Sabotage (Do I hear the Beastie Boys?)

We like to eat at my workplace. The team I am a part of actively seeks excuses to go out to lunch, to bring celebratory baked goods to share (Hooray! Did you hear? It’s Tuesday!), and  to coordinate pot-luck feasts. While I appreciate the camaraderie and the good eats, it sometimes gets to be a little overwhelming and I find myself trying to hide when I see the pastry box coming around the corner.

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that we had the occasion to go out for lunch on Friday, Monday, and Tuesday- my poor salad sat wilting in the fridge looking less appetizing by the day, and was pretty sad looking when I finally ate it today- and we have had three cakes to share this week- one for every day of the week thus far! On Monday we had a birthday celebration, Tuesday was a farewell, and today, well, today we happened upon a bake sale, so naturally we needed to buy an entire cake. I was managing to exercise my willpower pretty well until today when I heard the magic words that send me into a hypnotic, eating-everything-like-Garfield-eats-lasagna (with both paws and a wide open maw) state: carrot cake.

I love carrot cake. The moist shredded carrots, that velvety, slightly sour cream cheese frosting; it is perfection in a 9″ round pan. Carrot cake, especially when it is not homemade, is often the victim of poor handling and can be underwhelming and bland. I’ve had my heart broken by a grocery store carrot cake a time or two before, so when I saw that the cake purchased from the bake sale came in a commercial box and not the trappings that would have been provided by a home cook, I thought I was safe. And then I heard the rumblings:

“It’s so light,” someone whispered.

“Real cream cheese in that frosting!” I overheard.

“The nuts on the edge are candied,” was tossed over a shoulder by a colleague passing my desk.

I tried to console myself and reinforce my willpower (It can’t be that good, right? It’s just that free cake always tastes better than not free cake, right?), and I managed to hold out until three thirty when I walked by the open cake box. This was no grocery store hack job, this was the real deal. Yes, it looked light and moist, yes the frosting was a creamy, ivory color that only real cream cheese can provide, and yes, there were candied walnuts pressed into the outer edge of frosting, but the real nail in my coffin- the raisins.

No carrot cake is complete without the raisins. There should never be nuts in the batter and there should always be raisins. End of story.

As I cut myself a piece and sandwiched it between two paper plates for the drive home (I was determined not to allow myself the pleasure of devouring it until I had at least gone to the gym), I felt a little bit of me die inside, and I wondered if this was how Superman felt  when faced with kryptonite? It is so hard, as a social creature, to resist the daily sabotages that pop up in an office setting. Someone is always offering a taste of this, and a bite of that, and not only is eating a very communal thing, but I also feel badly if, on Monday, I sample Sandy’s cookies, and then on Wednesday I turn down Marcia’s brownies. Nobody, and I do really mean nobody, wants to hang out with the Debbie-downer who eats only wheat germ and yogurt and glowers at everyone else with a superior sense of self-satisfaction while watching them happily roll around in their cream cheese frosting.

I know my officemates already think I’m a little weird for being a vegetarian (meat is the base of the Hawaiian food pyramid, the next level is pineapple), so I’m careful to not appear too wheat-germy, but when you really get down to it, I’m a rolling around in the frosting kinda gal at heart. My hope is that I have a savior in the office- someone who was willing to take one for the team and bring what was leftover of this beautiful cake home to share with their family. I know it will be hard to resist if, when it’s time for elevensies, I open the fridge and see that tasty treat is up for grabs; there is no contest between it and my usual snack of oven-roasted almonds, and I can already taste, in my mind’s mouth, how it will compliment my morning tea. Although I gave in to the siren call of the cream cheese today, I at least prefaced it with a trip to the gym, and my hope is that I won’t fall victim to it again tomorrow.

 

 

Surprise! It’s a…….

Unexpected 15k!

A couple of weekends ago, I ran a surprise 15k race. It shouldn’t have been a surprise race since I signed myself up to run it, however after I signed up, I promptly forgot to put it on my calendar. I knew it was coming up sometime “soon,” but I thought it was at the end of August and not the beginning. Whoops!

