Today was a great day to run a half-marathon! We awoke to cool breezes that promised to keep the air temperature down, and, although we were promised VOG and high humidity, by the time our group finished running the race, the weather was still holding out.
While I did not achieve my goal of running the race in less than 2 hours, I did take a few minutes off last year’s time and ran it in 2:02:31. I am happy with how I ran the race; for the first half, each time I looked at my watch, I was running faster than a 9:00 mile, which for a slow-poke like me, is quite fast. I’m not sure I’ve ever kept a pace like that up for such a long distance, and I ran my fastest 10k in 57:55; remember two years ago when I worked so hard to run a 10k in 75 minutes? Yeah, I sure do, and it felt really good to know that I could easily accomplish 6.2 miles in less than an hour today.
I would never have dreamed, that just two years later, I would be running distances far beyond 6.2 miles and doing an adequately mediocre job of it! It might seem to you that I’m selling myself short, but I’m not, and nor am I disappointed to have attained the status of being an adequately mediocre runner. I have no delusions of grandeur; I’m not going to be selected for any sort of competitive running event (hello Olympic pasta-eating team!) and I’m never going to be the winner of a race (unless I design another race of one, but then I’m both first and last place, and what is the point of that?), but to have gone from somebody who would rather lie down on a treadmill and get belt-burn on her chin than run one goddamn step to someone who signs up to run (when not being chased by a predator) kinda far for fun is pretty remarkable.
In thinking back over my race, I am happy with my pace, and I think the only way I could have saved a little time (aside from running faster, obviously) would have been to skip some of the water stations. Because I carry my water with me (on my back, like a two-legged camel), I usually don’t stop at every aid station, but, because we were warned about high-humidity and VOG, I was worried about dehydrating and stopped, briefly, at each station. I don’t know if it would have saved me three minutes to skip an aid station or two, and I’m not all that concerned about it. I’m happy with my results and now have something to work on for next year- getting faster!
We have a brief break from serious training until August when marathon season begins again. In the meantime, I’m going focus on getting stronger and faster, and, in general, fitter. I’m hoping to jump in on some longer training runs with friends who are going to run a 100 mile run around (literally, around) the Big Island of Hawaii. I’m DEFINITELY not running 100 miles… not today, not tomorrow, not ever… but I am hoping to go beyond the 26.2 mile marathon distance. We’ll see what kind of stuff I’m made of!
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.
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.
The 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.
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 lonely 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.*
*JK. It totally matters. I’m an effing rockstar, you guys.
In case you hadn’t heard, last Sunday I RAN A MARATHON.
Yes indeed-y, I- the girl who not even a year ago, would rather have walked ten miles barefoot in the snow than run three miles wearing comfortable sneakers in a climate-controlled gym, the girl who could only run if there was a piece of cake in front of her and a rabid panther behind her, the girl who’s face used to get so red and breathing so labored after just a short bit of light jogging that people stopped her to make sure she was “ok”- ran 26.2 miles and lived to tell the tale.
After making our way to the starting area and standing in line for far too long waiting to use some Porta-Potties, Don and I joined the mob of runners lining up in the early morning darkness of downtown Waikiki to await the official start of the race. The elite runners were directly in front of the mass of commoners in a roped off holding area of their own, and, although I was not close enough to see, I presume they were off like a pack of jackrabbits as soon as the starting shot sounded. Don and I got to enjoy a little bit of the fireworks show that marked the start of the race because, even though we lined up pretty close to the front, it was still another 5 minutes before the crowd thinned out enough so that we could actually started running.
We wound our way through Chinatown, past the Honolulu City Lights all lit up for Christmas, and out of Waikiki, and I struggled to find a space of my own. I had intended not to waste a lot of energy zigging and zagging around other runners, but in order to avoid running into people who were stopping to take pictures of the fireworks, the Christmas lights, other runners in costumes, etc., I had to do a little bit of maneuvering. My right knee, which had been giving me trouble since the 20 mile run but had been feeling good the week leading up to the race, started to twinge around the 5k mark, and I worried that it was going to make my run a miserable one. Fortunately, the twinge remained only a twinge for the duration of the race.
