A Day in the Life

Okay, I know that my life is far from fascinating, but as I know several bloggers who recently posted their own version of “A day in My Life”, I figured I would jump on the bandwagon.  If nothing else, I hope it might motivate others to see that you can get in your runs, even when life is busy.  Here’s what life is like for me on a typical Tuesday:

4:30am – An evil time for the alarm to go off, but sadly, I’ve gotten pretty used to it over the past two years.  Besides, it’s totally worth getting up early, because I am in a much better mood when I start my day with a run.

4:40am – I have the routine down so well now, that I am usually on the treadmill in the basement to start my run within 10 minutes of hearing the alarm.  Depending on my mood, I run with my iPod, or watch some mindless show on TV.  Lately it has been either “Sportscenter” or “Master Chef Junior”.  At the moment, my Tuesday runs are around 4-5 miles.

5:30am – Stretch, grab some water, and pack up my lunch before jumping in the shower and getting ready for work.

6:15am – Back downstairs to eat breakfast and check email.

6:50am – Gather the kids together and head off to school.  I am fortunate that my husband takes care of getting the kids ready in the morning, which allows me to just worry about myself until we head out the door.

7:20am – Drop the kids at Early Birds and then walk next door to my first grade classroom, to prepare for the day.

8:00am – Spend the next 7 hours with my darling first graders, teaching reading, writing, math, social studies, and all manners of social skills such as how to share, use kind words, negotiate, etc.

2:45pm – Gather together my middle school students for our after school rock climbing club.  Drive the kids to the rock gym, trying to ignore the preteen banter that is floating through the school van.

3:30pm – Spend the next 90 minutes trying to squeeze in a few climbs of my own while I cheer on the students, help the instructor reinforce the rules, etc.  Swallow my pride and remember that while I may still feel young at heart, the fact that these kids are putting me to shame with their climbing skills is a reminder that I am not as young and spry as I may feel. 😉

5:45pm – Return to school and make sure everyone has connected with their parents before taking myself home.

6:15pm – Enjoy a quite house while making dinner for the husband.  Steal a few minutes to check email (I have no Smartphone, and must resort to our desktop) if possible.

6:45pm – Welcome husband and kids home from daughter’s gymnastics class.  Help kids get into pjs and complete the bedtime routine.  Tuck everyone in for the night and pray that they fall asleep quickly and sleep soundly.

7:30pm – Sit down to dinner with husband.  Enjoy a few minutes catching up on our respective days before turning on an episode of Jeopardy, or one of our favorite recorded TV shows.

9:00pm – Get ready for bed and curl up under the covers with my current book.

9:30pm – Lights out.  Morning comes early when you are up before 5am!

And that’s a typical day in my pretty normal life.  I’m fortunate that my husband shares so many of the kid and household duties, allowing me the opportunity to work full-time and still get in my runs.  Please feel free to share how you spend your days, or when you find time to sneak in your runs.

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The Joy of New Shoes

My apologies for the lack of posts over the past week.  My fabulous trail run last weekend sent my cold symptoms into a full blown stubborn cold, and after two attempted lackluster runs earlier in the week, I have temporarily given up all workouts in an attempt to rest and recover more quickly.

I’m always a bit frustrated and antsy when I’m not running, but it’s extra challenging this week because I have a new pair of shoes to break in.  I converted to minimalist shoes a couple of years ago, and after running in Vibrams for about two years, I discovered Merrells last winter.  They have quickly become my new favorite brand.  Over the years, I have run in just about every brand of shoe on the market, but Merrells are far and away my favorites.  I have two pairs I am currently using – a pair of bright purple Road Glove 2’s, and a pair of gorgeous turquoise Pace Glove 2 trail running shoes.  Unfortunately, both pairs are starting to wear out a bit, so when I saw a good deal on Amazon, I decided to snag a new pair of my trail shoes at a great price.

My new shoes are the exact same trail shoes I’ve been running in for the past year, except that they are bright pink instead of turquoise.  I’ll take the color blue over pink any day of the week, but I learned long ago that true runners choose their shoes based on the fit, not the color.  Since I knew I loved this fit, and the shoes were marked at a great discount, I decide that pink works just fine for me.  I had been hoping to break in the shoes on a couple of shorter runs this week, before taking them out on the trails this weekend, but my body just is not cooperating.  So my beautiful new shoes have simply sat in their box, looking perfect all week.  Usually I love the look of clear new shoes, but it just feels wrong when they are trail shoes.  By nature, they should be covered in mud and dust.  Sigh…  Hopefully next weekend!

