10 Unexpected Things Running Did To Me

I was climbing into the shower, for the second time that day, and I started to chuckle, thinking about how normal it is for me to take more than one shower a day sometimes.  That never happened before I became a runner, and then I realized there are lots of things I do or think about since I’ve become a runner–aside from running, anyway.

  1.  I look for sidewalks.  Say what?  Yes, I look for sidewalks.  As I’m driving, I look for sidewalks because sidewalks are potential running routes.  I live in a city which means lots of cars and busy streets.  And because motorists don’t always notice or pay attention to runners, sidewalks can be vital to a runner’s life and health!
  2. I notice hills.  When I train for a long race, I always include hill training–running fast uphill.  Hill repeats are on my list of top 10 things that make me frown the most, but it’s nearly impossible to run anywhere in Tulsa without meeting a hill.  So…you want to run a good race, you train on hills.  So I notice hills.  I look for hills, especially ones with sidewalks, and file it away for when I need to run some hills.
  3. I go through a lot more sunscreen.  I have very pale skin and can burn almost at the mention of being outside.  I spend hours outside each week now running, so to prevent those inevitable burns, applying sunscreen is part of my getting ready to run routine.  A word to the wise here, even if you don’t have super pale skin that burns easily, wear your sunscreen!  You can still wind up with skin cancer from those harmful UV rays.  I like to wear sunscreen lip balm as well because, you know, lips are skin too.
  4. I do a lot more laundry.  Now, compared to parents with kiddos, the amount of laundry I have is probably still peanuts to them, but since I’ve taken up running, my laundry basket is never empty.  And being involved in multiple sports, I can go through several workout outfits in a day.  It seems like there’s always a stack of workout clothes in or on the dryer!
  5. I take more than one shower a day.  I can’t help it.  I shower in the morning to get ready for the day (a shower in the morning is my caffeine!), but after an evening run, I have to shower again to get that sunscreen and sweat off before I get in my bed.
  6. I pay more attention to the weather.  I want to know before I head out the door for  a run that I am dressed appropriately.  So I’m always looking at the weather forecast.  Because Oklahoma weather is so squirrely, I keep a bag with me that has running gear to help me through unexpected weather–gloves, arm warmers, a hat.
  7. I notice runners.  I don’t mean to say I didn’t notice runners before I was one, but I really SEE runners now.  I see the commitment it takes to go for a run.  I see their dedication to health and fitness.  I see the hard work it takes to run up that hill.  I see them and I mentally applaud them and can’t wait to go home and jump into my running shoes.
  8. I pay more attention to what I eat and when I eat it.  Before running entered my life, I tended to just eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted.  But running changed that.  If I eat something too heavy, I feel sluggish and sick when I run, even if it’s a meal from the night before.  If I don’t eat enough carbs before a run, my blood sugar crashes.  So I’ve had to find that balance of figuring out what works for me to run on and how long before I run I should eat my last substantial meal.  And I’ve had to think about eating after a run–getting those carbs to replace my glycogen stores and making sure I’ve got a good protein source to repair my beaten up muscles.  I think about food a lot, obviously!
  9. I eat a lot more bananas.  To go along with the whole thinking about food thing, I eat a lot more bananas since I’ve started running.  A banana is generally my go to pre-run snack, and a banana in a protein shake is generally my post-run recovery snack.  I always keep bananas in my house and nearly panic when I run out.  I’ve been known to go to the store for nothing but bananas!
  10. I plan my schedule around running.  The last way running has unexpectedly changed my life is the way it’s changed how I plan and organize my day.  I think about how many miles I need to run that day, what kind of run it needs to be (hills vs. recovery–such as a hard or an easy run), and what the weather will be like.  Taking all those things into account and looking at what all else I need to do that day, I plan my day.  Sometimes that’s getting up super early to beat the heat.  Sometimes that’s meeting my running group in the evening, but whatever the day includes, you can almost bet that somehow fitting in a run, or a workout, had something to do with the order of events.

Talk to me:

How many loads of laundry do you do every week?

What is something you have to do that makes you frown?

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Half-Marathon Training: Lessons from the Heat

Another week.  Another 26 miles on the running shoes.  That was my weekly total last week.  It’s crazy to think that less than a year ago, I ran that many miles in a few hours!

Anywho, training went well last week.  I had some time off from work so I was able to make every group run during the week, including our tempo run on Thursday night.  I ran at the top of our tempo pace, and it felt great!  I, seriously, couldn’t stop smiling I felt so good!017So going into our 10 mile run on Saturday, I felt optimistic.  I had done well with 9 miles last week.  Weekly runs had felt good.

But 3 miles into our run, we stopped for water, and I knew I wasn’t going to make it, at least not at our current pace.  I paced myself slower than the rest of the group like last week, but I was still struggling.  My legs felt heavy, and I couldn’t get my breathing under control.  Usually by 3 miles in, I’ve got my breathing where it needs to be and my legs are starting to wake up.  This time, though…it wasn’t happening.

