Where the sidewalk ends

… or the obligatory end-of-year reflection post.

My year started off on the wrong foot–literally–when my left calf injury prevented me from running the Rogue 10K. And things got worse at the 3M half when my four-week injury hiatus prevented me from training properly, leading to a personal-worst performance.

sidewalk

But things slowly started improving as the spring marched on. My races were pretty slow but injury-free; yet in an odd twist, I managed to win my first only age group award in a small 5K in March.

I spent the summer working on strength and slowly rebuilding my long-run mileage. Every Wednesday morning I got up before the crack of dawn for a core-class-on-steroids, then ran a couple of miles with S. She pushed me distance-wise all summer too. And it paid off when I came within 30 seconds of my (fairly ambitious) Army Ten-Miler goal. But because I seem to insist on doing things the hard way, my hip started bothering me again after the hilly Run for the Water, and that slowed me down a little in November and December.

Despite this minor-ish setback, I forged ahead with my half-marathon training. Track workouts, hill repeats, and continued strength exercises have helped me stay focused on my January goals.

runners

With about four weeks until 3M 2016 (aka The Redemption), I’m not as confident as I was in October, but now that my leg is mostly recovered I think I have a decent shot of performing well. No matter what, though, my training has far exceeded last year’s, so I should not have a repeat of that injury-plagued disaster.

superstitious

Many people think of the new year as a time to start fresh, make resolutions, re-evaluate their lives, stuff like that. More power to you, if that’s your thing.

happy endings

But I also think the change of the calendar doesn’t necessarily promise endings and beginnings. Life is what you make of it–make it a happy middle.

To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Well that escalated quickly

As promised, after Saturday’s locker room weather, a cold front blew in early Sunday morning, dropping temperatures practically in half–from the 70s to the 40s.

texas seasons

Fortunately I’m at the bottom of this map.

It rained on and off for at least 24 hours, and I while I normally go out for a 20-minute run on Sundays, this time I just couldn’t be convinced. Warm house, warm cats, and a book appealed to me far more than sloshing through cold puddles.

Monday morning I woke up to pictures from the guys out at the ranch. It snowed overnight, and B had built a Texas snowman.

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Texas snowman

Meanwhile at home, I could still hear the wind, and while the sun had come out, temps hovered right around freezing. By lunchtime it had warmed up into the 40s (yippee) so I decided I should just suck it up and go run. To keep myself from wimping out, I drove to the YMCA and ran the Brushy Creek trail. Its trees provided a decent windbreak for probably 2/3 of my route, which is way better than if I’d run in my neighborhood.

I went 2.5 miles out and back (for five total) but I only encountered a few people on the trail. I could tell the creek moved faster than it had last week thanks to yesterday’s rains, plus a couple of waterfalls had sprung up from the runoff, but the trail itself remained mostly dry.

Unfortunately the wind gusted right into my face most of the way back. After a mile or so, my cheeks felt numb and my breathing became a little rough (thanks, asthma) but I only stopped once, just to re-tie my shoe. My pace was slightly slower than last week, but today 1) I wasn’t pushing to run my half-marathon goal pace, and 2) the wind on the way back definitely slowed me down. It’s often difficult for me to get started when the weather sucks but I’m almost always glad I did it, and today was no exception.

And more good news: today’s run confirmed that my leg feels nearly 100% recovered. Not even a twinge today, even with cold weather and hills! We’ll see how tomorrow’s training workout goes, but the last week or so I’ve felt like it’s turned the corner, and I am cautiously optimistic.

lolcat happyface

Another weather report

All summer, we ran in 100-degree-plus temperatures, repeating the mantra that this will all pay off in the fall. December was supposed to be our reward.

Ten miles in this is not a reward.

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And the humidity was 80%. It was like running in a locker room.

Texas weather has always been weird, but for last Saturday’s run it was in the 30s (I had to wear gloves) and today I noticed green lawns and spring buds on trees. I’ve heard a couple of bluebonnet sightings downtown, too.

It was sweaty, stinky, and slow, but I got it done. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Twelve things I love about Winter Break

How do I love thee, Winter Break 2015? Let me count the ways.

