Saturday, April 28, 2012

My First Race, A Story in Pictures : )

Woo hoooooooooo!!!!!!

That pretty much sums up race day -- my very FIRST race day at Girls on the Run 5K. I finished the 3.12-mile race in 35 minutes, which is, like, almost an 11-minute mile. So fast for me! Crazy. And I will have you know that there were FOUR hills involved in this race. I had no idea about them going in, and as a matter of fact, others told me this was a great first race because it was flat. Not flat!! I'm glad I didn't know that going in, though, because I would have worried about it. So my strategy with each one was to stare at my feet and just power through. It worked!

I was still sniffling and coughing today, so I wasn't sure how it would go. But the cold and rain really helped, I think. And it was so cool to have race staff all along the route cheering us on. It was quite a feeling when I turned the final corner into Sibley. I know I've run three miles before, but this was my first race, and it was sort of symbolic and meaningful for me, so I got a little teary. (I'm so silly.) But I was all smiles when I saw my mom. She yelled out and raised her arms in the air and took pictures. So cute.

So, anyway, pretty thrilled with not walking at all, not even up the hills, and I'm really happy with 35 minutes.

So, without further ado, here is my race day in pictures ...

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Two days till race day ... not ready

My nose has finally stopped running. Well, pretty much. And my cough isn't killing my lungs anymore. It's just a random, once-in-a-while cough now. So maybe by Saturday morning's 5K I'll be symptom-free.

The running has only been slightly improved. Wednesday after work I managed to squeak out 2.5 miles in 32 minutes. Then this morning I could only go 2.2 miles in 29 minutes. My body felt tired on both. I'm thinking it's tired from fighting off the virus. You know that feeling? When your muscles are just fatigued? Makes for an awful run.

But the worst part is the lungs. I said in the beginning of my couch-to-5K that getting the lungs on board changes everything. Once you can run for a long distance and not even feel a twinge of pain in your lungs, it feels like you could run a thousand miles. My lungs are no longer on board. They burn, and it feels like learning to run all over again.

I think I'm going to try to get one more run in tomorrow morning. I'm hoping to hit 3.1 miles so that I know I'll be ready for Saturday. But gosh, I don't know. This has been quite a setback. I can't believe less than two weeks ago I ran 5 miles without any problem.

I guess the good news is that it's going to be about 40 degrees and rainy on Saturday morning, which I consider to be the perfect running weather for the lungs. So the plan is just to do the best I can and try to remember to have fun with it. That's always the very first thing I forget! Luckily I will have a lot of fun ladies there to remind me. Let's go Team P.I.E.S.!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The neck rule is bogus

An article in Runner's World said many runners use the "neck rule" when deciding whether to run when sick. Symptoms above the neck -- sinus stuff, runny nose -- go ahead with the run. Symptoms below the neck -- bronchitis, chest cold -- stay in bed.

This morning I could barely get out of bed. Sinus pressure. Stuffy nose, then runny nose, then stuffy. Coughy. Achy. Whiny. But, I drug myself to work, and four stories and 10 hours later, I came home. If I was able to get through a 10-hour shift, I thought, then I should give running a try. It's less than four days until my first 5K, and I've got to get back out there so that I'm ready for it, right?

Perhaps the Runner's World neck theory works for some folks. For this folk, it felt like I had never run a day in my life. My lungs burned. My body ached. My nose was all junky and runny. I walked a little less than half.

I wish I wasn't so hard on myself, but I just feel so badly about this. Angry. Defeated. Worried. Mad as hell at whichever germ-infested fool didn't wash their hands and passed this sickness onto me.

I don't know what to do. I don't know whether I should try again right away tomorrow, or if that will make it worse.

I'm just the saddest little clam in the sea today.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Head cold just days before 5K ... of course

I'm sitting in my bedroom recliner (what, you don't have one?), throat throbbing from coughing, lips chapped, eyes watering and so ridiculously tired of blowing my runny nose that I have tissues stuffed in there.

