Switcheroo

You know how sometimes races will offer discounts for next year’s race if you register at this year’s expo?  I usually take advantage of that for the 3M half because I pretty much expect to run it every year, so I might as well grab the discount. I mean, I know the date way in advance and just work around it.

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This is one of my favorite medal designs.

We’d already planned for K (and hopefully also J) to come to Austin for the 2017 race, so when I saw they were offering the expo discount online, I persuaded K to register–fair game since that’s how she got me to register for her hometown race. So yay, it was official.

And then.

At the end of the school year, we inducted new members (including my own child) into our school’s National Junior Honor Society chapter, of which I am co-sponsor. We divide up many of the sponsorship tasks–I manage community service efforts and communications (i.e. I run our Instagram account, ha) while my co-sponsor is in charge of the D.C. trip. As this school year wound down, she decided she wants to go during the Inauguration–make it a true once-in-a-lifetime event for these kids. We normally try to avoid crowds (we used to go over the Presidents’ Day long weekend, but a couple of years ago we changed the dates because it was much less crowded a week later) so I was not thrilled with this, but it’s not my project. I figured the tour company would tell her it was the worst possible time and couldn’t be done, and we’d go back to our usual weekend in February. Except they didn’t. It will be a very different trip from the previous six I’ve chaperoned, but it’s a go for Wednesday January 18 through Sunday January 22.

I’ll give you three guesses the date of the 3M half, and the first two don’t count.

Panic ensued in my brain when I discovered the conflict. K and I had already registered–it’s not like we were in the negotiations phase. And even at a discount, half marathon registrations aren’t cheap. But this trip is part of my job. Not only that, of all the years I’ve traveled with NJHS, this is the one my kid would be attending as well. WHAT DO I DO?

Had this occurred last year, I’d be out of luck. Historically, 3M has not offered refunds, and while I had could have deferred in 2015, I heard that was not the case this past year. So the good news is that a new company has taken over ownership of both 3M and the Austin Marathon/Half Marathon, and they actually offered a few options. As long as we contacted them before the first week in August, we could get a partial refund, we could defer to 2018, or we could transfer our registrations to the Austin half, which is three weeks later than 3M.

Deferring to 2018 was off the table–too much could happen between now and then. So the question was whether we should take the refund and maybe have her come for the 10/20 in April instead? Or switch to Austin? Pros and cons to both. The 10/20 has the potential to be warm (and we were over that after the Medina race), plus it requires a much longer training cycle for K. Not a huge deal for me, but Ohio winters present a challenge for outdoor runners. On the other hand, I haven’t run the Austin half in a few years because the course is un-fun, with a big hill at mile freaking 12. But they’re promising a new course design this year.

So today I officially switched our registrations to the Austin Half Marathon on February 19, 2017. Ironically, that’s the weekend we’d normally be gone for the D.C. trip, so it’s kind of a poetic karma thing.

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Glad I had options this time!

I’ve run 3M four years in a row, and three of those have been PR races so I know I will miss it. I’m particularly glad I achieved my big goal this past year–at least I don’t have unfinished business with that race. And it will be nice to run Austin again, especially with K. I am crossing my fingers that the course will be … friendlier than the last time I ran it.

Eventually I have to figure out how J and I can fit in our annual Washington D.C. Asscrack of Dawn 5K on a new date when I will be staying at a different hotel, though. But… one problem at a time.

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seventeen syllables

Saturday morning

alarm jolts me awake to

“Chariots of Fire”

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running in summer

hot, humid, dying out there

I complain a lot

————————-

scorching sun above

I live in Satan’s Armpit

not fun anymore

————————-

Repeat after me:

“Summer sweat brings fall PRs.”

Get your ass out there.

————————-

Sunrise? I don’t care.

I’m not a morning person

I will run tonight.

————————-

sweat drips down my back

I shuffle along slowly

how much longer now?

————————-

feels like an oven

should a human sweat this much?

more Gatorade please

————————-

trudging up the hill

everything hurts, I’m dying

finished fourteen miles

————————-

I could work harder

but I wimp out easily

when I run alone

————————-

one more mile to go

I’ve been out here forever

time for coffee now?

————————-

watch says 5.9

must run through the parking lot

for a round number

————————-

one hundred degrees

is not good running weather

suck it up, princess

————————-

don’t work out inside–

running in rain, cold, or heat

will make you badass

————————-

only some people

can survive the Hunger Games–

runners are prepared

————————-

don’t trust the first mile

sometimes the middle sucks too

I love being done

————————-

How far must I run

to offset Mexican food?

