Thursday, March 31, 2011


Bike with Wildflowers

From the Back Now

Park Road

Weekend Adventures: Friday’s Run, Saturday’s Bike Ride, and Sunday’s Walk (3/25-3/27/11)

Please send help.  If you can, send it in the form of a free day for me to use for catching up on my life.  I probably shouldn’t complain, because I had a terrific weekend.  Terrific!  I can still remember it, sort of, four days later.  I wouldn’t mind being able to zip back in time for a second go-around, but until that technology is available, I guess I will have to settle for a blog post. 

On Friday night, I was feeling itchy for a run, so a run it was, before dinner and a birthday party that night.  I ran for about 20 minutes—easy, fun, short.  I’m enjoying these short runs after all those long, long runs for half-marathon training.

On Saturday, I decided to take the day off of work completely and used my morning to bike across town to HEB, where I found gorgeous, perfect organic Romaine lettuce, kale, and cauliflower.  I love vegetables.  I also found my favorite spicy burrito wraps, dried apricots, some funky blue cheese that I need to find a good use for, and red lentils.  The lentils were the secret driving force behind this special shopping trip, and I do think the soup in which those lentils landed was worth the extra pedaling.  And because I seem to spend most of Saturday devoted to food shopping, I also biked to Brazos Natural Foods, where I picked up an assortment of the usual goodies.

On Sunday, I spent most of the morning working on my taxes, where I was confronted with an unpleasant surprise.  To soothe my tax-frazzled nerves, I went for a walk through the dog park and around the neighborhood.  I took my camera and had a grand time taking photos of all the new springtime beauty that’s popping up around here.  Spring in Texas is just about the loveliest thing ever.

The best thing about writing about a weekend on Thursday is that the next weekend is just two days away!  This Saturday I’ll be back in the lab, for a little bit, but I’m looking forward to some time to read and relax afterward.

Monday, March 28, 2011

“It’s a dance with the breath.”

White Flowers

Yoga Update (3/21-3/27/11)

First, let me start with a confession.  I am failing at practicing yoga every day.  It’s my social life’s fault, really.  Or maybe it’s my fault.  When I am social in the evening, I don’t know where to squeeze in the yoga, or if I even want to “squeeze” it into the rest of my day.  I know the options: I could do it first thing in the morning, or right after I get home from work, or I could force myself to do it late at night, when I’m exhausted and want nothing more than to be unconscious for eight hours.  Or I could let it go and realize that tomorrow is another day.  My 40 Days of Yoga project will still consist of 40 days of yoga, but it will be spread out a little bit more.  I’m okay with that.

Doing yoga more frequently is not leading to any earth-shattering moments for me.  Is that disappointing to hear?  I hope not.  It’s not a bad thing; it’s just that I’ve been doing yoga for a long time, so I’ve had years to get the hang of it, on and off the mat.  I will say, though, that I am sleeping really soundly these days.  I fall asleep quickly and sleep like a rock.  Sometimes I even wake up without my alarm, which is awesome!  Sunday nights are usually the worst for me because I’ve stayed up late on Friday and Saturday, and I’ve slept late, so going to bed early on Sunday is almost impossible.  But not last night!  Bedtime last night was easy-peasy, and I woke up only marginally bummed that it was Monday again.  (Sigh.)

Here’s a more in-depth look at what I’ve been doing this week, as well as a chance for you to see my hippy-dippy side.  Will someone please light some patchouli-scented candles for me?

* Monday (3/21): I attempt a new yoga class called Detox Challenge Flow and almost give up in frustration.  I have the worst time trying to follow the instructions for this class!  Getting mad during yoga seems like it defeats the purpose of doing yoga in the first place, but I slog through it and feel relief when this bizarre and poorly taught class is over.  Afterward, I try to relax by finding something soothing on youbute.  I end up doing a chakra meditation, which was quite nice.  Recommended!    

* Tuesday (3/22): I stay up late talking to a friend on the phone and skip yoga.  But I do take a few minutes before bedtime to sit quietly in meditation.

* Wednesday (3/23): I make this day a DIY yoga session and have a quiet meditation afterward.  It’s nice to turn off the computer and just listen to my body while I practice yoga.

