Saturday, December 31

2011 in review

Miss Zippy posted a few "year in review" questions and asked readers to respond, so here goes:

Best race experience? Not gonna' lie -- small, local races became my favorite this year as I discovered that my possibility of placing increases in inverse proportion to the size of the race!
Third woman overall in a 5k... I'll take it!

Best run? My best running experience was during a half marathon... Not because it was my best pace ever (far from it!) but because after weeks of hip pain, my feet felt light for the first eight miles, and because I witnessed incredible kindness and encouragement between runners on the course.

Best new piece of gear? N/A.
I don't think I bought anything besides replacement shoes this year...
Oh wait... Headbands! A pack of cheap, cotton headbands from Target saved my dying, sweat-stung eyes on summer runs. Never needed those before moving to the Gulf Coast! (Thanks for nothing, Florida!)

Best piece of running advice you received? I don't know if this counts as a piece of advice, but I've had a helluva lot of fun streaking! I've always taken days off to "recover," but thanks to the gauntlet thrown down by Runner's world, I've run every day for more than 5 weeks in a row. I have a new appreciation for what my body is capable of.

Most inspirational runner? Matt Long, NY Firefighter who was hit by a bus, left with a 5 percent chance of survival. After numerous reconstructive surgeries and excruciating physical therapy, he recovered to run the NY Marathon and complete an Ironman tri. Sort of puts a "crappy long run" into perspective... His book, The Long Run, is one of the most compelling books I've read.

If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be? Sweaty. (Thanks, again, Florida!)

How was your 2011? Best run? Best advice?
Fill in your answers in the comments or leave a link to your own blog post!

Friday, December 30

Goals, not resolutions

Photo credit
Resolutions. Bah. Humbug!
Resolutions are for sissies.

New Year's is one of my favorite holidays. I love the "year in review" recaps, and I love the bright, shiny expanse of a new year rolling out ahead of me.

But, for me, resolutions sort of suck the life out of the new year. Resolutions imply that we're unhappy about our current lives. Resolutions imply short-term changes on which we will never follow through.

Goals, on the other hand... Goals are different.

Goals set us up for success. Well-designed goals provide both a specific accomplishment and a clear path to achievement.

Goal: Spend more time here in 2012.
Case in point:
I could resolve to "get faster" in 2012.
But what does that mean?
So my goal will be more specific: run a sub 24 minute 5k, and do track work and hill repeats on alternating weeks until I beat my 5k PR.

I'm still working on my goal list... but a new 5k PR is priority #1.

(For more on my thoughts about goals vs. resolutions, see my recent piece for Examiner.com)

Are you a resolver? A goal setter?
What are your goals for the New Year?

Thursday, December 29

Thursday thanks

To find inspiration for this week's Thursday thanks, I looked back at my Thanks posts from earlier in the year. (After all, isn't that what year-end is all about -- reflecting on what has passed and planning what is to come?)
Photo courtesy of digitalart
and Freedigitalphotos.net

2011 was a year of new challenges adventures for me:

  • I packed up my life and moved across the country (Moved out of California after a decade there. The transition was not entirely easy.)
  • Hubby and I got married.
  • I started teaching college courses.
  • I ran through my first Florida summer, and survived. (Unfortunately so did the "palmetto bugs." I will never be OK with Florida's fauna...)
  • I discovered that small races mean age group award potential.
  • I completed a month-long running streak.
  • I started a running blog...
  • My laptop died while I was working on a conference paper.
  • I found out that I did not win an award I was seeking for that conference paper (laptop issues are not to blame). Total bummer.
  • I checked three more states and several more cities off of my "places I've been to (not counting airport layovers)" and "places I've run" lists.
  • I spent lots of time with my far-away family.

There were some ups and downs, but all in all, 2011 was a decent vintage.
Cheers, friends!

What are you thankful for this year?


Tuesday, December 27

Book review on the run: The Long Run

I just finished The Long Run by Matt Long and Charles Butler.
This is, without a doubt, the best book I read in 2011.

Matt Long's account of his young years as a New York City firefighter, brother, son, and endurance athlete sets the stage for this tale. Long has a smartass northeastern sense of humor that comes through clearly in the text. His apparent zest for life makes it all the more tragic that in 2005 he was hit by a bus and left with 5 percent chance of survival. His list of internal injuries would make even the most stoic reader wince in empathy.

As can be expected after an accident so traumatic, Long's path to recovery is, at times, uncertain. The reader follows Long through the shock of learning the extent of his injuries to the humiliation that he feels living with a colostomy bag. His voice is so strong in the tale that the reader (at least this reader) finds herself near tears when bad news is delivered by well-intentioned doctors.

But these periods of grief are peppered with tales of firehouse pranks and family humor that make you want to laugh out loud.

And ultimately this book is not a tragedy. It is a story of triumph over adversity. It is the story of how Long pulled his post-accident life back together (with the help of family, friends, and some excellent doctors and physical therapists) to run and race again.

If there ever was a tale of inspiration, this is it.

