Sunday, January 25, 2009

See you later, National Marathon

Well, I've pretty much decided that the National Marathon will have to wait for another year. And when I say I've decided, what I mean is that I am halfheartedly accepting the fact that I am neither wholeheartedly into nor wholeheartedly over the idea of this marathon. I guess the fact that I am not wholeheartedly into it is probably the feeling I should be paying attention to, because it is going to be damn hard later on down the line to run 18 and 20 miles when I'm not into it. So I'm saying adios, National Marathon, as much as my heart is aching as I type those words. Seriously.

Having made this decision (and an entire week of not running), I'm realizing that things need some reevaluating. For one thing, I haven't really done much running recently without a marathon in mind. For the last year and a half or so, my daily run has been determined by what's on the training schedule. Which means this: what the hell do I do without a training schedule? I feel like I was dependent on someone for a long time, and now that person is gone and I'm realizing the autonomy I once had (before that person came into my life) is gone, too.

I'd like for my running to keep me in good enough shape to run a half marathon if I feel like signing up for one (I had, actually, signed up for one that took place this morning. Needless to say, I did not run it). I'd also like to start doing yoga again, and continue weight training. I found this article this morning and was thinking about trying to base a routine around it. It would be kind of cool to get to a point where I'm training pretty normally at 35-40 miles per week. Then again, maybe it would be better to not structure things too much, and just run to enjoy it. I'm not really sure. See? I've forgotten how to do this.

So--! Here's my question to you, dear reader: what do you do when you aren't training for a race? Do you just do whatever you feel like doing for that day, or do you try to stick to a plan you have made for yourself?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Feeling discouraged

This is the first week of classes here at Columbia, which mean that work has gone from 0 to about 150 or so almost overnight. I mean, last week I was just dealing with stuff concerning one half of my job, this week I am dealing with that stuff and teaching two classes back to back every day.


I haven't run at all this week. I'm so tired I want to cry. My body just feels like it can't handle any more. I haven't been sleeping all that well, and I haven't had time to do much grocery shopping so I haven't been eating all that well, either.

I still don't know what to decide about the marathon. I guess at this point it's probably out of the question. I got in 10 miles last week and I haven't managed a long run in two weeks now.

More than anything, I think my body is in endorphin withdrawal. This sucks.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Decisions, decisions, decisions!

Yikes, have I really not posted anything since the 10th? Apparently, I haven't. I guess the days just got away from me. I can't even claim being busy as an excuse because I haven't been particularly busy. I have, however, been lifting weights consistently! And working my abs consistently, too! Of course, as soon as a couple pieces of the puzzle fall into place, another piece seems to get pushed out. You'd think they would all fit together nicely, since that is what puzzles do. Apparently I have cut my pieces wrong, though, and I'm still working on filing them down to make it all work.

Basically, what I mean is that I ran a total of about ten miles last week, which is pretty pathetic. I also skipped another long run this past weekend. I am supposed to be training for this marathon right now, but I'm sort of not into it. I'm not really sure what to do either, because I have moments when I think, 'Okay, not a big deal. I've run two marathons, there will be more marathons in the future, not running this one isn't a big deal and it's important that I don't push myself to do it if I'm not into it'. And then I feel sort of good for a while, because I've made a decision. Then that wears off, and I start to regret the decision and reconsider. I'm signed up for this marathon, I had been looking forward to it for a long time, and maybe I just need to be a little more dedicated and get a routine going. Then all the pieces will fit, and things will be great. Right?

Blergh. I don't know.

There is something really appealing right now about just running for the fun of it, and focusing more on shorter distances, and running a few half-marathons, and picking out a fun fall marathon, and having the freedom to skip a run or two, or do some yoga instead of running, and not feel guilty about it. But then it's like...26.2 miles!

Every week I tell myself I will get back on track with training and things will work out, and maybe after getting through the full week, I can see how I feel about it. Maybe my hesitation about whether or not to run has something to do with feeling like I won't be ready, and if I can get through a week of training I'll realize that I don't need to worry about that and feel better. So maybe that's what I should do--just go through the week and not really worry too much about the marathon. Make it a goal to do the week of training, and see how I feel. I had an emotionally draining weekend so today will probably just be a rest day instead of the crosstraining day it should be, but that's alright. Maybe this should just become an exercise in forgiving myself.

