Monday, January 31, 2011

Eating on the Run

This post may be a little TMI for the squeamish, so those of you who don't want to hear about the intestinal consequences of my running should stop reading. I don't really blame you. I wouldn't write it if I hadn't promised to chronicle every aspect of this journey.

Earlier this month, on a weekend 8-miler, it hit me suddenly and surely that if I didn't find a toilet N-O-W, I'd be up a creek, Sh*t Creek to be exact. I wasn't on the backroads this time. I was just north of downtown Boulder, in a civilized and expensive neighborhood. In Boulder, the neighborhoods are pretty much all civilized and expensive, not the sorts of places an adult woman can squat by the side of the road without detection or the proper disgust, regardless of whether she has toilet paper on her person (which I didn't) and knows how to do her business in the great outdoors (which I do).

Fortunately, Ideal Market (owned by Whole Foods) was just down the street. So I picked up my speed, stopped the Garmin as I entered the parking lot and found my way to the bathroom, weaving among the leisurely Saturday shoppers in their yoga and cycling clothes. Clearly, they were all done with their workouts. I wondered if everyone (especially the guy who told me where to find the bathroom) could tell from the look on my face that I was in an emergency situation.

This has always been a problem for me, ever since I began training for that first marathon back in 1996. I clearly remember ducking into a port-o-john that some construction workers had kindly placed in my path during the dark hours of an early-morning long run. I also remember thinking, "Whoa, where did THAT come from?" (not the last time I was to have that thought). Part of the frustration is that I really don't know what precisely causes it: the time of the month? what I ate? the actual jostling of my body during a run? But I'm not alone. Lots of runners deal with it, to the point where it has a name: runner's trots.

Having this happen to me during a race is a great fear. So far it hasn't. But knowing it's out there, I've tried all kinds of things to manage it. Some of these things are:

1) Not eating much the night before a long run and not eating anything the morning before. This has such a negative impact on my energy, though, that it's really not an option any more.

2) Drinking more water and Nuun sports drink the day before and morning of, to keep things moving. This may help. Then again, I'm not sure. (By the way, here's a product plug: I love Nuun--most sports drinks taste like I imagine urine does, only with WAYYYY too much sugar thrown in, but Nuun tastes good and does its job without a lot of calories.)

3) Drinking coffee before long runs and races. This one does seem to work (by work I mean it clears the system out quickly, before I have to toe the line or start slogging), but it's problematic for me because I'm not a coffee drinker (in fact I've pretty much cut out all caffeine other than green tea) and I'm not inclined to go somewhere to get it before my long runs.

4) Eating only white carbs the day before a long run or race. Normally I try to eat whole-grain pasta, brown rice etc. But I let myself enjoy the white varieties when I know I'll soon be burning them off and that they are less likely to accelerate my touchy gut.

Ahead of my next target race, I'm going to try a new one: cutting out dairy the prior week. A lot of runners swear by this. I love yogurt and cheese too much to lose them forever. But ahead of a race....that I can manage.

One tip recently circulated on the Run Like a Mother Facebook page was to take Immodium or some other anti-diarrhea drug. But constipation would be even worse, in my opinion (and check out some of the other side effects--yuck!), so I have no plans to work this into my routine. I'd also rather not take the option (which some runners do) of not stopping my run for these kinds of episodes, of just letting nature take its course and, well, living with the results (though, yes, I will admit it: I will run with poop in my pants if I have to do it to qualify for Boston).

If anyone out there has any more advice for me on this, I'll entertain any and all suggestions. I was really surprised last Saturday that my fish and chips experience didn't "reappear" on my run. Maybe the meal was slightly constipating and that was a good thing??? Should I add fried food to my pre-run diet?

Something tells me that is NOT a good idea.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Morning Person

My husband Dan is not a morning person. If we didn't have two kids who function as alarm clocks every morning between 6:30 and 7, he'd stay up until 1 a.m. or even later. He'd also sleep until 10 a.m. whenever possible. His energy surges starting at around 3 p.m.

Which is right about when mine is starting to flag, unless I've managed to snag a nap. Although I wish the kids would hold off in the morning sometimes, I'm generally ready to go when they come in, and I also don't really mind the 5 a.m. weekday wake-up that my runs and cross-training workouts require.

Maybe that's why today's run, a 13-miler, the longest yet in this training program, felt harder than the last few long ones have. I didn't leave the house until 9 a.m. because I wanted to give my body a chance to, um, rid itself of my eating indiscretions from yesterday while I still had access to modern plumbing. This worked out well--nary a twinge from the tummy during the run--but I felt so draggy through the first half that I couldn't even appreciate the scenery or the perfect weather. It was quite a contrast to the wonderful 12-miler out there two weeks ago.