The pace group just below mine came in for water, so I joined them for the rest of the run.  The pace was at least 30 seconds a mile slower, and yet, I still struggled.  I felt like I had never run before.  Like ever.  It was horrible.

And it was horribly humid.  I had on a loose-fitting shirt, but even though it was moisture wicking, that thing got totally water-logged from sweat and slapped against my body like a wet towel.  My legs were like lead, and one hill lead to another and another…

And on we ran.  Would we never reach 10 miles?  I continually fought the urge to walk, willing myself to just put one foot in front of the other.  Angela, a fellow runner I’m getting to know, must have seen what a hard time I was having.  She came up beside me and just started chatting.  I didn’t say much,  mostly just listened, but having her there got me through to the end, and finally that terrible, no good, really bad 10 mile run was about to become a bad memory.

But as hard as that run was, looking back (because, you know, perspective is everything), I learned some things in those steamy, hilly, miserable 10 miles.

  1.  Long runs don’t start the morning of the run.  Long runs are a product of what we do all week.  Let nutrition and hydration lapse, and it will affect your long run.  Looking back, I had not eaten as healthily as usual or drank my usual amount of water in the days leading up to our long run.  Given the 1000 percent humidity on Saturday, that most definitely played a part in my struggle.
  2. I can do hard things.  If there’s a lesson I learned (or learned again) it was that I can do hard things.  I may not want to do hard things, but I can.  It’s sometimes mind over matter, as in the case Saturday, when I knew I had the physical ability to run 10 miles at our pace.  It was just a matter of pushing through the discomfort from the heat, humidity, and hills.  A word to the wise here, though.  There’s NO shame in cutting a run short if you’re feeling bad physically.  Know and listen to your body.  If you’re dizzy, light headed, nauseated, in real pain, or feeling any other symptom that you are concerned about, just stop.  It’s okay to stop and probably dangerous to your health to keep going.
  3. People make doing hard things bearable.  At the end of our run, I learned that nearly everyone in the training program had a tough run that day.  In fact, a record 25 people had to be picked up by the sag wagon.  I’m telling you, that humidity was horrible.  Seriously, I’m not sure I would have found the strength to keep going had it not been for Angela.  That’s what running with a group is all about for me.  It’s all of us, sharing an experience, and cheering each other on.  Next time, I hope I can be the cheerleader instead of the one needing to be carried.

So what obstacles stand in your way to reaching your health goals?  Take my lessons from a hot, miserable run and learn from them.  You want to lose weight?  It doesn’t happen in a day.  It happens from the choices we make over time.  Making a lifestyle change is hard, but trust me.  You can do hard things!  You can!  But those hard things don’t seem as bad when you’ve got people around you supporting you and cheering for you.  So who are those people in your life?  Let them know the goal you’re working towards and walk on their encouragement.  We’ve got this!!!

Talk to me:

What’s the weather like where you live?

What’s your health goal for the week?  Tell me and let me be your cheerleader!  (Pretty please?)

 

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Half-Marathon Training: Bringing Up the Rear

Another week of training is behind me.  Did I meet that determined goal to get all my miles in?

Well, kinda.  (Do y’all say kinda and y’all where y’all live or is that an Oklahoma thing?)  I got my Monday recovery run in and most of Tuesday’s track workout.  That aggravating hip flexor/groin issue is acting up again, and I had to cut the workout short on Tuesday.  Now, it’s MRI time to see what’s going on in there.  Great.

035I managed to sneak in a short run Wednesday before work (it was actually quite invigorating), and I was all prepared to get a run in Thursday morning when I left work.  I had my bag with me and everything, but a long night shift and a second shift coming up Thursday night squashed my will and determination.  Exhaustion won out, so I wen039t home and crashed instead of running.  And once again, I missed a workout.

Today, our long run day, we had 9 miles on the schedule.  I was feeling a bit nervous since my longest run over the last few months has only been 8 miles.  But I went into today’s run with a bit of a race strategy in mind.  I know me and that it takes 4-5 miles for me to find my groove.  It just takes me a while to find my breath and rhythm and pace, but when I find it, I’m ready to run.