Has anyone else ever grappled with this sort of thing? I can't put my finger on what the appeal of the marathon is, and I think that's part of what makes this so difficult. What would you do in this situation?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Snowstorms and shoes

Gah. We are supposed to have this ridiculous snowstorm today here in New York. Personally, I veto that idea. It really interferes with my plans for a 6-mile run and a 10-12 mile run. It should be said that in my position, a fair number of runners would have planned their run around the anticipated start time of the snow. When I went to bed last night, the forecast said the snow would start around 9 a.m. and although I am capable of getting up in the morning, I *never* feel good when I get up in the morning to *run*. And the longer the run, the less good I feel. The exception to this, of course, is a race, for which I have generally had time to prepare myself mentally and physically. But as I got into bed last night, I have to say I just didn't really like the idea of getting up in time to fit in 90-120 minutes of running before 9 a.m. or thereabouts. So I scrapped that idea. It turns out, though, that now the snow isn't supposed to start until around 3, which means I actually have plenty of time to do either six miles or twelve, depending on what I feel like doing. The smart thing would be to do the twelve miles and get them out of the way so I can do the six tomorrow at the gym just in case the weather won't allow a run outside. We'll see if intelligence prevails over lazy. Sometimes I just don't feel like doing long runs on Saturdays, no matter what would be more commonsensical.

This brings me, in a roundabout and entirely unconnected way, to shoes. I returned to my apartment yesterday after a run (in my running shoes, obvs) and changed into my most-recently-discarded pair of running shoes to do some at-home weight training. It then occurred to me--do other people have this weird mania about what shoes they wear? Or, more specifically, about when they wear their running shoes? I checked my closet last night and realized I had three old pairs of running shoes just sitting there, doing absolutely nothing other than collecting dust. But I hold on to them anyway because at some point, I may want to engage in some sort of activity that could (potentially!) necessitate old running shoes. Or running shoes that I would no longer wear to run in because they are sufficiently used up as to be damaging to my feet, ankles, knees, hips, etc. And clearly I would never use my current pair of shoes for that sort of thing. That would wear them prematurely!

Essentially, the instant my running shoes hit their somewhat arbitrarily determined mileage limit (which is contingent upon any number of things, including, first and foremost, how many miles I have logged in them, the amount of money in my bank account, foot [arch, especially] pain that has come out of nowhere and can probably be remedied by new shoes, joint pain that is the same as the aforementioned foot pain, etc.) I deem them no longer acceptable to be worn during a run. BUT! they are perfectly fair game for any other sort of activity. When I stop to think about it, this seems pretty silly. If the shoes are no longer good to run in because they won't provide the support, stability, cushionining, etc. that I need during a run, what is it that makes them acceptable for other activities? Activities they were never designed to take me through in the first place, I should add. My retired running shoes go from miles of pavement to careers in weight training, walking, and cardio machines.

Could this be a reflection of my particular snobism toward running, maybe? Related to the fact that I have always felt, deep down (and not to say that this is correct because my own personal research has shown that it is not necessarily the case), that running is vastly superior to any other activity and, therefore, anything that is no longer good enough for running is still sufficiently superior to any piece of equipment required for anything else that it can do any other job better than something that may actually be designed to do that job? Or is it just the fact that I don't care enough to go out and buy "crosstraining" shoes, or whatever? I mean, they can't possibly be that different from any other shoes, right? How can one shoe be so multi-purpose?

I'm interested to hear how other people treat their shoes. Does anyone recycle them? I feel like this is what I really ought to be doing with those pairs that are taking up valuable real estate in my Manhattan-sized apartment (and by that I don't mean it's the size of know?) Does anyone else have the same cooky attitude toward them that I do? Inquiring minds (and by that I mean mine) want to know.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Equipment review: Medi-Dyne Prostretch

Well, so far so good with the weight training and abdominal work! After a long run of 12.5 miles on Sunday, I let myself take Monday as a rest day instead of a cross-training day, and rearranged things slightly so that I will be cross-training on Friday instead (normally, Friday is the rest day). So my weight training schedule for this week will be Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. Ideally, I would like to do a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule, although I guess that sort of interferes with a genuine rest day. I'll figure it out as time goes by. My weight workout was combined with a four-mile treadmill run which, in spite of the fact that it took place on a treadmill, was rather enjoyable. The workout definitely took the edge off my bad mood, which is always a win.

But enough about me. The real purpose of this post is to talk about the Medi-Dyne Prostretch, which I received as a gift for Christmas. The instant I opened the package I was excited about it and couldn't wait to use it! I have what feel like perennially tight calves, despite my constant attempts to stretch them. There are also very few stretches that I really feel in my calves; I'm not sure, maybe my calves are flexible and just need deep stretching in order to feel really good. All of the general lunge-type stretches that are common for calves feel like absolutely nothing to me. When I stretch my calves, I often just find a set of stairs and hang one heel off the back of one while pressing down through it. Even this can end up being only somewhat gratifying.

