Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Douchbagery of Airline Passengers

Aside from people who are so Type-B that nothing pierces their iron-clad visage of letting the good times roll, most of us get annoyed by mundane things. I'm an urban planner, so for me it's often large lot zoning. We know that large lot zoning increases vehicle miles traveled (because you can't walk to anything) and home energy use (because the homes are larger and require more energy to heat and cool). Yet this is a slow march of a battle, because people who enjoy these homes can easily hide behind property rights and the free market, and feign ignorance (or legitimately not care or believe) about their little contribution to environmental problems. I prefer to believe that these people also drive SUVs, because that annoys me too. But again, it's a slow march. But on airplanes? No, that douchbaggery lacks the plausible deniability of the standard stock suburban consumerism. I will explain. 

Take this guy sitting in front of me as I type this. He knows full well that in reclining his seat, he is reclining into my seating space. With his seat up, I have approximately 24 inches between the back of his head rest and the front of mine. With his seat reclined, I have 21 inches (I measured) and he has 27 inches between the front of his head rest and the back of the one in front of him, creating a difference of 6 inches, or 34%. Setting up a laptop on my tray would be out of the question. In fact, my slim iPad barely fits. 

There is no free market here. There is only the ability to consume more at someone else's expense with the ability to do so without verbally acknowledging it or making eye contact. And that's douchbaggery. 

I saw a list recently of the top 10 passenger complaints. The top item on the list was unruly children. This has almost never bothered me. Maybe it's because I have small children and I sympathize with the parents, who are likely exhausted and miserable. Other complaints included the chatty Cathy's, the overhead bin hogs, and the frequent-pee passengers. These things can be unpleasant, but I was really surprised to find many of them ranking above the seat recliner. 

The other thing I find truly obnoxious is not the Chatty Cathy sitting next to me, but the one behind me. Once on a flight from Salt Lake to St. Louis I sat in front of a man who spent the entire 4 hour flight talking about his life in Thailand. This included not short segments about his cat and its hilarious antics. It also included intensely detailed information about the provisions of his employment vis-a-vis travel. Since he taught English abroad, his employer would pay twice a year for a ticket to and from the United States. And boy, didn't that open up a lot of opportunities for him! And the cat. Who hated to be away from him, his daughter, and his fiancee. These people would be much less annoying if you had the opportunity to make eye contact, or provide the common social cues that you're not interested in their conversation. In this particular case, I even turned around a few times to glare, but to no avail. The hilarious cat,  and the tales of amazing food discoveries went on, and on, and on. 

These people are on a level with the young men (inevitably) who sit behind my young children on a plane and discuss their frat parties in lurid detail. Or their habits regarding bong maintenance. Or lengthy discussions on political views that involves the work "fuck" as frequently as possible, to let their new seatmate bff's know that they are both informed AND edgy. 

I once sat across the aisle from a woman in her mid-60s. On the round side, with hair that had taken some doing--not bouffant style, but curled and sprayed. She wore a sweater set and ironed pants. I watched her eat her lunch, which contained some sort of sandwich and potato chips, and she chatted with her seatmates. Some time after her lunch, she neatly folded her napkin and stowed her trash until the flight attendant could come by. She stood up in the aisle, as if to stretch, turned to face her seat mates so as to continue chatting with them as she stretched, and dispensed with the most toxic SBD in history. She stood a few moments, doing light calisthenics to complete the charade, and then simply returned to her seat. My brother says I'm a 4-star grudge holder, likely for the fact that I bother to remember incidents like this for long periods of time. I don't think so, though. I think it was just a heinous act against humanity that couldn't possibly fade from memory during this lifetime. 

So that's it on my rant on the douchbaggery of airline passengers. I have to admit, I'm feeling better about this asshole in front of me. When do we land? 

[Note: I wrote this in December 2013, while on a flight probably for work. I rediscovered this on my iPad while on a recent trip, and decided it needed to be set free into the world.]

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Post-Race Shenanigans

Hello friends! After Utah Valley, I took some time away from running (gasp! I know. Read on.) to relax and enjoy other pursuits. I have some tales from the road to share, and a look forward to my fall season. First up, the Post-Race Utah Adventure with my St. Louis BRF (best running friend) Rachel. 

Utah has five national parks. FIVE. Two years here, and I hadn't been to any of them. As we plotted our hijinks in the weeks before the race, I couldn't escape the feeling that it was high time I broke the Utah National Park barrier and went barreling in. After a bunch of reading online and talking to friends, I suggested Capitol Reef National Park for a few reasons. First, it's a little closer to home than the bigger parks. Second, its website suggested that it's a little cooler than in the parks farther south. Third, it has various camping options, and I wanted to check out the developed camp ground for possible future camping-with-kids adventures. Rachel thought all this sounded great. It was set.

After our race in Provo, we headed back to Salt Lake to shop and pack for our camping trip and hang out with my family. On Sunday late morning we set off, car full of gear. We arrived at the Fruita Campground about 2pm, in time to snag one of the last few open camp sites* and get set up. Once set up, we headed out for a short hike on the Cohab Trail. So cool!! The trail winds through a narrow little ravine, where your voice echoes off the rock walls at places. We climbed some rocks to a higher point for a panoramic view, just before turning around and heading back to the campsite for the evening.
The view from our camp site
The camp ground had an evening program on the parks predators and prey. Afterwards, I sat outside for a long time looking at the clear, diamond-studded night sky. It had been so long since I'd seen it that I'd almost forgotten how relieving it is.

On Monday morning we wakened with the sun and planned our hikes for the day. First we hiked Chimney Rock. I'm sure I can't do it justice, so I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

120 million year old petrified wood. NBD.

Me! In nature!
After lunch, we headed out for what would be my favorite hike of the trip: the Grand Wash Trail. I just, I can't even. Just look. That's me standing in the middle--that tiny fleck. 

We were headed to the Cassidy Arch (named for David Cassidy, who used to hide out there), but we missed a turn, and by the time we figured it out, the sun was hot and the extra distance daunting. Regardless, it was incredible. We saw a family of big horned sheep come scampering down a very rocky, very steep hill. Our voices echoed up to the sky in this next picture. Just incredible. 

We camped a second night, then on Tuesday, ripe and ready for showers, we checked out some petroglyphs from the Fremont Culture (read more here) and a nearby coffee shop that was delightful, and headed back to Salt Lake. The drive between is also remarkably beautiful, with about 4000 feet in elevation gain/loss. Back in Salt Lake, we cleaned up, re-packed Rachel's stuff, headed out for the elk burgers that are not to be missed when you visit Salt Lake, and then to the airport. 

Lessons Learned: 
  1. Take a can opener. 
  2. Don't plan canned chili two nights in a row when you're sharing a two-man tent.
  3. I have decent mastery of all my camping equipment, including the camp stove, chairs, and tent. Go me. 
  4. Trail running shoes would be more appropriate than my regular running shoes for this terrain. 
  5. I really do love avocados. 
  6. I can now identify marmots. I think. 
  7. That * above is for this: the Fruita Campground really does fill by about 3pm this time of year. Rachel asked the Camp Hosts (this adorable old couple in a little Pope-mobile) how often the camp ground sold out, and they said since March, it had only not filled on 3 nights. So if you want to camp there, do plan ahead. 
  8. While I was blown away by Capitol Reef, virtually everyone we talked to said they prefer Bryce Canyon or Arches National Parks. I have to assume they are worth the extra distance, if you have time. They are on my list, for sure. 
To wrap it up, our trip was great. The race was an unexpected success. I love having Rachel visit, and can't wait to do it again!! Who knows what adventures await us. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Utah Valley Half Marathon Race Report

Friday Morning
I have had an EPIC four days, and cannot wait to share it all with you, starting with Saturday, the Utah Valley Half. Welcome to the race recap!

If you've been following along on here or on Daily Mile, you know that I have been battling a foot, then knee, then calf strain for over a month, and that this has threatened race day both by screwing up my speed work, then my threatening even my ability to run without constantly stopping. So it was with great trepidation that I entered this weekend. I didn't know where I would fall on the spectrum that runs from a PR (Personal Record) to a DNF (Did Not Finish). Walking large portions of the race seemed likely. 

