Monday, March 30, 2009


I can now say that I have officially had my BEST. RUN. EVER!

After last week's tough series of runs, I wasn't sure I would ever be able to run and just love it. I had hoped to find that elusive runners' high again, but thought I might be doomed to a running career filled with sore hips and foot pain. Luckily, that didn't turn out to be the case!

When I woke up this morning, the first thing I heard was the wind. It was howling so loudly I thought, NO WAY am I getting up to run in this first thing. I knew I wanted to run today since my foot was feeling much better and I have a crazy schedule this week. But I figured I would put it off until lunchtime in the hopes that the wind would die down a bit. I even took the puppy for a walk first to get a sense of how strong it really was. And let me tell you, saying that it's "windy" doesn't even convey the strength that the wind is showcasing today. My poor basset hound's ears were permanently airborne on our fifteen minute walk and I could tell that I'd be battling the wind in every direction of my run. The wind had even managed to pick up the lid of my garbage can, tucked into an alcove next to my house, and blow it down the driveway and into the street. But I was hoping for the best.

So I looked at Barney the basset (who was sitting by the front door hoping for a second walk) and told him "Today is going to be an awesome run." Then I had to nudge him out of the way to get out the door. Attitude is everything, right?

As usual, the first five minutes weren't my favorite, but I knew I just had to settle into it and hang on. I had set my phone on 28 minutes and planned to look at it sparingly, focusing instead of how my body felt as I ran. Surprisingly, this has been much more effective than my previous five minute intervals plan. I didn't even look at the timer for the first six minutes, which would have been unthinkable six weeks ago. The wind didn't seem too bad on the first half either, mostly because it was at my back pushing me, and the smell of the sea air reminded me of why I love to run at the beach. Minus the wind, today was the perfect day to run!

The second half was a bit tougher, only because it was so windy I really thought I was running in place a few times. Once, my hat blew right off my head, and by the end of the run, the wind had wrapped my necklace around the wires of my headphones, almost strangling me. But despite those minor setbacks, my body felt good, only a little bit tired, and I was just so thrilled! I felt like I was really turning a corner today in my running career. Post-run, my foot is a bit sore again, so I'm definitely icing it, and today was warm enough that I was wishing for shorts - I wasn't sure I'd ever survive this winter to be able to say that! As if Champion was reading my mind, my new shorts arrived today in the mail while I was out running!

Speaking of my running career, today is also the day that I signed up for my first ever 5k! And there are no refunds, so barring any unforeseen illness or injury, I will be running in the 18th Annual River to Bay 5k on May 2nd in Island Heights, NJ. My key factor in picking this race (besides proximity) is that I will get a tee shirt. I think it's important to have a tee shirt to commemorate your first 5k. I mean, I still wear my Hamilton fencing tee shirt, and it's been more than ten years since I got it. I would wear my third place trophy if it wouldn't be entirely uncomfortable.

But anyway, I'm very excited and a bit nervous about the 5k, but I've had so much great feedback from my friends and family that I've got to believe I can do it! Now I've really got to get serious about my running!

To celebrate a great run today, I had a big glass of milk and a chocolate pudding when I got home. I've heard it's important to have some protein right after a run, so that's what I did. I'll be running here at home again Wednesday morning, but then Friday will mark the first time that I'm running out of town. I'll be attending the Legal Marketing Association's Annual Conference in National Harbor, Maryland from Wednesday to Friday night, so I'll have to run there. I think it's good practice, since I've never run anywhere but here, and obviously, I'll have to run somewhere else for my 5k. I'm driving down to the conference, so I'll have plenty of room for my sneaks and running clothes and I'm fairly sure that I'll be able to run outside there. Should be fun!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Too much thinking?

Week 7 is over, and it took me two days to get up the energy to write my post-run blog!  After Wednesday's run, Coach J told me I was thinking too much and that's what was causing all my running issues.  I'm more inclined to think it was injury, but he's the coach, so I decided to listen to him.  So when my alarm went off bright and early Friday morning, I put on my running clothes, pulled on my sneakers, grabbed my music and headed out.  I figured after my five minute warm up, I would put the timer on 25 minutes and just focus on running.  

That would have worked perfectly except for the pain in my foot, which slowed me down again and meant a couple of short walking breaks in the middle.  But I must admit that overall, the run was better than Wednesday's run - the weather was gorgeous, already 43 degrees when my alarm went off.  The sun was shining, and its warmth definitely made me happy to get out there and stretch my legs.  I could tell that despite the pain in my foot, the rest of my body was feeling good and getting stronger. So I was more frustrated about my foot than anything, and hoping that two recovery days would make the difference.  

I think my body knew that I was taking Saturday and Sunday off, because although I was hobbling around most of Friday and icing my foot, when I woke up Saturday morning, I was pain free!  Since then, I've felt a few twinges every once in a while, but I've taken a few walks with the puppy and run around doing errands, and it's felt pretty good.  So I'm hoping that when I head out tomorrow morning for my first 28-minute run that I'll be able to just run and enjoy it! 

So since this is supposed to be my "end of the week" post (even though it's really the beginning of week 8), let's take a look at what I've learned this week:

- A bad day running is better than a good day not running: It's official, I love running.  I never thought I'd say it, but there it is.  I'm thinking like a runner; I look at warm spring days as days I could be enjoying the weather by running; I'm even dreaming about running; I get excited about other runners' races and am focused on finding my first 5k, which I'm sure won't be my last.  I'm definitely hooked.  As one runner told me last week "I crave it." Despite my best efforts to have a lifelong hatred of running, I now understand what she means.

- I've actually inspired someone else to start running! A college friend started running on Sundays after reading my blogs and is now up to running 30 minutes at a time.  She's now fitting in runs during the week and thinking about a 5k in May.  I think she might be hooked too!  It's very cool to have motivated someone else to start running and it keeps me pushing myself further each time too.

- There's no better feeling than pushing your limits and surpassing them.  When I first started this journey from couch potato to 5k seven weeks ago, I wasn't looking past the first 60 seconds of running.  I suppose a part of me thought that I could run longer or I never would have tried the plan, but I've given up pretty easily a number of times before, so I didn't think far ahead enough to see myself running 25 minutes at a time (without a lot of breaks anyway).  Getting up to running 25 minutes, and tomorrow, 28 minutes, shows me that I can do more than I thought was possible.  I read a number of runners/triathletes' blogs and I talk to Coach J (I've linked to his twitter page so that I can help him build his "empire" of twitter followers) a lot and sometimes their level of training seems so intense and well beyond what I am possibly capable of.  But I used to think that 25 minutes of running was well beyond my capability too.  So I just keep going back to what Liz Waterstraat said "Do the work. It will pay off."  With that attitude, I know I'll be ready for the 18-mile LBI race in October!  And it looks like they've finally posted the 2009 race information. I'll let you know when I officially start panicking.

So tomorrow, it's on to 28 minute runs.  I've found a 5k in May that I'm looking at as my first race, since it looks like the Giants Draft Day 5k was cancelled for this year.  With a definite goal in mind, I'm starting to get excited and nervous about competing.  I've got another five weeks of training before I get there, so I know I'll be ready!  

