Maturity in running

The word “immature” has a negative connotation in most, if not all, contexts. It is associated with being inappropriate, inexperienced, not right or good at whatever you may be doing, rude, or something along the lines of a failure at life. Which is frustrating, to put it simply! Let’s take a step back and erase those connotations for a moment. Maturity is a better word to use, since the opposite of mature is not necessarily immature. Shift the context to running. What does it mean to reach maturity as a runner? Here are my two cents.

My running log from this week and next, five (holy crap!) years ago. Note the zeros at the end – when I got my femoral neck stress reaction (my second stress injury of nine). The runner I am now would not let myself run so many days in a row! Note the goal I wrote at the bottom for the week…very unlike the kind of goals I make for myself now.

First, maturity in running comes with time. It’s kind of like how you can’t offset one too many beers with food. You need time (there goes any attempt at making this a serious, deep post…). Runner A might run nine races in one year, and Runner B might run nine races over three years. If they began running at the same time, it is likely that Runner B is a more mature runner. Why? Runner A might have had some shin splints once and freaked out, heading immediately to the doctor, only to have them subside shortly. Runner B might have had bouts of ITBS, a stress fracture, and an electrolyte imbalance. She might have gotten custom orthotics and then ditched them, tried going minimal and had it not work out, experimented with energy replacement products and different training programs for various race distances. Because three years >>> 1 year. It’s pretty simple. Likewise, Runner C might have been running for three years but never raced more than one or two 5ks. He might be more of a crossfit junkie, making him probably less mature in running than Runner B. I think everyone would agree with me that you can’t claim you have the experience of running a 3:10 marathon because you read a 3:10 marathoner’s race report on her blog. In running, you truly have to personally experience things – training effects, injuries, etc. – in order to gain experience and thus maturity. This takes time. 

Even then, two people running the same race (or run) might have completely different perspectives. You could be running a great race and feeling confident, while your running buddy beside you is subconsciously self-sabotaging herself. Maturity in running is recognizing what you are thinking while you are racing, or doing a workout or a long run: saying, this is what I am trying to do today, and I’m going to get it done and enjoy it (at least the outcome of it).

It is also learning to run for yourself. Competition is what keeps things going, obviously. Running a race and thinking, “I don’t care if I come in last, pass me, pass me!” is generally not normal. Running a race to gain experience and possibly improve your time is, however. If someone passes you, and you use the opportunity to try to keep your head in the game and focus on doing your best, wherever that places you –  I think that is maturity in running.

Another couple of weeks I would never put myself at risk with these days…this was 2007.

Maturity in running also is not dependent on speed. A 3:20 first-time marathoner can take advice and learn from a fifteen-time 4:45 marathoner. We are all different, but we are not that  different. We eat the same gels, drink the same water, and pound the same pavement. Each time we run with someone new, join a new running group, enter a race of a different distance or terrain, or pencil in a new challenge on our training calendars, we are maturing as runners. Having been on high school and college teams for years, I can say that you are not fully mature in running until you have branched out from there. Again, “immature” or “not mature” is contextual and in the case of running, it’s not a bad thing. In fact, it just means that there are worlds of running you have left to explore.

So when are you a “fully mature” runner? The great thing (one of many) about being a runner is there are always more challenges to take on in the sport. At the race Saturday, I ran the 10 miler. There were hundreds of other runners, of all ages and abilities, tackling distances of 20 miles, 50K, and 50 miles. There is a marathon in nearly every big city, every vacation destination! There is so much more to learn. Maybe the answer is never. However, I think it is safe to say that once you can give training advice and plans to nearly every type of runner, new or old, and respect their running needs and goals, you are a pretty darn mature runner. Yet as you do that…you are maturing even more. This is directly applicable to other things “mature” is associated with, like relationships. You are not going to be the most experienced and mature person when it comes to relationships during and after (and obviously before) your first relationship. Not even if you read Cosmo weekly (kidding). Different problems and issues arise in each relationship, because everyone is different, and everyone interacts with each other differently.

Pages upon pages of old training logs….

I love this.

A recent discussion I had with fellow runners the day after Febapple really got me thinking about all of this. I kind of forgot Brennan is such a relatively new runner, because she is so enthusiastic about it all, runs a lot of races, runs probably more miles than me, and is fast! As evidenced by her post, it seems she did too. We might wear the same shoes now, and run our long runs at the same pace, but we are so different! Every time I can push myself to go faster, or  when I get a nervous feeling before a workout or race – I like it. It has been denied to me so many times that I will literally just run away with these feelings and get competitive with myself, because I finally can. I have never felt the need for a mental break from running. Not many runners can say that. When I sign up for a race, it is a big deal. It means I am going to work as hard as I can to keep myself healthy for it and run well. We also discussed “running on a whim” – something Brennan apparently embraced when she started running. I never did, really, I always knew when I was going to run, and approximately how far, which was fine with me, it was still fun! There are the days I run after work when I didn’t plan on it, and I love those days! But in general, I need to be so careful that I must plan. All of these discussions really got me thinking about how different runners are, and the idea of maturity in running…these are just my opinions.

In other news, I found my missing Brooks Adapt glove today. You can now all go back to what you were doing.

Phew.

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Febapple 10 Miler Race Report

ImageI am very glad Brennan and I showed up to run the 10 miler at the Febapple Frozen Fifty on the correct day after all! If we hadn’t, I would not have had the most fun race of my life this past weekend. Usually, I do not use the word “fun” in the same sentence as “race.” “Run,” yes. “Workout,” I’ll admit it, yes. But racing has always intimidated me to the point where it wasn’t fun, it was just, well, it was a race! A race is a race, fun doesn’t apply! This race totally changed that for me. The event was put on by the NJ Trail Series. The first thing I saw when I visited their website was the sentence:

“The goal of the NJ Trail Series is to make running FUN again.”

