Great Finds!

I’ve mentioned before that I look for, and pick up spare change along my running route. Most runs I pick up a few cents, sometimes I find a quarter. I make about $5 every year just from spare change. Most runs I find a few cents.

Spare Change

This week, on my long run, I had to stop for a bathroom break. As is the case for most long runs, when I realized that I had to pee I was miles away from a bathroom that was available for use that early. After waiting and running for several miles, I finally made it to a Dunkin Donuts. As I ran across the parking lot, I had visions of donuts dancing in my head. I wanted a donut so much! I realized as I got closer that I didn’t have my usual water bottle – the one that contains my emergency cash. I was so sad that I had only collected three cents so far during the run. I didn’t have enough money for a donut. I immediately thought that it was too bad that I hadn’t found a dollar bill, which I have before. It would have been just enough to get a few donut holes. Sadness. As I walked in the empty store and headed toward the bathroom, I looked down. There was a folded dollar bill on the ground! I couldn’t believe my luck. The running gods had smiled on me! And the Munchkin I bought was the best donut I have ever had.

Back to School Blues

Don’t get me wrong – the life of a college professor is a good one. I have lots of flexibility in my schedule, control over what I do and when I do it, and a pretty decent private office. I even get summers off. I love my summers off. In fact, part of the reason I wanted to be a college professor was the summers off (well, and that I love the material, but still…). My dream-like summer bliss ends in August. Suddenly, I am required to be on campus, attend orientations, meetings, and events. I have to visit my office and wear dress up clothes. This morning, I even took a shower without working out first. It seemed like a total waste of water.

I don’t know how the rest of you normal job working people do it. I have so much admiration for people who can find the time to train while working a full time job. For me, the transition from summer to school is a difficult one. My normal running partners are busier so our running times change. My schedule fills up, so I find myself missing runs. I eat different foods at different times and get less rest than usual. I am less dedicated to my training schedule, so I feel tired and slow. All in all, my running usually suffers the first few weeks of the semester.

This year I’m determined to do better. Thanks to the advice of several normal job working friends, I’ve devised a plan. Here’s my plan for back to school transition success:

1. Make running dates. I’m planning ahead with my running, making running dates well in advance and scheduling them into my day’s events.

2. Buy healthy food in advance and bring my own lunch. If I have good food and have it with me at work, I will eat it and will actually eat, even if I’m at my desk when I do it.

3. Sneak in runs when I can. I’m going to experiment with the running lunch, or runch, this semester. There are days where I can get a good hour during the day and I am determined to put it to good use.

4. Sign up for a race. To keep on track, I’ve signed up for several early season races, and I will race them well. If I have a goal, I will keep myself accountable.

5. Accept runs that aren’t quite what I had hoped for. Part of my problem early in the school year is that I want to stick to my training plan, but won’t run if I know I can’t get in a target workout. This year I will accept the runs I can get. After all, 3 easy miles is better than nothing, even if it isn’t the track workout I had planned.

6. Stick to the routine. I’m guilty of scrapping my ancillary training like foam rolling and pre-hab when things get busy. This leads to more aches and pains and less running. I’m going to stay committed to my routine so I can stay healthy this season.

7. Be accountable. I’ve told everyone my plan. I’ve signed up for races with friends. And, now, I’m telling the world about my efforts to transition more successfully. I will be accountable to all of you to transition back to school with grace, ease, and lots of running.

This year, I will run back into the school year. Maybe it will help ease the back to school blues.

For those of you with normal, 40-hour a week jobs – how do you balance training and work? What advice would you give me for fitting it all in?

Big City, Big Running

This weekend I headed to New York City for some training (professional type training not running type training). Despite a rigorous schedule that had me indoors 9am to 10pm, I managed to get in a few workouts and a lot of city walking.

First, walking around the city is a workout in itself. Getting from one end of the city to the other takes a long time and inevitably involves lots of walking. And stairs. Stairs into the subway. Stairs from train to train. Stairs out of the subway. Then walking blocks and blocks. The city has everything you could ever want. Provided you want to walk there. Being in the city also skews one’s impression about how far is a long walk. At home, I wouldn’t walk two miles to get to a better sandwich shop if there were a sandwich shop right in front of me. Not in New York City. 20 blocks? We can walk that. 20 blocks to get to the diner we like better. Sure. I definitely got in my walking.