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Running - 1; Lindsay - 0

Today, I learned about failure. Ugh.

I should clarify that I mean failure in terms of running. I know lots about other kinds of failure. But a real running failure was new to me. I've struggled somedays, but I've always gotten through it and finished the day's workout as indicated by the couch potato plan. But not today - as we on twitter like to say, I got the Fail Whale.

For all intents and purposes, today's run should have been great. When I woke up, it was only 16 degrees outside, so I decided to postpone to a lunch run instead. When I headed out, it was 46 degrees and beautiful - sunny, on the warmer side, only a little bit of wind headed in a northwesterly direction so I wouldn't face it on the tail end of my run. I'd found some new running friends on Twitter, and was reading their comments about running, what makes them runners and why they run (more on that later), and it was definitely inspiring me. I was excited to get out there, enjoy the weather and see how I had improved after two 25-minute days. My hip was a bit sore, so I iced it early, put some heat on it before I headed out, and it was feeling good. I still had the pain in my right foot, but I was planning to work through it.

So with optimism in hand, I put some new tunes on my playlist and headed out the door, ready to run!
Yeah, it was all downhill from there.

As soon as I started to run after my five minute warmup walk (and I mean the first running step I took), I knew it wasn't going to go well. My foot was really hurting, sending a message of pain every time it hit the pavement. Sometimes, that kind of thing will work itself out for me, so I figured I'd stick with it and see how it went. Unfortunately, it didn't get better and subconciously, I was compensating for it the whole run, so by the end, all the muscles in my right calf were in agony. During the first two minutes, I also felt like I was struggling to get enough air in. I focused on slowing myself down, which helped, but my chest still felt a bit tight. I kept telling myself that I always hate the first five minutes, so I should just hang in there, but this definitely felt different. I decided I would run the full 25 minutes, but that I'd break for a five minute walk in the middle. Knowing I was going to take a break was the only thing that made me run more than those first five minutes.

I must have been pushing myself harder than I realized, because I ran further than I ever have, despite trying to consciously slow myself down. Maybe my brain was telling my legs to hurry up, as if it would make the time tick by faster. At any rate, I got to run right by my little beach area which helped to cheer me up and after 12:30, I slowed to a walk. That's when I realized how tight and sore my hip really was.

It's a bit hard to describe my hip trouble, because it sort of has two parts - the first, and most annoying, is the bursitis, which affects the outside of my upper thigh. It's not really in the hip, because the hip joint is more central, but basically, as says:

"A bursa is a fluid filled sac that allows smooth motion between two uneven
surfaces. For example, in the hip, a bursa rests between the bony prominence
over the outside of the hip (the greater trochanter) and the firm tendon that
passed over this bone. When the bursal sac becomes inflamed, each time the
tendon has to move over the bone, pain results."
The bursitis started when I was in college, from repeated lunging during my short-lived and rather unmemorable fencing career (I do keep my third place trophy in my office though and pretend it means more than best three out of five fencers, when two had never fenced sabre before). It comes and goes, and the more active I am, the more it bothers me. But physical therapy started to make it worse, so I mostly manage it with Advil, ice, heat and yoga. It normally doesn't affect my running too much, though running affects it, so even though that's what I was icing/heating this morning, I knew it wouldn't slow me down much.

The second type of pain is more in my hip joint, and involves my hip flexor - that's where my tendonitis is (BTW can I just say how much I love having hip problems at 29? It makes me feel like a senior citizen!). Reading about it now, apparently it generally happens to people who do a lot of forceful kicking. Hmm. That's not really me, so I wonder how I actually ended up with this injury. I guess I'm just special.
But anyway, I've done all of the things that are supposed to make it go away, from icing to anti-inflammatories, to stretching to limiting physical activities, even as far as getting a cortizone shot there - painful, but worth it! And today, it just seemed to be back with a vengeance. As soon as I stopped running and started walking, I could feel how short my stride was on that side, because my hip flexors were so tight. It ached enough to cause a limp, but not so much I had to stop running altogether. The five minutes of walking helped, and my stubborn self told me I could finish that last 12:30.

It was a struggle, let me tell you, and I was so disappointed when I finished. Everything hurt, and I was so slow at the end, that I wasn't even worn out. I was thisclose to crying. And that's why I think running is such a social activity - because you need people around to help pick you up when you fall. I posted a message on Twitter, and within moments, had a number of messages that cheered me up. MissIve told me "I have A LOT OF THOSE. I've found it's all about the hips. If you let them lead, rather than your feet, much smoother." SKDickey told me "It happens to us all..doesn't make it feel any better, but you're not alone." And Kimokali reminded me "sorry you had a bad run today, but you ran, and that's good." It's good to know that everyone has bad days, and that bad days are just experiences to learn something so that it's better the next time.
So now, I'm icing my hip and my foot, feeling less mad at myself, and looking forward to Friday. And because I'll want to look back at this post someday, and remember why I run in the first place, I'll talk a little bit about what runners think makes somebody a "runner" and why they run. SmellyCents asked everyone this morning to define "runners" and there were some great responses:

@27marathoner: "a runner lives for their next run, automatically tracks mileage even when driving and is always competing..." (Oh good, I thought I was the only one tracking mileage)

@LadyMeouw: "Running is a matter of testing your own limits and overcoming them over and over again."

Coach J: "A runner is an individual who through a repeated pattern 'running' challenges themselves physically and mentally"

@wiremanart: "A runner takes each day in stride, and with each stride they grow stronger." Also "To the non-runner running is frivolous and exhaustive pastime, to a runner it's a way of life."

@biscuiterie: "When I'm driving, I think, I can run this, I should be running this."

@jharpold: "To me, a runner is someone who runs and is not being chased!" (I agree.)

@runnrgrl: "To me, a runner defies expectations with every step. even their own" (This one I should remember, since although I had a tough day, I'm still running more than I ever expected to!)

@hadzip: "Somebody who seriously debates whether to fit in an interval workout while feeling sicker and sicker 26 days before Boston."

So I wanted to know WHY people run:
@PattyGale: "I run..I don't compete, except for local 5K's. It clears my head, keeps me fit and it feels good."

@jasondouglas: "To get in shape/improve overall health, prove I can, meet new people, expand my interests/try something new"

@robburnsetc: "I run to get back to where I started in the quickest time possible." (Ha ha)

@jazzwerewolf: "enjoyment, challenge, fitness, social aspect and the views at the top of the hills" (Love that)

@frozentriette: "I lrned to run last yr - was told in hghschool I didn't hv an athletic bone in my bdy I run bc I LOVE it & bc I can. I crave it." (I am getting there...)

@jaredpsmith: "best stress relief avail. plus after a run you feel amazing mentally and physically! It's a healthy form of competition"

So for anyone having a tough day running, or thinking about starting running, as Linus says in A Charlie Brown Christmas "Those are some good reasons!"

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Training Wheels are Off

Only two weeks left to go in the couch potato plan, and the training wheels have come off (according to Coach J)! No more walking breaks and intervals - just straight running.  This week, I'm running 25 minutes Monday/Wednesday/Friday and for the first time, I wasn't nervous the night before, just tired.

