The Joy of Running

There’s a running blog I read on occasion that terrifies me. The blogger doesn’t follow a training plan and basically runs a million junk miles, races constantly, eats pretty crappy and does a ton of other fitness-related stuff. Still, her race times have declined. But instead of recognizing she is over-trained and under-nourished, she’s piled on more races. She runs double digits two days after running marathons, never taking any recovery time. Reading her blog is a cautionary tale, although many of her readers find her inspirational. And guilt-inducing for not doing as she does.

But the craziest thing to me is that this blogger has said that she doesn’t really like running.

I don’t get it.

There’s an older woman, probably older than my parents (I’m terrible guessing ages, but I would guess in her 70s), who I see frequently at the Y. She typically spends about an hour walking on the treadmill. Last week she and I were side-by-side as I did my easy run, and after I finished, she shook her head with a smile and told me I was amazing. Which embarrassed me because I’m decidedly not amazing. But I thanked her anyway and told her I really enjoy running. She said she couldn’t run anymore and so “only” walked on the treadmill to keep fit and mobile, but that I made running look easy and I must love it to be so committed. Frankly, I think she’s amazing for getting to the Y on a regular basis to work out at her age. She’s always so friendly with everyone there, and I hope I can be like her one day.

Although I do rather hope I’ll still be running.

And I truly do love running. Sure, I have points in many runs when I’m just over it and want the run to be over. But mostly, I’m just thrilled to be doing it. I wish I could maintain that happiness better when I race. Because when I do remember to remind myself that I love running when I race, it makes all the difference.

I can understand running for health or weight loss reasons when you don’t especially enjoy it. But I really don’t get running yourself into the ground if the act doesn’t make you happy. Perhaps it’s because I’m not into pain that I’m crazy that way (and also why I’ll probably never excel at running 5ks).

My friend that swam the English Channel last month inspires me. She pushed through a ton of discomfort during her swim, yet she never lost sight of the fact that she loves swimming. I want to borrow her example when I run the Baystate Marathon next month, to remember how much I love to run when I (inevitably) hit a point of not wanting to go on and wondering why the hell I race to begin with.

IMG_3367.JPG

Doing my ITB rehab exercises. Don’t I look thrilled?

I hate getting my picture taken. About 95 percent of them make me want to never leave my house. I don’t even like looking in the mirror unless I’m checking my form for workouts and yoga. See my gym selfie (promise that I will not make a habit of this). All I can see is that I should’ve sucked in my gut and that my frown lines are getting deeper.

I got wrangled into a few group photos after my friend’s triumphant swim, and when I saw them posted on Facebook, I had to laugh as well as cringe. In one, I look like I’m standing in a hole. Granted, most of the folks I’m standing next to are a good deal taller than me. But I look kind of ridiculously shrimpy. The other one I look all bloated. I think it’s just the angle, but a part of me is ripping myself a new one about my appearance. In both I am post-run sweaty gross and still in my running clothes. The pictures reminded me why I shy from cameras.

But most of my race pictures please me, even the ones where I notice too many flaws. Because I look genuinely happy.

Yesterday I updated my Facebook profile photo with one from a race I did last year (see below). My channel swimming friend wrote the following comment on that picture:

IMG_3252.PNG

What I love about this comment is that my enthusiasm for running shows and may even be contagious. It doesn’t hurt that I truly enjoy running with my friend.

Running gives me an intangible something. It feels like I’m being myself, some simpler me that isn’t all caught up in anxiety and self-hatred. Which is why I find it upsetting when people like the blogger I mentioned at the start of this post use running to abuse themselves. You don’t gotta love it, but why make it an instrument of punishment? Running is a pure act. Just look at any toddler bursting into a sprint and try to tell me that running isn’t supposed to be fun.

It’s taper time, and I’m going to take it seriously. This cycle, I practiced more slow running and was pleased with how much faster I could do the hard parts of my workouts because of it. I don’t want to ruin my race experience by freaking out for the next few weeks. The best headspace I can be in is the one where running brings me joy. It’s not about the finish line — it’s the journey. (so cliché, so not sorry) And I want a grin on my face all the way through.

IMG_3369.JPG

I hope I look like this at the end of the Baystate Marathon next month. Maybe better form.