I discovered my error on the Tuesday prior to the race when my cousin and I were discussing our running goals, and I reminded myself to confirm which weekend the race was taking place. I was horrified when I realized that, instead of two weeks to train, I had just 5 days. Upon making this discovery, I had two thoughts: one being that I didn’t have to do the race if I didn’t want to, the other was that of course I was going to do the race because I signed up to do it and I paid good money! The one thing I had working for me was that I had continued to run a few times a week throughout the summer, and the one thing I had working against me was that the longest distance I had run since May was 5 miles. The 15k was 9.3 miles. Uh-oh…

As you can see, the math really didn’t add up, and I was a little anxious about the prospect of doubling my distance in the span of a week. I did seriously consider, all paid entrance fees aside, not running, but I reminded myself of the four magic words that are a comfort to all runners in times of distress- “I can always walk.”

I hadn’t signed up for the race with the intention of winning; it was simply the first in a series of marathon readiness training races, and, since I wasn’t born with that weird genetic mutation that makes me naturally graceful and quick on my feet, I never expect to be the first one to the finish, so, I can always walk.

I continued to tell myself that I could walk if I needed to right up until I crossed the finish line. I told myself that I could walk as I ate my banana in the dark hours of early morning. I reminded myself that walking was an option as I stood in line for one last restroom visit before the race, and, as I sat on the curb near the start line and contemplated NOT running the race and instead just cheering the other runners along as the made their way to the finish- my thought being that Don would never know if I had actually run the race since medals were not awarded and if I stood out in the sun for the appropriate amount of time I’d likely be as sweaty as if I’d actually run- I convinced myself to run by again repeating my mantra of “I can always walk.”

And, you know, I really didn’t need to. When I realized that I had doomed myself to tackle an obstacle I wasn’t prepared for, I made a plan that I hoped would get me to the other side without too much pain, and it worked! One of the benefits of the FitBit Surge watch that Don gave me this Spring is that it can show you your pace as your run, so the plan I made was to stay between a 9:30 or 10:00 minute mile pace until mile 7. The trap I sometimes fall into during a race is that I get caught up in the excitement of the event and I run a little above my pace for the first several miles which just makes me tired at the end. Usually I have done enough training that my fitness levels can get me through the fatigue, but I was worried that I hadn’t done enough over the summer to compensate for over-doing it at the beginning of the race, so by keeping an eye on my pace I managed to make sure I had enough left in my gas tank to finish strong.

The other thing that I think was crucial in helping me finish this race feeling pretty good was that, although I hadn’t run farther than 5 miles since May, the 5 miles that I ran most weekends were through the hilly Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens. Those hills can make or break you and I’ll have to remember to thank them the next time I’m struggling to make my way to the top, because they made me strong enough to get through miles 6 through 9.3.

My”surprise” race went pretty well; I didn’t need to walk other than when I stopped at the aid stations to grab a drink, and I finished in about 1:30 feeling pretty good. I don’t know that I’ve ever run with a concrete plan like this before. I often check my pace, but it’s more out of curiosity and to see if my endurance has improved than anything else. I think, as I run more of these races leading up to “the BIG ONE” in December (there are 4 or 5 races in this Marathon readiness series), I might play with the concept of having a specific goal of what pace I want to achieve. Who knows, maybe it will help make me a little bit faster?

 

Core Power Yogaaaaaaaaa! YOU get to Sweat! And YOU get to Sweat!

Don and I were feeling the burn last week when we took our local Core Power Yoga studio up on its offer of a free week trial. Yeah, thats right an entire WEEK of FREE yoga! What could be better?

Neither Don nor I had ever done yoga in any serious sort of setting. I occasionally do some yoga here at home, mostly Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube,  on days when I just can’t get it together to do any other sort of exercise or on days when I’m feeling particularly stiff and sore and old. I think the closest Don has come to going yoga is his post-run stretching. Neither of us is very flexible, and we both hope to become a little more bendy by conscientiously reminding our bodies to streeeetch and move in ways that do not involve running or lifting (or sitting or lying down peacefully in a hammock).

We started on a Monday evening, and, unfortunately for those of us who like a nice early bedtime on a work night, the only beginner’s class that fit into our schedule began at 8:45 that night. I wasn’t sure what to expect and I was a little nervous to be doing yoga in public with others around to witness, but I thought that a yoga session right before bed sounded like a very relaxing thing. We were greeted by a yoga instructor named Leah who is quite possibly the most enthusiastic person I have ever met and she seemed overjoyed that she got to be our very first yoga instructor in the very first yoga class of our lives. If she hadn’t seemed so genuinely happy and upbeat, I would have rolled my eyes at her, but, you guys, this girl is the real deal. Just being in the same room with her made me see everything through rose-colored lenses; her sweat should probably be bottled and sold as an antidepressant.