I'll probably mention being tired a few times in this post because it's all I can think about today.  I've been getting a reasonable amount of sleep lately (certainly more than all the new moms I know!), but it's still been less than I need and it's finally caught up with me.  So I am very tired.

Normally, I don't mind running tired.  As I've said before, I'm fairly crabby when I wake up.  I may be a lot of things, but a morning person isn't one of them.  And I've found that forcing my grouchy self to get out of bed, grumbling while putting on my running clothes, growling my way through brushing my teeth, squinting in the early morning sun, and heading out for a run actually helps me shed the crabbiness and become human.  Almost better than coffee!

So this morning, when my alarm went off, I groaned, but I made myself get up.  But first, I dilly-dallied a little.  I opened one eye and checked my email.  I looked at Facebook and updated my status.  I checked Twitter and posted a tweet.  I opened my other eye.  I stretched my body to make sure nothing was sore.  Then I couldn't delay anymore.  I could see it was sunny outside, so I peeked at the temperature.  A balmy 27 degrees.  Ugh.

But I got out of bed and bundled up.  I was so tired that I felt a little bit dizzy, so I shook it off and told myself that the run would improve my mood and it would all be worth it.  Plus, Coach J left me a message to "suck it up," so I couldn't get out of it!  Heading out, it was certainly brisk for my warmup walk.  Once again, I was reminded that running will be much better when the temperature rises a little.  And I'm sure I'll be complaining when it's too hot in a few months, so hopefully the perfect in-between weather will last longer this year!  

The wind was blowing south again, so I would be facing it on the tail-end of my run - delightful.  I thought about setting the timer for 25 minutes, but decided against it and kept up with my five five-minute intervals.  The first half of the run was okay, and I wasn't really hurting until around the fifteen minute mark - definitely progress!  The last six minutes were the toughest though, and I really had to hang in there. I wonder what the drivers must think as they pass me.  I did see two runners this weekend, whose running style was strange enough that it made me feel better about my own pace.  One girl ran with her arms hanging down the entire time - my body just won't let me do that!  A man I saw running hunched his shoulders up with each step and I'm not entirely sure he ever actually lifted his feet off the ground!  It was more of a jogging slide.  It made me laugh, but I've never seen myself run, so maybe I look like he does!  I certainly hope not!

At the end of my run, I wasn't sure I was going to make it until there were only two minutes left, but I finished strong and felt pretty good.  Of course, it was cold enough that my quads were numb, so that helped.  But even after a few hours, my usual aches and pains weren't showing up.  I could feel my hamstrings tightening up, so I'll definitely need my yoga tomorrow, but otherwise, even my hips were feeling good!  And I love feeling the run in my muscles - it means I've pushed my body to work hard, which is a rewarding feeling.  I do have a new pain in my foot which is not rewarding, but that's just another hurdle to get past, one more thing to learn to heal.  

But despite having a good run, I was still battling a case of the Mondays today.  So I guess running doesn't cure everything!  I'll just have to hope for good weather and an even better run on Wednesday - going back to running the same pattern three days a week is great, because I can really see myself improve and feel the run getting easier.  And a couple of good nights of sleep should do wonders for me!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Rain, rain go away!

Today, I find myself at the end of week 7, still in this limbo of feeling like I've been running forever and not running at all. With only six workouts to go in the couch potato plan until I'm running nine miles a week, my head is still telling me that three miles is SO LONG to run in one workout. Nevermind that I'm fairly close to that already! This week, I need to track my miles as well as my minutes, I think - then I can really start beating myself up for missing any benchmarks!

This morning's workout called for 25 minutes of running and I was much less nervous about it than I had been about last Friday's 20 minutes. I still can't believe that was only a week ago! When the alarm went off this morning, I seriously debated staying in bed. I just feel like I'm dragging this week, and one look at my iPhone's weather application told me it was rainy and cold outside. I guess the weather didn't get the memo that today is the first day of spring! But I knew that running would cure my grouchiness and wake me up, and I actually wanted to get out there (and not just because I wanted to get that 25-minute run out of the way). Hmm. It turns out Coach J is right about me being an athlete. Go figure. If I didn't like running so much, I might be mad about proving him right.

It certainly wasn't as nice outside as Wednesday had been - 34 degrees, windy, and lightly raining. There was definitely a time when that would have been a sign to me that I was supposed to skip the morning's workout, but those days are long behind me (I hope!). Instead, I bundled up (-ish anyway, I was wearing more than a tee shirt), put in my headphones and headed out. I realized almost right away that I'd be facing the wind coming back, which is always tough, but I tried not to think about it as I settled into my pace.

I did have to think about the rain however. Even though it was only drizzling, it had obviously been raining for a while, because there were big puddles everywhere. It was starting to look like my regularly flooding backyard out there! I knew from Coach J that I should avoid the puddles, because wet sneakers are heavier and I certainly don't need anything to make my runs MORE difficult. But within the first five minutes, it was unavoidable that I had to splash through two of them, as cars and a lack of sidewalks kept me hugging the bike path. Fortunately, they weren't too deep, so it didn't weigh me down too much, but I thought it was ironic that I would get my shoes wet right in the beginning of my longest run ever.

Like last week, I used the trick of breaking the run down into five-minute intervals, so I was really only running five five-minute intervals. It sounds silly, but as long as you don't lost track of what interval you're on, it's much easier to watch a 5 minute countdown than a 25 minute one! I actually hated the first five minutes a little bit less today than usual, but progressively hated each five-minute block more and more. Each time it would get towards the end of the five minute interval, I would feel great. But as soon as I saw that five minutes start up again, I felt defeated. When I finished 20 minutes, I was actually wishing that my run ended there - who would have guessed that I believed I would barely make it through 20 minutes last Friday, and this Friday, I was considering that easy? (Well, easy-ish, let's not go crazy here).

I pushed myself again at the end to run as fast as I could for the last ten seconds, and finishing the run strong made me feel great. I was still too tired to be in a celebratory mood though and thought a nap looked very promising. But besides having to work, I thought it wouldn't be adviseable to wake up, run, and go right back to bed!

So, because it's Friday, it's time for me to look at what I've learned this week:

- On days I don't run, I'm much crabbier. Like, the whole day. Even though my body is tired, and I really like recovery days, my mood suffers when I'm not running. Coach J says this makes me an athlete, but I think it makes me surprised. Even more surprising, I don't have any desire to quit running when the couch potato program is finished and I'm already worrying about obstacles that might keep me from running (like eventually being pregnant, though I'm not even married yet!). I probably should just worry about finding a 5k I can do in April. One with tee-shirts.

- My leg muscles are showing up! After seven weeks, I can really see and feel a difference in my leg muscles. That, plus my ability to run longer distances now, shows me some real progress in this whole endeavor. It's very exciting, since my legs have never been my favorite body part, and I think they will be soon! Plus, after watching a rather creepy episode of Criminal Minds the other night, it occurred to me that I could run away from any criminal chasing me for a solid 25 minutes. Made me feel immediately safer.

