Today’s Reminder: Summer is fast approaching

Okay Floridians… you know what this weather means.  That summer will be here before we know it.  While other parts of the country are suffering freezing temperatures and falling snow, we are sitting out on our decks drinking iced tea in our shorts and tank tops.  Now, if it could just stay this way it would be perfect.  Those other folks in the colder areas of the country might be a bit jealous of us right now, but that won’t last long.  Soon they will have the perfect spring and summer temperatures while we smolder in our liquid heat.

Yep, today was an absolutely beautiful day with the perfect balance of warm air with a cool breeze.  Yet, in a runner’s world, it was HOT.  If this is HOT, then I don’t want to think about running in the weather that awaits me a month from now.  You know, it wouldn’t be so bad if the air didn’t have to grab on to all of that water.  Nothing like feeling as though you are drowning right when you step outside.

So, my run this morning was a HOT one.  While most of you enjoyed a nice walk to the park or enjoyed your morning cup of joe on the front porch, I was slathered in my own sweat.  Seriously, I could feel the sweat beading up on my head, sliding down my back and slipping out underneath my shorts to take refuge in my socks.  Not only was I sweating like a pig (if they actually do sweat… who has seen one sweat?), but I felt like I was running up against a wall.  Every breath I took contained some oxygen, but mostly water.  It is like having pneumonia when you actually don’t have pneumonia.  Fortunately for me, my running buddy had just gotten over pneumonia so I didn’t have to hurt my ego too badly.  I could run slow and then just blame her for the slowness (j/k t.b.)  🙂  How could I go from running sprints one day, to feeling like an ox pulling a wagon up a hill the next day?  It’s all about acclimatization folks.  Except this didn’t seem like a gradual change in the environmental conditions.  It just seemed to happen overnight!

Yes, I know I am a pansy.  How can I be complaining when it was only 70 degrees this morning?  I guess I also need to remind you that it felt like 100% humidity.  Those of you residing in Arizona have no idea what I am talking about.  Let’s just say that when you mix heat with water you don’t always get the results you want. If I want a warm shower I will use the one in my bathroom.  I shouldn’t have to go outside for that.  Needless to say, I am a little worried about what the future holds…


Ego Check

I ran 7 miles last night with the new running group I joined a few weeks ago.  My running buddy had warned me that these people thrive on running fast and it takes extra work to keep up with them (actually, they are probably just running an easy pace, but it seems really fast to us).  The first time I ran with the group I was a little winded.  Then the second time I thought is was no problem at all.  By the third time I felt like a pro and had no difficulty keeping up with the fast ones.  And then there was last night.  Interestingly, my first mile is usually my slowest.  It takes me about a mile to get into my running groove.  So that meant that when we started running I was at the back of the pack.  For some reason, after that first mile, I didn’t feel like I had gotten my groove.  I still felt like I was trying too hard and this meant remaining in the back while trying desperately to hang on.  Then, all of a sudden, I felt a tweak in my left ankle and I freaked out for a second.  As fast as the pain had come, it subsided.  That was odd, but I kept trudging forward.

You know, I am not a big fan of all of the water breaks that this group takes along the way, but I have to say that I was very thankful for that first stop.  I couldn’t get it out of my mind that this group must be running way faster than they had been in the past.  My little running application, Endomondo, was no help to me because I couldn’t turn him off when we stopped since the zipper on my pocket got stuck.  However, after the next mile I checked and realized that we were going at about an 8:30 min/mile pace.  Pretty darn fast, but definitely not as fast as I had imagined.  I can’t be this tired at that speed… maybe later on, but not at mile 3!

Then we came upon the first bridge.  I do have to say that my strongest skill is uphill running.  I am pretty darn good at running up these bridges.  Yep, I started the hill in the back, but by the time I got to the top I was right behind the leader.  Now, I know better than to jet down a hill at full speed.  That’s what you do if you want to get injured.  However, my ego kind of got in the way and I was a bit peeved when those folks behind me decided to go down the bridge as fast as they could.  Oh no, I wasn’t going to allow them to pass me.  Needless to say, I flew down that bridge.  As we ran to the next bridge, I still felt pretty good and I was excited about another hill climb.  Well, this time no one would let me pass!  I was stuck behind the two leaders all the way up to the top until they decided to do their wildly fast descent.  And, yet again, I couldn’t let them get far ahead of me so I followed suit.

You know what my payment was for that stupid move?  Excruciating lower back pain for the next 2 miles.  I also felt pain in both ankles and I know my body was pretty upset by how hard I was pounding my feet on the pavement.  If I didn’t feel old and like I was going to fall apart before, I did right then and there.  I even wondered if I would make it back to my car.  But, dang it, I couldn’t show any mercy around these people. Somehow I managed to run even faster than I did at the start.  All because I didn’t want to have a hit to my ego.  I couldn’t let anyone see how those bridges beat me up.  On top of that, when we got to our cars I didn’t stop because I wanted to make sure I completed a full 7 miles instead of 6.8.  Yep, I was the only one who kept running, but I did it.  But then, when I was finished, I kind of felt like a really bad overachiever with obvious ego issues.  Do I actually know what it means to run for fun?   When I woke up this morning with an aching body, I realized that maybe I learned a little lesson last night:  just stick with what feels right and don’t worry about what everyone else is doing!