If you want to read an excerpt before you commit to buying it (or to borrowing it from your local library), Runner's World offers a sizeable chunk of the text on their website. Or watch the video from the Daily Show:
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Matt Long
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook
If you have read the book, what do you think?
If you haven't read it, what are you waiting for?

Monday, December 26

Relax

I hope you all are having a relaxing
and peaceful holiday season!
Photo courtesy of State Library and Archives of Florida


Sunday, December 25

Sandy Santa

Happy Holidays* from Florida!
Photo courtesy of State Library and Archives of Florida
*In order of appearance: Hanukkah, Solstice, Festivus, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, National Fruitcake Day, New Year's Eve, New Year's Day, Epiphany, or whatever you're celebrating this month and next!

Saturday, December 24

Streak week 5

Goodbye week 5 of the Runner's World holiday running streak!
Week 1 was novel, week 2 made me feel hardcore, week 3 was tiring, week 4 was WET, and week 5 has been festive (and humid, but let's focus on the festive)!
Photo courtesy of 5ksAndCabernets
Here's how the week shook out:
  1. Sunday - 3 miles around the neighborhood with Hubby. 3 is also the number of weeks since I last got to spend time with Hubby thanks to our conflicting work travel schedules. All the time apart made me appreciate that we're now both home for the holidays!
  2. Monday - 1 mile. In the rain. (The weather gods hate me.) On the plus side, I spent quality time with my stationary bike and free weights for the first time since I started this running streak!
  3. Tuesday - 1.5 miles. More rain. (Will it ever end???)
  4. Wednesday - 4.5 miles. The rain ended, but the humidity was bad enough that I've put in a request with Santa...
  5. Thursday - 2.25 sweaty miles and a terrible clothes shopping experience
  6. Friday - Four miles for Festivus!
  7. Saturday - 10 glorious miles. 9 minute pace. 54 degrees. 1 neighbor kid dressed like an elf. (Or was that really one of Santa's helpers? Maybe he granted my Christmas wish for cooler weather!)
All total, I logged just over 26 miles for the week.

If I run at just one more mile tomorrow,
I will accomplish my holiday running streak goal!


(Can I keep this up for one more week? I have travel plans that might mess with running for one day, but I'm going to try and keep this thing going into the New Year!)

Have you started planning your running goals for 2012?

Decorating as an endurance sport?

Who knew decorating a Christmas tree could be an endurance sport?
(note: look closely at the photo...)
Photo courtesy of the State Library and Archives of Florida
(...those fish are not ornaments!)


Friday, December 23

Festivus

Are you tired of holiday shopping yet?
Well then:
Happy Festivus!

Raise a Festivus pole.
Air your grievances.
Display feats of strength. (Read: pin your host to the floor... because Festivus isn't over until the host goes down!)


My feat of strength was a 4 mile run. It might not be a traditional Festivus feat, but it's in keeping with the spirit of the holiday.


Did you participate in any feats of strength to celebrate Festivus?


Thursday, December 22

Why I hate clothes shopping

I have a closet full of getting-old clothes. But I hate shopping for new ones. I don't hate new clothes. Just the shopping part.

Photo courtesy of the George Eastman House
Occasionally an event pops up on the calendar for which a sweater, jeans, and flats will not pass muster, and running clothes are out of the question. So I brave the mall parking lot. I gather up an arm-load of clothes, steel my nerves, and hustle into the dressing room.

I go in with hope that of the dozen or so items, at least one will suit me. In my optimism, I wonder how I'll choose between the glittering options if they all fit?

But that rarely happens.

Before I go on, I should note that while not the slimmest reed in the pond, I am a fit 5'3" and low 20s in bodyfat percentage -- well within the "fit" range.

So you'd think I could find clothes, no?

In reality, the fitting room might as well be a twisted funhouse hall-of-mirrors, where every angle points out a flaw you didn't realize you had.

To add insult to injury, the fluorescent lights have an uncanny ability to spotlight blemishes and grey hairs.

Suddenly I know what an American Idol hopeful must feel like when Simon rattles off a list of the contestant's inadequacies. (Then again, at least in a fitting room, the critic is in my head, and there is no audience watching.)

I woke up this morning feeling pretty good about myself. I've run every day for the last month. I've been lifting weights again. My biceps show. My jeans are loose. I can even (almost) fit into a pair from 10 years ago. (I did mention my clothes are old-ish.) My gluteus maximus carried me through a half marathon just last month.

But yet, 45 minutes in a clothing store, and I start to question my body.

  • A shirt pooches in front like maternity clothing, and I wonder: Do I need to lose more weight?
  • Another top is snug below the waist, and I wonder: Is there a way to shrink my hips?
  • Pant cuffs pool in a puddle around my ankles, and I wonder: Can I grow by about 3 inches?
  • A sweater sleeve threatens to cut off circulation in my arm, even though it's a size L, and I'm only 5'3," and I wonder: Am I lifting too much?

And then I get angry.

First I'm angry with the clothes.

Who made these clothes anyway? How is it possible that clothes for grown women have the same dimensions across the bust, waist, and hips? WOMEN HAVE HIPS, DAMNIT! And boobs. Women have boobs! Why don't shirts fit across the top???

