The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

The WORST marathon ever!  But I wouldn't have the memories of running with these great friends :).  At least we endured together.

The WORST marathon ever! But I wouldn’t have the memories of running with these great friends :). At least we endured together.

I always warn my clients:  “You will have good running days and bad running days.  The good running days keep you motivated.  The bad running days… well, they make you stronger.”  I don’t mention the ugly running days.  I don’t want to scare them off right away.

It doesn’t matter how long you have been running for, those bad days will always make an appearance when you least expect them to.  It might happen during a training run or it could possibly hit hard on race day.  My most recent bad day was during a trail half marathon.  I made a wrong turn.  I was so irritated for the remaining 9 miles that I nearly slowed down and said “forget this freakin’ half marathon!”  Yet, I didn’t.  I kept pushing myself like I normally would.  Maybe I have learned that bad days will happen and there isn’t much you can do but keep moving forward.  That is where the strength comes in.  You gain more with each bad run.

How about ugly run days?  Well, they are ugly.  These days you might need to stop because you can’t physically run any farther.  I will never forget my ugly day back in Jacksonville Beach about 2.5 years ago.  I was running a 10-miler with a friend.   I had some issues leading up to that run, but this particular run was a realization that something was terribly wrong.  Not too long after, a visit to the doctor revealed that I had a protruding disk pushing on a nerve.  It was causing severe pain any time I brought my leg forward.  Yep, I couldn’t even walk without the major OUCH factor.  Three months and 20 physical therapy visits later, I was finally able to start all over again.  Did that ugly experience make me mentally stronger?  Yes, it sure did!  It also made me smarter.  I started triathlon training so I could give my body a break from so much running.

Good days anyone?  Last weekend I ran an 18-miler alone at the beach.  I don’t know how many 18-milers I have completed in my life, but that was the best one thus far.  I had to wake up at 4:45 AM and it was still hot and humid, but there was something that was just working in my favor.  Maybe it was the sunrise at the beach or the peaceful feeling of being out and about during the early morning hours.  No complaints, I was definitely having a good running day.

There you have it.  Not all running days are going to be wonderful.  You might need to spend 10 minutes frantically searching for the nearest bathroom.  Or maybe a muscle starts to spasm and you have to walk all the way back to your house.  What about the time it started hailing and you had to run for cover in order to avoid being pummeled?  How about when a few rain showers turned into a squall?  Currently, I hear a lot of complaints about the heat.  If it isn’t the heat in the summer, then it is the snow and ice in the winter.  OMG, that run was all HILL!  Maybe you just didn’t eat enough and hit the WALL.  Yep, I have been there, done it all. The point is not to fret so much over the bad runs because there are plenty of good runs to go around.  Learn from the bad so you can fully enjoy the good.  Those good runs will be filled with “wow, I am FAST today” or “what a great way to release stress from a rough day at work” or “wow, this scenery is amazing.”  You will find inner peace on those good runs and feel like you are moving along at your full potential.  It may even seem EASY (is there such a word in running??).  Hold on to that moment so you can whip it out any time you need some extra motivation.

When you are in the middle of a bad run, don’t stop.  Keep going.  That is the only way you will get stronger.  Then, after your irritation has been calmed, you can laugh at your bad run and be grateful that it wasn’t ugly.  But, if you ever encounter an ugly run, know that those bad runs have made you a stronger person and you WILL prevail!

Sometimes you LOVE running and sometimes you HATE it.  It’s okay.  Running forgives and forgets.

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Moving On

I have some new scenery to enjoy.  I think the swamp thing is lurking in there somewhere...

I have some new scenery to enjoy. I think the swamp thing is lurking in there somewhere…

I probably should write a positive post in light of the negativity expressed in my recent post.  So, here it is.

Thus far, I found a few things that make running in Virginia much better than running in Colorado:

1.  Heat & Humidity.  What??  Yep, my body is responding to this added environmental stressor by increasing my blood volume, maintaining better control of my body temperature and lowering my rate of glycogen depletion.  In other words, I am adapting and become an even more efficient runner.  Take me somewhere cool and I will blow away the competition!

2.  No hills.  Sure, I am a lover of running up hills, but I do not like running down hills.  Now, I rarely have to run down a hill.  Also, when I say I am going to be back in an hour, I will be back in an hour.  The lack of hills takes out the guesswork of how long a run will be.  I can just be fast all of the time…

3.  Fewer rattlesnakes.  Out in the Colorado foothills you kind of have to worry about stepping on a rattlesnake.  No place is safe.  In Virginia, there are a few poisonous snakes, but for some reason, rattlesnakes scare the pants off of me more than any other type of snake.  And I don’t plan on doing any jungle bushwhacking just yet.  Oh, and no mountain lions will be stalking me during my runs.

