April 2008


I’ve been running but not according to any plan… I’ve also been lifting, also not according to any plan.  I went to a yoga class today.  I am moderately sore all over.

Tomorrow I am leaving for a week at camp with a herd of eager students.  My first question to the camp director: Will there be internet access? My second question: Will I have time to run?  The answer to both questions is no. And she may have laughed in my face.  It’s going to be a long week.

So, I’m taking a week off from training. I’ll pack my running shoes and do what I can, but I’ll probably be too busy rousting kids out of bed at 7 am, traipsing through the woods, birding, boating, roasting marshmallows over a crackling campfire, guarding my girls against prankster boys from the next cabin over… you know, typical campy things.

A week with NO INTERNET, no training, no scale, no choice of what to eat or when to eat it, NO EMAIL, NO BLOGGING…. it’s either going to be horribly painful or really refreshing. I’ll be sure to let you know.

I rode on my bike for thirty minutes of “crosstraining” as requested by Hal. I biked out to the lakefront and then north until fifteen minutes had passed. I made it just to the 47th street overpass, chose to bike UP the steep hill instead of around it (the path splits into “hardcore” and “wussy” and I chose “hardcore,” of course!). Biking the route that I’ve been running reminded me why I’ve always liked biking so much– it’s FASTER! And EASIER! I flew along with the wind in my face, working moderately hard but nothing like the hard work of running that same route. My heart rate monitor needs a new battery. When I get that going again I’ll be curious to see how my biking heart rate compares to my running heart rate. Last summer “pushing it” on the bike brought my heart rate into the 160s. “Pushing it” while running takes my heart rate into the 180s, and if I’m really “dying,” the 190s (personal max seen while running: 195).

This was my first ride on my new bike. 6 miles in 30 minutes. I need to get some handlebar tape because my hands hurt. My butt hurt a little, too, while riding, which is typical when getting used to a new saddle. My arms, shoulders and back are quite sore from weight training yesterday. My lower body is not sore from weight training at all.

Hal says: Thursday: 2 mile run, followed by strength. I say: 2 miles? Ha! In my sleep!

Oh, PS: I finally found an aspirational photo to post on my fridge:

Just kidding! Just kidding!

My long-awaited personal training session finally happened yesterday.  The trainer was very nice and helpful, offered me lots of little tips and ways to remember proper form.  I kind of wish that I could afford to hire a trainer for once a week on an ongoing basis and just turn over my whole health and fitness routine to a “higher power” so to speak.  Alas, at $70/session I really can’t afford it.

I learned a bunch of upper body exercises with the free weights, four different leg machines, a good mat abs workout and two ab machines.  I’m sore today but not horribly sore.  The main benefit was just demystifying and un-scary-ifying the weight room for me.  I’ve always felt really intimidated and self-conscious in there. Once I started workout out I didn’t even notice the other people at all, and I didn’t feel like they noticed me.

I still want to find a solid “program” to follow, mainly because I know how much I enjoy ticking off check boxes and progressing through a program.  Body for Life seems to be popular among some of the blogs I’ve been reading online.  Anyone have experience with that one?

Lastly, when the trainer was asking me about my goals (overall fitness, run a 10k race without dying, improve my 5k time, fit into designer jeans (ok, I didn’t tell her that one but it is a dream of mine)), she asked me to find some pictures of what I think of as the “ideal” body and shape that I would like to work towards.  I haven’t been able to find anything!  I do NOT want to be rail thin.  I don’t want a six-pack like the women in fitness magazines.  I don’t even really care about wearing a bikini.  I’ve looked at pictures of Katherine Heigl, Gabrielle Reese, Kate Winslet? I don’t know!  Help!  The trainer also mentioned that I could send a photo of myself at a younger age… I still haven’t been able to find anything.

In other news, I went for a run after the training session. I’m following the Hal Higdon 10K training program now, so 2.5 miles, out to the lakefront, around the point and back home.  I ran pretty slowly and it still felt pretty intense.  It was in the 70s outside and I’m not used to running in such hot weather or sweating quite so much.  It felt good, though. Lots and lots of flowers are blooming and the new leaves on the trees are just starting to unfurl. I saw some cute dogs and ran up some little hills.  No heart rate monitor, no watch. I didn’t even look at the time when I left, so I don’t know how long the run was. Probably 30-40 minutes.