Then I get angry with me.

How do I let a little thing (a pooching sweater, a poorly-cut pair of pants) mess with my mind? Is my self-esteem really so fragile? Did I really just consider giving up push-ups and curls to fit into a sweater???

And if I, who pretty much has the lock on "average body type," have this much difficulty finding clothes that fit, how hard must it be to be a non-standard size? I shudder at the thought.

I cuss under my breath that "clearly only Kate Moss could shop here and be satisfied."

And I leave the store empty-handed.

Maybe I'll stick to jeans and a sweater after all.

Thursday thanks

This week I'm thankful for holiday humor, including:
What's your favorite holiday humor?

Wednesday, December 21

Dear Santa

Photo courtesy of the State Library and Archives of Florida
Dear Santa,

You might have noticed that tomorrow is the first day of winter. I bring this up because it is relevant to my request.

I have not asked you for anything in years, but this year there is one thing I need.


Now, I know what you're thinking, and I promise I'm not asking for a Boston Qualifying marathon time or guaranteed entry into the New York City marathon. I realize that I can only do those things on my own. 


What I am asking for is something much simpler, especially given that it's winter already. So here goes..


Please STOP THE HUMIDITY!


Seriously. It is 94 percent humidity with temperatures in the mid-70s in northwest Florida today. This sauna is supposed to continue for the rest of the week.

I can't wear my eyeglasses outdoors because they fog up and I can't see. It has stopped raining, but my 5-mile run this morning left me so sweaty that there might as well have been torrential downpours given how drenched I was post-run.


I've heard that training through heat and humidity will make me a stronger runner, and that when I get a chance to run in cooler weather, I'll see the results.


But here's the thing... I can't see those "results" if it never cools off.


So, dear Santa, please find it in your heart to give me a couple of months of cool running weather. Or at least turn down the humidity. I don't ask for much... maybe just January and February for a start.


If you give me this one gift, I promise to log lots of long runs and to be kind to others in 2012.


Yours truly,


Beth (i run like a girl)




Tuesday, December 20

Santa humor and holiday indulgence

Saw this holiday humor and had to share...
Photo courtesy of Mordant Orange
Fruits and vegetables are my favorite foods any time of year. I honestly prefer oatmeal with fruit over pastry for breakfast.

However, If I were Santa and got a plate of celery, I'd leave a bunch of coal behind. Then I'd cross that house off my list for next year!

When my mom sends a pound of her homemade fudge to me for Christmas, I will eat it all and not feel the bit least guilty. (Ok. I might share with Hubby. Might.) If cookies cross my path in December, I will indulge in a few and not think twice. I could ignore eggnog, but mulled wine and I are good friends. I see no reason to turn my back on a friend during the holidays.

You can do what you want... But if you choose celery over cookies, do me a favor and send your cookies my way. I'll find a good home for them! I promise.

What's your take on holiday feasting: indulge, avoid, or everything in moderation?

Monday, December 19

Giving new meaning to holiday cheer

Ho! Ho! Ho!
(or something like that)
Thank you, Kevin (at 5ksandCabernets) for this epic running photo from Budapest.

I just have one question:
Aren't they cold???

Sunday, December 18

How a runner spends the holidays (video!)

Running humor to share...
Happy holidays!

A runner's holiday traditions (Tell me you don't get these questions from relatives and non-runner friends!)

Saturday, December 17

Streak week 4!

Goodbye week four of the Runner's World holiday running streak! Week 1 was novel, week 2 made me feel hardcore, week 3 was tiring, week 4 was a roller coaster.

Here's how the week rolled out:
  1. Sunday - 4 quick miles before racing off to the airport to catch my flight to San Diego... (roller coaster ticket in-hand)
  2. Monday -  Going UP! 6.5 nighttime miles in Balboa Park, under the holiday lights, with some of my favorite running buddies. (Does running get any better than that?)
  3. Tuesday -  Going DOWN! a mile that taught me to never mix tequila and a treadmill... 
  4. Wednesday -  Going UP! a couple of morning miles through downtown San Diego that made my day.
  5. Thursday -  Both up and down! An unforgettable 7.5 mile run, most of which was through pouring rain. (Does running get any wetter than that? My shoes still aren't dry!)
  6. Friday - just 1 lonely little mile before work to keep the streak alive
  7. Saturday - 3 miles at Mission Bay before (again) racing off to get on an airplane...
(And... the roller coaster ride is over.)

All total, I logged 25 miles for the week.

28 days down, 8 left to go!
(Or maybe 337 left...? I might keep this up for 2012.)

Have you started planning your running goals for 2012?

Thursday, December 15

Personal rain cloud

Tonight's run was one for the history books. Or the movies.
After work, I ran the 1.5 miles from my hotel to a rental car place, only to discover that I left my driver's license back in my hotel room! Doh!

I was supposed to meet friends 20 minutes later for a 5 mile run. I had two options: 1 - suck it up, skip my social run, and make the 3-mile round trip for my rental... OR...
2 - Phone a friend and sweet-talk her into picking my lame ass up off a street corner.

You can guess which option I chose.
(Thank you K!)