You might argue that I felt draggier because 13 is longer than 12, but the feeling was there from the very beginning. Starting too late may not have been the whole story--yesterday's fish and chips, a tough bootcamp class Thursday, and fairly poor sleep the last couple of days also might have contributed--but I do think my morning person make-up prefers a 7 a.m. start to later alternatives.

My pace wasn't horrible. At 8:57/mile, it was still under 9 minutes, and only four seconds per mile off the pace of the 12 miler. And since the program calls for 9:13 for these long ones, I'm still doing well. But I don't like to see myself slowing down. In two weeks, I have a 14-miler and in four weeks I have a 15-miler before the weekend miles gradually begin to decline ahead of my race. Hopefully I can feel better on those runs.

Maybe I just need to get up earlier. :^)

Side note: GOOD LUCK to those of you running the Houston Marathon this weekend. That was my first big one, and I thought of all of you today while I pounded it out on the backroads. Thanks for helping me go a little bit faster.

Here are the details from my run today. If you also want to see the stats from Thursday's tempo run, click "Previous" once you're in my Garmin record.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Fish and Chips

This morning, we got the best seat at the Hungry Toad, a pub in Old North Boulder. Outside, buses and fire engines and cyclists and lycra-clad dog walkers paraded by our front corner window perch. Will, Ruth and I were hungry--they had just had a swimming lesson; remember how hungry you felt after swimming when you were a kid?--and since their dad was scheduled to go out with friends later and I didn't feel like cooking lunch AND dinner, I caved on eating out mid-day.

Normally I scope out the kids' offerings at restaurants before we're super-hungry, or ever before we try a restaurant. I know who substitutes fruit for fries. My kids have never tasted soda. Makes me feel less guilty about letting them get mac and cheese at almost every restaurant we visit. Today, though, I was caught off guard. Of course I should've known: the kids' menu at "the Toad" was a Fiesta of Fried and Melted. And I let them both order fish and chips.

Now, I've been pretty good about my own eating this week. At work I've successfully declined all of the following: 1) double chocolate-chip cupcakes 2) chocolate cake and 3) chocolate-dipped almonds. At home I've eaten chunks of frozen mango when I start to crave sweets. I haven't eaten as many vegetables as I should, but my rice has all been brown, my dairy has all been low-fat and my protein intake has been high. I even threw away the leftover ice-cream cake from my birthday.

My good behavior continued at the Toad, at least at first. After ordering Ruth and Will their greasy selection, I ordered a Greek salad and unsweetened tea for myself. I ate and enjoyed the whole thing. But, again, I should have seen it coming: I wasn't really satisfied, and Ruth didn't want all of her fish, and there it sat, a nice fat lemon on one side of it, a bowl of ketchup on the other. So I took one bite. Then another. And--you guessed it!--soon that hunk of fried fish was gone. I stole some fries from them too.

Now, as I type about three hours later, I still feel that fried stuff sitting in my gut. It worries me, not so much because I fear it will trigger any cravings (sweets, not fried stuff, are my problem), but because I have a 13-miler in the morning. There aren't any port-o-johns out by the Reservoir. There aren't many trees either. And there's plenty of traffic.

In an ideal world, the Friday rest day that precedes my Saturday long runs would be a day of careful eating--nutritious, maybe lower fiber, lots of fluids. I'm trying to make up for it now--I'm sipping green tea, drinking lots of water, and will think about eating again only when I'm actually hungry. But I still fear that lunch will mean practicing certain camping skills in some ditch in rural Boulder County tomorrow. I will certainly carry some TP with me.

It wasn't good for Will and Ruth either. Bad runner. Bad mommy.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cross Training

How frequently do I run? Three times a week.

Yep, that's all. On Tuesdays I do a speed workout (for an example, see my last post about interval training; the total workout including cool-down periods was 6 miles). On Thursdays I do a tempo run (this week's will be five miles at 8:24/mile). And on Saturdays I do a long run (this weekend's will be 13 miles, the longest yet in the program). The grand total: 24 miles.

That's about half what a lot of runners consider adequate weekly mileage to prepare for a long race, and two or three days fewer of running than most do. The rest of the days and miles are supposed to be at a fairly easy pace.

But since I'm following the FIRST program, I cross train on two days--which means doing something that makes you breathe hard and work muscles for an extended period of time but isn't running (that's the "Run Less" part of "Run Less, Run Faster," the book that details the FIRST program). The theory is that cross-training boosts your endurance without over-taxing the running muscles, allowing these muscles to work harder when called upon. It seems to be working for me so far.