As we made our way up the hill near Diamondhead, I braced myself for some hard running because all summer long, people who had run the marathon before would mention the “dreaded Diamondhead hill.” I’m not sure if it was the excitement of running the race, the cheerful enthusiasm of the high school-aged volunteers holding the lane markers on that stretch of road, or the training on essentially every hill that could be found on the Windward side of the island that helped me out, but I was up and over before I knew it. It was probably a combination of excitement, cheer and training that got me to the other side wondering if that really truly was the “dreaded Diamondhead hill” or only a small precursor of something more hill-like to come.
The excitement of the day got me to the halfway-mark before I even knew what was happening and I felt great. Because I had water with me and I had trained all summer, I was able to skip the first several aid stations and get out of the crowd to find a space of my own. At the 13 mile marker, my FitBit timer showed 2:30 exactly, and I knew then that, because I would get more tired and likely slower the longer I ran, I probably wouldn’t make my goal of running the entire race in less than 5 hours, but my goal didn’t seem all that important in the moment. What did seem important was that there were volunteers who had dragged themselves out of bed just as early as I had in order to stand in first a light drizzle and then the hot sun to hand me a cup of cold gatorade or give me a high five, also important were the families in Hawaii Kai who, because our route went through their neighborhood, were trapped at home and instead of grumbling about the inconvenience stood on their lawns to offer us oranges, pretzels, candy, and a spritz with the garden hose; seeing the first elite lady-runner flying up the hill in the opposite lane felt pretty important as did hearing the cheers of “you’ve got this!” “you guys are amazing” and “keep smiling” and reading the cleverly-crafted signs- my favorites were the ones that read “Go, Random Stranger, Go!” and “Run like Kanye is going to give your medal to Beyoncé” and, of course, “Beer in 10 miles!”
The spirit of the moment kept me feeling pretty good until about mile 18 where some volunteers affiliated with our running group had parked themselves with an aid station just for us. I stopped at the aid station to take some more Advil, have a little soda (Coke is surprisingly satisfying while running) and do a bit of stretching. I maybe stopped for too long because as I started again I noticed that my LEFT knee was starting to ache and feel quite stiff. Until I paused at mile 18, I had only taken short power walking breaks through the aid stations and I made myself power on again until mile 20. At mile 20, I took a longer walking break which was bittersweet because it felt good to rest for a few minutes but I find that the longer I walk the harder it is to start back up again. I made it to mile 24 before I allowed myself another short break and then soldiered on to the end. When I finally saw the finish line up ahead, I felt relief like I’d never felt before. I imagine it is the same kind of relief that a parent who has lost a child in a crowded mall feels when the child is finally spotted tearing the leaves off a plant near the fountain or the relief that my friend, Kath, who was charged with watching my beloved escape-artist puppy on my wedding day, felt when she finally caught him after he slithered out of the office and ran amok around the North Country for a few hours (an escapade I learned of years later but which explained why she was hours late to the reception!). As soon as the finish line was in sight, I found my third or fourth wind and sped up. I started passing people and was once again zigging and zagging to get through the crowd with only one thought on my mind: the sooner I get there the sooner I can STOP EFF-INGRUNNING.
My final time was 5:02:51 which I’m pretty happy with considering that fact that I used to hate running and 26.2 miles is an obscene distance to attempt to run. After being adorned with my medal, I found Don still in the finisher’s area lying on some bags of ice. I knelt upon those bags for a few minutes, refilled my water bottle, and we went in search of our running group and our friends who not only baby-sat Jack for us the night before (no escaping this time! What a difference 7 years makes.) but also got out of bed early enough and hung around the race long enough to cheer us on both in Hawaii Kai and at the Finish Line.
I’m still pretty impressed with myself. Not only did I run a MARATHON and not only did I finish within breathing distance of my goal, but I kind of had a good time. This week was
tough; when I awoke Monday morning the only parts of my body that weren’t stiff or sore were my fingers. Everything else hurt. I spent all day alternately looking for food to satisfy my ravenous hunger and wishing people would leave me alone so that I could take a nap at my desk. The creakiness improved throughout the week but when I went for a short “recovery run” (as recommended by Mike) on Thursday, I felt like a bucket of bolts and both knees threatened to fall onto the ground and stay there. As often happens when someone has been working toward a special event and has successfully completed that special event I now find myself plagued with some sort of sinus infection/cold type illness. It doesn’t really matter though, because I am a badass who ran a marathon.
I learned a few things during the race: everyone says that the final 10k of a marathon are the hardest- and they’re right, a good solid training regime with lots of stupid hills will get you to the finish line, and the kindness of volunteers and spectators (for what has to be the most boring sport to watch) can really make a gal feel good when she is deliriously wondering if this is all just a terrible nightmare in which the mile markers continuously reset to 20 and she is trapped in a Sisyphean cycle and will never see the finish line.