My first reaction was, if I always think running is fun, that means this race could be EXTRA fun! Who doesn’t like extra fun?! So, put two and two together and you will understand (maybe?) that I was not going into this thinking I was “racing.”

We were greeted by mist and fog in the morning, with the temperature expected to be about 37 degrees at the start. After literally dumping my running clothes drawer on the floor and debating wearing every different possible combination of clothing, I dressed in tights and a single long sleeved shirt. I then stuffed about three more outfits in my backpack (none of which I changed into post-race, I will explain why momentarily). We got there pretty early. The 10 mile start was at 10:00, so late compared to our long runs lately! We wanted to get in two miles beforehand, but still had plenty of time. I paid and got my bib (they took me off the waitlist – I procrastinate with registration so much!), and then we took some pictures in our new SWAG: really warm navy blue fleece vests! The little white square has the Febapple logo. This might be my new favorite wardrobe addition.

The uprooted stump was my idea. I’m so skilled at choosing backgrounds…speaking of which, check out that FOG.

Fast-forward to the start. I saw some runners who I knew from the store. We chatted and wished each other luck, and with a “ready, go!” from one of the race directors, we set off. I have a habit of looking at everyone’s shoes – this is just what happens when you work in a running store. However, I was really noticing everyone’s shoes before and during this race. The trail conditions were bad. We had been warned. I was staying true to my trusty Ravennas, though. Sans Yaktraks. At the store we used to joke about what conditions really require those contraptions…no more! Let me tell you when Yaktraks are needed: during this race. All the trails were covered in ice, half slippery and half slushy. I’m not going to lie, I did feel a little more badass passing people on the really technical sections who were wearing hardcore trail shoes.

The first mile of the race was on the road, strangely. I was with Brennan then, who was wearing her Garmin. Our first mile was 7:31, faster than we had planned, but we knew we would have to slow down on the trails soon enough….

The first few miles on trails was all about finding a good place and getting used to the trails. It was my first time at South Mountain Reservation, so I didn’t know the trails as well as places like Washington Crossing…and what would happen to them under these conditions. At the first big climb after the second mile (which was 8:23), nearly everyone around me slowed to a walk. It was a pretty steep climb, but definitely runnable. My energy level had not diminished at all, so I ran up the thing just fine. I could understand saving my energy for a very long race, but given that it was only 10 miles…that hill was runnable to me. “Only 10 miles” – I’ll accept this mindset, especially for March 17th, thanks.

Most of the trails were single-track, which made passing difficult. Especially when there was an icy snowbank of sorts to your left and snowed-over shrubbery to your right. Patience was definitely key, and I think I learned a lot about how to judge my energy level and not pass anyone unless I felt I didn’t need to speed up to do it.

Whoa, whoa. Meghan, you said you weren’t racing! What is this crazy talk about passing people, and judging your energy level?

Ha.Well you see…around the fourth mile something switched in my mind, subconsciously. I was wearing a bib number. I was enjoying passing people. I was wondering how many women were ahead of me and if I could catch them at some point. Gosh darn it, I was racing. You caught me.

A map of miles 1- 4.

I was still really comfortable though. Because I was running on some pretty crazy trails (Wow, a ledge! With ice on the rim! Let’s walk for a few seconds so we don’t die shall we…) in some crazy conditions not conducive to fast times whatsoever…this was still a long run to me; I was not trying to hit a certain pace. The pace also varied so much, depending on what obstacle was placed in front of us. Sometimes, we walked. There was no way we could run without falling on our faces. Other times, we slid, holding on to tree trunks. And when there was a stretch of trail ahead that didn’t look slippery, we flew. At least, that was my strategy (ha – I made this up midway through!). In fact, I was able to run faster and stronger on the flats and the non-slippery hills because I had to slow down and be so careful on the icy downhills. Sometimes the difficult stretches would last a couple minutes, and my heart rate would go down considerably, almost as if I were doing an interval workout.

By the time I was around fifty minutes (there were no mile markers and I was now sans Garmin-clad running buddy), I was having the time of my life. My head was just full of positive thoughts – about the course, about how I felt like I was made for this, about what I would write in my blog post about the race (I think the post I wrote in my head was actually better than this, sorry), about how awesome the half marathon is going to be. And yeah, I thought about if I would eventually see another woman in front of me and pass her. I had no idea what place I was in.

The other part of the map, miles 4-10.

There was an aid station around mile seven. It was there that I spotted a teal Brooks Utopia Hoodie. Translation: someone who was probably the woman currently in first! I was feeling fine but I wasn’t about to sprint after her…I made it my goal to try to catch her by the end of the race. She stopped for water and I did not. I felt no need to drink water at the time, or take any gels, both of which I discovered many runners did, even though it was only 10 miles (again with this new relative distance perspective – this is nice!).

Do not complain about your Brightroom photos from a beautiful fall day with no precipitation…I’m sure you look fine.

