Brrrrrr

The temperature hovered right around freezing as we took off for our ten-mile run this morning.

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I don’t like being cold, and my first instinct always is to Wear More Clothes. It’s taken me several years to re-train my brain when choosing running clothes during the winter, and even now I have to actively talk myself out of that extra shirt or jacket or whatever. This morning I wore just a quarter-zip top and regular running tights, plus a pair of gloves.

We ran up the hills on the outbound part of the route–my leg felt a little sore, but nothing worrisome. I made no effort to push my pace at all, just plodded along. Not only am I hyper-cognizant of my wonky leg, I’m running the Trail of Lights fun run (I think it’s about two miles?) with a friend tonight, so I figured I’d just take it easy this morning.

At around four miles, as we approached the Brushy Creek trail, we could see steam rising off the creek into the morning sunlight. When we stopped for water, some other runners told us we had steam rising off our bodies, too.

We dropped down onto the trail, and the temperature fell at least ten degrees as well. A couple of the footbridges were slick with frost. The trail only recently re-opened after the Halloween floods, and remnants of the high water were visible all along the path. Debris clung to trees ten feet above our heads.

We didn’t have to run too far down the trail before we reached our five-mile turnaround point. My watch beeped just before we had to run up another hill, so that was good timing.

We headed back the way we came, and it was nice to emerge into the sunshine again. Almost too nice–I had to take off my gloves! On the return trip through the hilly neighborhood, we missed one of the water stops because we ran on the other side of the road, and I guess we were so focused on getting up the damn hills that we didn’t notice. But my leg held up just fine, so other than stopping at the crosswalk to wait for the light, we ran straight through to the last water stop, one mile before the end. That last mile is both the easiest and the hardest (almost done/not yet) but we finished strong.

I’ll call it a success. I dressed appropriately, I didn’t aggravate my leg, I got in ten solid miles (albeit slow ones), and after a few hours of ass-sitting, coffee-drinking, and college football-watching I’ll be good to go for (a much shorter) Round Two tonight.

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Weekend update

Here are tonight’s top stories.

Last Saturday, B and I completed the Running Mad 13.1 event. For the next three days we used the race as an excuse to eat and be lazy, not necessarily in that order. I’m pretty sure Saturday’s enchilada was the size of my forearm. And I skipped Monday’s core class. Really? Really.

I planned to run a couple of miles on Tuesday, but that morning I woke up with a sharp pain just behind my right shoulder blade. I don’t know what I’m doing in my sleep that I keep waking up with weird back pain, but there it is. Wednesday I went to my sports chiro with good news and bad news. The good news was that I completed 13.1 with no hip flexor pain, nothing beyond typical soreness due to the distance. The bad news? The shoulder thing. He worked on both, and Wednesday evening I took a short run around the neighborhood.

We’ve had a remarkably mild summer so far–in 2011 we had 90 days in which the temperatures climbed over 100*. This year so far we’ve had somewhere around 10-12 days. And it rained. In July. Not only that, it rained on us for half of our Running Mad 13.1 race. Go home, Weather Gods. You’re drunk.

Alas, the Weather Gods sobered up, with a vengeance.

Last night I couldn’t decide whether to get up early and run or sleep in and go later in the evening. I don’t know why this is even a question–everyone knows if given the option I’m going to sleep in.

But procrastination bit me in the ass. Some dinner plans fell into our laps and getting in an evening run suddenly got tougher. So at 11am, I headed over to Brushy Creek Regional Trail, thinking it would  be pretty shady and not too miserably hot. Yeah, I really thought that.

What I discovered is that when the sun is directly overhead, it doesn’t make a whole lot of shade.

I ran most of the first two miles out, and I walked most of the last two miles back. Really? Really. It was hot.

That’s Weekend Update, everyone. Good night.

Today’s post has been brought to you by Dr. Jekyll

The other day, Mr. Hyde got all bent out of shape about going for our run. After, shall we say, some attitude adjustment, he’s been working on adopting a more agreeable demeanor. But the true test would come this morning when it was time to hit Brushy Creek Trail.

I let him choose whether we parked at the YMCA or at the sports park–we’d run from one to the other and back, so it was the same distance either way. But I figured he’d be a little more enthusiastic if he got to pick part of the route.

