Monday, April 30

Upward mobility (and cross training challenge)

Image source
Today's motivating theme is: "upward mobility"
"The people that get to the top of the success staircase first are the ones that keep moving their feet even if given the chance to ride an escalator. An opportunity to rise to the top should be used as a way to climb faster, not as a chance to relax on the ride up."
~Molly Ford
I was feeling low motivation for long-distance running this weekend, so I took a different approach to keep my feet moving. I split my run in two parts: 1 part muddy trail adventure, and 1 part (slightly) shorter-than-planned road run. The end result: higher total mileage and much more fun!

Speaking of mixing things up... Again, I have left the new-to-you cross training challenge to the very last day. (But I haven't missed a month yet!)

Don't let my procrastination fool you, I love this challenge because it encourages me to vary my workouts, which keeps things interesting after so many years of running. Variety is the spice of life, no?

April's adventure: "100 Ups."
The exercise is deceptively simple. It looks like (and is) slow-motion running in place.
Should be cake, right?

In the true spirit of the exercise, I did the 100 Ups barefoot. By 50, my heart rate had risen. By 90, I could feel tension in my calves and quads. I won't say it burned, but I definitely felt those muscles working.

The verdict: 100 Ups are definitely going in my strength training rotation.

My other new-to-you cross training conquests to date:
Also in the new-to-me files: Twitter!
Follow me @RunTraveler

What would you recommend for May cross training?
What do you do to keep training/work/life interesting?

Saturday, April 28

Shiggy

Today's run was deep in the shiggy.

"What the heck is shiggy?" you ask.

Shiggy is what mud runs aspire to be and never will achive. But perhaps that's too cryptic a description, so here is Urban Dictionary's apt definition:
shiggy (noun)
Off-road hashing (running) trail through muck, mud or other wet areas. Term derives from shigella/shigellosis - bacteria causing dysentery occurring most frequently in areas of poor sanitation such as pig sties and back-water swamp lands. Term first used by Brits & Aussies on Hash House Harrier runs (in Asia) in 1940's.
Sounds horrible, right?

Well, that's a matter of perspective...
Lily pond in Gulf Breeze, FL
Let me start by saying that I had foolishly scheduled a 12-miler this morning. I scheduled that long run thinking only of my next race, not of much-needed recovery time. I truly believe in an ebb-and-flow style training plan, with some hard weeks followed by an easier one. But I wasn't planning to practice what I preach.

As a result, I have been bordering on burnout. Those of you who follow on Facebook will know that after back-to-back racing weekends, I was not looking forward to my long run. I already swapped my Friday morning run for an hour on the stationary bike, and the idea of running 12 miles on Saturday morning was making me itch.

So I didn't run 12 miles this morning.
I slept in and went hashing in the afternoon instead.
Off trail at the Gulf Islands National Seashore.
This is what today's "trail" looked like.
The hash route made me itch in an entirely different way... We ran through brambles, skirted around swamps, and waded knee-deep into a drainage ditch. (Trying to jump the ditch was out of the question. Those who tried just made a bigger mess.)

I have never been such a muddy mess after a run.
It was glorious!
Guess which shoes went running today...
Hitting the trails was just the break I needed from long-distance road running. This trail running thing might become a new habit.

(I'm pretty sure Hubby wasn't happy that we took his nice, clean car. We usually use my 10-year-old workhorse for the dirty jobs. But we survived and I think the car upholstery did, too. PS - Speaking of shiny, pretty things vs. workhorses... The answer to yesterday's quiz: that Chanel bike costs $17,000.)

What's the muddiest, messiest thing you've done lately?

Friday, April 27

Friday potluck

Welcome, friends, to another Friday potluck.

Every day is a holiday!
Today is National Tell a Story Day.

So, there once was a man from Nantucket...
Image source
Ahem. Moving on...

Today in dumb people tricks:
An elite triathlete might spend several months' rent on a bike. If you're going to ride hundreds of miles each week, carbon fiber and aerodynamic details might be worth the investment.

But style is priceless, no?

Guess how much this bike costs.
(C'mon, just guess. I'll give you a hint: It's Chanel...)
Image source
(I'll post the price in the comments section once people have had some time to submit their guesstimates.)

Far be it from me to begrudge anyone who wants to get fit! But I strongly suspect that many people who buy that Chanel bike will never actually ride it. After all, with a stratospheric price tag, it becomes a status symbol, not fitness equipment, right?

In the "more reasons to love running" category:
Research at the University of Illinois shows that exercise, running in particular, can make you smarter. (At least there's evidence that running makes mice smarter.)

Other research at the Neurocognitive Kinesiology Laboratory (also Univ. of Illinois) documents a wide variety of cognitive benefits from aerobic exercise, including improved street-crossing skills. Their most recent research shows that aeorbically fit children are better at navigating street crossings - not just "outrunning" oncoming cars, but actually better judging safe crossings - than their less-fit peers.

Deep thoughts (aka quote of the week):
"Why aren't you signed up for the 401K?
I'd never be able to run that far."
Scott Adams, Dilbert (4/2/01)
Happy Friday, people!

What's your guess on the bike price tag?
What's the most expensive piece of fitness equipment you've ever purchased?

Thursday, April 26

Thursday thanks

Here are just a few of the things I'm thankful for this week:

Good food and wine: Last night Hubby and I had homemade butternut squash soup (patterned after this recipe) and I opened a delicious new bottle of Washington state merlot. (Thanks also to the movie Sideways for making merlot "uncool" and therefore less expensive.)

