Hills are our frenemies

It’s that time of year again: Saturday morning field trip to run the River Place hills. My coach says that hills are our friends, but I tend to think of them more like frenemies.

The most difficult thing about this route–and there are lots of difficult things to choose from–is the fact that it’s (steeply) downhill the first mile and a half, then big rolling hills the rest of the way up to the turnaround at mile 3. Which means the return trip involves the inverse. That last hill, with about .75 to go, is a killer.


In the top left picture, can you see, between the two trees on the left foreground, a break or grey spot? That’s the road up to the turnaround. Pictures do NOT do this route justice.

Anyway, I ran about 3/4 of the way up each of the hills, and once I got to the top of the last hill (leaving just a gradual upward incline) I fired up some music and picked up the pace to finish strong on tired legs.

We knew when we headed out that our Run the Year team was a little more than 18 miles short of earning the 1000-mile badge, so when the route turned out to be right at six miles, we each tacked on an extra half-mile to ensure we got there today.

RTY 1000

Don’t worry, our productivity will fall off once it gets hot around here!

Six miles, even considering the hills, wasn’t exactly enough to warrant the magical breakfast afterward. But it sure was delicious.


Spring Break

There was a time in my life when a bunch of us piled into someone’s car and spent a week at the beach with a gazillion other Spring Breakers whose average age was about 19. One year, the sun came out for about five minutes the whole week, but who cared? We weren’t there to swim anyway. All I can say is I’m glad all of that happened before the age of social media. No one can prove anything.

The adult version of Spring Break? TURNING OFF THE ALARM CLOCK. That’s it. That’s all I wanted to do.

spring break

Except that would have to wait until Sunday, because I got up early Saturday morning to run 12 miles. I made a wrong turn somewhere around mile nine so I really ended up with 12.5 miles, but the coffee date afterward made up for it.

Monday I met S and ran three miles before core class. This is one of my goals as I train for Cleveland and Kildare–three miles, negative splits even though it’s uphill the whole way back. S has had a kick-ass winter and she’s WAY faster than I am now, so my training is basically chasing her.

Tuesday was a track workout. We started with a 1.75-mile warmup on a crushed granite trail. The recent rains washed some of it out so I had to pay attention to my feet, especially in places where cyclists’ tires had pressed grooves into the soft surface. Then we ran 200s on the track–200 at 5K pace/200 easy for four laps, then repeat–and ran the same 1.75 route for a cool-down. Again, I was chasing S the whole time so it wasn’t really a “cool-down” per se. I was dead tired after those trips around the track, but S reminded me that I need to PR this race in June just so I won’t be last. Now all she has to say is “fast Irish people” and I’m re-motivated.

Wednesday I ran the 1.1-mile loop around the block. My current shoes are approaching 200 miles–they might make it to race day, but by then it won’t be wise to race in them, so I decided to start breaking in a new pair now. Besides, after Monday and Tuesday, 1.1 miles was more than enough. I used it as a warmup before doing a tough Fitness Blender workout. I’d avoided HIIT workouts when my leg was injured, but now I want to rebuild my cardio endurance. I also went to the dentist, which is how you know you’re an adult on Spring Break.

Thursday, S and I ran my usual 4.25-mile route from my house. It was overcast and relatively cool, so even running at 9:30 in the morning was pleasant. Well, as pleasant as chasing someone faster is ever gonna be! No complaints though–it’s what I need right now. Fast Irish people….

Fridays are normally rest days–we go out to dinner after work, and that precludes any kind of evening workout. But today I’ve got time, so I planned another Fitness Blender core workout. Not too much–we’re running the River Place hills for 6-7 miles tomorrow–but enough to offset whatever we snack on at the baseball game tonight.


It turns out, though, that workout had a lot of lower-body stuff. Should make tomorrow’s hills extra-fun.

Today’s project

Have I mentioned it’s Spring Break around here?

And I’m getting stuff done.

So much gets neglected during the regular school week–we can barely keep up with basic tasks like feeding ourselves and the cats. The floor gets swept and dishes get washed, but a lot slides. So while I don’t relish using weekends and down-time to clean the house, I do like having a semi-clean house. So while the guys were gone this weekend, I got the place reasonably presentable again.

This morning I got to sleep past 8:00 and it was glorious. So, as any sane person would do after a good night’s sleep, I got out the power tools.

I’d ordered a new medal hanger and it came on Friday, but I wasn’t sure how to arrange it with the two I already had. So this morning I tackled that project.

It turns out, if I lined up the screw holes for all three, the hooks fell at different heights. So I had to line up the hooks, which is a whole lot more complicated. I also had to situate them in such a way that hid the previous holes and didn’t cover up the light switch–difficult on a small wall. But applying tape measure, pencil, and drill I eventually got all three equidistant and straight.