4.  Warm weather.  I know, I mentioned heat & humidity, but to add more to that I would like to mention the fact that I don’t have to log in to the weather report every hour and figure out what I should wear.  I know for a fact that I will be wearing shorts and a tank top.  Every time.  Probably even for most of the winter.  I don’t have to worry about:  Thin or thick glove, both pairs, add a hand warmer or no gloves?  Visor, thin or thick hat?  Long sleeves or short sleeves or triple layers?  Rain coat (because who cares if it rains here, I am soaked anyway)?  Long pants, capris or shorts?  Which long pants, thick or thin?  Face mask??  Yak tracks??  Yeah, no more freakin’ questions about what to wear!

5.  No need to study a map.  Okay, so I did get lost in my new neighborhood last week.  However, getting lost in civilization is a lot better than getting lost out in the middle of rattlesnake and mountain lion territory.  I kind of had to look at a map for my run in the swampy state park this past weekend, but that state park is only about 4 miles wide and surrounded by a city.

6.  More family exercise togetherness time!  So, back in Colorado I had to squeeze the jogging stroller and the kid bikes into the back of the Acadia.  Why did I bother driving somewhere to run and ride bikes?  Well, I guess you didn’t see the giant hill that we lived on.  Our entire neighborhood was a series of hills.  Steep hills, long hills, short hills… just plain scary hills when your kids are learning how to ride a bike or when you are pushing 70 pounds of kids in a stroller.  Now we can just grab the jogging stroller and bikes and head out the door.  Our entire neighborhood is as flat as flat can be.  I won’t be losing a kid down a hill.

7.  Ah, the ocean.  I have always been an ocean kind of gal.  I was raised in California and spent some of my early years playing at the beaches and rocky shores of the north coast.  Maybe it had something to do with why I joined the Coast Guard.  And I do kind of have a thing for sharks and other sea creatures. Yep, I missed the ocean when I was living in Colorado.  Now I am only about 20 minutes from the beach.  Granted, it’s the east coast, but I will take it for now.  I just get to run on the beach during sunrise instead of sunset…

So, there you have it.  Running isn’t so bad in Virginia.  I lather on the sunscreen and bug spray and I am on my way!

 

Welcome to Chesapeake, VA.

The Beach isn't so bad, if you don't mind waking up at 5:00 AM and driving about 40 minutes so you can avoid crowds and traffic.

The Beach isn’t so bad, if you don’t mind waking up at 5:00 AM and driving about 40 minutes so you can avoid crowds and traffic.

I figured that I should write a post regarding my first impressions of my new home: Chesapeake, VA.  Maybe I will think differently 3 (please) or 4 (no thanks) years down the road when I reread this post during my departure.

As we drove through town on the day of our arrival, I noted the lack of hills, sidewalks and trails.  Maybe I was ignorant, but I kind of thought that Chesapeake would look different from Elizabeth City, hence the reason why we opted not to live closer to my husband’s work.  I thought about how it resembled Florida, but our home in Florida was surrounded by numerous walking paths and bike lanes (or at least a shoulder along the side of the road).  Here, you can’t even squeeze by on the road unless you want to get hit by a car or do some bushwhacking through someone’s property (and I mean that you are literally on their property because you have to be extra careful while driving not to plow into mailboxes or trash cans that are sticking out into the road).

So, I figured out that I can run through my neighborhood okay while staying to the side of the road (it is pretty wide), but then if I want to leave my mini 1-mile loop, I have to do some fast running alongside a narrow, busy road.  Then I enter another decent neighborhood (I have to be careful not to go the other direction or else I will end up on the ghetto street… I only call it “ghetto” because I ran past a giant penis that had been drawn in chalk right in the middle of road) and find a few sidewalks and wide roads.  From there, I am pretty much screwed on getting anywhere else without having to run down a narrow busy road or into more sketchy neighborhoods.  I have done this a couple of times and found it very unpleasant because people around here don’t seem to like runners using the side of the road (hmm, well then maybe this city should invest in sidewalks!).  Well, I suppose the lack of sidewalks and trails don’t surprise me because of the plethora of fast food restaurants and lack of places or grocery stores where I can buy natural/vegan foods (and not have to spend $10-15 on an individual Amy’s pizza… yes, I am serious about the price).  It is obviously not a city with health as a priority.