On Friday my St. Louis BRF (best running friend) Rachel was scheduled to land about 10am, having taken a brutal 5:30am flight from St. Louis. About 9am I got a text message that their departure from Las Vegas (a layover) had been delayed. Then....canceled. CANCELED?! Having lived in the Midwest for 8 years, I'm no stranger to canceled flights. Think you're catching the last flight south from Chicago? Think again. Think you're getting to Michigan in December? Nope. But this? A canceled flight from Vegas in June? This was unprecedented. 

What to do? Southwest couldn't get her on a flight until 9pm, landing at 11 or something. We had to get up at 2:30 Saturday for the race. If I left right then, at 9am, to get her, it was 6 hours each way. We wouldn't get back until 9pm, best case scenario, and both of us exhausted. 

I was facing a possible DNF. She was stranded in Vegas. This Race Eve sucked. 

Being the resourceful girl that she is, she had made friends with a couple on the flight to Vegas. As she stood in line at customer service with a strange man creeping on her, she caught sight of the couple, who asked if she was game for a rental car, and she took the first chance to escape Mr. Creepy and get on the road with, and I quote, "2 gay guys and a plump middle aged woman". As the options went, this was the lowest risk strategy available. She was on her way. 

This left the small issue of a packet pickup, and, cue the superhero music for the Utah Valley race organizers. She emailed them about her situation and within minutes had a reply (by email! on race eve!) that I could pick up her packet as long as I had a copy of her race registration. She sent that to me (seriously, thank God for smart phones), and with that I was headed to Provo to the expo. 

The Expo
No surprises here. They had maybe 30 vendors, including some shoe stores, some other regional races, some nutrition and personal care product companies, including one for essential oils, at which a woman insisted to me that she had a relative in a wheel chair by 50, and she (the sales person) had completed some insane number of marathons and it was all thanks to the power of essential oils. Um....they're great and all, but, just maybe you're overselling it here?? 

I made my way to the back, to the packet pick-up, and looked up both of our numbers, and approached the desk. The girls, in their late teens or early twenties I'd guess, were incredibly nice and patient as I explained needing to pick up two packets. I told them I'd met my AWOL friend doing exactly what they were doing now--handing out pre-race swag at a half & full marathon (read about that day here). 
On my way out I thought I'd capture the moment. I was attempting a selfie when some do-gooder offered to help. I think the selfie might have been less awkward looking. He tried!

Friday Afternoon & Evening
After the expo, I ran errands around Salt Lake, including REI then the Mormon version of Goodwill to pick up some throw-away sweatshirts, remembering shivering at the start line last year. I sent a few last work emails, cleaned up the house a bit, and around 5:40 headed to the airport to pick up Rachel, finally.

We stopped at the grocery store on the way back home to pick up groceries for the morning. We got home, had a pasta dinner, and pretty much immediately started getting ready for bed. I was in bed by 9:30 and asleep soon after, my alarm set for 2:40am. Because we're crazy people.

Getting to the Start Line
Race morning more or less went smoothly, aside from having to come back to the house when we were about 3/4 mile out the first time, to leave a car seat behind. That detour ate up the entire cushion we had built in for ensuring that we would arrive square in the middle of the window in which to catch a bus up the canyon to the start line. When we arrived there were gobs of people standing in the parking lot, lined up for buses. In fact, there was at least a bus-full of people lined up behind us by the time the window ended, but, as it turned out, we did ride the last or next-to-last bus up the canyon. Here again, the race organizers were tremendous. No one got deserted if they showed up on time, and the crew herding us into the buses was both efficient and kind. Thumbs up on this.

The bus deposited us at the start line about 30-40 minutes before the gun. By this point, we'd each had a small cup of coffee, a bagel with various things on it, and were about to have some Gu, which is to say, we were more than ready for the port-a-potties at the start line, and were race-ready afterwards. We got our gear situated, cinched up our drop bags and put them on the truck. Before we split to find our respective pacers I told her I'd never felt less confident at a start line, and that if I didn't come in within 10 minutes after she did, something had gone terribly wrong for me.

I lined up just behind the 1:45 pacer, and next to a trio that appeared to be somehow related to one another. They asked if I knew the course, and when I said I did, they asked questions about different parts of it. I asked about their goals, and very politely suggested they move back in the starting area when they said "just to finish". Oy.

I discarded my throw-away sweatshirt, got back into the starting mob, and then,


With absolutely no fanfare--no anthem, no announcements, no words of encouragement, no real warning--the start gun went off. Much later we speculated that there was some gap in communication between the full marathon (which starts farther up the canyon) and the half, and by the time the half start line crew realized it was go time, it was too late for the normal formalities.

At any rate, we were inching toward the start line, and then off! It's at this point that I hear one of my favorite quotes from the day, from a girl next to me: "1:45?! Isn't that some kind of qualifying time??" I laughed out loud.

Miles 1-3
Maybe 100 or 150 feet over the start line, a crazy thing happened. My subconscious exerted itself in a visceral response to people engaging in bad race day behavior, which I and 99% of other runners habitually just deal with as quickly and painlessly as possible. Before I really realized I was doing it, I'd said, out loud, to four women WALKING, four-abreast, that if they were going to walk, they could not line up with the 1:30 pacer.

Is it considered rude to bark at other participants? Yes. Yes, it is. But since I did it, let's take this moment to be crystal clear about something:
If you are planning to walk, DO NOT line up with the 1:30 pacer. Line up with the 3:00 pacer, if not the 3:30. Also, it is rude to run or walk more than two abreast during a race unless you are literally the last people on the course. If people have to veer much to get around you, your group is too wide. 

Hissy fit aside, these early miles were crucial gauges of my ability to run. Earlier in the week I'd put in all of 2.5 miles, and had had to stop 3 times to stretch. And that was the last run I'd attempted before the race. Could I get going? Could I hit the paces on my pace band?

Could I get going? Yes.
Could I hit the paces on my pace band? Sort of.
I missed my Mile 1 pace target by only a few seconds, but this immediately gave me flash backs to the Cleveland Marathon, when I missed the Mile 1 pace and never could regain footing. But I felt OK, and most importantly, my calves and Achilles felt OK, which was a huge relief.

Miles 4-6
The course's biggest hill comes after mile marker 3. This hill is a medium grade, but long. If you're not expecting it, not accustomed to hills, or have trained at sea level, this hill is a b*tch. I tackled this hill slightly slower than intended, then pressed on. Just barreling down the canyon--the gorgeous, dramatic canyon.

Miles 7-10
We came to the mouth of the canyon around mile marker 8, meaning that we had 5.1 miles to go on the valley floor. For a bit I wasn't sure if we'd hit the mouth yet or not, because I wasn't really paying attention when we turned left. I was off in runner-land somewhere, doing my thing. So it took me about half a mile to convince myself that we'd turned left and were out of the canyon. My game plan was to approach the race in early (pre-hill) miles, from the hill to the bottom of the canyon, from the mouth of the canyon to the last hill, then the 2.5 miles to the finish. So when I figured out where we were, I knew I just needed to drive hard to the last hill.

Miles 11-12.6
When I hit the last, smallish, hill at about 10.7, and felt good coming through it, I knew I was in the home stretch. It was too far out to kick, so I held my pace and kept my eye on the downtown landmarks I knew were near the finish, just chasing them down.

The Finish
At 12.6 I kicked. It was hard. I relied on my memory and muscle memory of running all those intervals, to remember that they are hard, and to remember that I ran them in training to prepare me for this point in the race. Push. It's a little hard to tell, but I held this pace around a 7:40 through the end. Coming down the final blocks to the finish line, I didn't let myself look at my Garmin. It's too hard to gauge how long it will take to cover 2 city blocks, and that can be hard to deal with when you're at the very end of a race. So I just ran, hard.