IMG_6079Brushy Creek Regional Trail follows, not surprisingly, Brushy Creek. Oddly, we’ve gotten several inches of rain over the last three or four days, so I was looking forward to seeing the creek rise a bit. Our part of Texas has been in a serious drought over the last three years or so–rain in July is almost unbelievable!

We started from the sports park which took us under the railroad trestle (a Capital Metro commuter train passed overhead as we ran) and across several tributaries of the creek. We crossed the first one, amazed at the quantity of water rushing past us. The whole way, the path was covered in puddles and sediment, and a couple of the wooden bridges were still slick. Once, a puddle completely blocked the trail–we had to climb a railing to go around it.

Needless to say, it was humid! The sun had come out after three cloudy, cool days, so while the trail was mostly shaded, we were still sweating up a storm. I was glad we’d each brought a hand-held water bottle with Nuun tablets mixed in.

From the beginning, B tried really hard to be agreeable. Instead of complaining, he chattered about random stuff. A sampling:

Can you tell what he’s been doing with his time the last couple of weeks? 🙂

IMG_6080Near the YMCA, there’s a bridge over a trickling waterfall. As we got closer, we could see that the creek was moving swiftly, even creating little rapids in places. And the waterfall itself? No longer a trickle, that’s for sure.

The water rushed down the hill and under the bridge, then broke into a huge waterfall. But there was more water than space for it–where the creek narrowed and turned, a bit of a backup occurred, creating a little pond of swirling water.

IMG_6089We walked down the banks a bit to get a better look at the waterfall. It roared over the rocks and created a fine misty spray drifting from the pool below. To our drought-tainted eyes, it looked as beautiful as Niagara Falls. I even took a video!

We took a quick break at the YMCA, then headed back. We noticed the clear water in the little tributaries–once I stopped and collected a handful of water to splash on my face. Ahhh.

As we crossed the bridge by the railroad trestle, a guy and his dog waded in the creekbed. B thought they had the right idea, so after they moved along, he jumped down and dunked his head under one of the little waterfalls too. I think if we weren’t a quarter-mile from my car, he would have submerged his whole body!

It was pretty warm out there, and we walked some–let’s say we were in no danger of breaking any kind of speed records! But we chatted and had a really nice time together. I hope this Dr. Jekyll–not his alter ego Mr. Hyde–is my running partner on Saturday, too.

Hydration, in various forms

After completing the Runner’s World running streak on Independence Day, I took July 5th off. We were visiting my husband’s family at a resort on Lake LBJ for the holiday weekend, we’d spent all day in the sun, and I was tired. I intended to run a couple of miles this morning–I even went as far as organizing my stuff for an easy exit–but I slept in (not sure how that’s possible when eight of us were sharing a house, but there it was) and then, remembering that I hate running in the morning, I decided to go to the pool with my kid instead.

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Lazy v. 2.0

After lunch, the dog and I drove home (well, she’s a slacker and just sat in the back seat…) and around 5:30 I headed to the Brushy Creek trail, hoping to put in six miles. Because it was on the warm side, I decided to park at the Sports Park because it’s kind of in the middle, and I could go a few miles each direction, stopping at the car (I had a small cooler in the trunk) for ice as I headed the other way. The trail has a number of water/restroom stops, but I prefer icewater unless I’m desperate.

For the first leg, I headed under the bridge and out to Brushy Creek Lake, past the sprinkler park and over the dam. I turned around at the far side of the dam and headed back to the Sports Park for more ice.

There’s a guy out there in a canoe. His recreation is more pleasant than mine at the moment.

From the Sports Park to the YMCA it’s about 2.5 miles of pretty shady trail, so after I refilled my water bottle, I headed the other direction. I was slow, and there was walking, but I made it out and back for a grand total of 6.65 miles. I think that’s the longest I’ve run since the Cleveland Half back in May. Certainly the furthest I’ve gone in 95* temperatures!

The real reason for the cooler in the trunk

The real reason for the cooler in the trunk

I drink a lot of this lime water on an average day, but ice-cold after a long, hot run? Aaaaaaamazing. I drank a second bottle with the Vietnamese food I picked up on the way home. 🙂

Today I ran the slowest eleven miles in the history of ever

So yeah. I set out to do double-digits today, as my last long-long run before the half. I wanted at least 12, 14 if things were going well. But my calf has been bothering me for a couple of weeks, on and off, and it was about a million percent humidity this morning (actually, the roads were still wet as I drove to the start of the trail–kind of a harbinger of doom, there) so the odds were stacked against me from the beginning.

