Tagged: fitness

The Slow Comeback

It’s time to rewind. A blog that used to be filled with stories of 20 milers, long trail runs, and 60 mile training weeks is going to look very different for a while.

Chemo is over. It’s time to run.

I have been “wogging” (I can’t honestly call this running) 4 miles most days of the week. My plan is to stay at 4 miles and increase the time I run until I’m running the entire distance.

Once again I’m reminded of how great “just” walking is. I walked as often as I could during chemo, but it wasn’t far because of the extreme fatigue. It’s taken me two full months to run half a mile without stopping, but all those weeks of walking have made me strong enough to even attempt it.

26.2 stickers

Yes, I’m one of THOSE runners with all the stickers. Hate me if you must.

Since I finished chemo I’ve been very impatient, expecting to get back into shape within a few weeks and pick up right where I left off. It’s not going to happen. This body was beaten down pretty hard and it’s taken longer than I thought it would to return to running.

I’m okay with that. There’s no hurry. Really. I’m happy just to be moving again. Right now I don’t feel that old urge to push myself further and further. Maybe it will return one day, but for now there’s no training spreadsheet or running log calling my name.

My  first goal is to run a mile without stopping. One mile seems like a million right now, but at least I’m halfway there. My next goal will be to run the full 4 miles of my daily distance, and within the next two months I hope to loop White Rock Lake (9 miles) with some walk breaks included.

Christmas Lights Run

Runners in our front yard for our annual Christmas Lights Run.

Though I feel stronger every time I run, it is very, very hard to come back from being sedentary for six months. And I wasn’t just sedentary, I was being poisoned two weeks out of three from chemo drugs.  It’s a serious understatement, but I’m glad that’s all over with.

One thing I noticed right off the bat when I first started running again was that I was keeping my old pace on my short run segments. I could only run for about a block before I was completely out of breath and wanted to die, but I wasn’t shuffling along. Alas, the brain remembers but the legs doth protest. It took me a few tries, but I finally figured out–just like when I first started running eight years ago–that I have to slow down to build up my distance and work on endurance first. Speed comes of its own accord.

Speaking of speed, my husband told me the other day that I have to start all over with my PR’s, as in “pre-cancer PRs” and “post-cancer PRs.” I cry foul! Nobody else has a cancer-imposed PR moratorium to deal with, so why should I? Husbands can be so irritating.

Christmas Lights Run

I walked, hence the jeans.

I almost always have marathon dreams a few weeks before a race. During those long months of chemo I inexplicably had recurring dreams of running in the snow. I could hear the crunch of the snow underfoot, feel the cold air on my face, and taste the overwhelming freedom of running. I have no idea why it was always snowing in those dreams, but I loved feeling that I could still run, if only in my dreams.

Now that we’re having an unusually cold winter here in north Texas (and I LOVE it), the snow has disappeared from my dreams, though I still have dreams of running effortlessly, breathing easily and without pain. Kind of like I used to.

I’m looking forward to running that way again, in real life. Soon. Very Soon.

Advertisements

All My Friends are Faster Than Me and That’s the Way I Like It

My friend Hari likes to aggravate me by telling others:  She used to be so fastI never really was that fast, and I haven’t really gotten that much slower either. He’s the one who finally caught up with — and now runs faster than — me.

I did qualify for and run Boston two years ago, I used to regularly place in my age group in local races, and I even won second place in my age group at the Borax Death Valley Marathon last year. My bright, shining star of speed seems to have fizzled out this past year and a half, but I’m okay with that. I’ve discovered my one true love, trail running, and no one seems to care as much about my speed out on the trails.

When I run with the group on Saturday mornings I’m always in the back of the pack. I generally like to keep a 9:30-9:45 pace on those 10 to 12 milers, mainly to save energy for the longer Sunday trail runs which can entail up to six hours of running 20 to 26 miles at a time.

On those Saturday runs with the group, the majority of my friends are way ahead of me, running in the 8:30-9:00 pace range. Apparently, a new study shows that running with people faster than yourself is a good thing.

Dallas Marathon 2012

I see a lot of the back of people’s shirts when I run.

My old Garmin used to have a Virtual Partner that I could run against. I never once used it the entire life of the watch. Maybe I should have.

I prefer to use my friends to keep me fast. Running with my friend Susan is always a race to the finish, especially on the trails. Though she’s only a few years younger, she’s much faster than I am, and much stronger. My friend Hari turned vegan, dropped some weight, and grew a pair of wings on his heels. I always knew it was just a matter of time before he would run me into the ground. And Bionic Liz, who has pins in her leg from a stress fracture that took her off the course in her first marathon attempt, can stay ahead of anyone by sheer force of will.

My friends are good for me.

Trail running, a challenging weekly hill route, running five days a week, cooler winter temperatures, and increasing my overall mileage have all helped me to get faster again without really trying. That’s exactly the way I like it. If I have to work too hard at something, it takes all the fun out of it.