As I approached I spotted Rachel waiting for me just over the finish line. I crossed the mat, clicked my Garmin to stop, and looked at it. 1:47:01. I'd PR'ed. At a race I thought I might DNF. I yelled. Loud.

Then I rang the PR bell. Or, more accurately, I epically failed in my effort to ring the PR bell, all while a young guy stood waiting for it and trying not to laugh at me. *facepalm It's harder than it looks!

Chip time: 1:47:00.4
While my pace bands said 1:45, I'd been hoping to land somewhere in the 1:46 range. This four-tenths of a second just pissed me off. Four tenths! The time lost running around four women walking abreast at the start line. Ha! But seriously.

Overall place: 244/1658
Gender place: 76/1005
Division place: 11/152
Overall pace: 8:10/mile

I am particularly pleased with these place stats--top 15% overall, and in the top 10% for both gender and division. Hell yeah!

Immediate Post Race
We loitered around the post race as long as possible, trying to shake out the legs and recover a bit. In doing so, we ran into my super fast neighbor, who won a prize, and, wait for it......placed second to a guy running in Crocs. For all things, I wish I were making this up. Crocs. And his son won some award too, also running in Crocs. Who does this?!??

After the race, we headed back to Salt Lake to get cleaned up, nap, spend time with my boys, and pack up for our next Utah adventure. Stay tuned.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Weekly & May Wrap-Up

Hello friends! Another week of training has passed, and with it, May draws to a close. Like I did last month, I'm going to wrap the two into a combined recap. And oh my, what a week and month it has been.

This Week

If you've been watching this training cycle, you already know that it's been full of ups and downs--injury and exhaustion and rebounding with great runs. This past week was no exception.

Monday: I kicked the week off with a 5 mile easy run, to shake out the 16 mile long run I'd done the day before. Nothing super memorable about this run. Average pace, 9:20.

Tuesday: Yoga! Hooray!! We had a substitute for our regular teacher, and she was great! I really enjoyed the class and left feeling awesome about the world.

Wednesday: The day I'd been dreading/yearning for--my shot at redemption at speed work. As I went out the door to run I told my husband that my training schedule had noted that "today's workout should feel well within reach" and I wanted to flip it off. I was not feeling confident.

The workout: 10x400 (1:45 each) with 200m recoveries (plus warm-up and cool-down). How'd it go? It went freaking awesomely. Splits (400s only):
1:44, 1:40, 1:44, 1:52*, 1:42, 1:43, 1:41, 1:47, 1:44, 1:40
* into the higher corner of the park, but that only explains 2-3 seconds of this. It just got away from me.

Needless to say, I was PUMPED about this. Also, I did most of this in the rain. Like, honest-to-goodness rain, which made me feel even more like a bad ass, naturally. Plus, no pain when I rolled my left IT when I got home. WINNING.

Thursday: Should have taken a rest day. Did not. Ran 6 easy miles instead. Stopped to stretch my calves in the middle, as my left calf was cramping up.

Friday: Super slow 5 miles. Average pace 9:31.

Saturday: Ready for this? For the high point of the week that was speed work, this long run had to rank among the 10 worst runs ever. It was supposed to be a tempo long run, with a warm up, 6 miles at tempo (7:49) and cool down. My "tempo" miles came out at 8:16, 8:28, 8:38, and 8:42. Yep--all 4 of them. And that was all I had. My next 3 miles were a 10:01, 10:24, and 14 minutes. Fourteen minutes. I actually stopped and sat on a park bench for a minute--something I've only ever done one other time mid-run, and I was 37 weeks pregnant at the time. So what went wrong? I'm not sure, but I think my body was still recovering from the speed work. And, since I'd done last week's long run on Sunday, I'd had zero rest days between long runs. And, my left calf is now clearly bringing up the rear of this whole "every part of my left leg is going to undergo injury" shit show, with what feels like a small tear/strain. Otherwise, I got nothin'.

This is how I felt about this long run. 
 The silver lining of this run, if there was one, was that I tried a new Gu flavor and really enjoyed it. I would buy this again. Root beer. Hadn't seen it in a store before. Have you tried it yet? Will you?

May Wrap-Up

I am quite pleased to report that May, injury and all, has been my highest mileage month this year (actually, my highest since last August), ringing in at 138.8, and bringing my 2015 miles to 438. Stats from the month:

# Miles: 138.8

# Runs: 20

# Other workouts: 2. I did yoga in my hotel room in Detroit (if you didn't see my post about that, you should do it! I'm going to start doing yoga every time I travel. Amazing. Great antidote to the muscle strain that comes from traveling). And I did yoga this past Tuesday. I also did a metric sh*tload of foam rolling.

Most memorable run: It's hard to pick this month. The short run I did on the Detroit River Walk was memorable, for seeing all the fishermen there in the morning, and enjoying the change of scenery from my everyday routes. My 16-miler (last weekend) was memorable for being such a wildly successful long run. It's hard to run that far and feel that great at the end. And then this week's speed work, because it was such a triumph over a series of failed efforts.

Current want/needs: I do not need anything. In fact, my current need is to set aside some time to go through all my running gear and weed out the ill-fitting or worn-out items, because my dresser drawers are getting hard to close....

Training update: I'm two weeks out from race day!! I'm not sure what to expect of myself time-wise, but I'm excited for the day (and a good friend) to come.

Home renovation update: Some changes big and small have transpired. Big: we had a huge part of our side yard dug up and mulched over. Even though it's still kinda patchy and weird looking, it looks about a million times better than it had. We're working now with a landscaper to get it integrated with the rest of the yard, and looking like a place you'd actually want  to spend time. I can't wait! Small: at long last, we found just the right tray (for drinks and things) for the ottoman in the man cave (I realize how inconsequential this may seem, but we'd been keeping an eye out for months). And I think we finally found just the right chair for that room, too, although we haven't purchased it (yet). And finally, my parents are here, which means I can finally get to work making the drapes for the living room--the last major undertaking for that space. Hooray!!

Other lovely things in life: My older son turned 7 this month, and hosted some friends for a game party here at the house. It was so much fun, even just to watch! To hear their excited voices, and everyone having a nice time. It was really sweet.

On the research front, I am loving that it's summertime and I get to focus on research, research, research, and very little on other aspects of my job that are more prevalent during the academic year. I'm making great progress on a handful of projects. A colleague and I have very nearly completed the revisions on one manuscript, and we received a Revise & Resubmit letter for another article we had under review, which is great news. I am nearing the completion of the first full draft of a new paper (which I'm co-authoring with a student), and research is going well on another project that isn't as far along yet. An unexpected luxury has come in the form of a sprinkler installation in my office building, which means that I'm working from home a lot, and really appreciating that change. I feel like I'm having the opportunity to just breath in my home really for the first time.

Happy June, runners!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Training from the Road: Detroit Edition

When I left you about a week ago I was foam rolling like crazy to try to head off an angry foot tendon, and IT band issue that probably developed while I was compensating for my foot hurting. I am very happy to report that this past week has been, while less than perfect, a significant improvement. Much of it was also spent on the road. 

First, the Injury Report. I am continuing to roll my foot on a tennis ball, and roll my IT band on a foam roller. The swelling in my knee is still there, but is not significant. I can crouch down if I have to, and I only grimace a little. This morning in yoga, however, I could not stay in a pose that required me to put the majority of my body weight on my left knee. It was a weird place in the practice to retreat to child's pose, I'll grant you. It seems to me that the judgiest thing about yoga is the clothing, so I think we're good to go! 

Second, my Report from the Road. Last week I was in Detroit for work. It was a fantastic trip, and a much needed step away from the everyday routine to get energized about my work. Plus, I got to do some pretty great sight seeing. 

We went to Cliff Bell's. If you're ever in town, go!

We visited the Detroit Public Library for research purposes. It did not disappoint!
And most importantly for my life as a runner, we stayed at the Ren Cen, downtown. The Ren Cen is infamous in my field for being a disappointing urban project. It was built to create a place for face-to-face communications for the business world, but is in practice confusing to navigate and difficult to access on foot. It contains a stop on the Detroit People Mover, which has among the lowest ridership of any public transportation system in America (it's essentially a tram, going in one direction in a circle around downtown Detroit. For all those people whose origins and destinations are in downtown Detroit.....all 3 of them...).