  1. Visiting the Christmas tree farm. The past few years, local trees have been hard to come by due to the extended drought. But after two flooding rains and more consistent precipitation overall, the farm had a much larger selection of really great trees. So we took our annual pictures, rode the tractor out to the tree fields and back with our tree, and roasted marshmallows. Nevermind that it was 65 degrees.
  2. Our new kitty’s first Christmas with us. We adopted her from the shelter in August, and she fits in like she’s lived here her whole life. But when we brought a tree in the house, well, curiosity got the cat. IMG_2311[1]
  3. Turning off my alarm. I usually get up at 5:30 on workdays and 6:15 on Saturday long-run days. This week I’ve slept in, and I feel almost human again.
  4. Good running weather. Yeah, the high temps have been close to 80, which added a degree of difficulty to Tuesday night’s track workout. But Thursday morning, it was in the 50s when I ran five miles on the Brushy Creek trail. I practiced starting off conservatively and pushing faster than my half-marathon goal pace on the way back, and while I still don’t know if I can maintain that pace for more than twice that distance, it felt good to hit it over five miles.
  5. Christmas traditions. I’ve lived in Austin most of my life, and over the years we’ve established a Christmas Eve routine: cookie-decorating, presents, and dinner at my mom’s, then on the way home we take a spin under the Zilker Tree. This year we added a walk on the new boardwalk along the lake. IMG_2361[1]
  6. Santa leaves B’s stocking in his room, which keeps the early-riser busy with small Lego kits, Matchbox cars, stuff like that until the 7am moratorium on waking Mom and Dad.
  7. These! I’ve coveted some good weights for a while, and now I can improve my cross-training without having to store tons of different-sized weights. IMG_2358[1]
  8. A mostly-healed leg/adductor/hip flexor. It’s not 100%, but probably 90% now. I hardly noticed it during my five-miler Thursday and Christmas morning’s festive 4.25 miles. IMG_2357[1]
  9. I’ve read three novels, run 25 miles (not including Saturday’s long run), and spent time with all of our local family members.
  10. Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which captures the spirit of the original Star Wars while introducing a whole new generation of badass characters. Especially Rey.
  11. This joke: What’s the temperature inside a Tauntaun?  LUKE WARM.
  12. Christmas cookies, a couple of huge and delicious meals with family, and 8-12 miles to end the week and balance it all out.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

A new hope

A couple of times this week, I fell asleep before 9:30pm. The exhaustion of finalizing grades and keeping adolescents in line the last few days before winter break clearly took its toll. Friday, in particular, felt like the human appendix–completely useless, but with the potential to inflict pain and suffering on its host.

So when my alarm went off at 6:15 this morning, I didn’t leap out of bed with any kind of enthusiasm to go run in 35 degrees.

Yoda

But like any good Jedi, I showed up for my 11-mile run more or less on time. This morning’s route had 10- and 12-mile options, but we wanted eleven, so after figuring out how to improvise, we headed out.

Cold air, frosty grass, deflated lawn ornaments, the smell of donuts from the new bakery… But aside from that, the first thing I noticed was that my leg (more specifically, the adductor that’s plagued me for the last few weeks) barely alerted me to its presence at all. I crossed my fingers that it would stay that way.

The first three miles were pretty straightforward and only involved a handful of turns. But for the next four miles, we must have made fifteen different turns up and down a bunch of hills. The map looked like directions to the Dagobah system–not a kind thing to do to me so early in the morning.

But we eventually emerged from the swamp neighborhood and headed back down the main road. Instead of turning for home or taking the loop for 12 miles, though, we went straight for another half-mile.

bb8

This put us right at the entrance to the sports park, which only recently re-opened after the Halloween floods. Since we were right there, we decided to take a pit stop–I mean, you know the Mom Rule: never pass up an opportunity to visit the bathroom.

Back on the road again, we had about 2.5 miles to go, including one last uphill. It’s a long, gradual hill that has tried to break my spirit more than once. But we made it, and fortunately the traffic light at the top was in our favor, because I’m not sure I could have easily started again if I’d had to stop.

At the last water cooler, with ten miles down and one more to go, I inventoried my various aches and pains. My adductor felt a little sore, but no different from that first mile. And I realized my gait had returned to normal, not favoring the left side. All things considered, I felt pretty good. The best in a long time, actually.

ewok  party

Let’s keep a little optimism here.