- Running has made me want to eat better, but I still have a serious sweet tooth. I find I'm really thinking about what I eat now and focused on making sure I get enough protein. I'm not sure I really notice a difference on days when I'm not as vigilant, but I'm guessing that it's more of an "over time" thing anyway. But today, I am really craving sugar. It could just be because I'm out of brownies.

- My body benefits from physical exertion every single day. Not just on running days. When I started the couch potato plan, I really thought I could just do the plan three days a week, and laze around the other days. Unfortunately, my body really suffers when I do that. This week, I ran on Sunday, and then skipped yoga and stretching on Monday and Tuesday because of my schedule and my migraine. I really believe that missing yoga is what made Wednesday's run so tough. I did 90 minutes of yoga last night, and even though it kicked my butt and I thought my body would be hurting this morning, today's run was better than Wednesday's. I know I've said it before, but taking recovery days seriously makes every run easier.

So now, the scary stuff begins, because as of Monday, there are officially no more walking breaks in the plan. I will be running 25 minutes MWF next week and I hope I see 25 minutes of running as "easy" by next Friday. But first, I need a nap...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I'm a RUNNER, not a quitter

Today's run sucked. I know, my mom doesn't like that word, but it's the only one that really describes how not-well today's run went. It was sucky.

I wasn't even sure I wanted to run today when I got up this morning. Yesterday, I had the worst migraine I've had in a while - it started the night before and woke me up off and on until I was lucid enough at 4:45am to take some Excedrin. After about three hours of real sleep, a shower and some more Excedrin, followed by the biggest frappuccino Starbucks makes, my headache was gone - always a good thing. But, as migraine sufferers know, the headache is only part of the deal, and I had to contend with a general feeling of yuckiness for the rest of the day. So this morning, I still had a bit of a residual headache and blah feeling. I wasn't planning to run until after I'd gotten back home from north Jersey and running does make me feel better generally, but running after a migraine? Uh, not so much.

But on the drive home, the weather was just so beautiful that I didn't want to waste it. It's 64 degrees here and sunny - perfect running weather! I was feeling much better, so I threw on my running clothes and decided I would head out around three. I was even happy to put on my sneakers (seriously, who is this person??). But as I sat at my desk, I realized that although the thermometer says 64, it was pretty windy, which made my house a bit chilly (since I had all the windows open). So I grabbed a fleece and threw some sweatpants on over my running tights, and I was STILL cold! I know, I know, this is even weirder after I called 45 degrees tee-shirt weather the other day. I don't understand it either.

I knew running would warm me up though, so I was happy to head out, sans sweatpants. I kept on the fleece and did my five minute warm up, feeling pretty good in the sun. Then the running started - today, two ten-minute intervals with three minutes of walking in the middle. Manageable, right? I even thought about doing a little slow-motion backwards running, as per Miss Ive, though she's asked me to videotape this when I do it, so I have to wait for someone to be around to act as videographer. Any chuckling I got from that thought went out of my mind though as I started running, because it all quickly fell apart.

First, my ankle hurt, like I had tweaked it a little. This has never happened to me before, so I paused for a minute (seconds, really, for those of you worried I only ran nine minutes), rolled it around, and kept going. I wondered if it was the same ankle I'd sprained falling down the stairs after my comp sci final in college (a story made far funnier by my attempts to crawl back to my dorm so as not to miss any Devils playoff hockey, only to have to be carried to a friend's car by two of my classmates who took pity on me. Plus, I only saw the last few minutes because my friend insisted we stop for ice first. Priorities, people!). Once I got past the first five minutes, my ankle seemed to sort itself out and felt fine. But it occurred to me that I actually hate the first five minutes of running. I can do about two, and then, I feel tired. And I want to stop. I don't stop, but I want to. And the rest of my interval seems to stretch endlessly ahead of me, unless it is actually only five minutes. It doesn't matter that I've done it before, and run longer, because it just feels like I won't make it.

But, as the title of my post suggests, I'm a runner! Not a quitter.

That's where having a prescribed program comes in handy. If I just went out and said, "hey I'm going to run today," I would stop after two minutes and think, "Woo! THAT was hard." I'd never push myself at all. And I'd never get past that five minute mark, which would mean I always would hate running. But miracle of miracles, I don't hate it, even after today's sucky run (there's that word again Mom!).

So I made it through the first five minutes and was feeling a bit more tired than usual, as if I was running on a full stomach (which I wasn't). And then, my old nemesis showed up.

The wind.

The good news? It was blowing north, so I only had it for the first half of my run. The bad news? It was so strong, I swear I was running in place at one point. Seriously. I mean, I'm slow, but I never run in place. I'm all about getting somewhere.

Somehow, I managed to make it further than I've ever run though, so I must have been pushing myself harder at some point during the run, in addition to running against the wind (cue Bob Seger...). I actually made it to the beach near my house (probably at least a mile and a half away) and all I wanted to do was lie down on the sand for a minute. I didn't. But I really wanted to.

Instead, I walked my three minutes, turning around about a minute into it to head back. I was really feeling tired after those first ten minutes and had a cramp nudging me in the side. That's the other reason I don't like running in the afternoon, even with this beautiful weather. First thing in the morning, the most I've eaten is a banana. It's tougher after breakfast and lunch, even with a long break in between lunch and running. I thought the three minute walking break would help.

Not so much.

I started my second ten-minute interval, and my legs were nice and warmed up. They felt great, minus the usual knee pain and tightness in my left hip, which I figure are pretty much a given. I was pretty excited because usually my legs don't feel that strong during a run. But immediately, my side cramp started up again. Not too bad, just enough to let me know it was there. Awesome.

That's when I became a serious clock watcher. I didn't look for the first two minutes, and thought, I've definitely only got eight minutes left. Checked it - I was right! But then I was checking every fifteen seconds, sure that thirty or forty seconds had passed already. Ugh - worst way to run. But I was really struggling. People on bikes gave me a wide berth. Cars let me go first if they were turning because they could see how serious I was. Finally, "Let it Rock" came on my iPhone, and I actually said "Thank you" out loud, because I knew it would get me through the final three minutes.





And I wanted to stop (well, part of me did). But a bigger part of me (the part that knows I have to run 25 minutes on Friday) knew that I could do it, and that I wanted to do it. I'm a runner, not a quitter, after all. So I finished the two intervals, and even pushed myself to run as fast as my poor body could go in the last ten seconds. My legs hurt. My stomach hurt. My lungs hurt. I could swear I tasted blood in my mouth. Even my arms hurt and what was I really using them for? But I felt great! I was so glad I'd run today when it's so beautiful out (minus the wind), and happy that I'd pushed myself. We all know I will eventually have to stop taking walking breaks and just run, and I won't get there if I cut myself too much slack. (Wow, I'm tougher on myself than Coach J - fortunately, he's more about the pep talks than scolding!)

As usual though, it was motivating to finish the run/walk set out by the couch potato plan, which I'm almost at the end of, by the way - only seven workouts left! I just read in there that I could have repeated weeks in the program if I wanted to. It's probably a good thing that I didn't see that before today, or I'd be back in week five. Or four. Instead, I'm almost to the end of week 7, which feels so, so good. I even felt good enough after being home for a few minutes that I wished I'd been out there longer (not sucky running, but good running).

