Days 82-83 – Wacky Wednesday

24 03 2010

“It all began with that shoe on the wall. A shoe on a wall…? Shouldn’t be there at all. Then I looked up. And I said, ‘Oh, MAN!’ And that’s how Wacky Wednesday began.” So goes the Dr. Seuss library book we picked up yesterday. Quite fitting for a late March snow that cancelled school and my husband’s flight — but turned to dripping slush in the sun by 4 p.m.

Temperatures tumbled back toward freezing Tuesday with the heavy, wet snow falling all through the night. Thanks to my bothersome cold, I traded a 2-mile run for Pilates — trying out my newly arrived Pilates Plus DVD. An Exhale three-DVD set from Amazon also includes Thighs and Glutes and Body Sculpt. Fifty minutes of Pilates was tough with lots of core work and good stretching.

I finished Born to Run the other night and think anyone who runs should read it. True stories about amazing endurance runners are hard to put down. It also ties in anthropology (why we might literally be born to run) and examines the history of running shoes that may be limiting our ability to run without injuries. It mentions Chi Running and other proponents of mid-foot striking and barefoot running. I’m not ready to chuck my shoes (if it ain’t broke…), but the midfoot strike makes sense to me as I up my mileage and try to limit wear-and-tear on my feet.

Since my husband practically cries walking through the living room after running, I’m obsessed with ways to heal and prevent foot/knee injuries. Finding similar answers is what started author/runner Christopher McDougall’s journey that lead to his book, which is now on Scott’s nightstand. I’m trying to get him to deal with his plantar fasciitis instead of just hoping it goes away. Sent him this Chi Running article that has good info on the subject.

McDougall even brings coyotes into his book listing them among animals that can run up to 40 mph, but don’t have endurance. So I’m thinking if I do see one I just have to chase it until it’s tired the way our carnivorous ancestors may have worn out their food on the hunt. Humans evolved to breathe for the long run, while even the speediest animals will tire out.

We didn’t see any wildlife sledding in the soccer field across the street today. Just our 40 mph lab who chased her tennis ball for two hours straight. Hopefully we wore everyone out on this snow day filled with arts, crafts, forts (indoor and outdoor varieties), hide-and-seek, baking cookies, movies and sledding. I’m now totally out of ideas. The munchkins are on their own for entertainment while I pop in a Firm DVD. Time for an outside run tomorrow assuming there are no more wacky shoes on the wall!


Day 80 – Wheezing and sneezing

21 03 2010

On this sunny Sunday I was back in running shorts watching the snowman we built yesterday quickly melt in the park across the street. I was thrilled to find tulip and daffodil stems popping up a few inches in the backyard beds when the snow had cleared.

With new blooms, allergies arrived too. I felt bad most of the day with a scratchy throat and stuffy head. I made myself get out to clear some brush from the flower beds, so the sun can find the tulips, and then did my planned 8-mile run, knowing that Sundays — especially in this great weather — are the best chance I get for long runs.

The first 3 miles felt sluggish as I tried to breathe and not think about how bad I felt. By mile 4 my thoughts were finally drifting away from my physical run and I knew I could make it to 8 miles with a pretty average time.

Today completed week 8 of my half-marathon plan, with 8 more weeks to go. I’m over 18 miles this week for the first time and hoping to be rid of my sneezing to get to a 9-mile run next weekend that will take me to 20 miles for week 9.

Off now to snuggle into my bed for the final chapters of Born to Run for inspiration…

Day 75 – Old Coyote

16 03 2010

Photo by: Canter- NPS Photo

Anna mentioned on the way to ballet class last night that we haven’t seen a coyote on our drive in a really long time. “Mating season must be over,” she offered.

I quickly changed the subject, reminded of our last discussion about why so many coyotes were visible in daylight hours…leading to a much dreaded (on my part) matter-of-fact explanation about mating…Yep – birds, bees, coyotes, humans, etc. We covered a lot of ground!

After lots of curious questions the punchline came when I asked her how that all sounded, and she said, “I’m so glad you told me. Or when I got married I would have been really surprised by my husband!” Oh – how I miss the simpler Q&A sessions of toddlerhood!

On the recurring coyote theme, today during my sun-filled 4-mile run I was listening to some mellow music, including the Weepies’ “Hideaway” album which includes the song “Old Coyote.” I had to share some lyrics:

Old Coyote waits out there
with grey-brown hair and his three-mile stare…

Ring-a-round-rosey game always ends the same way,
we all fall down.
Get up now baby. Get up now baby.
It’s your song playing…

Old Coyote’s faking sleep
Not counting sheep on the watch he keeps
We bring springtime into bloom inside these rooms
And outside under the moon.

Sometimes — usually in great weather like today when there is new music on my iPod and slim risk of coyote sightings — I can let my thoughts wonder and try to really enjoy my run. Deeper into the bookBorn to Run, I’m trying even harder to be like the ultramarathoners who run with smiles on their faces. Relax, have fun, let go!

Days 72-73 – Elevation and motivation

14 03 2010

Unlike our typical ski weekends, a fun weekend with friends and our families at a beautiful house in Grand Lake near Rocky Mountain National Forest does not require burning calories. It does include consuming calories as part of the agenda!

Jo-Anna encourages me and my blogging/exercising mission on a daily basis and was not going to let Saturday be my first day off in 2010 even if we were on a holiday. (She happens to be the same friend who has kept me triathlon-ing for five years…so I need to thank her.) We went for a walk and talked at 8,000+ feet before lounging on the cabin deck in the sunshine. That counts in my book for daily “moving” — at least while you’re on vacation — if not exercise.

Supportively, Jo-Anna knew there should be more and was willing to try the Exhale DVD I had dutifully packed. We changed into Pilates pants, cleared the kids’ toys from the living room and rearranged the couches. After technical difficulties — no batteries in the DVD remote, so we couldn’t get past the intro — we resorted to attempting to stretch on our own.