The trail got very slick right after the aid station – about a straight mile of very slow running and trying to find the best places to put one foot in front of the other. I swear, this was a workout for my brain as well. At the end of that part, I passed the woman. And then took off. I didn’t want to be passed back! I decided that if I did, I would be fine with that. But really, why not see what I had left in the tank? It felt like a lot – I was still having so much fun! Shortly after, there was a cute little bridge (covered in ice, of course), and then a narrow stream crossing with a waterfall to the left! I felt like I was in a North Face ad…wearing Brooks and Nike, but that’s beside the point. A very steep climb followed, at the top of which was a guy walking and looking defeated. I think I said something to him, but I don’t remember what. After that was when I saw a lot of runners coming the opposite way, either on one of their laps of the 20 miler, 50K, or 50 miler, or possibly on a slow trek to finish the 10 miler. I said “great job” to nearly all of them, I was feeling so good. As my watch approached 1:20, I knew I should be expecting the finish relatively soon, but I had no idea exactly when. There were a lot of icy patches on the way in, or I would have picked up the pace even more just for fun! I tried to spot the familiar start and finish area, but the fog was so dense I wasn’t sure what was through the trees. Pretty soon I was there, and stopped as I crossed a line drawn with orange spray paint on the snow. I stopped my watch and it read: 1:30:00. Not too shabby! That sounded about right, taking into account the times had to walk on ice…and the times I felt like I was flying. I told a guy sitting in a truck next to the finish line that I had finished the 10 miles. Once I confirmed I had stayed on course (which was so well marked even in the snow and rain – big props to the NJ Trail Series!) and passed all the landmarks (bridges, aid stations), the guy said, “Then congrats, you’re the first woman finisher!” YAY. An added bonus: when I checked the results the next day, I saw that to my surprise, I was second overall! I had no idea. I guess I had passed everyone I saw on the course! Why I did not win the whole thing: a guy who ran nineteen minutes faster than me. Craziness – he must have been running six minute pace on the dry parts! I am just going to assume he was the guy I saw wearing Nike Victory XCs at the start.

The woman in the Brooks hoodie finished not long after, and we congratulated each other and talked about the course. I cheered Brennan in – she did really well too!

So, I didn’t end up spending $50 for just a long run after all – I won some sweet prizes in addition to the complimentary fleece vest: a Camelback and a “keepsake apple!”

My hands were so cold after the race that my gloves got stuck to my hands and Brennan had to pull them off for me…ouch. I am currently missing my left Brooks Adapt glove, the best glove invention ever. This tragedy happened at some point after my run on Thursday – you can imagine my dismay when I realized how perfect they would be for a run in these conditions (cold…misty…Brooks made this glove for the Febapple). 😦 I’m hoping it turns up…clearly they are better than the ones that almost had to be cut off of my skin Saturday.

Overall, this race was awesome because it was perfect for me. First, I did all my long runs in college up the mountain at Washington Crossing. I never ran it with tons of ice on the ground, but definitely in mud and rain. I do so much trail running, yet race on the roads! It’s kind of like how I did so much biking and swimming for years, yet only just started racing triathlons. There is something to be said for playing to your strengths. I’d like to alternatively word it: seeing your hard work pay off. I am also known to be, or at least, I hope to be this kind of person, rather relentless when it comes to training, and working at anything, generally. I think Jason Aldean puts it best:

My apple! It rolled all around that dashboard….

The feeling of scrambling up those icy hills and pushing hard on the dry parts, just rolling on steadily over ten miles, was my kind of feeling.

Let’s just say I have some things to prove to myself on the roads in the meantime, but NJ Trail Series – I will most definitely be back! I recommend their races to anyone, except maybe if you’re that runner who sprains your ankles on potholes and uneven grass. Maybe do some 4-way Theraband exercises before registering.

Just showing off all the mud I managed to take with me.

Just showing off all the mud I managed to take with me.

Brennan & me post-race

Brennan & me post-race

Weekend? What’s that?

Sometimes work is just awesome. I love helping people, I love talking to people, I love doing fun things like making window displays and having ridiculous conversations with my coworkers. It’s pretty cool, too, how I can go the whole day without sitting down if I wanted, and can even foam roll if I need to….There usually comes a point though, when all I want is to chill out and only see the shoes that are on my feet. Or put on a pair of heels and not think about running for a few hours at all – hey, it happens. Today was one of those days. I was mentally exhausted. I was planning on having fun tonight, working all day tomorrow, and then relaxing in preparation for the Febapple race on Sunday morning with Brennan (we are doing the ten miler). Sunday was supposed to be a day of fun running, meeting other runners, seeing what the NJ Trail Series is all about, and then relaxing with some food, drinks, and friends in the evening.Image

BUT…

I don’t know how two people can both truly believe (for months) that a race is on Sunday the 24th when it is in fact Saturday the 23rd. Which is TOMORROW. Let the freak-out begin. Now, if this was my goal half marathon we are talking about, I would be freaking out a lot more. But, since it’s a ten-mile trail run that I am not overly concerned about in regards to pace or training, I was half laughing inside when I realized my weekend wouldn’t be totally ruined in some aspects. After a couple hours of what seemed like nonstop texting at work, trying to find someone to cover my hours or switch with me for Sunday, I finally resolved things on that front and calmed down. Okay, I’m running ten miles on unfamiliar trails tomorrow morning, not Sunday. It could be worse. I could have gotten up early and ran eight miles before work today instead of running yesterday (sooo glad I ran yesterday). My injury-prone, over-careful self would be panicking right now if that were the case!

All things considered, this is fine. Brennan and I won’t be able to go shopping for homemade pizza supplies while on a runner’s high, we will both have to head into work/school-related responsibilities…but that’s life. That being said, on days like today I do wish I could have a normal weekend sometime. (I started cooking dinner at 10:30 tonight!) Now I’ll be going into work tomorrow after the run, and probably Sunday as well. And then the week will start again on Monday. I hope I can sneak some fun into that schedule somewhere! For now, I will prepare for some fun on the trails!

On a similar note, this e-card makes me mad sometimes…I made an edit to better represent my life:

The rest of the e-cards I found when I Google Image-searched “e-card Friday”? I won’t even start….

tempo and trivia

I finally did a tempo run! You may not understand, but I have been itching to do a tempo run for about a month. Tempos are truly the only workouts that get me mentally prepared to run races longer than 5k. The only reason I waited so long is because I am just doing all the Princeton Intervals workouts, and none of them have been tempos so far. I need to look at the schedule and plan when I am going to do a longer tempo, as in, 5-7 miles…because that needs to happen before the half marathon. If not for my legs then for my head. A short tempo is a tempo nonetheless, and that is what was scheduled for Tuesday night.