Let’s look at today’s run in reverse, shall we?

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Spoiler alert: this is how I feel about today.

Unfortunately, while I can delete it from my Garmin, I can’t walk away from the actual run that easily. Probably because my legs hurt. Which I tried to address with this:

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I can only keep my leg in there for like 30 seconds. It made me feel awful for those people on the Titanic, since that day was clearly much worse than mine.

After about mile three, my water bottle was no longer cutting it. I’d chosen this trail because it has water fountains strategically placed every two miles or so, but even then, I was not staying well-hydrated. I’m sure that’s why I felt sluggish for most of this run–the humidity sucked all the energy right out of me.

A couple of times I passed groups having football or lacrosse practice, plus about four birthday parties, and I could see coolers and brightly-colored liquids in water bottles. If I hadn’t been a bit on the dehydrated side, I would have drooled over the sight of their sports drinks, and a couple of times I was tempted to beg them to share. I hate drinking warm water fountain water, and the thought of something ice-cold, possibly neon blue, was ridiculously appealing to me at mile six.

So when I got back to my car, I ducked into the YMCA and came out with this:

I don't usually like sports drinks, but this was liquid awesome after 11 humid miles.

I don’t usually like sports drinks, but this was liquid awesome after 11 humid miles.

About halfway through my run, I stopped at a park pavilion thing, filled up my water bottle with more lukewarm water, and stretched my calf muscle. I checked my phone and came up with this gem:

Several of these applied to me. But not quitting, because my car was five miles away.

Several of these applied to me. But not quitting, because my car was 5.5 miles away.

I didn’t have one of those runs where disaster lurks around every corner. No one crashed into me on a bike. I didn’t step in dog poop, or that big pile that appeared to have come from a large bovine. My shoelaces stayed tied. My phone battery, bluetooth headphone battery, and podcast supply remained healthy. I saw a deer, placidly nibbling grass under the highway overpass. I didn’t crawl, fall, or puke, and there was no blood or tears. But for probably seven of my eleven miles, I felt like I’d been hit by a truck, then perhaps hit again. I was sluggish and my muscles hurt. I walked a lot.

You mean it's just a stereotype that people ride horses everywhere in Texas??

You mean it’s just a stereotype that people ride horses everywhere in Texas??

But if I’d been allowed to ride a horse, the whole thing would have been different, dammit.

Looks like walking, feels like running

Whew. What a week!

My blog got a Liebster Award, a professional article I wrote generated a lot of positive attention, last night at a charity event I chatted with Vince Young and Quan Cosby, and the bluebonnets are out. But still, this time of year is rough for me. Working full-time (both as a teacher and extracurricular sponsor) while my husband travels for his job, getting the kid to school and lacrosse practice, keeping up with my own training… it takes its toll on me. I’m exhausted by the end of the week, and the lack of sleep just makes things worse.

Plus I’m still fighting to break out of my running funk, although last week’s trail run helped a lot. Tuesday’s track workout went pretty well too, except that I felt like I had weights strapped on my ankles–things just aren’t clicking quite right, and I haven’t figured out what’s going on there. My running gait looks like Elaine Benes trying to dance, or at least that’s how it feels to me.

But I am plodding along, trying to get my act together. Thursday evening I ran three miles at the park where my son had lacrosse practice, and this morning I ran five miles along the Brushy Creek Regional Trail. Yeah, my training schedule called for 12-14 miles, but the way things are going, my coach and I thought perhaps I should take a different approach this week.

So I ditched the alarm and slept in. And instead of running for distance, I decided to run for 90 minutes–45 minutes out, 45 minutes back. I drove out to the YMCA, where the trail ends, and I figured I’d run down to Brushy Creek Sports Park and back. That’s roughly three miles each way; adding a loop around the sports park would get me pretty close to 45 minutes.

Last night’s charity event was largely outdoors, and while it felt a little chilly after the sun went down, it was still a beautiful evening. This morning I was surprised to get out of my car to drizzly 50-degree temperatures. But I warmed up pretty quickly–although my electric, fluorescent, highlighter-yellow shirt was short-sleeved, I think it was bright enough to have actual warming qualities. So off I went, over the river bridge and through the woods.