Long, early morning walks on the beach (before work):

Winning $10 in a trail 10k.
(This is probably not enough for me to give up my day job. Is it?)

Wrapping up my last classes of the semester.
I must admit that the last week of classes is bittersweet. I get a great sense of accomplishment from knowing that my students have had a successful semester, but I also know that I won't see most of them again. I suppose that's one of the benefits and burdens of teaching: If you have a difficult class, it only lasts 16 weeks; if you have a wonderful class, it only lasts 16 weeks... Still, I wouldn't trade teaching for anything else.

What are YOU thankful for this week?

Wednesday, April 25

Where in the world?

Where am I today, you ask?

I'm over at Life of Something New as a participant in the "where in the world" quiz.

Where in the world was this photo taken?
Go visit Halley and see if you can figure out where my photo is from. (Those of you who've been reading for awhile, or who follow me on Pinterest, might have a leg up on this one...)

Where have YOU been lately? Do you have any fun travel (or adventures in your own backyard) stories to share?

Monday, April 23

Rules for running attire

Are there rules for running attire?

Some runners dress to impress. We all know runners who have spanking-new, matchy-matchy clothes and look like they just stepped out of a Runner's World photo shoot. These runners are willing to spend a pretty penny on their gear, but other runners wonder why.

Some runners have strict rules about the dos and don'ts of running attire. I personally wear almost nothing but race t-shirts. (Why buy new ones when I have dozens of perfectly good ones?) But, I will not wear my race t-shirt until after I have run the race. I'll use the shirt as a car-washing rag if I (for some reason) can't or don't run.

In short: I will not wear a race t-shirt that I did not earn.
By earn, I mean run the race.
Having "paid for" the shirt is insufficient license for me to wear it.

In the same vein, I think it's a little weird when runners wear a race's t-shirt at that race's the starting line. (Don't you know the rule about no new gear on race day?) But I bear no ill will toward those whose t-shirt etiquette is different from mine. I just think: "must be newbies."

And what about post-run clothing?

I have, on many occasions, gone for breakfast, burritos, or beer (or all three) after a long run without showering and changing into "appropriate" attire. I often wonder if the waitstaff hate runners, so I try to leave a good tip. (Ignore the fact that the $10 is slightly damp, please.)

Even Viper, who I always assumed would be above this sort of sartorial concern, questioned his decision to be seen in public post-run looking (in his words) like Richard Simmons.

On the other side of the spectrum, there are plenty of runners who care not what they look like while running (even if that means running naked). Case in point: The Boring Runner revels in his bad runner fashion.

I think we know which camp I belong to. My running t-shirts are race t-shirts. My favorite shorts are a pair of blue Brooks I bought in 2004. The hem is coming un-sewn. There's a hole in the pocket. But I love those shorts! (I might have them framed...)

So, to be clear, I'm not against nice running gear. (Full disclosure: I do love my very pretty INKnBURN shorts.) I just can't bring myself to spend extra money when I get race shirts for free.

That said, sometimes I have the decency to take a wet-wipe bath between racing and breakfast. (And sometimes Hubby has the good sense of humor to collect blackmail material take photos.)
"Changing" into flip-flops for the post-race party on Saturday.
At least I used wet-wipes before sitting down to eat with 1,000 of my closest friends!

What's your take on running attire? Do you plan color-coordinating outfits or just wing it in race t-shirts and 10-year-old shorts?

Sunday, April 22

A little R & R

The final results are posted for the trail 10k.
  • My finish time: 1:00:10
  • 6th female (out of 32) and 11th overall (out of 60)
  • 2nd in women 30-39
There was some mention of "award winners" on the event website. My name shows up on that list, but Hubby and I left before the awards ceremony started, and my inquiry to the race organizer hasn't been answered yet.

Either way, after 2 races in 6 days, I'm taking a much-needed rest day.

My definition of rest looks like this:
North Bay trail at the Naval Live Oaks Area of Gulf Islands National Seashore
The weather today is truly gorgeous - one of those rare, perfect days in northwest Florida. It also happens to be National Park Week (read: free entry to all national parks until April 29). Plus, I'm still on a trail high from yesterday's race. So Hubby and I took a mid-morning hike through part of the Naval Live Oaks area at Gulf Islands National Seashore.

Our hike was leisurely and relaxing. Call that "active rest" if you must, but I couldn't let a perfect day go to waste by staying indoors. (There's plenty of time to be indoors Monday through Friday. Call that "work" if you must.)

My definition of rest also looks like this:
French wine selection at a local wine shop.
Once upon a time, I was a bit of an oenophile.

Oh, who am I kidding?

I still love wine.
I've just gotten out of the habit of going to tastings and frequenting wine bars.

After our leisurely hike, and a leisurely lunch, I took off to a wine store and spent an hour browsing the shelves for bottles I haven't tried before. The clerk poured me a taste of a tempranillo that he "just happened to have open."

Marketing works.
The wine was delicious.
Two bottles came home with me.
One might not last the night.

That's my idea of a restful day.

What's your perfect rest day?

Saturday, April 21

Race report: Blackwater Trail 10k

The Blackwater Trail 10 Mile and 10k Challenge is the first event in a series of three trail races in northwest Florida in 2012. I volunteered at the inaugural event, a trail half marathon, last year. Finishers' reactions to the race were so positive that I decided to run this year.