Wanting to run LONGER?!?

Loving the feeling of putting my sneakers on?!?

I could feel the desire to run creeping over me as I drove home today. So weird, but also good. Definitely don't recognize this side of myself, but I don't miss my couch potato self! Who would have guessed? I'm a runner after all.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Every run is different

So today is the beginning of week 7 and it feels both like it's gone so quickly, and like I've been doing this forever. On this morning's run, I was back to intervals, running five minutes, walking three, running eight, walking three and running five more. Since I'd run a full 20 minutes on Friday, I was thinking of this as an "easy" run (at least for me - Coach J ran 85 minutes one day last week, then went out for an easy 6-mile run later the same day, so I guess it's all about perspective). But it turned out that I was going to learn another lesson about running - every run is different. Since I skipped the "What I learned this week" on Friday, I'll give you my lessons today:

- As I said, "Every run is different" - Although I'd run 20 minutes and felt great on Friday, today's run felt tougher most of the way through. That's because I was running under different conditions - my body is still tired and sore from Friday, so it took longer to warm up my muscles. The weather was a chilly 45 degrees, so it was just between the "wear a fleece" and "just wear a tee shirt" temperature. I chose the tee shirt, which meant I was cold all during my warm up walk. So every day I run is going to be different, based on how my body feels, how I've been taking care of it on recovery days, what I've been eating, what the weather is like, how windy it is, etc. As soon as I realized that this morning, I mentally gave myself a break and was able to get through the intervals just fine. Good thing it only took me seven weeks to realize this.

- I really love the feeling of accomplishment I get from longer runs. Running 20 straight minutes on Friday for the first time in my life (sad, I know, but true) was a great feeling! It showed me in such a concrete way that if I put my mind to something, and put the work in, I can do anything. I love the exhausted, sick, sweaty feeling I have by the end of a run (seriously!), because it means I really accomplished something. And I'm actually starting to like running during the running intervals (instead of just afterwards), which is a first.

- I'm tougher than I thought I was. Last week, pretty much right through Friday morning, I really, really, really, really didn't think I was going to be able to run 20 minutes without taking a break. When I thought about it in an abstract way, like "oh yeah, I'll just run for 20 minutes," I thought it was possible. But when I ran on Wednesday, and the two eight-minute intervals felt like forever, and as I was running on Friday, and I really didn't know if my body could handle 20 minutes, I just wasn't sure. Getting through that made me realize how tough (both physically and mentally) I can be.

- I can't wait until 20 minutes is an easy run for me. I built it up so much, like it was SUCH a long time to run, that it seems laughable in the face of other people's ability to run long distances. So I can't wait until I'm heading out for easy six mile runs. Someday...

Back to today's run - when I woke up this morning, my body was sore, I was exhausted and it wasn't even that early. I really wanted to put off the run until tomorrow morning, but I know it will be a busy day and I don't want to get derailed. I'm glad I got up and pushed myself, and already my body feels less sore and tired. This Friday, I face 25 minutes of straight running. I really want to whine and complain about it, but now I know I can do it, so I can't get away with that! Plus, I might be starting to love running. Just a little. Let's not get too excited.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Today, I am a runner!


Yeah, so I had to put that all in capitals and big letters, because I'm VERY excited that I did it! Where better to yell that out than on the internet? Especially since most of my neighbors don't know about my journey to "runner," so they might just think I'm a little weird.

As you may know, the couch potato plan called for me to run 20 minutes without stopping today. Until today, my longest running interval had been eight minutes (on Wednesday), which felt like a lot to me. So I'd been dreading the 20 minutes since I found out on Monday. Both my coach and another triathlete told me that I could do it, and should think about it as four five-minute intervals. But still. I was freaking out.

So I stretched extra. A lot, in fact. And I took Advil in the morning and before I went to bed to ease any soreness. I drank lots of water. I ate protein. I thought about downloading the Chariots of Fire theme, as suggested by my best friend, but thought it might encourage me to run in slow motion (not that you'd know the difference). I tried not to think about it.

I tried not to think about it all day yesterday. I tried not to think about it during yoga. I tried not to think about it while watching Grey's Anatomy. I tried not to think about it while trying to fall asleep. I wasn't that successful.

So this morning when my alarm went off, I pretended it was like all my other workouts. I put on my running clothes and put in my contacts. I laced up my sneaks and put on my headphones. I got out my gloves, because my dad had texted me to say it was cold and windy. Yes, that's right. Not only did I have to battle my own fear of failure and of running, but I had to deal with the cold and wind again. I figured I might as well get it over with! Plus, at 30 degrees, I figured it was alerady ten degrees warmer than some of my other runs.

I started out with my five minute warm-up and told myself that I'd do it five minutes at a time. It definitely was chilly out, but I'd dressed appropriately, so I knew I was ready. Then, it was time to run.

The first five minutes were tough. My knee always starts to hurt as soon as I pick up the pace, and my mind tells me "Ah, see, you can't do it!" But I yelled at myself (not out loud) and kept going. I told myself it was only for five minutes, while the little voice in the back of my head said "No, it's 20 you fool." But I knew that if I ever wanted to run in a 5k, I had to be able to run this 20 minutes. And if Coach J, my twitter friend, and the Couch Potato Plan thought I could do it, it probably was possible. Probably.

The next five minutes were okay. I'd run eight minutes on Wednesday, so I just kept telling myself that it was only a little bit more than that, and I would soon be turning around to head back. The wind started to pick up, which was not fun, so I turned around with about 45 seconds left to go, thinking that the wind would be at my back.

Not so much.

It was even worse heading the other way and that felt defeating. But I kept slogging along at my slow pace because I really wanted to run 20 minutes without stopping or walking. I prayed that the wind would die down and it did! So then it was just me against myself.

The third five minutes were good. I was more than halfway through, and although I was tired, I hung in there. The wind eventually died down and I was thinking about finishing strong.

But I still had to get through the last five minutes. And those were tough! I had a bit of a stitch in my side, though my knee seemed to feel fine again (thank you Advil!), and I was just tired. But so many people knew about my quest for 20 minutes that I could not picture coming back home and saying that I hadn't made it. I had to at least try.

When I hit the 2:30 mark, I knew I would make it. Only 1/8th the way to go? No problem! Short of getting hit by a car, I was going to finish running. And I'm sure the determined look on my face kept all of the cars far, far away. I even forced myself to run as hard as I could for the last ten seconds, which by that time, was not very fast. But I was so proud of myself - I did it!

I did it!

So I guess that makes me a runner now. I know a few people have said it to me already, but today, I really feel like a runner. I ran about two miles without stopping for the first time in my life! I am so excited! I am so proud! I am so...tired!

But I can't rest on my laurels, since I still have that pesky 5k to worry about at the end of April and the 18-mile LBI run in October. Now, I can't wait until I think of 20 minutes as a quick easy run instead of the hurdle of a lifetime!