* Thursday (3/24): Early in the evening, I meditate to calm my anxious mind and depleted spirit.  Later, before bed, I do some Power Yoga, which is not as hard as I expect it to be.  And I am relieved to be taking one of Jackie Casal’s classes again because she is my favorite instructor.  Her classes always make me feel terrific.

* Friday (3/25): I skip yoga again!  This time, I am MIA because I decide to run after work.  After dinner, I head to a birthday party where we discuss various phases of Madonna’s career.  After the party, I am tired and have stayed up past my bedtime, so I crawl into bed ASAP.

* Saturday (3/26): I return to an old favorite, Gentle Hatha Yoga #2.  I’ve done this class many, many times, so it is comforting to do it again.  However, I really feel ready to find a new, awesome class to love!  

* Sunday (3/27): On Sunday night I have perhaps my craziest yoga moment so far.  I decide to make it quick by doing pajama yoga again with some easy poses: cat/cow, downward-facing dog, forward fold, a back bend or two.  Afterward, I sit quietly in meditation…and I begin to pray.  I’m not religious, yet I can’t help myself.  I pray for strength and wisdom.  I pray for a good week.  I pray for my family to be protected, for Matt to be safe, for all of these people to be happy and healthy.  I pray for healing for those who need it.  I keep going until I feel I’ve said everything that is weighing on my heart.  Then I go to bed.

To whom, or what, does a nonreligious person pray?  I don’t know.  And I think I don’t need to know.  Maybe that’s the thing about yoga for me: it gives me a place to deposit these thoughts and feelings, and once I’ve said and felt these things, I can let go.  And that’s good enough for me.

Have a good week, friends.

* The title of today’s post comes from, I believe, something Jackie Casal says during one of her Power Yoga classes.  I thought it was lovely, so I borrowed it.

Friday, March 25, 2011



Skirt Leaves Wind


Tuesday and Thursday’s Bike Ride Commutes (3/22 and 3/24/11)

Oh goodness, I am so happy today is Friday.  It’s been a long week, and I need a weekend.  I also need to do my taxes, but who wants to talk about that?  At least I live in the great state of Texas, where we have no state income tax…for now!  Actually, maybe you do want to talk about that?  Yes, Texas: no state income taxes.  It’s not the money that makes me happy, it’s the lack of paperwork.  Paperwork is the pits, and the less of it I have in my life, the better. 

(Oh, okay, the money is a sweet bonus.  Certainly.  Plus the state of Illinois, which is where I used to live, has raised their state income tax from 3 to 5%.  Holy moly.  I am sort of glad I don’t have to pay 5% in state income taxes!  But boy, do they need it.  Maybe I should send them a check anyway.  They keep sending me paperwork so I can file my state of IL income tax, which is weird because I haven’t lived in Illinois for a year and half.  Maybe they’re just hoping I’ll forget that minor detail?)

Anyway, so yes, today is Friday and I’m tired and excited and a tiny bit tipsy on champagne right now.  We had a little good-bye party for one of our lab members, and I’m feeling melancholy about his absence.  His personality is such a big part of the lab, and I know this place won’t be the same without him.  Who is going to talk to me about Duke basketball now?  Who is going to regale me with stories about…everything?  Politics, sports, military vehicles, Freebird’s burritos—we talk about all the important things.

One thing we don’t talk much about is bicycle-riding, which is a shame because it’s such a pleasant pastime.  This week I did the bike commute on Tuesday and Thursday.  My afternoon rides were slow and lazy with pit stops for various reasons.  On Tuesday, I was determined to get some nice photos, and it was my lucky day: I caught that butterfly up there in a rare moment of stillness.  I also took some fun photos of my favorite skirt, including that middle photo where the wind was swirling it around me.  I like that photo a lot.

Finally, does anyone else find that broken CD ironic?  I do!  Oh, love…

Monday, March 21, 2011

Alone on a Yoga Mat

Yoga Mat

Yoga Update: 3/18-3/20/11

Lately, I’ve been spending more time with my mat than my Matt.  It’s nice, really, this chance to be alone for a while.  I need to be alone in order to feel like myself.  I spend a lot of time listening to others, and it’s only when I’m alone that I feel like I can listen to myself.  It’s like a self check-up, except that instead of a stethoscope and a blood pressure cuff, I use a yoga mat and a pair of shorts.  But in both cases, I take deep breaths and try to hold still during my check-up.