My cross-training workout of choice, done on Mondays and Wednesdays, is spinning. Spinning is an hour or so on a stationary bike indoors, varying pedal speed and resistance (which is changed with a small lever on the bike) based on music selected by the instructor. The instructor for my class, taught at the rec center, is named Tammy. She's got a great sense of humor, awesomely muscled arms and an arsenal of CDs with themes ("You guys want to do the Van Halen CD?" she'll ask; the Van Halen CD is hard).

I've gotten to the point where I really look forward to these classes. This is partly because despite the sweat they feel like a break from running (no pounding my sore foot), partly because it's fun to listen to new music (Tammy actually gave me one of the CDs after I told her I liked a song on it!) and partly because my friend Christine also goes. After today's class (the music was contemporary pop), we chewed the fat about how to get the stink out of super-sweaty synthetic-material clothes (my tip was to line dry, not dryer dry them, but I also know there are special detergents for this if you're willing to spend extra money and do separate loads, which I am not; we do enough laundry in my house these days).

Unfortunately spinning is seasonal. The rec center figures the cyclists want to be outside when the weather gets warm and the sun comes up early. I like riding my bike, but I don't do it for exercise. It's too equipment-intense. So come late spring, I'll have to find another cross-training workout--until Tammy and her CDs come back in the fall.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Work Stress

Being a librarian involves a lot of things. But it doesn't involve long peaceful hours sitting at a mahogany table, a beam of sunlight with dust motes adrift in it shining on a novel's open pages.

This is an example of what it does involve. A cranky old man on the precipice that is dementia approaches you on a service desk that's as busy as a bus station at rush hour. He wants to know whom to contact at Wikipedia in order to get some archival material he has into the online encyclopedia's entry for a famous documentary photographer. He doesn't say please or thank you. He doesn't listen to you when you try to explain that Wikipedia doesn't have a contact person, that he needs to create an account and do the editing and adding himself. He keeps at you for 15 minutes, repeating the same question and listing his credentials. You feel every ounce of patience and compassion you might have possessed ebbing away. Your heart and head have it backwards, because your head knows you should feel sorry for him, but your heart is all out of pity.

Later, your boss tells you gently that it looks like you have "public service desk burnout." You know it's true. You don't know what to do about it because you are paid to serve on a public desk.

It is absolutely true that not every encounter with a patron is that negative. But some of them are, and cumulatively they sap your energy, your optimism, and your idealism. You don't like yourself or the people you're supposed to be helping. You long for the beam of light on the book, even though you know well that isn't reality.

So what to do? interval workout.

Interval workouts, also known as speed sessions, are often done on a track (though I do most of mine on a treadmill due to a dearth of nearby tracks open early). Intervals in my half-marathon program range from 200 meters to 2 miles and are done much faster than my other runs. The bad thing: short as they are, they are so hard they can seem eternal when you're in the middle of one, even when Darude's "Sandstorm" is playing on the iPod.

But intervals have two things going for them. One: you get to recover with walking and slow running between each, so you always know a break is just minutes at most away. And two: they are the *best* kind of workout for dealing with work stress, or any stress. It's easy to imagine that you're flying away from your problems, or beating them into submission with each swift footfall. You feel anger evaporating along with the sweat and heat of your muscles.

I had a rough time at work on Sunday. But tomorrow morning I have an interval workout: one mile at 7:37; two miles at 8:00; and 2x800 at 7:25. Better than antidepressants. Just what the doctor ordered.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Someone asked me the other day what I am giving up by pursuing this Boston goal. It's not a question that had occurred to me before, and I can certainly come up with a list of the things adversely affected:

1. Saturday mornings with my family.
2. My ego--I mean, who really thinks I can do this? I come across blogs and online accounts that shame me into asking that question all the time. I'm not as hard-core as so-and-so. I'm nowhere near as talented as so-and-so. Comparisons are odious. But they also can't be helped.
3. Sleeping in.
4. Racing more frequently. I love races. They are like scheduled shots of adrenaline. But doing them too often is at the expense of doing really well in any of them. So they're mostly out-of-bounds for now.
5. Other hobbies, especially reading. I've set another goal for myself of reading 30 books this year. For the old me, that would have been a snap. But between my running and my kids, right now that's downright ambitious.