One of my favorite movies. No shame.

One of my favorite movies. No shame.

The full workout was a 20 minute tempo at our usual 533 meters/lap loop, plus six sets of one minute hard, one minute easy. For the tempo, I thought I would aim for 6:40-6:45 pace. Last year during a similar workout, I averaged 7:15. I knew I was in much better shape than that now, so I thought that range would be a good goal for just 20 minutes. For the record, I wasn’t in beast mode like I seem to have been the past three weeks at workouts, just because I was really tired and my stomach was feeling strange. It may or not have stemmed from the recoverosas (and lack of water). I took it one lap at a time though, and split my watch at each lap. I consistently ran 2:13-2:14, but slowed to 2:17-2:18 towards the end when I got separated from the three people I’d been running alongside at the beginning…and eventually chasing. I was at 20:09 after 9 laps exactly, which is when I stopped .That brings my distance to just about exactly three miles, meaning I averaged 6:43 pace. I’ll take it. It was my goal, after all. The song I ended up having stuck in my head? This. An awesome song…I’m loving it right now…but for a tempo? Really? I guess there are much worse songs, at least I like it (no pun intended). Last week, for the record, Carrie Underwood’s “Blown Away” matched my interval pace exactly. I guess you run faster when you feel like you are running away from a tornado.

The on/off minutes were much more difficult than the tempo. Weird, right? My Achilles got angry again, making me think it’s something that’s arising only when I try to run close to six minute pace, somehow. I’m not sure how many times I made it around the loop for that portion of the workout…but I guesstimated about 4.75 times, making my pace average to a little over 7:00/mile.

I love you. Even more post-workout.

I love you. Even more post-workout.

I got in a long cooldown, which helped loosen my Achilles and shake everything else out too. A quick shower and a fast walk later, I joined everyone at the Ivy for dinner and trivia! One Tuesday a month after our workout, we have happy hour at a local bar/restaurant. We usually go to my favorite place in town for this, Winberies, but even I could use a night away from it sometimes. The Ivy Inn, the notorious Princeton dive bar, recently passed all inspections and is licensed to serve food! I pitched the idea to the group of switching things up and going to the Ivy for “happy hour” this week, and then staying for trivia, and it was well received…at least, except for a couple people who still do not trust that they passed inspection. Anyway, I was starving by that point, and my first bite into my burger (I repeat, I was extremely hungry) and sip of beer was like the best thing ever. Side note about beer: Have you tried the Blue Moon Valencia Grove Amber Ale yet??? I had it in New York City a few weeks ago, and I was surprised to see it on tap at the Ivy! This just may dethrone Harpoon UFO White as my fave. If you read the description on Blue Moon’s site…it even describes me – ha.

We were Team Fartlek, and we ended up coming in third place! I think there were nine teams, so that’s pretty legit. We were a great team together – runners know so much random stuff, and all of us there that night had different areas of expertise, it seemed. One of the questions was, “The Brannock device is a non-medical device used to measure what body part?” Ummm that was easy. I say, “can you pass the Brannock” at least once a day at work. True story. Only me, I suppose…but hey, we obviously got the answer correct! The winning team was Team Moist…I had friends on that team though, so the weird name choice aside, congrats to them!

I’m so glad I made my food+trivia plan a reality, and everyone had a lot of fun! I capped off the night by taking a couple quick turns at the pool table, and I magically ended up making a shot. That’s cool. So far, there have been no reports of illness following our debut with the Ivy’s food. They’re definitely still newbies at the whole deal, as evidenced by my receipt, if you can call it that (likewise at spelling):

ivyreceipt

Now, if I had changed my shirt halfway through dinner, would I be exempt from paying?

Speaking of the Ivy, Justin Timberlake was here! On a Friday in December, Princeton was buzzing with excitement, as JT and Ben Affleck came to town to film their new movie, Runner Runner, due out in the fall! Unfortunately, I was holed up in the library instead of at work aka in the center of it all (got to do what I’ve got to do…), but I did run over to the Ivy after my evening run to snap some pictures! There are no celebs in the pictures, as far as I know, just extras and set people. But, Justin is inside, so that’s still pretty cool! I love being in on the action! I don’t go out to the movies much ($$$), but you can bet I’ll be seeing this one the week it’s released!

Crowd outside the Ivy.

That’s cute. We’re nice people!

Trailers!

Trailers!

Through the woods and over the river to PA

This post could have a lot of potential titles…such as:

– How to never find half of your running group/why Garmins should have walkie-talkies

– How to have a truly epic destination run

– The road to becoming a legit blogger

– How not to recover after your long run

– Runners are crazy and I wouldn’t change it for the world

….But I’m going to leave it as is. On Sunday, I had some long run plans that were, well, complicated. Normally, I would go over maps online and do calculations ahead of time to figure out exactly what time we needed to end up where, so this would work. But, I was exhausted and opted for extra sleep, thinking, I’m sure it will work out. 

The plan was, Kate was running 20.7 miles from point A. Brennan and I were meeting her fiance at point A to put dry clothes and other such post-run necessities in his car. Kate was arriving at point B to pick up Martin, who would run 16.2 miles. Brennan and I drove to point C, where we were to figure out what time we should leave to run ~1.7 miles up the road to meet Kate and Martin to continue on the run to New Hope, PA. There was a parking lot at this point C, which is why we weren’t directly on their route. It turned out we had more time than we’d thought. We spent the time taking pictures.

