September 20, 2014

September 20 - Beat the Blerch (10K Race)

Total time: 1:39:31
Total distance: 6.2 miles

You guys. YOU GUYS.


It was amazing. The morning was cloudy and cool which is my perfect, ideal running weather. The route quickly went from paved roads to gravel trails, which was something I wasn't used to. The park was gorgeous. The trail was gorgeous. I was in a very zen state of mind throughout almost the entire thing.

I started off like I always do, but something magical happened around Mile 3. (Perhaps it was the cake at the aid station.) During miles 3 & 4, I felt so good that I decided I was going to run the whole thing, even if I had to drag myself across the finish line. And aside from the pit stop/photo ops at the aid station, I did. I ran the whole thing. All 6.2 miles. I didn't come all that way to not give it absolutely everything I had.

When I crossed that finish line, I felt damn near euphoric. Better than I had after any 5K. The elusive runner's high, perhaps. But it was that moment that I felt almost invincible. I had done this thing, this crazy thing that I never thought I'd ever be able to do. What else could I do? What couldn't I do?

Looking at my time afterward, I was momentarily confused and couldn't figure out why my times didn't match up... And then I realized my watch auto-paused when I stopped to take a picture with Sasquatch and the Blerches at the aid station. (Obviously). So, official race time is 1:39:31 but actual time spent running was the 1:38:10 time. Either way. Better than the 1:45 I was expecting! I have decided I really like this distance because once I get past Mile 2, I usually feel pretty good. Maybe a half marathon is on the cards someday after all? We'll see. For now, I shall bask in the glory of my 10K.

September 18, 2014

September 18

Total time: 32 minutes
Total distance: 2 miles

I am the worst. Not only have I not been adequately training for this 10K (which is in, you know, TWO DAYS) but I waited until now to try out my new shoes because of reasons that aren't entirely clear but probably have something to do with procrastination. Well, and the fact that the Shoe Guy told me to run 1-2 miles on a treadmill first before taking them outside - he practically made me pinky swear - which I wasn't sure there was a valid reason for doing so, other than simply being able to return them if I decided I didn't like them. So with a somewhat guilty conscience, I put on the new shoes and went outside. I mean, let's be real: I wasn't going to return them. I don't have time. I needed them, like, a month ago.

Anyway, everyone say hello to my new shoes: the Saucony Cortana 4. They were, uh, a bit more expensive than my PureFlows, but I can justify almost anything when it comes to injury prevention and well-being. I didn't really like the PureFlow 3s (which is too bad, because they had them in my favorite color) and these felt the best, so. I guess it's an investment, right?

Also! When I went to get fitted for new shoes, the Shoe Guy examined my old ones and said approvingly, "good wear pattern." I felt so vindicated as a runner, you guys. 

I'm still on the fence if I should take them to Seattle with me or not. I'm leaning towards yes, because they are new and cushiony. They're not at all broken in, but I am certain that my old ones will hurt my feet if I try to wear them for more than a mile or two. Six miles with blistering, aching feet sounds miserable. I mean, the new ones could conceivably hurt my feet too, but at least they're... new and cushiony. I'm probably overthinking this. 

Anyway - a nice slow and steady run with the new kicks. I ended up liking them a lot, which is good, because I have officially voided their returnability.

September 5, 2014

September 5

Total time: 47:20 minutes
Total distance: 3.10 miles

I live in the same city as my alma mater, and they recently launched an art project where decorated statues of our mascot were painted/sculpted and placed around town.... effectively creating a scavenger hunt for those of us who are into such things. (Hint: I am one of those people.)

There were quite a few of them near-ish to my house, so I decided that tonight's run would be a pretty casual loop into the semi-campus area to capture a few of these elusive statues. I ran/walked/lollygagged to the stadium and back, stopping to take photos of the sculptures on the way. It was completely aimless and wonderful, which is probably what a Friday evening run should be. By the time I circled back and made it to my park (my usual running grounds), I'd actually managed to get in the equivalent of a 5K.

I've also made peace with the fact that I think I need new shoes. And soon. I am going to murder my feet if I wear these things in the 10K. I know you're not supposed to wear new shoes for a race, but I can't see how they'd be any worse than these. At least new ones will have cushion. So, I'll be off to the running store hopefully this weekend to get me a new pair... and it might be an entirely new pair, since my current style (the Brooks PureFlow 2) is discontinued, and my running message board peeps say the PureFlow 3s are actually noticeably different. Not super keen on spending the money right now, but I'm even less keen on injuring myself, so: that's that.

August 23, 2014

August 23 - Huxley Prairie Fest (5K Race)

Total time: 44:45 minutes
Total distance: 3.10 miles

5K in the lightning! In the lightning! In the raaaaain!* (For that to make sense and/or be funny, you need to be marginally familiar with this awesomely juvenile/NSFW video from my early years of college.) #strife 

In all seriousness, though, the rain didn't really bother me and it was much preferred to the super hot day we were supposed to get. What did bother me was that the race started about fifteen/twenty minutes late, that there was no real "start" line (even though it was supposed to be chip-timed?) and that the route went through residential neighborhoods where people were driving around and where any of us could have feasibly gotten hit by a car. I was not terribly keen on that bit. Closed roads = safer. 

Anyway. Knocked almost 3 minutes off my last 5K but wasn't quite fast enough to beat my 2014 PR of 44:29. Ah, well. Next time? 

Also, ended finishing fourth from last. Meh.

*The lightning had pretty much stopped by the time the race was supposed to start, but that ruins my joke, so...

August 17, 2014

August 17

Total time: 14:31
Total distance: 1.01 miles

I had to do a double take on this one when entering the numbers - it was nearly identical to July 29's run. Upon closer inspection, they are only three tenths of a second different than each other.

I'm having troubles getting my Garmin to sync right now which is kind of annoying, and I didn't take a post-run photo, so... uh. This is a pretty weak entry, but it wasn't really that remarkable of a run, either, so. I guess they can't all be noteworthy.

August 6, 2014

August 6

Total time: 1 hr, 42 minutes
Total distance: 6 miles

So, at some point, I figured I should at least get an idea of what six miles looks like. So I did this through what I like to call EXTREME INTERVALS. By which I mean, I didn't do intervals by time - I did them by distance. I ran 2 miles, walked 0.5 mile, ran 1.5 miles, walked 1 mile, ran 1 mile. EXTREME INTERVALS. 

It was pretty intense. There were several points where I didn't think I was going to be able to do it, but the other part of my brain was like, "but you have to. You're not going to get any better if you don't push yourself." So I did. And it was hard. But I feel so much more prepared for my 10K race next month than I had at any point up until now. I may even survive the thing. I probably won't be able to run all of it, and that's okay. 

August 2, 2014

August 2 - Iowa Irish Fest (5K Race)

Total time: 47:36 minutes
Total distance: 3.19 miles

Generally, running multiple miles in the Iowa August heat and humidity is a terrible idea, but the weather the morning of this race was actually rather comfortable. I'd wanted to do the 5K attached to the Iowa Irish Fest last year but I can't remember what it conflicted with... at any rate, it didn't work out. I signed up really late, so I didn't get a t-shirt, which made me a little sad. I mean, I need another t-shirt like I need another hole in my head, but they were kind of cool and it's not like my registration was any cheaper for not getting one. Ya know?