And if it’s not fun, why bother?

50 Mile Training, Week 6: Winter and Summer in the Same Week

Dear Weather Gods:

I know I complain a lot about the running weather here in Dallas, especially in the summer. But remember when I sacrificed my new pair of $100 sunglasses in St George and you gave me perfect weather and a Boston qualifying finish time? Well, this Saturday I dropped my brand new $70 sunglasses, got a scratch on them, and the next day you punished me with summer temperatures and high humidity. Have you failed to notice that IT’S DECEMBER??? Can’t you take pity and cut me a break on at least one of my 20 mile trail runs, especially when it’s supposed to be one of the best two running months of the year in Texas? Obviously my sacrifice wasn’t large enough.

Signed,

A Very Frustrated Texas Runner

Tifosi Photochromatic Sunglasses

My tarnished beauties

MON: Yoga25:00 – Quads are pretty sore from the weekend runs, so I did a vigorous power yoga sequence (stamina). It felt great, and the power yoga seems to be helping to facilitate a lot more flexibility in my legs and making my core even stronger.

TUE: Run 6.37 mi, Yoga – 25:00 – Great run with Liz at the lake this morning incorporating the hilly path on the east side. It was overcast, breezy, and cold — just how I like it for running. Quads are still a little sore, but we kept a brisk pace nevertheless. I tried a new power yoga sequence in the evening (strength) that kicked my butt. It was nothing but sun salutations and arm poses, over and over. I can definitely tell the effects of the more strenuous yoga, in a good way, especially in my spine, back, shoulders, hamstrings, and Achilles tendons.

WED: Hill Run  – 9.01 mi, Yoga – 20:00 – GREAT run with Liz this morning. Cold at the start (39 degrees) and hills, hills, and more hills. My legs felt great, the cold weather was invigorating, and the variety in the route kept it fun. The only downside was the heavy morning traffic on some of the busier roads. It was one of those great morning runs where you feel like you could keep running forever and reminds you why you love running so much. Legs were feeling a little achy from the hills, so I did some forward bends in the afternoon to loosen up.

THU: Run7.05 mi – An absolutely gorgeous morning greeted us on this sad day of laying our good running friend, Bob Philpot, to rest later in the day. Liz met me at my house for a run over to the Katy Trail, and though I am sad and wistful at knowing Bob won’t ever get to run on a beautiful morning like today, I’m happy knowing how much joy days like today brought to his life. Selfishly, I’m happy for myself because I was fortunate enough to cross paths with him and spend time in the pleasure of his running company. It’s hard to lose the good guys, but it isn’t a cliche to say that the world was left a better place because of the years Bob spent here with us. His memorial service later in the day was the most moving Celebration of Life I’ve ever attended, complete with Bob’s favorite music: Willie Nelson, Leon Russell, and Neil Young. It was standing room only and not a dry eye in the place. What a guy!

FRI: Rest Day – An entire day off. Wanted to do yoga but just never found the time.

SAT: Run 9.06 mi – Another great run, even though the weather was unbelievably warm and humid for the first day of December (at 7AM: 66 deg and 90% humidity). Since it was the last Saturday run before the Dallas Marathon next weekend, we had a huge turnout. The pace was easy, the conversation was stimulating, and the distance just right. It was really fun to see everyone in top form for their marathons next weekend, and being reminded that proper tapering really works.

Rowlett Creek Preserve, TX

A steamy December sunrise over Rowlett Creek Preserve

SUN: Trail Run, Rowlett Creek Preserve – 20 mi – 69 degrees at 7:30AM and 81% humidity. 82 degrees at the finish and sunny. MIS-ER-A-BLE. Yesterday I was patient. Today I struggled. It was, however, still a great run. When we ran Rowlett Creek this past summer we all stumbled, tripped, and fell on the roots and stumps. Today it was like a completely different trail. My trail form has drastically improved these past six months, and except for one near-death slide down a steeply sloped embankment while walking (thanks for grabbing me, Hari!), I didn’t fall once. We kept the pace very slow and easy, trying to simulate how we will run for the 50 mile race, and my legs felt great. I could easily have run at least another 10 miles. Starting around mile 14, though, my stomach became very uncooperative — which was no fun at all. Maybe it was the heat, or the meds I’ve been taking for the cough, or the energy chews and GU, or all of the above, but it wasn’t a fun way to finish off a great day of running.

The trails at Rowlett are supremely confusing to both me and Hari, and we literally ran around in circles all morning, never figuring out how to reach loops 11-14. A very friendly mountain biker took pity and stopped multiple times to help us out, admitting that the signs need to be updated, but we figured it didn’t really matter where we ran as long as we got in our mileage. We just kept following trails, happy in our clueless circling. We saw the biker again in the parking lot after our run and had a good discussion with him about the local wildlife. Apparently there are lots of coyotes, owls, bobcats, rabbits, and armadillos out there, and he was very adamant about the number of copper head snakes there in the summer, much to Hari’s chagrin. I hope I can get Hari to go back out there into the wilds of Rowlett because I really like those trails, snakes and all.