I imagine that running a marathon is sort of like childbirth; people say they forget how painful it is and that is how they end up doing it more than once. I hope so because I think I’d like to do it again. I’ve signed up for the Hapalua half-marathon in April, but for now I will let my running muscles recover and focus, once again, on my weight lifting and HIIT training because I know that having a strong core is as helpful to being successful as a runner as running up all of those god-damned hills is.
Thank you to everyone who sent me wishes of luck, playlist suggestions, and all-around good thoughts, thank you to the Windward Endurance Training group for accompanying me on this journey and dragging me along when necessary, thank you to Don for agreeing to this madness (although he has forbidden me from signing up for any more restaurant newsletters since this is how we got involved to begin with), thank you to Dave and Rosie who perfectly executed both dog duty and cheerleading, and thank you to the organizers and volunteers of the Honolulu Marathon- I never went thirsty and my spirits didn’t have the opportunity to flag.
The good news is that a week ago, we completed our 20 mile training run! This was the last of our super long runs leading up to the marathon (now three weeks away, might I remind you!), and, after a month of rest and two short training runs earlier in the week, Don re-joined our group… and promptly annoyed us all by being the first one to finish in a little over three hours. We find ourselves now in the tapering portion of our training where our runs are less intense and we get to recuperate a bit before the big day.
The bad news is that I really need this recuperation time.
I finished my 20 mile run in 4 hours 12 minutes. I’m pretty happy with that time because I had what I think is the worst run of my life. Our run began in Ka’a’awa along the coast and, while we watched the sun rise over the ocean, we battled a pretty strong headwind for the first 5 or so miles. I was feeling alright and glad to be out of the wind when, around mile 7, I suddenly needed a restroom.
I fortunately found a pair of well-used port-o-potties near a boat ramp and one of them was stocked with toilet paper- what luck! Unfortunately this was only the start of my struggles because something I ate on Saturday had decided to wage war against me and I found myself frantically searching for a bathroom every few miles. Needless to say, these bathroom breaks really slowed me down, and I got even slower during the last 2 miles when my right knee started to hurt.
I assumed that my knee, after an afternoon of stretching, ice, Advil, and relaxing poolside, would feel better on Monday morning, and when it didn’t, I took some Advil, did some yoga in place of going to the gym, and assumed that it would feel better on Tuesday. Again, I assumed incorrectly; it didn’t feel good enough to run on, so I sat out our Tuesday night run (which made me very sad because I’ve come to really enjoy the company of my fellow runners). On Wednesday I tentatively hopped on the elliptical at the end of my workout and the knee felt ok, so I gave Thursday night’s run a try and was disappointed to be in pain not far into our route.
I started slow, and got slower, and, although I was determined to finish in a run, I had to walk up a small hill. My friend Mel offered me one of her neoprene knee bands, and, although it made my knee feel better at a walk, it didn’t have much effect on it while running. I was feeling pretty discouraged because I was (and still am) worried about what this means for my marathon.
I’ve been so worried about it this week that I’ve been whining to Don about my knee quite a bit. In fact, he suggested that I put a disclaimer at the beginning of this post advising you to read it in an irritating whining voice, but I think that simply reading the following sentence in a self-pitying tone will suffice: I REALLY want to do the marathon, and I want to RUN it like a real runner would!
I know that I could walk the marathon. I could crawl, I could do the electric slide, heck, I could probably even lie on the ground and roll like a log and not get disqualified, but the amount of work that goes into training for a marathon deserves to be rewarded with the opportunity to complete the race in the manner intended: at a run. Since August, I’ve been diligently running up hills and back down them, I’ve pushed myself to go faster than is comfortable, I’ve gotten up early, I’ve run in the rain and under the blazing sun, and I’ve felt this training make me into a faster and stronger runner; I want the chance to run my marathon as I’ve trained for it.
