Running With Friends

It has been a while since I updated my training journey here.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the honor of running with my dear friend in her 2nd half marathon adventure & in honor of a milestone birthday. We spent the weekend celebrating her, running our way through town for 13.1 miles, then celebrating her more. We were surrounded by friends in the race, on the route, at the finish, and on social media.

As we ran and celebrated, it occurred to me that running with friends is a whole thing. It is a completely different thing than solo training runs. So, for this installment, I will explore the differences: pros and cons, from my perspective.

Running Alone:
I find running to be a form of meditation. It is my time to let my mind wander, to think through all the complicated things in my life, and to let my brain work so hard and so long that it works everything out and can be silent.

I also enjoy the time my long runs give me to catch up on podcasts and music. I get to feel productive and all caught up on pop culture by the end of one of those runs.

When I run on my treadmill at home, I get to watch the news or cheesy television: my choice.

The thing about running alone is, I get to spend all that time with myself, go at my own pace, and settle into whatever mindset works for the day.

Running with Friends:
When running with my friends, there is little time for meditation while running. But there’s plenty of time to work out all your issues: we just do it out loud when we run together. There’s no listening to music or podcasts, no getting lost in your own head, no getting distracted by media of any kind.

Running with my friends is an exercise in breath work, laughter, and catching up on everything we’ve missed since the last time. It is fun; it is satisfying; it is often the best way to make a long run go quickly.

So I sit here and ask myself: What is your favorite way to run? Alone or with friends. Like many things in my life, I don’t want to choose. I like it both ways.

I will say this: just as we choose our clothing for the weather so we stay warm (or cool) and comfortable and safe, we should run with others – or alone – as best fits our needs at the moment. If you need company and the support or input of those dear friends: run with them! If you need time to work out your feelings or make your shopping list or finish Serial: take time alone and run!

Cross Training

I have a love-hate relationship with cross training. It is one of those things that I know I need more of, but struggle to find the motivation or time in my larger work-life-training schedule.

For example, I have a training schedule this week that has me running every day. How do I fit in meaningful cross training in a normal week that also includes work, family, and community involvement?

Finding the time is one thing, but the biggest hurdle for me is a mental one – and one of trust in the purpose and effectiveness of the effort. How do I include productive cross training without negatively impacting my daily running regimen?

Last week I took a bootcamp-style class at a local gym. I was simultaneously proud of my body’s ability to do all those weighted squats in the moment and fearful of the physical implications later – would I be able to walk the next day?? It turned out, walking the next several days was hard
(T observed that I looked a bit like Jar Jar Binks as I walked
liltingly through the house for a couple days). Running was actually easier than walking and I kept to my running schedule, but I definitely lost speed on those runs.

Certainly, my continued use of my legs and devotion to my running practice (even if slower than I’d prefer) helped me recover. Also, certainly, I continued to build muscle. I could feel the strength built in my knees and hips as my muscles healed.

This week, I took a different strength training class – one probably more appropriate for being this far into my training program (with the half marathon less than 2 weeks away). I feel it today, but it isn’t enough to slow me down or keep me from running.

I know these classes are imperative to prevent injury and increase strength. Yet, I continue to struggle to incorporate cross training into my larger running schedule. But I’m trying, which is the best I can do.

Happy New Year (I Love Intervals)

In this new year, I am going to try something new. Instead of taking you through my training week, I’m going to focus on one part of my training. Of course, I’ll throw in those most important extra bits (and pictures) for fun – but my intention is to stay a bit more focused in my posts.

So, for this first post of the year: Intervals.

In school, the idea of interval training – sprints – really any running at all – could bring me close to tears for fear of it. Me, run fast? Me? What if I failed? What if I couldn’t go as fast as I wanted? What if I trip? What if?!?

Somewhere along the way, though, Interval Day became my favorite part of my training week. If I get two (which I did this week), I’m in heaven! Why, you ask? Let me try to explain.

Intervals prove to me just how much harder I can work, how much more I can push, how much stronger I am. They can do this in just a few short minutes really. For example, I did 3 minute intervals this morning with a 1 minute recovery between. I pushed myself to run faster that I usually do in intervals because I knew they’d be short. The lesson: I’m strong and I can go faster than I think – for longer than I think.

Intervals also break up the monotony of a longer run. Sure, music or a podcast can distract my mind. But a good set of intervals can get me focused and invested in the run itself, without enough time to remember that what I’m doing might be hard – or that it might hurt – or that I have so many more minutes/miles to go. Intervals insist that I focus on the here and now – to enjoy the effort and relax into the breaks in between.

