Well, That Explains That.

So recently, I bought this running plan. Awesome, right? I purchased it from Run the Edge because it looked interactive and fun, and I was curious. They had two plans, Premium and Ultimate, and well, both sound like the best, right? It’s like having two sizes, Large and Grande. Sirs, your names are vague. Anyways… Premium plan had six levels called Running Start (designed to get you to the finish line), and Ultimate plan has the same six level and then six more levels of fun with harder workouts to crush your previous 5K time, so I’m thinking “well… I want to crush my 5K time from last year so…Go Big or Go Home” and I bought the Ultimate! I read through the guide – inspected my six levels, trying hard not to read ahead because I want to be surprised at what I’m going to accomplish. My first run was pretty long, twenty minutes, but I figured, hey, what the heck. This is designed for people who have already run a 5K and are looking to Go Big or Go Home. My next run was a fartlek, nothing new – 2 minute fast, 3 minutes easy. That’s not so unlike other workouts I’ve done. The next big run was 10 minutes easy, 20 minutes brisk, and 10 minutes easy. OK… I know I’ve run a few 5Ks, but this was a little rough for me. That’s a long run, 40 minutes altogether. I gave it a go….I got through the easy 10 minutes with a little walking, but then my calves were really killing me when I started the brisk run. I was sort of anticipating the pain because 20 minutes seems really tough even at an easy pace. I got through five minutes of the brisk run (very tough but I’m proud of those five minutes), and I finished off my mile on my walk home. I was sort of disappointed in myself… this is only the first level and I can’t make it through the third workout? How could my body be betraying me right now? Why do my legs hurt so much? This seems like a really tough plan…

This is the Running Start, really? A solid 40 minute run seems tough for beginners. Then it occurs to me… wait, my guide only has six levels. I bought the guide that’s supposed to have twelve levels. I searched every page for my missing (and, it is hoped, easier workouts) but I could only find…. six. Apparently, I only got the “Ultimate” levels, not the Running Start levels, so I started on the harder workouts prematurely…. and I can’t find the Running Start levels anywhere in my guide. Time to email support. I hope they’re quick – I want to get started again tomorrow! I guess there’s a little bit of a bright side though. At least I’m not quite the failure I thought I was! I got through two of the tougher workouts.

Another Milestone… Get it, milestone?!?!

This past weekend I went to my friend Manisha’s wedding and we so happened to be sitting at a table with… another runner. We compared tattoos… we talked a little geocaching… and of course, we talked running. She was training for a marathon and her next long run was 10 miles. I asked her questions about my biggest marathon-related fear: how long is your longest training run? The answer = 20 miles. But… if your longest run is 20 miles, and the marathon is 26.2 miles, how can you possibly be prepared to run the whole thing? She said (I paraphrase), “By that point, you’re so over running and you’ve already run 20 stinking miles that running another 6 miles just to be done is not that big of a deal.” Marathons continue to seem less scary and more within my reach.

We also talked training plans- she was using Hal Higdon’s marathon plan, and I want to boost my game a bit, so the next day, I started looking for a plan that I might be able to stick to. I need something fun that includes speed intervals and cross training, and I found this plan with Run the Edge that’s sort of like a board game. There are six levels with a few different workouts, and you have to complete workouts to earn points to move up to the next level. I did the first workout Sunday: a 20 minute easy run. I walked a bit but mostly ran. Then I cross trained (i.e. carried heavy things out of my MIL’s garage and into a dumpster) and today I decided (at 9:30 PM) to do another workout. Next up: the fartlek. It was twenty minutes of speedy & easy running (with some walking during the easy run sections) and I was already at half a mile at six minutes again. Quick calculations told me I could probably run faster than last time… Maybe even a mile under thirteen minutes! People, I don’t know how it happened, but I ran a mile in 12:33. Woohoo! Now that it’s 10:30 PM I have to clean up and get to bed. Tomorrow is a rest day, thank God.