Still, looking at that list, there's no question in my mind that the effort is worth it. Even if I fail in the end, I've already gained a lot from this process. For one thing, I'm in the best shape of my post-pregnancy life, and also in the best shape of my pre-pregnancy life barring the year I ran New York. For another, I'm finally in the habit of getting up at 5:30 a.m. most days to get my workout done at the only time, really, that it's guaranteed to happen. That's set up some good habits that will last beyond Boston.

Beyond that, I've re-acquainted myself with what it takes to do something lengthy, hard, and complex. Who knows where I'll apply that skill later (maybe I should call it project management)? And I've been humbled by the support I've gotten from people, both those I know and those I don't know. I've gotten to know many people better through this. I've heard about other people's running and fitness goals, and their non-fitness ones. Regardless of whether I make it, I'm going to feel an invisible cheering section following me through the races where I attempt to qualify. I hope I can return the favor for all of them in some way.

Yeah, there are sacrifices. But (in case the person who asked me that question is reading this) the net effect is way over on the benefit side.

Post-Script: Do you ever double-book yourself?

I sure do. I do it all the time, and find myself finagling out of messes I've gotten myself into, over and over again. So it shouldn't have been surprising to me that, all high from my birthday and excited about my running, I went to register for the Slacker Half-Marathon in June--and came thudding back to earth when I realized that's the same weekend as my 20th high school reunion. Which is already paid for. And in Missouri. Too far from Loveland, CO, to be able to run the race that weekend.

Therefore, I'm changing the plan again. Since I couldn't find a half-marathon nearby, I will ask my husband if I can journey a bit further afield and run the Garden of the Gods 10 Mile Race on June 12 (check out the photos on the Web site--what a wonderful place to run!). I'll need to do it at less than a full effort, since my marathon training program will begin the very next day (see above about doing races too frequently). But I think the beauty of the course and the fun of travel will be enough to inspire me to keep my fitness up during what could be a lull period between the Boulder Spring Half and training for St. George.

Friday, January 21, 2011

T Minus 2 Years and Counting!

Today is my 38th birthday.

This meant a 6:30 a.m. visit from my kids, eager to give me the cards they chose yesterday and then eager to ask me what's for breakfast. It also meant no run or cross-training workout--Friday happens to be an off day. It means I get to go out to a movie ("True Grit") and a nice restaurant with Dan tonight. And finally it means I no longer have two-something years to qualify for Boston. It's now only one-something years until I turn 40.

So I figured what better way to celebrate than to sign up for another race! It's still too early to enter the lottery for my target fall marathon (the St. George Marathon on October 1; the entry process begins on April 1), so I looked at the training program and decided to do another half-marathon--a fun one!--in June.

Ideally, this half would be on June 18. That's the date of the first long run, a 13 miler, in the marathon training program. But after a search I determined that the only race semi-nearby on that date is the Mt. Evans Ascent. And I don't think I will be ready for 14.5 miles of climbing at altitude. :^)

Therefore, I settled on the Slacker Half-Marathon a week later. This race is also at altitude, but not quite so much altitude, and it's also mostly *downhill,* a key distinction. I'd consider this wimping out (after all, the very name of the race says it all), but the St. George race is also mostly downhill. So I'm calling it a fun practice long run.

With this addition, my racing schedule looks like this:

February 19--the 10-mile Snowman Stampede; target pace is 9:03 per mile

March 27--the Boulder Half-Marathon; my next goal race, with an 8:43/mile target pace

May 31--the Bolder Boulder 10K; to be run with my dad at his pace

June 25--the Slacker Half, described above

October 1--the St. George Marathon (if I get in; I still need to identify another race around the same time in case I don't get in)

Some smaller races in between may be added later, but this is starting to look pretty settled. And as for what comes after? The October race will decide that!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Thank You to A Friend

On Saturday night after my 12 miler, my hard labor working with nice women on sewing projects at work and reading my kids several Dr. Seuss tales, I had a rare girls' night out with Christine, my good friend, workout buddy and fellow mom of boy/girl twins. We ate sushi (another rarity in my life, alas) and drank wine, and in the course of the evening, she gave me a gift.

It was a stylish little card with a sweet note that I don't deserve, and a red jewelry box. I opened the box and gasped: inside was a coveted pass to the Flatiron Athletic Club, which I wrote about here.

One of my favorite blogs (and books about running) is Run Like a Mother (you can always get to them from my links list on the right). In addition to offering all kinds of useful advice for runners who are moms (how find time to run, what to wear to look and feel good, what to listen to), they do so much to promote the comradeship of women athletes. And to my mind, in the Run Like a Mother spirit of sisterhood, no one is a better sweat buddy than Christine.

