Merry Christmas, internet!

Hello again and Merry Christmas to everyone! Christmas really snuck up on me this year (but doesn’t it always?). I was all prepared with Christmas cards and presents, we got a real tree and decorated the house- and then all of a sudden, it was here and gone. We always try to make time for all our family and friends, which is tough when you have a lot of family and friends who live all over NJ, so you’re really trying to jam a lot of activities into a few days. Gary and I are planning our annual holiday get-together and now housewarming party for January! Can’t wait to have people over to see the place! We should probably finish our bathroom reno before they come though….

Gary and I went for a run on Christmas Eve before going to our first stop, my parents. It was cold and rainy. Much rainier than I expected. We went to a new park and ran one of the sidewalk loops and then decided to give it a rest because it was really rainy and my windbreaker wasn’t doing much to keep me dry.

24 running in the rain

Went out for a run this morning and then came back and lifted weights. Getting some use out of the weight bench! I pulled out the running plan I was using before we bought the house and went back to the beginning to start with some easier runs. The first one in the plan is a 1 min run/4 min walk X 5. I pushed a little harder during the 1 minute because a 4 min walk seems like a long time between intervals so I’d have more time to recover. Not a bad run, I figure it was between 1.5 – 2 miles. Cold and dreary out on the canal today, but at least I had some solitude! During the summer this park is hopping – hard to even find a parking spot.

28 running on the canal

Then back to lift some weights. I did bench presses, bicep curls, dumbbell rows, tricep dips and shoulder presses, 3 sets of 10 reps each. I still need cinder blocks or something because my feet aren’t even close to touching the ground when I lay on the bench! Today I just brought my feet up onto the bench. Today, I am relaxing and enjoying some of my Christmas presents before we have to go back to work tomorrow!

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Seaside 10 miler/ 5K Goals Have Changed Drastically

The Seaside 10 miler/5K is this Saturday in Ocean City! I’m doing the 5K (obvs) with Gary and my Aunt Kara. I am so excited they signed up for this with me! Kara has been training like crazy, but Gary and my training got knocked off track a few weeks ago when we started buying our house. I haven’t actually run in a few weeks, although last week I mowed the grass for the first time with our self-propelled lawn mower, and chased it up a few hills in the back yard for some short hill sprints.

I’ve been dreading this 5K for a while because I wanted to run it faster than I did last year. It was my first 5K, and I’d hoped that the year of training since then had made me slightly more athletic. Honestly, I’ve gained muscle and weight. Haven’t lost a pound, haven’t really gotten any faster. I am able to run for much longer, though. I remember my first few times out running at the apartments when I would say, Ok, run to that tree. Now I can run circles around that tree! I’ll be running to a tree so far away I can’t even see it when I start running. It might take me half an hour though.

I have been talking to my Aunt Kara about the 5K. She found a great training plan that works for her (1 minute run, 1 minute walk) and she was wondering what my plan is, if she’s going to be able to keep up with me. It got me actually thinking about my plan, because I totally don’t have one anymore. I have been obsessed with getting a PR… but then I came to a realization. My husband and aunt signed up for this race with me. I will probably have more fun if I just hang out with them and stop worrying about my time. My parents & Gary’s mom are also coming down to watch us run!

OK, now I need your help with something: there is no safe option for running in the dark at the new house – it’s a very woodsy road and there are no sidewalks or shoulder. I would rather not run on a treadmill because it just flat out bores me. Any ideas about places I might go to run after work now that winter is setting in and it’s getting darker? I’m going to try to incorporate more strength training but I just really want to run. There are some schools around so I will try to inquire about running on their tracks. Otherwise I’ll be going back to the apartments to run on their sidewalks!

God, I’m Starving.

Just felt like sharing.

I finished the third week of my running plan and I was like, ON TO WEEK 4! but the plan directs you to take a hard look at how you actually did. The hardest workout started with a fifteen minute run, which at first seemed entirely impossible. I promised myself I would not walk until at least 8 minutes in, but once I got close to 8 minutes, I changed it to 10 minutes, and then once I got there, I decided to challenge myself to run the whole 15 minutes. I reached the first mile at about 14 minutes, which is a little slower than it has been the past few weeks but much faster than that six-month 16 minute/mile plateau I was stuck on for a while. Seeing 14 minutes makes me start to worry that I’m backsliding, but I quickly tell myself to cut the crap, because it’s actually completely fantastic.