In addition to it being simply a cool event, some recent digging on has dug up the fact that one of my great-great-great grandfathers on my mother's side came on over from Ireland. I still have some work to do, so I can't give a full percentage of Irishness in my veins, but it's a pretty recent immigration, so I'm going to go ahead and say that my attendance at such an event is justified. (As well as attendance at any given Oktoberfest. Or Swedish or English events, apparently. We're very Western European.)

This is all very beside the point, which is that I finally - IN AUGUST - ran my first 5K for the year. As in, ran the whole thing.

My time was, interestingly, slower than the 5Ks that I intervaled this year, but no matter. That wasn't really the point. The point was to run the whole thing, which I did.

Plus then I got to hang out with my sister and nephew at the 'fest for the rest of the afternoon, and that was pretty fun. It's always nice to have someone waiting for you at the finish line, too, for a change.

July 29, 2014

July 29

Total time: 14:31
Total distance: 1.01 miles

Impulsively signed up for a 5K for this Saturday, because yolo I guess, but it was one I wanted to do last year but it didn't quite work out for whatever reason. Therefore I have decided to take it kind of easy for the rest of the week.

I also ended up with a rather sizable blister after Sunday's epic 4-mile run, which started to curse loudly at me after about a half mile. It's the first time I've gotten a blister since I've had these shoes/my fancy running socks. So that's a bit concerning. Hope I don't need new shoes. I'm really quite fond of these.

July 27, 2014

July 27

Total time: 1:03:46
Total distance: 4 miles

I ran for an hour. AN HOUR. The longest I've ever run in my life. Just to see if I could. Because it was a beautiful night. Because I was feeling too good to stop. 

And also because eventually I will need to be able to struggle through a 10K, which is another 2.2 miles on top of this. Slow and steady wins the race, right? (I've taken to occasionally mumbling "turtle power" to myself because I am a weirdo.)

July 23, 2014

July 23

Total time: 30 minutes
Total distance: 2 miles

I had the unsettling realization a couple days ago that I was at T-Minus 2 Months until the 10K that I was signed up for. (And T-Minus 2 Months+2 Days until I turned thirty... which is another significant milestone which really has nothing to do with running, other than that next year I will get bumped up into a new age bracket in all my races.) Did I mention that I signed up for a 10K? In Seattle? That was now only two months away??

Cue: panic.

So, I did the only thing I could do: I laced up my shoes and pulled on my new ridiculously bright patterned capris (see lower right image) and out the door I went. This was to be both an "inventory run" (taking stock of where I'm at) and a "let's see how far I can actually go." I'm terrible at following any sort of actual training plan, for reasons that baffle me a little bit. I mean, I'm one of those people that has to have a recipe when I'm in the kitchen. I like having a plan. But instead, it's sort of just turned into "run as far as you can... and then run father than that next time, and so on..." Which I suppose isn't the worst way to do things, but it's definitely not ideal.

At any rate, my last run was my kick-ass best-pace-of-2014 mile. Which, if memory serves, was hard. I hurt the next day. On the one hand, it felt good, and on the other... my "fast" pace of this year was my "average" pace from last year. But I've always tried to focus on distance and endurance rather than speed, because speed will never be my forte.

My goal was to run two miles. To see if I could. I've only done it once this year. Part of me wondered if I should go for three if I made it through two, but I scaled it back into something a little less daunting.

My pace was slow - slower, even, than when I did intervals - but I did it. I kept moving until I reached two miles and then I stopped with a slight bit of sadness and a "maybe I should have kept going..." which, to me, is the indicator of a good run.

The whole time, the 10K was on my mind. I've never attempted that distance before... never, ever thought I could. I ran four miles last year, twice, and usually once I get past the sluggish middle between a mile and a half and two miles, I can keep slogging along. I started to do the math - the longest I'd run was 55 minutes (4.2 miles) - so it would take me a little over an hour to run five, but that was back when I was running faster. Is 1:30 reasonable for a 10K? I have no idea. It would be approximately 15 minutes per mile, which, at the pace I'm running these days, is a pretty valid goal.... I only get slower as I go. However, as I mentioned before, my interval pace is faster than my all-running pace (grr) so maybe it would behoove me to do intervals if I want to hit a certain goal time?

Ah, who am I kidding? My goal is to finish. Preferably running, but if I have to walk, then I walk. I'll do the best I can when the time comes. I'm trying something that is wildly out of my comfort zone so even if I flub it up, well, hey, at least I tried.

July 10, 2014

July 10

Total time: 22 minutes
Total distance: 1.47 miles

Yesterday was perfect for a run. It was an uncharacteristically cool day for July, somewhere in the 70s with no humidity to speak of. Unfortunately, I was so exhausted that I was pretty sure I'd collapse in a pile of tears if I tried to do anything... and then I ended up passing out cold for three hours (I woke up in exactly the same position I'd laid down in, which is unusual for me. I toss and turn like crazy.)

Mother Nature sighed, and was nice enough to give me another nice day today, similar to yesterday, perhaps better, with a vaguely cloudy sky. Trying to work up the motivation to get out there was hard. Last year it had become such a habit that I would automatically head out the door when I got home, but this year... obviously, that hasn't been the case. I tried to remember why I liked running, the feeling of my feet hitting the pavement. It sort of piqued my interest. I think the final push out the door was receiving a text message essentially asking me to cancel my plans for Saturday because someone assumed I'd be able to help out with a thing. This ongoing lack of respect for my schedule got rather under my skin and I decided to go vent my frustration outside.

I took off at an unsustainably fast (for me) pace. And it felt amazing. Normally I slow myself down after that first burst but today I decided to let it ride and keep it going until I couldn't. I'd only been out once since May's Dam to Dam, and that last run was a pretty feeble effort, so I didn't really expect much. But I merrily plodded along, surprising myself with each minute I continued. I hit the half-mile mark at 6:00, which was putting me on pace for a 12:00 mile - something I'd only done a couple times at the peak of the summer last year. The prospect of running a 2014 PR mile excited me, so I kept pushing myself. Some slow-down was inevitable, but I was hoping to complete the mile in under 13 minutes. (So far this year, I've only run one mile that was under 14, so shaving another minute off of that seemed - well, not impossible, but definitely hard).

It felt good to push myself. Up until now, I'd been pushing myself to finish, or to go as long as I could, maybe just another minute or two... I'd never tried to push myself at a faster pace, or to beat a time. That was new. But once it was in my head, I couldn't let up. I had to at least try. (Because playing little games like this - trying to reach various milestones - is how I keep myself going, how I keep myself inspired).

I finished the mile at 12:50. Not my fastest ever, but my fastest this year, and a lot closer to my average pace from last year. (You know, when I was running about three times a week.) Looking back at my 5K from Memorial Day when I broke 14 minutes, turns out... I ran it in 13:50. So I beat my time by a full minute. Excuse me while I high-five myself.

After that, I kind of walked for a bit, jogged a little here and there, without an end goal in mind, so I kind of just hit the end of the trail and stopped. So that was a little anti-climactic, but whatever. I DID GOOD!