As the class began, it seemed like Leah was trying to tell us what she had for dinner (Chana Masala?) or that she has obscure taste in music (Chaka Kahn?) or maybe she had made a really good point about something and wanted to drop the mic on her way out (BOOM shakala!). It turns out that the series of movements we complete to get from one pose to another in yoga (essentially going from standing to a high plank, to low plank, to an upward facing dog) is called a chaturanga dandasana. Say that one five times real fast. The class began with a brief demonstration of the movements, a lesson in how to breathe, and advice to do what we can, and, if we needed to check in with our breath at any time, to get back into child’s pose and take a minute.

I loved the yoga. I loved it so incredibly much. This is how the studio gets people to join; they offer you a free week, you get hooked, and then you crave that awesome feeling. On our first two days of the trial, we attended level 1 classes which, according to the CPY literature, is great for people without yoga experience (ME!). On day three, the only class we could attend was a level 2 class that CPY recommends you have some yoga experience for (2 days is ‘some’ right?), and this was a reach for both of us; Don actually spent a good portion of the hour in child’s pose “checking in with his breath.” Over the weekend, we tried some of the Yoga Sculpt classes that combine yoga with some lifting of light weights with a lot of repetitions, and I think I got the best workouts I’ve had in a while in these classes.

I thought the yoga would be a little bit of a workout and very relaxing, and I completely underestimated the physical challenges that would present themselves. At one point when I was bending forward to hang my torso in rag doll pose, my sweat started trickling into my nostrils; I was literally drowning in my own sweat.

By the time Sunday, the last day of our trial, rolled around, I was all chaturanga’d out. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t the best idea, as someone who had never done yoga in an instructional setting, to go every day for a week without a break, but the frugal New Englander in me just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take a FREE class. My Dad once told me that I should never turn down a free meal (solid advice, for sure) and I’ve taken that sage wisdom and applied it to… everything. I love free, and I loved the yoga, so it only seemed appropriate that I yoga until I couldn’t yoga anymore.

While I struggled to lift my arms at the end of the week (shoulders, so sore), and hold the chair pose for any length of time (quads, so sore), each day I could feel my hamstrings lengthen and my body become more flexible overall. I will definitely try yoga-ing again, I definitely can’t afford to go every day (even though I really REALLY want to), but I should be able to swing a couple of classes a month. Don seemed just as pleased with his yoga experience. He, the fitness freak that he is, particularly enjoyed the challenging yoga sculpt classes (in one, we burned almost 500 calories in an hour according to our FitBits) and even purchased his very own yoga mat, so I know he plans on going back.

Child’s Pose, aka Downward Facing Don

Stretch Armstrong

'Eau De Workout
‘Eau De Workout

Nothing says summer in Hawaii like a pile of sweaty laundry. Our tropical air has turned hot and heavy, and it, once again, feels as if I need gills to breathe. I’m feeling extra loagie today because the air conditioner at work is broken, and I sweated through eight hours of computer work huddled in front of a tiny desk-fan that I scurried out to buy this morning.

I feel like broken AC in Hawaii should be cause for closing the office and sending everyone home- not that I have AC at home, but at least I wouldn’t be wearing khakis and an oxford emailshirt- but that was not the case, sadly. It’s really too bad, I could have used a beach day! I’ve had a lot going on lately; I was working overtime for a while which made it hard to fit in exercise at the end of the day, and over the weekend I received a threatening email.

The email was reminding me that only three weeks remain before the start of the Marathon Training Clinic that successfully got me to the start and finish lines of last year’s Honolulu Marathon. I thought by now I’d be recovered, both mentally and physically, from last year’s effort and feel ready to take on the challenge once again, but I’m kind of dreading it.

I think I’m physically recovered; I’ve been trying to stay running fit by logging at least 9 miles a week (which, as you well know, is nothing compared to training for the big race), and I’ve been making it a point to keep up with the stretches that helped ease the knee pain that accompanied those many miles last Fall. The stretches, I realize, are immensely helpful because, while I was working overtime, I lost the hour or so of TV time that I usually have after dinner which is when I do the helpful stretches, and my IT band started to feel tight and sore again. I’ve been trying not to let that happen again, so I’m focusing my non-running workouts on strengthening the rest of my body and I’ve also been trying (as always) to increase my flexibility.

