Friday, March 27, 2009

iPod as a to-do list

I've been struggling to stay motivated on the longer runs and have found most of my music to be a bit stale. The music's good, mind you, but I've just heard it so many times that it's lost its luster.

This past weekend I decided to let my lack of time and scheduled long run work well together. So, in addition to the standard work out playlist, I created a "to-do" playlist in iTunes and synced it to my fitness iPod.

The to-do playlist consists of new music that I just haven't had the chance to listen to. It may be a new type of music or a CD that a friend has burned for me. I only have so much time in the car and don't often get a chance to listen to everything. But, on those long runs, I've got nothing but time.

The one down side is that it's not always "pick me up" type music with a rhythm that keeps us going as you near the end. It hasn't been a problem so far, though, because at least it's new and I can concentrate on the new stuff.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hitting an age milestone

A couple of weeks ago, I turned 30 (48.28 to those of you on the metric system or 210 in dog years). Turning 30 marks the biggest milestone to date and the best opportunity to reflect on where I am, where I want to be and how I'll get there.

I do a lot of reflecting in my life. As a first-born child, I'm nostalgic (hyper nostalgic, really) by nature. My favorite holiday is New Years because it gives me a chance to reflect on the past year and change whatever it is that I don't like and continue what I do like.

For a lot of people, hitting an age milestone is a wake-up call. It's a negative because you're not as far along as you thought you would be. We reflect on our personal lives, on our health, our friends and our careers.

But the more I thought about it and I thought about it a lot, the more elated that I am where I am in my life. I'll leave the personal out, but only to say that I'm very satisfied on that front as well. Career, family, friends are amazing. The health part, though, I'm very happy to talk about.

I've talked in the past about why I run and how much weight I've been able to lose as a result of hitting the roads, so I won't go back into that. But it is important because it's gotten me to a point where I'm very happy with my health.

This past weekend I ran 15 miles in just over 2 hours. That's something that I never thought I'd be able to do in my lifetime, much less run 48 miles over a two-day period or run a marathon or even a half-marathon.

Even short of the big, ridiculous runs, I'm able to walk up and down stairs without being winded and walk all day in a new city. If I play a sport, I'm able to hold my own and not feel winded 3 minutes into the game. Running and losing weight has allowed me to live my life to the level I want to live it. It's made things that used to be impossible be very possible.

Outside of playing high school soccer, I have literally never been in better shape. I don't know that it's humanly possible to be in the same shape as a high school student who runs constantly for hours, much less figuring in the typical metabolism. But short of that, I'm the healthiest I've ever been and I couldn't be happier.

Milestones are a big deal for me. Turning 30 was a big one and it's something that I'll continue to think about, especially during my long runs. My life is far from perfect and there are plenty of things that I'd like to change.

My health just isn't one of them.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Psychology of eating while training

Though I'm not currently training for a race in the near future, I have decided to extend my long run each week by one mile to see how far I can go. At this point, I'm at 16 miles for a long run which means that I'm burning about 2,100 calories on that type of distance.

What I find interesting is how much my psychology of eating changes when I'm "training" and doing longer runs. Prior to doing the heavier mileage (and simply doing about 17-20/week), I was much more conscious of what I was eating because I was concerned about gaining weight.

Weight is really a life-long struggle for me and I've resigned to that conclusion. And that's largely why I continue to run especially at the distances I do.

But, since the long distances have started, I find myself saying, "oh, I can grab that candy bar at the grocery store because I'll be working it off this weekend". Substitute any unhealthy thing (fries, pizza, cake, beer, etc.) for candy bar and you know what I mean. I'm consciously allowing myself to eat something bad because I feel I can work it off.

And I know that I'm not immune to weight gain, even during heavier training. Our bodies tend to take the weight off initially and then level off. It's not fair at all, but it is what it is. But I'm not always eating a lot because I'm hungry. I'm eating bad stuff because I know I can.

I guess I feel like I'm depriving myself of time on the couch by running so why also deprive myself of something that will taste good? Makes sense, right? Too bad my body doesn't agree.

I don't know that I have a solution for it other than trying to be more conscious about it and using logic, rather than my sweet tooth, to decide whether I should eat something.

Not an easy task for a former 40-inch waister.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Allentown, PA woman fights through cancer to run Boston Marathon

My former hometown paper, the Allentown Morning Call, recently had a story about a woman named Sarah Blakeley who turned a tough diagnosis into a drive to run the Boston Marathon.

In February 2007, Sarah, 10 weeks pregnant at the time, was diagnosed with germ cell ovarian cancer. She was determined not to let this ruin her life. She ended up delivering the baby 6 weeks early via C-section and then started chemotherapy.

After going through intense chemotherapy post-pregnancy, Sarah was desperate for something new to focus on. She found Team Survivor. Over the next year, she did a sprint triathlon and the Philadelphia Half Marathon in October.

Now she's focused on the holy grail for most runners: the Boston Marathon. Since she'll be running it for Team Survivor, she doesn't have to qualify with a time. But I'd say that she's more than qualified for the race.

What a heartwarming story. We all run for different reasons. Sometimes we run because we want something to focus on. Sometimes we run to get away from something. Sometimes we run toward something. For Sarah, she's running for all of those reasons.

You can read her blog here. The donation link is here for Team Survivor.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Progress - 3/18/09 (Erick, OK)

I'm now 1,533 miles into my journey (56% completed) and about 10 miles from the Oklahoma/Texas border which I'll easily hit this week. I'm continuing on Rt. 40 which I'll be on for the next 1,000 miles or so. I passed through Oklahoma City on my way to the Texas border.