June 22, 2014

June 22

Total time: 10 minutes
Total distance: 0.74 miles

Sometimes, all you can do is go out and run for ten minutes and try to be happy with the fact that, hey, you tried. It wasn't much, but it was better than nothing.

May 31, 2014

May 31 - Dam to Dam (5K Race)

Total time: 44:29
Total distance: 3.1 miles

This is going to be one of those races I am always going to remember, because it was an absolutely bizarre turn of events from start to finish, and it went from being my worst race experience ever to being my best performance of 2014. Go figure.

I signed up for the Dam to Dam 5K at the urging of a couple of my runner friends... not before checking the 2013 finish times to make sure I wouldn't be dead last and make a fool of myself. The Dam to Dam is probably one of the biggest and most well-known events in Iowa - it's for legit runners. There is a half-marathon event too (it used to be ~12 miles, running from, literally, one dam in the DSM area to another, but they had to adjust the route this year for reasons I don't remember, and ended up making it the 13.1 miles)... I'm fairly certain that almost every runner friend I have in the area competed yesterday. Most of them were tackling their first half marathon. Me? I was hoping to survive the 5K.

When I signed up, I thought I'd be farther along in my progress this year. I was running 5K equivalents by early May in 2013, and I'd already slogged my way through a couple of events so far that I'd done intervals in. With coaching two softball teams this year, I've had very little time or energy for running - it just hasn't been a huge priority, which is fine, because softball is the love of my athletic life.

After feeling pretty good at the Jog 4 Joe event the previous week, I was feeling more optimistic about this one. I hadn't run the entirety of that one, but I didn't stop to walk as often or for as long, so I held out hope that maybe I could push myself through this one. If I could break 45 minutes again then I would have been ecstatic... but my goal was really just to have a respectable finish (in other words: not last. I wanted a pocket of people behind me.)

I was a little intimidated at packet pickup. It was a huge event in and of itself. I grabbed my bib and my shirt and a flyer that I think I'd already printed from an email and headed back home for softball practice. My plan was to leave at 8:00 the next morning; I'd be there about an hour early but it would give me plenty of time to park my car and make my way to the start line, mill about for a while, maybe watch some of the half marathoners finish.

Then, race day. Everything went to hell in the proverbial handbasket. I stayed up later than I meant to, and woke up at 8, which is when I'd wanted to leave. By the time I got dressed and rounded up all my running gear, filled my car with gas, and got on the road, it was about 8:45. I was trying not to freak out too much... on a normal day, it takes me about 30 minutes to get to the place where the race started. It would be cutting it close, but all wasn't lost.

Then I got stuck behind some sort of livestock trailer that was going 65mph in a 70mph speed zone and would NOT get out of the fast lane. Panic levels were starting to rise... by the time I got free of that dude, I was going to have about five minutes to park my car and get to the start. Still, I wasn't ready to write it off yet. Though I did start to acknowledge the possibility that I could miss the start of the race. In which case, I would have to turn around and embark on the 3-hour drive to Minneapolis to help my friend move (yeah, I had a full day planned.) I consoled myself with the fact that at least I'd get an earlier start on that project. But that was Plan B. Plan A was to try like hell to get there on time. I sprayed sunscreen on at red lights.

I knew parking was going to be difficult which is the biggest reason I'd wanted to be there so early. For whatever reason, I couldn't find the ramp that I knew was close to the start, and all the lots I found had signs posted that permits were required (I suspect that there were other runners using them, but the last thing I wanted was to take a chance and have my car towed, since I've still got last month's car repairs hanging out on my credit card), and I kept circling the area, tears starting to well up. I was starting to feel simultaneously panicked and defeated as I watched the minutes on my car clock tick down to race time. Finally, at 9:29, I decided that all I could do was get back on the road and head home.

Then, magically, the hand of fate tapped me on the shoulder, and there was a perfect parking space waiting for me. It was close enough to the race start that I could see the signs and the crowd. I performed the most haphazard parallel parking job (it was more of a maneuver than a job, really) and grabbed everything from my passenger seat. The race had already started. It had literally started while I was still parking my car. I ran toward the start line, trying to pin on my bib and get through the crowd (I may or may not have gently pushed a little girl out of the way.) I could hear the race announcer. "All of the runners are now on the course!" My head was screaming NO! NOT YET! WAIT FOR MEEEEEE! I darted across the start line, vaguely wondering if they'd shut off the thing and if I'd even have an official time. It didn't matter at that point, I had crossed the start line and I was going to do it. I had to sprint to get past the truck that was following the last of the runners. I eventually was able to slow to a jog, which then enabled me to get my headphones in and my music turned on and the bottom two pins of my bib pinned to my shirt. My Garmin watch still hadn't pinpointed my location, so there was no point in waiting for it. I turned it back to regular watch mode, resigning myself to the fact that I might not have a time at all for this one, but it didn't matter. At this point, I was just relieved I'd made it... while simultaneously trying to make peace with the fact that nothing had gone the way I'd planned.

The race itself was kind of awful. It was humid and muggy, and the sun would come out for random bits of time, beating down on my back and burning into the back of my neck. I slowed to a walk here and there. I don't know how often or for how long. It was weird; my legs hurt more when I walked than when I ran. I'd get this pain in my shins whenever I tried to walk - it was definitely more comfortable for my legs to keep jogging. But the rest of my body wasn't in shape (or in a mental state) to sustain that. So I alternated between two different speeds of discomfort.

I kept repeating in my head a mantra that I think is a motivational image I saw on Pinterest or something: Did Not Quit is better than Did Not Finish which is better than Did Not Start. I had managed to get past that first level (I started! However haphazardly and less than gracefully, I started. I was on the course and I was doing this.) It would have been stupid to stop anyway; I had to get through the course to get back to the general vicinity where my car was. I could either walk all the way through the downtown Des Moines area trying to get back to the start line, or I could stay the course and get there via the finish line. So I kept going.

I tried to pep talk my way through it. That I could take pride in the fact that, regardless of the way everything went down that morning, that even though I nearly missed the start, that I was flustered and frustrated, I was settled into the race and had squeaked into this race in the nick of time. I was still grumpy, though. I was hot and I just kept thinking how this was all my own fault for not getting up when my alarm initially went off, about how I nearly botched everything, and how I wasn't even in shape to be doing this. Since I was near the back, though, I was with a lot of people that were either walking or walk/running like I was, so that made me feel better. My goal had deteriorated from "run the whole thing" (when I signed up) to "under 45 minutes" (a few weeks ago) to "better than last week's 5K" (this past week) to "not last" (this morning) to "just finish the damn thing" (somewhere between Mile 1 and Mile 2.)

I have never been so relieved to cross the finish line. I almost forgot to take my traditional finish line photo, I was so out of sorts. I grabbed a cup of water and headed in the direction of my car before I caught myself. I had no idea what my time was, but I knew it was under 47 minutes - that's where the clock was when I crossed the line, and I sure as hell wasn't at the front of the pack when the gun went off. Even if it had been 47 minutes, that would have been okay in my book. It was about how I'd done the previous week (46:56) and, all things considered, matching that was a victory in my book. My pace was all over the place, I'd started too fast (I had to, simply to catch up) and I was really inconsistent with my intervals. "Somewhere under 47 minutes"was absolutely more than fine.

