Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What would Thoreau think?

I'll admit it, I'm lazy when it comes to new running routes.  Once in a while, I'll drive somewhere and run, or run after work (I work Downtown) which means I can observe the egress to the suburbs and run over several bridges.  But mostly, I run around my house.  We live on the corner of a busy road, and a less busy, more residential road.  I usually run on this more residential road, which has lots of trees, subdivisions and apartment complexes.  There are a few traffic lights, which are good landmarks, along with subdivision entrances.  On tough days, it might be "I'll slow down at the light" or "ok, I'm walking when I hit the entrance to Cape House."  I usually follow this residential road until it hits a major thoroughfare, which is when I cross the street and go into the prettier part of the run, a giant loop with a golf course and large man-made lake in the middle of it.  This part is more idyllic.  Since this is Florida, most of the trees don't lose their leaves and the grass stays relatively green.  It's usually quieter back here, all homes and neighborhoods tucked into streets named with a theme.  This is where you see the most people though, walking, jogging, taking the pooch for an evening or morning stroll.  Everyone smiles and waves, runners nod to each other or give a quick wave, people pull their dogs off the sidewalk so you can pass in peace.  One loop, from where I start my run to one of the major roads, is almost six miles.  So, this has become where I do a lot of my long runs, in laps.

Since I run laps (my longest has been 20 miles = 4 laps) I see the same areas over and over again.  I think I know every dip in the sidewalk, every uneven spot on the pavement (also, where I almost ate it on my 20 mile run because I wasn't paying attention), every busy turn lane and every shady place.  This was where I ran before I started marathon training, so I've definitely gotten to know it more intimately.  I have now experienced it early in the morning and late in the evenings.  I watched our brief pseudo-Fall (hey look, that one tree has autumn-like December) and then the brown grass and dropping plants after a couple of hard freezes.  I've admired countless dogs and gotten annoyed at innumerable drivers and various motor vehicles.   It's even one of those areas where they didn't cut down all the trees for the subdivisions - there are old oaks and pine trees everywhere, which occasionally makes me wonder what Emerson or Yeats or one of those other 19th century naturalists would have thought had they been runners or triathletes, spending some much time interacting with the outdoors in an athletic fashion.  It also makes me feel lucky that I have a lovely place to run within walking distance of where I live, especially since I live in a city where almost nothing is walkable!

Anyway, I just thought I would take a minute to wax poetic about my corner of the world where I run.  At the same time that it starts to wear on me, I also have an ever-growing affection for my route!

Some quotes by some of those 19th century naturalists...

"Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience."
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms."
— Henry David Thoreau (Walden: Or, Life in the Woods)

Monday, January 24, 2011

I Swear I Can Do This Healthy Eating Thing...

The last week has not been a stellar one for me as far as healthy eating is concerned.  A late discovery of never-given-away Christmas chocolate and cookies at work meant I was on an all time sugar high.  And sugar, along with caffeine, is my drug.  Chocolate, in particular.  However, something I have been working on for the past six months, and something I really have vowed to redouble my efforts on for the new year, is healthy eating.  In general, though we splurge, we eat fairly healthy, but I really want to go beyond that.  I want to eat foods that are natural or contain very few ingredients, I want to put more fruits and vegetables into my body and less processed stuff.  Hence fantasies of somehow getting an East Coast Trader Joe's.

And to my first point, I want to reduce my sugar intake.  Not just the candy and whatnot ( I don't generally eat that much of it) but also in foods that I generally thought were healthy.  I say this because I have a deep and abiding love for Special K Almond Vanilla cereal, which I thought was good for me.  Until I realized the third ingredient was sugar.  Really, Special K? I knew at 14 grams of sugar, it was fairly high, but seeing that it was the third ingredient really drove it home.  So this past weekend, I looked for a new cereal and bought a new steamer basket.  When I manage to not give in to the processed stuff for several days, I do feel so much better.  I feel lighter and leaner and I have more energy.  In addition to that, I also enjoy several cups of green tea throughout the day, which is a nice break from water.   I'm also trying to make healthier meals with more natural ingredients and more variety.