Next week, I am changing up my schedule again, starting on Sunday instead of Monday because I am going to the premiere of "Brothers at War" on Monday. And Gary Sinise will be there. Seriously. Lindsay Gump and Lt. Dan in the same place - excellent!

And yes, I know I won't be at the premiere the whole day, but I like running at the beach, so I'd rather stick to my familiar place right now and switch up my days. So it's Sunday/Wednesday/Friday next week and I'm back to intervals. Sunday will be 5/8/5 running, Wednesday is two 10-minute intervals, and then Friday I have to run for 25 minutes without walking. One of my twitter friends told me that now that I know I can do it, I'll be able to do it all the time, since it's all mental. Now that I've done the 20 minutes, I think that might just be right!
So, one more time...


Now I might just have to make some brownies to reward myself...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Two eight-minute intervals: OWNED!

Well, it's a good thing I'm stubborn, because sheer force of will is the only thing that got me through the second interval today. When I woke up, it was gray and dark (thank you daylight savings!) and I absolutely wanted to stay in bed and continue sleeping. But I wanted to get my eight minute interval over with. I say "interval" because when I got up, I believed I was supposed to be running 5 minutes, walking, 8 minutes, walking, and five minutes again. Fortunately, I checked because I actually was supposed to be running two eight-minute intervals, with five minutes of walking in between. In the words of the cartoon, Cathy, "Ack!"

I kept telling myself I would nail the intervals, and I set off for my warm up walk. As I set the timer on my phone to eight minutes, I promised myself that on Friday, I would only set it to five minutes and just repeat that four times to meet my 20 minute mark. I think if I had to look at the timer counting down from 20, it would just be too depressing. Both Coach J, and my Twitter friend @kimokali said to look at it as running five minutes four times. Hopefully, that works, because let me tell you, my second eight-minute interval this morning was tough. And that was with a five minute walking break!

But all whining aside, the first eight minutes went a lot better than I thought they would. It was pretty warm when I got up (45 degrees) and the wind wasn't too big of a factor for a change. I felt pretty strong, though my legs still feel tight after two days of stretching and yoga. I may start to do some light yoga on my running days too, just to really stretch out my legs. And knowing that I'll be running for 20 straight minutes on Friday is a good motivator to try to finish strong with two eight-minute intervals. Tune in Friday to see how the 20 minutes goes. If you don't hear from me, please send someone to scrape my poor body off the side of Bayshore Drive here in Barnegat. Tell them to bring ice and Advil. And maybe some brownies...

Monday, March 9, 2009

Here's comes the Annual Fear of Failure marathon!!

And week 5 begins! After yesterday's time change, I was worried that it would be dark outside this morning when I got up to run. Fortunately, it was fairly light and just misty - the kind of misty day that covers the island, so the bay looks like the sea. The perfect setting for a murder mystery novel! And a pretty good day to run too, since it was warmer when I got up than it is now. The time change had made it tough to fall and stay asleep, so I was pretty grouchy when my alarm went off at 7, which is saying a lot, since I'm not a morning person generally. But I forced myself to get up and run, because I figured that it would put me in a better mood and at least the rush of endorphins would help. It was a good thing I did, because it worked!

Today's workout was three 5-minute intervals, with 3 minute walking breaks. Since I'd already been running five minute intervals all last week, I knew I'd be up for it. I felt great at the end of the three intervals, a bit sore of course, but loving the tight exhaustion in my quads. I get a daily email from a social media guru I know, full of reporter queries, and he just got back to running yesterday after taking a hiatus because of anke injuries. His comments made me crack up - "I felt really, really, really good. Until the endorphins wore off. Ankles, though, are fine. Quads fell out of my legs yesterday afternoon, I think they're hiding under the couch. But that said, it's still so nice to be back." So I guess once you're hooked on this, you just learn to manage the pain so you can keep running! Fortunately, since my first run, my muscles have actually felt pretty great, just used for a change!

I was feeling pretty confident when I got home, and checked this week's couch potato plan just to make sure I was on schedule. That's when I found out that a) I'm supposed to run 5 and 8 minute intervals on Wednesday and b) I'm supposed to run 20 straight minutes on Friday.

Um, WHAT?!

Five minutes is about my limit as it is! I always figured I would push myself (obviously, or how to do I plan to run a 5k, let alone 18 miles!). I just thought it would come later, like closer to week 9. And I think it's weird I then go back to 5 and 8 minute intervals on Monday again. I thought I might have entered it into Outlook incorrectly, so I checked the plan online. And there it was in black and white: "Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog two miles (or 20 minutes) with no walking."

NO walking?!? Not even a little bit?

I'm dreading this already. And after my mind over matter comments, I know that I need to work on not psyching myself out. But I'm actually a little scared. Even running the mile in high school and college, when I hit my excellent 16 and 12 minute times, I walked some of it (all right, stop laughing, it's really not that funny). I don't think I've ever run 20 consecutive minutes IN MY LIFE. I guess this is where they separate the men from the boys. Am I serious about wanting to be a runner or not?


But I'm still a little afraid. So we'll take it one workout at a time. Wednesday, I have to run an 8-minute interval, which, in light of the 20 minutes on Friday, seems incredibly do-able. So I'll start with that. And I'm already getting some positive encouragement for Friday, with my sister telling me in no uncertain terms "YOU CAN DO IT!!!" O-kay, I certainly hope so, because I still want to cry a little bit. We'll see what Friday brings...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood

Yesterday was a beautiful day to go running!  I didn't get up at the crack of dawn, since it was Saturday, so by the time I headed out around nine, it was already in the sixties!  It made me realize how ready I am for the nicer weather to get and stay here!  Yesterday was one of those days when the smell of the ocean is really strong, so I was reminded of my summers at the beach as a kid and how great it is to live in my little coastal town.  Ironically, I felt very lucky that snow had nixed my running earlier in the week so that I could go out yesterday and run!

Friday and Saturday were my first back-to-back running days and I learned that I do really need at least one recovery day in between runs still.  My body didn't feel as heavy as it had on Friday, but my right leg was definitely bothering me right from my first interval, from shin splints to my knee to what felt like shin splints in my thigh bone.  Since it's just my right leg, I have to believe that I'm overcompensating for the bursitis/tendonitis in my left hip, so I'll have to keep an eye on that.  After all my talk about the power of positive thinking, I kept up an encouraging running commentary in my head, telling myself that I could make it through each interval and finish strong.  I was definitely hurting by the time I got home though, so I'm glad to have today to rest!  Last night, I took a much-needed hot bath to relax my muscles and focused on massaging and stretching my legs, so today, I'm feeling better.

Today's weather is also beautiful, so I headed to the beach with my puppy, who's had a limp of his own for a few weeks and has been sequestered in the house because of it.  He loves all the beach  smells, so I packed him up in the car and headed up the road, which also gave me the chance to measure the distance that I run in the morning.  It looks like I'm running/walking about 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 miles!  The puppy and I ran a bit up and down the beach (not too much because of his leg, and because he's a basset hound, so his endurance levels are actually lower than mine).  It's only a short stretch of beach here, but it made me think that in the summer, I could drive to the island and run on the sand when I really want to punish myself.  I can only imagine how that will kick my butt, but I'm sure it's got to be great to run by the water, especially in the early morning in the summer!