This plan doesn’t call for any speed training, but focuses rather on getting you to go the distance with long runs. Basically, the first plan wants you to be able to run for 30 minutes at whatever pace you run, and the harder version tosses some speed workouts at you to help you better your time.  Maybe I’ll switch things up a little in the next level and switch out a distance run for speed intervals. I want to crush my 5K PR and I know, for me, run/walk intervals is the way to go.

I took a really good look at how I ran: there were three running workouts and I cross-trained once or twice. The cross training was good – coach/husband made one workout intense, and the other I kind of phoned in so I’ll have to dial that up a little. Each run consisted of walk/run intervals, starting with a longer run then walk/run/walk of varying times. I kicked butt on the runs that started with 5 minutes and 10 minutes. When I finished the 15 minute run I was shocked and I wondered how I would ever do it again. That was a sign that I wasn’t really ready to move on, because the runs are only going to get longer and harder.

So, I started the third level over again. I did the 15 minute run on Wednesday and I was surprised by how confident I was when I approached it this time. I never doubted I would be able to run the whole time. It was tough around the end, for sure, I didn’t have to bribe myself with the relief of a mid-run walk. I almost can’t believe that I can run a straight mile without walking and it’s, like, no big deal. I’m not sure that I’m beating my times from the prior week, but to be fair, it’s been really hot and humid, and I’ve been trying out some route with different terrain. I just hope this mugginess breaks soon.

I really do love this plan; it’s pushed me and given me attainable goals and it never makes me focus on running a certain distance. My aunt Kara is also running the 5K in October with me (!!!!) and she started trying to run with the Couch to 5K (which was my first training plan, and the first training plan that I scrapped, because I hated it.) It’s not working for her either – she found something else which is great because she can change the length of the intervals to fit her better. It’s really important to find what works for you. I’m really excited to move up to the next level next week!

We’re gearing up for another busy weekend: running tonight, seeing friends, birthdays, BBQs, cleaning, packing, going to the movies to see Guardians of the Galaxy (again), reading & studying. Cue me taking a long nap on Sunday.

Creative Workouts and More Fun Surprises

Things have been very hectic for the past few weeks, and I haven’t been able to keep up my normal running schedule, so I have had to get a little creative.

I am finally back on track with my running plan. I emailed back and forth with a very nice guy at Run the Edge who hooked me up with the Running Start plan. I looked it over and decided I would start myself off about three weeks into the plan, on Level 3.

Over Labor Day weekend, my husband and I drove down to Maryland to stay at my friend’s summer house with a bunch of people. I was planning to bring my running gear and run the first workout of my training plan the next morning, but I wound up not bringing it partly out of a lack of space in the car, but mostly because I forgot to put it in the car and didn’t want to turn around to get it once I realized it wasn’t there. We got to the house around noon, started in on the hard cider and beer, then got to cooking and hanging out. Gary and I had a great time, but we were worn out by 9:00 PM from all the day-drinking and drove 4.5 hours home. We aren’t used to day-drinking, and we’ve had (and continue to have on a daily basis) so many family-related stresses, that being around people takes a lot out of us both. Introverts of the world, unite, and then go home and recharge your social batteries. So, no fun run for me that day (although I almost had running buddies who would have probably left me in their dust!)

Most of our time has been spent at Gary’s mom’s house, cleaning, sorting, and tossing stuff into a dumpster. Creative Workout #1: Super Strength Training. It’s not just nails, bolts, sawdust: We’ve been going through years of collected miscellany. Furniture was sledgehammered into bits. Items were carefully stacked to maximize dumpster space. Mostly, garbage cans full of junk and other heavy items have been carried to and thrown into the dumpster. Hello, killer arms. While wielding the sledgehammer, someone joked, “You swing like a girl.” And I said, “Yes, I do, because I am a girl, and there is nothing wrong with the way I swing this sledgehammer,” and my husband soberly warned the guy, “Watch out, she’ll come after you with that thing,” and I said, “Yes, I will,” and I took a swing.