I’m definitely not mentally recovered from the marathon. It’s just such a long, goddamned way to run, you know? And it’s going to be hot, and I’m going to get sweaty, and my legs will be sore, and I’m going to be hungry every waking moment of every single day. It’s all just a little too much! Last week, I had to give myself a pep talk just to finish a two-mile run, so how the eff am I supposed to run 26.2 miles?

Right now, as I sit on the couch, sticky and head-achy from a day of suffering in the heat (did I mention our office doesn’t really have any windows, so not only was there no AC, but there was also no fresh air), I feel like I could go the rest of my life without running another step. But, then I remember how much fun I have when I’m schlepping along with similar-paced friends, and I think of all the nice views I got to see that I never otherwise would have seen, and the good feeling of being finished with a run (come on- the BEST feeling) comes to mind, and, also, I do wonder if I will be able to shave seconds off my marathon time. I guess I’m not throwing in the towel yet (although I do still have three weeks to decide- I kid!).

In the three weeks remaining before marathon season gets going, I’m going to really push myself to focus on my flexibility. No more skipping the post-run stretching, and hopefully I’ll be able to incorporate a little more yoga into my fitness regime.  I’ll admit that I was partly inspired by the good advice I’ve received over the years from medical and fitness professionals, butI was also inspired by Betsey Johnson. Yeah, fashion design icon Betsey Johnson. I was watching the Food Network show  ‘Worst Cooks in America,’ and Betsey Johnson mad a guest appearance, did a cartwheel followed by a split, and then confessed that she is 71 years old. Yikes; I’ve gotta step up my flexibility game. There is no reason that, if a 71 year old lady can still cartwheel and do splits, that I can’t touch my toes. I’m not aiming for cartwheels and splits, my goal is simply a little less Humpty Dumpty, who was so stiff and brittle he fell to pieces, and a little more Gumby. Any tips fellow non-fitness freaks?

 

Ouchie.

Its baaaaack!

Cue the JAWS theme because yesterday I revisited my old friend the ‘Tough Mudder’ workout, and this workout is a blood-thirsty monster. I mean it.

After a bit of fitness leisure time following the Hibiscus Half Marathon (which went totally fine, by the way, I ended up being only about 30 seconds slower than the Hapalua in April) that involved a little travel to the Northeast for a wedding and a lot of beer-drinking and s’mores-eating, I was feeling like I needed to kick things into high gear fitness-wise.

While I was visiting the Shire Vermont, I managed to sneak in a couple of short but lovely runs in the cool New England air, but after a couple of weeks of indulging and several long plane rides, I was feeling a little sluggish and out of shape. Begrudgingly, I accepted the fact that only a hardcore workout would shake things up for me.

In case you have forgotten (and how could you? This workout visits me in my nightmares!) The ‘Tough Mudder” workout consists of doing a variety of painful things an insufferable amount of times over and over again. No, seriously, that is about all you need to know about this workout.

I first became acquainted with this bad boy a couple of years ago when I was participating in a fitness Boot Camp, and it is a point of pride for me that I can actually do it. Well, could actually do it; since I’m a little weak and flabby at the moment, I modified yesterday’s workout so that I could live through it.

I shortened the workout to 8 rounds and split them in half to make this one workout into two shorter workouts. Which exercises did I forgo, you ask? The triceps pushups because, lets be real here, one kind of pushup in a day is one kind too many, and the dips because there is never anywhere convenient to do dips near the cardio equipment. I also swapped the running for ellipticizing since I was planning on going running today.

So, my workout started with 10 squat jumps, then as each round continued I added 10 pushups, 10 burpees, and 10 mountain climbers. Then I swapped to round 2 and started with 10 split jumps, adding flutter kicks, twists, and tuck jumps with each round. By the time I was finished, sweat was dripping into my eyes and I was in full-blown tomato face mode. I slept quite well last night.

Tonight I went for a slow three mile run. My butt and quads complained the entire time and I ran my slowest three miles since the marathon, but I expected that after yesterday. My next goal is to complete the entire workout from start to finish again!

The Finish Line is in Sight

I’ve been so absorbed with work lately that the Hibiscus Half Marathon, my last big race (so far) before I attempt the marathon again in December, really snuck up on me.

You guys, it’s this Sunday.