Beach Run #1

The title of this post is “Beach Run #1” because I definitely plan to make a trip back in the near future.  It’s just too bad that it takes roughly 45 minutes for me to travel to the beach from home when 1 1/2 years ago we lived right across the road from the beach (seriously we did… and we also lived right across the street from our favorite Brewhouse).  Back in those days, I would step out my door, cautiously cross Highway 1, cut through the marina parking lot and get right on to the coastal trail.  Yep, that trail was awesome and I could easily get a 10-mile trip completed while running next to the beautiful Pacific Ocean.  Swimmers, surfers and fishing boats were abundant when the weather was warm and clear.

Today was just slightly different from those experiences.  First of all, I seemed to have moved all the way to the other side of the country and the ocean is a bit warmer over here.  The grand Atlantic Ocean doesn’t offer too much in the way of scenery during the winter months, but just the ocean itself is enough scenery to make me content.  The waves are much smaller on this side of the country so I didn’t happen to see any hardcore surfers that typically flock to the west coast during the winter (some of the best waves come and go during the winter months.  Not that I know anything about surfing… I am a runner, remember?).   And my sense of direction is a bit off because when you run south on the west coast the ocean is to your right while it is on the left over on this side.  No more beach sunsets, but if you get up early enough you can observe a sunrise (kind of had to focus on the timing of the tide for this trip).

The road we took to get to the coast dumped us out on the southern end of Jacksonville Beach where towering mansions dominated the land.  If you run closer to the city you tend to see tall hotels and condos lining the beachfront.  So, I must say that it was pretty interesting inspecting these substantially large homes (who resides in these places anyway?).  As soon as my super-human-fitness-instructor-guru running buddy and I stepped onto the beach (while hunkering down to retain heat in the freezing wind), we surveyed the beach to determine wind direction.  You see, in our minds we knew that we needed to start running against the wind or else we might not make it back (not that I would mind knocking on somebody’s door to ask them if they could give us a ride in their Ferrari).  Needless to say, it was a perilous plight.  The wind versus us.  The weather report was totally inaccurate to state that there would only be 9 mph winds today.  What about the 30 mph gusts you lame weather people?  Not only were we battling the wind, but every once in a while our feet would sink into the sand and our pace would suddenly slow.

At mile 3 we decided we had enough.  It was time to turn around.  I just prayed that the wind wouldn’t decide to turn around with us.  Nope.  The run back was a glorious redemption of our actual running ability.  I even enjoyed myself.  We pretty much ran in silence and I kept my ear buds packed so I only focused on the crashing waves and the occasional sound of seashells crunching under our feet.  I even warmed up and could feel my face, fingers and toes again.  As we finished and stopped to stretch, I realized that my glutes got quite a workout… a nice added bonus to burning well over 600 calories (my computer program didn’t know we were running on sand so I am sure that we burned more calories than just running on the street).  Thanks to my running buddy, we did pretty well on the speed considering the crappy circumstances for the first half of the run.  Thanks to her I was forced to run fast.  Okay beach, I will be back… just please keep the winds calm.  I don’t need to see so much spindrift coming off the waves (my coastie friends know all about spindrift 🙂 ).

Running Alone At Night

The other night I really needed to go for a run.  It was just one of those days where I was desperate to escape my house.  When my husband came home from work (late as usual), I was trying to get my older kids to eat their dinner while my 7-month old was screaming at the top of her lungs.  My husband felt bad about my stressed out condition, so he asked me if I wanted to drive to a bookstore and relax (one of my all-time favorite things to do… I just love drinking coffee and skimming through books and magazines).  I told him that I just wanted to go for a run.  Even though it was already dark outside, I changed into my bright running clothes and laced up my brand-new running shoes.

As I stepped outside, I knew that my heart was set on 6 miles.  I have been so used to running with other people that the thought of running 6 miles alone almost seemed daunting.  It is just so funny because 2 years ago I often ran longer distances alone.  Yet, once I tuned into my upbeat music and elongated my strides, I was happy as a clam (are clams really even happy?).  I wanted to stay focused on keeping my speed up while working on improving my form.

I was focused on my running, but not so focused that I wasn’t aware of my surroundings.  I kept thinking about how stupid it was for me to keep both ear buds in with the music blaring.  Granted, I live in a pretty good neighborhood, but any neighborhood can seem scary at night.  The other problem is that streetlights are hit or miss around here.  Some of the sidewalk is well-lit, while other sections are pitch black.  Not only do I have to worry about not tripping over a crack in the cement, but I also have to worry about some psycho jumping out of the bushes.  As I neared the high school, I kept running past groups of teenagers that didn’t seem to care if they were hogging the entire sidewalk.  Adolescent disrespect seems to be on the rise.