Home sick today, in case you couldn't tell. Was sick all weekend. And I just wish I knew why this always has to happen at the most inconvenient times. Last time it was right before a vacation. This time it's the week before my first 5K, the Girls on the Run race at Sibley.

Should a 5K be that big of a deal if I've already run the amazing, incredible, superhuman distance of FIVE WHOLE MILES? Maybe not. But it's my first official race (even though I'm the tortoise in this race, not the hare), and I wanted to finish with an OK time. Plus, I'm on Team P.I.E.S., a collection of Baker's Square employees (I am a former employee), and I want to do my part. And my former trainer, the lovely Jackie Vroman, will be running with me, which is so cool, and I don't want to have to walk!!!

So for all of these reasons, I wanted to have absolutely no setbacks come Saturday. I'm nervous about this illness. Haven't run since Friday, and my body is so tired. I had to walk the dog, and that 15-minute walk made me want to lay down.

It's all so depressing. So depressing that I don't have the energy to come up with a cutesy way to end this entry, so I'm just going to go out like this: : (

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Woo hoo! Blue Moon Chicken!

Blue Moon and garlic grilled chicken, grilled pears and asparagus, and spinach and arugula salad with blackberries, slivered almonds and homemade strawberry vinaigrette. I'm so proud!

And so it begins ...

On Saturday I began my “All Natural 30-Day Food Experiment” and went grocery shopping. I tend to spend very little time at the grocery store because many of my meals are eaten out.

I spent more than an hour at hilltop HyVee and actually had a pretty good time with it. Most of my time was spent in produce and at the meat counter. I did spend extra time reading labels in the other aisles making sure the ingredients on everything I was putting in the cart were actual foods. It was fun remembering tips from Rachael Ray about the “trinity” -- celery, onion and carrot -- and to always have a box of chicken stock on hand, and don’t forget the garlic. Got to have garlic.

Saturday and today I began the preparation and, also, the eating, which is fun. I can’t list very many changes to how I feel so far. For one, it’s very early in the process. And two, I’m really sick. On Friday a sinus and tonsil infection set in, and I’m barely sleeping. So I feel like a giant ball of crap regardless of food.

But there have been a couple of surprises so far. I’ve always been one to scoff at words such as “stone-ground whole wheat,” but I wanted to be able to eat a little bread, so I bought a loaf. It’s actually delicious! And because this food experiment is NOT about calorie-counting, but rather about eating natural foods that my body knows what to do with, I had some toast with butter and strawberry jam for Sunday morning breakfast, and it was so good. And unlike a bagel or Wonder Bread (which was my go-to before) or a sugary cereal, the whole wheat kept me fuller longer.

This morning I made up a marinade of Blue Moon beer, fresh garlic, black pepper, lemon zest and lemon juice. I’ve got chicken breasts marinating and will grill them up tonight.

I also made my own salad dressing! Strawberries, EVOO, vinegar, honey, lemon zest and the juice of one lemon (squeezed cut-side up to make sure the seeds don’t go into the blender - thanks, Rach!). I’m going to toss it with arugula and spinach with blackberries and slivered almonds.

Not sure how long all of this will stay fun. Maybe longer than I expect. Rachael Ray seems to have fun with it every day! Here’s hopin’.

Friday, April 20, 2012

A food experiment WAY out of my comfort zone

I joked on Sunday that I had Pagliai's and Diet Coke to thank for my first five-mile run. I mean, I love Pagliai's. Who doesn't? But to anyone over the age of 22, pizza and Diet Coke shouldn't be a food staple in a person's diet. (To my students: live it up while you can. Sustain yourselves on sugars and fats, and ENJOY IT. Your bodies will only be kind to you for so long ... sigh.)

On a related note, I am a cynic to my very core. If there is a popular theory, I will wrinkle up my nose and express with great disdain why I think it's lame or unfounded. Health foods have always fallen flatly in this category.