Rowlett Creek Nature Preserve, TX

I took a photo of Hari on his way to the Port-a-Potty before the run (a frequent occurrence), but karma punished me for it at miles 14-20.

STATS for WEEK 6: Run – 51.5 miles, Yoga – 1:15:00

And Here I Thought I Was Saving My Life

Last year, after running my sixth marathon — in Death Valley of all places — my doctor gave me a sobering look during my annual physical and asked how many more marathons I planned on running. I told him maybe a few more and he proceeded to tell me about a study he had recently read that was undertaken by a doctor and his son, both marathon runners. They loved running and wanted to study how running a marathon effected runners’ hearts.

They were surprised by their findings. Apparently, at least in the people they studied, in the days following a marathon the runners’ hearts showed just as much damage as if they had suffered a heart attack. Sobering findings indeed. Even worse, people who had run ten or more marathons showed increased blockage and calcification in their arteries. My doctor, who has known me for 22 years, quietly told me he hoped I wasn’t planning on running that many marathons.

I laughed and agreed. I had, after all, just run 26.2 miles in Death Valley! In the back of my mind, however, I was rolling my eyes and thinking there was no way running could be bad for you. Data can be manipulated.

Bold in the Cold 2012

At one of the few races I ran this year, Bold in the Cold, with my friend, Hari.

Today a friend posted a link to an article in The Wall Street Journal about two new studies on the effects of running, especially in older athletes.  The news is, once again, not very good. Here’s the part that stood out the most to me:

What the new research suggests is that the benefits of running may come to a hard stop later in life. In a study involving 52,600 people followed for three decades, the runners in the group had a 19% lower death rate than nonrunners, according to the Heart editorial. But among the running cohort, those who ran a lot—more than 20 to 25 miles a week—lost that mortality advantage.

It’s that last sentence, emphasized by me, that makes me cringe. In my circle of running friends, 20 to 25 miles a week is small potatoes. Especially now that I’m training for a 50 mile race in nine weeks, and regularly hit weekly mileage of 50-60 miles, I often run 20 to 25 miles in one run.

This sentence from the article calmed me down somewhat:

Meanwhile, according to the Heart editorial, another large study found no mortality benefit for those who ran faster than 8 miles per hour, while those who ran slower reaped significant mortality benefits.

It would take about a 7:30 minute pace to run 8 miles per hour, and I’m far from ever achieving that pace for longer than, oh, ten seconds, maybe? I’m a solid middle of the pack runner. I like an occasional good, fast tempo run, or a race where everything comes together and I surprise myself with a faster than expected pace, but I don’t train for speed. If it’s a byproduct of hills and distance, all the better, but it’s just not that important to me anymore. I guess I’m starting to mellow in my old age.

I’m all about distance. Nothing makes me happier than spending a few hours on a Saturday morning running a 20 mile route around the city with my friends. Even better, spending five or six hours on a trail, pushing just hard enough to enjoy the experience and still have enough energy to make it back to the car and the drive home, is what fills me with the deepest sense of accomplishment I’ve ever known. Nothing else in my life has ever made me feel as satisfied with myself as running.

Palo Duro Trail Run 2012

At the Palo Duro 50K Trail Run last month.

I like to think I run intuitively and listen to my body. I’m pretty good about taking rest days and not being a slave to the training plan. I don’t race half as much as others I run with, and I don’t push myself as hard either, especially on long runs.

It seems like common sense that running really hard, day in and day out, over fairly long distances, will eventually wear out your heart faster than if you did nothing but sit on the couch. Moderation is the key. Maybe speed is the culprit, and the studies don’t give us all the variables.

I have a deep down feeling that our bodies were made to run. The only thing more natural than running would be walking, something I plan on doing more of when I get much older. And I don’t intuitively feel that running long distances, at a comfortable, conversational speed, can really be the same — or worse than — doing nothing at all. Someone will need to show me the data on that to make me a believer.

For me, at this point in time, I’m in the best shape of my life. It took me 52 years to get here, and nothing beats the feeling of power and strength I’ve gained from running these past seven years. I love being able to go out for a 10 mile run on a cold autumn morning and have it feel easy. I feel energized the rest of the day, it keeps me in a great mood, and I sleep better and deeper than when I’m not running.

But, honestly, if I had to, I could be happy with 20 to 25 miles a week. If someone could prove to me that I would be able to have an extra five or ten years of running if I cut my current mileage in half, and have the same physical and psychological benefits I garner with 50 mile weeks, I could do it.

Because that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Being healthy and staying alive, and being able to appreciate the gift of running — even if it’s “only” 25 miles per week.