I wandered back to my car, which was another mini-experience... I'd been in such a hurry to get to the start line that I hadn't quite taken a mental snapshot of where I'd parked. I knew I was facing east, I knew that I was a block or two north of the start line, and... well, a lot of that area of downtown Des Moines kind of looks the same. I also wasn't sure where the start line was in relation to the finish line. I wandered a block or two before I decided to head east a block, which wasn't looking promising... then I happened to look to my right and saw it in a row of cars that was parked just north of the library. How I hadn't remembered parking next to the library, I have no idea. The Des Moines library is pretty distinctive. It looks like a giant copper piece of modern art. I laughed to myself and was relieved that I didn't have to call my friend to be like, "I'M GONNA BE LATE GETTING TO MINNEAPOLIS, I MANAGED TO LOSE MY CAR IN DOWNTOWN DES MOINES LIKE A TOTAL MORON." I was pleased to see that I was ticket-free, even though I had completely ignored the red flashing meter in my haste to get to the start. (Sometimes they have free parking on weekends. I totally gambled on that. Getting to the start line was way more important to me than worrying about a parking ticket. If that was the price to pay to get where I needed to be, I would have done it without complaint.)

So I headed north, stopped at home to change my shoes and grab some snacks, then hit the road again (for the record, Minneapolis traffic is still awful and I still hate it). I spent the rest of my day helping my friend move... in the rain... after a 5K... with only two of us to unload the U-haul. It took about five hours and I didn't get home until 3am, but I felt vaguely accomplished. I had posted about my race day kerfuffle to my running group on facebook, and all of the encouraging comments and support for the fact that I HAD FINISHED, DAMMIT, BE PROUD made me feel tons better. Crappy races happen to everyone, and I stuck it out, even though it would have been so much easier to quit at every step of the way. I could have gone back to sleep when I realized I overslept, and skipped it. I could have not bothered to even leave town when I saw how late it was getting by the time I got gas. I could have turned around in Ankeny after getting stuck behind that slow vehicle. I could have (and nearly did) leave Des Moines when I couldn't find a parking space. I could have given a big sigh when I saw everyone running across the start line while I was still two blocks away. Instead, I kept pushing myself to keep going. I kept driving. I assembled all of my gear on the run. I sprinted across that start line like I was being chased. I kept my feet moving, even though it was miserable. And I crossed that damn finish line, and I wasn't last.

Late that night, I decided to check the official race results to see if they'd managed to catch me and my last-second start. I scrolled around the 46 minute finish times and didn't see my name. Even though I'd told myself it was possible, I was a little bummed that I didn't have a time. I was on my phone so I couldn't search for my name. All I could do was scroll. For whatever reason, I scrolled up. And there I was. 44:29. I about fell over. I'd not only finished under 45 minutes, but it was my fastest time of the year so far. Faster than my April Fool's Day 5K (44:53), faster than any of my evening or weekend runs. I was ecstatic. Maybe it was that burst of speed at the beginning, maybe it was the course itself, maybe it was the fact that I didn't have my watch going and had no idea what my pace was, but... I finished better than I'd even dared to hope.

This race was crazy and bizarre and has a hell of a story attached to it. And, I suppose, a moral, like any good fable: don't give up.

Edit: The quote I was apparently trying to think of that I had seen online was "Dead Last is better than Did Not Finish which trumps Did Not Start." So... close enough? The sentiment is the same.

May 26, 2014

May 26 - Jog 4 Joe (5K Race)

Total time: 46:56
Total distance: 3.13 miles

When one of your close friends asks if you will participate in the memorial 5K for her killed-in-action brother-in-law, that's not exactly something you say no to... even if you haven't really been running and you have hit the "hate" portion of your love-hate relationship with it, even if you have to get up before 6am to drive across the state to do it. Because there is a thing called perspective, and really, all of it is the least you can do, to help honor the memory of a fallen loved one. US Air Force EOD SSGT Joseph Hamski: this one is for you.

I spent most of Memorial Day weekend with my family, consuming glorious smoked/bbq and hanging out with my little nephew, then said my farewells in an attempt to get to bed early. I'm not sure if I've mentioned this or not, but my sleep is incredibly screwed up. For starters, I have insomniac tendencies, and it's often well after 1am before I can finally get myself to sleep. For seconds, I was diagnosed with sleep apnea last October, which I am just now starting to treat. On top of that, I've never been a morning person. Usually, usually, I can make the heroic effort to wake up early if there's an Event occurring, but it's always questionable.

But! I knew I had to be up and ready and out the door and at my friend's house by 6 to ride over with them (I can always sleep in the car, right?) so I forced myself up and got ready and sent her a text saying I was on my way, and... about three blocks later, her husband calls me and informs me that she's sick and they won't be able to go.


As much as I hadn't been keen on getting up crazy early to go run, I felt rather disappointed. 

I was already awake and surprisingly alert, and, frankly, a solo two-ish hour drive wasn't going to be all that bad. I drive almost that far to visit my sister. Granted, this was in a part of the state that I was entirely unfamiliar with, so it felt like it was a lot farther away. However, it also felt a lot more like an adventure. I looked at my car clock and did some mental math and if Google Maps was to be believed, I could still make it there with about twenty minutes to spare. So I filled up my gas tank and set off on my own.

This race felt bigger than me, felt more important than usual. It wasn't really about running it or walking it. It was about showing up. And I had already committed to showing up, so, dammit, I was going to. Even if I had to go by myself. Besides, I felt like somebody should represent them if they couldn't go.

It was kind of a nice drive. When I'm awake for them and not bone tired, I actually do rather enjoy mornings. I get why people are morning people. It's crisp and fresh and quiet and the day feels full of promise and, frankly, you can get a lot more done.

G-Maps took me as far as the park itself, leaving me to my own best guess as to where in this sprawling expanse of lakes and campers and trails the actual race start was. Fortunately, after stopping to ogle some baby geese (grown up geese are jerks but the babies are adorable!), I found where I needed to be. It had been lightly raining on and off for the last twenty minutes or so, and it didn't really show any signs of stopping. It was a little bit muggy, but not as bad as it could have been, I suppose. I slathered on the bug spray and meandered over to the general start area, where I knew absolutely nobody. (I recognized my friend's mother-in-law, but I'm not sure she would have had a clue who I was if I'd gone to say hello, even though I was a prominent member of the bridal party in the wedding. Granted, this happens to me a lot - I am really good at remembering faces and I have to refrain from creeping people out by greeting them when I know they will have a very low probability of reciprocating said recognition.)

This was a pretty small race, compared to the others I've done. It was kind of refreshing. It was laid back, completely local, and for a common cause. No fancy start line, no chip timers; they had people with clipboards at the finish line recording bib numbers as people finished.

