Rogue-iversary

I joined my first Rogue training group after I decided to train for the San Antonio Rock and Roll Half Marathon, but I missed the group’s first Tuesday night workout and Saturday long run because I was traveling with my family. Instead, I kept up with the training schedule by running the little cruise ship track (seven laps to the mile!) over and over. So technically my first “date” with Rogue was July 17, 2012.

Five years ago.

So let’s take a little walk down memory lane, shall we?

On September 8, 2012 I ran ten miles–double digits–for the first time.

On October 20, 2012 I ran my first 13.1 mile training run. A week later, I ran my first 10-mile race–Run for the Water.

And on November 11, 2012, I completed my first half-marathon.

What happened next–even moreso than finishing that race–changed the trajectory of my running life. I originally planned to run one half-marathon as a bucket-list thing, then return to shorter distances. But while I achieved my original goal, I felt like I had more left to prove. And to my surprise, I realized I enjoyed what I was doing! So when several people from my San Antonio group jumped over to the 3M/Austin half group to continue training, I joined them.

At this point, I fell in-step (literally) with a group of similarly-paced women. Little did I know they would become more than my long-run company. They took on the roles of shenanigan partners, sign-up-for-that-race enablers, race carpoolers, and biggest cheerleaders.

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Did I mention shenanigans?

Mile after mile, through bad weather and illnesses, chatter, laughter, and silence, we dealt with disappointments and celebrated firsts, PRs, new shoes, and life moments. Sometimes we only started together, then caught up when we each finished. And we started the all-important post-run coffee date tradition.

My son ran his first half-marathon accompanied by Rogue friends. He didn’t always run my pace, but several Rogues tag-teamed along the way to make sure he followed the course and was hanging in there with the distance.

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He completed his first half-marathon at age 10

I can’t count the number of people who have pushed me to run better, stronger, faster. Friends who pace me during a race, jump back in to a race they’ve completed to help me finish strong, even fly in from halfway across the country to help me PR a goal race. Friends who could kick back and drop their own mileage, but they stick to my training schedule to help me prepare for a big race. Then there are the coaches who devise torture speedwork to help me improve my endurance or pace or both. And don’t forget Rogues who come out in droves to cheer (often racing from location to location; funny signs are optional, but appreciated) as spectators when they aren’t racing.

One time, four of us formed a team to run a relay race. Yeah, we were the slowest team out there, but I’m proud of the fact that after three of us ran our individual segments, we joined our fourth partner (who was recovering from a serious illness) for her final leg so that she wouldn’t be out there alone. Another time they had to wait for me because I was sick post-race. Technically they were stuck because no one else could drive my stick-shift car, but I still love them for sitting with me in the medical tent area until I felt better. And I’ll never forget trying to run 3M undertrained, injured, and miserable, buoyed by a series of friends running with me, then handing me off to a small group waiting at the finish line.

Many runners find success training on their own, and I occasionally enjoy a solo run too. But I couldn’t have done the work to finish my first half-marathon, let alone run 14 more, if it weren’t for these folks.

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And many more!

Although one specific person inspired me to start running and I put in the work to stick with it long-term, I found it easier to show up week after week thanks to my training partners. Those days when the weather was bad, I thought, “well, Rogues run in the rain” and I showed up. When I got home from work, exhausted from cumulative lack of sleep and wanted to skip a workout, I knew someone was waiting to run with me, and I showed up. When a long-distance BRF texted me every day to ask how my run went, I showed up so I could give her an answer, not an excuse. When one of my coaches called me “tough” or praised my efforts after a difficult workout, I knew I had to live up to their opinions of me, and I kept showing up.

Change is inevitable–I’ve worked with six or eight different Rogue coaches, and runners move in and out of training groups depending on their goals. In the last year we’ve also had to adapt to a new training location, which meant new routes. Some friends have taken a training break (I miss you!) and new friends have joined us. Recently my workouts moved from Tuesdays to Thursdays, and we spend every other week at the track. I won’t lie–juggling the changes has not always been easy, and I’ve worried about Rogue CP as an entity–I still do, sometimes. But I have no doubt that the reason I’m still running half-marathons five years after my first training run is the camaraderie–and accountability–of Rogue, my friends, and the running community.

 

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So cheers to my five-year Rogue-iversary, and to all the friends I’ve made along the way.