I also got in a great deal of NYC-style “trail running”. Part of what makes trail running great for injury prevention is the side to side motion and the unpredictable nature of the terrain. Walking in New York is great for this. Uneven sidewalks. Trash. Puddles. Scaffolding. Tourists (now, I know, technically, I’m a tourist, but I think there’s a difference between being not from the city and being a tourist). I walked around the city efficiently and definitely got a good workout for all those stabilizing muscles.

My first morning in the city, I went for a proper run. Despite high humidity, the threat of rain, and some serious pollution problems, I got out for a great run. I zipped down a few streets and hopped on the Greenway bike path near Lincoln Tunnel. The bike path is paved, smooth, and popular. Loads of runners and cyclists were zipping down the path. There were helpful crosswalk signs at many intersections and a few areas where plants had been planted. Of course, there was the usual New York assortment of trash, mysterious puddles, and homeless men. Nothing out of the ordinary. Overall, the path was a quite nice place to run. It was certainly much smoother and nicer than running on streets so I got in my miles much more efficiently.

Central Park Reservoir

Right before I left the city, I got in a great run in Central Park. I love Central Park and running through the park on a perfect day was wonderful! All in all, it was a great weekend in a fun city.

A Storm’s Brewing

Asthma sucks. If you’ve been reading you’ll know that I have asthma. Getting my lungs to cooperate with me is an ongoing battle that results in some pretty bad runs. But, there are good days and ok days and lots of other days in between the bad ones.

Sometimes, usually in the summer, I can just feel the asthma attack coming. I wake in the morning with a little hitch in my breathing. “Tight” is what my doctor calls it. Things just aren’t working right and I know that sooner or later it’s going to result in an episode of some pretty bad breathing. It happened this week on race day. I regularly run in a local cross country race. It’s a great race with lots of friends and a fun course. Unfortunately, it’s also plagued by some pretty wicked weather. On this particular race day I woke up breathing slowly. My lungs just weren’t as motivated for the day as I was. I took my usual morning meds and things didn’t improve. All day, I knew an asthma attack was coming. Maybe not a proper, full-on attack, but I could feel something building.

I had a decision to make. In the past, I’ve had good luck triggering a mild first attack to get it out of my system and then running later. Usually, I can get a little wheezy, recover, and then run well. I’ve never had a two-attack day. It’s a strategy I used a lot to perform well in races when I was younger. I didn’t really care about the outcome of this race. I wasn’t planning to race race – just have a good time with friends. And there I was, ready to trigger an attack to run well in a casual, local race. The whole thing suddenly seemed silly. If I didn’t care about my time and was only running for fun, why would I need to run well – and why would I trigger an asthma attack to do it? I decided to take my chances in the race.

While I was running, feeling worse and worse, I had the sudden realization that I do the little trigger an attack routine mostly so other people don’t see it and worry. Sometimes I really care how I do and I want to run well. Mostly, I want to avoid the concern/pity I get when I am clearly struggling to breathe. Any time I have an episode of bad breathing, people engage in the concern/pity questions – even people who’ve seen me had multiple attacks and who know I have asthma. Did you bring your inhaler? (No – I never do. Ever. Never have.) Are you going to be ok? (Yes. Always am.) Did I remember to pre-treat? (Of course) And, the worst one – Bad day for you, huh? Sigh. I get it. Asthma is distressing. But it is what it is. Sure, sometimes I imagine what it might be like to just run, with no 30-minute nebulizer routine, but that isn’t going to happen. Mostly, I just want people to accept my poor breathing with minimum distress – the same as we all accept that one really sweaty guy in every group run. It’s just his way. I have a little trouble breathing sometimes. That’s my way. It always passes. I appreciate the concern, but I’m really ok. Really.

Running Around the Beehive State

I love to travel, and, luckily, I get to do it a lot. I recently headed to Utah (the Beehive State) for a work meeting and got an opportunity to try some mountain fitness. Utah is a pretty cool state. I had been to Salt Lake City briefly (also check out my cool Temple pictures), but had only explored the city. This time, I stayed with a local friend and toured lots of Utah landmarks. Altitude training is no joke!

We got things off to a great start with a visit to a local gym for cycling. The Ultimate Peak Crossfit gym, owned by Coach Keena, is a great little spot. It offers a variety of classes and full triathlon training. My friend and I visited the cycling class, which included some drills, hill work, and even some interval running. Coach Keena was upbeat, and created a great workout.

Later that day, we went hiking near Sundance. The ground was dusty, but the sun was shining and the the breeze was soft. It was a gorgeous day for a hike. We went up to a waterfall and enjoyed the mountain views.