I think I’m ready, but I don’t think my performance will be as spectacular as during the Hapalua. I’ve been training pretty well on my own (I even went on two, solo, ten mile runs and wasn’t bored out of my mind- shout out to Don for meeting me with Gatorade at mile 5; that’s true love!), and my pace has been pretty steady, but, honestly, I am le tired.

Leading up to the Hapalua, I felt strong, I felt fast, I felt powerful and full of life. I felt like Mercury with his winged feet! I’m not sure if it’s just that I miss having the camaraderie and inspiration of running in a group; training on your own is quite different and I think the friendly competition of seeing others improve their speed and stamina is a great motivator. The weather has also suddenly become summer, and where once we had temperate, breezy days, we are now experiencing hot, hot sun, and that, I think, is slowing me down too.

Instead of fleet Mercury, these days I’m feeling more like the ole’ bay mare who ain’t what she used to be; a little creaky, a little slow, filled more with complaints and excuses than with vim and vigor. I need a little break. Lately I’ve been looking forward more to my workouts at the gym than to my zen running time, and normally it’s the reverse. I guess I’ve reached the point in my relationship with running where, much like when I’ve found a new favorite food, I’m suddenly able to see beyond the “new” thing and remember that there are other things I enjoy.

My very own old bay mare; I feel you, girl, I'd rather eat a big pile of food than run too.
My very own old bay mare; I feel you, girl, I’d rather eat a big pile of food than run too.

I’m going to give the Hibiscus my very best effort, and if I’m a little (or a lot) slower than I was at the Hapalua, I’m going to try not to beat myself up about it. I don’t want these races to become too much pressure; they are supposed to be fun, low stress, and count as a big achievement if I simply make it across the finish line standing upright and before the course is disassembled. So, if I don’t beat my bad-ass time of 2:05, I’m going to try to remember that the only thing it means is that I was slower than I was on April 10th; it doesn’t mean that I suck and should work harder- I’ve been working pretty hard. What is it that they say? It’s not the destination, its the journey? Yeah, that sounds right.

 

Time to Hit the Trails? I Think I’ll Sit this One Out.

A few weekends ago I convinced Don to try trail running with me. While we enjoy hiking, neither of us had ventured out for a run on a trail before, and, I think it is safe to say, I doubt either of us will ever again.

We drove, early on a Sunday morning, to a trail that a super-runner friend had told us about in the nearby town of Aiea. The appeal of this location for running lay in the fact that the trail was a 5ish mile loop, and that it was a tried and approved trail for running. Although the forecast was for sun, we parked our car in a light drizzle, and were dismayed, upon embarking on the run, to find the trail slippery and muddy.

Muddy.

Very, very, MUDDY.

I think my expectations for what trail running SHOULD be differed greatly from what it actually is. I had envisioned a well-maintained gravel path with inclines and declines, free of debris and wide enough to run next to your running buddy. Essentially, I was thinking of an unpaved road without any traffic and with lots of shade. Is that too much to ask?

What we got, however, was a hiking trail, after a night of rain (that my weather app failed to warn me about), that, for whatever reason, people sometimes choose to run on instead of walk on. Why they do this, I’m not really sure. There were steep inclines, steep declines, the path was too narrow for even one person at times. There were roots. There were rocks. There was mud. Endless amounts of mud.

I’m not sure where the fun part of trail running comes in; I started out feeling discouraged by the mud, the footing was so squelchy and gross and the trail so narrow, that it was often difficult to navigate without sliding down an embankment or landing up to your ankles in mud, and I continued to be discouraged by the roots and the fact that it was too slippery to really run at all. I felt less like I was out for a nice Sunday run and more like a contestant on the old Nickelodeon show “Legends of the Hidden Temple.” After we each slipped and fell (and suffered no injuries, in case you were worried), we mostly walked.

We did meet others who were brave enough to tromp through the slop at running speeds, but I never felt like I had secure enough footing to really give it a go. Perhaps I was wearing the wrong shoes, or maybe I just wasn’t doing it right, or possibly it’s simply that I am now in my 30s and realize I am not as indestructible as I once was, but my fun morning of trail running ended up being a long morning of walking in the muck. Don and I were both relieved when we reached the end of the trail and our feet found the paved road leading back to our car. I might give trail running another try on a day that is dry, but I think what my heart really desires is a shady, freshly-graded, 8′ wide gravel running path, not a trail.

 

 

Nailed it.