I kicked off my 40 Days of Yoga on Friday night with a favorite yoga session: Morning Flow #1.  I love all those back bends, and this time, I held wheel pose for longer than I ever have before.  It was kind of amazing.  Wheel pose always feels like a slightly out-of-body experience to me.  There’s something about the extreme quality of the back bend and the way your head goes upside down that makes it feel almost…ethereal?  Maybe it’s a little like floating.  My body doesn’t feel quite like my own during wheel pose, and yet there I am, arms shaking, back flexing, trying to breathe and not fall over.  It’s an amazing set of feelings.

On Saturday, I was less ambitious and chose to do a DIY yoga session.  I did a lot of downward dogging and various warrior poses.  It wasn’t very exciting, but sometimes you want the comfort of the familiar.

On Sunday, I did what I call “Pajama Yoga.”  Right before bed, after washing up and putting on my pajamas, I did some easy yoga—more downward dogs and a lot of forward bends.  Since I ran that day, I wasn’t feeling up for something too involved, but I did want to get in a few minutes of yoga.  Afterward, I sat for a while with my eyes closed.  I don’t know how long I sat there; I just sat until I felt ready to go to bed.  This is how I did my meditation on Saturday night too.  On Friday, I set an Egg Timer for 10 minutes, so that was a timed meditation.  I find that timing my meditation can be nice too because it puts a limit on how long you have to sit still and try to quiet your mind.  I think I like alternating between timed and untimed meditation—I like the variety.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

And Now for Some Aerobic Action

Big Blue Sky

Water and Reflection

Feet Leaves and Petals

A Weekend in Motion: Saturday’s Bike Rides and Sunday’s Run (3/19-3/20/11)

I’ve made an important decision about the 40 Days of Yoga Project: I’m going to post yoga updates on Mondays.  That way, I can keep tabs on the project without bombarding myself with posts-to-be-written.  I’m not very good at posting every day, as you may have figured out.  (Exhibit A: this post in which I’ll cover a weekend’s worth of motion in one fell swoop.)  The last thing my sanity needs is yet another thing on my to-do list.  But my sanity definitely needs yoga, so I’ll keep that on the list for the next 38 days or so.

This weekend was the perfect mix of busy and not-busy.  On Saturday, I rode my bike to the lab, ran a quick experiment, cursed the data for not giving me what I wanted, and then rode my bike home for lunch.  After lunch, I headed out a second time to stock the kitchen.  Sometimes I feel a little resentful that it’s practically required that I do my grocery-shopping on Saturday because Brazos Natural Foods is not open on Sundays.  On weekdays, they are only open until 6 PM, so it’s tough for me to go there after work unless I hustle.  This weekend, I was missing Whole Foods pretty bad, especially their wonderful evening and Sunday hours.  I also miss their gorgeous vegetables, like their crisp Romaine and perky fennel.  Most of the time I think I do okay in this Texas town, but these days, I am longing for a bigger city.  Some day, some day…

On Sunday morning, I went for an easy run.  There’s a nice loop that runs along campus and the golf course.  One of the guys in my lab told me that it’s a three-mile loop, which sounded good for today.  I wanted to run for about 30-40 minutes but no more than 40.  This loop gave me 40 minutes with a 5-minute walking warm-up and about 12 minutes of walking cooldown—perfect.  My right knee—the same one that’s been bothering me—was hurting a little during this run, and as I was walking home, the answer hit me: it’s time for new shoes.  I’ve had the same pair of Brooks for over a year, and I did most of the training for two half-marathons in this pair, so I think the knee pain is probably shoe-related.  My knee only seems to hurt during the run; I can feel just the faintest twinge when I walk around or do squats.

But gah, this exercise hobby of mine is starting to add up!  My bike repairs cost $92, and now I need a new pair of shoes.  I suppose I should look on the bright side: a bike is way cheaper than a car, and Brooks shoes only cost about $100 a pair.  There are worse ways I could spend my money, like buying insects for my new roommate to feast upon.  He has a very particular palate with absolutely no interest in the soup/bread/cheese diet that I maintain.  Ah well—to each her own!  But that lizard is going to have to find his own insects.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A New Path for Springtime

Where the Path May Lead

40 Days of Yoga, DIY Style

Running is great.  Really great, in fact, and I’m looking forward to some springtime runs, now that the evening light is lingering into the after-work hours and I feel fully rested and recovered from the half-marathon.  There’s nothing quite like running to refresh and rejuvenate you.  When I’m running, I sweat away all my stress, and I return home, feeling serene and relaxed, sometimes energized and other times just ready for dinner and bed.