Intervals make me feel accomplished. After I finish a set of intervals – when I worked hard and pushed myself harder than I’d intended at the outset – I feel more accomplished than after I finish a long run. I feel more accomplished because they always make me feel stronger (even if I’m exhausted) and like I can do more. I feel more accomplished because I can measure my improvements with relative ease (Did I increase my pace over last week?). And with this feeling of accomplishment, I find that I care less about how far I went or how many calories I burned because I conquer my fear in these workouts, which feels like so much more than distance or calories.

Squats and Ah-Ha’s

This was a week of Ah-Ha moments, mixed with sore muscles and a surprising long run. 

I chose to use my first rest-day to go to the gym and do my new favorite Spin and Strength class. This ended up being far from a “rest.” Of course I knew that going in, but all the squats and squat jumps made sure I remembered it. 

On Tuesday, I woke up to tired, stiff legs, but I finally had a day with time in the morning and my schedule called for an easy run. So I got on the treadmill at an extremely easy pace and got the run in. After about 10 minutes my tired, sore legs were moving just fine and I had my first “ah-ha” moment of the week: tired legs still move and running on them isn’t impossible. 

Later on Tuesday, I came across my second “ah-ha” moment: running on tired legs doesn’t necessarily “loosen” them up.

Wednesday and Thursday brought far too much time at work and in traffic, so I chose not to try to squeeze in any time on the treadmill. 

Friday took me back to the gym for a Spin & Strength class. More squats. Sabrina would be so proud. Another hike around the mountain on Saturday, and I was ready for my Sunday long-run. 

It has been a lazy, relatively grey week or two here in the desert. The holiday season is here and I’ve been looking for pieces of holiday inspiration. There is a chill in the air and that helps. T has been making fires on weekend nights – that definitely helps when I’m looking for cozy. Today, T put up all the extra Christmas lights after I mentioned that I didn’t think the house was decorated enough for the holiday. 

One thing I find to be a study in contrasts this time of year: listening to holiday music while running 9.5 miles in the sun. It wasn’t cold enough to require a jacket the entire run. I didn’t need a winter hat. Running here in 50-something degrees when the sun is out is like a nice early-fall run in the Northwest. Here: Happy Holidays!

I’m not complaining. I took the opportunity to run parts of the trail I don’t usually run. I found hills I wasn’t expecting. And I’ll take the sun, blue sky, and brisk air any day over those sweltering summer mornings.

The desert still amazes me. I wasn’t as strong today as I’ve felt on other long runs. I’m not as inspired today as I’ve felt on other days. But that leads me to my final “ah-ha” of the week: So what? Doing the work when I can, not beating myself up for failing to follow a training plan to the letter, and enjoying the accomplishment of what I’m doing when I’m doing it – these are the things I can control and I can choose to enjoy. 

Hills at Sunrise

It has been a while since I wrote my running chronicles, but I have been busy continuing to get into the groove of this running thing.

Just after Thanksgiving, we did a Your Super detox – which was really just a veggie-based smoothie/salad 5-day meal plan. I didn’t run much that week, although I probably could have. It felt like a good excuse not to run, since work kept me so busy I didn’t really have time for anything else.

After the detox, though, I’ve been fairly good about my training runs. Running this time of year in the desert is such a joy. The low,warm light later in the morning. The chilly weather that all my running friends in the Northwest would kill forbecause “chilly” here is sunny, between 45 and 55 degrees.

Last weekend my training plan called for a 10K race. There weren’t any nearby, so I made my own race. And blew my own mind! It was the fastest 10K I’ve ever run and I did it without the electricity of an organized race or other people for me to try to keep up with. I ran on Sunday morning and hardly saw anyone on the trail – even the cyclists I so regularly see there every other time I run. I finished my 10K in 57:39 at a 9:16 pace and I couldn’t have been prouder of myself!

This week, I made more time for my workouts – at least at the beginning of the week. Work continued to be nuts and I didn’t get my Thursday run in. By Saturday, I wasn’t feeling the Fartlek run in my training plan. Luckily, T reminded me that any exercise is better than giving up on doing any at all. So, we hiked the mountain by the house. I gave myself a pep-talk – no need to feel guilty about not doing the run in the program – and paid attention to enjoying the hike.Meanwhile, I remembered that I had planned to use the mountain as a measure of my progress. The hike inspired me to make the mountain a part of my long Sunday run.

This morning, I used that inspiration to get me up that hill! I don’t like hill running. The psychology of it often stops me in my tracks before I even start. It feels so daunting – and even more so when I lookup and see the incline in front of me. But I’d promised myself that I’d start my long run on the mountain and headed up hill (instead of my usual downhill)as I left the house. It was a quiet, serene morning, light enough to run and to find some jaw-dropping views. I succeeded in running the whole mountain. I might have been able to walk it almost as fast, but I “ran” it the whole way.The training plan called on me to take an “easy” pace for 70 minutes, kicking it up to race-pace for another 20 minutes at the end.