The start:
The race director asked participants to park at the finish line and take a shuttle bus to the start. Pre-race email instructions were clear on this point and the school bus shuttle system was efficient.
Shuttles to the start.
PS - The guy with the bandaid was our starting line official.
He earned the scratches while marking our trail.

Image source
Two buses disgorged 50 or 60 runners at the end of a dirt road, where a race official was waiting (standing on the bed of his pickup truck).

The official gave runners a course talk, explaining trail markings (orange blazes and yellow tape = good, pink tape = bad trail), hazards (snakes! slick log crossings over swamps!), and the location of aid stations. He also warned runners to be very careful at the course's road crossings, as the locals don't take kindly to hippie trail runner types. (I'm paraphrasing, but you get the point.)

There were no banners. No photographers.

The race started with the honk of a deer call (we're in hunting country, after all). At that point, one runner asked, with a note of... concern: "Will there be shooting in the woods today?" Fortunately, at this race, no. Deer hunting season is over. But at last fall's trail half I definitely heard gunshots.

Welcome to trail racing in Florida.

The bad:
Honestly, any criticisms I have of this race would be minor quibbles in an attempt to find something "bad" to say. Road-runners should not expect chip-timing. The finish chute confused a few people, who ran off to the left instead of going through the chute.
Finish chute at the Blackwater Trail 10 mile and 10k Challenge
Oh, and there was a swarm of bees.
(Hubby would probably like me to mention that he got stung three times, powered through it, and paced me to a strong finish. Rockstar.)
But knocking a trail race for bugs would be like knocking Badwater for high temperatures.

So let's just get on with the good...

The good:
The facilities were excellent, including one of my favorite race amenities: running water and flush toilets at the pre-race parking area. Shuttles were on-time and full, but not overcrowded. (Why can't every race be like this???)

The course was exceptionally well-marked and included 2 aid stations on the 10k course and 3 or 4 on the 10-mile route.

The finish line had a plentiful supply of water, sports drink, cookies, and bananas.

The scenery was gorgeous. We had cool, overcast weather and the park was virtually empty except for runners. The forest in northwest Florida is always green, but as an added bonus, the mountain laurel was in bloom. I even saw a few pitcher plants on the trail (yes, folks - in Florida even the plants will try to eat you).
The carnivorous pitcher plant
Image source
After the race, runners hung around comparing bee-sting stories and congratulating one another for a race well-run.

The entire atmosphere of the race was prompt and organized while still being casual and very relaxed. (Essentially the race organizers worked their butts off to make sure runners could just run and then rest.)

The finish:
In addition to finish-line food, there was a post-race feast in the form of a good, old-fashioned cookout overlooking the Blackwater River. Hot dogs and hamburgers might not have been the most vegetarian-friendly of foods, but my cheeseburger-with-a-side-of-scenery tasted fantastic.
Cheeseburger, coleslaw, and beans - breakfast of champions!
What is your favorite race-day amenity, the thing you can't do without?

Happy trails - literally

I am floating on a post-race endorphin cloud right now.
I was intensely anxious about this morning's trail race, but now - having finished successfully - my feeling of contentment is impossible to put into words.
Resting in the parking lot after the Blackwater Trail 10k
Why so worried?
I have run hundreds of miles of trails in my running life. Before moving to Florida, I used to lead a weekly 5-mile trail run in San Diego. But to say southern California trails are different from Florida Panhandle trails would be an... ahem... understatement.

Southern California trails are often (although not always) wide fire roads or bridle paths. Their difficulty lies primarily in the topography. Hills do not "roll" so much as they present walls that you must climb. The trails are tough. But the shrubbery only reaches waist-high, so while sun exposure is an issue on So Cal trail runs, generally you can see the path ahead.
Hiking the Three Sisters trail in San Diego:
There's no question which way the trail turns.
Florida trails are a completely different beast.

I have done some hiking and trail running since moving to Florida. But after only a year, I am not yet comfortable with these deep woods the way I was comfortable after a decade of running and hiking in San Diego's backcountry.

Still, I signed up for a trail 10k - the Blackwater Trail Race. (Six days after my most recent half marathon, too.)

Knowing my (local) inexperience, I had a restless night of sleep - scenes of trail wipeouts and snake bites dancing on the edges of my dreams. I had been on portions of the trail before, and I knew the markings, but a few steps down a false trail can get a person completely lost.

In this part of Florida, the forest continues, thickly wooded, for miles. (Cue "Deliverance" jokes.) To give you a sense of how thick the woods are here, for half of the race we were within a few dozen yards of the Blackwater River. I never saw the river.
Blackwater River State Park in a "clearing" near the finish line.
So, I worried.
I fretted.
I talked with Hubby about wanting to "run not race" this race.

I suggested, then dismissed, the idea of just sleeping in and skipping it.

We took the shuttle bus to the starting line.

During the pre-race talk, the gentleman who set our trail explained which markers to look for, assured us that the trail was well-marked, and warned us that most of the trail was windy, muddy, single-track that he (affectionately) referred to as a "rabbit trail." He also warned us about snakes. Oh, have I mentioned the poisonous, aggressive local wildlife?

This was not helping to calm any of my fears.

