Category Archives: Running

Marathon training

As I mentioned in my list of goals the other day, my BFF and I made a pact to run a marathon this year — his first; my first in a decade.

We started our training program yesterday with a three-mile run and continued today with a four-miler. Both runs were fairly easy, mainly because I’m using the Jeff Galloway approach, which involves building in walk breaks at planned intervals to help reduce the risk of injuries and maintain a sustainable pace for the duration of the run.

I used to base my intervals on time: Run five minutes, walk one. I know other runners who base their intervals on distance: Run a mile, walk a minute. Both methods have their merits, but this fall, I began experimenting with the idea of basing my breaks on steps rather than time or distance. I may never bother with a stopwatch again.

Your mileage may vary, but here are the advantages I found on my runs using the step-counting method:

1. More consistent effort expended between walking intervals. When I use the stopwatch, I end up running a lot more steps in five minutes at the beginning of a run than I do at the end.

2. More effort in general. If a quicker pace gets me to my break faster, I’m probably going to run harder between breaks, and I’m less tempted to slow down when I’m tired. Theoretically, running a specific distance between breaks would accomplish the same thing, but distance is harder to measure reliably.

3. It’s easier to keep track of, especially in cold weather. I have an iPhone with a stopwatch and GPS on it, but I have no idea where I put my touchscreen-sensitive gloves, so if I’m trying to track time or distance on my phone, I have to take off my gloves and coax it out of sleep mode every time I want to check. Instead, I use a cheap mechanical lap counter, logging a “lap” every 100 steps.

4. It makes a long run feel more manageable. I have something to think about besides how tired I am as the mileage increases, and I get a little psychological boost from clicking the lap counter every 100 steps. Never underestimate the value of a mental lift on a long run. Distance running is more mental than physical, and every little nudge helps.

Emily

Goals for 2016

The other day, I talked about what I’m doing to put us in a financial position conducive to moving to Tucumcari in a few years.

Money isn’t the only thing we’ll need for a cross-country move, of course. I’ve organized two of them, and it’s a stressful proposition. Most of the stress comes from uncertainty: How long will it take us to find jobs? How long will it take to sell our old house? Will all our stuff fit in the U-Haul? Where will we buy necessities in our new town? There are a lot of moving parts, and the more I can take care of in advance, the better.

To that end, I have a list of projects I want to complete between now and 2021. It’s a pretty long list, so I’m breaking it down into six shorter lists, each of which can be completed within a year. They aren’t exactly New Year’s resolutions, but here are my goals for 2016:

1. Shop only at stores with locations (or equivalents) in Tucumcari. Tucumcari is considerably smaller than Cape Girardeau, with considerably fewer shopping options. If that’s going to be a problem, I’d like to know before I move so I can plan workarounds.

2. Repair all the cracked drywall joints in this house. The previous owners made several “improvements” that were anything but. The drywall is the worst of the lot.

3. Replace the kitchen floor. The shoddy tile job is another of those “improvements.”

4. Steam the carpets. I have a feeling “replace the carpets” will be on the list for 2017, but a good cleaning should buy me some time.

5. Replace the water heater. It’s 26 years old and showing its age.

6. Dump AT&T. Our contract is up in April. Changing to Cricket will save us about $1,500 a year.

7. Apply for a New Mexico teaching certificate. The amount of bureaucracy involved could be massive, so I need to get a head start on it.

8. Learn Spanish. This will increase my odds of landing a teaching job, and it also will come in handy in a newsroom.

9. Scan all my old 35mm photos and ditch the prints that are taking up closet space.

10. Run a marathon. This doesn’t directly affect my Tucumcari plans, but regular exercise seems to help normalize my sleep patterns, and a marathon training program is a highly structured way to get plenty of exercise. A normalized sleep schedule would free up some morning hours, which I could use to advance my other goals.

11. Go vegetarian. This should free up another $500 a year or so (grains and legumes are way cheaper than meat) and fuel my marathon training nicely.

We’ll see how this goes. What are your goals this year?

Emily

You had ONE JOB, Women’s Running.

What's wrong with this picture?
What’s wrong with this picture?

Dear Women’s Running:

On your website, you claim your mission is

to create a high-quality magazine for smart, successful women who use running to balance and enrich their lives.

As a smart, successful woman who uses running to balance and enrich her life, I would seem to be your target audience. Yet when I went to the bookstore yesterday, of the three running magazines available, yours was the only one I elected not to buy.