I have little patience for those conversations when people swear up and down that their bodies have undergone divine transformations since they have elected only to eat organic produce, grass-fed meats and whole grains.

My cynical, impatient mind has always been made up that a calorie is a calorie. I choose to spend 500 on a big bag of gummy worms, and you spend it on a papaya smoothie with a shot of wheat grass (dear god), we both come out the same.

Which brings us to the present, after 20 or so years of living under these beliefs that making food a complicated chore of label-reading and organic-market-hunting -- not to mention the added cost that comes along with eating this way -- would be completely unworthy of my time. Where has it gotten me? How do I feel? Could I feel better? Could I have more energy?

In the midst of my running campaign, I've been wondering these questions, and it doesn't directly have to do with additional weight-loss. What has surprised me most is that I'm thinking about these things because I want to improve as a runner. I want to improve my distance and speed. I want to think of a race like the 10Kato and not state, right off the bat, that I'm going to have to walk up the Glenwood portion. Simply put, I want to fuel my body in the most healthy and efficient way possible to get these results.

So ... I've decided to conduct an experiment. For one month, I will eat only foods that are ACTUAL FOODS, like foods my body knows what to do with. NO processed foods, no foods with ingredients I can't pronounce. Fruits, vegetables, rice, meats, a little cheese. I'm going to try to stay away from breads, and no pastas. White flour is out. So are sugary baked goods.

I just really want to see what it feels like to eat healthy and see what effects it has on my body, my energy and my running.

I've conducted two public campaigns that have been out of my comfort zone so far: I lost weight working with a trainer in front of all of you, and I learned to run in front of all of you. The difference here is that, with both of the previous events, I had an outcome in mind, which tends to be what I need. I need to have a goal, and when I do, I go for it. This time, I honestly don't know what the outcome will be. I might feel worse! I might go through sugar withdrawal or collapse from a lack of energy in the middle of a run. I might also lose patience with the extra effort one has to put into eating this way: making your own salad dressings, cooking instead of picking up fast food, spending more money than I am accustomed to at the grocery store.

Anyhow, I'll keep you posted on my findings. In the meantime, healthy and EASY recipes can be sent to ... : )

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Broken focus is not my bag

Addendum: Since writing this on Saturday, I had my first five-mile run tonight!!! (Sunday.) I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Pagliai's for providing tonight's fuel; the inclement weather for the cool clouds to look, as well as the chilly breeze; and my will power, for forgoing the beer with dinner, even though everyone else was having some, and I reallyreally wanted some, too. Woo hoo!

And now back to your regularly scheduled blog entry ...


Whatever parts of my body are responsible for running endurance, I would just like to say thank you very, very much. You have been neglected, and yet, you came through like a champ this afternoon. You're the best; I'm the worst.


Any journalist will tell you that multi-tasking is essential to your success. You produce about two stories per day, plus briefs, plus plan future stories, plus coordinate photography, plus answer phones, plus answer boatloads of emails, plus blog, plus Facebook. There are numerous pluses I'm missing, but I think you get it.

I can and do multi-task. I churn out the copy like you wouldn't believe. Having said that, I don't deal well with plan changes, something my editors have noticed in the past. I'm sometimes told, "Well, it's the news, you have to be flexible." Some of us are fine with switching focuses mid-story and doing whatever happens to be more urgent. I don't really function well that way. The way I get around that in a newsroom is to be extremely fast. I sometimes wonder if I developed such swift writing skills simply so that I can finish an entire something before being asked to move onto something else.

But there are stories that don't allow for this model I've adopted. This week, I had a story fall into my lap that required a lot of time, multiple days, actually, of interviews and research. One of those stories where you have to get folks to "open the books," as we say, to get precise figures. And as I'm learning more and more on my newish beat (education), many stories require an added layer of language interpretation. Do you know what a "cluster model" is? How about PLCs? A CoGAT? Know what that is? Yeah, me either until this week. And I've got to learn it and break it down in order for my readers to understand the story I'm writing.