Duke

Last Sunday was a beautiful day for a run. We gathered near the statue of Duke Kahanamoku in the early hours of the morning; the tiki torches were lit, the ABC stores were just starting to open, and the sun was peeking over the horizon as the Hapalua Half Marathon began.

I rode to the race with a friend and we arrived early enough that we were pretty close to the starting line when the race began. It was cool to see Team Hawaii start; their running looked absolutely effortless as they sped away from us. I like to think that I look like that too, but unfortunately I’ve seen photos and it isn’t true.

When the race started for the rest of us, I got caught up in the excitement and ran a little above my pace for a few miles. I was with the other Liz from the running group for the first 5k, and she informed me after the race that we ran our first mile in 8:50. Far too fast for me. I managed to keep a pretty good pace up for the first 10k, and then I started to get tired. And hot. And cranky.

Runners getting their snacks after finishing.
Runners getting their snacks after finishing.

BY the time I saw Don and my friend Rosie, who was there to cheer her husband on, at mile 8, I had slowed considerably. There weren’t many spectators along the course like there had been for the marathon, and I was glad to see them and the cold bottles of Gatorade they had brought to share.

While I was running, I felt terrible. I was hot and tired, every time I took a drink of water, I seemed to forget how to swallow and did that awful thing where you aspirate the water and then spend the next three minutes coughing like you have emphysema, and I felt like I was moving in slow motion. Every step was painful, and I thought my lungs were going to spontaneously combust as I slogged up the long hill on Monserrat Ave.

BannerThe one downfall of my FitBit is that it doesn’t give a good idea of your pace while you are running. I often gauge how hard I am working by my heart rate, but I try not to look at my watch a lot while I am running. I like to use it more for data analysis after a run; I worry that I will become obsessed with it while running if I rely on it too much. Instead, I usually listen to my body to tell me when I am going too fast, but I ignored it last weekend because I thought I was being wimpy. I wasn’t- I was actually going pretty fast.

Guys, as predicted by my friend Mel on Facebook, my final time was 2:05:10.

Lemme say it again: 2:05:10. Yes, that is a full ten minutes faster than my goal time of 2:15, and I said I would have been happy with any time under 2:30 (and I meant it!). I was ecstatic when I saw the race clock as I neared the finish line. It’s not a time any serious runner would brag about, but for me, well, I might as well hang up my sneakers and call it a day, because that is about as good as it gets.

At one point during the race, when I felt like death and was worried I was going to vomit or poop my pants (I did neither, by the way), I had resigned myself to accepting a slower time and being happy that I improved on my 10k time (it went from 73 minutes in my personal 10k race about a year ago to 56 minutes. This is a pretty good accomplishment in itself and shows what a year of dedication and training with people who like to run and know how to prepare for an event like this can do; I shaved almost 20 minutes off my 10k time! What I didn’t know at the time I was resigning myself to a slower half marathon than I’d hoped for was that I was actually working pretty hard. I guess the saying “no pain, no gain” rang extra true last Sunday.

My new shoes held up well under the pressure of their longest run since their un-boxing. I did get a blister on the ball of one foot, but I think that was more a function of me not allowing the shoes enough time to break in than the fault of the shoe. I like the way they break over and I felt like I had more between me and the road than with my Topos. This runner gives the Newton Gravity V two enthusiastic thumbs up.

The results tell me that I ran an average pace of 9:34 which is in line with what our group had been running in training. My overall pace for the full marathon in December was 11:34, but I’m not sure the two are equally comparable since in order to survive that longer distance, I’d have to slow down, but it’s nice to think that perhaps, if I keep training and trying to improve, I might run a slightly faster marathon this year. Time will tell. I looked up the results of the friend who I rode to the race with, and he ran an average pace of 9:13. I’m not surprised, he’s a million feet tall, but I am slightly aggravated because when he loped past me after we met up with our spouses at the 8th mile, he looked like he wasn’t even trying. I’m sure he was in as much pain as I was though. The one thing I’ve learned about running is that everybody suffers from ‘Fiery-lung Sweaty eyeball Dear-god-why-am-I-doing-this?’ syndrome.

2:05:10. BABY!
2:05:10. BABY!