I’m officially graduated from Couch to 5K.  I did all of the workouts and I ran a 5K race.  I have an idea for a “wrap-up” post where I go back and evaluate my mental state, feelings, fitness level etc. week to week based on older posts… that might take a while, though, so stay tuned!

Okay, while it’s still fresh in my mind, here is absolutely everything I remember about my first 5k race this past Saturday:

The night before the race I was so nervous and excited. Everything I did made me think of the race– what kind of dinner should I eat to be fully and optimally fueled for the race? How much water should I drink now so I’m not dehydrated for the race? I had to say no to going out dancing with a dear friend when he called at 11pm on Friday night because I didn’t want to be tired for THE RACE. Random aside: I worked for Kaplan test prep for a very short time (short story: it was very weirdly corporate, homogenized and creepy). One of the things they really emphasized in their teacher training was working certain phrases into your instruction as much as possible. One of those “money” phrases was “higher scores.” Another one was “test day.” Basically they wanted you to say “OK, students, today we’re going to learn about the Pythagorean theorem! This neat little trick will help you get HIGHER SCORES on TEST DAY! Turn to page five in your text books!” The teaching evaluation actually had a little tally section where the observer would tick off how many times you managed to weave “TEST DAY” seamlessly into your instruction. Anyway, if you were observing my life in the days (and let’s be honest, weeks) leading up to RACE DAY, and you were keeping a tally of the number of times I referenced “RACE DAY” you would have at least five pages full of little tallies. RACE DAY was all I thought about, and I’m pretty sure I drove some people crazy talking about it.

So, I was really, really, really excited. I trained for ten weeks leading up to this race. I agonized over what to wear, solicited advice and strategy from every runner I know, all in pursuit of my singleminded goal: BETTER TIME on RAAAAAAAACE DAAAAAAYYYYY!

I slept only fitfully and bounced out of bed at six am. It was chilly and rainy. I showered, debated over what to wear, dressed and departed for the race. We arrived at the race location about thirty minutes before the official start time, so there was plenty of time to take in the crowd a little, pick up my chip, figure out how to lash it securely onto my shoe, etc. etc. I was afraid of missing the start so I made my way to the starting line about ten minutes to eight. There were runners everywhere!! Runners with bulging muscles in their legs. Runners in super super short shorts! Runners doing all kinds of stretches and warm-ups. Lots of people seemed to be in pairs or groups, and I wished I had a buddy to run with me. I jumped around a little bit and rubbed my bare arms in an attempt to keep warm. Brr.

After stalling forEVER and talking about the importance of preventing child abuse (the cause that the race was benefiting), the air horn finally sounded and we were off! Everyone had advised me not to go out too fast, so I settled into a steady pace right away and let the other runners flow around me like water in a stream. They flowed and flowed. At one point I glanced over my shoulder to see if every single other runner in the race had passed me in the first five minutes– it sure felt that way. Reassuringly, there were still lots of folks behind me.

The first mile seemed to take forever. There was one little uphill and I started feeling the burn a little bit. I didn’t wear a watch and I had absolutely no concept of how much time had gone by. When I finally reached the first mile marker and saw the split timer read “11:30” I was pleased, but also a little disappointed. I think I had this thought that the excitement and adrenaline of the race would somehow carry me effortlessly and breathtakingly fast to the finish line with very little effort on my part. I imagined surprising myself and everyone I know by finishing in under 30 minutes. 11:30 was okay, though, and I figured I could follow my plan to gradually speed up and run the last mile the fastest of all, without having to worry about running out of steam.

The second mile the crowd had really thinned out, but there were still people around me. I felt like I couldn’t tell if I was running too fast or too slow. I grabbed a cup of water from a line of volunteers eagerly holding out cups for me, and after gagging on the first sip decided to speed walk for a minute so I could take a drink. After that, I jogged and jogged and jogged. The second mile marker came up at 24:00. I was starting to feel really tired, but I kept thinking “this is it! this is what you’ve been training for, looking forward to, race day! Race day!” I remembered my original plan to speed up in the last mile, so sped up a little. I did some mental calculations and imagined myself running the last mile in eight minutes and finishing around 33 (got to account for that .1, don’t forget!).