This, too, I count as better than nothing — even though I don’t do near as many repetitions or hold my body correctly without instructors. I tried to show Jo-Anna my new Exhale moves — only a great friend wouldn’t laugh!

Today, we headed home driving 75 miles through dry, then snowy, then icy (Berthoud Pass), then rainy and finally dry again conditions as we came back to the Denver prairie. To make up for yesterday’s almost-a-rest day, I stuck to my half-marathon plan’s 8-mile run — also in dry, snowy, icy, rainy conditions.

During an hour and 20 minutes, I have never seen such changing weather. The only thing that makes running in freezing rain welcomed is when you’ve just been pelted in the face by hard snowflakes in the wind.

What made the long, wet run bearable were the Born to Run chapters I read in the car. If you’ve haven’t read the book or heard of the Leadville Trail 100-Mile Run, check out the race website… 50 miles out and back on Colorado Rocky Mountain forest trails and mountain roads going from 9,200 to 12,600 feet — for 30 hours straight, through the night, in the cold and changing August weather!

If you complete the race in less than 30 hours, you get a silver belt buckle… that’s it…and to say you are a surviving ultra-endurance runner! Living here, I’ve heard a lot about this race and the amazingly impressive, crazy people who attempt it. Reading more about made me embarrassed to call my 8 miles a long run.

For 8 miles of changing weather in my neighborhood at only 5,200 feet I thought about how anyone could possibly get her mind and body to go 92 more miles — uphill — in the dark. I really could not let myself complain…or feel worthy of a special buckle just yet!

Day 68 – Half-way to the half marathon

9 03 2010

I had no idea when I woke up this morning that it was the exact mid-point to my half marathon! I came across a countdown tracker you can add to your blog, and lo-and-behold…when I did the math, I realized on day 68, there are 68 days left until my 40th b’day and half marathon.

I get pretty excited about cool number things, so I’ve posted the cheesy tracker on my blog to make this more exciting for me. Getting that graphic to show up was a bit of a technical challenge, but one that I conquered. Much more successfully than the technical challenges I had at the gym…

In celebration of this mid-way day, I should have embraced my planned easy, two-mile run in spite of the crazy wind outside. Instead, I let lots of excuses get in the way until evening and thought I could handle the dreaded treadmill at the Rec Center for just two miles.

Should explain that a treadmill mishap in my mid-twenties left me with an aversion to running on machinery. My PR firm in Atlanta paid for gym memberships for staff. While running on the treadmill one night, one of the VPs came in with her husband. They came up to say hello… and I learned that while multitasking in the office impressed VPs, doing it on a treadmill was dangerous. My Walkman flew in the air as I was tossed by the conveyor belt onto the floor like a cartoon character.

I think I just stopped dead in my tracks when I started talking…but the treadmill did not stop. A carpet-burned leg, broken Walkman and definitely one of my most embarrassing work-related incidents left me pulling the plug on the treadmill at the end of our brief relationship.

Still — 15 years later — the treadmill doesn’t feel right, and I get very confused by the screen, the programs and the pace. Tonight I messed up the digital buttons mid run. I think I ran 1.5 miles, but it’s hard to say. At the point the screen went blank, my blood sugar was dropping and my calf was hurting (that never happens outside).

I started reading Born to Run last night, and five chapters in I’m fascinated by this true account of a tribe that lives deep in the canyons of Mexico. They are amazing runners who can literally run for days pretty much barefoot. More to come on that whole topic, but it all comes to the final point that treadmills are in the category of fancy high-heeled running shoes — not natural! I surely would have been better off on the road where I have logged more than 130 miles in 68 days — even in the wind!

Days 62-63 – Chi Running

4 03 2010

I have a renewed energy inspired by a book I picked up on Tuesday called Chi Running (pronounced “chee”). Built on the principles of T’ai Chi, this method involves relaxed, efficient running with a mid-foot strike to prevent and/or recover from injuries.

Barefoot running is getting a lot of attention these days, with near-soleless running shoes on the market and books like Chris McDougall’s Born to Run touting the advantages of running without the aid of modern-day, high-tech shoes that may actually be causing injuries.

Chi Running’s Danny Dreyer is quoted in Time and on NPR, along with McDougall, and a Harvard researcher about theories and research on the fascinating topic.

So for me, all of these random things I’ve been doing and reading about are finally coming together in one place. I am desperate to prevent injuries as I increase mileage and head into my 40s. I want running to help me — not hurt me! I have felt so much better doing stretching based on Pilates and T’ai Chi (Classical Stretch) on my off-run days, so I was looking for more info. on T’ai Chi when I came across the Chi Running book. I’m just a few chapters into it, but anxious to keep reading and refocus my runs on my form. Running for 1-2 hours gives me plenty of time for that. Approx. 200 miles to go until the half-marathon!

Yesterday, I broke away from my book to try a new DVD from the library — Exhale Core Fusion for thighs and glutes. There are five 10-minute workouts, and you can do all of them in a row, which I tried. It’s very Pilates-like with stretching following strength building to elongate muscles vs. build bulk. My legs were shaking during several parts — in a good way!

Today I took my thighs and glutes on a 7-mile run in amazing 57 degree sunshine! I tried some of what I understand so far of the Chi technique — leaning forward, mid-foot striking (no pushing off the ground with your toes) and relaxing arms and shoulders. A lot to think about all at once. When I ran home heading east, I could watch my shadow to see the difference in leaning forward — letting gravity pull me along — a little awkwardly!

The downside to this new posture: when you lean forward and you’re sweaty, your sunglasses fall off and your nose runs. Guess I’ll deal with that if it saves my knees!