Goldilocks day

Texas doesn’t gradually transition from summer to fall. It’s summer one day, and then a cold front blows in and suddeny it’s winter. That happened this week–Thursday night I ran my six (!) mile training run in 80-degree temperatures; Friday the high was not quite 60, and this morning it was 38 as I set out to attempt seven miles.

Obviously my leg is vastly improved–as long as I wrap it tightly, it gives me zero trouble. And it has held up as I’ve increased mileage the last couple of weeks. The first week of October I ran a total of eight miles. Second week, eleven. Last week was sixteen, and this week I ran 26 miles. That’s still well below my typical October average, but as far as injury recovery goes, I’m pleased.

Seven of those miles came this morning, on a Goldilocks day.

As a general rule, I don’t like cold weather. I like some of my winter clothes (and my favorite fuzzy clogs) but I don’t like being cold. Except when I run–then Austin can’t get cold enough to keep me from getting out there.

45 degrees

It was about 38 degrees when I headed out a few minutes before sunrise. I wore a light long-sleeved shirt, the sleeves long enough to cover my hands instead of bothering with gloves. Which I needed for about half the run, mostly due to the wind. But I didn’t care. It just felt good to be out there without anything hurting, without dying of heatstroke.

As long runs go, this was a slow one. But I was pretty consistent, each mile within 20 seconds or so, and my last mile was my fastest. And I hardly took any walk breaks. Everything aligned perfectly–cold temps, sunny sky, pain-free leg, and a reasonably flat route. It wasn’t easy, but it never felt difficult, either. It was just … good. The last time I ran that far was late July, and everything about today was different. The first cold day of the fall, seven pain-free miles. And juuuuuust right.

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Sunday Runday

Thanks to the Texas football game schedulers, who didn’t consult me prior to deciding on an 11am kickoff yesterday, I had to push my Saturday run into Sunday. But I think that worked out for the best, because early this morning a thunderstorm rolled in and temps dropped into the low 60s. When I headed out around 9:00, it was overcast and damp but not raining. Pretty nice!

I had originally planned to run five miles on the Brushy Creek Trail, but I thought maybe the thunderstorms would keep people home, and I really didn’t want to run alone on a fairly deserted trail. A flasher was reported at a different Williamson County park this week, and when my coach posted something about it on Facebook, a couple of people chimed in about suspicious situations on BCT also. I’m not afraid of running alone on the trail, but this morning the neighborhood streets felt like a better choice.

Yeah, five miles was my “long” run this week. But I don’t want to come back from this injury too quickly–it’s still not 100% yet–so I’m trying to play it smart. I ended up with, like I said in my last post, almost ten miles the first three days of the week. Thursday I ran four miles at the track with my group, and Friday I got in 2.2 miles knowing I’d be missing my Saturday run. That one didn’t go so well–I ran out of the tape I’ve been using as compression on my shin and had to use something that, it turns out, isn’t as effective. So 2.2 was the best I could do.

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This is the right stuff

Saturday I spent most of the day at the Texas – Oklahoma State football game where once again Texas snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory. Sigh. But I got in a lot of walking–13,000 steps–even though I didn’t run.

So that brings us back to this morning. I wrapped my shin and ankle with the correct tape, then headed out. The first half went pretty well–it was cloudy and breezy, maybe 65*. I stopped for water at the park, but after I started again I could tell I had begun to fade. I’ve been doing run-walk intervals as I rebuild my endurance (2:30 running, :30 walking) and starting back up was getting more difficult as the distance increased and the sun came out. The last mile and a half was tough. I got back to my starting point after 4.75 miles and I just couldn’t make myself even that out to five miles. I was DONE. Which is pretty sad, considering my training levels just three months ago.

After I got home, made coffee and had a snack, and got some laundry going, I got a text from one of my BRFs. She had run 12 (at hilly River Place!) the day before, and this morning went out for another 4.5. Yes, I know she’s training for a full marathon in December, and I know I can’t possibly keep up with her. But I went out for another 1.25, straight running, to give myself an even six for the day.

My running feels a lot like the Texas football program. They’ve struggled the last few seasons, and this year have lost three very winnable games (we won’t talk about that fourth one…). I mean, when your QB (not named Vince Young) is also your leading rusher and your punter is the player of the week (his punts are in the 65-yard range and twice he pinned it inside the five) you know you still have work to do on offense. Yeah, there are glimmers of hope in the true freshman QB, the defense that held the Big 12’s number one scoring offense to 13 points, and the don’t-give-up attitude from the team as a whole. But just when I think they’ve turned the corner and are back on the road to the Top Ten, they drop the game-winning pass, commit a stupid penalty that gives the other team fresh life, or throw an interception in overtime. Same with my running. I’ve struggled, I’m improving, but I’ve still got obstacles. And patience is not one of my virtues, with football or running or anything else.