But, as soon as the deer-call sounded the start of our race, I learned a few things:

  • I am incapable of "taking it easy" during a race. Call it ego. Call it a competitive streak. If I'm not having a major medical crisis, I can't "not race." I have suspected this before, but now I am certain.
  • Despite all of my pre-race anxiety, once I'm on the trail, I am not nearly as timid as I worry I'll be. About a mile into the race, I took the lead for our pack, and held it until the finish. (Yes I did call back, out of courtesy, to see if anyone wanted to pass - the single-track was narrow. No one was interested.) I enjoyed being the one on lookout for the trail markers and calling back to the pack about patches of mud and other hazards.
  • I might be a little lucky, too. About a dozen people got stung by bees, including poor Hubby. I breezed through the swarm - not even noticing until I heard a string of "ouch" shouts behind me.
  • Hashing, oddly, is excellent training for trail running. A year of running by following hash clues (mostly chalk signs and dots of flour) has sharpened my skills at looking for trail markings.

Post-race happiness:
Maybe it was all of my pre-race nervousness wearing off, or maybe it was the thrill of crashing through the underbrush, sliding through muddy patches, and making it out alive, but I have never felt so giddy after a race.

I can see why trail racing is addictive.

Oh... And while I'm not sure of my exact finish time (60 minutes give or take 30 seconds), I do know that I came in 2nd out of women 30-39. (Maybe there were only 2 women age 30-39? Who knows. An AG place is an AG place. I'm thrilled!)

My detailed start/good/bad/finish race report will follow...

For now, I need a NAP!

What's your take on trail running - love it or hate it?
How do you deal with nervousness when you're taking on a new challenge?

Friday, April 20

Friday potluck

Welcome, friends, to another Friday potluck.

On forward progress:
Yesterday I was out for a run: a cruise-y, life is good, my-legs-feel-fast kind of run.
Up ahead I saw a lady doing the tired-runner shuffle. She was (how do I say this to illustrate the scene without seeming critical?) quite heavy-set - not just a few pounds overweight, but clearly struggling on the edges of obesity. She was flying the flag of a new runner: brand-shining-new running clothes and shoes. Hers was not a face I've seen on the roads before (and this is a small town with an even smaller cast of regular runners.)*

I watched her forward progress, and it made my heart happy.
Her run that day, I am sure, was harder than mine.
But she was out there.
Putting effort into getting into shape, into taking control of her health and fitness.
One step at a time.

THAT is inspiring.

And it reminded me of this:


Which also reminded me that I absolutely LOATHE this meme:

Am I the only person in the world who finds this offensive, rather than funny?

Ok... ok...
It's Friday, time to stop being serious.

Have you seen texts from a dog?
If not, go. Now.


Productivity be damned!

Happy Friday, people!


PS - Tomorrow is the beginning of National Park Week. Entry is free to all national parks all week long!

*PPS - Afternoon edits made for clarification based on the very thoughtful comments provided by T, below.

Who (or what) inspired you this week?

Thursday, April 19

Thursday thanks

This week I'm thankful that sometimes when one door closes, another opens.

Earlier this year I had a paper accepted to a conference in Stockholm, Sweden.

Sweden!
I began daydreaming of all of the places I would run, eat, and explore in that far away country. Surely I'd stay for at least a day before and after the conference. How much of Stockholm could I see in two extra days? Three? I researched flight and hotel options.

Sticker shock set in.

Transatlantic flights are never cheap.
But the spring surge in fuel prices, coupled with conference dates during prime tourist travel season, meant that I'd need to start donating plasma on a daily basis if I wanted to travel to this conference. As for employer funding, any travel funds I used for this conference would prevent at least three people from attending other conferences in the U.S. That, clearly, was out of the question.

I started freelancing more, thinking that might fill the gap between travel cost I could live with and travel cost that would leave me sleepless at night.

Finally, last month, I accepted the fact: I am not going to Sweden.
I allowed my paper to be withdrawn from the conference.

I felt like a quitter. Am I not the person who believes I can make anything happen with enough hard work? Am I not the person who makes decisions by considering "when I'm lying on my death-bed, which choice will I regret?"

Certainly I could have justified the cost by that last measure!

But, really, I couldn't.
Cost, plus other family and work considerations, took Sweden off the table.

And, really, it's ok.
White House doorway (circa 1914)
Image source
We don't get everything we want in life. With a little luck, we get what we need. (I am lucky enough to have everything I need, so I shouldn't waste time fretting about wants.)

Plus, while I didn't know it at the time, the door that closed on Sweden freed up my calendar for another opportunity.

When I checked my email on Tuesday, I found a note in my inbox inviting me to Washington, D.C. to speak at a workshop being hosted by a fairly prominent organization. My workshop slot is on a day that I would have been in Stockholm. (Actual names and dates hidden to protect the innocent, of course.)

So...

Guess who's going to DC?!?
(PS - If you're in the DC area and have running-route recommendations, or if you want to get together for a sprint around the National Mall, please let me know!)

What's your best "one door closed but another opened" story?
And what are YOU thankful for this week?

Tuesday, April 17

2-bit Tuesday

Doubles, pairs, and seconds - today is all about 2s.

Tuesday is usually 2-fer Tuesday around here, with a morning and evening run. Given that this is both recovery week and pre-race week (see double-booking note below), I'm skipping the double run today. However, I'm still doing...

...2 running-related things. This morning I did a shake-out 5 mile run around the neighborhood. Tonight I'm heading to a kickoff meeting for a marathon-training program in which I'll be a pace group leader!