Besides, we all know that anything done to excess can be bad for you, and that includes something as healthy as running. Just keep it simple, and listen to your heart.

Here’s a great rebuttal published by Runner’s World on the studies mentioned.

50 Mile Training, Week 5: A Week of Thanks and Losing a Friend

Thanksgiving week wasn’t a very eventful running week, and the battle of the cough continued, culminating in a visit to the doctor and a new round of medicine. I enjoyed doing other things, like resting, eating, relaxing, more eating, and catching up on some knitting and reading. Sadly, a running friend came to the end of his life on Thanksgiving evening, and it cast a shadow of sadness over this week of giving thanks.

Dallas Turkey Trot Start Line 2012

A sea of runners at the Dallas Turkey Trot 2012 Start Line.

MON: Rest Day – Took a full day of rest. With asthma and coughing, didn’t even feel like doing any yoga. I’m thankful it’s a rest day.

TUE: Run – 6 mi, Yoga – 20:00 – Met Liz at the lake for what felt like a fairly fast run. Kept a 9:11 pace, which is awesome for Liz considering she ran 22 on Sunday. Asthma kept me up most of the night again, and made the run seem pretty tough. Called the doctor to see if he could fit me in today or tomorrow. Did some power yoga (flexibility) to round out the morning. Today I’m thankful that I was able to keep a fairly decent pace despite struggling with asthma.

WED: Rest Day (Sick)  – Managed to get in to see the doctor this morning, who says he suspects the upper respiratory infection I had eight weeks ago didn’t completely go away and is aggravating my asthma. He prescribed another round of an antibiotic, Prednisone tablets to clear up the asthma, a shot of cortisone and a breathing treatment, and prescribed cough syrup with codeine so I can get some sleep. Going to the doctor’s office, then getting prescriptions filled, was an all-day endeavor. He also told me to lay off the running until Monday, then he said I could run “a little,” but that I had to take my inhaler with me if I did run. Today I’m thankful for doctors and medicine.

Dallas Turkey Trot 2012

Giving thanks before the race.

THU: Rest Day (Sick) – Thanksgiving! Feeling antsy and wanting to run. Decided to sleep in and rest instead of hanging out at the Turkey Trot this year. Dallas has the largest Thanksgiving Day run in the country, but I don’t like crowds, so the only thing I missed was drinking beer with old friends in the cemetery afterwards. Today I’m thankful for friends, family, good food, and the beautiful rainbow that graced our sky after dinner.

FRI: Rest Day (Sick) – Really wanted to sneak off for a short run this morning, but decided to be good and take another day off. Woke up to news that a running friend passed away yesterday evening from his battle with lung cancer. We logged a lot of miles together when we paced and coached together for the Dallas Running Club, and especially when I was training for Boston two years ago. He was a great guy and will be missed by all. Running bonds people together in ways that can’t easily be explained, and we will all feel his loss for a long time. Today I’m thankful that I had the privilege of running with Bob Philpot.

SAT: Run – 16 mi – I decided to meet the group for our usual Saturday morning long run, but wasn’t sure how far I would actually run. Taking liberties with the doctor’s saying I could run “a little,” and knowing he has no idea how far “a little” could be interpreted when you log 50+ miles per week, meaning distance is relative (in my mind, at least), I went ahead and ran the full 16 miles. I just hate not making my mileage for the week. My legs felt nice and rested, and we kept a good pace. It was absolutely perfect weather for a run, 38 degrees at the start and not a cloud in the sky. My breathing was okay during the run, though my asthma immediately kicked in on the drive home. Today I’m thankful for asthma inhalers and friends to run with.

SUN: Trail Run, Grapevine – 8.76 mi, Yoga – 20:00 – For the first time in over a week, got a complete night’s sleep. This is good, considering I broke doctor’s orders and did that 16 mile run yesterday! My quads were pretty sore today, however, whether from three days of rest or the Prednisone, so I decided to call it quits after the first loop. Susan and Hari continued on to the other side of the lake towards at least another 10-12 miles of trail running. It was a gorgeous fall day for a trail run, with temps in the 40’s, and we got to see both the sunrise and three deer. It was strange to pull into the driveway before 10:00, but nice all the same. Did some power yoga (flexibility) to try and stretch out the sore quads so I can jump back into the training plan next week with strong legs. Today I’m thankful for trails, beautiful fall weather, and cool temperatures in North Texas.

Dallas Turkey Trot 2012

That uphill finish is always puke-worthy.

Interspersed with all the thankfulness is sadness. I fought tears all week and am reminded how fragile life truly is. Here’s to good friends and all the miles and smiles in between. Rest in peace, Bob.

