People of Walmart

Rogue CP doesn’t open its new training facility for another two weeks, so we had to improvise this weekend. We met at Northcross–the Walmart opens early, so we borrowed their facilities. My water bottle tucked in the back of my shorts and my running belt in the front created suspicious-looking bulges under my shirt, but fortunately no one accused me of shoving merchandise into my clothing.

Our route looped around Allandale and Crestview–much flatter than some of our field trips. The first three miles–and two water stops–seemed to go by quickly. But after we crossed Burnet Road into Crestview, time dragged a little more slowly. We amused ourselves by admiring people’s yard ornaments–my favorite was a dinosaur–and waving at people’s dogs. No one believed me that the food at Dart Bowl is amazing, though.

IMG_4426[1]

Rawr!

Our unofficial water stop at the halfway point turned into more of a halftime break as we sat on the curb discussing our mileage plan for the next few weekends. Good thing we carried our own water because we turned around before the water cooler at the five-mile mark; our next chance for a refill would be the one we hit at mile three and would pass again on the way back.

My pace on the return trip dropped as the sun rose higher and my legs felt the fatigue of my first week back at school. But the last half-mile I managed to pick it up, telling myself to finish strong. Of the nine miles, my last mile was my fastest.

When we got back to the parking lot and our meeting spot, we had to dodge a guy sleeping in his car and not one but two discarded (used) diapers. Someone joked about shoppers looking at us oddly in our sweaty running clothes, but c’mon. We wore shorts and shirts. People of Walmart have seen way worse than us.

 

Advertisements

An unlikely runner: Texas Running Post

I have exciting news!

My friend and sports doc John Tuggle has recently taken over the publication of Texas Running Post, and a couple of weeks ago he asked me to contribute occasional articles. My first thought was wait, what? I’m not an elite. Hell, I’m barely a middle-of-the-pack runner. But he said he’s looking for a variety of perspectives, and I certainly fit the bill there. So I jumped at the opportunity. I mean, two things I love–running and writing!

Well, my first article, An Unlikely Runner, published this morning. (Huge thanks to KS for the title!)

If you’re a runner from the Austin area, check out the site and like TRP’s Facebook page–I hope you’ll see more from me soon!

You can also read today’s article below.

————————————-

I’m not an elite runner. In fact, when I first started–fresh off the couch–I worried about finishing last, especially at small races. I felt out of place, like it was totally obvious to everyone that I didn’t really belong there. I tried to remind myself that I’d gotten into running for myself, not anyone else, but I still felt conspicuous, an impostor.

Between my first and second 5Ks I knocked something like four minutes off my finishing time. I’m pretty sure that was the moment I fell down the rabbit hole of running, chasing that feeling of triumph, of accomplishing things I never thought I could.

It was addictive.

I no longer wore as-low-as running shoes. I had begun amassing an impressive collection of brightly-colored technical shirts and matching athletic headbands. I developed definite opinions on capris vs. shorts vs. tights, earbuds vs. Bluetooth headphones, and hats vs. visors. No, not those socks; these socks. Then there were water bottles, running belts, sunglasses, and a long trial-and-error journey to the perfect sports bra.

But the real evolution in my running came after I bought my first Garmin GPS watch.

Because after I spent $250, I thought I really needed to get my money’s worth from this thing. What better way to do that than by training for a half-marathon?

The San Antonio Rock and Roll half was supposed to be a bucket list thing. Devote five months to training with Rogue, earn the 13.1 sticker on the back of my car, and return to shorter distances. Except it was hot on race day, and I didn’t run as well as I hoped. But hey, the Austin 3M half only was two months away–I could try again. And like those 5Ks a year and a half before, I got sucked into chasing that finish line triumph once more.

These days I’m usually found in the middle of the pack somewhere–sometimes rocking it, sometimes dragging and complaining, occasionally both. But I’m still running, still chasing. I’ve completed 12 half-marathons; the 2017 Austin half will add #13 to the medal rack. And while I’m still no speed demon, I finished this year’s 3M half more than forty minutes faster than that very first San Antonio race.

What I’ve learned during the weeks and months of training–because even modest success doesn’t come without training–is that like good shoes, good running buddies are invaluable. Anti-chafing gel, a foam roller, and podcasts are my friends. And Garmin watch bands don’t last forever. Neither do disappointments.

I’m the unlikeliest of runners. But after five years and hundreds (thousands?) of miles, I can finally call myself a runner without feeling like an impostor.

Review: SLS3 neon running socks

Suddenly, socks.

I’ve gotten to test out a couple of SLS3 products over the last year or so, but since a lot of their gear is for triathletes, not everything is up my alley. When they asked me if I wanted to wear-test and review their neon running socks, though, I agreed. Who doesn’t need socks?

