back in the saddle

My knee is still not 100%, but it’s been a lot better. While I still have some sniffles, my cold has generally subsided. And with a half marathon a little less than six weeks away, I just couldn’t give myself any more time off running. I decided on Saturday that I would start again today and I was actually really excited about the prospect.

And then, last night, I got to bed late. I tossed and turned for about two hours…realizing about 30 minutes in that my restlessness was likely due to the large about of Diet Coke I consumed at the Super Bowl party I went to. I haven’t really been drinking it lately (not for any particular reason, I’ve just kind of stopped), and so the 4+ glasses I had of it did a number. The last time I remember looking at the clock it was about 2:30 am. And then, at 5:30 my body decided to wake up. I managed to get another hour or so of sleep, but four hours the night before I was going to start running was not really ideal.
At work today I was dragging a little. Add to that my brilliant idea to wear my new shoes. While lovely and very comfortable, the heels were doing my knee any favors. Of course, being the oh-so-smart-and-practical woman that I am, I totally didn’t change my shoes even though I have four or five other pairs under my desk. 
So, come quitting time, the last thing I wanted to do was run. By the time I walked in my door, I was exhausted. My head hurt. My knee ached. I was beat. But then that little voice that I love so much started talking to me; whispering about how good I would feel once I was done, helping me recall just how not fun running a half marathon untrained can be (I never want to make that mistake again), reminding me that the weather outside was actually more amenable than it had been in weeks. And for some reason, the realization that I wouldn’t have to put on three layers to survive my run did it. Oh, that and the decision that if I went running I would let myself get a slice of pizza for dinner. I popped an Advil cold, changed my clothes, put my keys and some money in my little pocket and I was off. 
Since I’ve already done a 6-miler, I decided that jumping right in where I’m supposed to be would be no big deal because I only had to run 4.5 tonight. I went up to 110th, back down to 65th and up again; 90 blocks in all. My shuffle gave me exactly what I needed when I needed it. It was a perfect run, given the circumstance…right up until the last 1/4 mile when suddenly my shuffle stopped cooperating and my foot decided to land in a huge puddle. But even that worked out as it motivated me to run the last 1/4 mile hard so I could get home and out of my gross NYC puddle sodden shoe. (I love this city, but I have never lived in a dirtier place.)
And the songs of the night…the ones that came on at exactly the right time:
  • Stripped – Natasha Bedingfield
  • Dog Days Are Over – Florence + The Machine
  • Break Your Heart (feat. Ludacris) – Taio Cruz
  • You Make My Dreams – Hall & Oates (I know, weird, but seriously…it was awesome. Every time I hear this song I picture the scene in (500) Days of Summer and I smile. I mean, how could you not?)

attitude

I feel like I could probably post this same post every day and it would be applicable. That said, today it was especially applicable and I might as well write a little bit about this constant battle and the extra “help” that I feel like is with me in these “defining” moments. (Okay, so I don’t know that the moments are really “defining” per se, but whatever.)

Anyway, I was up way too late last night and then, when I got up this morning, I had a waffle brunch to go to at my friend’s apartment. Low key, but just the same, I was going on three day hair and really wanted to wash it before heading over. Now, I knew that once I took a shower today, it was unlikely that I would be doing any running afterward. But, since I’ve been trying to let my knee heal (I twisted it skiing and, while it’s been fine running, it has been killing me to walk on it, so I thought it would probably be wise to give it some time), I wasn’t super worried about missing my run today, except that I didn’t want to lose the happy feelings I’ve been having about running.

So, when I went to take a shower and realized that the hot water was low (this has been happening lately and generally corrects itself after a couple of hours), I took that as a sign that I should go running later. I pulled my greasy hair into a bun and headed over to brunch.

As it happened, when I got home, I found out that the lack of hot water was a much bigger problem than I had realized. Clogged pipes or some such nonsense meant no hot water. My first reaction was that I wouldn’t be able to go running and I probably wouldn’t be able to go to work tomorrow because I would be so gross. Then sanity set in and I realized that I had lots of options. My initial thought was that I could go run on the treadmill at the gym and just shower there…but gym showers kind of gross me out (yes, more than my own filth). Then I texted Kelly. I figured I could take my stuff down to her apartment, drop it off, go for a run, and then shower and get ready there.

Because I had seen the lack of hot water earlier in the day as a “sign” that I should go running, I was determined to make it happen, and figured out a plan. Luckily, as I was getting ready to head out, I needed to wash my hands and, upon doing this, discovered the hot water was back on…so I didn’t end up need Kelly’s shower after all.

So, here’s what I find so interesting about this whole thing, in hindsight. It’s not that the lack of hot water was a sign; the running gods aren’t looking down on me and making all the stars align so that I will go running. It’s a matter of my own attitude. I’m not looking for excuses not to go running. I’m looking for ways to make it fit. And because that’s my attitude, any unusual circumstances either look like signs I should go running or like signs that the universe is fighting against me, and then I want to fight back. “You think a little 20 degree weather is going to keep me from running today? I’ll show you!”