But for running, the Ren Cen works well for the out-of-town guest, as it connects to the river walk. I remembered the river walk from my turn in the 2009 Detroit Free Press Marathon, but wasn't sure how well kept it was outside of race day. I messaged a friend who happens to be a runner and lives in Detroit, and she suggested trying it. It was great! All along the way there were people out fishing. The river walk was really nicely kept, with game areas, Adirondack chairs, and some small attractions. I ran from the hotel to a small lighthouse, then to the Cobo Center and back, putting in a nice 5 miles.
The view from the room at the Ren Cen
In addition to running, I downloaded a yoga app (Yoga 201, which I would recommend) onto my iPad before I went, and my conference roomie and I did yoga in our hotel room. Seriously one of the best decisions ever. I felt about a hundred times better afterward. I might make this a conference travel requirement.

I got home very late Thursday night, just in time to celebrate my older son's birthday on Friday, and host his part on Saturday. I think I had as much fun as he did, watching him play games with his friends, and listening to them all laugh and have fun. It did mean though, that like the previous 3 weeks, my long run got moved to Sunday.

On Sunday I turned in one of my best executed 16 milers ever. I nailed nutrition before, during, and after the run, and finally (!) remembered to stock my car with extra water and electrolyte tablets to refill my water bottle mid-run (there are fountains on the trail, but only in the second half of the run, and not for a while). My average pace was 9:20 without feeling like I was pushing it at all.

The sweaty glory of a post-run selfie
 Does this happen to anyone else on a long run? This is the crease of my right arm.

Afterward, I foam rolled my IT band and to my great delight found that it rolled out easily. The tennis ball under my left foot found some resistance though, but I'm on it like white on rice.

This week is off to a good start. I've got speed work on the agenda for tomorrow. This has been a rough month or so for speed work, so wish me luck! It's hard to believe that we're just a few weeks out from race day already.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Nerd Parades and Tennis Balls

It's been two weeks since I checked in. It's been a bumpy couple of weeks, and for a while I just wasn't sure what to say. The ups and downs (alert: this post might be kind of a downer!), mostly downs, have been confusing and frustrating, and I'm still figuring out where they end, and what they mean.

Let's start with week before last.

Classes had finally ended, and I'd (metaphorically) locked myself in Grading Jail but was making very slow progress getting out due to the fact that I spent my entire week in meetings, interminably it seemed. I was also at the bitter end of what had been a long and extremely stressful series of events at work. I was finally over whatever stomach thing had lingered with me for a large part of the previous week. I was exhausted. When I was in bed enough hours, I couldn't sleep, and a lot of nights I was just too busy to be in bed for long enough.

So I did my workouts, but I dragged. And it really showed in speed work. The goal was 2x400, 1x800, 1x1200, 1x800, and 2x400, at a 7:02 pace, with recoveries. I hit that goal pace exactly one time, on the first 400, and not again. Toward the end, try as I might, I could not move the needle below a 7:30 pace. Of course I was happy to finish the workout, since I'd been sick the week before and had bailed on it, but man, was this frustrating. I love to go fast! I can sometimes go fast! But not lately, and not ever again, it felt.

My weekend long run ended up happening on Sunday rather than Saturday because it poured all day Saturday. I didn't mind. I spent almost all day Saturday either with my family or under a blanket on the couch, grading. Still not finishing grading.

I couldn't help taking a picture of this, the academic equivalent of the morning after Mardis Gras. This is the left over debris from our annual nerd parade known as graduation.
The long run itself was 14 miles with an average pace of 9:30. There wasn't anything particularly memorable about it, except that I kicked it off with a pretty stellar elevation gain, and enjoyed that that felt easier than it used to.

For quite a while--6 weeks maybe?--I've had a pain and small amount of swelling on the inside of my left knee. For several weeks I thought it was something about the knee, then learned that in fact I had injured a tendon in the bottom of my left foot, and that tendon runs the length of the calf and connects to the knee. I can't say for sure, but this probably happened while I was busy not noticing that my running shoes needed to be replaced, then continuing to run in the old ones when my first effort at replacements didn't work. And the 14 mile run, well, that was the last straw for my foot/knee issue. The pain increased to a level that I couldn't continue to ignore.

I did not run on Monday. I foam rolled, and I rolled my foot on a tennis ball, which for those of you who have never done this to an angry muscle/tendon, hurts like a son of a bitch.

On Tuesday, after about 48 hours of rest (which to the brain of an injured runner feels like a year), I decided to give it a try. I made it 0.3 miles.

I rested another 2 days. And kept rolling on the tennis ball (insert every expletive you know, then make some up). I tried again, hesitantly (it's Thursday at this point). Five miles. And it went...ok! And average pace of 9:05, which mostly tells me I was anxious to get going. I kept a careful eye on my foot and on my knee for swelling, and hopped back on the tennis ball repeatedly (sensing a theme yet?). Friday I added on one more mile, turning in a solid 6-miler. Whew!

And again, Saturday (yesterday) it rained all day. We (me and my boys) tackled a laundry list of household chores that had piled up. I don't know about you, but getting through even some of the backlog lifts a weight off of me.

So the real test came today, Sunday, on my 10-miler. The run went really well! My average pace was 8:55, and I did successfully put 3 faster miles in the middle (8:00, 7:58, and 7:25). In the hours after, my knee is a little touchy. I've foam rolled my left IT band and quad (the IT was, unsurprisingly, a little angry), and my foot, and will hit the foot again before bed. So far, it's a big improvement over last week, though it's a bit too early to definitely call it a success.

So this is where I'm at. I spent part of 1 week sick. Then the following week exhausted. And part of this week injured. This coming week I'm traveling, and while I can hit the treadmill for easy runs, am not yet sure how I'll do speed work. This has not been the training cycle I'd hoped it would be. Will it prevent me from reaching my goal on race day? That remains to be seen. I know all of this is perfectly normal. Runners go through training periods of nirvana, and periods that are less fulfilling. I know this. We all know this. But it still sucks when it's you on the low point of that sine wave.

Any tricks or words of encouragement?

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Combined Weekly & April Wrap-Up

April In Review

Total Miles Ran: 79.6

# Runs: 12

# Other Workouts: 3 yoga classes. Wanna know how you can spot the runners in a yoga class? When the instructor tells everyone to hold a pose for 5 deep breaths, everyone else finishes and the runners are barely to the end of breath #3.

Most Memorable Run: Easily the Salt Lake Half. See the race report here.
I love that they gave all runners 1 free photo download! A little red in the face, but feeling great at the finish line.

Current Needs/Wants: I honestly do not need anything. However, man oh man do I have my eye on this. I did pick up a pair of end-of-season clearance tights from Athleta earlier today. I'm anxious to see how they fit. It will be nice to have a second pair of mid-weight tights for next winter.

Training Update/Weekly Update: The week started out well. On Monday I enjoyed a 7 mile easy run, and I started Tuesday--my birthday--with a sunrise yoga power hour at my neighborhood yoga studio. I felt strong and energized--a perfect way to start a new year of life!

And all fell apart. I try to keep things upbeat around here, but honestly, this past week was one of the worst running weeks I can ever remember. On Tuesday night, I think I had an allergic reaction to something I ate. That derailed my Wednesday morning speed work. Wednesday was touchy, but by Thursday morning I thought I was ready to try it again. Nope. I got through almost half of the workout and had to walk home. Friday I did an easy run and it wasn't stellar, but passable. On Saturday I was scheduled for a long run that should not have been difficult: 8 miles, with 3 miles at tempo in the middle. I ran 2 miles in the middle a little slower than tempo (about 8 min/mile), could not do the third, and ended up walking part of the last mile. I just couldn't do the workout.