I’m picky about socks. For years I wore basic Under Armour technical socks that came in a big package from Academy. Reasonably-priced and comfortable, although they tended to wear out quickly. Then I got a pair of Swiftwick socks in a race swag bag and quickly became a convert. For the last year and a half, 99% of my runs happen in Swiftwick socks. So these SLS3s have some, ahem, big shoes to fill.

My feet are weird–I wear a size 7.5 shoe, but my toes reach nowhere near the end of the toe box. I need the larger size to accommodate my wide feet. So even though my shoe size is on the higher side of average (especially for my 5’2″ height) I generally wear a size small sock when given the option of sizing. And that’s what I ordered from SLS3.

IMG_4198[1]

They’re a soft technical material–nylon, polyester, and spandex–sort of a hybrid between the feel of my Swiftwicks and Under Armour. They have a tab or flap at the back of the ankle, I guess to keep them from slipping down into your shoe.

I first wore them for hill repeats in 95* heat. Before I started I had to tie my shoes a little tighter because the socks are a little thinner than the ones I usually wear, but after that I never noticed them at all. Which I suppose is as good a sign as any!

Since then I’ve worn them in some drizzly rain and in regular summer (AKA hot) temperatures. They are comfortable and don’t slip or slide around in my shoes. Definitely a viable option for me.

If you’d like to order your own, please go to amazon.com and enter the code DKJIJERK for a $5 discount on a three-pack!

Disclaimer: I received these socks for free in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own.

L8

Remember when Friday nights were for parties and concerts instead of old-people bedtimes to prepare for early Saturday morning runs?

Well this weekend I tried both.

IMG_4373[1]

The view from the cheap seats

Last night we went to a concert at the Austin360 Amphitheater (part of Circuit of the Americas F1 complex), and it was technically Saturday morning by the time we got home. Four hours of sleep is insufficient preparation for running eight miles, in case you’re wondering.

But we had a good time–$25 lawn seats is totally the way to go at this venue–and I managed to slog through eight slow, humid, sweaty miles this morning.

As the song goes, “I’m hot, sticky sweet/from my head to my feet.”

 

What the hill?

August weather is usually pretty easy to predict around Central Texas. We joke that the weather forecasters sit in their jammies at home, literally phoning it in. Low 80, high 100. Wear sunscreen and avoid the outdoors during the hottest part of the day. Repeat.

Except not this week.

IMG_4353[1]

Did we jump ahead to October??

Thursday after work it was 82*, and that’s the warmest I’ve seen since Saturday. No wait, I think it was 87* at lunchtime. But Monday through Wednesday, the high was only in the upper 70s, and it’s been raining all week–6-8″ since Sunday.

So this week I’ve run more than usual because I just can’t pass up these conditions. Rainy 4.25 miles on Sunday, rainy three miles after core class on Monday, overcast for a two-mile time trial (plus a mile each way, out and back) on Tuesday, and overcast again for three miles around my ‘hood Wednesday. That leaves Thursday: hill day.

I parked at the middle school at the top of the hill. I ran the same sequence as last week–down and up the short hill (half-mile each way), quick water break at my car, then down and up the long hill (one mile each way). But because it was 25+ degrees cooler than last week, it felt a little easier and I hardly stopped for water at all. And I ran the long uphill straight through with a little pickup the last quarter-mile.

IMG_4356[1]

Let’s hope the weather gods continue to smile on us for our eight (nine?) miles on Saturday morning. And by smile I mean give us more cloudy, drizzly skies. 😉

Galveston Sand Crab: summer’s last hurrah

Rain, Wind, and Sand. 

Sounds like a 1970s R&B band, but actually it describes Saturday night’s Galveston Sand Crab 5K.

All afternoon, we watched the skies turn grey and the wind kick up choppy waves.


And when we arrived at Apffel Park around dusk, the wind blew little sand tornadoes across the beach and into my eyes.

We had some time before the race, so we walked toward the water to scout the beach conditions. Last year the first (and therefore last) .20 of the course crossed fluffy, loose sand that made running difficult. But the sporadic raindrops that had dotted our windshield on the drive in now turned into heavier drizzle. This was actually good news–rain meant cooler air, plus the sand might be more compact, less powdery.

As we waited for the start, lightning flashed from cloud to cloud in the distance and the drizzle remained steady. I don’t know if it was rain-related but the atmosphere was strangely quiet–no working PA system, no music. The crowd had counted down the start of the kids’ race earlier; I couldn’t hear the race director’s countdown for the 5K/10K so I just followed when everyone else started moving.