So I made it to the run on time.
And we started.
Then the rain started.
I felt one drop.
Then three.
The rain got harder.
And harder.

By the last mile, it was almost a joke.
Like the Bishop's golf game scene in Caddyshack.
"I don't think they heavy stuff is going to come down for quite awhile."
Just when you thought it couldn't rain any harder.
It rained harder.

Our shoes squished.
Our eyes stung.
(None of us even knew rain was in the forecast!)

On the way back to my hotel, I left a puddle in K's car.
(Which I wouldn't have felt as badly about if it was my rental car! Sorry K!)

And here's the history-books part: When K drove me back to my hotel (less than 5 miles away as the crow flies)... the streets around my hotel were bone dry. Not a drop of rain. Not. One. Drop.

It's like I'm dragging around my own personal rain cloud!
Source: google.com via Melanie on Pinterest
But this rain cloud wasn't SO bad...
At least it's a run we'll never forget!

When was your last run in the rain?
And am I the only person who forgets really important things like bringing a DL to the rental car place? (I'll bet the clerk thinks I'm a scam-artist!)

Thursday thanks

This blogger is exhausted!
I'm in San Diego for 5 days.
During those five days I need to squeeze in as many work hours and social visits as I possibly can (in addition to keeping my running streak alive, grading final exams, and posting final grades for my students).

But this is a good kind of exhausted.
Too much to do means friends to see. A paycheck to earn.

Grading final exam essays kept me up late last night.
I will have dark circles under my eyes today.
But reading those essays showed me how much my students improved over the semester.

And... I can sleep when I get back home...

Wednesday, December 14

City mouse. Country mouse.

This morning I gushed about my love of urban running. But I was in a hurry to get to work and did not have time to post photos from my morning adventure. (It would be poor form to travel for work and then be late to the office!)

So here are a collection of my gritty, grainy photos from downtown San Diego. Yes, there are pretty places (like Balboa Park, just a few blocks away) to run in this city, but those places don't come with street art...
Has Banksy been here?
(If you're going to see a mouse rat in the city, a graffiti rat is the kind you want to see, no?)

And while I love the pretty running routes, they don't make me feel like part of the city the way hurtling down 6th Avenue does.
Dodging delivery trucks does.
Sprinting through intersections before the light change does.
America's Finest...
Urban running comes with its fair share of grit and grim reality... Angry, shouting, shoving matches between people with a grudge to settle... Homeless people trying to stay dry in a rainstorm... Car accidents at intersections that ruin a person's day (or life)...

But for all the grit, there is a humming vitality and a hopefulness, too... People hustling to work because the economy is starting to recover... An entrepreneur selling palm-frond flowers to make a buck... Dogs leading their owners on a tour of the neighborhood... A new restaurant getting its first delivery of linens... A city maintenance worker whistling while she goes about her work...

That energy is unlike anything else.

Source: flickr.com via V_Smith on Pinterest
I'll run trails if you ask me to..
But if I get to choose, I'll take the concrete jungle, please.

Are you a city mouse or a country mouse?


Good morning city!

Good morning from downtown San Diego!
I woke up this morning to sneak a couple of streak-y miles in before a busy day at the office.

I love urban running, especially early in the morning.

I love watching the delivery workers delivering food and other supplies to the restaurants and hotels.

I love watching the taxicabs cruise the streets (and this early in the morning the roads belong to taxicabs and delivery trucks).

I love how on-my-toes I need to be: looking over my shoulder to check for turning cars, dodging people sleepwalking to work with their heads bent over their first coffee of the day, jumping off the curb and into the street for a block to stay out of the way of the window-washer's equipment.

Nothing wakes me up quite like a morning run in a place like this...
Downtown San Diego skyline (photo from 2009)

Tuesday, December 13

The dark side of streaking

I'm HOME (and a bit tipsy, but more on that later...)

I flew into San Diego on Sunday night. I'm here for a week. I'd love to spend the next 20 minutes waxing poetic about how good it feels to be home, how wonderful my friend H was to host me for the first two nights, and how much fun I had at last night's group run with my long-time running buddies.

BUT
Right now I want to hurl.

Yesterday was about healthy living and an excellent run, in the rain, with good friends.

Today is about happy hour with friends/coworkers and trying to keep a running streak alive, even if the miles per minute are equivalent to the runner's (ahem, my) BAC.
Source: google.ca via Nadine on Pinterest

My short visit means a jam-packed schedule of work and social obligations to balance with running goals. Today, for example, included an early wake-up, a day full of meetings, a work-lunch, and a coworker's birthday happy hour. Clearly there would be no running before 8pm. I knew would need to hit the dreadmill as soon as I returned to my hotel. I did not think of the birthday angle, or anticipate that the birthday girl would request a round of tequila shots...

Source: la-luna-de-coco.tumblr.com
via Taylor on Pinteres
Note to self...
Never try to run a mile after two shots of tequila and a plate of nachos referred to as "dinner." No matter how wedded you are to the idea of run-streaking, this is a BAD IDEA.

I thought, maybe, running with a hash group might have prepared me for this... But no. I feel awful.