Creative Workout #2: No time to run because you’re supposed to go to your Mother In Law’s to help clean? Have your husband drop you off on the side of the road a mile and a half from their house and hoof it all the way there. This was the day after our long drive to and from Maryland, and we got very little sleep but I managed to get in a great run. It was incredibly hot, but I made incredible time. Like, really unbelievably incredible. My first mile was 15:19. My first running interval was ten minutes, and I was going to have to climb this really long hill on the way to the in-law’s, and I was hoping to finish my ten minutes at the bottom of the hill so I could walk up it. Nope – hit the ten minute mark at the actual crest of the hill. Well, it was all downhill from there! Knee-slap, cymbal rimshot, something else to indicate that was a corny joke. But still, it’s weird – this is my best mile time not running speed intervals, and I somehow managed it while running up a hill.

Creative Workout #3: Have your husband be your personal trainer. I had to cross-train to fulfill another day of my training plan, and normally I’d do a video or lift weights, but I was so not motivated. I told my husband and he started barking orders. Step-ups, squatty things, sit-ups, planks, dumbell rows… It was a truly great, short, powerful workout. I just sneezed and my abs hurt, so I know it worked.

And finally, not in the realm of creative workouts, but in the realm of awesome news: Today, my husband ran with me! (YAY!) I love when he goes out with me, it doesn’t feel so much like work. He is much faster than me, and I’m sure I would hurt myself trying to keep up, so I just told him to turn where he wants to turn, take whichever path he wants, and I’ll just follow. He did an awesome job – I can’t wait to see how he finishes in the 5K. He’s got speed and I’ve got endurance, but speed kind of wins out when your walking pace is the same as my jogging pace. He can pull ahead by a mile and then just walk the rest of the way and I’ll never catch up with him!

Also in awesome news: I ran something like a 13:18 mile today. OK, now it’s getting weird: how did I go from 16-17 minute miles to a 13 minute mile? I mean, I’ll take it and I’ll appreciate it, but it’s kind of a shock. How on earth did I sit at that 16 minute plateau for so long and then suddenly just shave off two whole minutes? I’m trying to think back to the past few weeks, but I can’t remember being bitten by any radioactive insects or drinking any kind of weird potions.

oh, and we are buying a house.

I’m just gonna lay down here on the sidewalk for a second.

That’s kind of how I felt at the end of my run last night. I didn’t pass out from the heat or anything! The speed work had me gasping for air by the end and the grass looked so soft and inviting! The only thing that actually kept me from laying down was the promise of chocolate milk – like the siren’s song, it called to me from the fridge. So I went and sat on the kitchen floor. I hydrated, I stretched, I drank sweet, sweet chocolate milk. Sometimes the only thing that keeps my spirit up during a run is knowing that it’s waiting for me, the carrot in front of my nose. 

I ran a fartlek, and it was way more successful than past attempts! For starters, I ran (I mean like, between running and sprinting) for a good portion of the excursion. Like, maybe at least 1/3 or 1/4. I started at a comfortable pace and then ran, then tried to go back to the comfortable pace, but I always wound up needing to walk. So it progressed like this for a while: jog, sprint, walk. Jog, sprint, walk. Especially at the end, I was running on sidewalks shaped like a D: I alternated the jog, sprint, walk between the straight part and the curve. I kept trying to really keep my feet going faster when I was running, because if I want to run faster, I’m going to need my lungs to get used to working when I run faster. So far, they have been….. uncooperative. I can’t quite say it was fun, but I can say it was successful, and that does make me happy! I love the wind in my face when I run, but there was really no wind at all to save me, just that really damp, heavy, humid air we get before thunderstorms in the summer. (and boy, did we have thunderstorms last night!)

I didn’t exactly run a mile in 15 minutes. My GPS watch was dying so I tested the Runtastic app on my phone, so I can’t be sure of how accurate the info is. It seemed pretty dead-on, though, and it has some cool features, so it’s a good back-up for when I forget to charge the watch. I guess my timing was good, a little under 3K in 30 minutes. Hoping to shave some of that time down by October.

1.84 miles in 30 minutes. I am running circles around this apartment complex. I need more space. I’m like a hermit crab that’s outgrowing its shell. 