I got to know her almost two years ago, when her now 2-year-olds were babies, and she put an ad on the local parents-of-twins club's Web site seeking hiking partners. Since then, we have regularly met at least once a week in the wee dawn hours for a good sweat, whether it's climbing Mount Sanitas on Boulder's west side with her dog or (as we do right now) pumping away in spinning class at the rec center.

She's always optimistic. She's funny. She likes nerdy sci fi. She's a fabulously smart businesswoman. She throws a great party. I feel like she actually believes I can accomplish this Boston goal (which is more than I can say for myself much of the time!). I have promised her that if I do qualify for and run Boston, I will wear a tiara during the race.

So a big thanks to Christine, another hero for me, both for the Flatirons pass and for being so inspiring and positive. I'll see you at spin class tomorrow morning bright and early!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Early Morning Winter Run, With Dog

My green Suburu wagon is, for the first time ever, the first and only vehicle in the parking lot at the Boulder Reservoir. It's 6:20 a.m., cold and dark. Even the most diehard Boulder runners are still in bed, or at least still at home downing their coffee or Gatorade, creeping around to avoid waking their kids.

Not me. I have to run 12 miles and be home in time to shower and make it to work at 10 a.m. I usually work Sundays, not Saturdays, but today I switched with someone in order to help host a knitting/sewing afternoon at the library (yeah, it's a tough job, I know!). I'm feeling good about how early I am here, even though the sun is just a rumor of a glow on the eastern horizon. I start the Garmin and begin to run.

That's when I hear him. And soon after that's when I see him. A dog that looks like a cross between a dingo and a miniature shepherd. He's standing outside a run-down shed that's practically straddling the dirt road toward which I am heading. If I am to launch myself on my intended course on the backroads, I will have to run right by him.

He's not leashed.

I give up immediately. I know dogs. I've read lots of stories about runners being bitten by dogs, and I've been chased by angry country dogs myself, while running in rural Missouri and on the unrepaired roads of Far East Russia. I know when I'm outmatched. I know there is no help for me at this hour alone in the dark. If I had a tail, I'd have put it between my legs. I re-enter the Suburu and drive it out of the lot. The dog has advanced, sniffing the fence next to the parking spaces as though that's what he's really interested in. I drive by him and up the road about three-quarters of a mile to a trailhead. I'm the only one there, too. I fire up the Garmin again, backtrack a bit down the road so as not to miss out on the first big hill (but not so far that I rouse the dog to chase me in the other direction), and then I'm off and running at last.

The whole thing cost me only about 8 minutes, but it felt like forever. The light is brighter, taking on a pink cast thanks to the low buttermilk clouds and the rusty faces of the distant Flatirons. Last week's snow is almost gone. There's not even any mud in the road. Soon I'm back in that blissful place I ran in last week out here, with the bracing cold air and the animals in the dun-colored fields I pass. Even the first half, that uphill half, seems a bit easier. I don't turn on the music until I'm a little over halfway through the run. The end, again, feels like flying.

In the parking lot at the trailhead, my car now has 14 other vehicles for company, including 7 other Suburu wagons. A group of runners is gathered, ready to go. But not me! I'm all finished. And I'm finished in time for a Starbucks hot chocolate, a good shower and an on-time arrival at work. Almost makes me want to get up early again next weekend...but only almost. :^)

Here's the summary:

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mountains *Are* Moveable

This is the view from the front door of my children's preschool. Nice, huh?

The reason I chose this shot for this post is that I'm grateful to the school right now, and not only for being beautifully situated. They are doing a program called Storytime Yoga (very Boulder). Their teacher tells a half-hour story and has them do related poses as she goes. Those of you with kids know that getting small ones to recount with any exactness the stories and activities from school is like peering into a roomful of treasure through a small slit with only a thin beam of light: you get tantalizing glimpses, but no accurate view. So I don't really know what Tuesday's Storytime Yoga tale was. But the tantalizing bit, shared with me by Ruth, is that it involved this mantra:

"Mountains are moveable."

Who knows what the real context was...But what I took away from it, after Ruth said it and then philosophically inserted her thumb into her mouth, was that impossible things can in fact happen. I *can* stop eating crap on a regular basis. I *can* qualify for Boston (even if they do take five minutes away from me when they redo the qualifying times).

And indeed the last two days have been good on the food front. I've also been diligent about my rest: the light has been out by 9:20 p.m. the last two nights, and yesterday I took a total rest day, bagging my usual Wednesday cross-training workout. This paid off when I ran 5 miles this morning at 8:24/mile with something that almost resembled ease, then tackled bootcamp class, which resumed Tuesday after its holiday hiatus, with lots of enthusiasm. Now, of course, I still am sobered by the fact that in order to make Boston I will have to run about this morning's pace for more than 5 times that distance. But that's in the future.