“I’ve never taken a jumping picture before! Now that I have a blog I think it’s required!” –> this made logical sense to me at the time….

Eventually we decided the time had come to meet the others down the road. Up is actually a better word to use – the run was uphill immediately. And we felt it. “I’m so glad we both feel like crap,” we agreed once we stopped at the meet-up point. We did some dynamic stretching…and jumping around…and inspecting an abandoned shack on the corner…before we yelled, WHERE ARE THEY, IT IS SO FREAKING COLD! We waited five minutes or so past the time we expected them to reach us. Brennan was convinced we miscalculated, or they were running super fast, and we had missed them. There was no way of knowing (bring to mind the Garmin walkie-talkie feature idea, courtesy of Kate), so we eventually continued on our way. At least we had each other, and we would all meet up at the river!

Me running through the Sourlands.

We saw some peculiar sites while in the woods: a house on top of the mountain that looked as if it was ready for floodwaters to come through, small houses, huge houses, houses with closed front gates, deer, unmarked trailheads (it took some restraint to pass them by…).

Approximately mile six…I’m having a good time (and midfoot striking?! Sweetness).

The scenery changed a bit after was crossed Route 31, the first busy road we came across. The woods were replaced by fields and farms. We saw the occasional horse or herd of sheep. I was so grateful for the bright sun on a cold day, but the wind was pretty brutal! I started to feel much more warmed up and got into a good rhythm as the run went on…much improved from the awkward and stiff first few miles.

Silos = photo op! Photo idea credit (sun placement) goes to me, but the awesomeness that ensued is props to Brennan’s iPhone.

“Should I look at you?” …still learning the whole taking-pictures-while-running-because-I-blog-now thing.

We saw our fair share of pickup trucks along the route, which of course got Kip Moore’s “Somethin’ Bout a Truck” stuck in my head, and I began to daydream of what it would be like to run these sunny roads in summer!

We were getting closer and closer to the river, and brunch! I had a small moment of excitement when we stumbled upon South Hunterdon High School, because for some reason I find it to be like a lost piece of a puzzle when I discover where schools are in New Jersey I have heard of but never seen. I think this is a side effect of high school cross country. Also hosting spike nights at the store.

We felt the elevation start to drop, and we coasted in to Lambertville! When Brennan’s Garmin hit 12 miles somewhere on the way down, I said out loud, “Now, imagine if we turned around right now. That would be a marathon. I wonder what that would feel like.” More on that later.

We passed Full Moon, the cafe where we were planning to meet everyone post-run, and continued on to the bridge. Honestly, the point of that was to say we went to Pennsylvania, I think…also to make the run over 13 miles. I have a slight obsession with bodies of water and therefore running over bridges, so I was all for it.

Picture on the bridge, PA over my right shoulder!

What a great way to end a great run! We stopped at the cafe heading back to end our 13 (13.4, actually) miles of fun…and saw Kate and Martin in the distance approaching us! We yelled and waved, both parties curious and confused as to what had happened. It turned out they left point B a little later than planned, and then made a wrong turn! Conclusion: they were behind us the whole time! They were at our meeting point a good fifteen-plus  minutes after we decided to take off, so in hindsight, what we did made sense. Oh well. Next time we’ll get it right…and maybe I’ll do the 16.2!

I ordered a delicious omelette at brunch, and I didn’t even think I liked omelettes. Best of all…#recoverosas! Let the word be spread. With the hashtag, apparently that is necessary.

recoverosa (n.) – mimosa consumed after a long run, because hydration is important

We came up with all sorts of new terms as we enjoyed our post-run fun. They include: recoverita, rungover, runger/rungry. We are taking suggestions for a word for post-run beer…nothing clever came to us. This is pretty much why this post could be about not recovering properly, FYI.

You need to go here. That is all.

All that beverages-besides-water talk/consumption, plus the fact that I went country line dancing later that evening, and one of the best places ever, the Colorado Cafe. I had been there once before, and I wanted to get a picture for tradition’s sake (and to put it on here, duh), but my phone died randomly just as I handed it to a stranger to take a photo of my friend and me beneath the sign! My luck. Well, there are worse things. Overall, it was the best possible Sunday I can think of. 🙂

Image

The group post-run at Full Moon Cafe with our #recoverosas.

Muddy runch

Some people do “mud runs.” As in, actual organized races involving man-made mud and transplanted obstacles. When I race, I race to run fast. Thus, I do not participate in mud runs. I do, however, run in the mud. And it’s awesome. If there isn’t a foot of snow on the ground, or if other people I am running with haven’t planned a run on the road, I’m on the trails. On Friday, we had an unexpected 55 degree day, which melted most of the previous week’s snow and left the trails, well, calling for me. 2.15weather

After an exciting morning, I left work at 1:45 to “runch.”

runch (v.) – to take a break from work and run.

runch break (n.) – a period of time equal to the length of your desired run during the work day in which you are not at work, but instead in a state of bliss on a road or trail.

I headed to my park of choice, my favorite place to runch. As expected, the trails were very muddy. This run was also a test for my Achilles, since I had not run on it since Tuesday’s workout. While I did feel a little tightness at some point, there was no pain, and it’s safe to say I am not as concerned about it as I was Tuesday night. It was 52 minutes of fun, and I enjoyed the warmth to the max. I was in short sleeves and shorts, but could have easily been as sweaty in a tank top – it was awesome. I stretched outside the store upon my return, and got a couple second glances. “You’re really muddy,” one guy said, “where were you running?” I told him, and refrained from my signature “you should come buy shoes from me!” line (apparently I don’t exhibit such restraint at the bar…).

Proof of my muddiness:

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So awesome.