On the plus side, the streak lives on!

On the minus side, half an hour after ending my mere mile...
I still want to hurl...

Have you ever run after a drink or two (or after eating a plate of nachos)?
Stomach of steel or delicate belly?

Monday, December 12

Bikini jogger

It might be cold outside, but one San Francisco runner isn't letting that stop her from working on her tan during daily runs! Back in November, a Bernal Heights blogger posted photos of her neighborhood "bikini jogger" (her words, not mine) and wondered why anyone would run in such minimal clothing.

A few days later, Bernal blogger noticed a man running in a speedo in the same neighborhood.

My guess: These runners either misheard that bareFOOT running is the new, hip, hardcore thing to do. OR they want to avoid the dreaded runner's tan!
And, as it turns out, my guess was correct. According to a "micro-interview" with the Bernal Heights bloger, bikini jogger wants to avoid tan lines.

I can sort of understand bikini runner's motivation. But, I have to admit, running nearly-naked in San Francisco's cold weather is... Brave? Crazy?

And what about bouncing???
My girls would not be happy after even a mile of running without... ahem... support.

I should also note that the while speedo-runner wears running shoes, bikini-runner runs in flip flops. I guess that's one way to make sure you don't heel-strike?

What's your take on these tan-seeking runners? Brave, crazy, or just unique?

Sunday, December 11

Baby, it's cold outside!

Temperatures may be in the 30s in the mornings here, but the only way Pensacola, FL is going to see "snow" is if someone sprays foam on the old courthouse lawn.
Pensacola's idea of a White Christmas: a lawn covered in foam (right),
and an adult dressed like Frosty the Snowman (left).

Am I the only one who thinks playing in a giant public bubble-bath is a little bit weird? I think if you choose to live here, you have to accept that Florida weather precludes any possibility of having a white Christmas. What you get, instead, are Mardi Gras beads!
Pensacola Christmas Parade.
Yes, folks. On the Gulf Coast every holiday is Mardi Gras!
Don't get me wrong. I do miss snow.
Just not enough to fake it.

Winter is my favorite season for running, and not just because nighttime runs are brightened with holiday lights. I am a cold-weather running lover. My pace is 90 seconds-per-mile faster in December than in August, without even trying. I will wear shorts until the temperature dips below 35. That said, I'll admit, I haven't had to deal with running in snow for years.

I think the last time I ran in snow was on a work trip to Alberta, Canada back in 2008... I loved the crisp air, even if I hated the often-slippery footing.

But if I have to choose between snow and sauna, winter wins every time!

Running in the winter: Love it or hate it?
What about fake snow?
Ever collect beads at a Christmas parade?
(Yea, me neither until I moved here...)

Saturday, December 10

Streak week 3

Goodbye week 3 of the Runner's World holiday running streak! Week 1 was novel, week 2 made me feel hardcore, week 3 (not going to lie) is starting to wear me out. I had planned on a 14-mile run today (thinking I'd start training for a March marathon). But my legs are tired. Instead of 14 today, I decided on an easy couple of miles, and shifted my double-digit day to tomorrow.


Here's how the week shook out:
  1. Sunday - 12 tired miles
  2. Monday - 1 slow "recovery" mile around the neighborhood
  3. Tuesday - 2-fer Tuesday with 1.5 in the morning + 3.5 at night (and saw a pig munching on my neighbor's lawn!)
  4. Wednesday - 1.2 miles
  5. Thursday - 3.5 miles + tried a new yoga class
  6. Friday - 1.3 miles
  7. Saturday - 2 miles
This adds up to 26 miles for the week.

21 days down, 15 left to go!
(How much longer do I need to keep this up to join the US Running Streak Association? Maybe I should skip the marathon and make streaking my 2012 goal.)

What are your holiday running goals?

Thursday, December 8

Thursday thanks

Thanks for: backbends and bagpipes.

It took me all day to write this post because I didn't want to "fake it."
I was having a glum day.
I still don't know many people in town, and Hubby has been away for two weeks now. The only adults I see during the day are my students (socializing with them outside of class hours is frowned upon) and grocery store clerks. (If I ask them "Hey. Do you want to get together for coffee?" They'll call security. I know. I was a grocery store clerk many years ago.)

But glum or not, I dragged my feeling-sorry-for-myself ass out of the house tonight to try a new yoga class.

Spoiler alert: Sometimes just a little change of scenery can turn a whole day around...

Parking at the yoga studio was jammed like Wal-Mart's front door on Black Friday. I nearly turned around to go back home. Why on earth was it so crowded? This neighborhood is never crowded on a Thursday!

I finally found a spot. Parallel parked. And started hoofing it over to the studio. That's when I discovered why the neighborhood was chock-a-block with people. The yoga studio is located near a public park. The park was hosting a Christmas carols concert!

I cut across the park to get to class. People were snuggling down on blankets and beach chairs with mugs of hot chocolate and cups of mulled wine. My parking-induced anxiety dulled, and I started humming along to the tunes.