Why I Run in Extreme Weather

We’ve been having a bit of a cold spell here in the mid-Atlantic.  I know that it’s all relative, but temps have been below freezing for the past week, sometimes getting into the single digits at night, which is cold for Philly.  I was planning to go running with my new trail group today, but all the logical signs were telling me not to.  We got a light snow earlier in the week, which I knew was still covering the trails.  I find it hard enough to stay on my feet on the trails on a good day, so add in rocks and fallen leaves, which are invisible due to the the snow, and I was worried that this was an accident waiting to happen.  The forecast was for temps in the teens at the start, and as a runner who hates cold weather, that felt a bit extreme.  Finally, I picked up an awesome cold this week, and of course, yesterday it managed to settle into my chest.  I actually feel pretty good, but years of experience have taught me that running with chest congestion tends to be a dumb decision.  And yet, despite all of that, I went out this morning for a run.

I wish that there was some way for me to accurately describe what that run was like.  I can tell you the bare-bone logistics – how it was 17 degrees at the start, my hands were numb for the first mile, my chest was working way too hard on the constant uphill climbs.  What I can’t describe is how all of those things were secondary to the experience of being out on the trails on a cold, snowy morning.

Years ago, I traveled to Greece on a school trip.  We stopped in Delphi, the site of the mythical Oracle.  I remember standing in those mountains, surrounded by green grass, and wildflowers, and silence, and thinking that I had never seen anything so beautiful.  I was attempting to capture the experience on film when I noticed that my friend had left her camera in her bag, a move that surprised me.  When I asked her why, she told me, “I know that it will be impossible for me to take a photograph that will fully capture the beauty of this place.  And so I want to remember it as best I can in my memory, not distorted by some image that won’t do it justice”.  Of course, she was totally right.  I got home, and developed my photos, and discovered that they didn’t come close to showing Delphi the way that I remembered it.

This morning, I had that same experience on my run.  We were running through these woods, surrounded by snow, and the only sounds that you could hear were our breaths and our footfalls and an occasional gurgling stream.  And I looked around and thought that I have rarely seen anything so beautiful or peaceful.  And when we hit a flat portion of the trail, and I was able to glide across the snow covered path, I felt utterly invincible.  I was still cold, and my lungs were still tired, but all of that fell away.  And it was just us, and the woods, and the snow, and the trail.  I found myself wishing for my camera, before I realized that my camera could never fully capture the experience in all its glory.

This morning was a perfect example of why I run in less than ideal weather.  Or really, why I run on any given day at all.  Because you never really know when you will find that magical moment on a run.  I can often go for weeks, or even months, without finding it.  But when you do, it makes all those other moments worth it.

A Little RunDisney Venting

It’s almost time for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.  As a five-time participant of said weekend, I am majorly bummed that I’m not going to be there this year.  I love Disney in general, and RunDisney events are always fun.  In an attempt to make myself feel better about remaining at home this weekend, I thought that it might help to think about the things that I don’t love about Disney races.  The number one complaint?

Clueless, newbie runners.

I know.  You probably just read that and decided that I’m a total running snob.  And I know that it sounds bad, but please give me a few moments to explain.

I love that running is a sport in which you don’t need vast amounts of coordination to succeed.  You just put on shoes, step outside, and go.  Some people are natural runners, and they just fall into a smooth, speedy gait without even trying.  The rest of us huff and puff a little bit farther each day until we can finally make it through one mile, two miles, etc.  Most of us will never win a race, or qualify for Boston, but that’s okay.  Just running and racing is succeeding in this sport, and as a slower runner, that’s one of my favorite things about it.  I don’t need to be one of the fastest athletes to feel good about myself.  (Of course, I compensate for my lack of speed with long distances, but that’s another post for another day).

Now this brings me back to newbie runners.  We’ve all been there, and I have no problem with new runners in general.  I’ve coached hundreds of them over the years, and some of my favorite running memories are of helping someone to finish their first race, or new longest distance.  What bothers me about Disney races is that there is a higher percentage of rookie racers than you’ll find in most other places, and many of them are totally clueless about proper race etiquette and expectations.  Here are the three offenders that irk me the most:

1) The people who don’t understand how to walk in a race.