Trying to speed up after the second mile marker was my major tactical error, I think. Basically I got really excited that the finish line was only one tiny mile away, and I started running way too fast. I could only sustain that pace for about a minute or two before I was absolutely DYING. I was gasping for breath, panting, and my heart felt like a trapped seagull was trying to escape from my sternum, “Alien”-style. I bargained with myself that I would walk just until a park bench that was up ahead. Then I jogged again. The other runners around me were alternating jogging and running, too. At one point a girl in front of me started walking, and even though I was jogging I could. not. pass her. I rationalized that if my jog was slower than her walk, I might as well walk. I power walked a little. Then I started berating myself because one of my goals was to run the whole time continuously, and that had gone completely out the window. Plus, I was almost finished! Probably ten more minutes of pain and I would be at the finish line.

I made myself start running again. Time slowed to a crawl. Finally the finish line came into sight, and my heart dropped when I saw the timer was already at 37 minutes. I wasted too much time walking. Nevertheless, there were spectators lined up along both sides of the finish line, cheering me on. I mustered up a tiny extra bit of strength and stamina and RAN as fast as I could for the finish line. I passed a whole bunch of people in that last block, weaving around dejected-looking walkers and slow, elderly joggers. I broke into a grin as the cheers got louder. One guy caught my eye and I imagined he looked deeply impressed. He said “Whoa! Finish strong! Good job!” and clapped in my direction.

I staggered across the finish line gasping, bent over, laughing, crying, choking, all at once. There were volunteers there who snipped the chip off of my shoelaces (there was a moment where I really didn’t think I could lift my leg up to put my foot on the overturned bucket the chip-snippers were using for foot access. My legs felt like they were filled with lead, and my quads and the fronts of my hips were screaming from the final sprint. I did it!

I wandered around in the post-race zone for a few minutes, drinking water and nibbling on a bagel, trying not to cry or trip or bump into anyone. I started to feel really cold and wished that there was someone there to give me a tin foil blanket like I’ve seen marathoners wear on TV. I made my way over to the sidelines and cheered on the 5k runners who were finishing behind me. There was a mom towing two little kids, one with each hand. There was a small cluster of senior citizen runners with white hair and VERY short shorts who got a HUGE cheer when they jogged across the finish.

A few minutes later a race official on a bike rode up to the finish to clear the way for the first 10K finishers. One very fit runner all by himself flew by and across the finish line. The clock had been changed to reflect the elapsed time since the 10k start (15 minutes after the 5k start). I saw that the dude had just run a 10K in 33 minutes. Insane! A minute later another 10k finisher flew by, then more and more of them. It was really fun to get to see the slower 5k finishers immediately followed by the elite 10k runners.

I went home. Updated this blog and facebook. Showered. Collapsed into bed and immediately passed out hard. I ended up sleeping off and on for almost the whole afternoon, I felt completely physically and emotionally drained.

Sunday my quads were pretty sore, especially the left one. My abs are a little sore on the left side, too. Nothing else hurts. I’ve done some gentle stretching and no running since the race. I’m already looking at other 5k races I can do this summer– maybe one per month, so I always have a race to look forward to and plenty of time to train between races. The next one I think I’m going to do is May 11th– not too far off!

I want to start Hal Higdon’s 10k novice training, and I think I will, but I definitely want to run a few more 5k races and train a lot more before I try a 10k. Even with all of my weeks of training, I still didn’t feel completely prepared during the race on Saturday. I had a hard time regulating my pace, I didn’t know when to speed up in the last mile, and I felt hindered by my endurance towards the end– it got really hard. I felt like my muscles weren’t tired, but my heart and lungs were. I was a little disappointed in my time. I know I’m only competing against myself, but it seems like lots of other beginning runners can run a 5k in 31 or 32 minutes. I want to be able to do that, too. I think if I ran another one tomorrow I could shave my time down to 36 minutes just by regulating my pace and not walking. As for the dream of a sub-30-minute 5k…. I’ve got a lot more work to do!