Anyways, enough of the bandwagon, I'm trying.  Last week though, I didn't try so hard.  I had a lot of salt, a lot of sugar and I didn't drink much water.  This all seemed to culminate during yesterday's 12-miler when my right hamstring started to cramp.  This isn't a problem I normally have, but it hit with a vengeance.  Throughout marathon training, I've struggled with tight and sore hamstrings (something that has never affected my running before)  but yesterday was awful.  I just couldn't stretch it out.  Deciding not to be stubborn, and heed E's advice, I called it a day at 10 miles.  I think I need a good yoga class to work out these kinks, stat.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Marathon Training Really Puts Distance in Perspective

Had lunch with E today and we talked about things we wanted to do this weekend.  It's the first weekend in a while where we are not traveling, moving, cleaning out, etc., so it's pretty exciting to not have any obligations.  On the schedule for tomorrow morning's long run is a 12-miler.  In the course of discussing our schedule, and in general thinking about the weekend, I realized at some point, I started using the phrase "It's only 12 miles."

Let me take a moment to think about this.  It's only 12 miles.  Wtf.  I'm both really excited and amazed that somewhere over the course of marathon training (probably in light of the recent 16 and 20 mile runs) that 12 just doesn't seem like that much.  I mean, it's still going to be tough, will still take me a while, but there is something refreshing knowing I will be running for only 2.5 hours rather than 4.5 hours.  Despite last night's somewhat miserable run (see also:  ways to remember why weekly mileage is important) I am looking forward to tomorrow's run.  I do look forward to adding cycling back into my routine as well.

In a random and totally unrelated side note:  Snooki made the NYT Best Seller List.  I join my fellow English majors and literature lovers in gasping a sigh of shock and horror.  Let us have a moment of silence for what is surely the death knell of American literature.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Longest Run Ever

One of the fun things about marathon training is almost every long run is "the farthest I've ever run."  I remind myself of this by looking at my Garmin during the run and thinking "phew, this is the farthest I've ever run."  I guess I say that because there is certainly a sense of accomplishment in that.  There is also a lot less pressure in the situation.  I did my first ever 20 mile run this past weekend (I had only done 16 prior), and all I wanted was to finish.  As long as the run was, and as intimidating as the distance sounded, there was and is something really freeing in not being concerned about my time or my pace.

Since I started really running in the past year or two, it was no longer a victory to finish a 5k, or get through 4 or 5 miles;  I felt a lot more pressure to improve.  Why wasn't I faster?  Why weren't these short distances easier?  Finishing 20 miles Saturday made me feel like a warrior.  A hobbling, shuffling warrior, but still a warrior.  Now I kind of feel like Rocky when people ask me "What did you do this weekend?" and I can say "Oh, you know, ran 20 miles."  Which reminds me that I need to take the day after my marathon off.  Somehow, I don't think I'll be very good at walking that day.

The thing that I really felt and was interested in was that towards the end of my run, the last 3-5 miles, I went somewhere in my head I have never quite been.  Normally, I'll want to walk when I get really tired.  This time, I just became relentless in my commitment to shuffle-jog along, not stopping, staring fixedly in front of me and at that point probably looking slightly deranged.

In other news, I got through part 1 of my move on Sunday, will finish part 2 tomorrow and part 3 on February 1.  Can't wait to get everything taken care of!   Hope everyone is having a great week!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

21 Miles in 3 Days = New record for me

So life has been pretty busy, which is why I continue to be off my normal blogging schedule.  So 21 miles in 3 days is a new record for me.  I don't think I have ever logged that much distance in so short a time.  I did a 10 mile long run Sunday, a 5 mile recovery run on Monday and 6 mile interval run last night.  The intervals were tough!  It was a great workout though, and the Garmin was super handy for it since I could keep track of my distances.