I have spent a lot of time running in the past two months, and one of my hobbies that got pushed to the side as a result is my yoga.  Now that I can let up on my running mileage, I want to focus on a more regular yoga practice.  I was inspired to read about Jenna’s 40 days of yoga.  Immediately, I knew I wanted to do something similar, and I’d do it my way, which is to say: I’d do it on my own, according to what appealed to me each day.  I do yoga primarily to relax and because it feels good.  In a sense, I use the physical aspect of yoga to tap into my emotions.  It’s the mind-body connection that really draws me into yoga.  Yoga has certain fringe benefits of course—it’s a strength and flexibility work-out that I believe makes me a better runner.  Yoga also teaches patience, which is an invaluable virtue.  Patience can work miracles.  It can make the impossible a reality.  I want to be a patient person, and yoga helps me work toward this goal.

My 40 Days of Yoga will consist of yoga, every day, for 40 days along with a few minutes of quiet meditation.  It’s amazing what five minutes of meditation can accomplish.  Even after just a few minutes of sitting quietly with my eyes closed, my mind feels clearer and calmer.  It’s really powerful stuff.  Too bad I’m not disciplined to do it regularly.  But that is what this yoga project is all about: applying some discipline to my yoga practice.  I won’t be spending hours every day on yoga and meditation—I probably won’t even spend more than 20 or 30 minutes each day on it—but I’m excited to see what the rhythm of doing it every day will bring me.  I hope that at the end, I feel happier, calmer, and more mentally alert than I do now.  I should clarify that it’s not that I feel terrible these days—in fact, I feel fine—but I’m curious to see what 40 days of yoga can do.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will mention that I am already planning a time-out on this project in April.  A friend and I are planning a little weekend road trip to weird, wonderful Austin, Texas, and I don’t know what our schedule will be for those two days.  So I may hit the pause button on 40 Days of Yoga and then resume it when we come home.

(My goodness, I am such a planner.)

One final note that I find funny and interesting: this project coincides perfectly with the season of Lent.  I am not religious at all, and even when I was religious, I wasn’t brought up in a household where we observed Lent.  Although I know that most people today observe Lent by giving something up, I like the idea of a springtime ritual that is oriented around spirituality, whatever your spirituality may entail.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Now with More Zip than Ever!

Bike with Fountains

Another Springtime Sunset

Purple Flowers

Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday Bike Riding (3/14-3/15/11 and 3/17/11)

My sweet bike and I have been reunited!  As I mentioned last week, I dropped my baby off at the bike doctor’s because she was having some serious problems.  I felt that it was best to let the experts sort things out.  Also, Matt convinced me that now was a good time to give the bike a routine tune-up.  I, fortunately, have learned to listen to his advice because it’s usually spot-on the right thing to do.

It turns out that when the wind slammed my bike into the ground, the spindle was bent, which explains all the issues with the pedals and the gears.  The spindle is basically a rod that connects the pedals to the bike frame—it sits perpendicularly to the bike frame.  If it’s bent, then things can’t rotate evenly because the spacing is no longer equal between all parts of the spindle-pedal system.  Anyway, the spindle had to be replaced, and the bike doctor was able to do that quickly because he had the part in stock.  He also fixed my right brake, which had stopped working some time back.  And now, my bike is back with more zip than ever!  Riding it is so much fun again, so fast and easy and smooth.  I am in love, all over again.

Please pardon the relative silence on Feels Like Flying this week.  I’m having some belly issues this week, and I don’t feel very good.  That’s also why I’m not running this week or doing yoga.  Biking, for whatever reasons, is easy enough that I can do it even if I’m a little unwell.  The rhythms seem to soothe my cranky body, and it’s nice to feel the sunshine on my face while I ride around town.