Sundance

 

 

Hey, That’s My Arm!

I love MarathonFoto. I am grateful to them and their camera crews for sitting on the sidelines of races in the heat, cold, snow, wind, and rain for hours just to captures pictures of runners who zip by without a thank you. I am grateful to those people who sit on a curb from 5am until well after noon just to snap some pictures. I am sure it’s a tough job. I certainly don’t want to do it. But, there’s one thing that the MarathonFoto photographers consistently do that drives me crazy – call it my race photo pet peeve if you will –  they cut obvious groups off in pictures.

I’ve now run several races as part of a couple or a group – and made it obvious I was part of a duo or a small group. Yet, in the vast majority of MarathonFoto pictures, they only capture part of the group. I don’t think it’s unclear that my comrades and I are together. We wear obviously matching costumes, hold hands, run extremely close together, etc. To no avail. MarathonFoto captures one and half of us. Every. Single. Time. I understand that runners are moving quickly and there are lots of us, but I’ve walked several races with mom where we were not only moving not zipping along at a 6-minute mile, but were also the only athletes around.

Take for example, this recent race with my mom. Completely matching outfits. Running side by side.

Half of mom

My mom has the same image as part of hers, but with just half of my arm in it. When we were looking at the images, I said, “Hey, that’s my arm”. My arm has a starring role in my mom’s race photos. It’s dark, so I give them credit on that one. However…

Mom's arm

Most of the time I don’t end up buying the images. The whole point of wearing matching outfits, holding hands, and doing a race together is to have pictures together – not a picture of my mom’s arm and me doing a race together.

Just for fun, here are a few more classics.

Half of AmyGreat shot of 35167 – too bad my whole friend (with whom I’m holding hands) didn’t make it. Close, though.

Mom's legAnd here’s me and my mom’s leg about to cross the finish line. Yay!

As funny as these shots are, wouldn’t it be nice to have ones with us both in them? I think so. Of course, until I pick up the camera myself, I can’t complain. It’s a tough job and someone has to do it – one and a half runners at a time.

Lions and Tigers and 8 Minute Miles

I rarely talk about pace here, mostly because it simply isn’t that important to me. Once upon a time I was much faster, but knee surgery happened and things are different now. Slowly and steadily, I’ve been working on my speed. I would love to get back to where I was pre-surgery, but that seems pretty far off sometimes. I’m older, living in a hillier climate, and, frankly, not in prime racing shape. But I’m getting faster. Lately, my biggest problem hasn’t been my speed. It’s been my brain.

8:20 used to be my long run pace. I love 8:20. It feels great. It’s easy and smooth and it’s my “happy pace”. I finally saw 8:20s in training last fall. Then, I hit 8:20s consistently in a half marathon. But every time I made it, I quickly lost it. It started with little tendrils of panic. I worried about being able to maintain the pace. Then, the voice in my head took over. In a matter of minutes, I went from running comfortably to full-on panic. I convinced myself that I couldn’t keep it up. I couldn’t run 8:20s for more than a mile no matter how easy it felt physically. No matter that I’d been running consistent 7s in my private training runs and hold it for a couple miles. Put me around people and I panicked.

Today, I ran a great local race. I set out with one goal – run below 8:20 average miles for the first 4.5 miles. Then, at the enormous hill at 4.6 miles, walk up the hill and ease my way to the finish line. The first mile started a little slow and that familiar feeling of panic set in. I prevailed over the voice in my head telling me I couldn’t and hit an 8:25 first mile. My second mile was 8:10. Going into the third mile I started to think. Physically, I felt great. I was easily running along, chatting off and on with a nice man near me. I was talking and running and feeling fine physically, but the mental part was a struggle. I spent the next mile trying to convince myself that if I could *talk* at an 8:20 pace I would be fine. And I was fine. I sailed through the third mile and into the fourth. I came upon some hills and ran them easily at 8:18. I made it to the foot of the big hill and could hardly believe it. My average pace was 8:22. Goal achieved, I eased my pace and floated to the finish line. I had broken the 8:30 barrier. Next up, a half marathon at 8:30 and a 5k in the 7s. Speedy former self, I’m coming for you.