 

 

 

Double-Dip

I ran eight solo, sluggish miles Saturday morning, with both 70*/99% humidity and the remnants of a cough slowing me down quite a bit. Knowing I was also running a 5K that night, I didn’t push myself too hard. Just got it done.

Saturday night, we headed out a little early to pick up our shirts, bibs, and jingle bells.

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The stadium (the same one from the 8K back in September) was open–yay, nice restrooms!–and some kids ran around on the football field. B had been complaining, not wanting to run the race, but that didn’t stop him from running up and down the field, then climbing the stadium steps on the other side.

As we waited, it became obvious that unlike the Jingle Bell race we’ve run in the past, this was a VERY small race, largely populated by the high school runners whose team was the beneficiary. Yarg. I’m slow on a good day, but after running eight miles that morning? Coming in last was a very real concern.

The course, like the 8K, covered familiar ground. We started in the stadium parking lot, then circled around the outside and up the big hill I run almost weekly. B fell back a bit, but I tried to keep a constant pace. At the top of the hill, we turned onto the main road, into the wind, and downhill again. The already-small crowd had thinned out–I could see a few people ahead of me and knew several followed behind, but that was it. Two women passed me, but after the next turn, I passed them. I kept hearing jingle bells, thinking they were coming up behind me again, but eventually I realized the sound was my own jingle bells.

Up ahead, a teen girl sprinted awkwardly, then walked, then sprinted again. I was happy to pass her a few minutes later.

From here, we turned into the back parking lot of the elementary school. No streetlights. Fortunately several volunteers stood to direct us, and orange cones marked the way. After circling the school, we came back out on the street in time for a downhill segment then another turn, then back into the stadium parking lot–again into the wind–for the final stretch.

As we made the last turn, we encountered a group of walkers and some folks with strollers I’d passed before the turn into the elementary school. They’d cut the loop and jumped back in at the end. I didn’t see them wearing race numbers, though, so whatever.

With the finish line in sight, we picked up the pace and finished strong.

All things considered, I was pleased with my race. We still ended up near the back of the pack, but my pace was about the same as I’d run the 8K–when I felt good and hadn’t run eight miles a few hours before. My three miles were consistent, within about ten seconds of each other, and the last tenth was a minute per mile faster. And we weren’t last.

We enjoyed hot chocolate and cookies while we waited for the door prizes to be announced. The rain had picked up and a bunch of people had left, so our odds of winning went up. And win we did! Each of us scored goodies–Discount Tire rotation and balance, a $20 Rogue gift card, a free hour at Orange Theory, and Dave and Busters game cards.

IMG_2233[1]After two weekends of double-dipping, next week starts my Winter Break and a return to one-a-day long runs. Jingle all the way!

Review: SLS3 compression sleeves

Through my local Moms Run This Town chapter, I was contacted by SLS3 Compression to see if I would be interested in reviewing their compression socks or sleeves. I swear by my recovery socks after double-digit runs, and I wore calf sleeves for a while after its injury last winter. So I thought, sure!

They sent me a pair of turquoise Butterfly Compression sleeves, although it took a few emails back and forth to decide sleeves vs. socks, and which size. I really like socks–sleeves sometimes chafe my ankles where socks don’t cover–but in the picture, the socks looked really long. I have short legs and wide calves, so I was concerned that if I ordered the size I needed to fit my calves, the socks would be too long and the heel would fall in the wrong place. I figured sleeves would be more adjustable that way.

Even so, I ordered a L/XL, and much like pretty much every pair of pants I own, they’re easily three inches too long for me. To resolve that, I started wearing them over my ankles rather than having the extra part bunched up at my knee. Not sure how this changes the level of compression in various spots, but otherwise they will bunch up under my knee. Because of this, I haven’t tried to run in them, but I have found them to be comfortable post-run.

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Like I said, I’ve had calf problems in the past and I own several different brands of socks and sleeves. I’ve had the SL3S sleeves about two months now, mostly wearing them after long Saturday runs and a few Tuesday night speed workouts. And I think they do a good job of helping my muscles recover. The material is soft, and my calves feel good after I’ve worn them.

So if you have long-ish legs and are looking for some compression sleeves (or socks) to help your recovery after a long or challenging run, then enter here before December 21 for a Rafflecopter giveaway!

And if  you don’t want to wait until the 21st, you can get a 45% discount by using the code BLOG45 on your order. They’re offering free holiday shipping right now too.