I know that in the big picture this is a small thing. I’m trying to look past my disappointment and feeling like I’ve been betrayed by my body to focus on the positive things. Guys, last week I RAN FOR 20 MILES! I’ve been running regularly since March when I decided to see if I could run a 10k, and, somewhere along the way (I think when we were running over the Pali) I realized that I no longer hate running. I kinda even like it a little. There is pleasure to be found in being alone with your thoughts, of having the time to let your body go on autopilot while you ponder life’s BIG questions (“what should we have for dinner…?”), or to let your mind go blank while you focus only on putting one foot in front of the other, and there is joy to be found in noticing yourself and your running buddies getting better with each step. If nothing else comes from this, if I have to forgo my marathon plans in favor of something more conservative, at least I’ve learned to find the enjoyment in running. And also, I’m a badass who can run for 20 eff-ing miles.
I skipped out on today’s 7 mile run (again, sad to miss my social time) in favor of doing an upper body and core workout at the gym followed by LOTS of stretching. It seems like my knee pain might be caused by tight leg muscles. Although I’ve been stretching, I probably haven’t been stretching enough for the amount of running we’ve been doing, so I’m taking it easy, getting some quality time with my foam roller, making sure I can touch my toes (or at least my ankles), and will try to restart my running this week. Send me good karma, guys!
This Sunday’s run was much easier to endure than the last one because the trade winds have returned to our island and have blown the oppressive heat and humidity away- hopefully far, far away. Technically this week’s long run was supposed to be more challenging than the previous week’s because it was longer (only a little, it didn’t quite end up being 18 miles) and had more hills, but the temperature drop made all the difference for me.
I think, with the extra loop my running buddy Mel and I walked at the end of our run, that we ended up going just under 17 miles on Sunday. This weekend, we will tackle our longest run before the marathon- 20 miles!- and I’m shaking in my sneakers at the thought of it. I think the scariest thing about these really long runs is the sense of the unknown. Each time we jump in distance, I worry that it will be too much for me and I won’t be able to finish. I wasn’t sure I could actually run for 10 miles before I did it, and now that I have done it, I have that sense of accomplishment as reassurance when I feel too tired to continue, but I don’t have that reassurance when we increase our distance. I find that lack a little bit exciting because it feels good to conquer new challenges and a lot terrifying because- what if I really can’t run that far?.
20 miles is a long, long way to run, and the marathon is even longer. I’m nervous that our longest training run still falls 6.2 miles short of the final destination because I feel like a lot can happen in 6.2 miles, but I also understand that it is important to not overdo it while training and if you’re going to get within 6 miles of running a marathon, you might as well just run the whole damn thing- let’s face it, I’m not going to do that unless I’m getting a medal, a t-shirt, and free doughnuts.
I know that at the end of our 20 mile training run, I’m going to feel tired. I’m going to feel sore. I’m going to think that I hate running and it was stupid to even sign up for a marathon when the farthest I’d ever run before was 6.2 miles and that felt really REALLY hard to do and why would I ever think that running an extra 20 miles on top of the 6.2 that were really REALLY hard to do was a good idea for me because I hate running, and I’m tired and sore, and I’m really, REALLY not a fitness freak.
I know this because it is how I’ve felt at the end of every run longer than 6.2 miles- I’ve been both delighted to have finished and also filled with doubt about my ability to go farther and actually accomplish this goal of running a marathon, but I’m doing it. So far, I have been able to answer the challenges put in front of me, and I may not be fast, I may get a red tomato face 5 miles in, and I may be wearing a dorky water bottle belt, but I’m doing it and I’m getting faster and less tomato-faced with every run (there is no cure for the dorkiness of the water bottle belt, I’m afraid. C’est la vie.). So, I guess, bring it, 20 miles; show me what you’ve got. (I really hope what you’ve got is friendly and gentle and accompanied by temperatures in the 70s with a light breeze and slightly overcast skies).
In addition to my first run longer than 16 miles, I reached another milestone on Sunday- I got a hole in my sneakers. It’s not that I’ve never worn a pair of sneakers until they had holes before- anyone who’s known me since my early twenties knows that I will wear an article of clothing (shoes included) until it is more hole than article of clothing- but I’ve never worn a hole in my shoes by RUNNING in them. It’s only a small hole in the toe of my left sneaker made, probably, by my big toe pressing against the fabric, but it’s there and I made it by running.
I’m nervous the hole will continue to grow, so I headed to Be Fit to get a back-up pair on Monday so that they could be properly broken in before the big day. I bought the same shoe, the Topo Fli-Lyte. I really do love them and I think that, at this stage in the game, the old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is probably a good one to live by. While my feet and knees are a little sore the afternoon after a long morning run, I don’t think that is an unexpected experience when regularly running double-digit miles, and I usually don’t feel any residual soreness the following day. I’m going to stick with what seems to be working: plenty of water, lots of stretching, and my trusty Topo sneaks. That starting line is getting closer with each day.