The Right Running Shoe Matters

After a terrific tempo run yesterday, I had an easy 6 mile run on the schedule for today. I recently bought a pair of New Balance Fresh Foam 980s based on reading reviews that raved on the cushioning and that they had only a 4mm drop. None of my favorite running shoes are particularly well cushioned. In general, this isn’t an issue for me. But on my Sunday 20 miler, the soles of my feet felt especially slapped. I knew it was most likely because the shoes I was wearing (Newton Distance Elite Ironman version) have over 500 miles on them. However, at the end of both my previous marathons, the soles of my feet felt on fire. Maybe more cushion would help with that.

IMG_3362.PNGSo, since I was going to do an easy run on the treadmill today before my strength workout, I thought I’d try out the New Balances. As a precaution, I brought my Skechers GoMeb shoes to the Y.

It only took me a mile and a half to decide I hated the shoes. I felt like I was wearing cinderblocks despite that they weren’t much heavier than my usual shoes. I know I was tired from my run yesterday, but this was more than that. I’d wanted to try to run at least 3 miles in them, but I began feeling unpleasant cramping in my calves. Also, the bottom of my right foot was beginning to feel slappy after only a mile. It was as if the extra cushion made it worse than no cushion would’ve.

I hopped off the treadmill, switched to my usual shoes, hopped back on the treadmill, and all was well.

But here’s the even more interesting thing about my shoe change — it wasn’t merely how the shoes felt heavy or caused leg cramps — the NB shoes drastically affected my stride length.

I wear a Garmin footpod when I do treadmill runs because I’m anal about tracking my runs. One thing I notice by doing this — and by running on different treadmills — is how much treadmills vary in their calibration. Weirdly, I tend to prefer to run on the treadmills that show my pace as lower than what my Garmin measures. I don’t know why, but I guess that means I’m not terribly vain about what pace other people see me running.

When I was running in the NB shoes, I was averaging about a 10 minute mile. Which was fine except that it felt ridiculously hard. When I paused the treadmill at 1.5 miles, I hit the lap button on my Garmin. When I restarted the treadmill, I set the pace at exactly the same speed as when I was wearing the NBs.

This is what my run ended up looking like:

IMG_3244.PNG

Like I said, I had the treadmill set on the exact same pace for that second mile and a half as I did for the first mile and a half. The only difference was the shoes I was wearing.

When I got home, I looked at the uploaded Garmin data, thinking that perhaps my cadence had changed due to the heavier shoe. What I was surprised to discover was this:

IMG_3361-0.PNG

The big difference was in my stride length. By a lot. I knew I felt immensely better in my Meb shoes, but this was really telling. The Fresh Foams are not for me. I clearly need less shoe. It’s too bad because I think the NBs are pretty, but I’m hoping they’ll work for crosstraining.

My feet are so damned particular! I’ve tried all the big brands and only Newtons (the four lug Distance line) and GoMeb work for me. It worries me because running shoe companies discontinue shoes all the time (like my beloved Newton Running Distance update totally hurts my calves and ankles) and I’m limited in my selection. I keep hoping I’ll find another pair to put in rotation, but I’ve had zero luck.

I’m embarrassed at the size of my shoe reject pile. I’ve got a problem.

But now that I’ve seen metrics of what the right or wrong running shoe can do for my stride, I’m not messing around with shoes that feel anything less than great. Having the right running shoe really matters.

Giving Back to the Running Community

IMG_3358.JPG
I’ve volunteered for a couple races and I’ve paced friends in a few others. There’s something really special and rewarding about being at an event for someone other than myself.

I decided to take it another step further into something with a little longer-term commitment, and over the summer I registered to be a running buddy with the Girls on the Run program.

Today I had my first orientation meeting and within the next week, I will be assigned a girl to mentor through training for a November 5k, including running with her at a practice 5k to be held at the school a few weeks prior to the main event.

I’m so excited to take part in this program and look forward to cheerleading a girl in 3rd, 4th or 5th grade. If the group coach allows, I hope to attend some of the team training sessions too. I’m not sure what I’ll be able to share about the experience (obviously not anything like photos of the kids or identifying details), but I hope to be able to talk about what I do in the role of cheerleader. Part of the job will be writing regular letters to my buddy that (I hope) will encourage and inspire her to meet her goals. This makes me a little anxious because I want to do better than toss platitudes and brand-name slogans at her. Any advice on this would be very welcome.