Philpot, Bob Robert W. Philpot, Jr. (BOB), November 22, Bob passed peacefully in his sleep at home after a long, courageous battle with cancer. He is survived by his wife of 32 years, Elaine Philpot, son, Ryan Philpot and wife Morgan, daughter, Chelsea Philpot, and his five beautiful grandchildren, his mother, Beverly Philpot, and siblings Lynn Pueschel and Steve Philpot. Bob cherished the times with his family, watching anything sports related, but his biggest passion was running. He ran many marathons, and loved spending time with his running family. Bob will be thoroughly missed by all; he was one of those good guys that everyone loved to be around.

STATS for WEEK 5: Run – 30.8 miles, Yoga – 40:00

50 Mile Training, Week 4: Good Timing for an Easy Week

When training for the 50K, we adopted alternating hard and easy weeks of training to slowly assimilate to the higher mileage. For our upcoming 50 mile race we decided to build on our base and try two hard weeks followed by one easy week of training. Since the first week of training was really a recovery week from the 50K race, this was our first official easy week. The timing was good for me, since it also signaled the return of sleepless nights from asthma and coughing, both of which plagued me the last month of training for the 50K.

MON: Yoga (40:00) – Standing poses and forward bends. Legs felt good after the 31 mile back-to-backs, but even better after some morning yoga. Temp was 38 degrees this morning and I was sad that I missed out on running in the cold weather. Can’t wait until tomorrow morning’s run!

TUE: Run – 6.1 mi, Yoga (20:00) – Had a good pace run this morning with Liz at the lake. It was gloriously cool weather. Quads were a little tight after the two weekend long runs, but we kept a 9:09 pace with the last two miles at sub 9’s. Power yoga (stamina) afterwards to loosen up.

WED: Run – 9 mi, Yoga (25:00)  – Ran a loop around the lake with Liz this morning. The temperatures were perfect for running: 45 degrees at the start, 54 at the end. Legs felt great, and I had to keep slowing our pace since I wanted to save some energy for tomorrow’s hill run with Hari. Did some power yoga afterwards (flexibility).

THU: Run – 11 mi, Yoga (20:00) – Introduced Hari to Susan’s hill run this morning, and inadvertently ran an extra mile when I missed a turn. It was perfect weather for a run, and for the first time I managed to make it to the top of every single hill without having to stop and walk. It was a great run, and we saw three coyotes standing in the middle of the road about half a mile from the house. There is something so satisfying about running hills and knowing you have the strength to make it to the top of steep hills from your own power. I may feel like puking when I get to the top, but it’s a well-earned feeling! Finished off with a somewhat challenging core cross training sequence of yoga poses.

White Rock Lake and Downtown Dallas

FRI: Rest Day – Definitely grateful for a rest day after three great days of running. My asthma and coughing have made a return visit, however, which kept me up in the middle of the night. Not happy about this at all.

SAT: Sick Day – Since this is an easy week, and my midweek mileage was a little higher than I had originally planned on anyway, decided to take today completely off and get some rest. Coughing kept me up in the middle of the night again last night, so I will rest up for tomorrow’s trail run.

SUN: Trail Run, Oak Cliff Nature Preserve – 10 mi – After another night of interrupted sleep from coughing, I was happy that we decided to take advantage of the cooler temps and start our run a little later than usual at 9:00am. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect, with a starting temp around 57 degrees and overcast skies. I found the trails at the Oak Cliff Nature Preserve last summer to be quite hilly, but today I felt strong even with the asthma. Susan kept us going at a blistering pace, even after her 22 miler the day before. These are some great trails and I look forward to coming back soon.

Even though I was feeling under the weather and wasn’t looking forward to the run like I usually do, once I started running I was quickly able to lose myself in the trails and go with the incredible feeling of freedom that I always feel when I run trails. Even in a very small forest, concentrating on running over rocks, roots, and fall leaves, I can forget for a few hours that I’m surrounded by crime, traffic, and a bustling city that’s never really felt like home.

STATS for WEEK 4: Run – 36 miles, Yoga – 1:55:00

50 Mile Training, Week 3: Settling Back Into a Pattern

I’ve definitely hit the ground running in preparation for February’s 50-mile race. There’s no time to waste! I had some great runs this week, and for the first time we switched our weekend back-to-back long runs and did the longer one on Saturday rather than Sunday (so that Liz, who is training for the Dallas Marathon, would have some company on her 19-miler). This week also saw me giving Susan’s grueling hill run another go. I survived.

MON: Yoga (25:00) – After running 17 miles on Saturday, and 15 yesterday, my body’s not feeling as beat up as I thought it would. Did an easy yoga sequence to gently strengthen some tight leg muscles. Rest days are always nice.

TUE: Run – 4.17 mi, Yoga (20:00) – Met Bill and Marcus at 5:15AM for an easy run on the Katy Trail. Perfect temp in the upper 40’s. I haven’t gotten up at 4:30AM for a run in quite a while, and was grumpy about it last night, but I enjoyed the run. My quads were still a little sore from the weekend runs, so I did some upper body poses to give them some extra rest.