Let’s talk about how this month’s cover convinced me that your magazine, despite its appealing name, was not for me at all.

WEIGHT-LOSS SPECIAL ISSUE

YOUR FITTEST YEAR EVER!
* Run Off Pounds
* The Best Workouts to Slim Down
* Nutrition Tips From “The Biggest Loser” Trainer

“Run Off Pounds”? Is a magazine called Women’s Running really treating its eponymous sport as nothing more than the means to an end? As a runner, I don’t need the best workout to slim down. I need the best workout to strengthen my core, increase my endurance and reduce my risk of injuries. Slimming down is usually a natural side effect of such workouts, but it is not the reason I train. And to hell with “The Biggest Loser” — I want to know what Joan Benoit and Deena Kastor eat.

A magazine targeting female athletes really ought to know better than to approach its readers with the same tired old “you’re-too-fat” trope Woman’s Day and Family Circle have been pitching to bored housewives for the last 80 years.

Next on your cover, I found this gem:

#NERDALERT: BEST NEW RUNNING WATCHES, FITNESS TRACKERS, HEADPHONES AND MORE

What’s the message here? Female athletes who use electronic training tools designed to help them train better are nerds? If so, then why is Teri Hatcher — whom you dub a “hot momma” — wearing what appears to be an enormous running watch in your badly Photoshopped cover image?

Below that, we have:

PULLUP CHALLENGE — Totally Possible!
THE LEGAL PERFORMANCE-ENHANCING DRUG
HOT TIPS — Make Winter Running (Kinda) Fun

OMG, you guys. Did you know it’s totally possible for women to do pullups? Apparently we can do it if we take enough PEDs. And I’m so glad there’s a way to make a completely voluntary activity I do for my own enjoyment “kinda fun.”

Just to be sure women don’t miss the message that looks are everything, Women’s Running drives the point home with this little coup de grace:

CLAWS OUT! Race-Day Nail Art

Race.
Day.
Nail.
Art.

Is this a tribute to the late Florence Griffith-Joyner? If not, it’s quite possibly the most inappropriate thing I’ve ever seen — and I taught sophomores for five years. I have run two marathons, six half-marathons, and too many shorter races to count, and I can assure you that I have never once given even one-tenth of one percent of a damn about how my nails looked on race day.

Based on your mission statement, I can draw only one of two conclusions: Either you’ve failed miserably, or you’ve got some spectacularly incompetent people making decisions about how to market your content to your target audience, because this smart, successful woman finds your January/February cover to be one of the most unconscionably patronizing messes of misogynistic bullshit she’s ever seen.

Emily

Make this your resolution.

I’m not cool with all the body-shaming that Madison Avenue heaps on people (especially women), but eating less junk food and exercising regularly are good for most people regardless of weight or body type, so if you rushed out to buy a gym membership today — congratulations!

That said, if your resolution involves more exercise, please also resolve to be courteous to others who have the same goal.

A few tips for newbies:

1. At the gym, leave the equipment at least as clean as you found it.

2. If you need to take a call or respond to a text message mid-workout, please don’t do it while sitting on a weight bench or standing on a treadmill with the belt stopped. Other people may be waiting to use that equipment. Don’t tie it up while you socialize.

3. Put away equipment when you’re done using it.

4. Before you get on the track, ask a staff member which direction you’re supposed to go, which lane you’re supposed to be in, and whether that changes from day to day. And NEVER walk side-by-side on a narrow track or trail.

5. Cyclists: If you’re approaching someone from behind, please call out, “On your left” or “On your right” before you pass.

6. Pedestrians: On narrow trails, please yield to cyclists, skateboarders and rollerbladers. It’s a lot safer and easier for you to step off the trail than it is for them.

7. Skaters: For safety’s sake, please pick up your board and walk in congested areas.

8. On public streets: Pedestrians should go against the flow of traffic; cyclists should go with it. This reduces the risk of serious injury in the event of a collision.

9. Dog owners: In public spaces, keep your pet on a sturdy, short (six feet or less) leash, and clean up after him/her. If you aren’t willing to pick up poop, you don’t need pets. Oh, and burn that retractable leash. Seriously. They’re useless.

Got any other tips for newbies? Share ’em in the comments!

Emily

PSA: Tracks have rules.

As we approach the new year, with its time-honored tradition of buying gym memberships and abandoning them three weeks later, I’d like to address a point of etiquette too many people ignore:

Track lane usage.