Yesterday, while perusing my Facebook newsfeed, I was taken aback when I scrolled past a post from the Honolulu Marathon advertising that there were only 50 days left until the race. FIFTY days! And that was yesterday, so now there are only 49 days until the marathon. Woe is me.*
I’m not gonna lie, the fact that the marathon is quickly approaching and becoming a more tangible obstacle to surmount is kind of scaring the sh!t out of me. When I signed up to start training with this running group, the marathon seemed so distant that I didn’t really have to think about actually running it. Sure, I was training for a marathon, but I didn’t have time to consider the enormity of that goal when I was so busy worrying about being able to run 8, 10, 12 and then 14 miles. Let me focus on the task at hand and worry about the big one when I get there!
Well, now I’m there. Or at least close enough to there to start worrying about it in earnest. I don’t think it is coincidental that every time I start thinking about actually running in the marathon I feel a bubbly burning in my lower intestine and my shoulders involuntarily get rigid. I’m not doubting my training; I think Mike has designed a good program for us and in past years everyone who has done their training, in his group, has finished in a timely manner. I’m just doing what comes naturally to me whenever I’m faced with a big challenge: I’m doubting the extent of my grit and questioning my talent.
I think what is most terrifying about the marathon is that it feels like my one chance. I’ve never done anything like this before, and, while, sure there will be other marathons I can enter in the future should I want to, the groundwork it takes to get to the starting line is so extensive and requires so much dedication that to have a really bad experience in this first one would risk knocking the wind out of my sails to attempt another one. I’ve gotta get to that finish line.
I’ve been seeing this (appropriately timed) Nike commercial all over social media and the blogosphere, and it is quite inspirational. I’m hoping it will prep me for the view I will see during the marathon- everyone else’s backs disappearing over the horizon!
Something else that I’m using to help inspire me when the going gets tough (and it will get TOUGH) is something that I encountered a couple of weeks ago on another running blog written by the Unsporty Woman (check her out, I think you’ll like her!). She finished a marathon last weekend and on the way used this positive visualization video to help strengthen her mind so that she wouldn’t get caught up in negative feelings during her race.
I’ve heard from many sources that the last 10k of the marathon can be the most difficult. I keep hearing stories about runners hitting the wall around mile 20 and going from being on their way to finishing in under 4:30 to taking another hour to run the final 6 miles. I think (I hope!) mental preparation will help me when I encounter my wall. I’m well on my way to being ready physically; I’m feeling stronger and faster in my running than I’ve ever felt before, but I need to strengthen my mind so that it can deflect those Debbie Downer thoughts when they try to dissuade me from finishing the race. When I’m hot, tired, and sore, it will really be a case of mind over matter.
*And woe is you, too; if there are only 49 days until the marathon, then there are only 61 days until Christmas. Better get shopping!
I did a very bad thing, and I’ve lately been suffering the consequences.
I bought my last pair of sneakers in December, and, traditionally, I can get about 6 months out of a pair of sneakers before they need to be relegated to the status of “for yard work and trips to the mailbox only,” but traditionally I don’t do even half as much running as I did this Spring.
You may recall that in March I ran the distance of a 10k (and if you don’t recall, I’d really like to remind you), and leading up to that run I was averaging about 10 miles of running per week to train. I know that to the seasoned runner or the competitive I’ve-got-a-whole-level-of-crazy-beyond-comprehension-and-I-run-marathons-because-it’s-the-only-way-I-can-sleep-at-night-and-by-the-way-I-just-might-be-related-to-American-Pharoah runner 10 miles a week is chump change, but prior to that, I ran an average of 3 miles a week. Anybody who can count knows that there is big difference between 10 of something and 3 of something. Actually, even people who can’t count could see how big the difference is; as an experiment, make two piles of Oreos (and be sure they’re Double-Stuf, please, don’t cheap out on your cookie selection), one with 3 cookies and another with 10, locate the nearest toddler and ask him or her which pile he or she would prefer.* Even a toddler can tell the difference between 3 and 10, and I should have been able to as well.
In April, I noticed that my sneakers were feeling a little tired, but I was too busy packing my entire life into boxes to be shipped halfway across the world (where I am still awaiting its arrival, by the way) and bidding adieu to the friends I left behind in Germany to really care. In May, I knew it was time to go shoe shopping, but moving is such an expensive endeavor and I wasn’t working out as much as normal, so I talked myself into waiting and saving what now seems like a small amount of money in the face of my foot pain, and just last week, I suffered the consequences.