Long story short, with a need to stay focused on finishing the piece, I did little else. Every morning, I got to the office as early as possible to continue writing and plan that day's interviews. And it wasn't the kind of week where you squirrel away time to plan or talk with your neighbor or answer email. I spent entire shifts on the phone, writing, making more calls, writing some more.

When I got home, I just wanted a glass of wine and to watch TV and not think about it.

I know I said long story short before, but this time I really mean it ... Long story short, I had not run since Sunday. Five days of no running. At first, like say around Tuesday, it felt weird. Like I was itching to get out there. But then, by Thursday, and this scared me, it felt normal, like one day of not running leading to the next, with as many excuses as you can manage as to why it wasn't a good day. ...Tension headache, night assignment for work, had a beer with dinner, too cold, raining ... Raining! Yep, that was my Friday night excuse. Can you believe that? After last weekend I made such a huge deal about how awesome it is to run in the rain?

Anyway, I spent the gorgeous sunny day doing yard work and cleaning the house, which actually relaxes me, as sad as that is, and then I put on my new little running capris and my trusty Nikes and I hit the pavement. For the most part, it went really great. Just an easy, 32-minute run. It went so well for the first half, I felt like Ridiculously Photogenic Guy. The kind of run when you actually take the time to look around at stuff, smell the lilacs, smile at kids playing outside.

But then my hips started to get a little achy around minute 20. I keep telling myself that if I lost more weight around my hips, running would get so much easier.

Ha ... that brings me to one of the most-asked questions, or statements, rather, that I've been getting since I started running: "Wow, running burns so many calories. It must be great for weight-loss." That's when I have to say, "Actually, I think I'm the first runner in the history of running to PUT ON weight after starting to run."

I'm not kidding. A bit of it is muscle, and it's not all that much weight. But seriously, I am STARVING after a long run, and I tend to gravitate towards the carbs. Snyder's pretzel nuggets are my thing these days. OBSESSED. And I was sort of OK with that at first. I wanted to really focus on learning to run and building endurance and getting that in place first. And then I thought I'd bring the nutrition back into the mix.

So that's sort of the plan now. That and running at LEAST five days next week and the week after because Girls on the Run 5K is on the 28th, and my only goal is to finish in less than 40 minutes without incident -- no walking, no injury. Just an easygoing 35-minute jog around Sibley.

So if that little widget to the right over there goes more than a day without a new run recorded, post a snide comment about my lack of stick-to-it-iveness, wouldya? I've got to stay focused.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Penguin Power!!!

I find myself Googling the various aspects of running quite frequently these days. “How soon before a run should you eat?” “Does running on sore muscles do more damage?” “Symptoms of overtraining.” “10Kato reviews.”

Sometimes I find the results quite helpful. But most of the time, what tends to come up is information from “serious runners.” These are folks hitting 100 miles per week. I didn’t believe it at first, but seriously, there are people out there who run 70 to 100 miles per week. These are the folks who run marathons, who conquer hills akin to Glenwood Avenue daily, and then probably circle around to do it again for good measure.

Whenever I see people like this answering questions and discussing running on forums, it always leads me to wonder what kind of runner I am. Am I even considered a runner at all? If these peeps are running 6- to 7-minute miles over the course of 10 miles EVERY SINGLE DAY, and I am spending almost the same amount of time shuffling along for 4.5 miles, can I even use the word “run”?

This question led me on an intriguing chain of web clicks involving search terms such as “slow runner,” “12-minute mile,” and “slogger,” which is a less than flattering combination of the words “slow” and “jogger.”

Then I found it. In the depths of cyberspace was a lovely little forum titled “Calling All Penguins.” Dozens of other runners just like me, who had been trying to find out if there were other slow runners like them, had converged in this little web space to say, “Hey! I really like to run! It’s fun! And that’s really the only reason I do it ... and at a very slow pace, at that.”