So now it's time for my weekly recap of what I've learned from week four!  

- A bad day of running doesn't stop me from liking it overall.  In four weeks, I'm already feeling stronger, proud of myself for sticking with the couch potato plan, and more capable of running in a 5k (in April, let's not get ahead of ourselves), and eventually, the 18 mile LBI run!  All of those benefits, plus increased endorphins, far outweigh my previous dislike of running, and it seems that running now helps to make me happier.  Who knew.

- I still need at least one recovery day to get my body back to where it needs to be to effectively run my intervals, and I can't take recovery lightly.  Stretching, massage and yoga are just as essential to helping me run as a good pair of sneakers, so I can't blow them off.  I can't imagine how I would have felt yesterday if I hadn't taken the time to stretch and massage my legs on Friday.

- Nutrition is also key to running, even more so than I'd thought, and making sure I get enough protein isn't as painful as I thought it would be.  I like thinking about the way food can be used to fuel my body, which is a much healthier way of thinking.  And it turns out there are a lot of proteins out there that I like already.  I've eaten about 35 grams of protein today already!

- Weather has an impact on running, but it doesn't have to put a huge damper in my plans.  Whenever I'd tried an outside exercise program before (running, walking, whatever), bad weather was always a reason to skip a day, and then put the kibosh on the whole workout.  In the past, I would have let something like the foot of snow we had on Monday keep me from running until it had almost all melted, i.e. Friday or Saturday.  But because I have people pushing me and rooting for me, I made myself get out there on Wednesday and I realized that I could safely run on the bike paths.  Who knew?  Similarly, I would have let a rainy day stop me from getting out and running.  I haven't had to face one yet, but with rain forecasted for at least two of my running days this week, I know it's only a matter of time.  And I actually want to stick to the plan and run anyway! 

- I've always known that positive thinking is important, but never have I seen it illustrated as well as when I run.  I can actually feel a change in my body when I switch my thinking from "Ugh, I am NEVER going to make it.  My body hurts.  I'm too tired.  I can't do this!" to "You CAN do this!  You'll feel great when you finish this interval.  Finish strong!"  That's been invaluable to me this week, helping me to be excited about ramping up to the next week's workouts instead of dreading them.  Well, mostly.  But, when I first started the couch potato program, I never thought I'd be able to run for 5 minutes at a time and now I can.  As long as I do the work, I see improvement, so I know that there will come a time when I can run a 5k.  And then an 18-mile run.  And even improve on my times!

So this week, it looks like I'm up to only five minute intervals (did I really just write "only??"), with three minutes of walking in between.  This, I can do!  Even scarier?  Last night, I had a dream that I was running.  My biggest worry was that I didn't have a way to time myself for my interval, but I decided I would keep running anyway.  Oh man...

Friday, March 6, 2009

Mind Over Matter

Liking running changes everything. Now I can't moan and groan when I get out of bed to go for a run. I can't want to give up after the first three minute interval. I can't think, well, forty degrees is warmer than it has been, but it could be better and doesn't my cozy bed look good?

Well, I can think those things, but it turns out that I do it less and they don't kill my motivation like they used to.

Take this morning's run for example. I've been eating more protein for the past two days (not as terrible as I thought), had a good yoga class last night, made sure to stretch and massage my legs, and it was forty degrees and sunny when my alarm went off. So, dare I say it, I was actually *looking forward* to getting outside and running this morning. Gasp. But the run today was tough and I have no idea why. My body felt very heavy and blah, it was still windy as it is EVERY day, and I was still a bit tired. The best part though? I actually still liked running. I liked pushing myself through the intervals and finding my best pace. I love the feeling I get at the end of a run when I've accomplished the morning's goal. I've felt so much stronger this week and that's really exciting. When I stretched my legs this morning as I got out of bed, I saw some muscle that hadn't been there before - all that in just three and a half weeks?? It was enough to make me sing during my post-run shower! Let's hope I feel this good after a back-to-back run tomorrow!

After my run, I read a blog post by Elizabeth Waterstraat about "finding your faith." Since she puts it much better than I would:
"Find your faith. You’re sitting at the end of a hard workout wondering if you can do it. Can you? Find your faith. Believe you can. Why not? Really - what is the risk? If you give it a try and blow up, you found your answer = not yet. Keep working. If you give it a try and succeed then you have yet another personal success story to store in your files. Neither lesson can be learned until you have the faith to try. The faith that just maybe you can do it so it is worth a try. If you try and fail, then find your faith that the next time you’ll do the right thing or the better thing. Faith in yourself that the next time you’ll try. Faith that all of these experiences day to day, both good and bad, will add up to an improvement in the future. Faith that what I do will count. That even when I struggle it serves a purpose. Or that when I make the wrong choice that serves a purpose too."

That's what I've been doing all along - finding my faith. Just putting one foot in front of the other, and believing that each run, I will improve, even if it's just a little bit. Knowing that even days when I have a tough run, it serves a purpose. Pushing myself to eke out the last minute of each interval (especially those five minute ones), believing that I just might be able to do it, and then achieving that. In my last couple of runs, during the last fifteen seconds of each interval, I've opened up from my snail's pace to a speed that human runners normally run at, and it feels GREAT. I almost don't recognize myself!

Fortunately, my body is still holding me back from having any crazy thoughts of jumping right through my training schedule. Because, I think this feeling could make you want to skip ahead, be ready for the next thing, the first race. Liz calls this "itchiness:"

"For most of us, our big races are months away. It’s easy to get sucked into the sexyness of going fast and doing a lot now because we see it all around us. The guy blowing out 800s on the track who never comes near us during a race but he’s passing us at the track? Yeah, he makes us itchy. The person that has been doing killer all out 3 hour bike workouts at their threshold 2 times a week? Yeah, that makes us itchy. Races are starting up again, the energy is building and all of it is creating this itch itch itch that maybe we are not moving along quickly enough, doing the right thing or on the right track.

"Rather than itching the skin right off yourself, relax. Find your faith. Keep working. Nothing replaces the lessons you learn in training. Those are the things that make you faster on race day. Sure, track workouts and all that other stuff is really effective too – at the right time. But when it all comes down to it the building block of success is faith combined with work. Trust combined with training. If you don’t trust you can do it, you never will. And if you don’t have faith in yourself and your training then…what ARE you doing?"

Okay, so she's a professional triathlete, and I've been running for 3 1/2 weeks, so our goals and competition are a bit different! But the idea is the same, and the advice is great. Trust in my training program and stick with it. As she said a few weeks ago "Do the work. It will pay off." And I need to believe in myself - as the saying goes "Whether you believe you can or you believe you can't, you're right." I've seen that a lot in my running, especially this week. Towards the end of the five minute intervals, especially the second one, I can hear the little voice in the back of my head saying "You're never going to make it." As soon as I start to listen to that, my legs slow and my breathing is much more labored. But when I replace that thinking with "You CAN do it and you will do it," I finish strong and feel good about it all day. Positive thinking really does have a lot of power!

