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.

I was just about to cancel with the personal trainer, when she called me and apologized for being so slow to get back to me and offered to meet with me right away. I was apprehensive, but agreed. I’m so glad I did! She was warm and friendly and encouraging and inspiring. She did a comprehensive fitness assessment on me, which was quite humbling. I know that I’ve come a long way in my fitness already in the past 9 weeks or so since I’ve started running, but I still have a long ways to go. I’ll probably post a chart with my results soon, but the main things were:
Body fat 36%. When I started it was 40%. The top of the “healthy” range for women, and the number that the trainer thinks should be my goal is 21%. That’s still a LONG way to go.
Upper body strength: Poor. I was able to do 14 “girly” pushups before I had to stop. And it was hard.
Flexibility: Average
Cardio: GOOD!!!
This was a pleasant surprise because I’ve always thought that my cardio fitness was very, very low. Nine weeks ago it was. Today it is categorized as “good”!! For this test I had to step up onto a step for three minutes. By the third minute my heart rate had climbed to 173 and I was panting and starting to sweat. It was embarrassing, the trainer had to ask if I was okay. Then I got to sit in a chair and rest for one minute to see how my heart could recover. Guess what? In just one minute my heart rate was down to 69 bpm (resting was 60) so I was almost fully recovered in just a minute! The trainer said this was “awesome” and really impressive.

The trainer wants me to meet with her assistant instead of her for training since she knows I want to get started right away… I’m tempted to tell her that I would rather meet with her instead of her assistant, even if I have to wait a while. I’m really focused on my race in NINE DAYS so I wouldn’t mind starting a strength routine after that, anyway. I’ll think about it and call her tomorrow to discuss.

Anyway, after the fitness assessment I got on a treadmill and walked for five minutes, then ran for 28 minutes. It was very hard. It’s been a while and I’ve been sick and am still not 100% healthy. I paused the machine after 14 minutes of running to take a short break and get a drink. Then I cranked it back up and finished the rest. OOF it was hard. The race is coming up so soon I really want to do whatever I need to do to be ready. Also I am in an EXTREMELY STRESSFUL situation at work and I think running really helps me blow off some of that steam.

Anyway, if I can continue to run every other day up until my race I should be able to finish the Couch to 5K program by race day, or maybe count the race as the final run. I’ve been tempted to just sluff off these last few runs, workout however I want to and move on to some other training plan, but I do want the satisfaction of having really, truly completed this program for real. So I’m going to keep doing it. Four workouts left!

I set out from my house around 2 pm, excited to run outside in the balmy, 50 degree weather. I didn’t really have a route in mind, so I just moseyed towards the lakefront, thinking I would just turn around halfway or try to make some kind of loop. Rather than heading straight East to the lake, I turned South for a block or two, and right when my five minute warm-up walk was ending and I was about to start running, I came over the top of a small hill, and there in front of me–like an oasis in the desert– was a running track! A deserted, rubbery, oval-shaped running track, just waiting for me to run on it! I ran around the track in one direction. I turned around and ran on it in the other direction. I ran the outside loop and the inside loop. I tried to avoid stepping on a goose or any of their leavings. I thought “race, race, race!” in my head.

I got bored of the track right around the time a man with a stopwatch and some track and field supplies showed up and started setting up near me, so I jogged across the grass and back to the sidewalk, onward! I jogged in place while waiting for the light to change. When the light finally changed, I sprinted across the road, kicking up my heels in glee, hoping that the people in the cars weren’t checking out my butt, or if they were that it looked good. I got some new grey running pants from Target, and when I checked myself out in the full-length mirror, I thought “daaaaamn girl, looking fine!” but I know that what looks good standing still doesn’t always looks as good bouncing and shaking and jiggling across the road in front of traffic. Either way, I didn’t get any comments or whistles, and continued to scamper on my way.

I started feeling really tired about 20 minutes into it, my heart and lungs were really burning and working hard. I pushed through and made it to the end. I even stretched a little while holding on to a park bench, and did THREE push-ups on the park bench (the high, back-rest part of it) and three dips (also on the high part). Oof-dah. I need to start on some weight training to increase my strength, BIG TIME.

I power-walked home, chanting “fit-ness, fit-ness” in my head and grinning ear to ear.