On Sunday at our post-run brunch (post to come, in the meantime see Brennan’s!), Martin and I were talking about our separate fun Friday runs in the mud…and we both took pictures of our shoes! How about that! “You have to!” he said, and we laughed for awhile at how runners take pictures of their muddy shoes.

A successful runch.

When running meets Valentine’s Day…

(First of all, pretend it’s still Valentine’s Day. Just for the sake of this post, of course. The extent to which I have been busy since that day is insane. I hardly have opened my laptop.)

One of the things I really enjoy about work is that I can be creative, particularly with the window displays. It might not be a big deal to us, since we work there and see it every day, but there are thousands of people who walk through downtown each week, and our store is in a prime location. The window is a chance to send a message, to invite people in if they like what they see, or maybe just to make them smile. I did not make a Valentine’s Day themed window display last year. This is probably a good thing, because if I did, it would probably have included black hearts, flames, and Adele lyrics. Who wants to see that, right? Anyway, I was in much better spirits this year, and though running is currently my only love interest, I decided to do something cute. About this love interest, obviously. I thought it would be clever to use the idea of Sweethearts candy and make them read things about running, in the typical format of their sayings.

love Sweethearts candy…but the old recipe was better! Especially the white hearts, which they apparently do not make anymore. 😦 So I packed some paint and other supplies and got to work last Monday afternoon. I would like to thank Tifosi Optics for sending us a new sunglass display, since the Styrofoam supplied me with the materials for my oversized Sweethearts running-themed candy.

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A big runnerdy mess.

It was…messier than I expected. I used cardboard for some hearts because I was on a roll with sayings. They got cornier and cornier. They just kept coming! It was so much fun. I posted this picture to Facebook and it got ten likes immediately – a good sign that my window would be a success! My coworkers thought I was crazy and probably did not enjoy working with me that day (when I painted some awesome hearts I would run out to the front and exclaim my enthusiasm), but I cleaned everything up and finished only a couple hours after we closed.

The finished hearts:

Princeton City-20130211-01728

Princeton City-20130211-01731

So cliche…but why not?

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I changed Sweethearts’ “BE GOOD” to “RUN FAST”…sound analogous to you?

My phone camera went through a hard time after that night, I’m not sure what the problem was, so I resumed taking photos in the daylight at work on Valentine’s Day:

ImageNote the new additions:

Props to Becca for bringing this to my attention, and suggesting I include it in the window! I didn't have time to paint it, but dry erase is better than nothing.

Props to Becca for bringing this to my attention, and suggesting I include it in the window! I didn’t have time to paint it, but dry erase is better than nothing.

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I had to. Flip side: “U R FAST.”

And now, glitter passes off the crown of Messiest Craft Ever (I’ll keep it PG here, it sounds better…) to… STYROFOAM. Seriously, it is awful. Not only does it get everywhere because when you break or cut it lots of little balls come loose, it is extremely electrostatic and will cling to everything within a foot of it. That is, hair, clothes, carpets, furniture, windows…you get the point. Note that I was making the hearts in the back, climbing in the Styrofoam-fake-snow filled window in the front, and traveling back and forth. Biggest vacuum job I have ever done at work. On the bright side, I made use of all the Styrofoam…and it does look like snow, sort of. More like hail, actually. Thankfully the vacuum picked it all up just fine. Not that I have taken down this window display yet or anything.

This was, I must admit, the highlight of my 2013 Valentine’s Day. I did not even run that day, purposely, as a precautionary measure after the double interval workouts and my Achilles giving me a scare. Just making other people smile and laugh when thinking about running, and not take the “holiday” so seriously made my Valentine’s Day great!

Photo shoots are fun too!

Becca and me just advertising spring Nike clothing, that’s all…

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But in case you didn’t catch that…It was the corniest running V-Day ever, that’s for sure! Princeton City-20130214-01745Let me know if you want to call dibs on a heart when I take them all down!

Intervals: on foot & on wheels

Part one: intervals on foot

Yesterday I had the most mentally easy workout ever. If you came here to sympathize with someone complaining about mentally challenging workouts, you did not come to the right place. However, perhaps some of the mental and physical stamina that was mysteriously bestowed upon me at 6 PM yesterday will rub off on you.

The workout: 2 sets of 6 x 1/3 mile (or something like 533 meters).

I got a late start, but managed to warm up for 11:12 and not miss the start. My legs were surprisingly peppy for having ran over 15 miles two days prior (what???). It was also SHORTS weather, which made them, if not me in general, a bit giddy. As an aside, I saw this on my computer before I left:

ImageThis number obviously meant I was going to wear this:

(pretend the shirt is green, then you’ve got a perfect picture)

BECAUSE IT WAS WARM. I got several comments throughout the workout on my choice of attire, but I never regretted it. I was sweating and comfortable! Moving on….

I wasn’t sure exactly how fast I wanted to go. Coach of the week Mike suggested “10k pace.” I was wishing we were doing longer intervals before we started, but oh well. The first six (with 90 seconds rest):

2:06 2:00 2:00 1:59 1:59 1:59

We had about five minutes rest after the first set, during which I jogged around a little to stay loose. The next set I averaged a little slower, because I was babying my Achilles slightly. Translation: I felt something short of normal and freaked out inside, slowing down. I realized it felt tight-ish when we had three intervals to go, and decided to just assess the situation after each one. It never actually hurt at all, so I completed the workout:

2:02 2:00 2:03 2:03 2:01 1:58

Donezo.

On my cooldown my Achilles was definitely noticeable, but as soon as I stopped running I felt nothing – no throbbing or anything. I iced it once I was home and luckily felt nothing the entire next day (today)! Phew. Still keeping an eye on it, keeping true to the philosophy I mentioned in my last post.

Luckily this has never been a problem for me…here’s to hoping I don’t say “again” and “Achilles” in the same sentence ever.