Ahead of me this weekend is just one small step: 12 miles at 9:13. I'm hoping to do it out at the Reservoir again. Happily, the frigid weather turned today. The snow is melting and a warm wind is blowing. It may be mucky out there on Saturday, but at least I won't be sporting a balaclava. I admit I'm dreading the six uphill miles that the "out" portion of the out-and-back course will entail.

But I can do it. No one said mountains have to be moved all at once.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Martha Saves the Day--For Now!!

Yesterday--a day of phenomenally bad eating--I got an email from Martha, my nutritionist, asking if I could meet today (Tuesday) instead of Thursday. I said yes even though it meant re-scheduling a way-overdue eye appointment (if someone wants to pay for Lazik for me so I can stop the contact lens merry-go-round, I'd be so grateful...but I digress).

So I had a good hour with her--my last, unfortunately, since I paid for three sessions--lamenting my out-of-control sweet tooth, my meals and snacks that seem to bleed into each other, and the unhappy discovery that most kinds of nuts, my favorite form of snack protein, give me horrible stomach cramps and gas. I tried to put a positive spin on the situation. After all, I maintained my weight over the holidays, which I know can be hard to do. But I'm really tired of maintenance, which seems like code for "plateau," and I have no idea how I'm going to manage to eat protein, which isn't my favorite food group anyway, with every meal if I can't include nuts.

As usual, Martha was upbeat and reassuring. We did some goal-setting. My two goals are 1) to stick to an 1,800-calorie daily plan involving set numbers of servings of each kind of food (protein, grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy and healthy fats, plus 195 "discretionary" calories) and 2) implement a strategy or two to help deal with the sweet issue. These strategies are simple: the one I'm going to try out this week is to put a stick of minty Extra Dessert Delights gum in my mouth when I know I'm going somewhere in the library that co-workers tend to leave chocolate chip cookies and other such tempting fare. That means I'll be chawin' on a lot of gum, a habit my dad deplores, but hopefully this is just temporary until the new norm of not taking every sweet that appears in the building takes.

As for the nut situation, I'm still not really sure what to do. I'm supposed to be eating a modest portion of protein with every meal and snack. I don't eat pork or beef, and chicken and fish work much better with meals than they do with snacks. Martha tells me in order for something to count as protein, it needs to have iron in it--so yogurt won't cut it. Any ideas out there for this? I'm all ears (and stomach).

Anyway, the upshot is, I'm feeling a bit better about the food front after meeting with her. Since the holidays are over, the gravy train at work should slow down a bit, too. Fingers are crossed!

Today's Workout: Today's 6 x 800 at a 7:20/mile pace was hard. I did it, but I did it on more than the prescribed minute-thirty rest between intervals (at least for the last three of them). Hopefully it still counts. And hopefully one bad workout doesn't mean I'm losing my edge. Just in case it's a rest issue, I hereby vow to you that I will turn off my light by 9 p.m. tonight.

Monday, January 10, 2011

I Can Run, But I Can't Hide

Saturday's Run: Come and go sun, chilly but not cold temperatures, air so fresh it tasted like running river water in the mountains: I got lucky with the weather and at last managed to do a semi-long one on the Boulder Spring Half course, out by the reservoir (see pic above).

This didn't mean I escaped Boulder's hordes of faster runners. Nope, they were gathered in the parking lot when I arrived, stretching their quads, laughing, either going on or coming back from a group run. I saw quite a few people out on the roads, too, and even got passed dramatically at one point. It happened later in the run, when I had some techno going on the iPod and was feeling sort of goddess-like. Then suddenly, a tall lithe dude in shorts and racing flats blew by me, restoring my inner goddess to her appropriate state of mortality with just one revolution of his well-honed stride. I felt his wake as strongly as those of the many SUVs that spewed gravel in my face that morning.

Mostly, though, it was perfect, the sort of outing that reminds me why I love running. I felt as though I belonged outside, like the cows and horses I passed along the way. All of my cells felt clean and purified when I had finished.

It's a course I've run four times before, twice in the half, once in a 10K and once (five years ago) in the full marathon they also stage there in the fall. So you'd think I'd know it well. But doing it on a training run, so much less urgent, I had the mental space to learn a thing or two.

The race is an out-and-back course. I don't like out-and-back courses. On the way out, you get psyched out by how each step carries you further away from where you began and thus from where you will finish. And on the way back, you get psyched out by how far you have to go. But it is what it is, and my distaste for this type of thing makes it all the more important that I do lots of training runs out there. I'm going to try to do all of the long runs there from now on (weather permitting).