I started feeling pain in my left foot about a week ago, and I tried my usual treatment regime of “just ignore it and it will go away,” but it didn’t go away- it actually got worse. By Wednesday, what had started out as a little pain had turned into enough ouch that a three-mile walk was a challenge, and I had to admit that I was wrong about waiting so long to replace my old kicks and also about hoping I could just play through the pain. So now I sit here, with egg on my face, resting my foot (FitBit friends, you are about to see my step-count go way down) and looking longingly at the new running sneaks I bought on Saturday.
I’ve been pretty loyal to the Asics brand of sneakers, and they have served me well, but the last pair I bought, while I loved them at first, felt a little heavy and inflexible after a while. I think that their sturdiness served me well while I was scrambling along the icy bike paths at the end of wintertime in Germany, but when on the treadmill it felt like I had hooves instead of feet. I don’t think this is really the fault of the shoe or the Asics company, I think that, as I become more of a runner, my running shoe needs are evolving.
In the past, whatever sneaker I bought had to be versatile enough for running (inside on a treadmill or outside on whatever Mother Nature threw my way), lifting, dog walking, hiking, and cycling. That is kind of a lot to ask of one pair of sneakers, and I know that, but I also know that I wasn’t doing enough of those things to warrant the purchase of a separate, specialized pair of kicks, but now I am and the time has come when I need a designated pair of running shoes. On Saturday, with the help of the couple who owns and runs the local sporting goods shop Be Fit Kailua, I tried on several pairs of running shoes (I felt a lot like Cinderella) and was shocked to find that I really loved a pair of minimalist running shoes made by a company called Topo.
The backstory to this brand, as told to me by Jeff at Be Fit Kailua, is that the guy who helped create the Vibram minimalist running shoes (yes, THIS Vibram, I know, I know, but I have some friends who swear by them, and it just goes to prove the adage “different strokes for different folks”) struck out on his own and made a more shoe-like minimalist running shoe. I was shocked to find that, out of the seven pairs of shoes brought out for me to try on (and can I add how refreshing it was to not have to hear the salesperson mutter “I’m not sure I have any that big” when I told her my size), the two I liked the best were two minimalist shoes, the Topos that I ended up buying and another pair by a company called Altra.
I was so surprised, that I ended up trying a a few of the pairs on more than once. I walked around the store. I went out into the parking lot to jog around. I bounced on the balls of my feet. I went back out in the parking lot to run around on just my toes. I almost bought the more traditional pair simply because it is what I expected to like. In the end, I decided that, while I had always assumed I’d be the happiest with a pair of pillows strapped to my feet, and in the absence of social acceptability for wearing pillows, I’d settle for the sneaker with the most cushion, since I had felt encumbered by and unhappy with my latest pair of Asics, maybe it was time for a change (Oh god, how I hate change). So, I took the plunge.
What I like most about these shoes (and keep in mind that I haven’t done any real running in them, I have merely jogged the length of a parking lot, so I may have to eat my words) is that they offer the things I really want from a shoe (like being a physical barrier between my foot and the hazards presented by the outside world and providing a little support so that my dogs don’t bark every time I take a step) without actually feeling like I’m wearing a shoe. These sneakers are light and the toe box is much bigger than I’m used to which will give my little piggies some extra wiggle room (a good thing since of late I’d started developing blisters on the tops of my last three toes- who does that?), and I can feel my feet in them better than in my traditional running shoe choice. I guess the theory behind the shoe is that it can help strengthen your feet by allowing them room to flex, but they provide more structure and support than minimalist shoes historically do. They are the happy medium between pillows and bare feet, and I hope I love them as much on day 100 as I did on day 1- I’ll definitely let you know.
For now, they sit dormant in my entryway because I am going to really try to rest my foot and see if it can get better without professional help. Because I’m without a car, I’ve been relying on my feet more than usual. Poor Jack will have to miss out on his walks this week (don’t worry, we’ll drive him to the dog park when Don returns home from work), and I’ll have to plan on doing any errands in the evenings when I have Don to chauffeur me around. I guess this week’s workouts will feature a lot of abs and arms exercises! And don’t think I’m ending my affair with Asics, I need a new pair of all-around sneakers for life’s other activities and I think they are still my go-to brand.