If you join a gym with an indoor track, please take a minute to find out the rules for using that track — and then follow them.

Most gyms ask track users to run clockwise one day and counter-clockwise the next. To avoid head-on collisions, find out the day’s direction before you step onto the track.

Blind curves are an unfortunate reality of most indoor tracks. The shorter the track, the more blind curves per mile — so for safety reasons, gyms with multilane tracks usually designate separate lanes for runners and walkers.

When you run in the walking lane, you risk crashing into an unseen walker as you round a curve. This risk is particularly high at the hospital-owned gym I use, where many walkers are rehabbing from injuries and have limited mobility. They can’t get out of the way if a wrong-lane runner suddenly comes barreling around a curve.

You also risk confusing walkers, who may end up in the running lane in an effort to stay out of your way. This endangers both the walker and any runners who might be cruising along in the correct lane, unaware that a slow-moving obstacle is just around the curve. There is a big difference between a 10:00 mile (my top sustainable speed) and a 20:00 mile, and if I come around the corner at 6 mph to find someone dawdling along at half that speed, I have little time to react.

This is annoying at best — I’ve just been forced to alter my pace for no good reason — and dangerous at worst, as it forces me to risk injury by stopping on a dime or changing directions abruptly to avoid a painful collision.

This scenario is even more dangerous on outdoor trails shared by cyclists and pedestrians, as the speeds are faster, and bikes tend to be harder and have more pointy edges than people. Trust me: You don’t want to be involved in the aftermath of running in the bike lane, or vice versa.

For safety’s sake, stay in your lane.

Please pass this information along to anyone who might be thinking of joining a gym after the holidays. A little forethought can prevent a lot of pain.

Emily

Dig it

pond1

“Can you dig it? Yes, I can. And I’ve been waiting such a long time….”
— Chicago

It doesn’t look like much yet, but the picture you see above is the beginning of a project I’ve wanted to do since we moved: I’m excavating part of the backyard for a new pond. Eep!

I couldn’t put in a new pond when we first moved, because the yard wasn’t fenced, and I was afraid a curious munchkin would fall in and drown while trying to catch a toad or inspect a goldfish or something. We finally got our fence recently, so in the interest of taking advantage of end-of-season sales (and making sure all the equipment I buy works while it’s still new enough to return), I spent part of today digging out the spot where I want to put the pond.

pond2

My beloved mermaid moved with us, of course. (Excuse the terrible, fuzzy cellphone photo; it was nearly dark when I got done.)

In other news, my trifocals finally came in today. I’m still breaking them in, but I think I’ll like them.

self3

Just for the hell of it, I got a contact prescription this time around, too. I got caught having to come up with a Halloween costume on the spur of the moment last year, and it was a giant pain in the arse to find something that wouldn’t look too stupid with my glasses.

self2

God willing, I won’t have to dress up for anything this year, but if I do, I’ve got about three options I can throw together in a pinch: Merida from Brave, Magenta from the Rocky Horror Picture Show, or Bonnie Raitt.

Speaking of Bonnie Raitt, have we talked about the progress of my gray streak lately?

self1

And speaking of progress, I cut back my carbs, upped my protein and reduced my junk food intake a couple of weeks ago. Last night, I jogged four miles on the track and did 10 miles’ worth of intervals on a stationary bike and felt good enough today to go out and dig a pond, so apparently I’m doing something right.

Last, but certainly not least, here is my new baby:

piano

This was another of the big things I wanted to do after we sold the house in Tulsa. I went to Baldwin Piano and Organ in Herrin, Ill., last weekend and bought a digital piano. I haven’t had one in 10 years, and I finally started to miss it last winter. I’m terribly rusty, but it feels so good to have piano keys under my fingers again.

Life is good.

Emily

On Big Yellow Taxis and pink running socks

“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?”
— Joni Mitchell

It’s been a Joni Mitchell kind of day.

Late last summer, I discovered a rather alarming symptom that seemed to be consistent with a type of injury that could end my distance-running days forever. It wasn’t the sort of thing that would interfere with anything I really needed to be doing, but it could have kept me from doing some things I wanted to be doing — chief among them, running.

I’ve been guilty of taking running for granted. I’m good at signing up for marathons and then dropping down to a shorter race at the last minute because I didn’t bother to train. I’m good at running half-marathons on nothing but muscle memory, prayer and sheer force of will. And I’m awesome at deciding it’s too hot to run, or too cold, or too late, or too early, or I’m too busy, or I’m sore, or [insert lame excuse here].