The main thing I learned from Saturday's run is that this particular out-and-back is also up-and-down--as in, you're mostly going up on the way out and mostly going down on the way back. You can see this in the splits and elevation profile recorded by my Garmin (linked below), and I sure felt it on the run itself. For the entire first five miles, it was like running in sand, and I wondered if I was getting sick. Then I turned around, and suddenly it was like flying--even on the odd uphill. My last mile was the fastest of all, even though the course levels out there a bit. Overall I came in 11 seconds per mile faster than my target pace.

When I ran this race in October, I disappointed myself by missing my target of sub-2-hours by almost 5 minutes. Part of the problem was that I, aided by that second-half downhill trend, ran miles 8 and 9 with someone much faster than I. And then, when the little up-hills and that last flattening hit, I bonked.

My job in March will be to make sure that doesn't happen again.

Food Issues: Why is the food thing so hard? I don't want to whine. But it's so hard. I managed not to add any weight over the holidays, but I'm definitely not eating like a marathoner. Each day is remarkably like the next. I eat a super healthy, substantial breakfast (steel-cut oats, berries, lo-sodium V8 juice, a hard-boiled egg) and keep the healthy thing going until lunch, when it often falls apart because healthy options for lunch and dinner are SO BORING!!! Why would I eat turkey on wheat when I can have a Chipotle burrito?

I know why, and I know that a big part of my problem is organization. But the other part is simply that food that I make and measure just doesn'

Fortunately, my nutritionist sessions will resume on Thursday when I meet with Martha again for the first time since early December. I need to keep telling myself that 8:52s on long runs are great--but how much faster could I go with ten fewer pounds weighing me down?

Aches and Pains: Last Tuesday, I attended a workshop on "Losing Your Pooch," your pooch being that unfortunate slumpy stomach that so many of us ladies who have had kids must live with. Pre-pregnancy, my tummy was the only part of my body that I liked. It was almost concave, it was so flat, and I used to look at it to comfort myself when feeling fretful about my, um, full hips and thighs. Now I don't even have that.

I came away from the workshop educated about diastases recti (separation of the six-pack muscles caused by the expansion of the uterus), and eager to try the simple exercises meant to correct mine. Mostly, these exercises involve variations on the theme of sucking in your stomach, with *lots* of repetitions several times a day. On Wednesday I did them faithfully, five times that day, just as the plan detailed. On Thursday morning, I woke up with a lower backache so intense that I couldn't stoop properly. I emailed the physical therapist who taught the class, telling her I hadn't added any other exercise to my regular regimen and that nothing else could explain it. She suggested maybe I need to massage my C-section scar, the argument being that the exercises may have irritated the scar tissue.

Maybe that's the case. But seeing as I'm someone who wants to qualify for Boston, and recurring back aches of that magnitude would certainly interfere with that goal (as would the program's stricture against running and most other forms of aerobic exercise), I think I'll just live with my "pooch" for a couple more years.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Treadmill Shuffler Meets Some Treadmill Flyers

This weekend, I wimped out.

Thursday brought our first real snowstorm of the year, along with real cold. I got up early that day and got my six tempo miles done before the weather hit, and Friday (set to be another cold and cloudy one) was a rest day. I figured that outside conditions would be decent enough again by Saturday morning, and I planned to do my 11-mile long run on the half-marathon course out by the Boulder Reservoir.

Didn't happen. Come Saturday, New Year's Day, I took one look at the tights in my drawer, and the jacket, and the icy parking lot outside our condo, and remembered I have somehow lost my favorite winter running hat. And so it was that I found myself at my boss's gym--the Flatiron Athletic Club--having surrendered one of the free passes she sometimes gives me.

These passes--which are worth $20 (that's the price Flatiron charges non-members for a day pass)--make my boss one of the heroes of my running. Every few weeks I find one in my basket at work. Typically, their expiration dates are five or so months out. So I hoard them for a day like Saturday, when I wimp out of running outside for whatever reason and know the run won't work on the treadmills at my own gym. The pass used this past weekend was my last until she comes through again, so I'm hoping I didn't blow it. After all, there are a lot of cold months left out there, and in the great scheme of winter weather in Colorado, I've definitely seen worse.