That’s a long damn way.

————————-

all I think about

during my last two miles are

coffee and tacos

————————-

running in the heat

sucks the life out of me now

but pays off in fall

————————-

Why do some drivers

harass women out running?

Just leave me alone.

————————-

running friends kick ass

I’d never succeed alone

they make me better

————————-

drivers don’t see me

I’m in danger when they are

looking at their phones

————————-

sunny for my run

then a rainstorm cools things down

story of my life

————————-

I’m not thin or fast

I don’t look like a runner

twelve half marathons

————————-

wait just a second

no GPS signal yet

can’t run without it

————————-

ten-mile run today

burned 1000 calories

let’s eat all the things

————————-

six boxes of shoes

stacked in the closet because

they were on clearance

————————-

I’m disappointed

when a finisher’s medal

isn’t all that great

————————-

I think I own more

running gear, race shirts, and shoes

than anything else

————————-

long race almost done

I can see the finish line

yes I reached my goal

————————-

Piña coladas!

Wait, I’m signed up for a race?

I thought they said rum.

Useless tips for running in the summer

It’s that time of year when every other article involves tips for running in the heat: run in the shade/avoid the middle of the day, wear light-colored technical clothing, drink lots of water, run by effort instead of pace, wear a visor and sunscreen, blah blah.

But let’s be honest. This kind of article is written for people whose summer temps might hit 90 a couple of times in late July. Those of us who live in warm hot climates already do these things as a matter of course–not just when we exercise–possibly six or eight months of the year. Where I live, sunglasses are a given, the best parking spaces are the ones in the shade regardless of their distance to the entrance, and tinted windows are your friends. My car even has an built-in sunshade that slides up to cover the rear window at the push of a button. We’re serious about this stuff.

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I live between that charred spot and HOTTER.

I mean, when the overnight low barely drops below 80 and there’s no breeze or cloud cover, it doesn’t really matter what color my clothes are. Those things might help keep me from progressing from Ugh This Sucks to Why am I Running in Satan’s Armpit? but there’s not a whole lot I can do to stay cool. I mostly focus on survival. Yeah, I run by effort instead of pace, I apply sunscreen, and I wear a visor. But those of us who run in hot climates have also developed some additional coping strategies. Such as:

I dump water on my head, I take walk breaks, I complain a lot. Okay so that third one doesn’t really accomplish anything, but whatever.

I carry a small microfiber towel that serves several functions: I wipe sweat off my face every three seconds, and when I stop at a water fountain I get it wet and put it on the back of my neck. I’ve tried those chilly towel things and found they help somewhat, but they’re a bit big to carry on a run.

I keep my Simple Hydration bottles in the freezer. Since they tuck into my belt when I run, however, my body heat melts the ice pretty quickly. Not a huge problem on a short run, but anything over three miles and I’ve got warm water. I’m also trying to figure out how to carry two of them–when they’re iced down, they’re heavy and bounce around. No bueno.

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If only Yeti made a sports bottle, my water would stay icy cold over pretty much any distance I wanted to run. Or drive.

I carry Sport Beans (lemon-lime are my favorite) to replace electrolytes mid-run. I also have an electrolyte supplement that I’ll start using when the temps approach 100, probably next week.

I’ve been known to soak my shirt in the sink before I put it on, or splash myself from a water fountain mid-run. I’ve run through early-morning lawn sprinklers and more than one park’s splash pad, and I’ve stood under the outdoor showers along both the Hike and Bike trail and Brushy Creek, which I suppose is more socially acceptable than dashing across someone’s lawn. A damp tech shirt won’t keep me cool for long, but at least for a few minutes it feels really good.

When we run from Rogue we start around 6:30am, but when I run from home I wait until 7:30pm or later. Even though it can still be the other side of 95 or 100 degrees in the evenings, the sun is lower in the sky and isn’t blazing on me anymore. Some evenings I’ll run the Brushy Creek trail because a decent chunk of it is shady, but the tradeoff is that the trees block any breeze so for much of the distance, the air is just stagnantly hot. Most of the time, though, I take the route through the park with a water fountain–I stop at mile 1.25 on the way out and mile 3 on the way back. It’s not cold water, but at that point I start to care less about temperature and more about not dying.

My weekly Fit to Run homework usually involves a couple of short running segments interspersed with core exercises, so for that I’ll run the block around my house (long block is 1.1 miles, short block is about half a mile) which allows me to pop inside (yay air conditioning and cold water!) to catch my breath, cool down, and do the core exercises.