So, this workout was, dare I say it, easy. Did I push myself? Yes. Did I do my best? Yes. Why do I say it was easy? Well, we did twelve intervals. I said ten was a big number when we did hill repeats last week. Twelve is a bigger number! When I did 12×400 workouts on the track in high school and college, at the same pace, those were hard. I would be anxious about them all day, and halfway through, I thought I would never finish. Primarily, this can be attributed to the fact that there were eleven people at the workout! That is a great turnout! I’ve heard stories about the days when there were thirty runners at PI workouts, but that definitely hasn’t been the case in the past year I’ve been with the group! We were lucky to have half that number in the summer. I think it’s contagious – as Brennan said in her last post (which made me so happy!), these Tuesday workouts have become something fun to look forward to! It’s easy to wake up and do an easy run in the daylight, but it’s a lot harder to wait all day until it gets dark and cold and head out to an obscure location to do a hard workout. It is ten times easier when you have ten people waiting for you! It’s the little things that make it even easier too – like counting down to the next interval hoping someone can get his warmup pants off in time, or joking about me wearing shorts (it was weather-appropriate, trust me).

Another thing I was thinking about that might contribute to this new feeling of mental invincibility: compared to what I dealt with mentally and physically in college for the past four years, a pain-free, tough, long workout is a treat. In fact, it’s exactly what I wanted for all that time.

Part two: intervals on wheels

I have odd days off, and this week, after an exhausting, work-heavy Thursday-Sunday, I had a Tuesday/Wednesday weekend of sorts. Since I was definitely cross-training after my Achilles paranoia Tuesday night, I was about to set off to ride to the gym and back, with some weights and other things in the middle, but then I saw that our sister store in Westfield was hosting a cycle class with the Central Jersey Tri Club at 7:15 PM. Now, at the time, that was several hours away, but I had time-insensitive things to do and could wait. I thought it would be a fun experience! Read: I need all the biking help I can get before tri season starts.

So here’s the deal. I have a bike. I spent some money on it. I bought it in June 2011. It is a hybrid, however, because I couldn’t (and still can’t) afford a road bike. I bought thinner tires/tubes and a bike speedometer this past summer in an effort to make it as fast as possible. That was after the NJ State Tri, in which I placed fifth in my age group. I was pretty frustrated looking at my bike time compared to everyone else’s, especially when I looked at their run times. When I was just running, there were no advantages like that – the fastest person wins! End of story. Triathlons…not so much. Half of biking seems to be how strong of a cyclist you are, the other is the kind of bike you have, among things like cycling shoes/clipping in, aerobars, etc. Anyway, I’ve got swimming down – I know my strengths and weaknesses and I enjoy working on them. Of course I’ve got running under control. I avoid biking like the plague. It;s like a language I don’t understand, and a punishment for being injured but still wanting to sweat outside. I’m grateful for my bike, and having biking be a cross-training option for me, yes. But there are so many complicated things I don’t understand and I should to become a better triathlete. So, I drove all the way up the Parkway for that class.

The scene before I arrived, apparently. This is probably a good thing, despite the  fact that I wore a pretty sweet tank top, just saying. I stationed myself on the far end of this line of bikes.

The scene before I arrived, apparently. This is probably a good thing, despite the fact that I wore a pretty sweet tank top, just saying. I stationed myself on the far end of this line of bikes, next to the guy in yellow.

It was snowing. I drove painfully slow because I’m a passive driver. I was a little late. A guy, who later introduced himself as the President of the Tri Club, helped me set up my bike on my mag trainer. There was loud music playing, and the woman leading the class seemed to be losing her voice. It took me awhile to get de-frazzled and into the rhythm. I had never thought about gears as being “front” and “back” – obviously both were in the back! Wait what? RPMs? I’m not going to count, am I supposed to guess? Am I supposed to be familiar with what 70 RPM versus 90 feels like? I just watched the instructor’s leg speed and adjusted from there. Brought me back to conducting VO2 max tests in the Health & Exercise Science lab in college…starting at 50 RPM, etc….”Take it to the big wheel!” I admit I looked back to check at first. Of course, the 3rd gear on the left side is the big wheel! Was there a tutorial in the few minutes I missed? Why doesn’t my speedometer work? Oh, the magnet is on the front wheel and it’s stationary – fail. The worst was when she was prepping us for a 30-second sprint and I thought it had already started…you can imagine my surprise when she said, “go!” That was a hard 50-second interval….

I did get the hang of it after not too long. At least we weren’t actually moving. I would’ve been far behind. Probably on the ground, from trying to figure out where the big wheel was. We stretched afterwards, a familiar activity! I am a good stretcher.

Should I have done a nice easy recovery bike ride outside today? Probably…I’m going to be pretty sore from two days of intervals, regardless of if they were run or rode! But I’m glad I went…I learned a lot. (My Achilles felt fine, by the way!) I also got to see fellow RunCo shoenerd, Steve!

Steve riding my bike around the store....

Steve riding my bike around the store….

On the ride home it was snowing harder. I realized…I like snow! It’s so pretty! Who am I this week?! Up next: special Valentine’s Day-meets-running post, and the moment of truth:  the multiple uses for Styrofoam!

Longest run ever!

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First 2 hour run! (Ignore the extra 16 seconds…I accidentally split my watch instead of stopping it, and did not realize this until 16 seconds later, apparently. Picture spoiler, I know.)