Enter the Prostretch, which I affectionately refer to as the calfinator. Never have I felt a deeper, more relaxing, and more pleasant stretch in my calves! My tight calf problem has been solved. To use the Prostretch, you place one heel up against the back and gently dip your heel back until you have hit a point where you feel like you are getting a good (though not uncomfortable) stretch. What is really great is that there is a huge range of motion allowed; the Prostretch can accommodate people who are looking for a lighter stretch but also satisfies people like me who need an angle that feels like it must be close to 70 degrees.

From what I understand, the Prostretch is extremely useful in helping to treat and prevent plantar fasciitis and also helps relieve heel pain. After using the Prostretch, my lower legs and feet feel really good, and I look forward to using it after my runs!

A word to the wise, though: wear your shoes when you use it, otherwise your heel just sort of smashes against the hard plastic on the heel platform. Not comfortable. Also be aware that if you don't have the best balance in the world, you may want to use the Prostretch near a chair or something you can hold on to for support. You will, essentially, be putting the majority of your weight onto the leg you are stretching, so act accordingly.

Happy stretching!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

2009: A year for abdominals

I mentioned earlier that I got these two cool books on weight training for Christmas. The first one, The New Rules of Lifting for Women, is more of a reference resource, while the other, 101 Workouts for Women, is sort of an illustrated guide with a huge amount of sample workouts. I love this, since one of the biggest obstacles between me and consistent weight training (and a lot of other things, for that matter) is structure. I like to have a plan. Unfortunately, I'm not great at coming up with them for myself. The book is divided up into sections for different body parts (abs, arms, shoulders, back, legs, glutes, etc.) with a variety of exercises and workouts for each, and also has individual sections on upper-body workouts, lower-body workouts, full-body workouts, and beginners' workouts. Guess where I'll be starting!

The section on abs consists of 13 individual workouts, one of which is a partner workout. Since I rarely, if ever, workout with a partner, I thought that since there are 12 workouts that I can reasonably do, maybe I would devote one month of the year to each one of them. This way, I am challenging my muscles in a different way pretty consistently, avoiding boredom, and working my way toward a strong core.

My plan is to start with the first workout, which is very straightforward--crunches, reverse crunches, and some oblique work--and do this 2-3 times a week (the book recommends 3 times weekly) for January. By February, I will be stronger and ready for a new set of exercises! I'm excited to see how this pans out. I will keep you all posted about my progress. I know you are all waiting with bated breath to see how this all goes!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Viva la resoluciĆ²n!

You know the feeling you get when you really haven't done anything all day, and it hasn't been relaxing and restorative so much as, like, disappointing? And it's kind of around the time the sun is setting so you have sort of worked yourself into a spot where you are either going to have to a) go to the gym (on January 2! good luck finding a treadmill); b) run outside in the dark; or c) skip your run altogether. Okay, first of all, scratch option c off the list because you haven't really done anything else all day* and going for a run will potentially turn the entire day around and make you feel like you accomplished something. B is actually not too bad, since your neighborhood is residential and safe. But you're kind of scared of the dark. It makes you feel a teensy bit claustrophobic (random, right?!). Signs are kind of pointing to a as your best bet. So you're kind of just sitting on your bed with your laptop on top of your lap typing away and feeling disappointed that your day was totes lame and putting all your eggs in your gym bag.

I honestly do not know what the gym will be like. My mom said she went this morning and it wasn't too bad. Maybe everyone has already given up on themselves! I have mixed feelings about resolutions, really. On one hand, you can make them at any time, why wait for the first of the year? On the other, it is kind of nice to feel like you are giving yourself some direction for the days that lie ahead. It's kind of sad, in a way, though, that we repeatedly feel like something we've done isn't good enough and that we have to wait for this big momentous day in order to work to make things better. I wish we all felt like we had the power to change the things we wanted to change at any time, based entirely on decision to do so. But I digress. Back to the resolutionaries.

It makes me both sad and perversely satisfied to find that by March, gym attendance has dropped back down to normal. Then again, we are all aware of the fact that I am a somewhat sick person who cares little about the pain, suffering, and failure of others (right, guy who fell during the 5k?)--I just want my treadmill access because I am a serious runner and I deserve that treadmill more than you, Mr. Resolutionary. I know your game. You will pump the speed up to 7.5 for about two minutes, then realize you're in over your head, and place either foot on the sides of the treadmill, off the belt, until you catch your breath. Then you will repeat. You will do this over and over again for twenty minutes, without taking into consideration the fact that you spent more time catching your breath than you did running. Meanwhile, I could have been running that entire time, and working on my fitness, which I have been working on for a while and not because I resolved to.

This brings out the worst in me, I tell you! I get possessive about the gym, the treadmill, the locker room--whatever it is that I want access to but can't actually access because someone else is accessing it. I should probably work on letting all of that go. I'm not really a terrible person, as much as I joke about it. I'm happy for those people who resolve to be healthier. I want them to succeed.