It's early May. This is the end of the semester, and the end of the academic year. Many years, I just go ahead and get really sick this week. I think a combination of an allergy, stress, fatigue, and the accompanying weakened immune system, meant that I simply did not have the strength and health to train according to schedule. I had a great day relaxing and catching up on stuff around the house today, and am sincerely hoping my stronger, faster self is back tomorrow morning.

Six weeks and counting until my A-game race of the year!!

Home Renovation Updates: It's been pretty quiet on the home front this month. We're trying to get our yard into shape a bit, and I have made some progress selling, giving away, and organizing things, which always makes a home feel more comfortable.

Other Lovely Things in Life: The semester is almost over! Hooray!! While I've really enjoyed my classes this spring, and have had some great students, I'm also beyond ready for more focused research time, and a break from constant course prep, grading, and student emails. We also have some great things planned for summer, including a 10th anniversary getaway for my husband and me, an evening seeing A Prairie Home Companion with my parents, my older son's 7th birthday party, and other wonderful events. We also have many home projects designed and planned and ready to go, just awaiting either budget priority or our attention. I always enjoy seeing those projects move forward. SUMMER!

On the research front, a close colleague and I got what I think is a light R&R (revise & resubmit) on a paper we submitted to a special issue of a journal only a little over a month ago. The paper itself was one of the most exciting I've worked on recently, and I'm really excited to see it making progress. The other projects I'm involved in are marching along at various stages and paces. I'm finally wrapping up some econometric work on a project I'm leading, and I think I should be able to turn that into a publishable paper relatively quickly. Publish or perish--they're not joking ;)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Swoob Idona Racerback Bra: Product Review

The Product

When I picked up my newest shoes a few weeks ago, I also picked up a little something I'd had my eye on for a while: the Swoob Idona Racerback bra. I've been obsessing over this product for 3 reasons:

  • I purchased a pair of their Full Length leggings over the winter and L-O-V-E them. They are almost everything you dream of in a mid-weight tight (some reflective properties would be great, but in fairness I think they were designed for yoga, so, fine). Given how much I loved these tights, it seemed like a safe bet that other Swoob products might also be great. 
  • Swoob is a Utah-based company. Utah has a strong economic cluster in outdoor products manufacturing I know this because it's my job to know it, but it also makes good sense. We're a crazy outdoorsy bunch here, year-round. 
  • There are times when I would love to carry my phone with me on a run, and there just wasn't a great way to do this before. Wanna take a picture? Need my phone. Want to feel safer on a solo run in the dark or in a new-to-you place? Need your phone. 
Testing it Out

I've worn this bra twice now. There are things I love about it and things I'm less crazy about. Let's start with the pros:
  • I love the purple color. Not important. I know. 
  • It does a good job of keeping things where they need to be, and this is no small feat. They are serious when they say it's good for high impact sports. 
  • The material feels great and performs well. 
I hate to do this, Swoob, but, the cons:
  • Sizing is done by S,M,L, rather than by standard bra sizing. For me, from any store for any type of garment, this usually means that a medium is a tiny bit snug and a large is too large, as was the case here. I bought the Medium and it's been fine, but I will say that I've been hesitant to go long in it, for fear of chafing. Once it's been broken in a bit, this will likely be a non-issue. 
  • Uni-boob. 
  • By far, my biggest complaint is that my phone doesn't actually fit in the bra. Here you can see my LG G2 sitting above the front (inside) pocket of the bra. It's maybe a quarter inch too wide for the pocket, and the mouth of the pocket doesn't expand. This pocket likely works if you have an iPhone, or just a smaller phone. I don't think the LG G2 is a particularly huge phone, so I was disappointed. 

Even though the pocket doesn't work for my phone, I imagine I'll get some use out of it anyway, by cramming Gu or a credit card in there. There are also side pockets for those things, which is a nice touch. 

In Conclusion

In closing, I like this product, but probably would not purchase another one unless they addressed the items in my "cons" list in a redesign. 

* I have not been contacted by Swoob to conduct this review. The views given here are mine and mine alone, and were given with no compensation or product. I purchased the product out of my own pocket. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Training 2015.2 Kick-Off

Last week, after the Salt Lake Half, I did not train. I did not cross-train. I slept. And ate candy. And drank beer. In fact, I ran exactly this many miles:

A whopping five. 
I'm not sorry.

I am, however, READY to jump back in, full force, for training 2015.2. I'm now in training for the Utah Valley Half, and I have 7 weeks of training in which to finish my metamorphosis into a fine tuned racing machine (ha!). A few things are different from 2015.1, where I was focused on building my base, using the Salt Lake Half as a motivator.

  1. I will do every workout on my schedule, for the distance and pace specified. I did most workouts during 2015.1, but did skip usually 1 per week in favor of sleeping, and didn't do the full distance some days. And if you've been following, you know it was a fight to get close to those speed work paces at first. 
  2. I have a concrete goal. Unlike this year's first bout of training, where I was base-building, I now have a specific race time goal: 1:45. I will use this goal to motivate me. I will imagine the finish line. I will sweat and I will love it. 
  3. I'm looking forward to race weekend with a friend. My friend Rachel who ran with me last year is coming again! I cannot freakin' wait!! Adorably, my just-turned-3-year-old has been asking about her since she left last June. That's high praise! 
  4. For the first time in 8 years, I'm not running in Brooks Adrenalins. About 2 weeks ago I switched to Mizunos, but, they didn't take. The Salt Lake Running Company was great working with me, and let me swap them out for a pair of Brooks Ravennas. I've put 12 miles on them now and they are doing well, so I think we have a winner. I won't know really until I get to a crazy high mileage week, but I think we're good to go!
  5. I'm not starting from scratch on yoga. And this, I love. I have a long way to go on building core strength, but I feel like I have a start in this department. 
This morning I got the ball rolling with a 7 mile easy run. It felt good to be back out, the sun already starting its ascent as I stepped outside. Summer. Miles. Sun. Friends. I love it all. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Salt Lake Half Race Report

Half Marathon #11, the Salt Lake Half 2015, is in the books! Welcome to the race recap.

The Expo
On Friday afternoon I left work early to head to the race expo. I left myself plenty of time since the last time I ran an errand downtown between work and kid pick-up, I didn't arrive to my son's daycare until the absolute last possible minute (parenting fail #872). I found parking easily at the Energy Solutions Arena, and starting circling the building looking for Gate 3, which my foggy memory told me was what the race instructions email had said. I walked a bit. And kept walking. Then re-checked the email and realized I was at the wrong location. The race expo was at the convention center. D'oh! Fortunately for me, they're right across the street from each other. No biggie.

Home of the Utah Jazz...but not the race expo
Crossing the street took several minutes, but I immediately found an entry door to the convention center and went in.

Salt Palace Convention Center
At the end of the hall you see above, I found this sign pointing to an elevator. Except the guy getting in the elevator told me it was easier to take the stairs, so I started walking. And walking, and walking.

Not helpful. 
Then when I got to a long hallway overlooking a square mile of vacant space, I really wondered if I'd made up the whole thing. Race? What race? This is the zombie apocalypse! You've entered the maze of never-ending vaguely-industrial corridors! Good thing you're a runner, since zombies don't like fast food.
So this sign was actually helpful. Otherwise I'd have assumed I was lost. 
At long last I reached the race expo. It was much larger than last year, and bustling! I wove my way through to packet pick-up and got my bag and shirt. I stopped by the Salt Lake Running Company booth on my way out to ask some questions. Remember my new shoes?  It turns out I wasn't feeling so confident about them. My heels were slipping a lot, and I needed some input. The guy told me to try to get to the store before they closed at 7. So I went home, dropped off my younger son, and headed over the store.

Race Eve
At Salt Lake Running, they were so patient with me. A sales person worked with me to figure out what wasn't working and find a solution. So the question: did I dare race on brand new, never-tried shoes? After some back and forth with friends on Facebook, I decided against it, and stuck with my very old Adrenalins. Better to let them kill me slowly than have something horrific, acute, and unexpected from the new kicks.