Summer Running, Had Me A Blast

I took a little time off running. More than I meant to, really.  You take a few days off for a weekend trip, then you excuse yourself from running because of the heat & humidity, and all of a sudden you realized you’ve been exercising half-assedly for three weeks and you have no idea where all the time went and you’ve got to get back on track! Also, WordPress recognizes “half-assedly” as a word – no red squiggles of misspelling!

It’s always so nice outside when I head to work in the morning. By the time I get home though, the humidity is oppressive, so I always think I should run early in the AM or later at night, but I never get around to making that happen. Last night I decided I’d had enough of waiting for the right time to run again. I found a run/walk program online -I took a picture of the plan with my phone, so I can’t remember where it came from, but it involves running three minutes and walking two, and alternating run days with walking and cross-training.

My first run was supposed to be 20-25 minutes but about ten minutes into it I decided it was safer to keep it on the short side. The plan recommends to run slow enough so you can hold a conversation without huffing & puffing, but I always seem to huff & puff no matter how slow I go! I finished my 20 minutes with just a little more to go to hit 2K, so I walked to reach the milestone (kilometerstone?). The heat made my pace terribly slow – much slower than normal, even after a few days off. Humidity makes it impossible to suck in any cool air which makes the run seem that much harder. If only there were a breeze to save me!  I felt great for getting back on the road though, and sticking it in the face of the hot, hot sun! It was hilarious, me running the sidewalks of my apartment complex and all I hear are the buzz of air conditioners in every building. People probably thought I was out of my mind.

I was worried that taking a few days (ok, weeks) off from consistent running would result in a big loss of fitness, but I managed ok. I’m learning that fitness is all over the place – it’s not a line that keeps going up towards perfection, with faster times and longer distances along the way. I’m not always going to see progress. Some days are going to be awesome. Sometimes I will not have a great run or a perfect race, and sometimes I will have to stop when I want to keep going. All we can do is keep running and find things that we enjoy about it to keep us going.

That’s also why we can’t compare ourselves to each other as runners. We are all at different fitness levels. Some of us have been running for years, and some of us, just a few days. Some people need to fuel more during long runs but some people don’t. Advice will only take us so far and there really isn’t a plan that works for everyone. We just have to find what works for us and stick with it, and just keep running.

Running in Memorial Day Heat

I went out for a mid-morning run yesterday because we had the day off for Memorial day. I slept in longer than normal because we got home late from a fun light-show at a mansion in New York: Lightscapes! (Pictures at the bottom).

As soon as I walked out the door, I felt a wave of heat… at 10:30 in the morning… and I suddenly dreaded the oncoming summer. I was not built for heat. I’m not sure how long I will last! I ran my tried and true speed intervals, 2 minutes walking or jogging, 30 seconds hard running. Towards the end of the workout, in the fifth and sixth interval, I really noticed my 30 seconds dragging down under race pace. I did a mile in 15:11 and had to head home because I was going to pass out. I got home and just laid down on the floor. My face was on fire! I really want to keep pushing myself but the heat isn’t making it very easy – it wasn’t this hot last summer, was it?

I would say I could save intervals for the treadmill, but there’s no air conditioning in the gym (genius!), so I think I’m going to have to plan my runs for either much earlier or much later in the day.

I’m hoping to get my speed interval miles down into the 14 min/mile range soon. I was hoping my regular miles would be down into the 15-16 min/mile range but they’re still up in the 17 min/mile range, and I flop back and forth between being ok with that and not being ok with that. Sometimes I feel so unhappy with my lack of progress that I wonder why I ever became a runner and maybe I should just quit, and then I go back and think, well, I like running, and at least I’m getting out there and doing something. Hmph. Of course, as soon as I post this, I’ll go out for a really great run and I’ll feel dumb for writing this sad trombone post. (Waaaah waaah…..)

I am going to run again tonight, maybe a slower run. I don’t typically go out for more than a half hour on a weekday because there’s so much going on, but maybe I should try to run for longer.

Hey, I finished my crunch challenge – they got a lot easier as the days went on, but I’m not sure how useful they are in the long run. I am about halfway through my squat challenge – today was 105 squats. I split them up into 3 sets of 40, 30, and 35 squats.

and now, Lightscapes:

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