Disney races are huge, which means they are always crowded.  The start is obviously the worst part, but Disney also always manages to find spots later in the race where they end up squeezing everyone into one lane on the road, which is really fun when it occurs 15 miles into a marathon.  This becomes a big problem when you have a lot of runners who are race rookies.  I have had to resort to at least a little walking in almost all of my marathons, and some of my shorter races as well, so I respect the need to walk.  What drives me crazy, however, are the groups that walk side by side, covering the whole course.  Or the runners who sprint by you, then cut right in front of you and suddenly stop and walk without any signal.  You want to walk, go right ahead.  But be courteous and move to the side, so that others can easily pass you.  It makes for a more pleasant race experience for everyone.

2) My second complaint about Disney races are the medals that some runners feel the need to wear everywhere.  All day long.  For several days.

Disney does many things well, and one of them is designing cool medals.  So I can understand the desire to wear them the next day.  I have even done so myself, at least, until all of the bouncing has annoyed me to the point where I chuck the medal in my bag.  What I don’t understand, however, are the people that insist on wearing their medals for several days on end.  The half-marathon is run on Saturday, which is great.  Run your race early, get changed, and then wear the medal around all afternoon.  I’ll even give you an extra day and say that Sunday is fine.  What I don’t understand, though, are those people still wearing their half-marathon medal around the parks come Tuesday or Wednesday.  Yes, you finished.  Yes, it’s great.  But now it’s time to have a little modesty, hang up your medal, and move on.

3) My final complaint is a brand new one that was inspired by a Facebook post I saw on the RunDisney site today.  One of the 5K runners complained about several aspects of the race, including the cold weather at the start.  He then went on to say, “Hopefully they will have heaters if the other races are cold as well.”

As I read this, I’m sitting bundled in my house, where it is a balmy 16 degrees outside.  I know that many part of the country are considerably colder.  Yes, Orlando was chilly this morning for Florida, but the temperatures were around 40 degrees.  And this guy wants heaters?  Are you kidding me?  It’s a race.  This isn’t the NFL, and we’re not pro athletes.  Just get out there and run.  If it’s cold at the start, do what every other runner does and bring some blankets and some throwaway clothes.  I know it’s uncomfortable.  I know it sucks.  But sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate.  If you can’t handle a bit of cold at the start, stay at home and watch runners on tv.  Or wait and sign up for your next race in June.  But don’t go on a race’s website and complain that they don’t have heaters at the start.  There are more than 50,000 people running in Disney this weekend.  They have more important things to worry about.

Today’s lesson?  Don’t let your rookie status prevent you from trying out any sport, running included.  But do take a few minutes to learn the general rules of the sport before diving into competition.  Good luck to all the Disney runners this weekend!  Happy running, everyone!  Stay warm out there!

The Power of Running

One of my favorite things about running is the power that it has to transform.  The obvious way is the power to transform in a physical way.  Run far enough and often enough, and you can’t help but notice the changes in your body.  Running makes me feel strong, which is much more powerful than feeling skinny.

For me, though, the true power of running is the ability that it has to transform me in an emotional way.  This morning’s run was a perfect example of that.

I am a teacher, which means that I have enjoyed a lovely break from work over the past two weeks.  I know that I am more fortunate than most in that regard, and yet, all yesterday I was feeling grouchy when I thought of returning to work today.  It’s not that I dislike my job.  It’s just that I would rather not have to work at all.  Anyway, I was feeling grumpy about returning to work, and on top of that, neither of my kids slept much last night, which meant that neither my husband nor I did as well.  So when I woke up this morning, there were many logical reasons for me to be unhappy.

Fortunately for me, the very first thing that I did was to go for a run.  The run itself was nothing special – just three miles on my treadmill in my basement.  It gave me an opportunity to work through my thoughts, however, and even more so, I finished my run feeling a great sense of accomplishment, as I usually do after any run.  All of this before 6:00 in the morning.  As a result, I finished getting ready for work in a much better mood than I could have predicted.  Even better, I had a great first day back.

I’ve taken several courses on statistics and I know that cause and effect are rarely that simple – I’m not naive enough to assume that my whole day was great simply because I ran this morning.  I do know, however, that going for a run almost always makes my day better.  And for me, starting my day with a run does not guarantee a great day, but it does get my day off to a great start.  It makes it that much easier to roll out of bed well before dawn each morning when my alarm sounds.