WED: Run – 10 mi, Yoga (25:00)  – Slept in a little because of staying up late to watch the election returns (even though I actually fell asleep on the couch at 10:30pm and missed the speeches), and met Susan at 8:30 for her infamous hill run. It is truly the most grueling route I’ve ever run, full of steep hills, long hills — hills, hills, and more hills. Great training, but it makes me feel like a complete wimp. Easy yoga afterwards.

THU: Run – 7 mi, Yoga (20:00) – Met Liz for a windy, surprisingly tough “easy” recovery run. As opposed to the first time I ran Susan’s hill run, my legs were not sore at all the day after, but they did feel a little dead on today’s run. Liz and I struggled to keep from speeding up, even though neither of us really wanted to run as fast as we did. Did some forward bends afterwards. Looking forward to a rest day.

FRI: Rest Day – Was going to do some yoga, then decided I really didn’t feel like it. My legs felt like they could use an entire day off, so I didn’t do anything athletic. It was nice!

SAT: Run – 19 mi – Good run with the WRRC in windy, warm, humid conditions. 65 degrees at the 6AM start, with a cold front supposedly blowing in sometime tomorrow. The new route took us through East Dallas, University Park, and Highland Park. It was a nice change and we kept the pace easy and comfortable. Wanted to only run 11 or 13 miles, but with the possibility of rain tonight/tomorrow morning, and muddy trails and lightning, decided to go ahead and bank some mileage in case we can’t get in our trail run. We also didn’t want Liz to have to run 19 miles all by herself. That’s how we roll.

Since we didn’t get in our trail run last Sunday, I’m getting antsy to hit the trails again.

SUN: Trail Run – 12 mi – The rain and cold front weren’t expected to show up until later in the day, so Hari, Susan, and I met up with Luke’s and TREX to run trails at Grapevine. It was nice to see old friends who’ve made the transition to trail running. It was not the best weather: 72 degrees and 71% humidity at the start, 76 degrees at the finish. It was also windy, but at least it kept us cooled off. I had to keep telling myself we would have killed for a day like this in August, but now that we’re not used to the high humidity it made for a tough run. Stubbed my toe on something, somehow lost my balance and landed on my hip, and fell up against a small tree, with just a slightly scraped leg. I have no idea what took me down, but the trail is covered with leaves now and it was to be expected. No big deal.

This is the first time we’ve ever done our longest run on a Saturday on road, followed by a shorter long run on trail. In preparing for the 50K it was always the other way around. We all preferred the other way, with 10-12 on road followed by a longer trail run the next day.

My first 4 miles today were crummy. I felt light-headed, groggy, and stiff. After a short break at Rockledge and a GU, the next 4 miles were great. I felt loose and limber and in the zone, even after I fell. The last 4 were just okay, and we were all glad when we reached 12 miles. I’m always amazed at how my run changes from hour to hour on the trails.

Within ten minutes of finishing our run, with dark skies barreling towards us from the north, a gust of cold air stirred up the dirt and the cold front had officially arrived. It was kind of awesome to be right on the edge of the front. We are all looking forward to a week of perfect running weather!

STATS for WEEK 3: Run – 52.2 miles, Yoga – 1:30:00

Give It a Rest

People are attracted to running for various reasons: they want to lose weight, they want to live healthier lives, it’s cheaper than a gym membership, you don’t need a lot of gear, they enjoyed running when they were kids, or they want to run a marathon before they reach a certain age. People who continue running, past the 5K’s, 10K’s, and half marathons, those who run longer distances and think nothing of going out for a Saturday 20 miler, are a particular breed of crazy.

Those are my people.

We have no problem pushing ourselves to run longer and longer distances, and then test our training in a race. We’re goal oriented and enjoy making plans. It’s our days off, when we should be giving our legs a rest, that we struggle with.

Today is a rest day. I have two scheduled each week, Mondays and Fridays. After giving everything I’ve got on the five days I run each week, I always look forward to the rest days.

It’s the unscheduled rest days that I struggle with the most. I suspect that’s true for most runners.

I run with a group of very experienced, serious runners. They train hard and race to PR. Many of them win races and place in their age groups. Every single one of them could write a book about how to train for a marathon and what not to do to get to the start line uninjured and ready for your best performance.

That doesn’t mean we follow our own advice.

DRC Half 2012

Last Saturday at breakfast after our long run, my friend Kurt made the statement that runners are bad about doing two things: not resting enough and racing too often.

I actually think I’m pretty good on both fronts — but that doesn’t mean I don’t worry about it. I’m one of those strange birds who likes training more than racing. There is nothing like having a great race, where everything comes together — weather, training, nutrition, energy, course, mind — and you feel great from start to finish and pull off a PR. But I’ve had some pretty lousy races, too, and I struggle with getting past all the uncontrollable variables and still enjoying the race.