And guess what. My run today was seriously amazing. My mile splits were the fastest they’ve been for an easy run and it felt great. My legs got a little crampy around mile 2, but I just pushed through and kept going. I know I’ve only done two speed workouts, but I think they really make a huge difference. It’s like my muscles knew what they were supposed to do without my mind forcing it. I’m expecting great things from my tempo run tomorrow.

I decided to sprint my last 1/4 mile. Something about those 400 meter sprints has given me a lot more confidence in my ability to run faster and push harder. As I sped up, Daniel Bedingfield’s acoustic version of Gotta Get Through This. How appropriate was that?

speed work

While I’ve run several half marathons, I’ve never really worked on running them at any particular speed. My goal has only been to finish. Well, this year with the three halves I am planning to do, I want to get faster. I’m tired of running everything at the same exact pace. Enter speed work.

On Tuesday I was slated to run 6 x 400 meters, each one at a faster pace than I normally run. Again, I took to the streets where five street blocks are the equivalent of about 400 meters. The first 400 was a little rough. The entire stretch was a mental battle between me and my heart (my legs were fine at this point). My heart kept saying it couldn’t be pushed longer while my mind argued that it could. Not only could it be longer, it could be pushed harder. The pace was pretty good (not great, but much faster than I normally run). 
The next 400 was easier. It’s amazing how much easier it is to sense a grade in the road when running rather than walking or driving. The second 400 was downhill and a little easier. Still, I wanted to quit after that. I was tired and just wanted to go home. But then I thought, “Well, I’m here. I should at least do two more.” I did. And then contemplated quitting again. But then I looked at all of my different times and thought, “I bet I can beat all of these on my last 400.” And suddenly, a goal was born and I could sense that I was going to be able to do it. (I’m pretty determined.) And I did. I ran the fastest 400 I have run in a very long time. And it was hard. And I was breathless. But it was worth it.
The funny thing about running (specifically training for a long race) is how analogous it is to life. For instance, if I keep “training” for life the same way I always have, I’m going to keep running at the same pace. Take that a step further (albeit a creative one) I could apply this to dating. If I keep trying to date the same way I’ve always dated, I’m guessing I’m going to keep getting the same results. I might end up with someone, but is it going to be the best someone for me? (Just roll with this…I know it’s not perfect.)
So, this week I also decided to apply my “train better” approach to my personal life and when my friend at church suggested a triple date–a set-up triple date that is–while I normally would have said “hell no” I acquiesced. The main goal of this date was actually to set-up one of her friends from Arizona with one of my friends, but she thought it would be more fun if there were three couples rather than two, especially since they are married. I agreed, as long as she figured out who the third guy would be.
And guess what? When you train differently, you do get different results. I had a positive attitude about the whole thing and went into it very open minded and I ended up having a really good time. My goal for the next couple of weeks is to figure out where else I can use this “train differently” approach in my life. I’m guessing there will be lots of opportunities. LIke the speed dating thing I’m doing this next Saturday… And know that the process of training differently is going to be more painful than what I have been doing. But what I have been doing has not been getting me the results I want, so it makes sense that that needs to change, right?
It all sounds so easy posted on a blog at 3 am. This week is a tempo run rather than speed work which will involve a lot more discipline if I run it outside, which I’m determined to do. But I’m already looking forward to the sense of accomplishment I will feel after the run and the little improvement (be it ever so small) that I will feel while running.

ETA: And the song of the night on Tuesday (speed work night) was Katy Perry’s Firework. 

icy weather will not win

Today was cold. Really cold. Bitter cold. The whole day, at work, looking outside at the icy coldness (clear skies in the winter are rarely warm skies), I kept thinking of all the reasons to not go running. Then I thought of going on the treadmill, knowing how easy it would be to get off the treadmill if I got tired. Even on my way home, I was still debating whether I was going to run. Such a mental game.

And then I remembered the sweatshirt I didn’t want to wear on Saturday because it wasn’t cold enough. This sweatshirt makes it possible for me to run when it’s freezing cold outside because a) it has a high neckline…like too high for normal wear…and b) it has a hood. I purchased this sweatshirt at H&M back before people in the U.S. even knew what H&M was (thank you Switzerland) and I it was one of two sweatshirts that made it through the Great Closet Clean Out of 2010 (thank you, New York Relocation). I don’t know why I kept it, but it was perfect for tonight. And for some reason, the desire to wear that sweatshirt was motivating. (I am seriously amazed at how normal and weird I can be simultaneously.)