Starting the New Year Off Right

We are several days into the new year, but today’s a rest day, so I thought I would take the opportunity to share the amazing run that I experienced on January 1st.  I’ve been training for one race or another for the past three years without taking more than a week off, so after making it through the Philadelphia Marathon in late November, I promised myself that I would take a break.  Breaks don’t tend to agree with me, but I did fairly well, taking over a week off from any form of exercise, and then logging only 42 miles during the entire month of December.

I was planning to start back slowly the week after Christmas, with a few shorter weekly runs and a “long” run of just 5 miles over the weekend.  I was invited, however, to join a new running group on Thursday for a mid-week trail run in the Wissahickon.  I’ve been running in the Wissahickon for close to ten years, but I just began to explore the technical trails last summer.  I’ve been looking for an opportunity to get out on those trails more, and so even though I knew I wasn’t quite trained for the hills or the distance, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

New Year’s Day dawned sunny, but cold.  I bundled myself up in multiple layers and then headed out to meet my group.  I’m always a bit reserved around new people, but as I’ve found in the past, it’s always easier for me to feel comfortable around people when we are running together.  We set off for a short 5 minute warm-up on the flat path before veering off to our first technical trail.  Unfortunately for me, the first trail we picked had a killer hill, and I quickly began to feel my lack of conditioning.  Luckily, the hill was steep enough that the entire group resorted to walking at some point, and I was able to eventually catch up.

It took me about two miles to settle into a good rhythm, but even when I was struggling to maintain my pace, I was enjoying myself.  That is the largest benefit that I have found to trail running – it tends to be fun even when it’s hard.  The women that I was running with were a great group, and I enjoyed listening to the conversations around me, and occasionally chiming in with a few thoughts of my own.  Throughout the run, I routinely dropped back from the group on the uphill sections, but I was able to maintain the pace, and even pick up some speed on the downhills.  Running downhill on trails can be quite a challenge, and so this was one place where my experience and my familiarity with the Wissahickon really came in handy.  We finished the run right around the 7 mile mark.  I felt all kinds of soreness over the next two days, but in the best possible way.  I’ve always loved feeling a bit sore when I know that it has come from a good workout.  I’m looking forward to getting my conditioning back up to par, in the hopes that I can join my new friends on the trails again real soon!

Running Resolutions

Trying to choose just a few goals for my running is like trying to choose what race to run next  – nearly impossible!  That being said, I know that setting goals allows you to have direction with your training.  So, here’s my attempt to outline my running resolutions for 2015:

1) Always remember that it is a privilege to have the ability to run.  Keeping this in mind will help me to push through the tough workouts, and keep things in perspective when I encounter the inevitable bumps and setbacks along the way.

2) Run another ultra, and complete a new personal best distance in the process (I am eyeing at least 40 miles at Labor Pains in September).

3) Increase my speed, which will hopefully result in at least one PR this year, ideally in a half or full marathon.

4) Spend less time on the treadmill, and more time out running in the real world, especially on trails.

I know that it can be a challenge to increase both speed and distance in the same year, but I think it’s one that I can accomplish.  If running has taught me anything, it’s that you never know your limits until you are willing to push them.  Let’s see what happens.

A Year of Writing About Running

In 2014, I set a goal to write about one thing that made me happy every single day of the year.  It could be something big, like a long-awaited vacation, or something small, like a bouquet of dandelions.  I managed to make it the entire year, but while I never had trouble thinking of things that made me happy, I often found that I lacked the motivation to actually record my thoughts.  I’m glad to have the notebook to look back on, now that it is finished, but it often felt like a chore in the moment, which was definitely not my goal when I set out.  This made me realize that perhaps the problem was not the act of writing, but what I was trying to write about.

At the same time that those thoughts were floating through my head, I was thinking about how much running means to me, and how I worry that my passion for the sport might be grating on the nerves of those nearest and dearest to me.  My family is wonderfully supportive of my running, but I know that very few people like to hear about the minutiae of the day-to-day life of a runner.  The one exception to this is other runners.  I’m sure that there are exceptions, but most runners I know can happily sit for hours, reliving past races, discussing training plans, and debating over the best new piece of running gear.

So this leads me to the start of this blog.  I plan to share the highs and lows of my next year of running.  I hope that this will continue to allow me to live my passion for the sport, while also inspiring some people along the way.  If nothing else, it will be a place where like-minded athletes can find some solidarity.  I’m sure that I will mix in some posts about food and reading, two of my other passions, but essentially, this will be a running-themed blog.  Thanks for visiting, and for reading.  Happy running!