So maybe I should make a resolution to be a little more patient about things like this in 2009. Or I should just make sure I don't sit around doing nothing until the sun goes down, and actually go for a run outside on the days when it's possible to do so. Because if I do just waste the day away, ending up at a crowded gym is sort of no one's fault but my own.

*this isn't entirely true. I did spend a fair amount of time honing my ukulele-playing skillz. They are lackluster, but I've only just started. I expect to be a virtuoso by Wednesday of next week.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Race Report: MADD Red Ribbon Run 5k

I may (or may not) have the name of this race wrong. Okay, I just checked. I was only slightly off. The official title is MADD 5k Red Ribbon Run. I'm not overly concerned about it.

I mentioned yesterday that I was hoping to run between 24-27 minutes. Mission accomplished, I'm glad to say! And thanks to all of you who wished me luck. I know it helped :)

I've spent the past two weeks (or so) with my parents, who live in the Washington, D.C. area. I signed up for this 5k a while ago, knowing that my mom was also planning on making it her first ever 5k (CONGRATULATIONS, MOM!). The weather down here has been, generally, pretty mild. Certainly nothing to compare with the conditions Rachel has been facing in the frozen tundra (in my mind, anyway) of Minnesota. To make things interesting, though, we had winds come out of nowhere yesterday, gusting up to 40 mph. In my opinion, one of the best parts of running in this kind of weather is the fact that you could, at any moment, become airborne. Or, you know, get smacked in the head with some flying debris, knocked unconscious, and left for dead. Good times. Anyway, high winds. The temperature was around the mid-thirties, but since it was a late afternoon race, we were dealing with the disappearance of the sun and the subsequent lowering of the temperature. I have low blood pressure, poor circulation, and a body temperature that tends to drop and stay down so I was not particularly excited about these things. Lucky for us, though, this was the cushiest 5k in the world. The starting line was right outside the Concert Hall on the George Mason University campus in Fairfax, VA, so we all waited inside until about five minutes before gun time. Yay for not having to hop around from one leg to another while freezing your buns off outside! Score one for MADD. I should also note that the race volunteers and even a lot of the other runners were super nice. Always a plus. Oh, and speaking of pluses, getting to wait inside the concert hall was also awesome because it meant we all had access to nice, clean restrooms (with toilet paper!). This was good since my stomach is defective and generally causes me no end of problems pretty much all the time. Sorry, TMI. It's just that I know there are some of you out there who understand things like this in the sort of way only runners can.

The race started promptly at four, and as we all began running, some dude just fell! It was weird. I don't know if he tripped, or what. But being the insensitive asshole that I am, I continued on my merry way and figured someone else would deal with him. Things like that make me a little bit nervous, to be honest. My lungs (did I mention that I am suffering from some sort of 19th-century throwback case of consumption? No, I mean, not really, and I shouldn't make light of people who do still have to deal with tuberculosis. My point is my lungs are congested with this nasty cough that won't go away and running has been sort of difficult because of it) tightened up as though someone had them in either a clenched fist (ew!) or a vise (more ew!). I wanted to find a pace that was challenging but that would ensure I could finish the race without hacking up a lung. Or collapsing one. You know, one of the two.

The wind was brutal the entire time, and between my defective stomach and my defective respiratory system (I swear, can I get a refund? Because this is not working for me and I feel a little bit ripped off) I felt a little more beaten down by it than I normally would have. But I soldiered on! And I managed to pull a 26:02! Now, no, this is not the 23:xx that Chris suggested, but that is certainly on the horizon. I mean, we are almost there. Plus I got to feel superior when some little kid (there were waaaaay too many little kids running this race. I am sorry if that offends anyone who likes to have their kids run races with them--this also makes me nervous because I am always scared that I won't see them and I will trip on them. Plus they don't really have a sense of race etiquette and tend to just stop in the middle of the course if they poop out, without going over to the side of the road first. Of course, adults do that too. At least kids have the excuse of being young and, you know, kids) announced to his mother that he ran a 26:07. HA HA, munchkin! Pwned!!!!!1!! Just kidding.

I just want to also say how proud I am of my mom for running this race. It is not easy to run a course you are unfamiliar with when it is really cold and extremely windy, and my mom was a real trooper. I hope this is one of many races for her.

If any of you fair readers find yourselves in the Washington, D.C. area around New Year's in years to come, I recommend this race. The course is pleasant, and the race overall is extremely well-organized with really, really nice volunteers. A good time was undoubtedly had by all. Except that guy who fell. I hope you're alright, buddy. Sorry I didn't stop to make sure.

I hope you all had a very happy and healthy New Year! Now get ready to fight for treadmills at your local gym :) And it made me so happy to read all your comments. I missed you guys!