Most of these users claimed mile paces of 15 minutes or more -- just barely chugging along. Some even had a collection of “finisher’s medals,” from the various 5K races they had taken part in for the fun of it. A 5K took some of them almost an hour to complete. But like me, these folks were not looking to break land-speed records. The act of running is what they were in it for, and they were happy to find others who weren’t interested in marathons or even half-marathons.

I will admit, reading the comments of people running 16-minute miles made me feel oh-so much better about my 12-minute mile pace. But mostly I felt happy that there’s a community out there of slow-pokes like me who have given an adorable name to the kind of runners we are: Penguins!

So here’s to us penguins, shuffling through a neighborhood near you, probably feeling as good about our 3-mile run as the careers are feeling about 10.

Penguin Power!!!!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Rainy runs are my new favorite

Just a quick little post to advise my fellow newbie runners to get out there while you can today! This morning's run in the rain was amaaaaaaaazing. The chilly, wet air was great for the lungs and cooled down my skin. It was awesome!

Felt so good that I was SURE I'd finally hit five miles today. But, alas, I was 1/2 mile short. Just kills me! Will I never hit five? Never ever? It poses quite a dilemma, because I told myself that if I hit five, I could make the Dairy Freeze in Fairmont my very first stop today while I'm home for Easter weekend. ... I mean, technically, I never said I couldn't round up, right?

Anyway, get out there if you can. Running in the rain is my new favorite. Plus, you kind of look like a badass to people driving by, like you're so committed to your sport that you're willing to get soaked for it. ...Or maybe that's just what I was thinking. : )

P.S. Manholes covers are slippery, so beware. That is all.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

10Kato? What have I done ...

Let me preface this post with a little anecdote ...
The average person probably does not realize this, but there is a slight incline in elevation from my house on North Broad Street all the way to Tourtellotte. The average runner probably doesn't realize this either, because the average runner is in much better shape than I am. To them, a hill is Main Street. A hill is Madison Avenue.

I didn't realize, when I first started running, why it seemed so much more difficult to run north along that stretch than it was coming back the other way on Fourth or Fifth. I'd round that corner, and in a minute or so, I'd feel like I was flying. Of course, never too quick on the uptake of these things, I realized a couple of runs later that, coming back, I was running slightly down hill, which is why it felt so much easier. Reminds of me of something a friend told me once that has made me laugh every time I think of it: "I thought I experienced Runner's High once. Turns out, I was just running down hill." Funny, but straight-up for reals, y'all. A down-hill run is like being picked up by an angel and carried. It's positively marvelous.

If my struggle with the slightest of inclines on Broad didn't drive home this point, allow me to make this clear: I am a flat-terrain runner. When I see a hill, I run the other way. I even avoid running up to Fifth from my house because there's a hill in the way of getting there. And on the rare occasion I do tackle one, I run so very slowly on the way up that, at any given moment, gravity might actually make me teeter backward.

This brings us to yesterday's phone call ...

It was like deja-vu when I listened to my messages. Last year, about this time, I was in the middle of my public "Fight to be Fit" weight-loss battle, about 40 pounds lost. And Karen Christy of VINE Faith in Action called to see if I would run the 10Kato to help raise awareness for the event. Christy remembers exactly what I said, and so do I: "I'm not a runner. I can't run. There's just no way." I did, however, sign up to walk the two-mile portion of the event on what turned out to be an extremely humid Memorial Day morning.

So yesterday, when I spoke with Christy, and she reminded me of that call, I had one of those moments when I thought, "Wow, I'm totally a runner now. A year later. How cool!" And after a Google search helping my math-deficient brain realize that 10Ks = 6.2 miles, I realized that I really am not far from that goal. I'm at about 4 1/2 miles right now, and with two months left to train, I could probably hit 6.2 miles by Memorial Day.