*If the nearest toddler doesn’t belong to you, you should probably ask permission from its parents before whisking it away to your kitchen and its treasure trove of Nabisco snacks, because….well….you know…..prison.
Last night, I remembered the grueling Tough Mudder workout that I loved to hate from last summer, and I realized that it would be a great way to maximize my workouts in a hotel gym that lacks both space and equipment. Burpees and push-ups and squat jumps, oh my! When I woke up this morning, I wasn’t feeling my best, so I compromised by tackling just half of the prescribed workout, and that was enough to get my heart pumping and sweat streaming into my eyes. I think Jack was doing an impression of me after my workout in the video above.
I was a little grumpy about the fact that just half of the workout- when I’ve done the ENTIRE thing before- was a challenge today, but I was pleased that the running parts were not as tiring as they were last summer and I was running at a faster pace than I had 10 months ago. Looks like all that running for my 10k paid off!
It is much easier to train yourself NOT to stay on top of your fitness goals than it is to train yourself to keep those fitness goals in mind and drag your sorry carcass to the gym/on a run/anywhere that doesn’t involve wearing pajamas and sitting on the couch reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest book.
I know this to be true because I recently did an experiment that involved me not going to the gym or doing anything all that physically active for about two weeks, and then yesterday I made myself get up early and accompany Don to the gym. The results of my experiment prove that it is very easy (and also quite fun!) to snuggle up in bed and make excuses as to why one shouldn’t get up and slip into one’s sneakers, and also that the more times one lies in bed, turns off the alarm and makes excuses, the harder it gets to resist the allure of inactivity.
I hadn’t intended to be quite so inactive for quite such a long time; I was a little bit the victim of circumstances and also a little bit the victim of my own poor planning. After my victorious 10k run (If you haven’t read the post about me finishing my 10k run and making my time goal, please read that one too because it makes me look a WHOLE LOT less lazy than this post does!) and the weekend of celebratory beers and concert, I boarded a plane headed for the US to visit friends and family whom I had not seen in a couple of years…
And then a big storm blew in and my flight got delayed and I was stuck in the Frankfurt airport for a day…
And then I, again, got stuck in the Newark airport for another day when a flight was cancelled, and when I finally made it to my parent’s house in Vermont, exercise was the furthest thing from my mind. The closest things to my mind? A shower and a nap!
I managed to fit in two short, uninspired runs during the week I visited the Northeast- one where snow pelted me in the eyes as I ran, another where the wind blew so ferociously that I turned a corner and was blown to a standstill despite the frantic pumping of my arms and legs- but mostly I sat around and stuffed my face while catching up with my dear family and beloved friends.* As my trip came to a close, I was anxious to return to Germany because- newsflash- we are moving, and while I was loafing around, sampling the best macaroni & cheeses Vermont has to offer, Don sent word that our things needed to be packed post-haste because they were being shipped about a week after my return.
I’ve know about this move for quite a while, but I have neglected to mention it because I thought we had more time. I was (quite obviously) wrong, and you can imagine my distress when all of my returning flights were again cancelled or delayed and it took me an extra three days to get home. You can also probably imagine Don’s distress as most of the responsibilities of packing then fell on his shoulders, and to make matters worse, this isn’t a simple around-the-corner-next-town-over move. Uh-uh, we are moving to eff-ing HAWAII. We are super sad to be leaving Germany (and at the start of Fest season, no less!) but we are also excited to be going to the land of pineapples and sunshine! When I finally arrived home, I had only two days to make sure our stuff was in order. After it was picked up and en route to our new tropical digs, I could have gone to the gym because its not like I even have a couch to sit on, but…..well….I just took the weekend off for no good reason other than it was easier than not taking the weekend off.
When I finally did drag myself to the gym yesterday, I made sure not to overdo things (although an injury would be a pretty good excuse to not go to the gym…). I did a few circuits of burpees, sit-ups, and box jumps, and followed that with some time on the stationary bike. Today, since Don and I are now sharing a car and he needed to use it to go to work, I didn’t go to the gym and instead opted for a slow 3-mile run in the beautiful Bavarian sunshine.