This past Sunday I ran my farthest run ever! I met up with Kate, Martin, Daniel, and Julie at Montgomery Middle School at 8:30am (Brennan was out of town 😦 ). It was a beautiful winter morning: sunny for once, as Sundays should be, 20-25 degrees, with minimal wind. Martin had mapped 17 miles, but I wan’t quite up for that…so I gmap-pedomedered (a new verb, by the way) a 13.1-miler, cutting off a loop in the middle. I thought breaking away from them at that point would work out well, since he and Kate were planning on doing 7 miles at 7:20 around then, which I also was not ready for. However…we missed an integral turn very early on in the run, and ended up adding on a couple miles. Once we reached the canal, we reassessed…they ended up running something similar to my original plan, which would now equate to 15-16 due to our mistake. I decided to turn early on Canal Rd. to run up tothe Griggstown Causeway (I love the word “causeway” – makes me think of going somewhere exciting). The towpath wasn’t an option – it was covered in 5-6 inches of uneven snow. Running through that for 3 miles would make me grumpy, not to mention frozen.

Included: 15.23 mile long run...my weeks are rather long run-heavy, but hey, it works....

Included: 15.23 mile long run…my weeks are rather long run-heavy, but hey, it works….

I got into a good rhythm once I waved Martin and Kate off on their extra loop. I checked in with my form via the circular mirrors on the side of the road meant for cars coming out of driveways, which was neat. I felt strong for the whole rest of the run, save for some noticeable tightness in my right Achilles/lower calf. Back at the parking lot, my watch read 1:57:xx. There’s no reason I shouldn’t run two hours! I thought. So, I ran a couple laps around the lot until my watch said the magic numbers: 2:00:00. I walked around and stretched, satisfyingly tired. Longest run ever! What a feeling! It would’ve been great to run with others for the entire run, but the company for the first seven was great! When I got home, I mapped the route I ended up running, and it came to 15.23 miles, putting me at an average of 7:52/mile! I secretly hate when I map a long run and it ends up being significantly over 8:00 pace when it didn’t feel like it was. I was pleased with this.

My favorite part of the long run!

My favorite part of the long run!

During the run, I asked myself, What am I doing differently? referring to the past four years in college, in regards to running. I think I’ve got it: Each night, I’m not worrying about injuring a specific body part more than any other. That is, I’m not letting any pain or ache get to the point where it could turn into a real injury. Normally, if I say, “my hip’s bothering me,” for example, it usually means I’ve already developed a stress fracture. That is why I have to be so incredible careful with my training. After a long run or a hard workout that leaves me wondering if it will push me over the edge and leave me injured, I ask myself, “If you could ice one thing right now, what would it be?” and it takes me more than five seconds to think of what to ice, I’m fine. That’s not to say aches and pains aren’t inevitable, but how you respond to it is very important. Catching them early and taking extra precautions (e.g., cross training for two days instead of one or none, hopping on a precautionary rehab routine along with your regular resistance training) is key. I am (hopefully) starting to respond to hard training as a “normal” runner does. I like it.

Last week by the numbers

It’s been quite a week! Full of running, working, and fun…I’ve been itching to write all week…but was busy doing all of the aforementioned things, obviously. Like, on overload.

The last week by the numbers…

Pretty snow!

Pretty snow!

Miles ran (Monday to Sunday) = 33.78

Hours worked: close to 45

Styrofoam hearts painted (more on that later…): 9

Inches of snow: 7

Hill repeats: 10

Miles during those hill repeats: 10

Different shoes worn: 10 (I counted. It’s true.)

New people met: 7

Miles run for my long run: 15.23

Hours slept: not enough

Interviews had for my dream job: 1

Phew! See, told you it was a busy week.

Last Tuesday the Princeton Intervals workout was 10x Elm Drive, which is the uphill road in the middle of campus. It was a cold and misty night. At first it felt somewhat humid, but I was grateful for the long tights and long sleeves once we started getting pelted with wet snow. I remember doing this workout the same week last year…and not having a good time.

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Looks like I only did half of the workout…and I remember I was not into it – my foot hurt, it was mentally tough, I ran pretty much alone, etc. This year was SUCH a different story. Something clicked for me at the workout the week before – I decided I’d had enough of “I’m coming back from injury,” “I’ll run whatever pace feels good at the time,” “my race is far away, I don’t want to run too hard now.” It’s easy to fall into these traps, with my injury history and with how careful I need/want to be. But it is a workout, after all. The harder the workout is, the easier the race will be. I went in to the workout the week before telling myself, this is the only workout this week. Be relentless. Hammer. Make it count. See what you can do, no regrets when you calculate your pace later. And it worked. I ran faster that I’d expected, and it was fine. I went into this week’s workout with the same mentality. Ten is kind of a big number. It’s double-digits and all. Double-digit repeats aren’t the most mentally easy workout in the book. But with each hill, there was one less in front of me to do. Run the hill you’re on, I thought during each one. Halfway, everyone had gotten a little separated since there was a jogging rest, no stopping, so I re-joined Brennan and we started the last five together. “POWER UP!” became my new motivating cry, and apparently reminded Brennan of Mario.Image I unfortunately only had the privilege of playing “Mario Teaches Typing” as a kid. It didn’t even work – I type almost all with one hand (rather quickly, actually, don’t question it…).

Anyway, pretty soon the hills were over! Needless to say, the stats were much better than last year. I was quite wiped running back to the store, but in a very good way. (Also, it turns out the hill is actually 0.35 mi.)

The hills (and recovery downhills):

2:26 (3:22)
2:31 (3:09)
2:35 (3:12)
2:33 (3:11)
2:29 (3:31)
2:29 (3:30)
2:30 (3:31)
2:31 (3:41)
2:31 (3:20)
2:28 (3:10)

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It’s that time again…workout soon, got to warm up. Happy Mardi Gras! Up next: 1.) Post about my longest run ever! 2.) What has de-crowned glitter as the world’s messiest craft supply + what happens when running + Valentine’s Day + my nerdiness meet….