So I said I would definitely sign up for the 10Kato, and I thanked her for thinking of me. ... And then, as I was about to hang up the phone, I had an afterthought. "Hey, Karen, there aren't any major hills involved in the 10Kato, are there?"
"Just Glenwood," she said.

Just Glenwood, she says. Just Glenwood. Just two miles of a windy, steady, steep, uphill climb.

Panic. Terror. Disbelief. Regreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet.

Let me put this into perspective ... my former colleague, Alex Voigt, who is about 150 pounds of pure muscle, ran the 10Kato last year with about a 40-minute finish time. He came in 10th. (How in the world can someone maintain a 7-minute mile pace up a friggin' hill?)
Me, on the other hand, well, I ran 4.3 miles this morning, and you know how long it took me? 55 minutes. Two miles less than Alex, and 15 minutes longer. Add a two-mile hill IN ADDITION to this morning's flat-terrain run, and you would have found me somewhere in the middle of the incline, passed out, cramped up, dehydrated, making gurgling sounds.

So let me just state this right off the bat: I will be walking up Glenwood. That's just plain fact right there. I probably could walk it faster than I could run it, anyway. And then I will run the rest of the race. It's important to know one's limitations, and mine begin at the base of that hill.

So if you're signed up to run in one of the longest-standing and popular races in our area -- the challenging 10Kato -- I look forward to seeing you run right on past me. And mom, I'd appreciate it if you could maybe just follow me along in your car to scoop me up if I actually do start teetering back down Glenwood Avenue.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The sucky flipside of the running coin

Not everyday is an "accidental 5K." I admit, I've had a pretty good streak of sunshiney, happy, successful runs. But some days, like today, are horrible.

First, let me get all the excuses out of the way:
I drank wine last night; that must be why my muscles felt so weak.
I didn't eat breakfast beforehand.
I didn't drink coffee beforehand.
I'm not feeling that well.
It must be the gloomy weather; it's not very motivating.
It's this damn wind. What kind of stupid fly-over country is windy at 7 in the morning? I hate the prairie! Hate it!

It's possible, I suppose, that all of those things had a hand in how bad my run went this morning, but honestly, some days just go badly. I've been warned by my running friends that there will be times when you just have to cash it in and go home. That something with your body just isn't having it, and it won't do any good to torture yourself. Just listen to your body and go home.

I know that. I do. But when you're in the middle of one of those runs, you can't help but say terrible things to yourself. You feel weak, and you tell yourself that you're weak.

This morning, within the first five minutes I knew it was going to be bad, so I decided to stick close to home. My legs felt heavy and fatigued. My lungs were a little raw. Every step was an effort. I kept trying to get myself to the 15-minute mark which is when my muscles warm up and I usually start to relax into the routine of running. Most days, when you hit 15 to 20 minutes, it almost feels easier to keep running than it would be to stop. It's a weird feeling.

Not today. I hit minute 20, and I absolutely had to walk. And when that happens, it's a total mental kick to the crotch and only makes the rest of the run worse because your head/heart feels defeated. You say awful things to yourself and actually believe them. Crazy things. "Maybe you can't do this. Maybe the last few weeks are a fluke. Maybe your body just didn't know what was going on, like it was in shock or something, and now it knows what you're up to and it's not having it. Maybe 4.3 miles is the longest distance you'll ever run. Maybe running is something you just can't do anymore. Maybe you should just give up and go home."

I walked for 90 seconds and then pushed through the rest of the 3-mile run. Honestly, I should have just gone home. When I did get there, and relaxed for a few minutes with a cup of coffee, I of course realized how silly all of those negative statements are. I've proven I can do this.

But it's just nutty to me how volatile running can be. You never know how your body will respond until you're in the thick of it. It's as frustrating when it goes badly as it is exciting when it goes well.

I guess the only thing to do is try again tomorrow.