I have another half marathon, the Hibiscus Half Marathon, coming up at the end of May, and I’m already starting to wonder if I could run it in under 5 hours. The way I felt running the Hapalua, my body says “No, you cannot. And don’t push your luck, lady,” but the part of my brain that doesn’t seem to understand that running sucks and is painful and should be avoided at all possible costs when sitting on the couch is a viable alternative keeps saying “Well, but maybe…”

I should thank that part of my brain. It’s the part that made me lace up my sneaks for a Seallonely solo run this week, and it’s the part that keeps signing me up for these damn races. I think it is strongly linked to the ‘self-preservation center’ of my brain as it works very hard to ensure I do not become fused with the couch and that my diet does not consist entirely of frosting and bagels.

Prepping for the Hibiscus will be harder since I don’t have the group to rely on to make sure I do the work that gets me to the finish line, but it’s not all that long of a time to maintain my fitness. Now that I know how hard I had to work to run 13.1 miles and beat my goal, I am inspired to see if I can push even harder and make that time a little faster next time. I let myself rest a little this week and ran only a short, slow three miles once. Tomorrow it is time to get back to work!

And, yeah, just in case you missed it earlier: my half marathon time was 2:05:10. Not that I think it matters or anything; I just wanted you to know.*

To the victors go the... shave ice!
To the victors go the… shave ice!

*JK. It totally matters. I’m an effing rockstar, you guys.

Hill, yeah!

Tomorrow is the big day- Hapalua Half-Marathon day, and while it kind of snuck up on me (as in when a co-worker and I were looking at our calendars to schedule something and she said “Well, next Monday is the 11th…” my response was “That means this Sunday is the 10th; I think I’m running a half-marathon on Sunday.”), I feel ready for it.

I’m even fitter and faster than I was before I lined up for the start of the marathon, and the shorter distance makes me fee like I might be able to push myself a little harder to go a little faster. My ultimate goal is to finish the 13.1 miles in about 2:15, but I would be happy with anything under 2:30. My running cohorts tell me that this is totally possible, but they can’t hear the voice of dissension that creeps into my head and gets louder with every bead of sweat that I wipe from my brow.

I think I’ve worked hard enough to be able to trust in my training and ignore all of the “I can’ts” and the “I won’ts” and the “I’m dyings” that pop into my brain to try to steer me off course. While we didn’t cover as much distance training for the half as we did for the full marathon (and why would we need to, the race is only half as long- for many of us it will be over by 8:30!), we did train on an awful lot of hills- big hills, little hills, medium hills, long slow hills, short steep hills, long steep hills, hills that seemed friendly the first time we ran up them and then we ran up them again and again, hills where people were cooking breakfast or dinner and the smell of food wafted over us, hills where fathers were helping their sons train for football season, hills where bicyclists dismounted to walk up, downhills we sang the praises of in one direction that became uphills we cursed on the way home; there was no shortage of hills for the Windward Endurance training group.  This is a really good thing because, while there is only one real hill on the race course, it is a pretty big one and it happens around mile 10.

The Hapalua has a fun challenge called Team Hawaii vs. the World where the best local runners compete against a few professional runners from other countries. The local runners get a head start and the professional runners chase them to the finish line. When I went to pick up my race packet yesterday, I spotted two of the professional runners taking a breather.

Takin' a load off before the big day.
Takin’ a load off before the big day.

Don is sitting this race out because he has been too busy to train, but he and a friend who’s husband is running will be at mile 8 and at the finish line cheering us on. I’m enjoying my pre-race diet of carbs and ice cream (if eating ice cream before a race isn’t a thing, I vow to make it one) and am looking forward to this time tomorrow when I will have finished my run. Wish me luck, I’m going to take a cue from the pros and spend some time stretched out on the floor!

 

Oof… but at least I have new sneakers.

Oof. Ugh. Bleagh. Hmmmmrrrph.

Any of these noises could characterize how the past two weeks have felt. Work has been busy (and that means a lot of sitting in front of a computer because if I’m not seated in front of a computer, I’m not really getting anything done) and on top of the extra-hefty workload, the computers and/or computer systems I need to use for work have been unpredictably unreliable. I’ve been playing this clip from Office Space in my head frequently.

Most days I return home from work with only the energy it takes to crawl from my garage onto the living room floor-where my dog tries to revive me with his smelly kisses- and the desire to put on my bathrobe and lie on the couch with a gallon of ice cream and a remote control. It takes all the will power I have- ALL of it!– to put on my gym clothes and get back in the car to go workout or go running. With the stress of having too much to do and not enough time to do it in, my workouts have been critical in keeping my sanity. Even if I get to the gym late and think I would rather drop a kettle bell on my foot and call it a day than actually expend the mental energy it takes to plan a workout, I leave the gym feeling more refreshed and centered than when I arrived.