I’m in awe of people who race every weekend. I just don’t feel that urge. I like having two or three goal races per year and building up to and looking forward to that day. I like longer distances, and they take longer to train for. And I’m certainly not winning any races these days, so I don’t have the incentive of being first across the line each weekend to spur me on. The older I get, the less I care about speed and more about endurance and strength.

I used to love getting medals, but now they just sit on the wall in the back bedroom, pretty much forgotten and not all that important anymore. It’s rare to get a race t-shirt that’s made for a woman, so that’s never been a big draw. Now I’m all about the experience itself being the reward.

DRC Half 2012

As for rest, I think I’m pretty good about listening to my body and taking a day off when I need to — even though I hate missing a run on the training plan. And I rarely take a complete rest day. I usually do yoga, which seems to give my legs the rest they need but also works out some of the kinks from the week’s training and loosens them up for the weekend long runs.

However, I was surprised at how frustrated I felt when I ran my first 50K a few weeks ago and had to take more rest days than any of my other friends who ran it. This is where age comes to play. It just seems to take me longer to recover these days. When yoga doesn’t help, I know it’s time to back off and give myself a complete rest day.

Post-race, except for the quads, I felt great. I was still floating on my happy cloud of accomplishment a week afterwards, and I wanted to run, dammit! My quads had other ideas, though, and every time I ran more than a few miles they tightened up and let me know I needed to be smart.  A week later they finally felt good enough for a trail run, only I never seemed to warm up and felt fatigued and grumpy the entire run. This was another signal I needed to listen to: recovery takes time, and the body knows better than the mind.

So I backed off and lowered my mileage, and within a week I was back to normal. Lesson: rest is good, and recovery takes time.

DRC Half 2012

We’ve all known people who didn’t give themselves enough time to recover and wound up battling one injury after another. We’ve probably done it ourselves. When you truly love running, and have your next race planned before you cross the finish line, it’s hard to not keep pushing yourself.

Just don’t forget to sometimes give it a rest.

50 Mile Training, Week 2: Jumping Back In, Feet First

I was worried about jumping back into training so quickly after the 50K, but after this week I feel like I gave myself just enough rest to let my quads fully recover from the stress of the trail race. These past two weeks have been a good balance of running, yoga, and rest, and I did two back-to-back long runs this weekend–on roads–that reminded me how much easier long trail runs are on the legs than long road runs.

MON: Yoga (40:00)- After yesterday’s trail run where my legs felt dead, I decided to concentrate on the hips and back for today’s yoga and stress the quads as little as possible.

TUE: Run – 4 mi, Yoga (20:00) – Ran with Liz this morning, and enjoyed starting at 8:00 rather than the usual 6:00am. I love morning temps in the upper 40’s. It was a good run, and my quads felt just a little tight, but not sore at all.

Had lunch with a friend of my daughter’s from middle school/high school who is running her first half marathon on Sunday. Hari and I are planning on running with her through the toughest part of the race, up through the hills. It’s invigorating to spend time with someone who’s new to running and is so excited about the progress she’s made. Her plan is to run the Dallas Marathon in 2013, which gives her a year to build a good, solid base. Her enthusiasm is infectious and makes me excited about my own next race. Did some power yoga in the evening.

DRC Half 2012

Kathleen, me, and Hari

WED: Run – 9.65 mi, Yoga (20:00)  – Awesome run this morning at 6:00am with Hari around White Rock Lake (with the hilly path and Bathhouse hill thrown in). Temperature was perfect (56 deg), kept a 9:12 pace (negative splits with the last three miles sub 9:00’s), and got to see an incredible sunrise.

There’s something about running in the predawn hours that I’ve grown to love. You would think this avowed night owl would hate getting up at 5:15am and running in the dark, and I can’t say that I always love it, especially in the hot, sticky summer, but I love the quiet peacefulness of moving along the edge of the lake as things start to awaken around me. It was a perfect start to my day today. Tried a new  yoga DVD at home afterwards (lower body) that was surprisingly challenging.

THU: Run – 5.23 mi – Had to run alone this morning in the neighborhood with Nevada. Tried to run as hilly of a route as I could. Amazing how 64 degrees now feels warm. Oh how quickly we soften up! Nevada had a major cat surge and two squirrel surges after that, and I remember why I hate running with her in the fall. Discovered I did something to my neck during yoga yesterday because it feels stiff and a little sore.

FRI: Yoga (40:00) – Running rest day, so I did some standing poses and hip openers. Michael massaged my neck yesterday, but my neck and shoulder have been killing me all day. This may be my first yoga injury!

SAT: Run – 17 mi, Yoga – 20:00 – Ran with the group and stayed with Liz for 17 easy miles. Grumpy at first that it was 68 degrees at the start, but then thought about how much cooler it is than our summer temps. Felt great on the 17 miler, all the way up to the finish, even though the route took us on the Santa Fe Trail. Time to make my peace with the SFT and acknowledge that it’s not as bad as it was two summers ago when I was less fit and the temps were in the 90’s every time we ran on it. I was worried about my sore neck being a problem during the run, but it actually felt much better today. Finished off the morning with some easy yoga.