I'm just north of Erick, Oklahoma which is on historic Rt. 66. Erick does boast a Roger Miller Museum, and, well, not much else.

For now, I'm crossing the width of Texas on Rt. 40 on my way to LA!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Things people say to runners

I enjoyed writing the "You Might Be a Runner If" post for Take It and Run Thursday, so I decided to write a similar list of things that we as runners hear from the non-running population. I ran 14 miles today and had plenty of time to think of some.

What people say to runners (in no particular order):
  1. I only run when I'm being chased.
  2. Did you enjoy your jog?
  3. You know, the guy they named the marathon after died at the end.
  4. You run voluntarily?
  5. How can you eat half a pizza and still look that good?
  6. How can you run when it's that cold?
  7. How can you run when it's that warm?
  8. You ran a 5K/10K/half-marathon? I could never run that far.
  9. I just don't have the time to run.
  10. You ran the entire time?
  11. Why would you do that to your body?
  12. Don't you get bored?
  13. Can't you just run on the treadmill at the gym?
  14. I hear running's bad for your knees/back/hips/other body part, which is why I don't do it.
  15. (after telling them how far you ran) Wow. I can barely drive that far.
  16. Aren't there easier ways to lose weight?
So why do we do it? For me, it's my favorite running quote: There will be a day when you can no longer do this. Today is not that day.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

You Might Be a Runner If...

This week's Take it and Run Thursday reminds me of the old Jeff Foxworthy bit, "You Might Be a Redneck If...". You know, you might be a redneck if your family tree doesn't fork.

So, in keeping with the theme, You Might Be a Runner If...
  1. You're pleased to find a cheap pair of running sneakers for $100.
  2. It's 50 degrees out and you are psyched to finally run in shorts while everyone else is still wearing pants and long-sleeved shirts.
  3. Wiping snot on your sleeve doesn't phase you anymore.
  4. A tree off the main road is quite private.
  5. All of your birthday/Christmas gifts are running related.
  6. You only wear "wicking" fabrics and can't remember the last cotton shirt you bought.
  7. A significant portion of your wardrobe is race t-shirts.
  8. You wear long-sleeved shirts under your racing shirts in the winter so you can wear them all year long.
  9. You find yourself frequently flexing your calves just in case someone notices.
  10. You wear shorts even when it's too cold for them just so you have an extra opportunity to flex.
  11. You crave toast with peanut butter.
  12. You refer to the machine at the gym as the "dreadmill".
  13. A "short run" is 5 miles. A long run is anything longer than 15 miles.
  14. You've done more than 15 minutes of research on lactate threshold.
  15. You feel a need to tell non-runners about lactate threshold.
  16. You've gone through more boxes of pasta during training than you have for the rest of your life.
  17. You finally fit into that pair of pants.
I could go on and on and on. But you get the point. We runners have an odd kinship with one another. We get the eccentricities and we understand how terrible GU can be sometimes. But we suck it down and hit the roads.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Cardinal sin of running: I'm human?

I agree with a lot of people that say not listening to their body when pain occurs is a cardinal sin. It is, it really is. Your body is a pretty magical thing that can usually tell you when to stop doing something. And when it does, you need to listen to it. Check. Lesson learned there.

And I continue to learn that lesson each time it happens. What is it about learning a lesson that doesn't actually make you stop and never do it again? Stubbornness, probably.

My biggest cardinal sin is related, though. It's believing that I'm a superman and that nothing can bring me down.

Sure, I can increase my weekly mileage one week from 20 to 30 miles. Sure I can do a longer run of 15 miles when the previous week's high was only 8. Sure my body will handle it because I'm unstoppable.

Near the end of last year, I had a half-marathon, followed two weeks later by my 48 in 48 ultra, followed three weeks later by another half-marathon. I talked about it here. Not a good idea.

But I thought, hey, I could do this. There's something about me that's special and I'll be fine and I'll be heroic when I complete this.

Yeah, lesson learned. You don't get any special prize from being stupid and doing too much. You may get quizzical and amazed looks from your friends, but that doesn't take away the pain or allow your body to heal faster.

My lesson: I actually am human. It's OK to stop a race when you just can't go on and continuing will only hurt you. I'll live to fight and run another day, but not if I don't think I'm human.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Lehigh Valley Marathon - Here I Come!

I just signed up for the Lehigh Valley Marathon in Allentown, PA on September 13. It will be the second marathon after the New Orleans Marathon in February 2008.

While I didn't have a deep desire to do another marathon after the last one, I signed up after getting an email from a friend for a couple of reasons. (I also talked about it here.)
  1. The Lehigh Valley (which includes Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton) was my home for seven years after college. I very much enjoyed my life there and I miss the area a lot since my move to law school.
  2. The area was where my running began nearly three years ago. I trained for my first race, the Broad Street Run, there and started to become the healthy person I am today.
  3. Allentown is only an hour away from my family and minutes away from many friends. I missed this so much with the New Orleans Marathon. I only got to see my dad twice and I missed not looking forward to seeing others. This will not be a problem in this marathon.
  4. The course was redesigned and made flatter. It runs through beautiful trails (on which I used to run) so that we can stay cool.
  5. Last, but not least, THE Bart Yasso is the race director (Allentown is the home of Runner's World.) He's a personal running hero of mine and I want to do something to benefit an organization that he runs because he's done so much to benefit my running life.
So there you have it. It's still quite early for training to start, but now I've got the placeholder. Lehigh Valley, here I come!