In Search Of The Sylvan Trail...

After this morning's sucky run, I most definitely need to recharge my batteries. Was supposed to have been a five mile tempo run at 10:08 pace. The first three miles or so weren't too bad, but those last couple...

Leaving for New Mexico tomorrow. Here's hoping I find the elusive 'sylvan trail,' while I'm there.


Passive Recovery...

Despite having a 10 mile long run on the schedule for this morning, I did something I rarely do--even on the weekends. I slept. And then I slept some more. If it wasn't for the cat walking around my head at around 9am looking for breakfast, I'd probably still be there. Let's just say, it was was a very long week.

I did come to once or twice at key times--about 5:15am (which is the time I'm usually heading out the door to beat the heat), again at about 6:30am (still not too late to get my long run in before the heat), and again at about 8:15 (I'm pushing it now, but it might still be under 80 degrees. Is that cool breeze I feel coming through the window? Or is it just the ceiling fan above the bed going full tilt?) By 9am it was a lost cause.

I've been giving a great deal of thought lately to recovery. So essential, but so hard to commit to. I'm feeling the guilt of a slacker even now as I type. I'm also playing out various scenarios in my head on how to get that long run in Sunday morning and still make it to my regular yoga class. That pushes my regular Sunday morning bike workout to when? Saturday night? If it's like last night, it was still 95 degrees at 8pm. Oy.

A recent article in "Triathlete" magazine by Melanie McQuaid entitled "Knowing Your Limits" did a great job of identifying the various types of recovery modalities used by runners (or in this case, those masochists called triathletes) including massage, heat/cold hydrotherapy, and the old standby, NSAIDS. Also mentioned were what she referred to as 'old school' modalities including stretching, more sleep, active recovery, and nutrition. The irony though is that even when any or all of these modalities are used, there's just no way to know whether recovery has in fact occurred. Sure you might feel better the next day or during the next workout, but you are always walking a fine line between improved fitness and overtraining. Her advice: Follow a sensible training plan--and don't do more than is called for, even if you feel like you could go out and run an ultra. She closes by reminding us that it is "better to be underdone than overcooked on race day." Words to live by, I should think.

Observed: The inside of my eyelids--for a very long time.


Ten Signs That I Had Become a Runner...

My first official 'Take It and Run Thursday.' And what a great topic! Marlene of Mission to a(nother) Marathon asks:

When did you know you had become a runner? Was there a defining moment, or was it a gradual progression over time?

While I'd like to point to an A-ha moment, truth is, the onset was gradual. Thus, I present...

Ten Signs That I Had Become a Runner:

1) I cried after completing my first run of thirty minutes duration.

Started running a little over a year ago on the treadmill following the "Couch to 5k" training program. Can still see it in my mind's eye like it was yesterday. Watching the countdown on the treadmill dashboard. Hearing the distinctive 'ding' when the time ran out. Sweat pouring off me. Tired, but exhilarated at the same time. Embarrassed to find myself spouting tears, but there they were. It's just running for goodness sake. Millions of people do it. And now I was one of them.

2) Started rolling out of bed at 5am to get in my run.

Never ever considered myself a morning person, but always set the alarm for 5am anyway. Why? So I could hit the snooze for 45 minutes before committing to the day. Felt a little like stickin' it to the Man. I'll get up when I'm good and ready and not because I have to. Maybe take a little extra time to read the paper or check my email while eating breakfast. You get the picture. Running after work was difficult with the warm temps and fatigue from the workday. One day about nine months ago it occurred to me 'Hey, maybe you could get your lazy ass out of bed and put that time to good use.' Been doing it ever since. And sometimes it's dark and cold out there and I'm still doing it.

3) Talked about running all the time to my husband.

So much so that he finally had to say, "I get that you're excited, but I don't need to hear about it all the time." 'Nuff said.

4) Became an avid "Runner's World" reader.

After all, what runner doesn't read "Runner's World?"

5) My blogroll of running blogs seemed to grow exponentially overnight.

Go ahead, check it out. I'll wait. It's right over there ->->->->

6) Had to move up to a larger suitcase when traveling on business to accommodate my running shoes and clothes, and my Garmin.

If someone knows of a good way to pack these things into a smaller bag without harming your business attire, please let me know.

7) Started to accumulate an amazing library of running books.

Some that I would highly recommend include this, this, and this.

8) Signed up for a Half Marathon.

Now that I'm several weeks into my 'official' training, I keep asking myself "What in the heck did I get myself into?"

9) Admitted in public that I signed up for a Half.

The first admission was made very tentatively. I now speak with conviction. It gets easier. Trust me.

10) Started this blog.

I consider it my 'coming out' party. Not sure if I will ever garner a regular readership, but that's not really the point. The blog is a place to capture my passion, to explore my insecurities, and to document my successes and failures with all things running.

Here I am ... A Runner.


Oh To Be A Route-ist...

It was with great relish that I sat down to read, cover to cover, the August edition of "Runner's World" earlier this week. And when I say cover to cover, I mean that literally. I was stopped in my tracks though when I read David Willey's Editor's Letter bemoaning a recent vacation in Northern Michigan on Walloon Lake where he was relegated to running "five miles on a paved road that could've been in suburban Detroit," instead of the "sylvan trail along the water" that he dreamed of. Mr. Willey said that he "subscribed to the belief that one should run on the best, most scenic route possible," and declared himself a "route-ist."