My body continues to surprise me. After running the daunting mountain at the beginning and taking an “easy” pace for over an hour, when my watch beeped and told me it was time to find “race pace,” my body found another gear. It continued to respond and I increased my pace even more as I passed the first mile of that last challenge.

This process is not easy. I do not always have the energy or inspiration to get out and run. I rarely have the wherewithal to cross train.But when I’m out on my runs – whether on the road or the treadmill – I make an effort to pay attention to the parts I enjoy, talk myself out of the negative self-talk that is so easy, and draft these blog posts as a further reminder of my accomplishments and joys of these running moments.

Picking up a Turkey and Trying a New Route

T and I decided to go for a 4.5-mile hike yesterday in the Tucson Mountain park – beautiful views and plenty of climbing. I figured it was like doing strength training at the gym with all those huge steps up!

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Today I took my first long run since the marathon. I am still a little sore from the hike yesterday, but I didn’t do much other work this week on the running front and I knew I needed to dive back into the longer run. My original plan was to run my normal out-and-back route from home. Thanksgiving is next week and today is the only day we could pick up our very happy, local, pasture-raised turkey at the Farmers’ Market. It is on the other side of town and the people who came first got the better choices of size (not that I’m competitive about that kind of thing). Luckily, the Farmers’ market is right along a different stretch of the same trail I run on from the house. So, we picked up our very well-cared-for turkey at 8am and I went for my run while T meandered around town and read on a bench at the Market.

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I’m glad I tried something different today. My legs were sluggish and I worried that 90 minutes would be too long after a 2-week break. But, I took the training plan’s direction to run “easy,” listened to my music, and let my mind wander. I paid attention to the differences in this part of the trail system and all the new people on the trail there.

I thought the route would be slightly up hill on the way out (so slightly downhill on my way back), but it turned out to be consistently rolling hills. I ran by apartment complexes, a nursery, a very smelly ranch with pigs and horses, winding through the north side of town (completely losing my orientation with the city). It was a good thing I was on a trail.

20181118_093939On my way back to the market, I noticed a loose dog in the wash. Just as I was about to get nervous that he would come after me, I noticed a coyote coming up behind the dog. Suddenly, I was worried for the dog. I shouldn’t have been. Once the dog noticed the coyote, he flipped around and chased the coyote off. The coyote wanted nothing to do with him and raced away as quickly as he could.

20181118_093905I did not feel nearly as capable of racing off as the coyote, but I managed to keep going and get back to the Market. I almost missed T on the bench!

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With Thanksgiving this week, I am thankful for all sorts of things, including family and my continued enjoyment of running. I am hopeful that I will be able to more consistently incorporate my training schedule into my week – and make it more of a routine, than homework. For now, I’ll be content with the proof of my improvement in my sore muscles.

Getting Back on the Road and up the Mountain

Just two days after the marathon, I had a minor foot procedure. I scheduled it purposefully for that day – I knew I would be still recovering from the race, letting myself have a break, and it wouldn’t interfere with my training. I was still hobbling around on Monday and convinced that it would take many more days before I felt like I could get around like myself.

After every other major race I’ve done, except for the Half Marathon in Olympia last summer, I’ve come away from it wondering if I would ever really want to run again. Often, I took months or even years away from running. The 2018 Capital City Half Marathon gave me my first experience of finishing a race and wanting to get back and out run the next day. As I approached the Mount Lemmon Marathon, I wondered if I would have a similar experience.

The day after the race, I was sore. Two days after the race, I was more uncomfortable. I convinced myself that I wouldn’t want to run for weeks, but I was only going to let myself take a week off – then I planned to plunge myself back into training for a half marathon at the end of January. So, it came as a surprise to me that I was mentally ready to get back out running before I was physically ready (that darn foot procedure)!

I took Todd away for his birthday celebration over the weekend to Flagstaff. I decided to bring running clothes at the last minute, feeling like I would be ready to get in a quick jog. The sub-freezing temperatures and winds combined with the elevation made me reconsider. Instead, I put those running shoes back on when we got back home in the afternoon.

Since I was feeling so enthused about getting out there again, I challenged myself to run up the large hill in our neighborhood (A Mountain). It is a monster! And I ran (most of) it. I have a feeling that running this mountain will be my measure of progress over the next year of training. While it was hard, it certainly is a beautiful route!

 

Now that I’m back into a training schedule, I am making goals for my goals. I want to avoid rigidly following someone else’s standard plan and to pay attention to my body instead. I have a schedule in my calendar, but I want to use it as a guide, not a mandate. For example, I want to increase my cross training and strength work. So, I chose to check out a new group fitness gym in town this morning.

Here’s to listening, learning, and pushing yourself!

Dopey, here I come!