SUN: Run – 16 mi – Rather than do our usual Sunday trail run, Hari and I paced my daughter’s friend, Kathleen, in her first half marathon. Hari wanted to run two warmup miles before the DRC Half, then we jumped in to run with Kathleen. She did great, especially on the hills, and finished strong despite a bum knee and some pain in her foot. It was great to see so many friends out on the course. After yesterday’s 17 miler, and today’s 16 miles on the road, my legs really feel the effects of hours of pounding on concrete and asphalt. I really missed my trail run this week!

DRC Half 2012

Running up the hill at Sperry

I really love how running unites us all. It reaches across races, sexes, economic levels, age differences, and ability levels. It’s been great mentoring Kathleen as she prepared for her very first half marathon, and to share the experience of the race with her. Who would have thought, when she was 16 and getting into trouble with my daughter, that she would grow up and ask for my help with her running?

STATS for WEEK 2: Run – 51.9 miles, Yoga – 2:20:00

50M Training, Week 1: Recovery Week from Palo Duro 50K

The first few days after a long distance race are nice. You can sit back and revel in your accomplishment, bask in the happy afterglow of a job well done, and reward yourself with rest, good food, and memories of the event. Then by the end of the week you may start to feel the urge to get outdoors and run again. At least, that’s how it usually goes for me.

I generally seem to be able to run a few miles by Wednesday or Thursday after a marathon, and by Saturday I’m good to go for a longer distance. This time, after running a 50K for the first time, the recovery time has definitely been longer. My quads took the brunt of the race and they have not been bouncing back as quickly as I expected. Patience is not always one of my strengths, so giving them the time they need to recover has been a challenging lesson.

MON: Rest Day – Quads are very sore from Saturday’s 50K race in Palo Duro Canyon, though they feel better than after any marathon I’ve run. Going to enjoy my day of sloth and do nothing athletic.

TUE: Walk – 2 mi, Yoga (20:00) – Legs felt much better today, though the quads are still sore. Did some yoga in the late afternoon (hip openers), then took Nevada for a 2 mile walk, hoping to run most of it. Ha! I couldn’t even run a block! The quads definitely need another day of rest. On another note, I can’t help but wonder why it’s so warm and humid when it’s the end of October??? Oh, right, we live in Texas.

WED: Yoga (20:00)  – Quads felt even better this morning, so I started the day with some easy yoga but decided to put off running for another day.

THU: Rest Day – Decided to take a complete rest day and do nothing athletic. My quads are taking longer to recover than I expected. Even though my legs feel better than after a marathon, the soreness in my quads seems to go deeper than usual–if that makes sense.

FRI: Run – 3.1 mi, Yoga (20:00) – Met Todd at 6:00am for an easy 3 mile run at the lake. I’m amazed that my quads are still sore. I was able to run, and keep an easy pace, but I’m not where I expected to be six days after the race. This has definitely been the most recovery I’ve ever needed after a race, which I guess is only fitting since it’s also my longest distance. I think my age is also showing, because Hari has already been running for days, but it could also partly be due to the two weeks of no running just before the race. This is a good reminder that I need to do more squats, lunges, and strength training to get in shape for the 50 miler. On a brighter note, loving the cold front that blew in last night and the 49 degrees for our run this morning.

SAT: Run – 4 mi – Quads are slowly coming back. Susan and Hari met at my house at 6:30 and we ran to the top of the Katy Trail for the 13.1 Marathon WRRC water stop. It was cold! I ran with my down jacket tied around my waist and my water backpack (sans water) stuffed with extra gloves and track pants. Toes and fingers were freezing all morning. After the race, we de-layered and ran back down the Katy Trail and across Knox/Henderson to the house. We must have looked like we were coming back from an arctic expedition.

Erwin Park, McKinney Run

Susan and Me at Erwin Park, photo by Hari Garimella

SUN: Trail Run – 8.25 mi – Ran at Erwin Park in McKinney with Susan and Hari. Started at 7:30am with frost on the ground. The temperature and weather couldn’t have been more perfect. THIS is what we dreamed of all summer when it was in the upper 90’s with 80% humidity. Despite the great weather and nice trails, I felt sleepy and my quads were still stiff and sore. I looked forward to trail running all week, so it was disappointing to feel so sluggish. Overall, I just felt tired. Maybe it’s residual tiredness from the 50K a week ago, or three days straight of getting up early and not getting enough sleep, or the music from the party across the alley–or a combination of all of the above. Whatever the reason, I was happy to only run 8.25 miles. Sadly, my happy afterglow from the race seems to have finally worn off. Back to a new training plan and life in general.

STATS for WEEK 1: Run – 15.2 miles, Walk – 2 miles, Yoga – 1:00:00