The race itself felt pretty solid for me. I didn't really have a goal time in mind; I hadn't been running as much as I would have liked (even though my "big" 5K was coming up the following week - I had decided to use this one as kind of a warm up/trial/check point to see where I was at) so I honestly had no idea what to expect. I was kind of hoping that I'd been secretly getting in shape from softball, but I wasn't terribly optimistic on that front. My only real goal was to try to run the first mile under 14 minutes (something I hadn't done yet this year), and even that goal only really clicked into place and I started moving. (NAILED IT! 13:50, woo!) I did force myself to stop and walk a bit - I felt good, but I didn't want to overdo it, either. They got to be shorter and fewer as the race went on, and I found myself in this completely contented zone, one I'm not sure I've quite found before.

Aside from the rainy/muggy weather, I enjoyed it a lot. It wasn't unbearably hot and sunny like the 80s run had been; the course was pretty flat and ran through the park and it mostly just felt good to run. I could think of not a single thing more fitting to do with my Memorial Day than to go out and run in memory of all those who were gone, all those who had sacrificed. I really didn't even care about a finish time. I was just running to run at this point. I was dripping wet at the end - it might have been sweat, it might have been rain - and I could feel that my face was super pink and flushed. I kind of awkwardly milled about with my post-race banana and water, not having anyone there to meet up with or talk to, but not quite ready to get back in my car and drive home. I hung out for the awards ceremony and wandered away when everyone dispersed. I felt more anonymous and invisible than I have in other events where I've been by myself - possibly because it was such a small event and almost everyone there knew each other - which was a really surreal feeling. Assuming the schedule works out, I'll probably come back again next year... hopefully next time with my original companions.

UPDATE: About a week later - coming off the bizarre event that was the Dam to Dam 5K, they emailed out the results... I got 7th! I mean, out of 17, but even so... that's not only in the top ten (which is something I will likely not see again), but it was in the top half! There were more people behind me than in front of me! So that's really cool.

This wasn't chip-timed, so I'm going with my Garmin time over their written finish time since it was being manually tracked, even though the difference was all of three seconds. ;)

May 18, 2014

May 18

Total time: 17:02
Total distance: 1.15 miles

We shall sum up today's run with the word "frustration." By this time last year, I had run the equivalent of a 5K at least once. I'm still struggling with a mile.

7-3-7 interval today.

May 12, 2014

May 12

Total time: 31:05 minutes (running time: 25 minutes)
Total distance: 2.01 miles

More intervals today! Or, should I say, more ambitious intervals! 6-2-6-3-6-2-7 (with the 6s and 7 being the running bits.) I did equal run-walk stretches last week, so I decided to up my game and stretch it to significantly longer running times vs walking times. (I feel a little weird claiming "31 minutes!" for the run today since I only ran 25 of that, but... I suppose I was moving the whole time. I guess I'll just go with it so as not to rock the boat with my system... that's why I've got writeups to go with everything and not just numbers, right? So I can look back and see what I did and how I felt and other various details along the way.)

Slow and steady wins the race, though, eh? Somewhere along the way, I think that that has sort of turned into a new running mantra. The tortoise and I have a lot in common.

May 4, 2014

May 4

Total time: 35 mins
Total distance: 2.19 miles

Two days in a row! Intervals today, though. 3-2-1-1-2-3-3-2-1 minutes respectively, with equivalent walking in between. (ex: ran three minutes, walked three minutes, ran two minutes, walked two, etc.)

Shockingly enough, after picking up running cold turkey like I did yesterday, I was a bit sore today. I was hoping running/walking would help loosen the muscles up a bit. Not sure if it helped or not...

Again, nothing terribly exciting about this one. Followed intervals around my two-mile route with a vaguely ladder-like pattern... 321...123...321... whatever works, right?

May 3, 2014

May 3

Total time: 14:31
Total distance: 1 mile

Remember how I used to, like, run and stuff? I inadvertently took a bunch of time off after the 80s run, which probably had more to do with softball starting than anything else. I'm coaching two teams this year... my schedule's gonna be interesting.

I don't have anything particularly profound about this one. Ran a mile! Whee! I feel like as long as I can do that, then I'm doing all right.

April 12, 2014

April 12: Totally Rad 80s Run (5K Race)

Total time: 46:27
Total distance: 3.1 miles
Last year's time: 38:50

I have a bit of a fondness for the Totally Rad 80s Run, aside from the fact that it is 80s themed... and that's that, last year, it was my very first official 5K. By "official" I mean in a race setting, not running my usual trail on my own. I wasn't super impressed with the race last year - it was its first year, and there were kinks to be worked out. The finish line was not much more than a sandwich board that said "Finish" and for some reason I was thinking that there was supposed to be music along the route so I didn't bring my iPod and was a little disappointed. Interestingly enough, this still holds the record as my fastest 5K to date.

Going into Year Two, I knew it was going to be a totally different experience, for several reasons. One, it was in April and not June, so the weather was likely to be significantly cooler. Two, they were doing chip-timing this year. Three, the friends I'd done it with last year were busy so I was basically flying solo. I mean, I'm a solo runner, but it's nice to have friends to do a race "with" - even if I don't see them at all during the actual running bits, it's nice to have someone to meet up with at the finish line after. I debated backing out, especially since I'd just done one the week before and I obviously wasn't in any better shape than I had been then. Intervals it would be! I also did a better job with my ensemble this year.

As luck would have it, a couple friends were suddenly out of a 5K that day when the one on campus got cancelled, so I talked them into doing this one instead. One of them showed up with a fully-functioning cassette-playing Walkman.

I was prepared this time, musically. I'd curated an 80s-tastic playlist and loaded it to my phone. Normally I use my ancient iPod Shuffle, but I really didn't want to wipe out my regular playlist so I resigned myself to dealing with a phone armband. Naturally, this was something I wasn't used to, and I had trouble getting it going. The volume on my phone was turned up too loud and when I plugged my headphones in, I got blasted with sound, so I was trying to finagle that nonsense at the start line. I pulled off to the back and let the race go ahead and start around me, starting near the back of the pack... which, frankly, is fine. Then my watch couldn't figure out where I was in time so it was probably a good few tenths of a mile before my GPS kicked in. Close enough, I decided - it would give me an idea of roughly where I was at and my actual time would be chip-recorded.

This race was hard. The route was mostly the same as last year, except it started and ended by a bar called Mullets (naturally) instead of winding back into Principal Park (home of the Iowa Cubs baseball team). It was a nice route, mostly flat.

But it was hot. OMG, so hot.

I couldn't figure out why I was struggling so much. Sure, it felt warm, but I didn't realize how hot it had actually gotten since arriving to check in. Keep in mind, this is April, and just the prior week, I had been running in 35-degree weather. There was a point somewhere just past 2.5 miles where I was seriously concerned about the possibility of throwing up.

Turns out, the temperature had skyrocketed into the upper 80s.

When I got in my car afterward, the readout was 89 degrees. Seriously, is this April or August? Cause that's an August temperature. (I'm not complaining... I don't think. At least it wasn't freezing! But it was a bit of an extreme jump.) No wonder I was having a hard time. It was about fifty degrees warmer than it had been the previous Saturday, and about forty degrees higher than anything I'd run in yet this year. My body was thoroughly confused.