Race eve: sweet & sour veggies and rice for dinner, and in bed later than intended, around 10:30, with my alarm set for 4:50am. Incidentally, while I was walking through the expo, I apparently pocket dialed an AT&T software update for my phone. So that happened. This largely meant that when bedtime came, I couldn't figure out my volume settings. Mr. Joanna figured out a work-around, and by morning had found the actual setting. I love being married to a tech geek. :)

O'Dark Thirty
I slept well and rolled out of bed on schedule, 4:50am, immediately thankful for being able to sleep in my own bed on race eve. I was out of the house on schedule, too, right at 5:25, toasted bagel with cream cheese in hand. My efforts to get to the nearest TRAX station were thwarted by race-related road closures, so I quickly found a path to the next nearest station, effortlessly found parking, and caught the next Red Line train to the start line. I chatted with a nice woman who was from out of town, and in no time we'd arrived.

It was cold at the race start. I hadn't brought a bag to check or any throw-away clothes, so I was just in my race clothes, which consisted of capris and a long-sleeved but light weight top. I was there almost an hour before start time, so I hit the porta-potties, then focused on energy conservation. I sat on a curb for a while, and when my but was 100% numb from the cold I got up and stood for a while.

Finally it was time to line up, and here was my only complaint about the race organization: they'd put our starting corrals on the gear check tag. You know, the one people had either torn off of their bib at home, or torn off earlier that morning to put on their drop bag? So like one of out eight people could identify their starting corral and the rest of us guessed. I put myself between the 1:45 and 2:00 pacers, which is kinda what happens at every other race anyway, so it wasn't a huge deal.

The Race
Pre-recorded national anthem: check. Race sponsor shout outs: check. Hometown Hero gun count-down: check. A few waves, and about a minute and 40 seconds later, and I was across the start mat, right behind a woman running her very first full marathon. I love the excitement of a start line!!

Knowing the course from last year was a huge advantage. I knew that there were hills in the first mile and a half, and that it would pay to take them conservatively. I absolutely did that, easing into Mile 1 at 9:07, and mile 2 at 8:41. I think this was one of my most successful half marathon openings, actually. I warmed up, eased in, and didn't try to be a hero on those hills.

Dispensing with The Avenues, we moved into the descent through Memory Grove. Just stunning. Beautiful, beautiful in the early morning light. Easily the best part of the course! It didn't feel like work at all, but like being pulled along, down. We wound down and through the gates (see pic below), then turned east and headed into a long, gradual incline before turning south at 6.6 miles.
Mile 3: 8:10
Mile 4: 8:14
Mile 5: 8:09
Mile 6: 8:34
Mile 7: 8:24
I'm sure this thing has an actual name
Once we turned south, I was headed toward seeing my boys--yay!! I also knew I had a long, gradual decline followed by a relatively short but quite steep hill, so I settled in and enjoyed the downhill. The short/steep was rude, as was expected, and I was again thankful that I run this hill almost every day, which let me nail the pacing for it. We turned off the hill and onto level ground, and I in the home stretch for seeing my boys. At this point, I was a little tired, but very much aware of how much better I felt at this point versus last year at this point.

A few blocks down, I saw my neighbor and runner friend first, then my older son, then my younger son and my husband, all cheering. Love!! Seriously the best thing ever.

Mile 8: 8:46. I'm not sorry. That hill's a b*tch.

The stretch from here to the park is the tough stretch for me. Fewer spectators, less scenery, fairly flat and uneventful. I knew going in though that this would be harder, and I was ready for it. I felt ok, a little tired, but ok. When I got to Liberty Park, at mile 11.3, I knew it was too early to kick, so I made myself wait until I exited the park, which I knew well was in about .75 miles, and that would be fine.

Mile 9: 8:22
Mile 10: 8:32
Mile 11: 8:20
Mile 12: 8:32
I'd vaguely been targeting an 8:20 or 8:30 race pace, so I was good with this.

When I exited the park, I had about 1.25 miles to go, and I kicked it up a notch. Knowing the terrain of this course was such an advantage, because I knew what to expect and when and how easy or hard everything would feel. I knew it was a flat, straight shot from the end of the park to the finish line, so I had no fear about burning through the last mile.

Mile 13: 7:53

I could see the finish from about 0.4 miles out, straight down a major street about 4 traffic lights. I waited until the last 0.25 to add my last bit of speed, then came down the straight-away to the finish.

Last 0.28 mi: 7:28 pace

Unofficial Garmin time: 1:51:53.
(Office time: 1:51:54)
Placement: 537/3,122 overall
199/1,914 women overall
57/391 gender/age group

The Finish Area
The finish line was really well stocked and staffed! I got a Creamie (a Utah ice cream popsicle, gloriously available in chocolate, orange, or vanilla at seemingly all finish lines in Utah), a banana, and some Gatorade, had my picture taken, stretched and cooled down. And of course my medal!
I think you could actually wear this as a belt buckle. It's a bold statement. 

After I'd cooled down a bit, I walked across the street to the TRAX station to hop a Red Line train back to my car. I happened to board a train with one of my advisees, headed to the airport to go to a conference. I chatted with him until he needed to switch lines, hoping he didn't notice how bad I smelled! Once I was back to my car, getting home required a highly circuitous and slow route around the perimeter of the course--to be expected.

All told, it was a great race day. I shaved about 1:10 off my time from last year, and felt a LOT better throughout the race. I feel good heading into training for my A Game race for the year, the Utah Valley Half. I'll be taking a few days off then heading back to training. Can't wait!!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Training Week 6: A Goth Locker Room and the End of an Era

Training Week 6 is in the books. As I write, I'm a week out from race day and feeling good. Here's the run-down of my week:

Sunday: Laundry Day
Which now has a new name in our house.
On laundry day, my husband calls our bathroom my Goth Locker Room. Ha!
Monday: 6 miles EZ
This early morning run was darn near perfect. A gorgeous sunrise* and I felt amazing.
* I feel like a broken record about the sunrises here, but honestly, every morning is this unimaginably beautiful thing, like 340 days a year. Maybe it's that I lived without mountains for 8 years. Maybe it's the dry, sunny climate that lets it be beautiful so often. I don't know. But I know it's amazing.

Tuesday: Yoga Power Hour
This class! Some weeks it's super hard, other weeks less so. Class was easier this past week. Plus I rode my bike to class, so I felt pretty awesome about that.

Wednesday: I slept in. It snowed. Like, all day. 
Yep, snow. We've had very little snow this winter (don't hate us, east coast--we would gladly have taken some of yours), then April comes and BAM. Snow. It was pretty and didn't stick, which is pretty much ideal if it's going to snow in April. Right?

Thursday: 10x400
Love--LOVE--that every week I'm getting closer to hitting all the paces, and every week it's feeling better during the workout. This week's workout was 10x400, with 200m recoveries. I hit 5 of them and came very close on 3 more. Here's how it came out (400s only):
1:48--always trying to find the right gear on the first interval out--actually started way too fast then over-adjusted trying to get it right
1:51--heading into the slightly elevated corner of the park again plus started out too slow and just couldn't recover the time
1:49--into that higher corner again--bore down on it but just couldn't get the time down

I paired this with a 2 mile warm-up and a 2 mile cool-down.

Friday: 5 miles EZ 
In the PITCH BLACK. I met my friend Tessa at 6am at a popular running trail that's about halfway between our houses. She thought to bring a clip-on light. I hadn't brought one, thinking it wasn't necessary since we were on a trail that isn't accessible to cars. I was wrong. We had a really hard time seeing other runners until we were very close to them, which is kind of creepy. Next time I'll take my light. Dark or not, it was great to see her and run together. It makes me think of last summer when we met all the time to run at totally crazy hours of the pre-dawn.