I tried to stay on the compact sand, although that’s much more difficult when running in a crowd. But I made it to the water’s edge and … then we ran right into the rain and the wind that had been kicking up those choppy waves all day. A mile and a half seemed to take forever. A mile or so in I got a side stitch and took some deep breaths, and later I waved at M and B already on their way back. I could see flashing lights of a police car in the distance and assumed it was the 5K turnaround. Just run to the lights. 

I reached the water stop and thought maybe water would alleviate that side stitch. It was pretty much serve-yourself so stopping cost me a few seconds, but I felt better. Especially when I realized the water stop, not the flashing lights, was the turnaround!

Now I had the wind and rain to my back, and I tried to pick up the pace. I was slightly nervous about sand castles and moats that might trip me up, so I kept my headlamp trained directly in front of me rather than looking ahead. Just focus on putting one foot in front of the other.

Lightning became more intense, occasionally illuminating the whole beach.

Then finally off to the left I recognized that pavilion where we’d started, and the flashing light indicating my turn away from the water to the finish.

The sand got fluffy again, and it slowed me down. A woman I’d passed earlier ran by me. After I cleared a row of wooden posts, the finish line maybe 100 yards away, the sand flattened out again and I sped up. I knew I had to pass her. And about halfway down the stretch I did it, finishing alone and smiling.

It was easily five minutes off my 5K PR time from May, but considering the sand I never expected to PR anyway. I had a modest time goal in my head, and I beat it by about two minutes. Know what else I beat? The monster thunderstorm that hit not long after I finished and sat down in the pavilion with a snow cone. Now I was really glad I hadn’t run the 10K–most of those people were still out there.

Because of the storm, we hung around longer than we usually do after a race and kind of listened to the awards. Good thing too, because B won second in his age group!

 

IMG_4339[1]
I’d say that was a pretty successful evening. My last summer hurrah before returning to work this week.

Sunday Funday

What’s a person to do to recover from a miserable long run?

Why, kayak on the lake, of course.

Sunday morning B went to hang out at a friend’s house. We originally thought we’d go biking, but I thought maybe that would bother my back, not to mention my tired legs. So we decided to go with an upper-body exercise instead.

Growing up in Austin, there weren’t many opportunities to actually get into the water of Town Lake, the part of the Highland Lakes chain that runs through downtown. Lake Austin was for waterskiing and Lake Travis was for sailing. But Town Lake (now officially renamed Lady Bird Lake but no one from here calls it that) is a major part of Austin’s drinking water supply, so swimming and boats with motors are banned. In the old Aquafest days, once a year folks would build homemade rafts and float them in front of Auditorium Shores for the K98 Raft Race, but my friends and I were more spectators than participants. You could rent a canoe from Zilker Park and paddle down Barton Creek to the lake, but that was it.

Only recently have stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking become popular, and wow–yesterday ours was not an original idea. But with three major rental operations (SUP paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes) plus the original Zilker canoes, there’s no shortage of boats.

We went to Texas Rowing Center on the north side of the lake, accessible from Austin High’s parking lot. We waited in a short line, paid for 2+ hours, left our car keys for collateral, then selected our life jackets and paddles and we were on our way in a two-person kayak. Stand-up paddleboards seemed like more work than I wanted to put in and I thought maybe rowing a canoe would be hard on my back. So kayak it was.

I’m 5’2″, and the front space was perfect for me. I could completely extend my legs and lean back on the seat back. M is 6′ and was slightly less comfortable. It also took a while to synchronize our paddling so we didn’t smack each other.

We first went west under the Mopac bridge, then turned around and let the current carry us east, under the Lamar bridge, the pedestrian bridge, the train bridge, First Street bridge, and the Congress Avenue bridge. That last one, we didn’t dillydally–we could hear the famous Congress bats squeaking and it reeked of bat guano.

IMG_4243[1]

We floated around for a while, then eventually turned back. The wind had shifted, so not only were we paddling upstream, we were also traveling into the wind. My arms were jelly by the time we returned to the dock.

In hindsight, two hours was probably an hour too long. But our rental choice was one hour or unlimited, so we went with unlimited because I didn’t want to have to worry about time. But unlimited meant I wanted to get my money’s worth, dammit. 😉

For the second time in three weeks, my sunscreen was more sun and less screen (even though I was diligent about applying and re-applying) and now my chest and shoulders are a tad pink red. So far my arms feel okay, but often that muscle soreness is delayed–tomorrow I might have trouble washing my hair. Or I might not. We shall see.

Still, it gave my legs a rest and was way more fun than my miserable run the day before. And it beats flopping around in a homemade raft from 1980-something.