

Bah humbug

The 3M Half Marathon is a month away, so this weekend’s schedule calls for 14 miles, with the middle six at half-marathon goal pace. The overnight low will only drop into the 60s, so I am grateful I won’t face an icy run like two weeks ago. But still, for some reason the thought of 14 miles is really freaking me out.

I’ve run four half-marathon races, and I’ve run a couple of 13-mile training runs over the last year and a half. But the one time I was supposed to run a 14-mile training run, I somehow screwed up and only managed 13. So I’ve never actually gone further than that before. Not only that, my last couple of double-digit runs have been miserable for one reason or another. So… I’m kind of dreading this.

20131220-094903.jpgNow, I know that Scrooge changed his ways and became a generous, kind philanthropist. In fact, the mean-spirited guy was really only evident at the very beginning of the story–he started reconsidering his life with the first spirit’s visit. But I think those three spirits might need to visit me tonight, in order to inspire me for tomorrow’s run.

It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight

Last night, Rogue put on a Christmas lights run through adjacent neighborhoods. Instead of my usual training session, I brought the family out and we ran the more informal tour of lights.

Rogue Christmas lights!

B was in a Mood right from the start. “Why do we have to run? Why do you make me do this? Running isn’t fuuuuuuuun!” He got progressively grumpier each time I asked him to run on the sidewalk or the street rather than on the curb. I ignored most of his grinchy-ness, but his tiptoeing along the curb like it was a balance beam was just asking for a broken ankle, and that was my line in the sand. Each time (I think the grand total was six) I griped at him, he took off sprinting ahead of us on the sidewalk. That’ll teach me, I guess.

It was a beautiful evening–cool and a little breezy–and Christmas lights twinkled on houses while the full moon loomed huge overhead.


Every Who down in Whoville had lights on their houses.

I didn’t think B was up to the full five-mile loop, so we cut off the last mile and headed back. The faster runners (who’d completed that extra mile) caught up to us, and we tried to keep pace with them the last half-mile. I couldn’t quite do that, but I kept them in my sights at least.

When we got back, snacks and beer awaited us. We socialized a bit–well M and I did. B flung himself over one of the benches in dramatic fashion, still complaining about the torture of running with his family through a neighborhood of festive lights. Mister Grinch aside, I had a good time and I got in a solid four-mile run with a little bit of speed there at the end.

It wasn’t quite the fun family event I’d envisioned, but someday perhaps B will look back on our family runs and think that “Maybe Christmas … doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps… means a little bit more”

The Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day.