All those times I blew off a run, I assumed I wasn’t missing much. It wasn’t worth the trouble. I could do it later, when I got a hand free. Not now. Maybe tomorrow. Not today.

And then one day, apropos of nothing, I discovered that where running was concerned, tomorrow apparently had ceased to exist.

It’s hard to understand how much you love doing something until you face the possibility that you may never get to do it again.

The story of how an erstwhile Christian Scientist ended up in a doctor’s office on a bright July morning is way too long to go into here, but the upshot is that I walked into the doctor’s office fearing the worst, and I walked out of the doctor’s office an hour later and went to lunch.

A nice, low-fat, high-carb lunch.

A distance runner sort of lunch.

When I finished lunch, Ron took me to a great little mom-and-pop store, where I bought an outrageously expensive pair of socks. Screaming pink, moisture-wicking socks.

Distance runner socks.

And when I got off work this evening, I put on my new socks and went downtown and had maybe the greatest run in the history of ever, with magic light filtering through the trees above me and the river murmuring beside me and the scent of honeysuckle all around me.

Cape has a rose-themed B&B, a boutique, and several swinging hot spots. But if you swap the big yellow taxi for a pair of pink running socks, you can still see quite a bit of Paradise along the way.

Emily

I wish I’d designed this.

I think this character is a fairly new addition at River Parks. I haven't seen him before.

The weather this week has been gorgeous — highs in the 60s, dazzling sunshine, and glorious cobalt skies — so when school let out this afternoon, I pulled on shorts and running shoes and took Songdog out to the river for a three-mile jog along the trail.

It’s not quite as spectacular as Turtle Playground, but the giant frog next to the playground at River Parks looked so cool in that pre-sunset “magic light” that I couldn’t resist stopping to take a picture with my cell phone on the way past.

Songdog, for the record, was a perfect gentleman on the leash this afternoon — no pulling, balking, or bolting — and we had a really nice run. I know it won’t last, but it feels like spring out there right now. Pretty afternoons in January are rare and precious and always delight me.

Speaking of spring, I saw a fat robin sitting in the middle of the street on my way to school this morning, and we’re about six weeks from spring training. Cubs haven’t announced their reporting dates yet, but when pitchers and catchers arrive in Mesa, Carlos Zambrano will not be among them, because Ep & Co. just swapped him to Florida for Chris Volstad. I know Z has been a handful, to put it mildly, but I’m not keen on swapping a guy with a 3.60 ERA who bats .241 for a guy with a 4.59 ERA and a .133 BA. I am especially not inclined to make that trade now that we finally have some adult supervision in the dugout. That said, it should be interesting to see how Zambrano gets along with Ozzie Guillen. I figure they’ll either get along famously or tear each other’s heads off right in the middle of the clubhouse.

Hope your day was as enjoyable as mine.

Emily

Christmas morning

Here are a few images from the Land of Cute, a.k.a. my mom’s living room on Christmas morning:

Hazel unwraps her new feather boa.

Ashley takes a picture as Hazel opens her presents.

As usual, an empty box proves more interesting than expensive toys.

She wore those shades all day. Note the sweet bee plate. I bought a set of those for the kids the same day I bought my purse.

Thoroughly enjoying Aunt Grace's birthday cake.

Ollie also enjoyed the cake -- with an M&Ms chaser.

Ollie does his best impression of Macaulay Culkin in the "Home Alone" movies.

Ollie and Jamie check out their new presents: Dinosaur puzzles and Fraggles.

Jamie, the man of a thousand faces, has mastered a new one: the Shatner eyebrow.

The boys decorated the Dreamcar for me before we left town.

Ollie s-t-r-e-e-e-e-e-t-c-h-e-s to reach a spot.

Hope you had a good Christmas, wherever you are.

I spent this morning enjoying one of my presents: Mom and Dad gave me some cash for Christmas, which I used to buy a new pair of running shoes. A refitting at Fleet Feet revealed what I’d begun to suspect several weeks ago: After eight years in motion-control shoes, I’ve finally quit overpronating, so it was time to switch to something a little more neutral. If the new shoes — New Balance WS870s — are as comfortable after 26.2 miles as they were after a mile and a half, I won’t have much excuse to blow off OKC this spring.

Maybe I can find time to test-drive them in New Mexico this weekend….

Emily