Run from Hell: South-of-the-River edition

Rogue has a long tradition of torture via a route called Run from Hell that pretty much hits the worst hills in Northwest Austin. And occasionally we run at River Place, which is more of the same.

Well today, J was in town for work, staying in a super-hilly area. She had an early morning meeting, so we got an even earlier start–at 5:30 we ran up and down (and up and down) the neighborhood roads for four miles.

I took a picture of the route from the top of one of the hills, but it really doesn’t do the thing justice. How about the elevation map instead?

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Pretty much tells you everything you need to know about that.

She was a beast and ran 95% of it. I ran… more than I walked. And we finished strong, mostly because the last .25 was downhill, but whatever. My quads were SO tired!

The hotel had left out small towels and an ice bucket of water bottles for returning runners–clearly we did not have an original idea–which was a nice way to end the run. That, and sitting down. 😉

Armadillo by morning

Every once in a while, we take a field trip for our Saturday long run. This week, it was to Georgetown’s San Gabriel Park. Which required significantly more driving than my usual six-minute Saturday morning trip. Instead of waking up at 5 A.M., I had to get up at 4:30 and drive about 25ish miles (about 30 minutes on the toll road with a 75 MPH speed limit…) to get to the park for our 5:30 start.

The route began in the park, on a slightly uneven gravel trail–even with a headlamp I was kind of worried about twisting an ankle in the dark–but maybe a half-mile in, it switched to a paved sidewalk. Although streetlamp-type lights lit up the trail periodically, at times it was really dark. And after the first water stop, my friends got ahead of me–it was so creepy I might as well have spotted monsters under the bed. I had a light and my headphones were turned off, but every little noise made me jumpy. And me without my monster spray.

The trail forked in a couple of places, and some of the turns made me question my map-reading skills. It was still dark, but every once in a while, through the trees I could see a neon-colored shirt up ahead, so I was able to stay on-track.

Somewhere around three miles–it was still dark out–an animal surprised me on the trail ahead. As I got closer, I could tell it was an armadillo who clearly hadn’t seen me yet. Once it detected my presence, it shot off across the grass. I had no idea armadillos could move that fast!

Just past the armadillo crossing was the second water stop–followed by a giant hill leading into a neighborhood. And at the top? More incline. It was like half a mile of steady rise. I was already tired and this did not help. But I figured as long as I could see the others ahead, I wouldn’t get (too) lost. Because the map wasn’t helping me at all. Turn after turn through the neighborhood I followed the neon shirts, and I couldn’t figure out how they knew to make those turns–my map didn’t have those directions.

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I reached a dead-end and could not tell which way I was supposed to go–no neon shirts either way. But then a returning runner appeared from the left and answered that question. Finally at the five-mile point, I arrived at the third water stop and some friendly faces. I drank some water and Gatorade, then took out my map to figure out how the hell I was supposed to remember the route back. Turns out, I had to, you know, turn the page over. Brilliant.

On the way back, I ran through stood under someone’s sprinkler, and I walked a bit while I tried to figure out why my podcast wouldn’t play. Of course this was the moment my coach and a bunch of other gazelle-like runners came up behind me. Damn.

I gave up on fixing the first podcast and selected a different one, then picked up my pace. In fact, the rest of the way back I pushed myself, and it turns out my last three miles were my fastest. Even though my legs were tired, it was hot and humid, and I hadn’t run this far since my half-marathon in June. It was barely a respectable pace, but it was faster than the first seven miles.

Back at the park, a cheering squad (i.e. my friends) greeted me, which was exciting. Eventually I cooled off, changed into a clean shirt, and we all went to breakfast. Tacos and coffee for the win!

And no more armadillos.

Today is not my day

And tomorrow isn’t looking good either.

I got to bed late last night, then the phone rang at 2:20 A.M.. The Caller ID said “CODERED ALERT” which for some reason (probably because it was 2:20 in the morning) I did not take seriously–it looked like something robocallers use to get you to answer the phone. I suppose I would have answered if the Caller ID had stated it was from the city police, but I let it go to voicemail. When I woke up for my 5:30 workout, I saw they’d left a message alerting us that “officers are in the area investigating a robbery” and they’d have a helicopter helping with a search. Whoops. But they were long gone by the time I pulled out of my driveway and headed to meet my asscrack-of-dawn workout group.