Has anyone else participated in Girls on the Run or a similar program? Volunteered for races? What were your experiences like? I haven’t seen too many blog stories about volunteering, so I’d love to hear more because I know they’re out there.

Enough with this fucking demon doll!!!

I love horror movies. I always have, since I was a small girl and became fascinated with vampires, werewolves, ghosts and Frankenstein’s monster. I read The Shining at age nine. My favorite movie around the same time was Jaws. My husband hates horror movies (and roller coasters or other thrill rides), which I guess I understand. But it’s funny because he never has nightmares and I do all the time. He startles really easily, which would be funny except… Ok, it’s funny and I’m not a nice wife.

IMG_3352.JPGOne of the scariest movie scenes I’ve seen was in the movie Poltergeist. The clown doll that hid under the boy’s bed (the scene when the ghostbuster dude ripped his face off is up there too, along with the entire first Nightmare on Elm Street film). I’d never been afraid of stuffed animals or other toys before — until Poltergeist. And I was a young teen at the time, so suddenly becoming afraid of inanimate things was sort of silly at that point. Of course, I had long been afraid of things hiding under my bed. I wouldn’t set my feet on the floor in my room at night until I turned on the bedside table lamp — if I got brave enough to reach out to turn on said light. In fact, I was just thinking about this old fear last night, when I woke up to remove the heating pad and unplug it from the extension cord next to my bedside table. I marveled that I could reach down in the dark and not fear some under-bed-dwelling creature grabbing my extended arm and dragging me to my doom.

Yes, I’m 44 years old. And, yes, it’s sort of pathetic. But progress!

IMG_3351.JPGFor the past two months, the TV has been running commercials for the upcoming release of the movie Annabelle, which is a horror flick prequel for The Conjuring movie. The movie features some possessed doll, and I have to say PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S HOLY (so not religious, lol), ENOUGH WITH THE FRIGGIN CREEPY DOLL!!!!

I feel like that movie’s advertising is on twenty times per show. I can’t get away from it. A few nights ago, that doll’s evil face flashed before my eyes as I was trying to fall asleep and I had to consciously awaken myself to talk myself out of having nightmares about the damn thing.

I don’t believe in the supernatural despite my affection for horror movies, superheroes and most of the shows on the CW. I don’t believe in angels or god or magic. I wish I did. In many ways, I was less afraid when I did believe those things existed.

Except I do not want to believe in possessed ugly dolls.

My mother has a doll collection. Personally, I think she wanted dolls, not real live children. I find their vacant faces, constricting clothing and painted lips weird without them being animated by an evil spirit.

A few years ago, when I was still in contact with my parents, my son had to sleep in the dolls’ room. I felt terrible for the kid. He slept on the floor rather than the bed so that he was not at eye level with any of them on the shelves. He survived, but thinks the whole doll-room thing is deeply disturbing.

I don’t think any of those dolls would be brave enough to hop out of their places and run amok in my mother’s house. The only doll stupid enough to pull that stunt was me. Although she might forgive them if they strangled me in my sleep. So long as they knew to get back in their spots with nary a wrinkled apron or speck of dust before anyone noticed. Appearances, people.

To some degree, I think my interest in horror films is an effort on my part to understand and protect myself from the much more real evil force in my life. I never did figure out my mother. I’ve moved on, gotten sober, taken on a hobby I love and that is good for me. I have a good marriage and have lovely people in my life.

But that stupid Annabelle doll? Ugh. She reminds me too much of things I want to escape. A thing that looks perfect and pretty but is actually rotten on the inside, waiting to get you when you are vulnerable. I can’t wait for that movie commercial to quit running.

And now, I need to purge the above photo from my iPad cuz it’s freaking me out being in my photo album. Maybe I believe in hauntings after all ;)

One Month to Baystate

Eek! I’m trying hard to not focus on the actual race because I’m trying this thing where I’m not making my self-worth dependent on the outcome of the race.

I’m thrilled that my hip has decided to play nice. Training has been going well the last few weeks and I hate to jinx it with pressure. Honestly, a part of me wishes there was no race, just the training. I’m so mean to myself mentally when I race, and the experience isn’t fun. The races I’ve had fun during were those I wasn’t “racing” — and many of those ended up accidental PRs. If I’m relaxed and happy to be running, my performance follows. I still haven’t mastered trusting my training, so I’m trying to not think about it and just try to relax and enjoy the run.