I walked into the studio, and got a good feeling. (My favorite teacher moved away a few months ago, and I've been having a hard time finding another class that "fit.") Maybe it was the Christmas carols. Maybe I just needed to get out of the house and try something new. Either way, class was lovely. Challenging and relaxing. Exactly what I was looking for...

And during final relaxation, the sounds of a bagpipe band playing Deck the Halls filtered into the studio. Most people in class started giggling.

Really, how many times in life do you get bagpipe Christmas carols during yoga class?

If that's not something to be thankful for, I don't know what is.

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, December 7

You might be a runner (holiday edition)

You might be a runner if...
(holiday edition)
  • All you want for Christmas is... a Garmin Forerunner 405.
  • You avoid gaining weight over the holidays by signing up for a January half marathon.
  • The stocking you hang by the chimney is a compression sleeve.
  • You think people who make New Years resolutions are slowpokes. You've had next year's race calendar and training plan figured out since before Halloween.
  • Screw the "duplex, and checks," if you helped Madonna* sing "Santa Baby," you'd have asked for a complimentary entry to the next Boston Marathon.
  • You prefer cowbells to jingle bells.
  • You don't understand why kids look so disappointed when they open a gift from Santa and it's a package of socks. You LOVE getting new socks (especially Injinjis)!
  • When it snows in the middle of the day, some people worry about how they'll get home from work. You worry about how you'll get in the 5-mile run you planned.
  • Christmas cookies and Hanukkah latkes = CARB LOADING.
  • Speaking of treats... Some people pull chocolates out of an advent calendar every day in December. You think it's more exciting to run every day of the month to join the Runner's World holiday running streak.
  • While your friends are still in bed nursing New Years Day hangovers, you'll be lacing up for a Resolution Run.
  • Neighborhood children have confused you for Rudolph because you wear a blinking red light when you run in the evening. (It's dark out there!)

What would you add to this list?

*Note: To all the web-people who think Marilyn Monroe sang that song... The version you're thinking of was sung by Madonna! Eartha Kitt sang it first in 1953. Marilyn never did (at least not on record).


For more, "you might be a runner if..." see my earlier list.

Tuesday, December 6

Good. Bad. Weird. Wonderful.

Good: Finished 2 runs today.
My legs are slowly starting to feel less like lead and more like legs!

Bad: I'm home alone in Florida and my San Diego friends are at a holiday party. Without me.
Florida FAIL.

Weird: I bumped into a former student at a group run tonight. Met his mom, too. Good for them for exercising! But weird to meet a student when I'm wearing schlubby old running clothes and my hair is a hot mess. (See "Bad" below.)

Good: Discovered a free yoga class in my neighborhood. Score!

Bad: The humidity is so intense, my house keys collect condensation as soon as I step outside. (Just imagine what's that's doing to my hair. Even ponytails can't survive sauna conditions. Not ideal running weather, either...) Florida fail again!

Weird: On my morning run, there was a pig rooting around in a neighbor's lawn.
Yes.
A pig.
I do not live in, on, or anywhere near a farm.
I still have no idea where the pig came from or where he was going.
The weirdest part: I stopped to stare. Another runner passed and didn't notice at all. (Seriously, dude. How do you not notice a 150 pound PIG on the side of the road??? If a third neighbor hadn't also noticed the little porker, I'd have worried for my sanity.)

Wonderful: Just as I was starting to be really bummed out about sitting at home alone (Hubby's away for work tonight), missing my California friends, this song came on World Cafe:


If I have to be stuck home alone, finding good new music is a consolation prize I'm willing to accept.

What song(s) are on "repeat" on your playlist right now?
Any other good/bad/weird/wonderful events today?

Monday, December 5

Book review on the run: Unbroken

I just finished reading Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand, of Seabiscuit fame. I am aware that I am in the minority in not loving the book, but I cannot lie. I did not love the book. I appreciated the book. I am glad I read it. I did not love it.

But that is my beef with the storyteller.
I was completely enthralled with the story itself.

Louis Zamparini's life story -- childhood mischief, training for the Olympic trials, running the 5000 at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin (and being greeted by Hitler as "the boy with the fast finish!"), joining the Army Air Corps to fight in WWII, surviving a plane crash over the Pacific and subsequent weeks of drifting at sea without food or water, being captured by the Japanese, spending years in a POW camp, suffering PTSD, and eventually turning his life around -- is a tale for the ages.

Zamperini's biography is inspiring, humbling, and even the hardest-hearted reader is likely to gasp in horror at the conditions in the prison camps. I found myself pausing to appreciate the comforts in my own life. (A bed with blankets! And no vermin! What a joy!)

As a runner, it is impossible to miss the parallels between Zamperini's single-minded determination on the track in his youth, and his single-minded will to survive the POW camps. And he did survive and overcome the ravages of war.

Ultimately this is an amazing-but-true story of the triumph of the human spirit over atrocities that are almost unspeakable.

Unfortunately I found Hillenbrand's writing to be a less than compelling vehicle for this amazing tale. To her credit, the biography was meticulously researched. Hillenbrand's attention to details is incredible. However, to me the story at times felt stilted, as though the intent was a documentary film on war crimes, not a biography.