But in the end, these strategies are all really band-aids on a knife wound. It’s still hot. I still struggle and complain. And it never seems to get any easier. Every Saturday morning I slog along (slowly, in light-colored technical clothing) for six or eight miserable miles. And I feel like shit.

So take my suggestions with a grain of salt. And maybe an electrolyte capsule or some Gatorade.

 

 

Go home Garmin, you’re drunk

For the last couple of weeks–ever since I returned from Ohio, really–my Garmin’s GPS has lost its mind. Not every run, but once a week or so some segment of the map barely resembles the route I actually ran.

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I almost always start and stop at the same place (and I did these four times), yet only in one of the maps does it remotely look that way. On each of these runs I also used the same out-and-back streets, but for three of them the start arrow is a quarter- to a half-mile late, and it thinks I ran through neighbors’ yards, clumps of cedar trees, or fenced livestock fields instead.

The weird thing is it works correctly most of the time. Out of sixteen attempts this month, the map appeared more or less accurate on twelve of them. I mean, it can even tell that on the way out I ran on one side of the street and returned on the other side. But these four times, the GPS was bizarrely off.

My 220 is about 3.5 years old, and I’ve never had an issue with its GPS before. I’ve connected it to Garmin Express to see if it triggered an update. No manual ones, but I think it received one wirelessly during this period so it’s not like I’ve neglected it. I’ve turned it off and back on again. And today I tried a hard reset, which of course wiped out my settings and history. Maybe that will fix it.

Anyone else have GPS issues with the 220? Could it still be confused from my trip out of state? Any other suggestions?

Marking an accomplishment

I hate needles.

But this spring, an idea crept into my head.

After a bunch of personal-worst races in 2014-15 due to injury, under-training, or both, I bounced back after last summer’s strength program and put together a gratifying string of races and PRs.

There was September’s 8K that I finished way faster than I expected. Then two weeks later I ran a seven-minute PR (nevermind that my goal was -7:30) at the Army Ten-Miler. In January I PR’d the Rogue Distance Festival 10K by four minutes, and two weeks later took nine minutes off my half-marathon PR at 3M. That one felt especially good because I finished almost an hour faster than the previous year’s disaster. Then came the Austin 10/20, where I had a vague hope of getting  back that :30 from October; I got it and then some, finishing with a three-plus-minute PR. Finally, I ran a thirty second PR at the Noble Run 5K in early May.

The idea really started after 3M, but I didn’t seriously consider it until I blew away my goal at 10/20.

I kinda wanted a running tattoo.

There. I said it.

It did not totally come out from left field–my mother and sister both have several tattoos–but it’s out of character for me. The girl who hates needles, who’s a wimp when it comes to pain, who faced a serious dilemma during childbirth–epidural or pain–and only went with epidural because I was practically catatonic in my misery…. kinda wanted a tattoo.

I had no idea what it should look like, though. I love symbols and logos–I know a clever one when I see it, but I’m no graphic designer. I did some image searching, but I mostly found variations of the stick figure running girl, the winged shoes, and the footprint. None of those resonated with me.

B takes Latin in school, so I started searching Latin symbols. I mostly came up with Roman numerals like XIII.I, and while I think that’s a cool way to depict 13.1, I didn’t really want specific numbers–I wanted to commemorate more than one race, one distance. So I just let the idea percolate in the back of my mind–I would know the right thing when I saw it.

One night I was on the phone with my dad, talking about a potential trip to Ireland next summer. His family is American going back only a couple of generations–before that, they lived in County Cork and he’s wanted to visit for a while. M and I have been to Dublin, but just for a couple of days. I am excited to take B, if it all works out. Anyway, after that conversation I started thinking about Celtic symbols. These kinds of things tend to be trendy and overused, so while I have legit Irish heritage, I didn’t want to get something that would end up looking outdated (Chinese characters, I’m looking at you) after a few years.

I wear a silver ring stamped with Persevere–it’s the only jewelry I wear when I run–that I got almost four years ago, after I recovered from my first hip flexor injury and started half-marathon training. So I added that keyword to my search, and BINGO. I knew immediately I’d found it.

triskelion

It’s called a triskelion (or triskele) and it has lots of meanings depending on which culture you ask. In Greek, the three extensions were actually legs–weird-looking, but a nice tie-in to the running theme I am going for. In Celtic it’s generally thought to mean forward progress, advancement, and achievement. It also gives the visual impression of movement.