I ran on the treadmill at the gym this evening. The run started out well, the first five to ten minutes were great. My heart rate stayed relatively low and I felt really HAPPY, I actually had a big grin on my face. Every so often I would catch a glimpse of my reflection in the glare on the TV screen, and smile at myself. Looking like a real runner! The next fifteen minutes were more challenging. I started feeling hungry and exhausted, and I really had to push to make it to the end of the 25 minute run. I am a little tiny bit sore from Saturday’s extra-long outside running extravaganza, and I have a few small blisters on my feet from my new (cushy, awesome, Nike) running shoes. The last five minutes or so were intense, very sweaty, very hard-core. I caught another glimpse of my reflection in the TV screen, and you know what? I looked TOUGH! 🙂 Looking forward to starting Week 8 on Wednesday.

but did that stop me? No! I had a crazy, kinda fun, strange, different, new personal-record breaking run tonight. I showed up at the gym around 8:15 pm, thinking that it was closing at 9 and I would have just enough time to get my 25 minute run in. As I was walking up to the doors, I noticed a person standing there in running clothes, stretching. “Gym’s closed!” he shouted at me.

“What? That sucks! What am I supposed to do now?” I asked him.

“Run outside? That’s what I’m going to do…”

“But, but…..”

So, I changed my shoes and left my gym bag in my car, and jogged off into the sunset (actually the pitch black evening) with my new jogging buddy, Zach. Zach proposed a route (to McDonalds and back) and we took off running. Talking kept my mind off my muscles, and Zach timed our run using the clock on his cell phone. Not wanting to look like a TOTAL wuss, I ran a little faster pace than I usually do, and within ten minutes or so I was feeling several side stitches, my lungs and heart were burning and I got that metallic “pushing myself” taste in my mouth. When I started to slow down, Zach would run in front of me a bit until I caught up. At some points he literally pushed and pulled me along by grabbing onto my jacket.

We reached McDonalds in about 15 minutes, tagged the sign and immediately turned around for the run back to the gym. After about ten more minutes of running, I felt like I was dying. I knew that it was probably around the 25 minute mark and time for me to stop and cool down, but Zach insisted that I keep running, and after a few more minutes it didn’t hurt as much. When we got within a block of the gym I announced that I was going to walk the rest of the way to cool down, but Zach said “No, let’s sprint!”

“I can’t sprint. This IS sprinting for me. I can’t go any faster than this,” I replied.

“Yes you can. Ready… GO!” Zach shouted. And you know what? I RAN!!!!

I shouted “FINISH LINE!!!!” and BOUNDED the last block as fast as I possibly could. I tagged my car and squatted down, gasping for breath, but smiling. Zach checked his watch– 9:03. We had been running continuously for 37 minutes!! Now that I’m home, I traced our route on Gmap-pedometer and discovered that we ran 2.9 miles. I was secretly hoping that we had run a full 5K distance, but 2.9 continuously is a new record for me (by a lot!) and running 37 minutes is DEFINITELY a new record for me (previous longest continuous run was 25 minutes!). I feel amazing right now– strong and powerful. I KNOW I can do that race on April 19th, I know that I can run longer and faster than I think I can.

I’ve been trying to convince all of my friends to start running, and I even posted an ad online looking for a running buddy at a similar pace. Today was the first day I ran with a buddy, and even though it was a complete stranger, having someone to talk to while I ran, and someone to nudge me when I wanted to stop, and someone to encourage me when I thought I couldn’t go any further made a HUGE difference in my running experience. I don’t know if Zach wants to be my regular running buddy (I think he probably wants to go a bit faster than we went today), but I really, really want to find a running buddy. Even for just once in a while. Especially on these longer runs– having a companion helped me so much! I’m secretly glad the gym was closed, and proud that I didn’t let that stand in the way of getting a great workout in. YEAH!

in my blogging, but NOT in my running!!! Since the last post I’ve held myself to my personal commitment to run every other day. I completed Week 6, and today I ran Week 7, run 1. It’s been going well, although running 25 minutes straight on Tuesday and then again today seems to have made my calves a little sore and tight, and I’m feeling a tiny little twinge of shin splints. Tiny!

In other great news– I weighed myself this morning and saw a very exciting new number in the tens digit of my weight. I’ve officially lost ten pounds, and I haven’t seen this particular number in the tens digit of my weight for probably about eight years. My personal reward for reaching this milestone is a session with a personal trainer at the gym. I signed up for it today, but the trainer is out of town until March 28th, so it may be a while before I actually have my session. I actually signed up for two sessions; a fitness assessment and a training session. Having at least a week before the fitness assessment session will just give me a bit more time to improve my fitness before it goes into my permanent record at the gym. 🙂

Last bit of exciting and awesome news, I promise: I signed up for a race: I will be running a real 5K race Saturday, April 19th at 8 am. Very excited, nervous, apprehensive, and newly rededicated to training. Eek!