So I stayed in the back of the group, pacing myself a bit slower but keeping the group within striking distance.  I found myself, at first, wanting to scold myself for not keeping up with the group.  You may remember I’ve had issues with being in the back of the pack before.  But as I ran, I realized some really great things were happening back there:

  1.  I had a chance to soak in my music and our surroundings.  So many times when I’m running in the thick of the group, I’m keeping up with conversations, trying to not run into people, trying to keep up but not go too fast.  But in the back I ran mostly alone, and I had time to really listen to my music and to enjoy the scenery around me.  Score for being in the back!
  2. I learned from my fellow runners.  When you run in the back, you only see the backs of people.  But that’s a great vantage point to watch running form.  I saw all kinds of gaits today, but what I honed in on was one guy who looked totally relaxed as he ran.  His arms were swinging gently from his shoulders, and while his elbows were tight to his side, his shoulders were totally relaxed.  I took a mental picture and filed it away.  That’s how I want to be when I run.  Score again for being in the back!
  3. I learned patience and pacing.  Long distance running involves a lot of patience and proper pacing.  Go out too fast and you’ll wear yourself out before you get to the finish line.  I’ve been told over and over as I’ve trained for long races to be patient.  Stick with your pace, and then when it’s time to go for it, use the energy you’ve stored up in not going out too fast to finish the race strong.  But pacing myself has always been hard.  Even with a running watch.  That’s one of the best things about running with a group.  The coach sets the pace and all I have to do is stay behind him.  But today, in the back by myself, I couldn’t just rely on the coach’s 046pacing.  I had to consciously pace myself a bit slower.  It’s hard to not get into race mode when you’re running behind people.  I just always want to catch them, but today, when I would start to get too close, I’d adjust my pace.  And it worked!  By about mile 4 I had my Popeye moment where everything inside of me started to feel alive; my legs felt loose and light, and then I ran with the group, in the middle of things, for the remaining 5 miles and felt great doing it!  Score yet again for bringing up the rear!

So onward and upward!  I have some time off from work this next week when work will not be an excuse to keep me from meeting my running goals.  It’s been a week of good runs, and I feel encouraged (if I had a “thumbs up” emoji, it would go right here!).

Talk to me:

What did you do this past week?

What are some common phrases in your neck of the woods?

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Half-Marathon Training: Time Trials!

So we’re about 4 weeks into half-marathon training, and it’s been a month of ups and downs.  And time trials.

Sometimes I’ll have a good run, and I think the slump that’s been hounding me this entire year is on the downhill slope, but then another run happens that leaves me feeling like a novice runner, and I come home feeling beat up and discouraged.  But I keep lacing up my shoes and heading out the door because one thing I refuse to be is a quitter.

Over the last few weeks our training has included a couple of different time trials.  Time trials are benchmark runs used as a measure of fitness.  They’re generally not much fun but they are incredibly useful in assessing progress, or lack thereof.

The first time trial was a 1.5 mile run at the track.  Yeah, you know me and track workouts, so a fast 1.5 miles at the track was NOT something I was looking forward to.  For those 6 laps we were instructed to run at 100% effort.  Give it all you’ve got.  Get out of your comfort zone.  Run as hard as you can.  And this was the weather forecast for the evening of the time trial–just one word:  HOT!  012The coaches don’t cancel track workouts until the heat index reaches 105 degrees, so since we were only like at a heat index of 104 (kidding–I have no idea what the heat index was but actual temps felt like 104!), the workout was a go.

I ran the first mile in 8:08, not my fastest mile, but I was okay with that time.  But with 2 laps to go, I just couldn’t hold on.  I was starting to feel queasy, whether from the heat or effort I’m not sure, but I ended up walking about 100 meters of each of the last 2 laps and finished my 1.5 miles in a disappointing 13:09.014Then today was the Bedlam Run, a local 5K/10K, that our training used as 023a 5K time trial.  We needed to run 6 miles one way or another, so some chose to run the 10K.  I chose to run a 1.5 mile warm-up and cool-down on my own and race the 5K.  I was a bit nervous since I haven’t been running well and my last 5K was a total disaster, but the warm-up felt good, the weather was exceptionally cool for August in Oklahoma, and I felt excited to run.

While the race was meant to be a time trial, I also knew that with the struggle I’d been having with pace and distance, if I pushed myself too hard, I wouldn’t be able to finish, even a 5K, so I went into the 037race with a goal of running half-marathon race pace, 8:50-9:15 per mile.  From the start I hit 8:50, felt great, and had a good race finishing in 27:44, third in my age group.  That was an unexpected surprise!  And there were super yummy pancakes at the after party.

030I felt good during the race but had a terrible time with the 1.5 mile cool-down (go figure), but over all I was encouraged–until I checked the chart that predicts race times based on a current race.  So with a 5K time of 27:30-28:00, it’s not likely that I can set a half-marathon PR.  Boo!  Hiss!

There’s a part of me that just wants to throw in the towel, but the competitor in me says I have to keep trying.  The realist in me also knows that I have to be prepared to adjust my race goal.  Maybe, if everything is perfect and it’s my day, maybe I can run a PR on race day.  But if it’s not my day, I’m trying to accept that a good goal is racing my best, feeling good doing it, and finishing strong, regardless of time.  It’s not the finish I want, but as with all things in life, it’ll be a learning experience, and I’ll gain something from it if I just look for it.

So onward and upward!  Tomorrow starts a new week.  I WILL get my miles in!

Talk to me:

How are your health and fitness goals coming along?

What did you do today or this weekend?