Soon, I encountered the elementary school and beyond that I only saw another stretch of darkness.  Since I hadn’t hit the turnaround point yet, I decided to run laps in the well-lit school parking lot before heading back towards home.  As I went over the bridge and past a dark and scary forest, I heard a rustling in the bushes that made me jump sideways nearly falling into the road.  Mind you, at this point I had realized that it was much smarter to run with only one ear bud in so I could have some idea of the noises that existed beyond my music.  The bushes continued to rustle loudly as I ran the fastest mile out of all 6.  Then the strangest thing happened.  As I ran towards a light it flickered and then shut off.  That must have happened at least three times within 5 minutes.  So, not only do I have to worry about cracks and psychos at night, but I have to escape ghosts?!  Finally I reached some decent lighting and happily continued to work on speed.  Whatever makes you fast, right?

Needless to say, running alone at night does have its advantages.  It definitely keeps the adrenaline pumping. Additionally, I was able to work on my form without anyone being able to see how silly I must have looked.  I was even able to observe my form when my body created a shadow in the street light.  I think I figured out that I might need to lift my knees just a tad higher.  I don’t know… it might be a hopeless cause.  I was just born to run like a flailing gazelle fleeing a lion.  No, actually gazelles are more graceful, even in life-threatening situations.

Fast & Furious 5K

So, today was the day that I attempted to run the fastest 5K I have ever ran in my life.  Actually, I haven’t really ran very many 5K’s in the past so I don’t have much to compare it to.  I did run the Woodside 5K back in 2006.  That was located in the woodsy hill area south of San Francisco.  Needless to say, I wasn’t very well prepared for that race and I also had no idea that it would be straight uphill for about a mile of it.  Regardless of the circumstances, I somehow managed to finish in 37:02 (funny how I can google that and still see that my time is posted online… otherwise there is no way I would remember that).  I’m pretty sure that was my first 5K unless my mom made me do one at some point during my childhood (a time when I dreaded running).  Let me think, 2006… my first daughter was only about 2 years old at that time.  Yep, I am pretty sure that is when I started having a slight interest in running.  After that there was no stopping me (well, except for the two pregnancies that soon followed).

Oh, back to today’s 5K.  Sorry, I was just having flashbacks.  Most of you know that short distance hasn’t really been my thing lately.  No, if I am going to run a race then I usually want it to be 13.1 or 26.2 miles.  As I recently considered my New Year’s resolutions I thought about the need for speed (in addition to the weight training and core training so I could hopefully improve my form… no luck yet, my form still sucks).  When you start working with something new, like speed, it makes sense to start from the bottom of the mileage chart again (nope, I couldn’t do that to myself on a 10-mile run).  So, the fun-loving 3-miler that seems to be the point where runners can call themselves runners if they can run 3 miles without stopping (some kind of unwritten rule).

There I go getting off topic again.  Let’s go back to this morning when I woke up and looked outside and felt a little perturbed that it was nasty gray and drizzly.  “Please don’t let this affect my time!” was all I could think. Then we got in the car and obnoxious little drops of rain pounded on our windshield.  As we drove south, the rain subsided.  I was hopeful.  When we got to the race area, I jumped out and headed to the booth to pick up my number.  This was a little race in comparison to the marathon of 17,000 people I just participated, but for some reason I was so focused on getting everything done quickly and making sure I was at the starting line well ahead of schedule.  I was basically stressing out for no reason (as my husband will tell you, that is my typical behavior at functions).  My running buddy and I get up to the start.  Then of course I start thinking about the kids in front of us and I get annoyed thinking that they are going to get in my way once this thing starts.  Gosh, I have just turned into a sour puss.  Just relax lady!

The gun goes off and I jet!  I think that maybe I am starting off too quickly, but I can’t help myself.  I want to pass these people and find an open area where I can run free.  Then I find it.  The space that no one is occupying.  I settle in and then realize that I am still flying.  I am worried, but I still don’t slow down.  I try not to think about how I might die by the time I get to mile 1.  But then I pass mile 1 and I am not dead yet.  I still have some gas and I might be able to maintain.  We round a curve to the other street and I keep wishing that the mile 2 marker was in sight.  And it wasn’t… still not there yet… nope, not there.  I am chugging along hoping that I don’t run out of fuel when I see it… mile 2!  The nice lady holding the sign tells me my time (still doing good) and mentally pushes me forward by telling me I am one of the top 10 females.  Okay, I can do this.  Then I see the walkers (it was a loop that repeated itself) and I started flying past them.  Now I have to focus on weaving in and out of traffic again.  If anyone gets in my way, oh boy, I will yell so loud that they will jump to the other side of the road.  Then I pass this Marine/Airforce/whatever looking dude. Well, that seemed to irritate him because a minute later he flew right past me.  That only made me run faster even though I wasn’t able to keep up.  Then, there it was!  The finish line!  Oh my, I was losing steam.  Just pick it up for one more 0.1 mile!  I did and I crossed that line in 24 minutes 24 seconds!  Whew, that was fast… for me.  It was my personal record.  That’s a pretty good feeling.  Just a little while later it starting pouring rain.