Then I had to figure out which medals to hang where. Rather than continuing to cram 13 half-marathon medals onto the five hooks of the 13.1 hanger, I ended up dividing them between the 13.1 and the Rum hangers. Everything else–mostly for 10Ks and 10-milers–went on the larger one.

And there’s space for more! Which is good because I have several medal-earning races on the spring calendar. 🙂



My patronus is a Corgi

After yesterday morning’s 12.4 mile (it was supposed to be 12 but I made a wrong turn) slog through humidity, sun, and rain, we sat at the coffee shop planning our long run distances for the next couple of weeks. I’m still super excited about the Irish race I’d just signed up for, and I got to wondering how many people might be expected to participate. I mean, the town is pretty small and I think this is only the third year of the race. So I went to their website and looked up last year’s half-marathon finishers: 242. Oh, well that’s …. small. Then I looked at finishing times and realized that only one person finished slower than my half-marathon PR. Well shit. Now I am worried about coming in last.

So then I started working on a speed strategy.


Speed is relative when you have short legs.

One, now that the time is changing, spring has sprung, and daylight lasts longer, S and I will return to running our post-core class three-milers on Mondays. We’ve been running two-ish miles before class, but it’s been rushed and less intense as my hamstring recovered. I’m convinced that I nailed the big hill at mile nine of my 10-mile race last fall in no small part because every Monday, on top of an hour-long core workout, we pushed for negative splits over three miles–an extra challenge because the second half is uphill.

Two, now that my hamstring is healed I need to move beyond just completing the Tuesday mileage and focus on hitting whatever workout paces our coach has planned that week. I think I’m off to a good start there–this past week I ran 6.2 hilly miles at a pace that was supposed to be HMGP–and if I can sustain it for just over twice the distance, it will get me a four-minute PR and might stave off that last-place thing.


Three, my coach was talking the other day, and I don’t remember the exact numbers, but it was something about how much time a person gains for every pound (ounce?) lost. My lowered activity levels thanks to my hamstring injury magically corresponded to a slightly higher number on the scale, a fact that displeases me. According to a chart I found in this article, I could improve my half-marathon time by more than two minutes simply by dropping five pounds. I’ve got the world’s slowest metabolism and have never been one to lose weight easily, but here’s some incentive to clean up my eating a bit and fit in more cross-training during the week.

And four, which is less strategy and more distance-from-the-equator, is weather. Yesterday’s run was in the mid-60s, and since winter this year was one weekend in January, I expect I’ll be running in increasingly warm temperatures between now and my trip. But Ireland’s mid-June average temperatures range from 10-17*C (which translates to 50-63*F… also known as “November” in Texas) so I’m hopeful I’ll get a little bump from training in warmer temps and racing in something cooler. If nothing else, it’s likely to rain on us–Google tells me Ireland gets rain 21 out of 30 days in June, on average, and apparently last year they ran in a deluge. Call me crazy, but for a distance race I’ll take rain and cold, no problem.


And hopefully all of that will offset the jet lag–the race is four days after we arrive, so I don’t have a lot of time to adjust. But on past trips I’ve generally been okay flying east. It’s the return home that kicks my butt.

One last bit of positive thinking: this is the first year they’re adding a full marathon to the race events. There’s an early start at 8:00 and the main start is at 9 (which is 90 minutes before the half) so surely there will be marathoners still on the course when I’m finishing, right? And since it’s only the third year, perhaps participation is still growing. In 2015 there were 96 half-marathoners, so 146 more people ran it the second year than the first–if that trend continues, it could give me more of a people-buffer.

But I don’t have control over any of that. I can only control my own efforts. I have a little more than three months (the race is the day after my birthday!) to put in the work if I want any chance of reaching that goal.


Sometimes my students struggle when I ask them to start writing something–they just stare at the paper. To break the anxiety about it, I tell them, “This isn’t Hogwarts, your pencil isn’t enchanted, and this thing is not gonna write itself.” I give them a few sentence starters (usually goofy ones like “Once upon a time there was a frog named Fred….”) because the act of moving their pencils will trigger more ideas in their brains. They think I’m nuts, but since I won’t let them get away with staring at blank paper, they try it. Lo and behold, it works. But they have to take that first step, whether they want to or not.

I ws thinking about that advice this afternoon–48* and rainy–as I got out the door to run three miles, then did a 30-minute upper-body workout when I got back. Take that first step, write that first sentence, get those molecules moving. And hopefully in June I can say Mischief Managed.





One of my goals for Spring Break is to firm up some arrangements for our summer trip to Ireland. Dad has traced his lineage back to an ancestor who emigrated to the U.S. in 1865, so this trip is kind of a pilgrimage to the motherland.