So, after realizing that running on the treadmill (at first I typed dreadmill…talk about a serious Freudian slip) would surely end in disaster (me quitting after half a mile) and deciding that I would, in fact, survive running outside, I donned my winter running wear and was ready to head out the door. And then I remembered the joys of the runny nose that happens in the freezing cold. So, I coated my nose in Aquifor (basically petroleum jelly) so that it wouldn’t be totally raw by the end of my run. And then I was off.

In case you were wondering, there is nothing sexier that winter running. Nothing. (Runners everywhere wish that was true.)

The run was fantastic in terms of my cardiovascular stamina. I took it at my normal slow pace and was doing great…and then a cramp struck my left calf. Serious muscle pain. You’ll be happy to know that I did not let this slow me down. I just pushed through it. Sadly, it was so cold that my poor calf only managed to loosen up with a half mile left in my 3.5 mile run, but it made for an amazing last half mile.

And, because I know you really wanted to know this…the Aquifor on my nose kept me from touching it (there was a lot of sniffing) or wiping it, so my nose is perfectly happy and in tact. Totally worth it.

Finally, the song that accompanied my super fast last half mile (and then some)…Michael Jackson’s The Way You Make Me Feel. As I ran, I imagined myself doing a little MJ dance, with the hand snap and all. It was awesome.

If you ever want to feel hard core, just go running in the freezing cold. I swear people were looking at me like I was amazing…or maybe like I was crazy (hard to tell, but I’m going to go with amazing).

Tomorrow, speed work. I can’t decide if I want to try to do this outside since I can do 1/4 mile sprints easily given the street system here in NYC…or if I want to use the treadmill. We shall see.

central park running

Blogging everyday is so much easier than once a week, but having the running theme (for now) helps. I may catch up at some point and share all of the “fun” details of my trip back home to New York. But for right now, we’re on to running.

Monday was a wash, what with all the traveling. Tuesday was speed work…a tempo run. All I had to do was run for 30 minutes, slowing increasing my pace for 10 minutes, holding the fast pace for 10 minutes, and then slowing down for the last 10 minutes. I made it…10 minutes. Total. The treadmill and I were not friend.

I decided to try something different on Wednesday. Randomly, I had a conversation on New Year’s Eve about how many NYC street blocks (we have street blocks and avenue blocks) are in a mile. There are 20. So, I decided that I would run outside. Now, with 20 street blocks being in a mile, you can imagine how many times I might have to stop and wait for lights…which is why I chose to run along the park side of Central Park West. The beauty of the park side (east side) of that street is that there are only a few streets that run through the park, meaning there were only a few potential stops.

I got home from work on Wednesday, changed right into my outdoor running gear (yep, I do own some running tights…amazing), and was off. I warmed up walking to Central Park West, and then I was off; 96th down to 66th and back again. It was AMAZING. First of all, every time I run outside in NYC, I remember how lucky I am to live in such an amazing place. Second, running somewhere is so much better than running in place. So. Much. Better.

And the song of the run? The one that kept me going when I wanted to quit? California Gurlz – Katy Perry.

Given this new discovery, I decided that my run this morning would have to be outside. The beautiful thing about where I live is just how close I am to Central Park. And, as it happens, the Central Park Loop* is almost exactly six miles (6.0273 to be exact). It is also great because it’s got some good elevation changes. Nothing major, but way better than running on flat…at least when training for a half-marathon that also has a few elevation changes.

It was amazing. Seriously. I felt so good. And considering that the farthest I had run (like, the whole time) prior to this morning was the three miles I ran on Wednesday, I was seriously amazed at what I was able to run. I did walk a little so I could drink some water. But otherwise, I just cruised right along…right at the pace I seem to always run at. It felt great to be outside and running up and down hills and pushing right along. And Central Park is so pretty all snow covered.

There were a few moments when I could feel myself almost walking when I didn’t really need to walk, but mentally, I think I’m finally back in the running game. And Taio Cruz definitely did his part with Dynamite. Seriously, such a fun song to run to.

And that’s my running for the week. And here are the lessons I (re)learned this week:

  1. Always opt to run outside if it’s an option.
  2. If I’m going to run on Fridays (as my schedule says to do) and Saturdays, the Friday runs have to happen in the morning.
  3. The Central Park Loop is truly the perfect distance.
  4. I need to carry more tissues with me (my nose was raw by the end). 
  5. There’s a vendor at exactly the right point for water purchasing, although bringing some with me is definitely cheaper.
  6. Running really is so mental.
  7. Sleep makes a huge difference in my motivation level.
  8. My body is kind of amazing.
  9. I am going to be able to run this half marathon in March, and maybe if cut 10 minutes off of my time last year. 
*I loved looking at this map and seeing the following caption on the loop I ran: THE ‘BIG’ (‘6 MILE’) LOOP (FOR VERY ACCOMPLISHED RUNNERS). Talk about a great ego boost…even if it did take me a long time to run it.