that thing called running that I miss

In that last few (more like several) weeks, as I’ve been planning for my new adventure, running has taken a backseat.

Instead, I’ve been packing, making trips to Goodwill, meeting friends for drinks, eating my weight in chocolate and wondering how many jars of peanut butter I should stow in my checked luggage to Barcelona.

It’s a good time. But I’ve been feeling a little on edge.

Excited and anxious and loving this time in my life, but also … edgy. That’s the only way I can describe it.

And I realized today it’s because I MISS RUNNING.

I do!

I’ve managed to fit in a few 5-mile jogs here and there, but it’s been a long time since I did a tempo run or a hill workout. Long runs? Forget about them. (Oh, yeah. And remember that upcoming little race, the Portland Marathon? Now that I’m leaving for Spain on Sept. 26th, it’s not happening. That’s another reason that I completely backed off my training, but I neglected to mention that here. Oopsie.)

For a couple weeks, it felt glorious to take the pressure off of myself. I’d started to begrudge my running schedule, and I welcomed lazy, indulgent days. (I was also dealing with an IT issue, but I pretty much used that as an excuse to go way overboard in the resting department.)

But, now? I’m ready to get my base back. I miss breathing hard, sweating hard and feeling like a badass. (Yes, a hill workout makes me feel like a badass. I don’t care how silly that sounds.)

I miss eating well because it fuels me (versus eating too much and feeling sluggish).

I miss looking at my Garmin and being pleasantly surprised by the progress.

I miss jamming to my favorite songs and head-nodding to other runners.

I miss the pavement!

Tomorrow’s my first completely unplanned day in a long time, and I’m excited to get reacquainted with my running shoes.

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get faster

I love when folks post their speed training workouts. Makes it easy on me the next time I hit the track (or the treadmill). Here’s a terrific HIIT workout from Shut Up + Run, and it includes all sorts of helpful tips, too. I can’t wait to try it.

so fast

That’s all for now. LET’S. GET. FAST.

whip your glutes into shape

Sunday: rest day

Monday: 10 mile bike ride instead of a 3 mile run (though … it was really slow and on a cruiser bike, so it wasn’t really a workout)

Tuesday: Went all lazy & did nothing

Wednesday: track/crossfit workout (see below)

Thursday: 3 mile walk instead of a 5 mile run (because I was too sore from yesterday)

Since I’ve been trying to meet my weekly mileage goals, I’ve seriously shirked any semblance of strength training. Not that I did a ton of strength training before, but at least I was consistent with a weights class once a week.

As anyone with a fitness orientation (runner, athlete, yogi, trainer) will tell you, strength training is really important. It shouldn’t be the first thing you cut from your fitness regimen.

So I’m making a deal with myself to drop one of my short runs each week and do strength training instead — or add strength training to a run, as I did on Wednesday.

If you’re a runner and at all skeptical about dropping miles to add in weights, let me offer three convincing reasons:

  1. It’ll make you stronger (duh) and faster (yay), especially if you build up your hamstrings.
  2. It’ll help you burn more calories. (Who doesn’t want to burn more calories?)
  3. It’ll leave you less prone to injury — and more equipped to last through your long runs.

And, let me clarify: When I say strength training, I don’t necessarily mean you need to use weights, though it’s a good idea. I simply mean any weight-bearing exercise. Using your own body weight counts, too.

Want a quick and effective workout that’ll whip your glutes into shape? Take a look at the track/crossfit workout I did on Wednesday … It’s the first crossfit workout I’ve ever done, and so far my favorite. :) (I stole it from Paula of Eat Watch Run, who I follow on dailymile.)

I’m calling it …

Let ‘er burn!

  • 1 mile warmup
  • 1 fast lap, followed by 100 squats + 25 moving lunges
  • 1 fast lap, followed by 75 squats + 25 moving lunges
  • 1 fast lap, followed by 50 squats + 25 moving lunges
  • 1 fast lap, followed by 25 squats + 25 lunges
  • 1 mile cool down

Some important notes:

  • Do not rest during the fast lap rotations! I wanted this to simulate what it feels like to run fast on really tired legs. Defeats the purpose (in my opinion) if you allow yourself recovery.
  • Do a proper squat. No cheating. (Google proper squat if you’re not confident in your form.)
  • Squeeze your glutes at the top of the squat. Go ahead, squuueeeeze.
  • Please don’t forget to stretch afterward!

I loved this workout for a few reasons. First, it was super quick. I think it was about an hour from start to finish, and that included a lot of stretching. Second, it felt tough but completely doable … and yet, I was more sore than I ever expected the next day. (I can’t wait to do it a few more times and see my progress.) Lastly, it’s open for lots of variations. I’d like to try it with pushups or burpees, extend the laps in between or turn it into a ladder (where you start with fewer squats and build up to 100, then build back down).