Saturday: 8 mile medium-long run
I'm a little torn about this. My schedule said to do 8 miles because my half is next weekend. But, I'm not trying to actually run a 1:45 at this half, or even PR it. This is all just base training for Utah Valley, in which case, I should probably have done more mileage today. But we had places to be, so I did my 8 and packed it in. It was a great morning for a run. Along the way I stopped to refill water and got to chatting with two older gentlemen about running. They were delightful, and both retired from prestigious careers here locally. It was one of those rare conversations where you feel like you've known someone for a long time, it's so comfortable, and you just met. How lovely!

In my afternoon errand-running, I hit up the running store. My feet and knees have been hurting some, and I realized that I probably hadn't replaced my shoes in a long time. Uncharacteristically, I didn't make note of it here on the blog, so I don't actually know how many miles are on them, but I'd estimate about 450. To the store! Time for new shoes.

For 8 years, I've been running in Brooks Adrenalins, size 102A*. I've loved them. But, last fall while marathon training, I learned that while my heel is somewhat narrow, my toe box isn't, and as a consequence of this, my shoes were causing the ball of my foot to hurt. I worked with the sales rep at Salt Lake Running Company today to find a solution. We decided on the Mizuno Wave Inspire, which is designed so that the heel sits in deeper than in most shoes, which helps to keep it from slipping. It's truly the end of an era, this not buying Brooks business. Wish me luck with the new kicks! I'm kind of excited to test these new waters.

My first pair of non-Brooks in 8 years.
* I wear an 8-8.5 street shoe. I realize that going up 1.5 sizes is not normal, but every time I try a smaller shoe, I lose toenails. The 2A means narrow. 

Total Mileage for the Week: 26.9
# Runs: 4
# Other Workouts: 1

I'm also happy to say that I'm making progress on my goals! I successfully journaled my food this week, and I did well with pre-run fueling this morning. For the coming week, I'm going to focus on hydration and rest, to prepare for the Salt Lake Half on Saturday. Stay tuned for a race report next weekend!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

March Recap

Total miles: 120.7

# Runs: 17

# Other workouts: 3. THREE! Hallelujah! I finally figured out a cross-training activity that I enjoy and that fits my schedule!

Most memorable run: The thing that stands out most in my memory from March is just that I gained confidence in speed work from week to week. The first time out was pretty brutal. The second time was better. The third time out was downright enjoyable. Sadly I missed both speed work and yoga this week as stress took over my psyche and meant that I needed sleep and wasn't getting enough. I'll be back at speed work next week and can't wait.

But this was my favorite picture--mountains behind me, sun on my face, beautiful day for a long run.

Current needs/wants: I honestly don't need a thing, but I have to say, running apparel & gadgets have come so, so far since I started endurance running back in 2007. I keep finding such cool stuff! For instance:

  • The Swoob front pocket bra for high impact sports (here). Need--no. Want--yea. Justifiable--sure. I'll be carrying a phone for safety purposes. 
  • The running tanks with built-in bras that actually claim to work for curvier runners while they are running. I've always assumed, by default, that built-in bras just categorically are not going to cut it....because they never have. But, light on the horizon, I think maybe, just maybe we're to an age where this might be possible. (option here) Has anyone tried these?
  • There are also running tanks now with side rouching. Anyone who has had a baby knows this as the sewing technique that hides all sins against nutrition. WANT this. Need--not so much. 
  • Pretty much everything available at Title 9. 
Training update: The Salt Lake Half is in 2 weeks. I'm not trying to PR. It's my warm-up training & race for Utah Valley in June, which I cannot wait to run with my friend Rachel!! 
Rachel & me, the day I left St. Louis
House projects: Since it's been a while since I did a monthly recap, it's been a while since I updated you on house renovation progress. Since we last talked, I epically painted the master bedroom and ceiling. It was epic because it took forever, first to find just the right color, then to apply enough coats, and finally to paint our dirty, awful ceiling. The paint looks great with the bedding I chose at West Elm back in December. I also then picked out some lamps and lamp shades, a side table to go with the chair, and some decor pieces, and we got new window coverings--some nice Roman shades. 

Sometime in February (I think) we had our windows cleaned, inside and out, by a highly rated professional window company. They did not bring their A game that day. They dirtied, badly, not 1 but NINE curtain panels, including 4 in my older son's room, 4 in our room, and 1 other. Then they came back (thankfully) to clean them, and in doing so ruined 1 panel, and installed 3 of ours in our son's room, and his in our room. They also scuffed some paint on the craft desk I took a millennium painting. So they came back a third time to re-clean one panel (one I'd sewn myself), uninstall and re-install the 6 misplaced panels, and replace the one they ruined. All for window washing! This is what I get for having windows washed! 

We've also added some art work throughout the house, and a few new light fixtures. I feel like we're getting closer and closer to a house that feels like its us from top to bottom. 

Other lovely things in life: My baby turns 3 next week. He's so happy, so sweet, so cute. Sometimes it's hard to let him grow up. My older son wanted to make a card for the Easter Bunny. I love him for this. He was so concerned about gluing everything down today, to make sure the glue had time to dry in time. So like me like that. Also, I'm using my newest toy to help make it--a Silhouette Cameo 3 die cutting machine. I had a Making Memories Slice for years and it just up and died on me a few weeks ago. I'd always liked that it was small and portable, but its functionality was fairly limited. And, while you can still buy them, they're not really supported any more. So I made the switch, and so far am loving it. 

At work, I've made some really cool discoveries recently, and have gotten most of it written up and sent to journals for review. And some of my articles from last year are starting to appear in print now, and I'm getting to share that work with networks locally and nationally and am getting some feedback on them. I love my life as a researcher. It's an amazing way to build professional networks, give students amazing training opportunities, and learn endless and new things about the world. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Training Week 4: Reintroducing My Abs

Hello runners! Training Week 4 is in the books here and I've lived to tell you about it. This week I had (mostly) superb weather to greet me on my runs. Has spring sprung where you are? It's a lovely thing.
Trees in bloom and snow capped mountains. Love this place.

Here's the weekly run-down:

Monday: 6 miles EZ. Ever feel like Eeyore on a run? If ever I had that day, this was it.

  • I felt sluggish as hell the entire time
  • It rained on and off the entire time
  • And just for kicks, the streetlights in an entire quadrant of the park weren't working. Holy darkness, Batman! I mean, it felt like running in the forest at night, it was so dark. It had been a really long time since I'd run in the dark like that, and had kind of forgotten what it feels like. Mostly if just feels less safe!

Tuesday: This class that was easy two weeks ago turns out to be a wolf in sheep's clothing. Damn! Hard class! We focused a lot on ab strength, with V-sits, planks, and moving between planks and down dogs, and hopping onto our hands from planks. In case you've missed it, I've had two children and have pathetic ab muscles. I also learned in this class how people move their foot from the back of the mat to the front from down dog without kind of hurling it up there or, let's be honest, just standing up and stepping forward. Turns out the trick is to inch your feet forward first, giving yourself the vertical space to move your knee & leg. Who knew?! I still don't really do it right, but at least I know how now and can keep working on this.

After this class, I was much more aware of my abs during my Wednesday and Friday runs. After really just a few yoga classes, I can feel some strength starting to return to neglected portions of my body, and that feels good. 

Wednesday: Speed work. Yassos. So, here's the thing. It's hard to tell that I'm making progress from week to week if you just read my stats, but I can feel progress from week to week. For one thing, the workouts are getting longer in distance, and I'm hanging with that. This week I finished a distance I absolutely could not have handled at that pace in Week 1. For another, I feel better each week when I finish. This is big. In Week 1, I had a headache so bad for the rest of the day that I was nauseous. This week, my head only felt a little tense, and I never really worried that a huge headache was about to set in. And finally, I am getting slightly closer to goal paces. These workouts are tough, and I love them for that.

Workout: 2 miles EZ
1x400 @ 1:45, 200 recovery (actual: 1:50--I was trying to find the right gear, so to speak--just feeling out my pace)
5x800 @ 3:30 with 400 recoveries (actual: 3:26, 3:39, 3:31, 3:49, 3:35. The 2nd and 4th went over the slight elevation gain in the park, and into a headwind. That 4th one though, that was brutal. I just couldn't get my legs to turn over any faster)
1x400 @1:45, 200 recovery (actual: 1:45)
1 mile EZ

Thursday: I slept in until 7. It felt preposterously luxurious.