I felt like I was watching Zamperini's suffering and salvation on a black and white screen, not that I was seeing it through his eyes. Hillenbrand reportedly interviewed Zamperini seventy five times (according to the NY Times) during the writing of the book. Given her access to the hero of the story, some first-person quotes would have helped the text greatly. (Perhaps if I had not just finished The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, a science/biography told in compelling detail, I would not have found the detachment so jarring.)

But I am just one reviewer.
TIME called Unbroken the best non-fiction book of the year in 2010 and the LA Times loved it.

So please read it. And come back to let me know what you think.
And if you've read it already...
What did you think of the book?

Sunday, December 4

Twelve sucky miles

Some runs are amazing and make you glad to be alive.
Others are like today.

Sunday.
Long run day.
SUCKED THE BIG ONE.

I intended to take it easy, but short of walking, no amount of slowness was making the run feel any better. Maybe I was dehydrated? Maybe Friday's hill workout was tougher on my legs than I thought? Regardless of the reason, I was just glad when it was over.
The good: I finished the mileage I intended to.
The bad: I was waaaaay slower and more miserable than I've been on a long run in years. No amount of telling myself "Just enjoy the weather. It's gorgeous outside!" made it feel better.
The ugly: My foot started cramping as soon as I got home. Ouch!
The consolation prize:
Hubby made a Bloody Mary for me to sip while I sat in an ice bath (after properly hydrating with lots of water, of course). Allegedly pickle juice helps prevent muscle cramping. While I can neither confirm nor deny that home remedy, I wasn't about to turn down a dose of pickled okra in one of my favorite post-run "recovery drinks." (What? It's loaded with electrolytes! That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!)

The funny thing...?
Sitting at brunch with Hubby after we cleaned up and changed into presentable clothes, I felt more relaxed than I have in ages.

Maybe sometimes the joy in running is that it makes simple things, like sitting and resting, feel better by comparison.

How do you deal with unpleasant runs?

Saturday, December 3

Blackwater Half Marathon (volunteering report)

This morning I woke up at the break of dawn for the Blackwater Half Marathon Trail Run, but I wasn't a runner today.

The race was tiny, about 120 participants and a handful of volunteers. The setting was the Krul Lake Recreation Area. I'd never been there before, but I will certainly go back. Who knew northwest Florida had such pretty hiking trails? (Can you tell I'm still the new girl in town?)

To be clear, though, when I go back I'll be wearing fluorescent orange. I'm certain I heard hunting gunshots in the woods. That still freaks me out about trail running around here, so I'll admit I haven't spent much time on trails since leaving So Cal. (Again... new girl in town! Clearly hunting season doesn't scare the locals...)

But back to the volunteering... My job was to help set up the post-race feast, which included fruit, hot dogs and hamburgers, coleslaw, and baked beans. The nice thing about volunteering for a shift at the end of a race is that you get to sleep in until the late ol' hour of 6am (instead of waking at the same time that bartenders are going home for the night).

Unfortunately, the baked beans weren't having such a good morning. On the 40-mile ride from the catering location to the trail-head, the beans had an "accident." The beans were stored in a cooler on the floor of a bus. When the bus took a sharp turn, the beans went flying. Fortunately, I wasn't the driver! I just helped clean up the aftermath...
This mess adds new meaning to the saying that someone
"spilled the beans."
I don't know if it's because the race was so small, or because we all got a good laugh out of the bean catastrophe, but the volunteer crew for this race was one of the friendliest I've worked with. Ever.

The whole event had that small town, people-know-each-other feeling. Plus the scenery and weather were truly gorgeous.

Those running have had plenty of positive things to say (plenty of trail markers, ropes to keep runners from falling into the creeks). The winner had a speedy finish time, too (as trail races go), completing the 13.1 miles in 1:24:40.

I might need to work on my trail legs so I can return as a runner next year!

Have you ever run a trail race?
How about hunting (or trail running during hunting season)?
(I figure that unless I give up meat entirely, I can't knock hunting. Plus, I'm always happy when a neighbor shares their venison. I'm just not sure I want to run through the woods during hunting season, ya' know?)

Streak week 2

I finished week 2 of the Runner's World holiday running streak! As I mentioned in last week's wrap up, this is BY FAR the longest streak of daily running that I have ever done. (I've been a rest day girl since I first laced up a pair of sneakers.)

My prior record was four consecutive days of running. Now I'm up to FOURTEEN!
Hello streaking!

  1. Sunday - 6 miles in the pouring rain
  2. Monday - 1.5 miles in my new shoes
  3. Tuesday - 3.9 miles
  4. Wednesday - 1.6 miles on my lunch break
  5. Thursday - 3.7 miles
  6. Friday - hill sprints! (2+ miles of running, not counting my recovery between sprints)
  7. Saturday - 2.5 miles
This adds up to a bit over 21 miles for the week - better than last week, but I still have a ways to go to get ready for a spring marathon. Tomorrow I return to double-digit miles for my weekend long runs.

Fourteen days down, twenty-two left to go!
(I know it's only been two weeks, but I'm seriously starting to think I can keep this up to join the US Running Streak Association in 2012... Then again, maybe I should see how I feel on December 25th?)