Try it out. Let me know what you think!

sun

Guess what happened this week? It’s officially summer in Portland. Sure, we’ve had some sunny, warm days before this. But now it’s here to stay. Yep, summer starts on July 5 in PDX.

the anatomy of the long run

Wednesday: rest day/kickball

Thursday: 5 mile tempo run

Friday: strength training (at the gym)

Saturday: 12 mile run

In my last post, I said I wanted to talk about hills next, but I need to get a few more hill runs under my belt before I blog about them.

Let’s talk about the long run instead.

Most marathoners would agree it’s the most important run of race training, and it’s the one run of the week that I’m trying not to miss. If I miss a 4- or 5-miler, I can make it up in weight training or a boot camp class. But there’s really nothing that can substitute being on your feet (and in your head) for the couple hours of the long run.

I’ve been trying to break my long runs into quarters:

  1. Warm up – I use the first 2-3 miles of the long run to warm up my legs. I don’t pay attention to my pace, and I try to, well, pretend I’m not really running. I look around at the scenery, create a mental map of where I want to run and just try to relax.
  2. Kick it up – I like to imagine the run really starts here, around mile 3 (or 4 or 5, for even longer runs). Generally I’m allowing myself to run slow and steady for the entire long run, but I do try to take it up a notch after the warmup. At this point, the cobwebs are cleared out of my legs, and I’m trying to get into a good rhythm.
  3. Mix it up – By mile 6 or 7, I’m starting to get fatigued, both physically and mentally. Now’s the time I begin to feel a little tightness in my hip or knee, and while it’s usually something I can address with a small form adjustment, it messes with me mentally. (Uh oh, am I over training? Can I handle today’s run?) So I mix it up in this section of the run: by doing a loop around a park, quickening my pace for a block & then slowing down, changing my playlist. As long as it’s something unplanned and spontaneous (well, as spontaneous as you can be while running), it tends to help these miles go by.
  4. Home free – When I’ve got 2-3 miles left, I tell myself I’m on the home stretch. You can do anything for 20 minutes. If I’ve got energy to spare, I’ll try to race the last couple miles, or at least pick up the pace. I’m finding that every long run feels more and more mentally rewarding. No matter how slow I’ve gone, it just feels good to conquer them.

And it also help to wear neon from head to toe:

long run

Some other important reminders for the long run:

  • Don’t be afraid to stop and stretch. You won’t compromise your endurance if you stop. In fact, you’ll likely hurt yourself if you feel tightness and don’t address it. Use stoplights as stretching points, or plan a couple stretching breaks at different mileage markers.
  • Bring water. I run with this Nathan belt, and I’ve started to realize that it’s not enough water for runs longer than 10 miles. I thinking of getting this hand-held bottle, or maybe even running with my Camelbak that I usually wear for hiking. It’d likely be a little awkward to run with something on my back, but staying hydrated is so, so important. Don’t want to feel nauseous for the rest of the day? Bring water on your run.
  • Eat before and during. I really want to scold folks who say they can’t eat before working out. Look, we’re not talking about polishing off a plate of pancakes and bacon. We’re talking about fuel. Have a 200-300 calorie snack. I like peanut butter on an apple,  a scoop of almond butter and a protein bar, or almonds and dried cranberries. If I’m going to be out for more than 70 minutes, I’ve started bringing jelly beans, Clif shot gels or fruit leathers. I’ll snack just after the midway point. It provides a boost of energy, and it breaks up the run, too.

What about you? Any long run tips & tricks to share?

quick recap

Marathon training is officially underway! That is, I’m onto week 2 and haven’t thrown in the towel yet. Here’s a quick look at the past five days…

Friday: rest day

Saturday: 9.4 miles in the mixed rain/sun … The first 5 miles felt terrific; the last 4.4 were, shall we say, craptastic. I did the ol’ I’m-not-looking-at-my-Garmin-anymore-because-it’s-too-demoralizing-when-I-do routine.

Sunday: another rest day, in which I thought about doing a tempo run, then instead opted for sleeping in, drinking afternoon cocktails and going to the movies

Monday: 4 miles on the treadmill, slow

Tuesday: 5:00 am track workout! Yep, I actually hauled myself out of bed bright and early (or dark and early) and met a friend at the track. We did Yasso 800s and some 400s, for a total of 5.25 miles.

How do you get yourself to obey the alarm? Don’t give yourself any opportunities for a second wakeup call:

alarm

I’ll be back soon with a post about running hills. Namely, what counts as a hill workout? Just how tough should it be? What sort of elevation gain should you shoot for?

Do you have the answers? (Spoiler alert: I don’t.)

mixing it up & welcome back, Zumba

Saturday: 3 hr hike near Government Camp

Sunday: long run (11.6 miles)

Monday: Zumba (I’ve missed it!)

Ah, I love long weekends. And I love when I don’t overplan my long weekends. This one was all about sleeping in, cooking meals (I made pancakes, people), drinking wine, hiking, reading and spending time with some good people.

I’d planned to do my long run on Saturday, but when I found out that Cheryl Strayed would be reading from Wild at a book shop near Government Camp, I took it as a sign that I should go to her reading and then go for a hike.