Keeping to my routine of alternating gym days and running days not only makes sure that I unfold myself from seated-at desk-with-fingers-on-keyboard position and use my muscles once in a while, but it also insures that my body, my poor, hunched-over body, is as tired as my mind is at the end of the day so that I can sleep well and take on the next day with all my faculties functioning at 100%.

The days when I most feel like giving myself a get out of jail free card and excusing myself from the gym are generally the days that I need it most. I can tell how my day is going by how tempted I am by the sugar-laden office snacks that seem to spontaneously emerge  like fungi in a damp forest. The more stressed I am, the more likely I am to eat something with frosting, and the more critical it becomes that I talk myself out of going to bed as soon as I get home and into some exercise. I need that break to force me out of my own head and into the realm of the physical world; it’s sort of a re-set button for my brain and body.

Consumed this beaut' last Friday. Perfect frosting to cake proportions.
Consumed this beaut’ last Friday. Perfect frosting to cake proportions.

Along with keeping me from turning into a crazy asshole, I’ve been using my fitness regime as a treat to motivate me to get out of bed every day and go to work. Nothing motivates me to earn money like spending it. Some might call me cheap frugal, and they’d be right. I don’t like spending money. I’d like to save all of my money in a pile and sleep on it like Smaug, so sometimes I make myself buy something that costs more than $20 just so I don’t become a paranoid money-hoarder who stuffs every last nickel into her skirt hems and lives on dandelion greens and bits of food salvaged from other people’s garbages.

A couple of weeks ago, I purchased a new pair of running sneaks (and they cost so much more than $20 that I almost threw them back at the nice man offering them to me and ran out of the store). After the marathon (actually, it was during the marathon, around mile 17), I decided that my beloved Topos weren’t quite enough sneaker to stand up to the mileage I was putting on them. All of the things that I love about the shoe- their lightness, the fact that it feels like there is nothing between me and the road, the spacious toe box- started to count against the shoe on my long runs.

They are light, and I like that, but they don’t seem to be made of sturdy enough material to stand up to continuous, rigorous use (never thought I’d say that about a pair of running shoes. LL Bean slippers, maybe, but not running shoes). I wore a hole in my first pair 5 months in. The roomy toe box I still love, but the entire shoe feels a little shapeless, and I needed to buy a pair of inserts to give more stability to my narrow  feet. The feeling that there is little between me and the road is really what made me think about relegating my dear Topos to the “10 miles and under ” category of runs. There is too much pounding and not enough shoe to absorb the concussion; every pebble on the road and every inconsistency in footing is felt, and after a while, it’s uncomfortable.

One of my running buds, Kelly, who, for some strange reason likes to run for hundreds of miles consecutively, but good thing for me because girlfriend knows her shoes, suggested I try a show made by Newton that she really loves. She even had an old, tired pair for me to try. I borrowed them for a week and was hooked.

Behold! My newest crush.
Behold! My newest crush.

The Topo’s claim to fame is that they are a pretty minimalist shoe and they sort of let your foot do what it wants to do, and I like that, but my propensity is to run a little flat-footed and I think not having a lot of stability to support my foot within the shoe was part of the reason I was having some IT band/knee pain leading up the marathon last winter. This show, the Newton Gravity V, has a little more going on, but is still pretty light and gives my toes enough freedom to be individuals. The biggest difference with this shoe is the lugs that span the ball of my foot.* They make me want to run more on my fore foot (no more slappy feet, I hope!) which I think will help prevent any IT band flare ups (insert ‘praying hands’ emoji here).

Check out my lugs.
Check out my lugs.

These shoes, while different from the Topos, are pretty great. I’ve been adjusting to them; going from a well-loved pair to a new pair was a more drastic change than I’d anticipated, and they make my legs tired in different ways than the Topos do. Today will be their long-run debut; I’m about to test them out on a fairly flat 10-miler this morning. I think they’re ready for it and I hope I am too. I’m starting to understand why most runners seem like the Imelda Marcos of sneakers with a vast collection in every shape and for every possible kind of run.

 

*Don’t know what lugs are? That’s ok, I didn’t either until someone said “these shoes have pretty big lugs” and handed me one. Upon inspection, I noticed that it has rubbery, sticky-outy thingies on part of the tread. Those are the lugs.