The class, as usual, was difficult and exhausting–I think my legs were still tired from Sunday’s intense workout and Monday’s run. But that’s okay, I didn’t mind the work. Afterward, though, as we were getting ready to hit the trail for our three-mile run, my stomach lurched and I started to feel a little funky. I sat down on the floor for a minute, trying to regroup, and that’s when I noticed my pants now sported a hole in an inconvenient location. Super.

I pulled my shirt down to cover the hole, took some Advil and half an Immodium, and we walked over to the trail. My legs were so tired, I could hardly lift them to run. S told some stories from her recent trip–thank goodness for the distraction. But just short of a mile, both my hip and a little spot near my knee started hurting and it gave me the excuse I was looking for to walk a bit.

Annnnnd we pretty much walked the rest of the way to three miles.

today tomorrow

Tomorrow’s workout is on the surface of the sun on the track–between the heat and lack of shade, my general exhaustion, and now anxiety about re-injuring my leg, I’m not excited about running tomorrow. Everyone else in my group makes it look easy even when it’s hot, and I’m struggling.

Maybe I’ll feel better after a pity party a good night’s sleep. Maybe not.

Not another post offering tips for running in the heat

[This article also appeared on Texas Running Post]

Ahhh, summer in Texas.

This time of year, every running publication posts articles offering tips for running when it’s hot. You know, wear light-colored clothing, don’t forget a hat and sunscreen, drink lots of water, and avoid running during the heat of the day.

But when you live in a climate where summer temperatures don’t drop below 80* overnight, when exactly is “not during the heat of the day”?

The reality is there’s no advice anyone can offer to make it easier for Central Texas runners. High temps are above 90* for approximately four months of the year–either run outside and expect to suffer, or don’t. Yeah, some runners handle the heat better than others, but even the hardiest souls find themselves running a little slower or taking a few more water breaks from June to September.

I mean, what was winter this year? That one weekend in January? Hot weather is our life. But instead of complaining about it or offering trite “tips,” I challenge you to find a way to make it fun.  Reward yourself for the suffering–have something to look forward to when you’ve finished your run.

Most Saturdays, my friends and I spend as much time at the coffee shop as we did running. Towards the end of my long run, it’s the thought of coffee and tacos that gives me that last push to finish strong.

Other times, such as today, we reward ourselves with a swim. We ran around the Town Lake Trail (Zilker Park to Mopac to the pedestrian bridge and back to Zilker) then swapped running shoes for flip flops and swam at Barton Springs pool. No matter how hot I get when I run, it only takes two seconds in that cold water to drop my body temperature back to normal. Bonus: it’s like an ice bath for my muscles, without actual ice.

For as long as I can remember, early-morning lap swimmers have come here to enjoy the relative peace of Barton Springs pool. In fact, many of these folks swim here year-round. No lifeguards, no crowds, no problem. Oh and no entry fee before 8 A.M. either.

I’m not an early-bird, as a general rule. But I think sunrise on the trail is worth seeing now and then. And since you’re already out there (not running in the heat of the day, and all that) why not take in the (as yet) unspoiled magic of Barton Springs? This time of year, it’s all about the reward.

Were you born on the sun?

It’s not just Wednesday workouts  that are tough during the summer.

What’s the weather like out there?

It’s hot, damn hot.

Thursdays at 6 P.M., it’s still almost 100*. The mile “warmup” run (along a busy road with no shade) just to get to the workout meeting place might as well take place in front of a hair dryer. Or an industrial-sized convection oven. Fortunately the workout had some built-in rests so I could cool down a little between reps. We ran at 5K pace around a neighborhood block that was just over a quarter-mile, allowing us to stop for water and iced towels after each loop, then walk/jog a short distance before repeating the lap.

About half of it was shaded, and one guy had turned on a sprinkler. He invited us not only to run through it, but stop for beers too. I only took him up on the sprinkler part.

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I ran six repeats at a pace I was pretty pleased with; with the warmup and cool-down (also a misnomer) out and back from Rogue, I only ended up with 4.5 miles, but I felt like I’d run twice that. And the sting site on my leg had flared back up and was an angry red blotch the size of my hand. Before I went to bed I put some Benadryl gel on it and took an oral Benadryl as well.