It’s funny. Maybe a week after I discovered this symbol, I was running on the Brushy Creek trail. At my turnaround under the bridge, someone had spray painted–in flaming orange paint–a yin-yang and a triskelion on one of the columns. I’d never (consciously) seen one before, and then it jumped out at me on the running trail, of all places. 

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So once school got out and the dust settled, I summoned the nerve to do it. And anyone who knows me can verify that once I have an idea in my head, it’s difficult to stop me.

M has a friend who owns a tattoo shop, so we stopped by at lunch earlier this week to make some plans. While getting inked has become much more mainstream in recent years, I felt out of place. Here I was, a 40-something mom (wearing an Athleta running skirt, no less) appearing at the tattoo shop after taking her teenager to the orthodontist. I mean, I have a chunk of raspberry pink hair, but I don’t think that boosts my street cred a whole lot. I’m pretty sure this tableau just screamed midlife crisis.

I still felt like a fish out of water (even without the Athleta skirt) when I arrived for my appointment, but everyone was super nice and the process itself was pretty interesting.

First, the artist printed out the image I’d emailed him, and we sort of played around with size and location. We talked about color and shading (I kinda wanted it Longhorn orange, to tie in another personal element), but in the end I thought simple solid black would look the best. And since it was going on my right leg, I wanted it reversed from the original in order to face forward.

Once those decisions were made, he used an old-school thermofax machine to transfer the ink from the paper to a thin sheet of plastic. I hadn’t seen a thermofax in at least a decade–some teachers used them to transfer a printed document onto transparency film for overhead projectors. I had no idea these things were still around now that no one uses transparency film anymore.

He lined up the template, then pressed it onto the place I wanted it tattooed. Purple ink–like that old ditto machine stuff!–marked its location like a stencil. It was not quite centered the first time, so he wiped off the ink and re-set it. Then when he was satisfied, he began to open up all the sterilized packages and put his equipment together.

Once he was ready, I leaned back in the chair and took a few deep breaths, bracing myself. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t … this. It felt like someone was scraping my leg with a nail file. A little weird, a little uncomfortable, but not painful. After a while, once I realized I wasn’t going to experience excruciating pain, I sat up and just watched him work for the next half-hour or so.

And then it was done.

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My cat is unimpressed, but it’s exactly what I wanted, what I saw in my head.

I’ve got detailed care instructions for the next two weeks–no swimming, keep it clean, moisturized, and out of the sun–but he said my long run on Saturday should be fine, especially since I (intentionally) placed it above my sock line. All in all, it was way easier than I expected, and I’m super-pleased with the results.

Achievement: marked.

The good, the bad, and the ugly

The first full week of summer vacation. Is there anything better than knowing a ten-week break stretches in front of me? I think not. But just as my sleep totals and mental state begin to improve, the heat destroys my workouts. And this week perfectly illustrated that dichotomy.

The Good:

Monday evening was core class with a three-mile run afterward. We managed a respectable pace and felt a little redemption from last Saturday’s slog.

TheGoodBadUgly

I also managed a 4.25-mile run on Thursday afternoon. Traffic was backed up on the major road I have to cross and cars kept blocking the crosswalk, but there were no major mishaps. Effort level–my only real measure right now–felt good.

The Bad:

Aside from my workouts, this week we tackled the mess that was  B’s room. “Bad” doesn’t begin to cover the state of his possessions when we began. The clutter was out of control, plus his closet was stuffed with clothes and toys he’s outgrown. But we worked on one quadrant at a time, an hour or two every day rather than a marathon purge, and by the end of the week it was neat and organized, with boxes sorted and packed to be stored or given away. It wasn’t cardio, but it was a big, sweaty job.

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The Ugly:

Wednesday morning (5:30 am!) was our first Fit to Run class. I’ve filed this under “ugly” not because of the workout, but how I felt at the end of it. We started same as last summer with a run around the perimeter of the parking lot, and same as last summer, S and I were the caboose of this little train.

Then the workout got underway for reals. The first thing was a circuit: 100 high knees, 10 push-ups, 10 sit-ups, 10 weighted side lunges, and 10 upright rows. For 12 minutes, repeat that sequence as many times as possible. Don’t ask me how many times I did it, because I’ve blocked it out of my mind. But after 12 minutes did we get a break? Oh hell no. We had to pick up our dumbbells and run down to the Starbucks at the other end of the shopping center. Twice. Without stopping for coffee.