2 races in 6 days - This goes on the list of possibly over-ambitious things I double-booked myself signed up for. Sunday's half marathon was race number one and on Saturday I'll be hitting the trails for race number two. I hope my two little legs don't hate me too much at the end of this... But if I could run every day for a 42-day streak, two races in a week shouldn't be so bad... Right?

2 seconds are all that separated the female winner, Sharon Cherop, from the second place finisher, Jemima Sumgong at yesterday's Boston Marathon. (I cannot imagine how hard those two ladies battled it out for that close finish!)

Speaking of Boston and seconds... Yesterday's marathon win was the 2nd slowest on record since 1985.

What are your two cents?

Monday, April 16

Katherine the Great (a nod to Boston)

The year: 1967
The person: Katherine Switzer
The event: The first woman registers for, and completes, the Boston Marathon at a time when women were banned from the course. (She registered as "K.V. Switzer.")
The scandal: The event organizer, Jock Semple, tried to pull Switzer from the course, yelling "Get the hell out of my race!"
Image source
So... Happy 116th birthday to the Boston Marathon.
Happy 45th anniversary to K.V. Switzer's epic run.
And happy 40th anniversary of the first Boston Marathon that didn't chase women off the course. Thanks to that change in rules, today 43 percent of entrants are female.

Watch her interview with PBS here:


My (personal) favorite quote from the interview:
"I'm gonna' finish this race on my hands and my knees if I have to... Because nobody believes that I can do this, and suddenly I realize, you know, if I don't finish this race, then everybody is going to believe women can't do it and that they don't deserve to be here and that they're incapable."
It wasn't until 1984 that women were (finally) allowed to run the marathon in the Olympics. That rule was changed in response to the lobbying work of Katherine and others.

Thank you Katherine!

Aren't you glad we no longer need bodyguards to run?

Sunday, April 15

Heat warnings, DNS, and DNF

By now, you've probably heard that the Boston Athletic Association is encouraging runners to take things easy, walk, or sit tomorrow's race out due to predicted record temperatures. (For more info see Miss Zippy and Will Run for Beer.)

I am a strong believer that runners train to race through tough conditions. After all, as one of my favorite race-day posters reads "If it was easy, everyone would do it."

BUT

Each race has its own unique circumstances and conditions. Expecting a PR when running into 20mph headwinds is just silly. Expecting that the heat won't affect your race is borderline dangerous, even if you have been training in the heat.
Treating heat illness
Image source
Our sport glorifies those who push through tough circumstances. After all, if we don't push ourselves beyond our comfort zones, we'll never improve. But there is a fine line between exceptional performance and stupid risk-taking. So...

...in the spirit of full disclosure, I have DNFed, and it's OK.

After training for a year for a triathlon in Encinitas, CA, including many hours of swim workouts, I thought I was ready for anything. Unfortunately on race morning the surf was 8-10 feet with a strong rip current.

I watched the first wave (elites) get dragged 400 yards off course. Still, I got into the water.

I got pummeled and dragged off course by the current. I was not making headway against the surf.

I turned and paddled back in to shore. I had an official cut off my timing chip. I finished the bike and run as a fun run. I won't say I'm proud of my DNF, but I am proud that I was wise enough to know my limits that day.

I also have one race that I DNSed.

Another triathlon was scheduled in the autumn. San Diego had gone more than 180 days without rain. On the day before the race, the heavens opened up, washing 6 months of trash, dog poo, and other unmentionables into the bay.

While the County had officially closed all waters to swimming, the race organizers chose not to turn the race into a duathlon. The swim was on, despite all health regulations to the contrary.
I was not getting in that water.
I slept in.
Reading reports of sinus infections, sore throats, and other post-race ailments, I've never regretted the decision to not start that race.

And heat is my enemy in any race.

Northwest Florida is warm all the time.
When I run, it's hot outside.
My body, theoretically, is used to this.

Still, in this morning's half marathon, I suffered from heat illness. While I have no formal diagnosis, I can say that at about mile 11 I noticed I had stopped sweating (despite consuming two full bottles of water).

I threw in the towel and walked.

This wasn't a wussy move on my part. I knew the symptoms and made a calculated decision. And, it turns out, my on-the-fly diagnosis was pretty accurate. I took my temperature an hour after the race - 100 degrees - and that was after soaking in a cold bath.

So, the moral of this story is: if you are running in the heat, keep these symptoms in mind (from Medlineplus.gov):
  • Heatstroke - a life-threatening illness in which body temperature may rise above 106° F in minutes; symptoms include dry skin, rapid, strong pulse and dizziness
  • Heat exhaustion - an illness that can precede heatstroke; symptoms include heavy sweating, rapid breathing and a fast, weak pulse
  • Heat cramps - muscle pains or spasms that happen during heavy exercise
  • Heat rash - skin irritation from excessive sweating

Walking might be an ego-bruiser, but being carted off the course in an ambulance is way worse.

Be safe, friends!

Have you ever DNSed or DNFed a race?

Race Report: Gulf Coast Half @ Pensacola Beach

The start:
The starting area for the Gulf Coast Half Marathon @ Pensacola Beach was a no-frills affair, but had plenty of parking and plenty of restroom facilities, including some with running water. The race also started exactly on time. I have no complaints.
Runners - including this blogger - cheering and taking off at the starting gun.
The bad:
Because the race is along the beach, runners had stiff winds (15-17mph) buffeting them during the entire race. I think I still have sand up my nose...

