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:


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!


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.


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.



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.


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.


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


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?

Goats, cows, and cars: oh my!

This week, my training was at full strength. I went to core class on Monday, and on Tuesday I ran with my training group. We had a 1.5-mile warmup, 2.5 miles of speedwork, then 1.5 miles back to Rogue. I had a pretty horrid day at work on Wednesday and more or less hid under the covers as soon as I got home–which is easy to do with the time change, I have to admit. Thursday we ran 4.5 miles on some (really dark) trails. Thank goodness for head lamps! Even so, I had to pay attention to each step, and that concentration combined with the effort made me work out some of that stress and feel better.

This morning we had 10-12 miles on the schedule. When I left my house at 6:00am, it was 48 degrees and still very dark. I wore a light long sleeved shirt, turned on my reflective smiley guy, and headed out.

If you're happy and you know it... flash your nose

If you’re happy and you know it… flash your nose

I hadn’t run this route since the day I ran 14 miles, the last two in a frigid thunderstorm. Today, the sun peeked over the horizon somewhere between our first and second miles.

The neighborhood was quiet and few cars traveled the main road. But as we stood there at the first water stop, a truck drove by. It had a large crate in its bed, and as it passed us, we heard insistent bleating. Maybe it was the early hour, maybe it was the fact that the guy had a goat in the back of his truck, but we cracked up. Am I the only one who experienced a goat drive-by today? I think yes.

I had a little trouble catching my breath on the next hill (cold air exacerbates my asthma) but it settled down pretty quickly. We stopped for water just before three miles, then headed down the path that runs parallel to the highway. We caught another breather waiting for the Walk signals at the next intersection. Then we followed another sidewalk on the other side of the highway.

A random guy driving a truck honked at us. Three cows mooed at us. I liked the cows better.

Good mooooorning

Good mooooorning

We reached the five-mile point and I was afraid my running partner wanted to keep going for another mile since she’s running a half marathon in two weeks. This stretch of road is long and kind of bleak, and I didn’t know if I had that in me. The distance, yes, but not the emotional stamina to run another mile down that road. Relief flooded through me when she turned around at five. My hip flexors were already feeling sore, and I was ready to head back.

The return trip held a few challenges in the form of uphill stretches. But I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, and I ran up each one. Slow, yes. Walking, no.

Somewhere around mile 8.5, we crossed a side street in the crosswalk. Cars on the cross street have a stop sign, but the street we were on did not. Because I’ve observed so many drivers looking at their phones rather than at the road, though, I am really vigilant anytime I have to cross paths with a vehicle–even if I have the right-of-way. So when we were about halfway across the crosswalk, I started to to think this approaching car wasn’t planning to yield to us pedestrians. It was going too fast to stop before it reached the crosswalk. And I was right. She blew through the crosswalk about three feet in front of us. I held up my hands in a “WTF?” gesture, and she finally stopped with her back tires still in the crosswalk. Not only did she almost hit us, she then blocked our way! I was tempted to smack her trunk–since it was mere feet from me–but demonstrated significant restraint, dodged the back end of her car, and carried on. My irritation fueled me up that last hill.

The last mile was mostly downhill, and without additional livestock sightings or vehicular danger. As we ran those last few tenths, my running partner decided to head back out for another mile out and back so she could get to 12 miles after all.

I stopped my Garmin at an even 10 miles, then spent 20 minutes foam rolling. Well, technically it was 15 minutes of foam rolling and five minutes trying to stand back up again because my hip flexors ached. I don’t understand why I’ve felt this soreness so early in my runs lately–I expect it for 12-14 milers, but starting to feel it around mile five? Annoying. But still, Phase One: Ten Miles was complete.

I got home with enough time to shower and head back out again, this time for Mexican food with my dad. That was Phase Two: Refuel.

After lunch, we caught the shuttle bus to the Texas – West Virginia game. It was a crazy game, but we pulled out the win. This completed Phase Three: Light the Tower Orange!

Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to sit down a whole lot at the game, so this evening, as I watch Musburger-free Saturday night football, is the first chance I’d had to sit down and enjoy the day’s trifecta.


Have you had any close calls with drivers who aren’t paying attention?

See any unusual animals on your runs?

Favorite post-run food?