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The second 12-minute nightmare circuit started with 10 (on each side) speedskaters–sort of a sliding side lunge–then bicep curls, tricep dips, burpees, and jump squats. Twelve minutes is a looooong time. Maybe not for eating a cupcake or sitting on the beach. Not even for running the first mile of a half-marathon. But you know how the last mile drags on, how you feel like you’re never going to reach the finish line? It’s like that. Let’s just say the two laps to Starbucks and back happened much more slowly the second time around.

But wait! There’s more! Next up: core. Crunches, planks, Superman, bicycle crunches, Russian twists, and this balancing act of standing on one leg while dropping the opposite (weighted) hand to touch that foot. Finally, mercifully, stretching.

Except that S and I are masochists dedicated, so when just about everyone else shuffled  off to the parking lot and lowered themselves gingerly into their cars (racing home to shower before soreness kicked in and they lost the use of their arms, no doubt), we headed out for a very slow run. Our coach and another woman did the same, but we made no effort to keep up with them. It was, however, quite gratifying that once we decided to turn around after one mile, we saw them coming back towards us and realized they had done the same.

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Despite this torture, I managed a 4.25-mile run Thursday evening. Then Friday, which is typically a rest day for me, Coach R assigned us homework. Fifty (!) each of push-ups, tricep dips, crunches, and squats. Plus run a mile warm up and quarter-mile laps between sets. My long block is 1.1 miles and the short block is slightly more than .25, so I ended up with 3.5 miles on top of the 50s.

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But there’s a reason I normally take it easy on Fridays. And that reason starts before dawn on Saturday mornings.

This time four of us met at Brushy Creek Park, planning to run six miles. I vowed to suck it up and complete the distance rather than bail early for some lame reason. And I ran the whole six miles, just slowly and with several water breaks.


The rain stopped this week, and standing water is beginning to recede, but the humidity still hovers around 85%. Where the trail dropped down along the creek, the trees blocked the breeze and the thick air sucked out my energy little by little. And my legs felt heavy and tired–certainly a reminder that working out Friday was perhaps a tactical error. It was not pretty.

The good news is that it’s summer vacation and right now I have few obligations other than my workouts. The bad news is the weather is only going to get hotter, and it’s an ugly fact that my running is going to get harder before it gets easier around here.

But there are two kinds of people runners in the world: those who sit out the summer and those whose fall PRs are built from summer sweat.

 

Effort

I don’t run well when it’s warm. I do it because I live in a warm climate, but most of my best races have come in weather below 45 degrees. I haven’t worried much that my overall pace has dropped a minute (sometimes two, depending on the time of day) per mile as it’s warmed up–this time of year I focus more on effort than pace. But because I felt so slow and miserable on Saturday’s run, and because I don’t want to be a weak link who brings down my group all the time, I resolved to turn things around, starting now.

So Sunday after a 30-minute Fitness Blender workout, I ran the two-mile loop around my house. It was 86 degrees and the sun was out for the first time in about a week, but knowing I was only going two miles helped me push myself a little. I didn’t approach any kind of PR pace, but I did drop it back into a more respectable range.

Monday evening I went to core class. It felt good to be back (no class on Memorial Day) despite the 40596868 tricep pushups and planks we had to do. And afterward, S and I ran my usual post-core-class route. It’s uphill the first mile, flat the second, and downhill on the return, so my goal is always to run negative splits. On the way out I wonder why the hell I subject myself to this torture. Then it plateaus a bit, and on the way back I feel strong. I won’t say that I’ve acclimated to summer yet, but we ran slightly faster than I did on Sunday. So even though I’m not focusing on pace, I felt some measure of atonement for Saturday’s shitshow.

Another thing I’m addressing is my lower back. Recently I’ve found that when I sleep on my stomach, I wake up in pain. Which is weird because I’ve always preferred sleeping on my stomach. The cat-cow yoga thing sorta-kinda relieves it, but it can be achey for a while after I get up. I don’t wake up like this every day, but when it happens on a Saturday it starts my long run on the wrong foot (no pun intended) and I struggle the whole way. And when the heat/humidity rises, I don’t need additional physical discomfort. So I’ve been doing some lower back-strengthening exercises, focusing on posture, and trying to sleep on my back. It’s hard to retrain myself, especially when it comes to sleep, but not hurting when I wake up is pretty decent incentive.

Tomorrow begins our 5:30am Fit to Run class–AKA Core Class on Steroids. We did this last summer (some posts about it are here and here) and I know it’s going to be good for me, but I’m in denial about how painful it will probably be, especially this first week. Like last summer, after class S and I plan to run a couple of miles, then reward ourselves with coffee on the patio. Seems reasonable, right?

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