Flatiron is posh, at least by comparison to my gym, the city recreation center. Don't get me wrong. I love the rec center. My job with the city gets me a free annual pass, so I can go in at any time and use the pool, the cardio and weight equipment and the drop-in classes for nothing ("nothing" being right in line with our family budget for that sort of thing). The staff is nice, and I know many of them by name. And the organized classes they offer, which do require even passholders to pay, are a great deal. This is where I take my Tuesday/Thursday boot camp class, and where my kids take gymnastics and are learning to swim.

However, the rec center treadmills have a 30-minute time limit, and there are only three of them. That wasn't going to work on New Year's Day, when everyone wanted to go to the gym to start on their New Year Resolutions and I had a long run to knock out. To be honest, I'm a little worried how it will be this week, when I also have a longish speed workout to do. Even at 5:30 a.m., the time I usually arrive on weekdays, January can mean you actually have to abide by that time limit (something that hasn't been a problem at that hour for the last few months). I'll find out for sure tomorrow, when the speed workout is scheduled.

On Saturday, Flatiron was pretty crowded too, but I got a treadmill with no waiting. The time limit there is an hour. Generally, thanks to the vast number of treadmills they have, an hour is long enough that even if I'm doing something that will stretch beyond that and it's crowded, the people around me finish before I do, and newcomers can take their treadmills rather than mine. The other reason I've never had to exit a treadmill early at Flatiron is that most of the people there are much faster than I am. I've seen Colleen De Reuck working out there.

I didn't see her there Saturday, but here's who was in my vicinity:

1) The two treadmills in front of me were occupied by a pair of elite-looking 20-something women with their baseball-capped coach, who periodically took notes and edged the speeds up and down for them. I couldn't see the exact pace of the one directly in front me, though I could tell she was going fast (maybe her calf-compression socks and mid-run shoe-change made her look faster, but I'm pretty sure she was well into the 9 mph and higher territory for most of her run). The other woman was catty-corner to me. I could see the coach pushing her up to a 6-minute mile. He did this at least 10 times, for about 3/4 of a mile each time. After five of these, he had her "recover" for a while at an 8-minute pace. Then she did five more. Both of these women were there before I got there, and both finished at around the same time I finished my 11 miles (which, by the way, were at a 9:13 pace, half-marathon pace plus 30 seconds a mile; I am not worthy).

2) Next to me on the left was a woman in her fifties who ran seven miles at an 8:30 pace (despite the fact that, as I heard her say at one point, she had taken the entire month of November off from running and considered herself "out of shape"). She carried on a brisk conversation with the man on her left, who had shaved legs and looked about my age. I couldn't see his pace, but even over my music I could hear him relating tales of his triathlons. They also talked a lot about all the New Year Resolution people in the gym that day, and had a cute little tiff over which of them deserved the little fan in front of their treadmills more. I wondered if they thought I was one of those New Year Resolutions people. And I was glad I hadn't commandeered one of the fans. Again, I am not worthy.

3) After Mr. Triathlete finished his 10 miles (he had announced to the "out-of-shape" 8:30-easy-pace woman that he was doing 10 that day, so everyone in the area knew that), he was replaced by another lean 20-something woman wearing only her running bra on top. I haven't had that little body fat since I was ten. Mr. Triathlete, not being the shy retiring type, asked her how far she planned to run, so I learned that she, too, was doing 10.

4) Fortunately for my ego, on my right was a man in his fifties running 11 minute miles. Sure, he was maybe twenty years older than I am, but at least not everyone at Flatiron that day was running faster than I!

Despite all of the intimidating fellow travelers, I got my run done, on pace, and, with those characters for company, was never bored. I was also able to take advantage of the other great thing about this club: the locker room. It's not very environmentally correct, but I grabbed three towels (yes! unlimited towels!) and made my way to the private showers and steam room, swathing myself liberally in the towels so that no one could see all my lumps and bumps. (I realize that few people in that or any locker room care how others look, and at the rec center I happily parade around the showers naked as a jaybird--but the crowd there doesn't tend as much toward the elite physique as it does at Flatiron.) Once sequestered behind the curtain, I took a good steamer of a shower, followed by a real heat session in the eucalyptus-scented steam room, followed by a rinse-off. By the time I got home to my husband and kids, I was thoroughly ready for lunch and a nap.

I've seen a lot of posts over the weekend about total numbers of miles run in 2010, lists of races for 2011, pounds to be lost and other fitness-related aspirations for the year. I figure I have enough on my plate with the goals stated in this blog. And for those of you who read my last post, I hear you, and I'm going to stick to my original plan and target the half-marathon in March; and yes, I will find a good doctor to look at my foot, which hurt like a mother after the 11 miles. Not good.

Onward in 2011, the year I turn 40 minus 2.