Today was a Yasso 800 workout, and I hit every interval feeling awesome. I feel energized right now, three hours later, despite the work. I ran the easy parts easier than I have when doing Yassos in the past, and I think it made a big difference overall. I’ve definitely slowed down my warm up miles this cycle, and I think it’s done good things for my conditioning, even when it’s mentally hard for me to see 9 minute miles and not feel like I’m going too slow.

IMG_3334.PNG

I’ve got the rungries big time. Tonight is leftovers of Fusilli alla Crazy Bastard, which is a Mario Batali recipe with beet greens, roasted cherry tomatoes and goat cheese. We make it with double the greens and tomatoes. My husband made a gigantic bowl of it yesterday, and I’m more than happy to eat it again tonight. Plus I like saying the name of the dish.

Photo credit: Food & Wine magazineIMG_3333.JPG

IMG_3332.GIF

Bethany’s English Channel Swim Story

IMG_3311.JPGI thought I’d link to my friend Bethany’s blog for her re-telling of her English Channel swim. I tend to blank out a lot when I run, so her clarity during events always amazes me. She’s one of the most mindful people I know.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

A few details about the Channel swim:

– The swimmers have to jump off their officially captained boat (with official observer) and swim to the beach in England, get fully out of the water and signal back that the swim is to commence. In this case, Bethany took off from Shakespeare Beach in Dover. In her first post, you can see me in the distant background standing on the beach as Bethany swims to it, photographed from the boat. I took photos of Bethany from beachside (two of which I’ve posted here).

– To be considered an official Channel crossing, you can’t wear a wetsuit. The waters were something like in the 50s. I’d die after about 20 minutes. Crazy shit, that.

– The swimmer cannot be touched by another person in any way during the course of the swim and the swimmer cannot hold onto the boat or any other floatation device during the swim. The crew tosses bottles of feed to the swimmer throughout. In the last post, she mentions my husband, David, swimming behind her in the final moments. He was careful to keep his distance from her so as to not disqualify her swim by accidentally touching her. The captain had requested he follow her to the beach in France because it was dark and she’d been swimming so long, so there was concern about getting her back to the boat as well as how hard it would be for her to walk on land after nearly 18 hours of swimming.

– I mentioned in an earlier post that she swam about 41 miles. If the tides hadn’t shifted, it would’ve been closer to the 26 miles my husband swam when he crossed last year. Bethany’s attitude of “whatever” when she realized she missed the landing on the cap (the cap being Cap Nez Gris on the coast of France, south of Calais) is hugely inspirational to me. As a runner, I can’t imagine being that close to the finish, only to be told I’d have to keep going another 3 hours.

Next time I feel pukey during a race, I hope I remember poor Bethany soldiering through her fantastic feat. I’m officially a big, fat wimp compared to my badass friend.

IMG_3312.JPG

Vacation Recovery

We made it home last night. We had a fantastic trip, but I was ready to sleep in my own bed.

Now we have to recuperate from vacation. I dread unpacking for some reason. We didn’t really buy anything so it’s mostly laundry.

I ran a ton while away, which was great. My last run was 7 miles in London’s Hyde Park. It was fabulous. I could’ve run forever.

I’m trying to catch up with all the blogs. Internet was sllllloooooowwww even once I got to the cities. Plus I was too spent from the busy days to be online, which is a good thing.

One interesting thing about reading blogs via Feedly was that if I just read the feed, I could fairly quickly read most blog posts. But any blog that required me to click through to read the full post hung up my connection forever. So there were many blogs I simply didn’t get to because of that added step. Something bloggers might want to consider when they set up their blogs that way. I guess I’ve never been a fan of when blogs do that anyway, but this was an added nuisance. /rant

I have a bazillion pictures and I do want to do a post on the Paris Running Tour that we took (a huge highlight of the trip), but I’ll just leave the post for now with a couple photos until I can catch my breath.

IMG_3209.JPG

IMG_3306.JPG

IMG_3262.JPG

IMG_3162.JPG

IMG_3313.JPG

IMG_3322.JPG

IMG_3333.JPG

IMG_3346.JPG

IMG_3312.JPG

IMG_3303.JPG