I have found that the beach isn’t so bad, but it takes about 30-40 minutes to get there.  I suppose I used to drive that far to get to a few trails in Colorado, but there were also trails only 5 minutes from my house.  It isn’t ideal to run in the sand for 10 miles and the streets are still busy and narrow.  I might have been annoyed by the vast amount of hills in Colorado, but now I am annoyed by the lack of any hills here.  Ooh, there is always the Dismal Swamp.  I read up on that trail.  There are three poisonous snakes that can be seen and black bears are spotted on a daily basis.  I am sure that neither of those animals hibernate here in the winter.  I could only wish for snow.

I should also mention that I was ignorant about the weather.  I assumed it wouldn’t be as hot and humid as Florida since we are farther north.  Nope.  Actually, it feels MORE hot and humid here than in Florida.  How is that even possible?  Also, how is it even possible that there are more mosquitos here than in Costa Rica?  Before going outside make sure you lather up with sunscreen (waterproof) and the harshest bug spray you can find.  Forget going natural with the spray… it just won’t work.  The tradeoff of avoiding malaria is being exposed to harsh chemicals.  I was all excited to come here and enjoy eating and relaxing outside.  Once again, ignorance is bliss… until realization hits.

I know.  Don’t be a whiner.  I am just hoping that I will get an attitude adjustment soon.  Otherwise I will need to take up a new hobby.  Hmm, not sure what that could be around here.  I will have even more difficulty trying to ride my bike around here.

Okay, if you are a runner in Chesapeake (note that I said Chesapeake and not Virginia Beach… because in Chesapeake there are no running groups and no running stores… I can’t imagine why) and don’t agree with my first impression then please set me straight and take me for a run on some amazing trail that I am obviously not seeing.   Remember, I said Chesapeake!  I shouldn’t have to drive an hour to go for a run!

 

 

Farewell Colorado

One of my first trail runs was Centennial Cone.  It was 12 miles of beauty (and hill torture).

One of my first trail runs was Centennial Cone. It was 12 miles of beauty (and hill torture).

I didn’t know any better when I trained for my first marathon while living in Florida.  I had no problem with waking up at 4:00 or 5:00 AM in order to squeeze in a long run before the sun started beating down on me, causing a greater risk for heat stroke.  I was pretty content running on the wide sidewalks through my suburban neighborhood most days, with the occasional jaunt to the riverfront or beach.  Hills consisted of group workouts at the two bridges in downtown Jacksonville with the cars driving close by.  Breathing in exhaust and ignoring honking horns just became standard.  I didn’t complain much.  I made many great friends while running in Florida and I had many firsts that I will never forget.

When I moved to Colorado I knew that the first thing I had to do was join a running club.  It’s really the only way I know how to easily make friends.   I googled Golden, CO running club and the first thing that popped up was “Foothills Running and Cycling Club.”  Well, that sounded just fine to me.  I contacted someone named Rachael who seemed pretty nice through e-mail.  She was even sweeter in person.  I didn’t feel too hesitant or nervous about showing up to my first track workout.  I immediately felt welcome and jumped right in.  Since I like to push myself I tend to be drawn to people who will challenge me.  Back in Jacksonville, it was the girl who continued to run hill repeats while everyone else was bringing it home.  Here, it was a married couple who flew down the track like nobody’s business.  I tried to keep up and then made it clear that I had just moved from sea level.  I think I mentioned that about 10 times during the first track workout.

It all blossomed from there.  I was quick to make new friends and spend Saturday mornings going on long runs with a group followed by some chit chat at the local coffee shop.  I was still content running along the roadside or on paved trails.  It was a bit different from Florida because I had some nice views during most of my runs (but not all).  Even though I became a wiz at running bridges in Jacksonville, I was a bit shocked by the lack of flat in my new town.  My running terrain changed from completely flat to very hilly.  I couldn’t even run out my door without encountering a very steep hill.  I complained a little, but then I eventually just went with it and hills became easier.  This time, I had to go out of my way to find a flat route.  I just decided that I wouldn’t be able to run an “easy” run anymore.