Yesterday, as I was cursing myself for the last few weeks of laziness and regretting every homemade cookie I ate while I was at my parents’ house; I came to the realization that, although I often dread it, I never regret exercise. I regret many of the things that I love (the aforementioned homemade cookies eaten by the fistful, for example), but exercise- in any form- is never something that I end up wishing I hadn’t done. No matter how little or how much of it I do, I always feel better for having done it. That alone is encouragement enough to convince me not to make an excuse tomorrow and to instead get myself to the gym.
*If you’re like me, you are probably interested in WHAT I was stuffing my face with: Homemade bread, homemade cookies (my parents are turning into quite the bakers), vegetarian sushi, pizza, Vermont craft beers, pad thai, macaroni & cheese (from the Parkside Kitchen in Richmond and again from Twigg’s Gastropub in St. Albans), mexican food, vegetable soup, cheddar soup, garlic bread, maple peanut brittle, and many other things, but those were the highlights! God, I love food.
I did it! I ran my 10k run in fewer than 75 minutes! (I’ll pause for applause)
My total time for the 6.2 miles was 73 minutes. 73 sweaty, grueling minutes, but 73 minutes just the same. After a good night’s sleep, I awoke Saturday morning to beautiful sunny skies and temperatures already climbing into the 40’s. I made myself a light breakfast and after eating it and letting it settle (nothing ruins a run like having to poop in the middle of it), I donned my running gear and hit the road.
Everything was aligned for me to have a fantastic run; the weather was warm and clear, I’d gotten plenty of rest and had taken it easy at the gym the previous day, I had a good route planned out, and I’d swapped out my tired old running soundtrack for something fresh, but for whatever reason I wasn’t feeling it on Saturday and what could have been a pleasant jaunt in the Bavarian countryside ended up feeling an awful lot like work.
I intended to run the route that Don and I had gone 6 miles on a few weekends ago so that the biggest hill would come right at the beginning of my run (I once did part of this route in reverse and when I finally made it up the hill, I had to sit down because my lungs were threatening to mutiny) and it would be easy to add the extra .2 mile. All was well until about 3.5 miles into my run when my legs started to feel like cement and the sun, which had felt like a blessing at the start, began to feel like an adversary trying to slow my progress by melting me. In this situation, I think there is an easy solution for most people: stop and take off a layer! The solution wasn’t so simple for me, though. Yes, it would be easy to remove my fleece pullover and tie it around my waist for the rest of my run (which I eventually did), but because it is a pullover and because I had both my iPod and my heart rate monitor strapped on over it, I had to come to a complete stop for a minute or so to reconfigure everything. It’s not the stopping that is the problem- it’s the starting up again!
With my legs already feeling like cement, they strongly protested to being made to run again after given the blissful freedom of standing still, but they eventually resigned themselves to their fate. The second half of my run was slower than the first, and just when I thought the end was in sight and I only needed to run up a short side street to tack on the last .2 of my 6.2 miles, I hazarded a glance at my FitBit and realized that I actually still had .75 of my 6.2 miles to go. I had forgotten about a turn that Don and I had made that brought our run to an even 6 miles, and this left me with the crushing disappointment of thinking I was about to finish and realizing I still had almost a mile to go.
I’ll admit that it was possibly the slowest 3/4 of a mile that I have run in recent history, and I’ll admit that I was pretty angry with myself for forgetting that last crucial turn, but there was little I could do but keep on chugging along. Because of this error, I ended my run going uphill which added insult to injury but as luck would have it there was a park bench conveniently placed just beyond where my run officially ended. After confirming that my 6.2 miles were 100%-really-truly-all-kidding-aside FINISHED I collapsed onto the bench to celebrate (there were many celebrations: the bench celebration, the celebratory glass of water, the celebratory shower, and later the celebratory liter of beer followed by the celebratory Paul Simon & Sting concert- all of this for only 10k run alone. Can you imagine how I’d celebrate if I ran a marathon?).
It seems fitting that the concert Don had bought me tickets to for my birthday fell on the same day I crushed my running goal, and it was a really great way to celebrate. Now I’ve accomplished my goal and it is time to think of a new one. While I’m disappointed that I spent half of my run hating myself and thinking about how, if I really truly wanted to, I could go the rest of my life without running another step, there are a few things that I’m really glad about. The most obvious of these is that I’m glad I was able to actually run the 10k in under 75 minutes, but I’m also glad that I was more than 3 miles into my run before it really started to feel like work- that would not have been true a year ago. I’m glad that, despite having to wait at a few crosswalks and making a time-consuming wardrobe change mid-run, I was still able to make my time goal, and what I’m most glad about is that it is over!