In the meantime, Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  May the luck o’ the Irish be with you, sweet reader.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sunday, Sleepy and Slow

Cloudy Day

Shoes with Leaf


Sunday’s Short Run (3/13/11)

Daylight Savings Time is always such an odd experience, especially in the springtime.  This morning, my alarm nudged me into consciousness and it felt like the middle of the night, even though it was only 7 AM.  Yesterday I felt lethargic and cursed by the clock, which kept reminding me how lazy I was with its evil warnings that the day was slipping away from me.  I am all about falling back in November, but losing an hour in March makes me slow and sleepy and ready to nap at a moment’s notice.

But in my defense, yesterday was not completely devoted to sloth-like activities.  I laced up my sneakers for my first post-race run, and in a word, it was hard!  I ran at an easy pace for about 31 minutes, cruising my favorite neighborhood loop.  But I felt tired for most of the run, and my breathing was a little more labored than expected.  I’m not sure why it was so hard: post-race fatigue?  Tired legs from two days of biking?  Excessive sleepiness?  I don’t know, but I’m glad that first post-race run is now out of the way.  Also, my right knee hurt during this run, the same knee that hurt during the race.  I’m a little concerned.

In other news, I have a new roommate.


This guy ran into my apartment this morning, and when I tried to nudge him back outside with a piece of paper, he ran behind my couch.  I like lizards, but I’m kind of creeped out by the idea of a lizard living in my apartment.  I also don’t want him to starve to death behind my couch, though heaven knows I get plenty of bugs in my apartment, so maybe there’s hope for this little reptile.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Back on the Bike and Almost Ready to Run


Friday and Saturday Bike Ride Commutes (3/11-3/12/11)

Today I dropped my baby off at the doctor.  She was having some health problems—things were rubbing together in the wrong spots, and there were some unsettling noises coming from her nether regions.  I’m a little lonely without her tonight.  My patio looks so empty without her chained to a post, waiting loyally for our next ride together.  I can’t wait to pick her up from the doctor on Monday.

But before we visited the kind doctor at the bike shop, I took the bike to work on Friday and Saturday.  It felt terrific to be back on two wheels after taking it easy this week in the wake of the half-marathon.  The wind has been fierce lately, so there were moments when it was tough to keep pedaling forward, but my legs felt good and rested.  Sometimes I had a bit of pain in my right knee, which was quite similar to a pain I felt during the race.  I didn’t mention it in my race report, but it was there and I just ran through the pain.  It was more uncomfortable than painful, but to be on the safe side, I’ll be doing short runs for the next few weeks as I ease my way back into sneakers and after-work runs.

Speaking of which, it occurs to me that I have no idea how to maintain my running base now that the race is over.  After previous half-marathons, I’ve always stopped running completely for a month or more.  I don’t want to do that this time.  In fact, I have a goal: I’d like to maintain a running base that lets me run six miles (or 60 minutes) easily at roughly a nine-minute-mile pace.  I have two questions regarding this plan of mine.  The first: how do I let my body recover from the race while easing back into running?  The second: how will I manage to run outside during a Texas summer?  I didn’t do much outdoor running last summer as I was training for this year’s half-marathon.  I biked outside and I ran on a treadmill, but I rarely ran outside.  This year, I think I am going to have to bite the bullet and learn how to get up early to run at least once a week.  I know I can do it for races.  The question is can I learn to do it just for the love of running?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

In the Meantime

Still Dreaming

Post-race Recovery (3/07-3/09/11)

I have good news: my legs no longer feel like they are made of wood!  My normal gait is slowly returning, and today, I even bent down to pick up something that I had dropped, and I didn’t want to die from the pain.  That’s huge.  I’m also feeling more energetic.  I went to bed early last night and woke up feeling rested and cheerful.  I hadn’t been sleeping well for the past few days—wine and the half-marathon, too much excitement and too much fun were all keeping me wired and unable to really sleep.

I’m taking it easy this week.  I did some DIY yoga on Monday night to stretch out my sore legs, and that felt nice.  Last night, I walked very slowly to the grocery store, marveling at how spring seems to have sprung around my neighborhood.  The trees are in bloom, and there’s enough light in the evenings now to take photos.  Even though it took an enormous amount of effort to go shopping, my labor was rewarded.  I made pasta with amazing, amazing Pasolivo olive oil and ate it with my favorite quick spinach dish.  For dessert, there was an off-the-cuff dessert, a sort of single-serving strawberry pie with a graham cracker crust and a good handful of chocolate chips thrown in there.  Tonight, there was an easy black bean salad—a riff on a recipe from the Chicago Diner Cookbook—and roasted broccoli.  For crunch, there were pita chips, and for dessert, there were chocolate-raspberry cookies.  Oh, everything was just so delicious!  You can see that I may not be working out much this week, but I’m workin’ it in the kitchen, and it tastes great.