Treadmill Running, I touched the barbell, & Wedding Dancing

You know how I hate treadmills. But they’re so good at forcing me to stick to a pace… I think I’ve come to accept that treadmills runs need to be part of my training for the time being. I call the treadmills my tempo runs – my pace, perceived effort, and happiness level are better when I run outside, but the treadmill is teaching me stamina. I’m starting to run miles faster and faster, but when I have to do 3 miles in a row it gets really tiring. I’d love to run for 30 straight minutes, but I know without walk breaks I’ll be so worn out and slow by the end that it ruins my overall pace. By no means do I consider myself a beginner runner but my athleticism is sort of at a beginner stage – you spend so many years not doing any type of sport, of course it’s going to take time and hard work to see any improvements. I say this because I’ve been running on the treadmill after work, which is great for a few reasons:

1) My husband started a new job a few weeks ago, and he gets home about 45 minutes than normal. I am a dog of Pavlov, and I am accustomed to eating dinner about half an hour before that, so that time in between me getting home and him getting home had become a sort of eat-what-you-can-find free for all of bad choices. Staying at work to run on the treadmill has been forcing me to realign my priorities and get my run in.

2) Running on a treadmill is so much harder than running outside. Maybe it’s just me, I don’t know. Treadmill runs kick up my training a notch or two by forcing me to use different muscles and really think about my breathing and form and arm swinging, because there’s literally nothing else to think about.

3) The treadmill is in a rarely-used gym. Seriously, maybe I hear two people a week work out in the gym. (It’s right down the hall from my office in the basement so I can hear when people are playing music and dropping weights. Close to gym = added bonus.) The gym also has weight machines and free weights, so I can also do some cross training after my run.

The machines in the gym are easy enough to figure out, except for the giant yellow praying mantis machine that has like fifty arms and I can’t figure out what I’m supposed to do with any of them. The free weights though… so the dumbbells are easy enough to figure out, but since I’ve started cross-training, I hear it’s all about that barbell. There is one barbell in the gym, (well, and one on the Smith Machine but I’ve been warned not to do squats with that since it constricts your natural movement) and I don’t know if it’s a regular barbell or a training barbell, but I do know that I have very little upper body strength and do not want to hurt myself, so I’ve been avoiding it for a long time. On Friday… I touched it. I took the weights off, and did squats. I did a few deadlifts, but I’m not sure how good my form was – wish there was a mirror in the gym. I also want to be able to do a pull-up, something I have never done once ever, so I started working towards that with inverted pull ups and boy, are my arms SORE.

So a ten minute treadmill run at a really slow pace, free weights.. and weddings! We’ve had two weddings in the past two weeks and have definitely gotten our dance on. It’s been fun and so special to share in the weddings of two of our most favorite people! Today we will be doing more garage cleaning – Gary’s mom rented a dumpster so we’ll be doing a lot of moving and lifting today. Need to get breakfast… need to look into buying training plan, because I want to PR at my 5K in October.

How the hell did that happen?

Things have been rather hectic the past few weeks. 

Everything goes into a sort of whirlwind when someone dies: you literally have to take care of all the arrangements and paperwork in, like, a week. Lots of family and friends will come to visit, which is great when you need someone, but also not great because there’s always someone there. There’s so much noise and emotion coming at you all at once, from all the people around you and from within yourself, and it’s been hard to find any kind of solace, a place to put the brain-puzzle back together. 

I was off work for a few days on bereavement leave. My bosses were really understanding, although the timing of it all was cosmically awful – my boss was going on vacation the week after, so everyone is trying to help everyone else out and take care of the little things, but it seems like no one is really on top of things. Meetings were cancelled, things were put “on hold.” Too bad that no one else in the building knew why I was out, or that I was even gone to begin with, because very few people knew what had happened. That was the worst, having to tell everyone over and over again and trying not to lose it. Someone even asked me how my vacation was. Whoops. 