Fridays are usually rest days, but I had to get up early to supervise as B checked in online for a Southwest flight–can’t snooze on that one! Since I was up, I did a short pilates core workout. Later that day, I attended the memorial service for a former student who was tragically murdered overseas. I taught him a decade ago, but once they’re my kids, they’re always my kids. On a positive note, I caught up with some of his classmates and was gratified to learn about their now-adult lives–college graduations, impressive career prospects, and other successes. But it was emotionally draining–and it wasn’t easy following that up by dropping my kid off at a friend’s house for a weeklong trip out of state either–so I didn’t get to bed until late Friday night.

Which made my 5:00 A.M. alarm very unpleasant.

But I got up and dragged myself over to Rogue in the dark. I’ve reduced my long-run mileage a bit for the summer, so I was only running eight miles. Two friends who were running ten invited me to join them on the way out. They’re both faster than I am, so I felt bad that I was slowing them down, but it was nice to have the company.

By the halfway point, when I said goodbye to my friends, I was ready to be done–which is never a good sign. There was no breeze, and the humidity made it feel like a tropical swamp. But I slogged along, walking some, and finished most of it before the sun got too high overhead. But still, the last mile was even more unpleasantly warm. And the blotch on my leg had gotten darker, parts of it looking almost bruised. One of my friends, a nurse, urged me to keep an eye on it and if it started hurting or I had any other unusual symptoms to get it checked out.

I won a raffle prize at Rogue, which was exciting. But I was so sapped–emotionally and physically–I didn’t even go out for coffee afterward. I went home and crashed on the couch with a movie. I planned to pick up some dinner at my favorite noodle place, but then a thunderstorm rolled in and I had no desire to leave the house. So I cobbled together a sad dinner and decided to go to bed early.

I started to wonder if I was having some kind of reaction to the topical Bendadryl I’d been using, so I swabbed the whole area with alcohol and left it alone, although I took another oral dose of Benadryl. Then I crashed for the next 12 hours. And when I woke up, I noticed the angry redness had all but disappeared, leaving just a small pinkish spot where the skin felt a little bumpy. Not sure there’s a cause-and-effect here, or if it were clearing up anyway, but either way it looks a whole lot better today.

I slept so late, there was no way to get in even a short recovery run this morning. I think I’ll stick with an indoor core workout today. ‘Cause it’s hot. Damn hot.

 


What kind of indoor (non-treadmill) workouts do you do? I’m a fan of Fitness Blender–I just stream it from my laptop to my TV.

Ever been stung by a bee? Assuming you’re not allergic, how long did it take for the reaction to go away?

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee

Wednesdays are rough.

It starts with a 5 A.M. alarm that gets me more or less on time to an hour-long intense workout (today was heavy on the jump squats), and a three-mile run. The good news is we’re done by 8:00. The bad news is… it’s hard.

I’d already done core class + three miles on Monday and a Fitness Blender HIIT workout Tuesday. Oh and it was 5:30 in the morning. The workout itself went by pretty quickly, but by the end my legs were sore and I was dreading the run. Especially when the clouds cleared and the sun emerged juuuuuuust as we were heading over to the trail. After I’d left my visor and sunglasses in my car, of course.

Anyway, we went out our usual 1.5 miles and stopped for water. I was dripping sweat and felt like I was plodding along even more slowly than usual. S wouldn’t let me rest too long though–she had us heading back long before our Garmins tried to go to power saver mode. Taskmaster. 😉

So we finished our three miles and hit the path heading back to our cars. It’s kind of overgrown–we keep saying we need to bring a weedeater out there and clean it up a bit. But it was still kind of a shock when some unknown insect STUNG ME! It got me sort of behind my left knee–I have no idea how, because I was walking on the right-hand side of the path, my right side closer to the weeds–and the spot immediately started burning. Ten seconds later I sported a welt the size of a quarter. Good thing I’m not allergic.

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I knew I had some first-aid supplies back at my car, but it was a half-mile away and with each step the welt swelled up a little more. S, the beekeeper, whipped out her Starbucks Rewards card and scraped over the area. I could feel the card catch on something, and then she showed me a stinger. Still no clue what kind of insect got me–I never saw it. But after her stinger-ectomy the burning sensation slowed–it still hurt, but at least it wasn’t getting worse. I walked the rest of the way with only minor-ish discomfort.

I found a sting-relief packet in my first aid kit, and that seemed to help. S also had some topical Benadryl (what doesn’t she have in that magic bag??) which helped a lot. By the time we got our coffee and were sitting on the patio, it was just a little red and puffy; an hour later it was barely visible. But this was more drama than I was expecting before 8 A.M..

So yeah, Wednesdays are rough.