Fortunately, I did not vomit or pass out or suffer any severe heat-related ailments, but damn. That was a HARD race. I always look forward to the finish line, but I have never been so happy to be done as I was that day. And then I was handed a spiffy boombox-shaped finisher medal, which was kind of odd. I mean, I get that the Totally Rad Race Organizers were stepping up their game this year, but to me, finisher medals are for things like half-marathons and above. Sure, finishing a 5K is an achievement, but I don't really feel like it's medal worthy unless you won your division. (I've never been a fan of participation medals, either.) I also really didn't feel like I deserved it because I didn't run the whole thing. By my standards, this wasn't really a stellar performance, definitely not one to be rewarded. It was probably one of the worst races I've run, actually. Not to mention the fact that it was almost eight minutes slower than last year. Eek.

But then my friend met up with me and we hung out at Mullet's for a while (they have sweet potato tater tots with this marshmallowy dipping sauce that is amazing, should you ever find yourself there.) 

April 5, 2014

April 5: Fool's 5K (Race)

Total time: 44:52
Total distance: 3.1 miles


So, a little about this race. The Fool's 5K, an annual event held in proximity to April Fool's Day, possibly entitled as such because we are all crazy for trying to do a race this early in the year, held up in the scenic George Wyth National Park in Waterloo, Iowa. This race caught my attention for a couple reasons - they claimed it to be SUPER FLAT (flat is good) and for it to be one of the most well-organized and/or smoothest-run races in the state, and... there's a crapload of food at the end. Somewhere in the communications was this incredibly interesting article about how race distances are calibrated/measured (and what makes some "official") and how GPS devices work and why the two don't always match. Having just gotten a GPS watch, I found it helpful. I also was really impressed by how much of a pain in the butt it is to officially calibrate a race. I'm guessing most events I've done.... haven't.

Anyway. Me being me, if there is a theme involved, I'll jump all over it. From what I could tell from the website and such, there was a bit of a jester theme, so I located a couple mardi-gras masks for my sister and myself. (I did toy with the idea of an actual jester hat, but that seemed like it might be cumbersome to run with, so I let it go. This time.) The mask got to be a little uncomfortable so it stayed parked on my head for the majority of the race, but I still feel like it was a nice touch.

I have decided that, when possible, I want to wear the race tees at the actual race, so when I take my post-race pictures, I can easily tell at a glance later which race it was from. The shirts for this race ended up being a full dye-sublimation print, which was really cool, but... it was cold, so under the jackets they went.

This was the first race I've done where they had us line up by pace. So, basically... I had to hike it all the way to the end. Ha. Oh well. I'm okay with being a slow runner and it's smart to keep us slowbies out of the way of the fast people.

Despite it being super chilly, the sun did come out, and it warmed up a little bit toward the end. I mean, no one would have mistaken it for being Warm Outside, but it was rather pleasant. I prefer it be a bit cooler when I run anyway... 45-75 is my ideal temperature range. We started out in synchronized intervals, me consulting my faithful Garmin and dictating when to start/stop as per what had worked with my interval experiment. Eventually, my sister got bored and wanted to keep going, so I waved her ahead and off she went. For all her complaining about how she wasn't going to be able to do it at all, she pulled ahead and left me in the dust!

As for me, I ended up beating my goal time of 45 minutes with a finish time of 44:52! Hooray! It was the first time I'd heard my name announced when crossing the finish line, so that was simultaneously cool and surprising. Another cool thing about this race? You could sign up ahead of time to have your finish time texted to you... which I did. It was nice to have instantaneous feedback, especially since I knew my Garmin was a wee bit off. Overall results, 1000 out of 1118 (I feel like I should get a prize for being exactly the 1000th person, right?... 632 out of 734 female runners (all ages), and 64 out of 93 in the "Athena" category, which I chose instead of my age group. (Athena = female runners over 150 lbs. I felt I had a better chance of placing higher in this category than being lumped in with all the skinny, fit people.) Not too shabby for the first time out!

April 2, 2014

April 2

Total time: 47 minutes [intervals]
Total distance: 3.06 miles [intervals]

I decided to perform an experiment today. Since it has become glaringly obvious that I cannot really run much more than a mile right now, and I am facing a 5K on Saturday (curse you, past self!), I needed to try a new approach. I wondered if, perchance, I could get through the long distance by doing run-walk intervals throughout. It was worth a chance, and frankly, it was the only option I had left.

So I set off tonight with the goal of two miles. If I could get through two miles of intervals, then a third shouldn't be a problem. Right? Right.

I started off pretty ambitious: I was going to run 5, walk 2. I quickly decided to modify this and ended up doing 3-4 minutes on, 3-4 minutes off. The majority of the run was 3:3, but after the first mile, I started adopting a few 4-minute walks, and, weirdly, after the second mile, I added a few 4-minute runs.

Here's what was amazing:

1. My first mile was faster than any mile I have run so far this year. That's right, run/walk intervals > solid running. I think this is largely because when I do run, I am able to run at a little bit faster of a pace than when I just run. (To be fair: I am a slow runner, and a fast walker.) Therefore, I decided that if this experiment was successful, I could probably do this for the 5K and still hit a finish time near what I would have run in my peak from last summer.

2. The longer I went, the stronger I got. This is the opposite of what I expected. Common sense would dictate that I would get more tired and thus slower as time went on (which, again, is what normally happens.) Instead, I felt awesome, and decided to extend my adventure past 2 miles and do a full 3. (Honestly, I probably could have kept going if it hadn't started to rain and/or I hadn't needed to get home and go do some laundry. The next time it's nice out and I get an earlier start, I might just do so!). I have no measurements to back this claim up, but I really felt like the running intervals between mile 2 and 3 were faster than the ones in the first or second mile. I even told myself to slow down at one point (I didn't listen.)

I cannot believe how night-and-day I felt between yesterday and today. While yesterday (and the run before that) were disheartening and full of defeat, I felt awesome today.

And I'm no longer intimidated by Saturday's event. I'm aiming my goal time for 45 minutes. If I hit it, great, if I don't... meh. Maybe next time!

April 1, 2014

April 1

Total time: 18:20
Total distance: 1.25 miles

Oooh, man. I need to borrow someone's TARDIS so I can go back and punch myself in the face for thinking I'd be 5K ready by April. LOL NOPE.

I've got one this weekend... and one the weekend after that. The first one is a new one (for me), up in my sister's neck of the woods, so of course I talked her into doing it with me, though she's about as prepared for it as I am. The second one is the Totally Rad 80s Run, Part Deux, moved up from July to April (and moved up from the evening to the middle of the day). Looking forward to it not being so hot (because July = ew) and also looking forward to it being chip-timed this year. Though the fact that it is so early will make it hard to compare Last Year vs This Year times since I'll obviously have been in two different points in my training. (I say "training" like I have an actual program I'm following, when really up until now it's been pretty much "go out and run until you can't anymore, and hopefully it will be more/better than last time.")

But... yeah. Starting to get a little apprehensive about this rapidly-approaching events. I am incapable of running 3.1 miles right now. I think that time I ran 2 a couple weeks ago might have been a total fluke.

March 30, 2014

March 30

Total time: 15:02
Total distance: 1.05

I GOT MY NEW TOY!!! After doing a bit of browsing around, I decided on the Garmin Forerunner 10 - based on the reviews, it was more or less what I needed, and I couldn't care less about how it didn't do the things that the people training for marathons needed. What I cared about? Seeing my time and distance on the same screen. Therefore, this one was perfect. And if there was any question, I got it in bright pink.