Here’s to turning those moral victories into actual victories, and soon.

Good news, everyone!

You read that title in Professor Farnsworth’s voice, didn’t you?


Anyway, I really do have (tentative) good news! Since I got back from Dallas, I’ve managed three successful, non-medicated runs! Sunday morning I went 4.2, Monday after core class we ran two more, and Tuesday night I ran another three miles. Three days in a row! I think I’ve already run more miles this week than I managed all of last week, and they’ve been virtually pain-free. 

It also helps that we’ve had some fall-like weather the last few days. This means I’m struggling to breathe because I lost some fitness, not because I lost fitness AND it’s hotter than Satan’s testicles. 

I’m still not 100%, but I can string together several miles at about 90%, and that makes me really happy. 


“Oh don’t worry Fry. I too once spent a nightmarish time in a robot insane asylum, but now it’s nearly over. So long!”

Second Saturday in October

I didn’t run on Saturday morning, but I still managed to rack up more than 17,000 steps for the day by walking around the Texas State Fair and attending the Texas-OU game at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

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Huge thanks to my friend, who had an extra ticket and a hotel room!

Even though kickoff wasn’t until 2:30, we arrived at Fair Park pretty early in the day because my friend had never been there and she needed to experience everything that is the Texas State Fair.

The Cotton Bowl is inside Fair Park, so game tickets come with tickets to enter the fair itself. We got to skip the main entrance line and go through a “game ticket” entrance that was a lot faster, too.

We visited (new) Big Tex, where we ran into B’s kindergarten teacher. Which is hilarious because the joke is that you never make plans to meet up with someone at Big Tex–it’s so crowded that you’ll never actually find the person.

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Howdy, folks!

Tragically, Big Tex burned up in a fire in 2012, and in typical everything-is-bigger-in-Texas fashion, the new version is larger than the old one. But his “Howdy Folks!” greeting is familiar as ever.

We also tried to find the weirdest fair food. Some standouts: fried Frito Pie, fried Froot Loops, fried cheesecake, and bacon funnel cakes. Sensing a theme? We also saw a huge butter sculpture shaped like Mount Rushmore. I didn’t eat any fair food, though, unless you count the nachos (complete with cheese that’s a color not found in nature) I had at halftime of the game. Lest you think I’m some kind of healthy eater…. dinner the night before was fro-yo, queso, and margaritas. So I wasn’t quite feeling the fair food early in the day.

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Hook ’em!

Around 1:30 we headed into the stadium, which has been renovated and expanded since the last time I came to one of these games. It now holds somewhere around 92,000 and hosts just a handful of games a year. They no longer even play THE Cotton Bowl game here–its main event is Texas-OU on the second Saturday in October, which is like nothing else in college football.

The stadium is divided equally between the two factions–Dallas is roughly halfway between Austin and Norman–along the 50-yard line. And I mean it literally when I say factions. The gloves are off, and the hatred flies back and forth all game. The end of Texas’ fight song changes to “OU SUCKS!” and the band stops mid-Grandioso to shout “Beat the hell out of OU!” The booing is expert-level.

Texas fans sit on the north side, facing south toward Austin, while OU fans face north toward Norman. This means the south end zone (not the sideline) is extremely inhospitable when Texas is moving that direction, and vice versa. The tunnel is on the OU end, and in recent years the stadium erected fences around it because OU fans tossed stuff on Texas players entering the field. The teams alternate who wears home jerseys–this year, we were the “home” team.

Fun facts: this year was the hottest game-day in more than two decades–it was 90-something at kickoff–and for the first time since 1947, both teams had first-year coaches.

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See how the colors change from Texas to OU at the 50-yard line?

Fortunately, by the end of the first quarter, our side of the stadium was in the shade from the upper deck. The score was … less in our favor. But after halftime we showed some life, both on the field and in the stands. By late in the fourth quarter, we’d engineered something of a comeback and took the lead by one point. Which we quickly surrendered with like two minutes to play. We had a couple of shots at the end zone as time ran out, but our true freshman QB and his patchwork O-line just couldn’t quite make it happen. It was a nail-biter, and in the end a disappointing one.

I hate losing, and I REALLY hate losing to them. The walk to the car was long, and the drive home even longer. We finally rolled in to my driveway about 12:30 in the morning. But hey, I got a jump on my Sunday step count before I even went to sleep Saturday night.

The family (and dog) let me sleep late, and by the time I got up a cool front had moved through. It was cloudy and breezy, maybe 68*, so I decided to try to run. I’d seen my sports doc earlier in the week–he warned me that there’s a small chance I could have a stress fracture, but he felt like it probably wasn’t. He’s going to work on it a few times, and if it doesn’t improve, we’ll look in to that possibility a little more closely, but he’s hopeful it’s a soft tissue problem that will respond quickly to treatment.