Oh, and there was NO shade. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Not a bit of shade to be found for 13.1 miles...

The good:
Flat course - nearly pancake flat, with a teensy incline near the 7-mile mark.
Water stations were spaced appropriately (every 2 miles or so), and the station volunteers pulled out all the stops. There were volunteers in hula-themed costumes, jungle-themed costumes (complete with faux leopard loincloths), and disco-themed costumes. The volunteers were amazing.

More good - small is beautiful:
The field was small at only 1,400 runners. I never felt crowded or hemmed in on the course.

But one thing I found unusual is that there seemed to be very high attrition for this race. Starting line announcements claimed that 1,800 runners registered. Finish line stats showed that more than one out of five runners either DNSed or DNFed. Maybe I've never noticed before, but 20 percent of registered runners not finishing seems high to me?
Uncrowded starting area

The finish:
A tight Z-shaped curve into the finish chute made my final sprint a little dicey (I nearly collided with another runner who was also trying to cut the tangents) but there was plenty of cold water.
The oddly-shaped finish chute.
Plus the finishers' medals are lovely beer-bottle openers. (Gulf Coast might be the only race series with a truly practical medal.)

Unfortunately, while the after party at the Gulf Coast - Gulf Shores Half (same race organizer) was spectacular, the one in Pensacola Beach was not the best I've seen. Seating was limited, and food was randomly placed on dining tables (picture having to reach over people who were seated and eating to grab a banana out of a box).

But perhaps my least favorite part of the post-race breakfast was the location. The venue required cramping and blistered runners to wade through soft beach sand. On the list of things I do not want to do immediately after running 13.1 miles: walk in soft sand.

My race:
Finish time: 2:10:46
Finish stats: 48th out of 179 age group finishers
This was not a banner day for me.
Pouring ice water on my legs to cool down...
I went out strong, hitting the 5k and 10k marks at a 9 minute mile pace - on target for a sub-2 finish. But despite drinking two full bottles of water and dumping dixie cups of water on myself to keep cool, I started to show signs of heat exhaustion (more on that here...) and the early symptoms of an exercise-induced asthma attack.

By mile 8, I was slowing to walk at the water stations.
By mile 11, I was baked/boiled/steamed. I ran through someone's front-yard sprinkler. I met up with a running buddy, and even the encouragement of having company couldn't make me move faster. My heart rate and core temperature were too high.

Hubby was waiting just past the 12 mile marker to "run me in," but instead walked with me for half a mile.

Then a mirage appeared... A handful of Team in Training people had an ice chest at the 12.5 mile mark, with a sign that read "cooling station." If I could have gone swimming between the ice cubes, I would have. But I didn't fit...

So I took a fistful of ice and stuffed it down my sports bra. The ice rattled away as I picked up the pace and ran to the finish. It might be the weirdest thing I've ever done during a race. (Seriously - popsicle boobs? What was I thinking???) But it worked! That much-needed cooling might be the most glorious relief I've ever had.

What's the weirdest thing you've ever done to cool down?

Saturday, April 14

Half #3 and goals revisited

Tomorrow's half: Gulf Coast Half
Marathon at Pensacola Beach
I'm resting.
I'd rather be running.
I think I have a shot at a sub-2 half tomorrow, but I don't want to get my hopes up too high. I know my training is solid, but for some reason having a firm goal time in my head just makes me anxious and cranky. I'd rather talk myself into an "I'm not worried" state, sleep well tonight, and be pleasantly surprised tomorrow.

Plus, it's supposed to be warm.*

Even if tomorrow's Gulf Coast Half isn't my best race of the year, I've got at least 2 more 13.1s in the works, which brings me around to revisiting the year's goals...

(I'm good at setting and achieving goals, I just don't want to think about goal times the night before a race...)

In January, I set a few key goals for 2012. Here's the brief version:

Goal - Run Faster:
5k in less than 24 minutes
Hamming it up at the NOLA race expo
Progress: I've only run one 5k so far, and it was a fun run, not a "race." Result: 25:48. But I've been very consistent with weekly speedwork, so I feel confident that if I truly race a 5k, I'll be ready to break my 24 minute barrier.

Goal - Run Longer:
Complete 5 half marathons
Progress: (1) Gulf Shores, (2) New Orleans, and tomorrow should make 3. I've signed up for one more already, and I'm targeting an autumn race (or two) to round out the year.

Goal - Learn New Things:
Read 15 non-fiction books
Progress: While I'm ahead on the half marathon goal, I'm a bit behind on the books. I'm almost through Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking and I finished Two Old Fools - OlĂ©! In my defense, working two jobs has taken a big bite out of my leisure reading time... I'll pick up the pace once school is out for the summer.

Goal - Travel/Explore:
Visit one new-to-me place every month
Exhibit from the Indian Temple Mound Museum
Progress:
  • January: The Gulf Shores half counted both in the race and new-place categories.
  • February: Hubby and I drove to Fort Walton Beach to visit the Indian Temple Mound Museum, had lunch, and walked along the waterfront. The museum is small, but the exhibits are fascinating.
  • March: March was a travel-heavy month (to places we've been more than once). On the few days that we were home, Hubby and I mostly just wanted to rest. Day trips and hiking were out of the question, so March's adventure was trying a new-to-us jazz club while we were in New Orleans.
And it turns out that I've got a new goal to add to the list... The new-to-me cross training challenge.

So - I'm making good progress on my 2012 goals!
But I still don't want to talk about pacing for tomorrow...