I finished my first 5K race this morning!!!!!!! It was chilly and rainy, but so fun to be out there with all the other runners. I reached the first mile marker at 11:30, the second at 24:00 and the finish at 38:00. I definitely lost some steam in the last mile and walked a little bit, but I powered up for the race to the finish line, soaking up all the cheers and speeding past lots of folks who were walking across the finish. It felt great! I tried not to cry but it was very emotional for me at the finish line and some tears may have squeezed their way out.

I’ll write more later– gotta shower!

First of all, thank you all so much for the kind and encouraging comments on the last post. They really inspire me to keep on going out there and working and improving.

It’s been an amazing, amazing week. I got a job offer for an AMAZING JOB that I LOVE. I’ve been on tenterhooks for months waiting to find out, and I got it! I got it! I can’t even believe I got it, I’m so happy.

I just got back from a run. I don’t even think of it as week nine, run two. It’s just a run. It was a beautiful, warm, windy day here today. I laced up my running shoes right as the sun was going down and set out for the lakefront. The lake path at dusk seems absolutely magical to me. I passed families with babies in strollers and children riding on their fathers’ shoulders. I passed walkers, mosey-ers, and lovers on evening strolls. Cyclists and other runners passed me. I ran past two campfires. I smelled hot-dogs roasting and smiled at at least ten different dogs. I saw daffodils in full bloom, trees with buds about to burst open into flower, and the deep, indigo blue of Lake Michigan at dusk.

The race on Saturday is at the forefront of my mind, so I pushed myself a little harder and a little faster than usual. I had a lot of energy the first mile, then started to slow down a bit in the second mile. My lower back and the muscles that wrap around the sides of my waist started to feel the fatigue first. The third mile I pushed myself to speed back up, to really focus on gliding forward and forward and not just up and down in little hops. Propelling myself forward is the goal. Forward, onward, forward.

I ran a little further than I did last time, north on the lakefront a block or two further, around two giant oak trees planted very close together, and then back home. When the bus stop shelter at the corner near my house came into sight, I thought “finish line” and started to run faster and faster. I sped up and really conquered those last few blocks, panting loudly and trying to smile. Will I know when the race photographer is taking my picture on Saturday? Will my hair looks as wild as it did today running into incredible wind? Will I have a chance to smile? I hope to run the whole race with a smile on my face.

After thirty-five minutes of continuous running, I passed the bus stop and walked the rest of the way home, feeling really physically exhausted, flushed and sweaty, twitchy and achy and tired and happy. Happy, happy, happy.

I just got back from an EXQUISITE run by the lakefront. Early on, when I was out there running in -19 degree weather, freezing my face off, huffing and puffing and aching and toiling, my dad told me to remember exactly how that feels, so when the weather gets better and the runs get great, I can really appreciate how great it feels. I remember laughing at him– great? Running feels great? I mean, I know people who seem to like it, but I always figured they were just wired differently from me. For me, running had always been hard, painful, and humbling.

Well, that’s starting to change. I went out from my house and ran along the lakeshore. It was cool and quite windy outside. I ran slow, slow, slowly, and even though the time went by slowly and I glanced at my watch from time to time, I did NOT feel the urge to walk or stop. I felt perfectly content to just trot along, listen to “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me” on my iPod, breathe in the nice fresh air and take in the twilight view of the downtown skyline. After walking for 5 minutes and running for 15, I looped around and ran back towards my house. There is something immensely satisfying for me about running towards home. I want to get there, it draws me in. Unlike on the treadmill, I can’t hit “stop” two minutes early and be done– I have to get home, and the faster I run the sooner I’ll get there.

I reached the bus stop near my house right at the 32 minute mark (see, I ran two minutes extra, that’s how much I was enjoying myself!!) and then walked the last few blocks to cool down. I put together a pot of split pea soup before I went out, and left it to simmer on low. The whole house smells wonderful. I’m sweaty and my muscles are twitching and I feel really invigorated. I hope I can run my race next weekend with the same sense of delight and wonder that I felt out there today. Two workouts to go before I officially graduate from the Couch to 5k program.

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