I’d love to go for a bike ride tomorrow, but my bike got into a fight with the wind and the sidewalk, so I need to take it into the shop for a fix and a tune-up.  It’s probably for the best, as I am definitely still feeling the race in my legs.  Maybe I’ll just go for a very slow walk instead.  There is so much new springtime beauty for me to check out around the neighborhood, and since I’m not running right now, I’m moving at just the right speed to see it all.

Has Spring Sprung

Be well, my darlings.  Until next time!

Monday, March 7, 2011

What Worked for Me

Shoes with Evidence of Race

Reflections on Training

Thank you all so much for your sweet comments and congratulations on my half-marathon race recap.  Your kindness makes my slightly crippled condition on the day after the race much easier to manage as I shuffle around, trying not to bend my legs too much because they hurt!  Just like the last time I was recovering from a half-marathon, I want to hire a very strong undergraduate to carry me around for a few days because oy!  Walking is hard today!  My thighs and knees are feeling those 13.1 miles.

Today might be a little painful, but this season of half-marathon training has been my best ever.  It’s been the longest season by far: I started training for this race in May 2010, about two months after the 2010 Armadillo Dash.  I knew I wanted to run faster this time, and I wanted my training to be more thorough.  To me, “thorough” meant that my long run training distances would be closer to the half-marathon distance and more vigorous—faster and with fewer walking breaks.  I’m a low-tech runner—I always run by time and my own subjective “feel” for the pace—so I can’t tell you exactly how long my runs were or how fast I ran them.  But my half-marathon results demonstrate that whatever I did this year, it worked.  Here is how I would summarize my training this year.

* Honor thy long run.  I didn’t skip a single long run, though I did have a few days during which I shuffled things around.  My goal was to do a long run every week, and every other week, the duration of that run increased by 10 minutes.  I did have at least one week where I pushed back the mileage increase by repeating the previous long run’s duration, but I did not skip the long run.  When I went on vacation, I planned to take time off of running, which is part of the reason that my training season was so long.  I think a long training season works better with my professional life because I need some flexibility on both ends to accomplish my goals.  Extra time to get ready for a big race gives me that flexibility.

* But don’t do just long runs.  I tried to do at least one short run every week in addition to my long run.  My short runs were the reward for long runs: by comparison, short runs are so easy and fun.  I felt light on my feet and happy to be outside for those speedy work-outs.  Like the long runs, I ran these by time, not by distance, and usually ran about 30-40 minutes.

* Cross-train.  I biked a lot!  I also did yoga and took walks and generally stayed active in non-running ways. 

* Take rest days.  I think this point was really key for me.  I usually had 1-2 days each week when I didn’t run, bike, or do yoga.  I still walked around a lot for work, errands, or pleasure, but I didn’t do a “formal” work-out.  Rest days are important for letting your body heal any tiny injuries you may have inflicted during recent work-outs.  I find that they are also good for my mind, and they give me time to cook, which is important to me.

* Be positive. I think this is really the key to being a happy runner.  Enjoy your runs and your work-outs, be your own cheerleader, and keep your spirits up.  Running is hard work, but it’s so rewarding physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Your run can be the best part of your day if you let it, so be positive.

Of course I have things I wish I had done more of.  I would love to do more speed work to get even faster.  My strength training consisted of hauling my groceries home, lifting heavy pots, and the occasional push-up.  It would be amazing to run three or four days a week, though I think four might be more than I can handle without sacrificing something else in my life.  I’d love to do yoga more than once or twice a week because I enjoy it so much.  But really, I have no regrets about how my training went.  I did the best I could with my goals and circumstances, and that’s all I could hope to do.