Virtually all the miles I have logged so far this year have been on paved roads that could have been in suburban Detroit. They weren't. They were logged on flat as a pancake, hot as a mother (well, in the summer, anyway) suburban Fresno, California. I run the 'hood for the most part--thus the name of this blog. Past "little boxes made of ticky tack," zigging and zagging to avoid parked cars and the occasional garbage truck. Counting the number of fast food wrappers left abandoned on the street. Running the stretch along the railroad track where if you time it just right, and the Amtrak blazes past you, for a moment all time seems to stop as you no longer hear your labored breath or the sounds of your feet hitting the ground. Saying hello to the occasional walker or waving to the rare fellow runner passing by in the other direction. That's my runner's world.

I long for the 'sylvan trail.' I want to fancy myself a route-ist. But it seems as though you actually have had to experience the exhilaration of running through beauty first to claim that title. For now I will have to settle for miles of asphalt and lots of broken glass instead. In the end, does it really matter? Isn't it really about the running and not the run? Process versus outcome?

How about you? Are you are route-ist?


Funny The Way It Is...

From the moment I heard that new song by the Dave Matthews Band, it resonated with me. It's true...it is funny the way it is. You can want something, but when the going gets a little tough, you can think of a million and one excuses why it no longer matters and you want to abandon the goal.

I've only been running a little over a year. Like many, I took up the sport as a means to an end--I had about fifteen pounds to lose. The calorie burn promised by running is very attractive--particularly for the time investment. Seemed like a winner to me. Followed the "Couch to 5k" plan like so many others and in just nine weeks, I was a runner. I vividly remember the first time I ran steadily for thirty minutes. I cried tears of joy. Something that seemed so impossible at the outset became a reality.

Somewhere the Type A in me took over. It was no longer about losing weight or getting fit (sure, those things happened, but by that point, it was immaterial). Suddenly it was about the run...getting better, going faster, enduring longer. I always tracked my results and studiously analyzed each run after it was completed looking for clues to improved performance. Still, I listened to my body each day. If I felt like running, I did. If I didn't, I didn't. If I wanted to run fast, I did. If I didn't, well, you get the idea. It was fun.

Like many runners, I decided to dip my toe into competition. I targeted a local half marathon, the Two Cities, in November, 2009. I carefully researched a number of training plans and read countless running books looking for pearls of wisdom. The 'beginner' plans just seemed too easy and unfocused...run thirty minutes, run for one hour. I craved more structure and challenge. I wanted that plan that said do this for this long and at this pace. In the end, the First training plans hit home. Structured? Most definitely. Down to the prescribed pace. But without a local track nearby, following the plan religiously was going to be difficult. In typical fashion then, I re-worked the plan to take advantage of my treadmill for the speed work. Not quite the same, but it will have to do.

And that's when it got funny...suddenly the structure felt like a noose around my neck. The runs that I used to so look forward to became like drudgery. Instead of running when I wanted to and how I felt like it, I now had to accomplish something on a regular basis. You should hear the dialogue going on in my head as I struggle to pull myself out of bed to put on my running shoes.

Funny the way it is. How about you? Do you struggle like this, or is it just me? What mind games do you play with yourself to keep focused on the goal?


Sixteen Butts and What Do You Get...?

Just shy of nine miles, that's what you get.

Week 2 of my modified First training plan for my upcoming Half in November didn't go exactly as planned. Life, of course, got in the way. Spent four days on the road meeting with staff, attending training, and conducting budget planning discussions. Got the Sunday morning 6 mile bike ride in without an issue. Check. Sunday yoga. Check. The first indicator of trouble was knowing that I had a three hour car ride in front of me on Monday morning. Even though I was out the door just after 5am, the planned 5 mile tempo run got cut short. The prescribed pace (9:53) eluded me and my heart and head were more concerned about getting behind the wheel in time to make my first meeting than finishing a yucky tempo run. Effort not exactly abandoned, but not exactly completed either. Half-check.

For the regular business traveler saddled with the limitations of per diem and government lodging rates, Hampton Inns can be a friend away from home. Nicely appointed, usually quiet and clean, and serving up a reasonably decent light breakfast. What more can anyone ask? I'll tell you what more...a decent fitness center. Knowing that I needed to knock out 3 hilly miles, I thought, I know, I'll just use the treadmill at the hotel. All treadmills usually have some pre-set runs that include a hills option, right? Not this one. Oh, it had a way to set the incline, but unless you were willing to keep adjusting the setting during the run (and the buttons would stick and not change the incline), you were out of luck. Not that it really mattered though--my calves were still screaming from my tempo run earlier in the week. Still, I managed to knock out the three miles before calling it quits.

Saturday's long run was postponed until Sunday due to a family engagement. Blew off Sunday yoga and the normal 6 mile bike ride to get the planned nine miles in. Averaged 11:18 against a planned 11:28. Not too bad, all things considered.

Observed: Sixteen cigarette butts sighted along the loop. One washer and a broken O ring. A rusty nail. Two screws. And something that looked like a bullet shell.