How are you doing on your goals for the year?
Do you get anxious the day before a race? If so, what do you do to calm pre-race jitters?

*Sorry Boston runners, I have some sympathy for you, but seriously it's always 85 and humid here in Florida... Move here - We'll train together! Hot and humid race-day weather will never ruin your race dreams again!

Friday, April 13

Friday potluck - on the road edition

This week's potluck is travel-themed...

Yoga on the go:
The DFW airport just opened a yoga studio! DFW was already my favorite "athletic" airport (I love walking laps around the terminals). Now it's even better. From the DFW folks:
Image source
"Relax in our brand new yoga studio now open inside Terminal D at Gate D40! The Yoga Studio is free to use and comes equipped with airport-supplied yoga mats, hand sanitizer and a partial privacy screen. Here at DFW, we believe in the pursuit of healthy lifestyle choices...even while you travel!"
I do "airport yoga" (gentle stretching while waiting at the gate) during layovers anyway. Now maybe people will stop giving me the stink eye for it!

Boston fever:
Image sourc
  • The Boston Museum of Science, place of field-trip dreams when I was a kid, is hosting a week-long marathon exhibit.
  • New Balance opened a store in Copley Square that features a Boston-themed running shoe, the "Boston 890v2." The shoe features Boston images, including a lobstah (which is, in my humble opinion, how you pronounce the word for the tasty crustacean) and Heartbreak Hill. And in a nod to true Bostonians, the shoelaces ends read "run fastah." (Many thanks to the Joyful Girl for sending this news story my way.)

Where in the world have you been? Bucket list apps:
New bucket lists apps are making the rounds on Facebook to ask how many foods you've tried, states you've been to, and beers you've tasted. (You can compare your stats with mine if you'd like.)

And since I've been around the block a few times...
I started a travel board on Pinterest to flag some of the places I've been to over the years. (Pinterest can't be all wedding planning all the time, can it?)

Happy Friday, people!


Where have you traveled to most recently?

Thursday, April 12

Thursday thanks

It's magnolia season in northwest Florida...

...enough said.

What's blooming where you are?
What are YOU thankful for this week?

Wednesday, April 11

When I grow up

When I grow up, I want to be just like this:



In case you haven't heard already, 86 year old Johanna Quaas proves that we don't need to sit quietly on the sidelines as we get older. In fact, the woman might have more upper body strength than the average 20-something guy (and is definitely more fit than Stephen Colbert).

"Accomplished gymnast" is not the image most of us imagine when we think of an 86-year-old. But I like this option better than the stereotype of crocheting doilies while sitting in a rocking chair or (worse) being wheeled around a senior day care center in a wheelchair.
Ok.
So maybe I don't want to be "just" like her...
The last time I got on a balance beam, I split my lip open falling off of that balance beam.

But I do want to keep running well into my golden years.

What's your idea of a good retirement: quietly relaxing or taking on some new challenge?

Tuesday, April 10

Bucket lists - food, running, travel

I'm a sucker for lists.
This morning I woke up to a note in my Facebook feed about the "100 foods to eat before you die." I had to try that challenge. (See below for details.)

The food list got me thinking about life lists. I went for a run, mentally putting together my "races I want to run before I die" list. I know Comrades and the Himalaya 100 are on my "dream race" list, but 2 races does not make a list. Plus, I'm working on "half-ing the 50 states" right now: One running bucket list at a time...

Speaking of states...

I returned to find a new list in my FB news: "How Many States Have You Been To?"
Now that's a list I already have!

For the record, my score is: visited 30 states (not including airport-only layovers), run in 19, raced in 6, and lived in 4.5 (4 of my own plus I spent enough time in Seattle when Hubby lived there to count it as my home-away-from-home).

Now for that food list...