On a whim, I poked around to see what kind of races might be happening during our two weeks in Ireland. I was thinking something like a fun 5K in Dublin, but we’re not there on a weekend. Eventually I found one in the town of Kildare (population: 8,142), famous for its thoroughbred farms. Their four-race event (marathon, half-marathon, 10K, and 5K) will be held on Father’s Day–the day we’d be heading right past the town. It required almost no rearranging to make it work.

So I did something kind of crazy: I signed up for the half-marathon.


I also signed up Dad and B for the 5K.

I found a room at a hotel near the race start, and once I knew we had somewhere to stay, I decided to go for it–to be a chancer. I will have run the Cleveland half a month before, so training won’t be an issue. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s inexpensive (€25), it starts at 10:30 in the morning, and the weather will almost certainly be cool by my standards. And of course there’s a medal!

The race coincides with the town’s Derby Festival, so I decided that afterwards we’ll enjoy a festive day in small-town Ireland. I even arranged a second night at the hotel so we don’t have to rush back after the race. After all, aren’t those the kinds of experiences you look for when you travel?

I’ve never run an international race before, so I’m excited. Got any advice for me? Leave me a comment!

Inching my way back

I should use Wednesdays for cross-training or strength training, but lately I’ve taken them as rest days because Mondays and Tuesdays have kicked my butt.

This week I did a weighted-squat workout on Sunday, then tried to run a few miles afterward. But jelly legs. Monday my quads screamed at me during my 2.5-mile run before core class. Which was alllll lower-body stuff. Because of course.

Tuesday was another hill workout. One-mile warmup, then two hilly two-mile laps at half-marathon goal pace and the one-mile cooldown. Since my injury, I really don’t know what my HMGP should be, so I just tried to run each mile a little faster than the previous one, including hills. And I did that, finishing all six miles at basically the pace I ran for my PR ten-miler last spring. It’s definitely progress.

By Wednesday, though, I was exhausted. We had tickets to a hockey game–in a suite–so we went to that instead.


Thursday I ran 4.2 miles in humidity so thick it might as well have been raining. In fact, some rain would have cooled me off a bit! I was slow(er than Tuesday) and my hamstring felt a little achy, but with the humidity and the fact that we have one more day of school before Spring Break, a little slow running is understandable. It also means Friday will be a “rest” day–no running, but certainly lots of exercise in patience.

Bring on Spring Break!

Nevertheless, she persisted

I’m at a point in my running life in which I can casually decide to run ten miles instead of eight, just because.

Last weekend was a bust due to a(nother) random illness, but I got back on track during the week with a short run before Monday’s core class, a 6.5-mile hill workout on Tuesday night, and four miles (with perfect negative splits) on Thursday. So I was feeling pretty decent as we headed out this morning, 55-degree drizzle notwithstanding.

The first four miles followed an almost-imperceptible incline as we wound through neighborhood streets. Just past the second water stop, about 3.5 miles in, we reached a flatter main road and suddenly my running felt a bit easier. Getting an extra break to wait for the crosswalk was an added bonus.

We’d talked about running eight, maybe nine miles. Noncommital. But the others, who ran slightly ahead of me, kept going at four, then 4.5, so I kept going too. Why the hell not? I felt fine (albeit a little tired) and my hamstring was completely discomfort-free. So I ran all the way to the five-mile point before turning back.


This morning’s Bluebonnet Scout Team

The rain picked up on my return route, but because I was reversing course I enjoyed that gradual decrease in elevation and I didn’t really mind.

Around mile 6.5, my stomach started to feel kind of … unpleasant. Not “red alert” level, but I had to walk a few times to settle things down. Still, my overall pace fell in the outside range of the half-marathon goal pace I’m shooting for this spring, and that made me slightly more confident that I can return to pre-injury form. Maybe not in time to PR the 10-miler in five weeks, but to get close.

When I finished, I was completely soaked through. I changed my shirt and tossed on a fleece pullover, but that didn’t really help. You know what did, though? Heated seats in my car. Coffee. And the realization that while I’m not where I was this time last year, I’m not where I was two months ago, either.

After I got home, the mail brought me my shiny new “she persisted” ring from my friend Julie’s Buffalo Lucy, inspired by the quote used to silence Elizabeth Warren. It goes perfectly with my trusty Persevere ring (the only jewelry I wear when I run) so now I have two power mantras to call on when I need a reminder to keep going.


Double mantras

It’s been raining a lot harder all afternoon, so the only thing I’m persisting at right now is couch-sitting in my sweats and compression socks while binge-watching Futurama with my kid. I guess after ten miles and more than a thousand calories, this is a reasonable activity.