Friday: 5 miles EZ. When I got up at 6 to throw on clothes and meet Meridith by 6:20, I checked my phone, natch. How surprised was I to find a text message from 5:35am from a dear friend asking if it was a good time to call for a business matter we'd been trying to connect on.! What?!? I later learned that she'd only received a text I'd sent the night before when she got up Friday morning. Living one time zone east of me, she got it when it was really f-ing early here. Have you ever lived in a different time zone from 80% of the people you know? How long did it take you to get used to it?

Alas, the run was lovely--with my neighbor at the park. She reminded me how to love the simplicity of the run. How not to over-think it.

On Saturday's long run, I saw not one, but two things sincerely worthy of comment:

  1. On my run, I did an out & back to the south with my friend Tessa, then an out & back to the north on my own. At the northern turn around point, I saw a woman running toward me. She was every minute of 70, running, dressed in what appeared to be everyday clothing consisting of pants, a tunic-style shirt, and a hijab. I was so impressed I sort of wanted to hug her. Reasons I love this: a) she was old! I want to be running when I'm old!, b) she persisted in running despite not wearing athletic clothing--I lover that she refused to be stopped by something many people would consider a significant barrier, c) running isn't the most diverse sport in the world, and this woman brought diversity in nearly every sense of the word. Beautiful. 
  2. I twice passed the same woman pushing a stroller....for her poodle. 
Distance: 14.0 miles
Pace: 9:35/mile. I felt like I was dragging my legs through this for long stretches, but completed the run without incident. 

Total distance for the week: 32.97 miles

Finally, how am I doing on those goals? Making progress, I'm happy to report. 

Goal #1: Continue to journal my nutrition. I think this week was about like last week, ultimately, but I did recognize that a big part of the reason I'm falling down at this is that I'm eating things that are difficult to estimate nutritional information for. But I've done it before, and will do it again. I did recalibrate my plan to reflect my higher mileage, and I did track everything for parts of the week. 

Goal #2: Fix the long run nutrition situation. Success! This weekend I ate a bagel with jam pre-run, then did both an electrolyte tab in my water during the run and a Gu mid-run. I felt much better post-run, and feel like I'm getting the hang of this. 

Having made progress on Goal #2, I want to introduce a new one: do core work on non-yoga days. It's become clear to me that this is an area I need to strengthen, so, let's do it. How often do you do core work? I need to know. I'm starting to suspect that I'm the weirdo who never does core work. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Training Week 3: I have derriere antlers

Week 3 was, in a word, inconsistent.

I started the week strong with a 7-mile run on Monday morning. I love that I'm getting back to weekday runs long enough that I can call them MDMLRs--Mid-weed-medium-long-runs. Sure, 7 miles is on the short side for this, but I think I'm in the ballpark.

Tuesday I biked to yoga for my second class. The instructor's voice sounds like it belongs on NPR. So smooth, beautiful pronunciation. I wasn't sure if classes would be very different from week to week, and was glad to find that my second class was quite different from the first, even with the same instructor. I left feeling strong.

Wednesday: speed work. Did not happen. My alarm was set for o'dark thirty. It went off. I got up. I started the morning routine and just Like I've said many times, it's normal for my stomach to be a little angry when I first wake up, but this was more than that. I deliberated for about 5 minutes and finally called it and went back to bed for another hour and a half. As the day started again, then wore on, I was really glad I'd made that call. It was the 1/10 of the time you skip a run and it was the right decision.

Thursday morning I ran with my neighbor, which I really love doing. She's fast and I love going fast. It was downright cold until I got moving, but by the end, a glorious morning like always. She got a kick out of my Top of Utah race shirt.

Awkward over-the-shoulder mirror selfie FTW!
 Friday morning I was back out for an easy 5 miles. Nothing spectacular. Just shakin' things out.

Saturday: long run, with my running buddy Jeannette, who I hadn't seen in almost a year. It was great to catch up with her over 10 miles and then brunch. I've missed running with her so much!! Before this long run, I also got to experiment with one of this week's goals.

Goal: Eat real food before my long run
Status: Accomplished

I ate a cinnamon raisin bagel with blackberry jam on my way to meet Jeannette. I think it did help. It did not help that I then did not take any Gu before or during the run. Net effect=not much different from before. So clearly I need to keep working on this, but I think I am headed in the right direction.

My second goal for last week is also an on-going goal for this week:

Goal: Get back to journaling my nutrition
Status: Partially accomplished

My second goal for the week was a return to journaling my nutrition. I partially met this goal, by keeping track of food some days last week, and not on others. I initially saw a tick down on the scale, but by week's end it had found its way back to where it had been a week prior. I'm back on the wagon this week.

Goals for this week:
1. Keep journaling the nutrition
2. Work on the long run fueling situation some more
Same as before, with some progress made on both, and some progress left to go.

This coming week should see me tip the odometer over 100 for the month, and will also hopefully see a very triumphant return to speed work. Wish me luck!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Training Week 2: School for the Gifted

Goal: Return to Yoga
Status: Accomplished!

Do you remember the old Far Side cartoon of the kid at the door of the School for the Gifted, pushing on the door with all his might, and the sign on the door says Pull? (if not, you can see it here) That summarizes me and yoga pretty well. For all of my not picking a studio, not making time, not whatevering, it turns out you just do it. You just sign up, go, open the door and do it! Feeling like there was some barrier between me and cross-training was really silly. I was pushing on a door that's really easy to pull open.

Last weekend, as soon as I wrote my Week 1 post, I started reading reviews of different studios near my house, and the search quickly narrowed to one. I bought a 10-class pass, made a reservation for Tuesday morning's Power Hour, and when Tuesday came, hopped on my bike and went to class. I have no idea now why this seemed complicated.

The class, as yoga classes go, was fairly easy, which is perfect for a runner looking to get stretched and strong between runs. And the setting is great. The classroom is on the second floor of a building, facing north. Toward the end of class, you can look out the front window and see the horizon starting to lighten toward dawn. Pretty great way to start the day.

Pre-dawn, as I headed home from class
Speed work Wednesday was a second victory this week. In Week 1, the speed session nearly killed me (ok, maybe that's a slight exaggeration). But this past week, I came much closer to hitting the target paces, and I didn't have a searing headache for the rest of the day. Woohoo! Here are the target and actual paces for my intervals (rests not shown), goal in purple, actual in green:
400: 1:46/1:44
400 1:46/1:41
800: 3:32/3:35
1200: 5:18/5:29
800: 3:32/3:41
400: 1:46/1:48
400: 1:46/1:48

I also figured out why that second 800 is my tough spot. The park I run in is nearly perfectly flat, but not flat, and that second 800 captures the corner of the park with a slight elevation gain. It probably accounts for a few seconds of my over-run there.

On Saturday I headed out for my long run on the Jordan River Parkway with two of the girls from last year's group. They had to be somewhere by 10, so they did the first 2.5 miles out with me before turning around. I ran another 2.75 before turning around, for a total of 10.5 miles for the day. My schedule asked me to do 14, but I thought that was too big a jump up on long run miles at one time, and I think that was the right call. It was a bit brisk when we started out, but once I got warmed up, the day felt great. Lots of sunshine.

The sweaty afterglow of a successful long run
When I got back to the trailhead at the end of my run, I saw this. I love all the Olympics references here. That legacy is such a cool part of this place, and always inspires me when I'm training and come across a memento like this unexpectedly.

I'm feeling good heading into Week 3. Goals for this week: 
  • Eat some real food before my long run. My history of not doing this was problematic at last year's Top of Utah marathon, and does not serve me well ever, really. So I'm going to fix it. 
  • Get back to journaling my nutrition. I've held steady at 7lb. weight loss, and want to start seeing some progress again. 
Thanks to the few of you who stopped by last week and left me a comment wishing me luck as I get back to training mode! I love hearing from you!!