Sweet readers, what are your best training tips?  What do you love and recommend to any runner who happens to jog past you on the road?  Any training mistakes you’d be willing to admit to save us from shin splints, blisters, achy backs, or overworked legs?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Breaking Two

Sunrise Behind the Trees

Pre-Race Traffic

Sunday’s Half-Marathon Race, the 5th Annual Armadillo Dash (3/06/11)

I’m feeling rather teary-eyed right now, but I’m also glowing with happiness.  I ran the best long-distance race of my life today, and it was amazing.  Amazing!  It’s hard to know what to say when all my brain keeps repeating to itself is Happy! Happy! Happy!  Rather than trying to be profound right now, I’m just going to rewind to the early hours of this morning and tell you my race story.

The race started at 7 AM, so Matt and I agreed we should leave my apartment at 6:30 AM.  The start location is literally down the road from me, but we were concerned about the traffic and wanted to be safe, not sorry.  I set my alarm for 5:45.  After a night of light sleep (who can sleep well the night before a race? Not I!), I woke up, dressed, and ate a light breakfast of overnight oatmeal and hot green tea.  I poured most of my tea into a to-go mug and sipped it while we were on the road.

It was very cold this morning.  Our breath came out in steamy puffs, and the chill made it difficult to know what to wear.  I decided to take a cue from my training runs where I learned that pants become too hot for me during a long run.  I wore shorts, a tank top, and a cozy thermal long-sleeve shirt.  To keep warm before arriving at the start site, I wore pants, which I stripped off in the car before hopping out.  I shivered and moaned, my teeth chattering.  During the drive, Matt had turned on the fancy seat-warmers in his car.  Ironically, the cozy ride made it easier to face the cold.  He kissed me good luck and dropped me off.  Then I made my way to the start.  After announcements, thank-yous to our awesome sponsors and volunteers, and the national anthem, we were off.

To be honest, I don’t remember much about the first six miles.  I took the first two or three miles slowly, as I did during my training runs, using them as my warm-up.  And indeed, despite the cold, I did warm up and by the end of mile two, I felt fine.  Shorts were a good choice after all, comfortable and not too warm.  The sun finished rising during the first few miles, and we had very little wind, so the conditions were ideal.  I did, however, start to wonder about exactly how fast I was running those first few miles.  Slow is one thing, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t take it too easy for too long before settling into a faster race pace.  My goal was to break two hours in the half, and that would require averaging roughly 9-minute miles.

It wasn’t until we passed the Mile 6 marker that I saw how perfect the pacing was.  I looked at my watch, and it read 54:XX, which is right on target for 9-minute miles (plus a few seconds).  I was so surprised by the time that I didn’t really believe we’d passed Mile 6.  Nevertheless, I was pleased and felt much better about the pace.  It felt good, neither too fast nor too slow.

Serendipitously, I fell into stride with a group of people who were obviously friends with one another and enjoying the race.  I ran with them for a few miles, laughing at their jokes and enjoying the camaraderie, even though I was (of course) a stranger to them.  Eventually, one of the guys said to me, “I think we’re going to be running the rest of this race together.”

I said, “Yes, I’ll pay you guys later for pacing me!”

And one of the women asked, “What about entertainment?”

I replied, “You’re right.  You deserve good tips.  I’ll get my wallet!”

And so it went.  We continued to run solid 9-minute miles, which was amazing and perfect.  More importantly, it was fun running this race with some friendly strangers who let me tag along with them, even letting me run with them as we passed other people and kept our racing spirits high.

We cruised our way into the final miles, and I felt the same way one of the women did: at some point you stop feeling pain and all you feel is the stride of your run.  Miles 7-12 flew by so easily, and then all of a sudden we were in the home stretch with just 1.1 miles to go.  At that point, my exhaustion became more visceral, but I wasn’t letting up when we were so close to the finish and had more than ten minutes still on the clock before we’d hit two hours.  So we kept going, and as we closed in on the final half mile or so, I said something like, “Let’s do this!  Let’s run it in!”  And we started booking it, running with everything we had left in our tired legs.  At the very end, I was racing right alongside one of the men, who started to pull ahead of me as I felt the wall lower itself on top of my determination.  The man pulled ahead of me, but I held onto my own stride, crossed the finish line, stopped my watch, and looked down.

1:55:50.  One hour, fifty-five minutes, and fifty seconds.  I had broken two hours in the half-marathon.  I want to cry right now, typing those words.  I can’t even believe it.