What are your holiday running goals?

Friday, December 2

The Myth of Sisyphus

              Source: google.com via Justin on Pinterest
In Greek mythology, King Sisyphus commits treachery against the gods, and is condemned - for eternity - to roll a boulder up a hill, over and over again. Sisyphus toils as he pushes the boulder upwards, and just as he nears the top of the hill, the boulder rolls back down and he must begin again. The punishment of eternal, repetitive, fruitless labor was the worst torture the Greek gods could dream up.


Clearly this is where some clever devil got the idea for hill repeats.

This morning I headed out to a local park to practice the personal equivalent of rolling a boulder up a hill. I did a 1.5 mile warmup, then marked off a tenth of a mile, and proceeded to race up as fast as I could, turn, walk back down, and do it all over again. By the time I reached the top, I felt like I was going to hurl. By the time I got back down to the bottom, I recovered enough to repeat the drill again.

Sounds terrible, right?

Perhaps... Unless you're a runner or a fan of Albert Camus (or both). In his classic essay The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus writes:
"The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy."
And it's funny...
Because, twisted as it seems on the surface, I think Camus might be right.

I didn't "accomplish" anything this morning (if by "accomplishment" we're talking about a concrete, tangible result). But I did knock out my hill repeats at a 6:45 PACE!

And that was enough to fill my heart.

Maybe Camus was a runner?



Wednesday, November 30

Thursday thanks

Yesterday I went out for a late lunchtime run. While my neighborhood has plenty of runners, bikers, and dog-walkers out in the morning and evening, my weird-ass work-in-a-different-time-zone schedule means that the roads are pretty lonely during my mid-afternoon "lunchtime" runs. So it was extra special that not only did I cross paths with another runner, he flashed a peace sign at me, and I gave a thumbs-up in return.

So this thanks is for the little things, like greetings and "good mornings" from strangers, that make each day a little sunnier...

...especially when those greetings are from fellow runners. Those make me feel a little bit like we're on the same team. No matter what our political or philosophical differences are, we speak a similar language. The exact form of greeting may be different from person to person, but the "hey, we've got something in common" part of the greeting is the same. I've seen the:
  • runner's nod
  • thumbs up
  • peace sign
  • quick wave
Plenty of runners just keep their head down and pass by without a glance. But we all have days when it's a struggle to just keep the feet moving, so I don't take those non-greetings personally. (Except in London a few years ago, where no one made eye contact at all. That was creepy... but that's another story for another time.)

So...What's your favorite runner's greeting?


How to (almost) pass out at the doctor's office

This morning I went to the doctor's office for routine blood-work and other tests, and I nearly passed out!

Right now you're probably thinking:
"What a wuss! A little needle and she faints!"

But seriously, that wasn't what happened at all. Let me explain...

I decided to run a marathon in 2012, and -- as all people should before beginning a strenuous new training program -- I made an appointment to talk to my doctor. (No, I did not take this precaution before my 2006 marathon, but I was young(er) and dumb(er) then... Do as I say, not as I do.) To make sure everything is A-OK before I start logging 20 mile weekend runs, Doc ordered a series of tests, including bloodwork, an EKG, and a pulmonary function test.
Pulmonary function test being administered in 1974.

MedlinePlus describes the pulmonary function test as:
...a group of tests that measure how well the lungs take in and release air and how well they move gases such as oxygen from the atmosphere into the body's circulation.
How the Test is Performed:
In a spirometry test, you breathe into a mouthpiece that is connected to an instrument called a spirometer. The spirometer records the amount and the rate of air that you breathe in and out over a period of time. For some of the test measurements, you can breathe normally and quietly. Other tests require forced inhalation or exhalation after a deep breath.
How the Test Will Feel:
Since the test involves some forced breathing and rapid breathing, you may have some temporary shortness of breath or lightheadedness. You breathe through a tight-fitting mouthpiece, and you'll have nose clips.
I was told not to have any caffeine before the test. I've mentioned before that I have a long-standing love affair with my morning coffee... I am still a bit amazed that I managed to stumble out of the house and find my way to the hospital without a cup o' joe.

In the pulmonary lab, the testing technician was what I would call "chipper" -- friendly, happy, and welcoming. (Maybe a little too happy for my un-caffeinated state, but I'll take "too happy" over grumpy or surly any day.) During the test I did wonder if the woman ever gets bored with her job, gently saying "breathe normally" and then barking "breathe out hard! push! push! push! push!" over and over again, day after day.

Important note: Signs in my testing room were posted to remind the clinician of proper protocol if a patient faints. Those signs should have given me a clue to take the "lightheadedness" warning seriously.

One segment of the test involved hyperventilating into the machine. I started feeling woozy right away, and my vision started to blur right before the technician said: "Ok. You can take a rest now." Two more seconds and I'm pretty sure I would have fainted right there in the testing room! But, fortunately, I did not, and the feeling passed quickly.

Compared to the lung test, the blood-work portion of this morning's doctor's visit was a piece of cake.

Do you go to the doc for a checkup before you start training for an endurance event?

Photos courtesy of the U.S. National Archives