I spent a few hours on Hunchback Trail, aptly named for its steepness, and took some pretty pics:

hike pics

Gimme a hit of that nature.

Solo hiking is … good for me. When I start, I always feel a little unnerved and restless, even spooked. But once I get in a rhythm, I end up really enjoying it — and working out some mental sh*t that I don’t think I’d otherwise give enough time to.

I also tested out my new hiking tanks, er, boots. I typically hike in running shoes, but I’m going on a trip in the fall for which I’m told boots are sorta required. So I bought them in advance to break them in this summer.

Take a look:

hiking boots

Right, those are *my* feet, not a 6’5″ man’s feet.

If you’re well-versed in hiking boots, you probably think these look standard. For me, it’s a leap into the world of traction and ankle support and … heft? They’re not that heavy, afterall, but they took some getting used to. Kind of like having SUVs strapped to your feet. I didn’t slip or skid or trip at all, so I think their traction tires worked. ;)

On Sunday, I headed out for my 11-12 miler:

long run, orange socks

Shiny five-head! … I’d just put on sunscreen. (Go me.) And I’m wearing neon orange compression sleeves on my calves, in case that looks like a neon orange tan.

I haven’t been doing long runs, well, long enough, and so I don’t know what to expect from them. For now, I’m just happy to complete them. I have to remind myself that it really wasn’t that long ago that I’d get knee pain around mile 3.

So, it’s a victory that I can run almost 12 miles now and only experience a small, manageable amount of hip pain (that I can easily treat afterward with stretching and icing).

But … I’m sheepish to admit how slow my pace is. Like almost 2 minutes slower per mile than my tempo pace. Is that normal?

And my pace also varies wildly over the course of the long runs. I’ll look at my Garmin and be shocked that I’m going :30 slower than when I looked before, even though it feels like I’m running at least moderately consistently.

It’s odd.

Anyway, I’m trying not to sweat it too much. It’s easy to get in my head and worry about whether or not I’m making progress quickly enough, or whether or not I’m pushing myself hard enough, and then I remember that I’m doing this because I want to be a lifelong runner. Not because I want to be a lifelong racer. Not because I want to be the world’s fastest woman. And certainly not because I want to run myself into an injury.

So I’m going to be satisfied with slow and steady.

And, then, on Monday, after a much-too-long hiatus from Zumba, I took a class and Zumba’d my heart out. I have to say: I love Zumba instructors. Every one I’ve ever had (that would be three of them, ha) is so full of energy and joy and encouragement. Where else can you go where someone wearing (what amount to) neon Hammer pants shouts at you to LET YOURSELF GO and you totally, willingly obey?

I forgot how much I love it — and being surrounded by people who don’t care how awkward and silly they look.

I think all runners should have to take a Zumba class every once in a while. It reminds us to relax and not take ourselves so seriously and get swept up in the fun (without being attached to pace times and outcomes).

I’ll be back later this week with post 5 & 6 in the form series.

repeat after me: yoga is a good idea

Monday: speed workout (6 x 400s-ish with a warm-up and cool down)

Tuesday: yoga (On Demand)

Instead of going to the track on Monday, I jogged over to a nearby park. There’s a soft bark trail around the periphery of the park, and one loop is about a quarter of a mile. It’s gradually downhill on one half of the loop, and uphill on the other — it’s not ideal for running your best times, but it’s good practice for fighting fatigue, and it’s easy on the knees. (Something I learned from the trail race: my legs really appreciate running on softer surfaces.)

My Garmin was having trouble with its auto pause function — randomly starting up again while I rested between laps — so I don’t really trust the lap times. I completed the six loops in anywhere from 2:00 – 2:18 each. I was breathing really hard and pacing myself pretty terribly — starting out too fast and dragging by the end of the loop. Still, it’s nice to have a benchmark for the next time I run the loops.

And, big news: on the 1.5 mile cool down, I decided to tackle a hill that I used to jog in the old running days (when I only jogged every couple weeks and spent most of my time inside on the elliptical). This hill used to feel so killer. Like, I had to cut myself deals and negotiations to make it to the top (If you make it without stopping, you can get fro yo tonight. With cookie dough on top! RUN!) During the cool down, it felt like no big thing. I mean, it’s still a hill; it requires effort. But it didn’t kick my butt. Proof positive that my workouts are doing me good!

On Tuesday, I felt some tightness in my hamstrings so decided to do yoga. I’d like to find a nice (and affordable) studio, but for now I do yoga at home. (I’m embarrassingly inflexible; it’s probably a good thing that I pose in the comfort of my own living room.) I sort of have to drag myself kicking and screaming onto the yoga mat, but once I’m there, it feels pretty fantastic.

I’ll leave you with a picture of Portland’s weather forecast. (Even though I’m heading out of town later this week, I’m glad for lots o’ sun before I go.)

Portand weather

Sunshine & blue skies all week in Portland. Huzzah.