I suppose I also had to adjust to the climate change.  I remember running a half marathon when it was freezing outside.  I had to buy new running clothes because I couldn’t just go out in shorts and a tank top.  Yet, for some reason I decided that I would train for my first half ironman during the winter (since the race was in May).  I am still not sure how I managed to ride my bike in between snowfalls.  It was quite the accomplishment when I finished the race.  And to make it even more amazing, all of my running friends surprised me at my house afterwards in order to celebrate.

Next, I decided to continue my focus on running for a while and took a break from the bike and pool.  I continued to run on the road and paved trails through town.  I set a personal record on one marathon and then managed to climb over 2,000 feet during another marathon (while still finishing faster than any marathon I ever did at sea level).  Then something happened.  I set foot on dirt.  Or ice.  Or snow.  Whatever.  I just mean that I went outside of my element for a minute and was taken by surprise.  I started running away from town.  Away from the hustle and bustle.  I ran in the foothills and in the mountains.  I fell in love with trail running.  I won’t say that it was a little too late, but I only wish I had more time on the trails.  I explored new trails and enjoyed every moment of every run.  I can’t say that about all of my runs on pavement.

Then came the moment when I had to say goodbye.  My last trail run in Colorado was one of my favorites, just 5 minutes from my house.  I liked it because it was close and relatively easy, yet offered some stunning views.  It also didn’t have rattlesnake warning signs posted (even though I am sure they lived there, but they must not be a huge problem if signs aren’t posted).

I will miss the peace I felt while running immersed in nature.  I will miss the variety of terrain and challenges that come with trail running.  I will miss exploring new places off the beaten path.  I will miss it immensely.  I left a piece of my running heart in Colorado.  I never really new what was out there until I met a Colorado trail.

Kind of funny to read back during the time when I was saying hello to Colorado in my “Hello Golden, Colorado!” post.

Running HOT

Sometimes when I get really hot during a run, I just dream about days like these and I start to feel myself cool off...it's all mental!

Sometimes when I get really hot during a run, I just dream about days like these and I start to feel myself cool off…it’s all mental!

Sorry, but we are a little slow to jump on the summer bandwagon over here in Colorado. We just had a snowstorm last week, but now it appears that the temperatures are on the rise and the clouds are only bringing rain (along with thunder and lightening).  I know that many of you out there have already been suffering through the heat and I will soon be there with you when I move to Virginia in two weeks.  I am really not looking forward to suffering in the heat.

After running all winter in snow and cool temperatures, it takes some time to acclimate to a change in weather conditions. In most cases, the increase in temperature is not a gradual one. It can go from freezing one day to a whopping 80 degrees the next day. As soon as you are pelted with this heat wave, your body initiates a response. Your body temperature rises (dripping sweat), your oxygen uptake increases (so you feel like you are working harder), your glycogen gets quickly used up (GI issues, lack of energy), lactate builds up (longer recovery after your run) and your heart rates increases. So, you basically feel like crap and are irritated because you are moving slower than a snail.

According to Tim Noakes, MD, author of “Lore of Running,” it can take 7 to 14 days in order for our bodies to become acclimated to the heat. These continued improvements may take up to 30 days! That is nearly the whole summer, right? The best way to get acclimated is to take it slow and gradual. Gradually increase the amount of time you are running in the heat and slowly introduce intensity. Eventually, you will be able to better control your body temperature, sweat quickly and more efficiently, properly absorb the necessary electrolytes and be able to divert blood from the skin back to the working muscles (since more blood is brought to the surface in order to be cooled in hot conditions).

You just need to swallow your pride and slow down in the heat until your body adapts. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), you need to decrease the workload in order to maintain a lower heart rate.  Humidity creates a bigger challenge. When it is humid, sweat is unable to evaporate quickly and cool the body.  In some cases, if the heat and humidity are too high, then it is not even safe to attempt a run (sorry, but the treadmill may be your friend on that day).

Besides taking it slow, it is a good idea to wear lightweight, breathable clothing. Light colors work best for reflecting the heat. Also, make sure you are staying hydrated throughout the day and during exercise. Just be vigilant about not consuming too many fluids(hydration is a topic for another day). Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are serious matters. Stop exercising if you feel sick, dizzy or weak, have trouble breathing, or are sweating profusely (or have stopped sweating altogether).

For more tips, check out this ACE article, “Beat the Heat Before it Beats You.”

When it is really hot, I try to run early in the morning before the sun gets too high in the sky. Sometimes it can also be nice to run in the evening. I know that it can be difficult to stay motivated in the heat, but keep it up and soon the weather will start getting too cold… it only makes you more tough! Running outside is so much better than running on a treadmill!