1. Abalone (nope - I draw the "I'll try anything new" line at endangered...)
2. Absinthe
3. Alligator - Y (better I eat them than they eat me)
4. Baba Ghanoush - Y
5. Bagel & Lox - Y
6. Baklava - Y
7. BBQ Ribs - Y
8. Bellini - Y
9. Birds Nest Soup
10. Biscuits & Gravy  - Y
11. Black Pudding - Y
12. Black Truffle - Y
13. Borscht
14. Calamari - Y
15. Carp - Y
16. Caviar - Y (and loathe it)
17. Cheese Fondue - Y
18. Chicken & Waffles - Y
19. Chicken Tikka Masala - Y
20. Chile Relleno - Y
21. Chitlins - Y
22. Churros - Y (the best were from street carts in Tijuana)
23. Clam Chowder - Y (I grew up in New England. I'd never live it down if I didn't say "yes" to this one!)
24. Cognac - Y
25. Crab Cakes - Y
26. Crickets
27. Currywurst
28. Dandelion Wine
29. Dulce De Leche - Y
30. Durian
31. Eel - Y
32. Eggs Benedict - Y
33. Fish Tacos - Y
34. Foie Gras - Y
35. Fresh Spring Rolls - Y
36. Fried Catfish - Y
37. Fried Green Tomatoes - Y
38. Fried Plantain - Y
39. Frito Pie - Y
40. Frogs' Legs  - Y
41. Fugu
42. Funnel Cake - Y
43. Gazpacho - Y
44. Goat - Y
45. Goat's Milk
46. Goulash - Y
47. Gumbo - Y
48. Haggis
49. Head Cheese - Y
50. Heirloom Tomatoes - Y
51. Honeycomb - Y
52. Hostess Fruit Pie - Y
53. Huevos Rancheros - Y
54. Jerk Chicken - Y
55. Kangaroo
56. Key Lime Pie - Y
57. Kobe Beef - Y
58. Lassi - Y
59. Lobster - Y (one of my favorites - and the best is fresh off the boats in New England)
60. Mimosa  - Y
61. Moon Pie - Y (you can't go to a Mardi Gras parade and not try one...)
62. Morel Mushrooms - Y
63. Nettle Tea
64. Octopus - Y
65. Oxtail Soup - Y
66. Paella - Y
67. Paneer - Y
68. Pastrami on Rye - Y
69. Pavlova - Y
70. Phaal
71. Philly Cheese Steak - Y
72. Pho - Y
73. Pineapple & Cottage Cheese - Y
74. Pistachio Ice Cream - Y
75. Po' Boy - Y (of course I have)
76. Pocky - Y
77. Polenta - Y
78. Prickly Pear - Y (puree in a drink)
79. Rabbit Stew - Y
80. Raw Oysters - Y (this is another.. of course I have)
81. Root Beer Float - Y
82. S'mores - Y
83. Sauerkraut - Y
84. Sea Urchin - Y
85. Shark - Y
86. Snail - Y
87. Snake - Y
88. Soft Shell Crab - Y
89. Som Tam - Y
90. Spaetzle - Y
91. Spam - Y
92. Squirrel
93. Steak Tartare - Y
94. Sweet Potato Fries - Y
95. Sweetbreads - Y
96. Tom Yum - Y
97. Umeboshi - Y
98. Venison - Y (yes, and the best I've ever had was given to me by a neighbor)
99. Wasabi Peas - Y
100. Zucchini Flowers - Y

My total: 85.
(Silly facebook says most people only get 20. What people are they asking???)
Honestly, I could have added a few more to this list... I was surprised that Ostrich, Crawfish, and Jellyfish did not make the top 100. There weren't many exotic fruist or vegetables on the list either (except durian... eww!). And some of the foods that did make the list were not a stretch at all...

**late update: Christine clued me in on the Beer List Challenge. I'm almost halfway through that list, too.**

How many states have you visited? Run in?
How many of the foods have you tried? (And what's the most unusual or unique?)
And... Last, but not least, what races are on your bucket list?

Monday, April 9

Girls on the Run - interview

Today I'm skipping a traditional blog post, and asking you to pop over to Examiner.com to read my article on the non-profit Girls on the Run.
Image source
I had the good fortune to interview the local council director about the program, which teaches young girls about self respect, healthy lifestyle, and fitness while preparing the girls to run (or walk) a 5k.
In her words...

"Girls on the Run is a program that uses running and training for a 5K to teach girls about self- image, respect, and community awareness. The program works to instill a power within girls to be themselves and to not worry about what others think. The creator of the program speaks of getting out of the “girl box” where a girl may feel like she is not good enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, or not cool enough – and to be proud of who she already is by valuing herself just as she is..."
This message is doubly important given the shocking statistics on childhood obesity (rates have tripled in 30 years so now one in five children is obese) and photoshopped media messages that distort body image.

Oh, and GOTR is always looking for volunteers...

To see if there is a council in your community, or to get involved, visit the GOTR website.

Sunday, April 8

Weekend wrap-up

It's taper weekend. Hubby and I ran a beautiful and sunny 7 miles this morning. I felt fantastic at the end of the run - like I could have easily kept going for another hour. If I'm not ready for next weekend's half marathon now, I never will be.

So, with a short run on the schedule, what did I do with my extra time today?

Well... since you asked...

I worked on updating my course content for the final weeks of the semester. Today's upbeat topic: sexuality and cultural influences on transmission rates for STDs. (April is STD awareness month!)

Previewing documentaries on the history of the HIV/AIDS epidemic is decidedly not the most pleasant way to spend a Sunday. In fact, it's a total downer.

So I also...

Started work on an article about a local chapter of Girls on the Run for Examiner.com. (That non-profit's work is a much happier story, but more on that later this week...)

Baked multi-grain pumpkin pecan muffins (recipe here).
Multi-grain pumpkin pecan muffins
I firmly believe in being realistic about the problems in the world, but dwelling on those problems won't solve them. So I put my energy into being a good teacher (including teaching the not-good-news topics). And then I bake/run/read/garden/write-about-other-stuff when the serious topics threaten to get overwhelming.

How do you balance bad news or unpleasant tasks?
What exciting adventures (or lazy days) did you have this weekend?

Multi-grain pumpkin pecan muffins

Ingredients:
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg
2/3 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup regular oats
1 tablespoon ground flax seed (optional)
1 tablespoon oat or wheat bran (optional)
1/4 cup skim milk
1 cup whole wheat flour (whole wheat pastry flour works best)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
cooking spray

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°.
Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly. Add pumpkin, oats, flax, bran, and milk to sugar mixture. Mix thoroughly. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. Stir flour mixture with a fork or whisk. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture, stirring only until flour is moist. Add chopped nuts, and gently fold nuts into batter. (Do not over-mix the batter.) Coat 9 regular-sized muffin tins with cooking spray. Spoon batter into 9 tins. Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan. Remove muffins from pan.
Eat delicious muffins (once they're cool enough to handle, of course).
Multi-grain pumpkin pecan muffin