Racing

Runner on the Road

Lately I’ve been traveling a lot. Some travel has been work and some has been personal, but I’ve been away from home a lot. I normally enjoy travel, but I think I’m reaching my travel limit. I’m reliant on my routine to get in my runs and to follow my nutrition plan. Those runs and meals are what keep me on track, organized, and sane. Without my precious fitness routine, things start to get off track. I’m doing my best to stick to my routine. I’ve been running and working out in all variety of hotel gyms. Some were excellent…

Marriott gym

And some were not. I’ve run in industrial areas, commercial office parks, and along residential streets. I have devised airport fitness routines and even do squats while I’m on breaks in meetings.

I have had amazing, delicious food in wonderful restaurants. I’ve partaken of many of my favorite treats, including fabulous barbecue at Jim N Nick’s in Atlanta.

Biscuit

All in all, it’s been fun. I’ve been lucky to make it home despite pretty difficult and snowy travel conditions.

Snowy airport

I’m home for a while and glad to be back in my own house. Today I’m back on my routine. I am headed to the gym to visit the treadmill tonight, and crossing my fingers spring comes quickly.

My Life on the Road

It’s been a crazy time – I’m writing this post while sitting in the tenth airport I’ve been in in the past three weeks.

It all started with my amazing whirlwind trip to all lands Disney for the Tinkerbell Half Marathon and the Disney Marathon Weekend. That vacation was quickly followed up with two work-related trips. I haven’t been home on a Monday in a while. It’s a crazy time and it’s been wreaking havoc on my usual diet and exercise routine.

First off, work trips usually involve lots of snacks, mostly of the unhealthy variety.

Treats

Airport travel practically requires my favorite Starbucks refresher…and maybe the occasional treat.

Strabucks

I’ve also been spending much more time in airports than anticipated thanks to winter weather.

Cancelations

Eating healthy on the road is a challenge. I’m adding extra lettuce and pickles to my burgers and substituting veggies for every side I get in a restaurant (though Southerners have a strange definition of what constitutes a vegetable…but the macaroni and cheese *was* good). As I sit here in the airport, surrounded by pretzels, candy, and bad Chinese food, I keep thinking about apples. I would love a nice, crisp apple. It will be the first thing I eat when I get home.

All this travel also means I’ve had to get creative with my workouts. In addition to squeezing in a run whenever I can, I’ve developed some new airport fitness tricks. Yes, I’m that crazy lady doing squats at the gate. Hi. My name is Rachel and I do body weight exercises in the airport lounge.

My favorite airport workout is my terminal power hike. While waiting for a flight, pace back and forth through the terminal at top speed. Each round, switch suitcase carrying arms to ensure an even shoulder workout. I can usually get several rounds in before the TSA gets suspicious and I have to change the routine. Just last week I walked for over and hour back and forth through a construction area at the Dallas airport. It isn’t pretty or high-intensity, but it’s something. I’ve also experimented with some airport intervals – run to flight, walk around slow people, stop at gate to learn gate changed, run to next gate, repeat.

I love to travel, but I think I’m ready for a few nights in my own bed and a few runs through my usual neighborhood. Just one more trip to go until that dream becomes a reality. Until then, it’s time to fly.

Fly

Fueled by Donuts

For those of you who know me in real life, it will come as no surprise that I’m blogging about donuts. I’ve struggled with a sensitive running stomach for years. I’ve visited the “facilities” in woods and behind trees across three states. No matter how much time I leave between eating and running, some things just make me sick. I generally run completely fasted first thing in the morning. If I plan an afternoon run, I have to be super careful about what I eat before running. This sensitivity has posed a problem because sometimes I just need to eat. I can’t always run fasted and I can’t always eat one of the very few things I know are safe (a certain type of granola bar, strawberries, applesauce – see, limited). So, over the past year or so I set out to test my stomach and find new foods and strategies so that I could actually eat and run.

There were a lot of disasters. I learned that I pretty much have to have about three hours after eating before running and there are some foods that are never safe (dairy), or only safe after a 24-hour waiting period (eggs – discovered in a very unfortunate testing effort). But, there are some odd exceptions. The most important exception is donuts.

Somewhere along the line, I thought that a donut hole might be a safe food and, worst case, wouldn’t be that much food sloshing around in my stomach. I ate my little donut hole and ran. I was totally fine. I tried two donut holes. Success. It was time to move on to a real donut. I ate a tasty Krispy Kreme in the middle of a race. That’s right – a whole donut, mid-race. I felt great! From then on, when in doubt, I’m fueled by donuts. I can eat donuts while running, before running, pretty much any time. Filled donuts are not as great at the regular old glazed donuts. I know it isn’t very cool, or even very healthy, but when I need fast fuel on the run, donuts are my pick.

Fueled by donuts