Unfortunately, the first time I took it out for a spin, I had a pretty not-great run. I was grumpy when I was done. I felt slow and out of shape and full of self-loathing because it took me a long time and a lot of struggling to run a mile. In hindsight - hey, I ran a mile! That's more than a lot of people can do, and it's more than I used to be able to do. And even though it sucked, it was the best I could do on this day, so.

March 13, 2014

March 13

Total time: 28 minutes?*
Total distance: 2.17 miles

So, on the one hand, I RAN TWO MILES!!!! Playing a little fast and loose with the word "ran"... more like stumble-jogged. But whatever. TWO MILES!!

On the other... I have no idea how much time it took me to do so. I'd had a mild discrepancy with my UP band the other day so it should have tipped me off that things were amiss, but holy cow. I plugged in the band and on the main sync screen, it said 29:55... okay, cool. I almost ran a half hour, that's neat! Then on the main info screen for that activity, it said 27 minutes... okay, cool - I was almost three minutes faster than I thought! Either time would have been fine, but it irks me to not know which was correct. THAT IS A LARGE DISCREPANCY. If I were a more serious runner, I probably would have had an epic tantrum.

*For my record-keeping purposes, I am going to split the distance. Close enough, eh?

It was already clear that my UP band was not to be trusted, which is why I was wary of the distance it gave me, as well. Mostly because I ran my 2-mile route, that I have timed several times in the past, and it was only giving me a mile-ish. This clearly would not do. So, I did the most logical(?) thing, and walked the entire route that I had just run... in reverse. This time, I tracked it with Runkeeper.

It was my intention to start a new training program today and thus I was supposed to only walk, but... it was too nice out! I couldn't help it! I mean, I eventually walked, right? Ah, well.

I think, also, that this just solidifies my decision that I "need" a GPS watch. My current gadgets are clearly in need of an upgrade.


March 9, 2014

March 9

Total time: 15:53
Total distance: 1 mile

When Nature hands you a 45-degree day in the middle of a Polar Vortex, by God, you GO OUTSIDE.

I was feeling a little too confident, perhaps, after my previous treadmill run, and it became obvious that twenty minutes wasn't going to happen again. So I set my sights on a mile, and slogged my way through it. It was wretched and miserable. SO MANY PUDDLES. I tried my best to avoid them, but that was a neigh impossible task. My shoes and socks were soaked by the time I got home. (I was advised by my running expert friends to take the laces out  - so they don't mold/rot - and then stuff newspaper in the shoes to dry them out. Voila!). My headband was pinching my head which was making me cranky. Even my iPod died before I was done.

All in all, it's done. I did it. It was awful (and wet and gross and slow) but I did it!

March 3, 2014

March 3

Total time: 20 minutes
Total distance: 1.36 miles

Remember that really warm spring day we had back in January? Yeahhhh, it was definitely a fluke. Since then, we've barely kept the temperature above freezing (and rarely above zero, which, in Fahrenheit, are two completely different levels of cold), the awful wind chill of the polar vortex keeps sweeping its way back, and we seem to get a fresh batch of snow every few days. Now, sure, part of it is just winter. But not only have we not had a winter this bad in a long time, but we're setting all sorts of records for cold lately. It's unpleasant.

It's also making it really frustrating for wannabe runners such as myself. I probably wouldn't have qualms about running in the snow, per se, but it's the dangerously cold temperatures where I draw the line. Frankly, if it's not above 35 degrees, I'm not even going to consider it. I've been browsing treadmills online, even though I have an incredibly small apartment and nowhere to put one. There are a variety of cheap space-saver models that can fold up, that I've been hovering around, but the reviews are pretty hit or miss. Either you luck out and get a great machine that survived the shipping process, or you don't. I don't want to throw money at a potential dud. Especially a potential dud that has the potential to take up my entire living room.

I've been getting so desperate I've actually thought about joining a gym, even though the idea of paying money for an incredibly awkward experience doesn't sound like a good investment to me. Gyms intimidate me. I don't know the culture and I don't know the "rules" and frankly I know that everyone starts somewhere but I am in terrible form right now. I think I've finally crawled back to my heaviest weight again. It's not important. I just have crippling self-consciousness sometimes. Fortunately, it occurred to me that a lot of apartment complexes have gyms or fitness rooms or whatever they call them, and that the man-friend's apartment complex is one of those such places, and they have treadmills, and it was so obvious that I really don't know why this didn't happen sooner.

It's been a really, really, reallllllly long time since I've spent any time on a treadmill. After running outside for every single run of 2013, running inside on a treadmill is, well, pretty boring. There is no change of scenery. There is no real change of pace. It's just kind of plodding along on a moving band, staring at the wall (or window) in front of you. I'm glad I had the foresight to add a few new songs to my playlist before I left, just to mix things up.

Despite this, I could not have cared any less that I was stuck inside on a treadmill, it just felt so damn good to be running again. I was going to walk for fifteen minutes, run for a bit, then walk some more, but I got bored of walking after about seven minutes and after fighting off the itch to start running, I went with it. I set the machine for twenty minutes, figuring it was as good a place as any to (re)start. I'd slogged through twenty minutes back in January... maybe I could do it again. It felt much better this time. More solid. My pace was slower than last year, but faster (and more consistent) than in January. I was running at an average pace of a 15-minute mile (4 mph, if you're interested), which is a lot of people's 2-mile time, but whatever. I've run twice since winter started, I'm just happy to be moving at all, and I really do not give a crap how slow it is right now. I'm not racing anyone. And even if I was, I wouldn't expect to win. Speed so does not matter right now. Endurance and distance. I'm signed up for two 5Ks in April, though at this rate, we'll probably still have snow on the ground, so who knows if they'll even happen.

I'm a little nervous about being 5K ready in a month, but looking at last year's progress, I ran a 5K equivalent on my sixth run of the year... and I'm hopefully starting in just as good a place, if not better, assuming I didn't lose all my progress from last year. I mean, I'm about halfway there already! I didn't quite make it a mile and a half tonight, but I was close. So I'm hopeful. If I can get back in and run fairly consistently over the month, I should be ready to go in April. Right? Right. Let's hope.

Also, I tried to stealthily take a post-run selfie immediately after, but there was some dude there on the elliptical and I have some degree of pride. So it had to wait until I was in my car. I don't know how this little ritual got started (no, I do: the first time I used Runkeeper it prompted me to take a picture after I was done, so I did, and here we are)... I guess I'm stuck with it. Oh well.

Thanks, Treadmill. You too. High five.

January 19, 2014

January 19

Total time: 21:27 minutes
Total distance: 1.39 miles

FIRST RUN OF 2014!! It's been an incredibly cold winter so far, what with the record-breaking polar vortex and just general normal winter-ness of cold + snow + ice + dark. It's been gloomy. There was one day back in late December that ended up being in the low 40s, and I was so mad that I didn't check the temperature before I showered and got ready for the day. I would have totally snuck in a run before scurrying up north for a belated Christmas celebration. I don't really know what my temperature threshold is for "warm enough to run" but probably upper 30s... back in May when we had our freak spring snow, I think it was somewhere just slightly above freezing and I went for it anyway, and it was fine. Depends on how cold the air is, I guess. It can be too cold for your lungs and it would just be a pile of suck. I've been keeping an eye on the weather when I have daylight to spare, and it's been pretty discouraging.