I wrapped it tightly–compression seems to help–but even with extra support, for the first quarter-mile or so it felt like it wasn’t going to go well. Yesterday’s 17,000+ steps (then four-plus hours in the car) hadn’t helped. Not only that, my training has been so limited the last two months, I feel I’ve lost a ton of fitness, so I’ve been running 2:30 to :30 run-walk intervals, and that helps a little.

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It was really windy

Fortunately after half a mile it felt pretty okay, so I kept going. I made it the whole 4.25-mile route sticking to the intervals, stopping twice for water, twice for a traffic light, once when I guy asked me if I’d seen his dog (I hadn’t), and once because a bench overlooking the lake called my name.

I could feel some minor twinges, but it wasn’t painful and did not affect my gait at all. I think more of my discomfort came from feeling slow and out of shape. But I am slightly optimistic because even without the pharmaceutical assistance of Aleve, I didn’t have real pain and I was able to hold a relatively consistent (albeit slow) pace over 4.2 miles. Two weeks ago I was only able to run about two miles before it went all to hell, so perhaps I’m making progress.

I hope my football team is too, because we have another tough one this coming Saturday.

Hey, baby, there ain’t no easy way out

Yesterday I hadn’t made a decision whether to run the ’80s 8K this morning, although I was leaning toward attempting it. I mean, I could always walk if it got painful. Then, later in the afternoon I got a text from one of my long-lost BRFs–we haven’t run together in probably close to a year–that she and another friend decided at the last minute to sign up for the race. They’ve not been running a whole lot, so their level of (under)training seemed to be on par with mine. We decided to run-walk it, finishing time be damned.

The final good karma sign came Saturday night as I sat in the stadium during halftime at the Texas-Kansas State football game when I got a message from a friend half a world away. As she’s done for more than a decade, she empathized with my plight, cheered me up, and encouraged me.

As we left the stadium, after Texas won in 2OT and the band finished “The Eyes of Texas,” the sound system played “Won’t Back Down.” Tom Petty serenaded us as we walked–we could hear it all the way to the shuttle bus stop. After the tough overtime win, I was beginning to feel an upswing myself too. You can stand me up at the gates of hell/but I won’t back down.

I got home from the game close to 11:30PM, took a shower (it had been so humid, with no breeze in the stadium, yuck) and set my alarm for six. When I woke up a mere five hours and 50 minutes later, I had time to wrap my ankle/shin tightly–compression seems to help–and get my stuff together before I headed out.

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Everyone kept asking me how my leg felt. For the game last night, I’d wrapped it and had worn a brace, knowing I’d be on my feet a lot, but it hasn’t really been a problem when I walk. So I wouldn’t be able to answer that until I started running. Which we did, right around 7:30.

I’d set my Garmin to some kind of run-walk interval, but the first mile we were doing fine and we just cruised along without walking. It was warm but not miserable. The second mile climbed up Park Street, and we walked most of that hill. The rest of the way, we ran the flat sections and the downhills, and we walked uphill. We set little landmarks–run to that white car, run to the fire hydrant–which helped. But the best part? We were having fun.

We laughed and joked around. There was scowling and finger gestures, and we were sloooow. My leg felt a little twingey but was not painful at all. And we passed a Ninja Turtle (the red one) the last mile, so at least we can say we ran faster than a turtle. I’ve literally never had a fun race–it just doesn’t compute when people say that a race was fun. I’m always working too hard for a respectable time, and it doesn’t come easily to me. But today we had fun.

It was just what I needed.

Even on <6 hours of sleep. Even after losing my voice in double overtime. Even after feeling sorry for myself the last couple of days. It was perfect.

Over the last six months I’ve questioned my decision to choose the Texas game over the Army Ten-Miler, which was also this morning. Their weather conditions were awful, and while I love my friends and am missed seeing them, I realized halfway through my race that things had worked out perfectly.

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Pity Party

In the last six weeks:

  • my car died on my way to work and cost more than $600 to fix
  • my kid got the flu and we all had to take Tamiflu ($135 per person, of which insurance paid $10)
  • due to said flu, kid had trouble recovering from missed school days, and his grades reflected that
  • the Starbucks across the street from my school closed
  • our oven turned itself on in the middle of the night–we had to shut it off at the breaker until we could replace it ($350)
  • Rascal died last Sunday–it was peaceful, but that didn’t make it any easier
  • more … problematic things at work are causing me prolonged stress and anxiety
  • my leg, after more than TWO MONTHS, is still not allowing me to run more than a mile or two at a time–which is making everything else more difficult to manage

I’m supposed to run the ’80s 8K tomorrow morning, but I don’t know if I can manage five hilly, kind of pain-free miles. I guess I’ll decide at the last possible minute. Do I want to run-walk it and finish in an embarassingly slow time? Or DNS? Yarg.