With that in mind, it's going to be a gorgeous weekend here at the Jersey shore, with temperatures well into the sixties. That should make any run, even a bad one, delightful, especially since the smell of the sea is so strong lately!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Uh oh, I am in trouble! I think I *like* this running business!

Don't worry everyone, I am back and no, dear readers, I didn't quit running!  In fact, after today, I can officially say that I'm well entrenched in liking running.  Who would have guessed?

After Friday's run, I was definitely looking forward to having two days off.  My body was sore and I was feeling very beat up, so I needed the recovery time.  And I fully planned to run on Monday  morning, except, well...the weather had other plans.  Even though I live in a fairly mild climate, the big nor'easter that hit the East Coast on Sunday dropped a full foot (officially 12.5 inches) of snow on my little coastal town.  Coach J had encouraged me to run in the snow, for the experience more than the workout, but I didn't think he meant *that* much snow.  So instead, I bundled up and put in three hours of shoveling in one hour increments.  Far more brutal than my coach potato workout!  In fact, I'm still sore.

I figured I could run a Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday schedule instead, but then I heard the temperatures on Tuesday were supposed to be very low and after checking out the job they did clearing the roads and sidewalks, I thought it prudent to put off running for one more day.  Coach J thought that a Wednesday/Friday/Saturday schedule would be fine, so I was set on running today.  

Of course, when I woke up for some reason at six am and checked the temperature, it said -2.  As you may know, I don't run when it's under 20 degrees.  So once again, I planned on a lunchtime run.  Today, I was ramping up from the 90 second/3 minute intervals to 3 minute/5 minute intervals with half the walking recovery time.  Yikes! 

I started out with the five minute warm-up walk, which gave me a clear idea of how bad the ice was outside.  With a number of seasonal people living around here, not all of the sidewalks had gotten cleared, so I decided to stick to the road so that I could avoid falling or having to break my stride for any reason.  The bike/running paths are fairly wide around here, so I stuck to those and headed against traffic so the cars could always see me, and I could always see them.  

My first three minute interval was great!  I actually increased my pace a bit and didn't feel too worn out.  I was a little bit worried after a four day break, but it was manageable.  That's when I thought to myself, uh oh - I'm in trouble, because I'm really starting to like this running stuff!  The first five minute interval was a little tough, but I paid attention to slowing my pace so that I could finish it.  I ended up a little further along on my path than my last few runs, so I got to see Old Barney surrounded by snow (at a distance!).  Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures though because I was running at the time.  

The sun was out, the sky was blue, and I was feeling good.  Then, it came time to turn around and head back, which was when I realized I was running into the wind.  Although it warmed up today, it was still only a balmy 28 degrees when I headed out, so I was definitely feeling the cold bite through my layers when the wind blew.  I got through the next three minute interval, and knew that the last five minutes would be the worst.  I tried to psych myself up for it (as it's 50% mental, at least, right?), but it was still pretty tough.  However, I did it!  I met my goal for the day, and that's all I can ask for!

But as I've said before, running isn't just about grabbing your sneakers and getting out there.  And for me, this week has been all about learning and tweaking.  I know I normally do the "what have I learned" on Fridays, but I'm absorbing so much, I'd like to pass that along today.  This week's tips come almost entirely from Coach J, who has really been a super source of help (and reads this blog, so I wanted to give him a shoutout!).  

- Last week, I started to have trouble with shin splints.  It's been so long since I've had them, that I couldn't remember what the best remedy was.  My sister suggested strengthening my calves with calf raises.  After talking to Coach J and checking my shoes to see if I have uneven wear patterns (which might mean my normal stride is off), he suggested that something else is going on, either with my foot, my calf muscles or my achilles - the solution?  Stretching and massage.  I've already been doing more stretching through yoga, but it showed me how important that is and has helped me to focus more on lower body yoga, especially the downward dog pose.  I've also been stretching my achilles by lowering my heels off of the bottom step of my staircase (while holding on!).  Along with calf raises, and stretching, massaging my feet and calves has made all the difference.  

- My other issue is nutrition.  For those of you who know me personally, I might have the world's worst diet (though it's improving).  My favorite foods all have sugar in them (brownies, key lime pie, cookies, Pepsi).  I'm allergic to a number of fresh fruits.  I hate vegetables, especially the green ones.  I never eat seafood (though I will sometimes try calamari).  But apparently, diet has a big impact on running (which intellectually, I knew, but somehow I hoped that would never come up).  Coach J asked me what I'd eaten for breakfast and I was fairly content with my reply of "cinnamon multi-grain waffle and applesauce followed by a piece of pumpkin bread later."  Pretty healthy, right?  Fruits, even a vegetable (I make the pumpkin bread from scratch) and whole grains.  Good for me!  But not so fast - no protein!  Now for some people, that's an easy fix - just eat eggs.  Did I mention that I also hate eggs, unless they are in a brownie?  But Coach J says protein is important because carbs burn off fast, which is great during competition and training, but proteins are a long term source of energy.  

Ugh.  Not what I want to hear.

But it does make sense - and could be the reason I still feel tired a lot after lots of sleep.  Too many carbs.  So he sent me a quick list of some high protein foods and suggested that when I think about food, I start with proteins, move on to fruits and veggies, and then whole grains.  I don't have to cut out sugar, which is key to any diet of mine, but it does make sense that I should get more serious about what I eat, if I want to be able to run.  And it might even help kick my migraines!  

So when I got back from my run, I had a fat free chocolate pudding (baby steps), and a big glass of milk.  Those who know me well also know that I'm not a big fan of milk.  Those who don't know me well are probably entirely sure by now that I'm crazy.  Or suffering from scurvy.  But I assure you, I manage to eat a lot of good food too.  I rounded out my lunch with hummus and wheat thins and tonight, will be making a beef/bean chili - now that's a protein I like!  

- A couple of the other things that will be coming up to get me ready for race day #1 (that's the Giants Draft Day 5K): weaning me off of listening to my iPhone while running, so that I don't struggle to find motivation when I get into a race and can't wear headphones; learning to love hills (why?  I hope that's a long way off...); what to eat on race day (apparently, I should just stick to my regular eating plan - the new one, I mean - so that my body treats that day like any other run); and eventually turning me into a morning person, i.e. like on days when it's going to be 90 degrees by 10am and I have to get a run in EARLY.  I'm also going to be running in the dark next week when the clocks spring forward, so that will be another learning experience - no sunglasses needed for a change! And Coach J has assured me that I will force myself to run outside when I'm in San Francisco in early June - it's a beautiful city, and he tells me that it's great for running (umm, hills?) so I should really enjoy it by foot instead of sequestering myself in a gym on a treadmill.  I would hate to prove him right, but I might have to.

As overwhelming as this might all sound, I'm actually enjoying the whole experience of becoming a runner/athlete.  I'm glad that I didn't know I would have to make these tweaks when I first started, or I would have thought of it as too much work.  But I'm seeing the benefits and enjoying the results, so I understand why it's worth it.  I'm actually very proud of myself and looking forward to that first 5K!