Fortunately, I got my chance with an unseasonably warm January day! The temp on my phone said 45 when I left my apartment, and when I was done it was all the way up to 50. Given how long it had been since I've run (I've been a lazy bum and have not located a treadmill to borrow and I do not want to pay for a gym membership because I am intimidated by gyms), I decided I'd walk to the park, then walk my normal route, then run it. Plenty of warm-up to get my legs used to moving, with the added bonus of scouting out my trail to see what condition it was in. Snow, I learned, wasn't a problem, as long as I was careful... but I was worried about lingering ice. Slipping and falling and hurting myself was not high on my list of objectives. I texted the BF to see if he wanted to join me and he met up with me at the park right about the time that I decided I'd run my alternate route around the baseball field. He talked me into running the complete opposite way - the trail that he likes to run - since it was less wind-exposed and there had been other people running on it. I mentally followed it and decided that it would probably be about the right distance - I was hoping to do at least 10 minutes, and judge it from there. So off we went, spending a fair amount of time skirting around puddles and mini-lakes and mud, but with a mostly-clear trail. It felt so good to be outside with sunshine and warmth and just moving again. Heavenly.

I had no idea where I'd be starting from. If I could feel a difference when I took two weeks off in late November, who knows how much I might have lost over the last month and a half. I remember, also, how tentatively I'd started last spring, too. So I wasn't expecting a lot, but I took off at a steady jog.

It was slow. So slow. Probably the slowest I've ever gone. But I reached ten minutes easily enough and decided I'd go for fifteen - get my mile in! More than I'd even dared to hope for. The last five minutes were a little rougher than any of the ten that had proceeded them, and I was ready to quit when I hit my mark. I even stopped my UP band and slowed to a walk for about all of three steps when the BF shook his head at me and nudged me forward. So I restarted my band and kept trudging along, and we went another five or so until we reached my house. It was a rough five minutes, let me tell you. But I bit my tongue and held back my complaints, because I wanted to push myself, and it would be silly to argue against a little extra hard work.

Twenty-one minutes, guys. TWENTY ONE MINUTES, first time out. About twice as long as I was shooting for. I was incredibly pleased. Granted, I was plodding along at about a 15/16-minute mile pace, so I've definitely got some work to do on finding my old 12-ish minute mile pace again, but it was exactly the kick-start I needed. I am so antsy to get back out there, or find a treadmill, anything. Of course, it's supposed to be cold and crappy right away again, but I'd say the year's off to a great start!

January 1, 2014

2013 in Review

I started keeping track of my runs in April as a means of tracking my progress. I can't remember if I did much running this year before that; if I did, it was very sporadically and mostly intervals. A lot of the "hard" work - getting into shape, building distance, a lot of interval training - was done in 2012. I ended the year with a PR of 32 straight minutes in October of that year, which wasn't too shabby at all, since I was a complete and total couch potato when that year began. I couldn't run for more than a minute or two. Fortunately, I didn't lose all of that work when I started running again in 2013. I wasn't even sure how "into" running I would be, but I knew it was a good cardio workout and I still had my white whale to capture - running a 5K.

I started taking post-run photos simply because Runkeeper prompted me to the first time I used it... and then it just sort of became a tradition. From there, I decided to document each excursion in a similar manner. Consistency, and whatnot. Blogging helped, also, to keep me accountable.

Which is a roundabout way of saying: I have a lot of data and I find stats to be pretty interesting. So I've taken the time to compile everything that I recorded in 2013 in to a nice year-end summary.

The biggest surprise, when tallying everything up? It was only my 6th run of the year when I ran my first 5K equivalent (3.22 miles) on May 10. (Which gives me hope that it won't take me too long to bounce back in 2014 after taking some time off over the holidays/in the winter.)

Number of Runs Per Month
April - 2
May - 8
June - 11
July - 12
August - 6
September - 8
October - 9
November - 3
December - 1
Total Number of Runs in 2013: 60
Month with the Most Runs: July (12)

Total Recorded Time Per Month
April - 45 minutes
May - 184 minutes
June - 269 minutes
July - 277 minutes
August - 133 minutes
September - 146 minutes
October - 215 minutes
November - 105 minutes
December - 15 minutes
Total Time Spent Running in 2013: 1389 minutes (23.15 hours!)
Month with the Most Time Spent Running: July (277 minutes)
Most Recorded Time in a Single Week: 93 minutes (10/20-10/26)
2013 Personal Record, Longest Time/Single Run: 55 minutes (6/21)

Total Recorded Distance Per Month
April - 1.77 miles (only one run was tracked)
May - 15.12 miles
June - 22.69 miles
July - 22.05 miles
August - 8.82 miles
September - 11.57 miles
October - 17.41 miles
November - 8.05 miles
December - 1.22 miles
Total Recorded Distance in 2013: 108.7 miles
Month with the Most Distance Run: June (22.69 miles)
Most Recorded Distance in a Single Week: 7.6 miles (10/20-10/26)
2013 Personal Record, Farthest Distance: 4.29 miles (10/20)

Total # of Organized 5K Races Run in 2013: 4

Number of Runs Per Days of the Week:
Sunday - 15
Monday - 6
Tuesday - 11
Wednesday - 5
Thursday - 6
Friday - 7
Saturday - 10

It is perhaps not surprising that most of my runs landed on a weekend, especially since in the summer I had softball on weeknights, and in the fall once it started to get dark by the time I left work. There were definitely some patterns starting to emerge each month, which was interesting because I never had a "set" running schedule.

Looking ahead: 2014

My #1 running goal for 2014 is to run 5 miles. I was so close last year, I think I can do it! My #2 goal, if I can run 5, is to eventually run a 10K (which is ~6.2 miles). I'm not ready to commit to a goal of a half marathon just yet, even though a lot of my friends are doing it (peer pressure!) but if I have a good year this year and stay injury-free, that might be The Goal for 2015.

I'm also considering investing in a GPS watch this year. My UP band has suited me pretty well, but it's always frustrated me just a little bit to not know how far I'd run until after I was done. I think it might also help me pace myself while doing 5Ks. They're about $130-150 but I shouldn't need to buy new shoes or gear for a while (unless I magically lose a bunch of weight, but if that happens, I will not be complaining!) so it might be my big splurge for the year.

Lastly, I'm planning on running more 5Ks this year. Probably a couple in the spring, a couple in the fall. Summer is kind of busy since I'm planning on coaching softball again, and late summer is just miserably hot and humid. But we'll see! If a fun one pops up here and there I won't say no! I don't have a set number that I want to do. I don't want to spend too much money on registration fees, and I'd rather do more charity runs than novelty runs. (In other words, I won't be running the Color Run in 2014. I might get talked into participating, but it will be strictly leisurely. Too many people and obstacles.) It would be nice to do a couple of the same races as last year just to see what kind of improvement I can make from last year, so hopefully all the dates will work out.