I really love running this trail. It has hills, it has flats, it’s scenic, and it’s wide enough to accommodate runners, walkers, and cyclists. Assuming you’re not the Jackass Family who walked four-wide, blocking traffic in both directions, or the high school girls who ran on the left side of the path. But most everyone is considerate, and probably 2/3 of people I pass wave, smile, or nod as we pass. I feel like part of a secret club when they do that.

The other thing I loved about this trail today? IMG_4961Bluebonnets. You know it’s springtime in Texas when the bluebonnets appear along highways, hillsides, and trails. It’s my favorite time of year–no longer winter, not yet hellishly hot. These little blue flowers are harbingers of perfect running weather, that month or so between using the heater and turning on the air conditioner. And despite the continuing drought, quite a few hardy souls have sprung up in the usual places.

I made my way along the trail. I still felt like I had invisible weights strapped to my ankles, but they might have been an ounce or two lighter than on my last run. Maybe. I took it slowly, I ignored my Garmin, and before long I had arrived at the sports park. There were a couple of kids’ flag football games going on, which meant a zillion minivans and SUVs crowded the parking lot. Drivers jockeyed for the closest spots, often choosing to park in the grass or in the median rather than park in the almost-empty lot a few dozen feet further away. Can’t have those kids walking extra-far before a sporting event, I guess.

I looped around the park and headed back the way I’d come. My gait was still awkward, and at times I struggled to find a consistent rhythm. But other times, I loped along, zoning out instead of thinking about each funky step. It wasn’t one of those perfect runs where everything gels just right, but it wasn’t horrid either. I could have gone further, although I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have run faster.

By the time I got back to my car, I’d only been out for 1:15, not the 1:30 I had intended. But I’d felt better than my last long run two weeks ago, so I thought perhaps I should quit while I was ahead, and build on this one next Saturday. Baby steps.

Recovery run

All weekend I joked that I had the plague, but it was really just a cold. I lazed around a bit Saturday and by Sunday I had mostly recovered, so this morning (since it’s a school holiday) the small person and I went for a run on Brushy Creek trail. It was a gorgeous morning–short sleeve weather–and lots of people were out. We started at the sports park and ran southwest-ish, toward the YMCA. I stashed our membership cards in my pocket in case we needed to stop and get water before heading back.

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Make way for ducklings!

The trail is great–a wide concrete path for runners, walkers, and cyclists. Rustic-looking bridges. The occasional historical marker. And lots and lots of animal footprints in the concrete.

We ran about 2.25 miles along the trail, identifying the animal tracks along the way. Ducks and raccoons were pretty obvious, but others left us puzzled. A few looked like chicken feet, or maybe grackles or crows. Another could have been a rabbit. What does an opossum footprint look like? And wow a few tracks belonged to HUGE canines. Considering no human feet tracked alongside them, I wondered if they were coyotes or some other large dog. Yowza.

The tracks almost always moved in a straight line across the path toward the creek, although every once in a while the footprints looked like the poor animals had gotten confused and made a quick circle back onto the grass. I could just hear them asking, “Ugh! What’s this sticky stuff on my feet?”

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Y not?

When we got to the YMCA, we noticed a different set of tracks. Instead of footprints, they were Ys. Clever.

The YMCA has been building an indoor pool for forever. They started sometime around December 2011 and it was supposed to be finished this past December. Slowest. Construction project. Ever. It’s still not done, although there is water in the pool and it looks pretty close. The construction limited people’s access to the outdoor pool all summer, so I haven’t been there much during the last 6+ months. But all of their improvements look spiffy, so perhaps I’ll spend more time at the Y this year, once the New Years Resolutioners fade away. 😉

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In the 1880s, the railroad carried granite from the quarries over this trestle to be used in the construction of the state capitol building. Huge blocks of granite fell off trains now and then–they’re scattered on the ground here.

We checked out the new facilities, got some water, and headed out for the return trip on the trail. Before long, we were back at the old railroad trestle. Up the hill, across the park, back to the car. By the time we finished, we’d gone almost 4.5 miles.

I’m pretty sure that’s the furthest my kid has run… ever. We’ve done the Capitol 10K before, but we haven’t run it straight through. Other than the stop at the YMCA, we ran the whole way today. Not a bad way to spend an hour-ish, now that I have recovered from the plague.