Since I took a break from functioning as a human for so long, I needed to ease back into everything, so I hit the treadmill at work. When I started running a year or so ago, I started on the treadmill at 4 MPH. I think I ran for three whole minutes my first day. Every day, I added thirty seconds. It doesn’t seem like much, but it made a big difference, so I went back to that tried and true method. I aimed for five minutes. 4 MPH is also slightly faster than normal for me, so I was looking forward to pushing myself a little. I was running with music the first day and tried to match my pace to the music, which was closer to 4.6 MPH – kind of a lot faster than I was used to, but I kept it up until the song was over and then dropped back down to 4 MPH. Day two: five minutes, thirty seconds. Day three: six minutes. Totally not easy without any scenery or music or TV for distraction. 

That was the end of last week: over the weekend we went to the wedding of one of Gary’s best friends – Gary was in the wedding party, and boy, does he clean up nice! Everything was beautiful, the food was wonderful, the people we met were awesome, and I danced my butt off. I didn’t get a chance to run again until last night.

We’ve been helping Gary’s mom clean out the garage – it’s so packed with stuff that you can barely walk around, and you certainly can’t find anything useful. Some of it was projects Gary’s dad had started many years ago, some of it is junk that he scavenged that he was going to use in some project or another (moulding, tiles, random pieces of wood, zillions of zip-ties, and rope), and the rest of it is all tools – lots of tools. A thousand sockets. Two buckets full of nails. Six chainsaws. Seventy five pairs of pliers. At least a hundred screwdrivers. He bought things in multiples “just in case.” She is going to have the garage sale to end all garage sales. 

I got home from another night of cleaning last night around 8:30 PM and I wanted to go running – lately I’ve been taking up a lot of time feeling sad and dwelling on stuff that’s not going to change, so I decided it’s time to make time to be happy and do things to feed my soul. I figured it was time for some speed intervals. Since it was late at night, I would run around the quad at the apartment complex, which is grassy and sidewalky and surrounded by apartment buildings and there aren’t any roads or parking areas. I figured, it’s decently lit, and there’s only a slight chance I’ll get hit by a car. I’ve only seen a car drive in there once. Seriously – drove right across the grass, through the buildings, and bounced off the curb into a parking spot.  

The only gear I brought was my cell phone – I used the mapmyrun app to… well… map my run. A female voice told me to start running when I hit GO, and I griped for a second because I hate voices in apps that talk to me or tell me my distance. I’ll keep that to myself, thanks. I alternated running briskly, jogging, and walking. The sidewalk is sort of a large rectangle, with a big circle in the middle and a big oval on the end. I jogged the circle, walked the straightaway, ran the oval. Suddenly I found myself at a half mile somewhere between 6:30 and 7 minutes… which is really, really fast for me. I did some quick running math in my head and realized I could run my fastest mile ever, so I kept pushing. The voice in the app spoke up at 13:19 to tell me I had run a mile. HOLY CRAP. HOLY CRAP, GUYS. I ran a mile in thirteen minutes. 

Running on anger

Saturday morning, I laced up my sneakers and stepped outside. I hadn’t run in about a week. I wasn’t going to do speed work or follow a plan. I didn’t pay attention to my watch. I just needed to run.

Gary’s dad passed away last Tuesday after a tough battle with a long illness. It truly sucks. Their relationship was complicated, and feelings were very tense throughout the whole family in those last few weeks. It’s a shame things wound up the way they did.

I made a memorial slideshow of pictures of him and his family throughout the years. He was a science geek, a proponent of solar cells and solar power, winning science fair awards as a kid. He worked on projects for RCA, NASA. Eventually he started drinking too much, and, well, things spiraled downhill from there. By the time I met him, he was a different person. It’s too bad I couldn’t have known the other guy, the one I saw in all those pictures. The one who looked at his 1 year old son like he was everything, not the one who broke a promise to his 25 year old son to take him out to dinner for his birthday because he was “in a bad mood” (drunk and cranky.) I am mad that he’s gone, mad that I never got to know him, mad that he was always drinking, mad that I never really saw the real him. Mad that he didn’t try to fix things when he could and mad that he won’t get another chance. It doesn’t make sense, it just sucks.

We’re all being given a chance every day to tell our loved ones how important and special they are – do it. Don’t miss out on it.