In other fun fitness news, for Christmas, I received a lot of gift cards, most of them to Amazon.  While I'm normally a big fan of Amazon (love that Amazon Prime) my affections have lately transferred back to Barnes & Noble with my acquisition of the new color nook.  So what to do with the Amazon gift cards?  I decided to get something I have wanted for a long, long time:  A Manduka Black Mat Pro with carrying case.  And it was an amazing deal.  Since I started doing yoga, one of my greatest struggles has been slipping and sliding all over my mat and my admittedly bony elbows and knees and shoulders getting aggravated by hard floors that yoga mats couldn't seem to help.  I bought a Manduka towel, and that helped with the slipperiness, but even that got a little frustrating during fast-paced classes.  I had a couple big fitness goals this year, and some that are still fleshing out. One of the solid ones though was to up my yoga practice; it makes such a difference for every other aspect of my life.  And I have lusted after this Manduka mat for a long time, but couldn't conceive of paying that much for a yoga mat on my working-girl salary.

My new mat came this past Saturday and I have been doing the happy dance ever since.  Starting next week, I should be able to get to a yoga class, and hopefully try out a new studio I have been hearing amazing things about, Big Fish Yoga.  Since I have an extra mat now, I can try out Recycle Your Mat, a company that recycles old mats and keeps them out of landfills to reduce waste.

I've been learning slowly and surely over the past couple years now that even though sports equipment, wear, etc is expensive (though sometimes you can find great deals and not all of it is necessary) that sometimes spending a little extra is worth it.  Many of these items will last for a long time or really become something that makes a difference in your training.  I'm a sucker for a good deal, but then I realized I had spent as much on ill-fitting tech shirts that were on sale, so I could have several, but none of which fit well, while I could have used the same amount to find something of good quality that will last a while and fit comfortably.

That's all for now.  Lot's to do.  Moving this weekend so even more stuff to put up on the craigslist!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Time to Go Back to Life

Happy new year!  I know you've all missed me terribly these last couple weeks *cough*, but for the Christmas holidays I went on a cross-country trip to see snow for the first time, visit family and have a Griswold-style holiday.  This trip also coincided with the general decision to not really check email, Facebook, blogs, Twitter, Dailymile or any of the other social networking and news site I spend vast swaths of my day on.

So here's the rough schedule of the trip.  Leave on a Thursday morning at 5 a.m., driving 6 hours to Charlotte, NC.  Board plane to Albuquerque, NM.  Upon arrival, rent car and drive hour to Santa Fe, NM.  Spend several days with family.  Drive from Santa Fe to Albuquerque and fly back to Charlotte.  From Charlotte, drive 2 hours to mountain condo family is renting for ski vacation.  Stay for several days, then drive 9 hours back to Jacksonville.  Phew!  We did this all in 9 days.  But....we had a blast!

I've never seen snow (I know, I don't know how I got to be 26 without seeing snow either), so I got to experience my first snow in the mountains of Santa Fe, where we made a snowman.  We had a great time with family and also go to do a little desert site-seeing.  This was my first time in Santa Fe, so it was really interesting to see.

The running joke of the vacation is that I had never seen snow, so now I got to experience every facet of it.  Turns out the "storm of 2010" was hitting Carolina, right where we were going, when we arrived.  This meant lots of snowy, icy roads, a bit of a spin into a snowbank and overall major experience with snow, snow everywhere.  This did make for great skiing though.  

Looking like a dork in my borrowed snow duds
I obviously have never skiied before and spent the first day completely hating it (is it a sign of a not-so-great but well-intentioned instructor when the whole class experiences a pile-up at the end of the group lesson?).  The frustration and hoards of people (and I do mean hoards....this place was packed) really got to me.  Day two I had a little one on one time with my dad's girlfriend, who helped me A LOT, and things started to improve.  By day three, I was actually enjoying it, though the sheer mental and physical exertion had me worn out pretty quickly.  It was a good trip, and great to spend time on both coasts with family.

Santa also rocked my socks with a stocking full of Powerbar Gels, some comfy new slippers for my cold and post-run feet, and a beautiful necklace.

The downside of all this is my training.  To say it has suffered is putting it mildly.  I missed two weeks of running.  And my marathon is in - gulp - 6 weeks.  My longest run to date has been 16 miles.  Oh yeah, and in the midst of all this, I'm moving house.  I'm telling myself I'll be fine.  I had a crappy run Saturday, but an awesome run last night.  This weekend:  18 miles.  Should be interesting.  Here goes nothing!