After I finished, I wanted to say thank you to my co-racers, who were just so terrific and kind to me.  I tried to congratulate them all, though I think I missed one of the guys.  And I was so happy for one of the women, who I knew was feeling the pain of a long race but held on for dear life until the end, when we could break two hours together.  She was amazing.

Through the crowd of runners and spectators, Matt found me and hugged me and said sweet things to me.  I was so happy to see him and hug him, especially because he was wearing this sweater that makes him feel like a teddy bear.  But mostly I was thrilled to share this experience with him, this athletic part of my life.  He has always been so supportive of me, and I think today was one of his finest moments, the way he generously gave me exactly what I needed.  (Okay, now I am crying.)  Matt teaches me how to love through his example, and I have no words to describe how he makes me feel.  I feel loved.  Let’s leave it at that.

So Happy to be Finished!

I’ve had such a good time training for this race and writing about my adventures on this blog.  I have found some kindred spirits who, like me, love running and writing and trying to find some balance in this crazy life.  You have inspired me with your own race stories, especially you marathoners!  Holy moley.  You’ve made me smile with the scenes you share from your everyday lives, and you’ve made my day when you stop by to say hi to me here.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your stories and your lives in this space where we can find each other and blog our way to being our best selves.  You are terrific, and I can’t wait to cheer you on in your next adventures.

PS  For the sake of accuracy, I feel I should mention that my finishing time of 1:55:50 is the unofficial time from my watch.  I’ll share the official time when the race results are available on-line.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Get These Feet on the Road

Bike with Red Stairs


Scarf Jeans Black Flats

Wednesday’s Yoga and Thursday’s Bike Ride Commute + Short Run (3/02-3/03/11)

I’m exhausted today.  This makes me question my tapering efforts this week, but I think my energy is being drained by stress, not exercise.  I’m going to conclude that I’d be even more tired if I hadn’t practiced yoga, ridden my bike, and run for 20 minutes in the last two days.  This week has been really busy, and this weekend will be busy too, so I’ll keep this short.  Tonight and tomorrow, I’m going to fuel up for Sunday’s race by eating lots of delicious food prepared by other people.  I will also be sweet-talking my special gentleman into driving me in his automobile to the race packet pick-up place.  On Sunday, I’ll be getting up at 5:30 AM to eat my oatmeal, drink my coffee, and put on my running gear.  The race starts bright and early at 7 AM, and I’m super excited to be done with it before 9 AM!  It’s been a long training season for me, and I’m ready to get these feet on the road.

Happy weekend, speedy readers!  I’ll see you on the other side of 13.1 miles.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011



Bike in Favorite Unusual Spot

Another Blaze of a Sunset

This Week’s Taper (March 6 is Race Day!)

I’m excited that the next long run I will do is going to have water stations, friendly spectators, and a real finish line at the end.  I’m excited to let myself be carried along by the energy of the event, and I can’t wait to see what my legs can do after all these months of training.  March 6 is Race Day, and I am EXCITED!

I’m having a good week, too.  I took Monday as a rest day after Sunday’s long run.  On Tuesday, I rode my bike to and from work, and it was an easy, peaceful ride with no wind and mild weather.  How kind of Texas to take it easy on me during my taper!  I had an impromptu meeting with my boss this morning, so last night was spent analyzing and polishing my data.  Afterward, I made dinner, experimenting with an Asian-ish coleslaw recipe (yum!) and giving into my cookie craving.  To be clear, I ate dinner then baked cookies, digging into my archives to come up with this easy, tiny-batch recipe.  I cannot help but love a recipe that makes 8-10 cookies, which is perfect for a midweek cookie craving in between analyzing data sets and watching Private Practice on Hulu.  I won’t argue that these cookies are the very best cookies I’ve ever eaten, but they’re tasty, and their flavor and texture are even better the next day.  My lunchbox was happy.

Tonight I’m hoping to do some yoga, as I’ve been missing it and I’m feeling a little sore from my long run.  This weekend is going to be a wild one, with the race on Sunday and fun social stuff on Friday and Saturday.  I think it will be good for my state of mind if I can do some yoga before all the excitement begins—I want to be at my best for all the fun that starts on Friday with Matt’s arrival and a dinner at The Lemon Wedge!