Category: running

Trail Running

Trail runningWorkout: Recovery Run (Trail Run)

Planned Duration: 0:30
Description: 5-10 min dynamic warm-up
Easy pace throughout
If you can get on a trail, do it. Trail running is good for your soul AND it helps increase your cadence and strengthen your stabilizing muscles.

It’s been a very long time since I’ve run trails. Several ankle sprains between early 2011 and late 2012 have kept me running on the smoothest surfaces I can find. But after a good year of PT and ankle exercises, I was really looking forward to this workout.

The Ashland Reservoir trails vary from wide, rocky fire roads to rooty, single track (with a strong slope to the water).  I find lots of company on the trails in the afternoon. Much of my company is the furry, four-legged, wagging variety.  And these dogs couldn’t be happier to be outside walking in the woods.  The dogs and their people are consistent wavers and smilers when we cross and share the paths.

It felt good to be back. I do love how I feel when I’m running in the woods.  My coach was right on (again); it’s good for the soul.  I feel like I am part of the forest when I run in the woods.  It’s like I become connected to the trees, the pine needles and the other animals scurrying across the dried leaves. (I’m not running fast enough to be at a scurry pace on this first trip back into the woods.)

The terrain is hilly, sloped, and leaf covered, so my legs are continuously adjusting to the different surface that each step meets.  Every step of the way I knew that every moment spent balancing on the bosu ball, etc. had been a worthy investment.  My ankles haven’t been this strong at any point in my memory.

I truly enjoy the mental requirements of trail running .  It’s like thought and instinct blend together as I look at the path ahead for the next safe foot landing.  I feel deer-like. My alertness is peaked, but not in a stressful way. It’s very different from my awareness when I’m running on the roads, against traffic. Road awareness feels more defensive, trail alertness feels more inclusive. I don’t feel any increased stress or tension.

This was an exceptional run.  When I returned back to my car, I felt  healthy and fit . This run had restored more energy than it had consumed.

a triathlete’s holiday wishlist

Triathlon ornamentThe catalogs have started arriving in bulk at my house.

My kids are getting hand cramps from circling new Lego sets, rainbow loom accessories, and other bits of colorful plastic.

OK, it’s not just the kids.  It’s me, too.

For some context, my husband and I just celebrated our 13th anniversary.  The traditional gift for 13 years is lace. He gave me new compression tights.  And I was all, “Awww, my husband so gets me.”

When I’m dreaming about new trinkets, I’m thinking gear.  I love gear.  (I think most triathletes love gear.)

I’ve just started, but here’s what I’ve got so far:

stars & stripes gogglesaero mount water bottle* Triathlon bike helmet*

* these are items that still require research – so recommendations & reviews are great! 

What’s on your wishlist?  Please share.  I’m want to compile the “ultimate, crowd-sourced triathlete wishlist”.  Add your wishes in comments. Include a link, so we can all admire your impeccable taste in gear (and to make sure I don’t miss something that should be my list.)

hill. repeat. hill.

Hill elevation profile“What goes up – must come down.
And then go up and come back down, again.”
8 x :30 uphill surge (fast, focus on powering with your butt)/ 3:00 easy

There may be something wrong with me.  I loved everything about this workout.

It was cold. (34 degrees) I needed to layer up in my winter gear.  The first cold run is the hardest.  I always get it too hot or too cold.  I was overdressed – I didn’t need a thermal base layer, yet.  I know that just  2 posts ago I was complaining about having to put on mittens, but I remembered last night that I really enjoy running in the cold.*

It was dark.  I’m not a fan of the short days.  And I’m not quite adjusted. This was not an intentional night run, I forgot. Just poor planning on the timing of the workout.  But off I went with my head lamp and my lovely blinking safety vest. (I’ m threatening my kids with getting one that blinks: “I’m  Will & Hannah’s mom”).

It was hard. In the middle of the second surge uphill I was thinking that 5 repeats might be a little more reasonable to start, but I pushed out all 8.  When I was finished, every bit of my body felt like it had been worked hard.  My arms, core, legs, and butt were fully engaged in the effort.  As was my focus and intention.

The cool down run home, blinking away in the dark, felt glorious.

I think one of the reasons I like cold weather, winter running is that the pollen is finally gone. My asthma and breathing is so much better.  Very cold air can present issues, but I’m good until well below freezing. 

Running Mittens

running mittensWorkout : Endurance Run
Planned Duration: 1:20
Keep your pace exceedingly easy throughout

“Exceedingly easy”is not my favorite.  I find it exceedingly hard to run exceedingly easy. For at least 5 of the 9 miles, I rationalized that this fact negated the entire assignment .
I hate not following my coach’s directions more than I hate running exceedingly easy.  So I toughed it out, but not easily.

The fact that it was also the first mitten run of the 2013-3104 winter training season, probably didn’t improve my running attitude.  I’m not ready for the layers, and they’re coming soon. If I could run harder than “exceedingly easy” I’m sure I’d be able to generate more body warmth.

(OK, that last line may have been a dig for my coach – not that she’s cold right now – in lovely Florida. 🙂 Good luck at Rev3 Venice today, coach!)

Athlete with Asthma

Asthma Inhaler

I find it frustrating.  As I head out for my long run this morning, I knew it was going to need to be an easy pace. Some days are better than others, and today was one of those “others”.  My allergies this fall have been much worse than usual and it’s been almost 2 months of strained breathing. I’m ready for snow.  not really, but I just want to have a full breath and be able to run up a hill without gasping.  OK, I’m grouchy.

I’ve had allergy induced asthma most of my life. (which is better than chronic asthma, so it really could be worse) As a child it was terrifying to not be able to breathe.  The tears and the anxiety would make the breathing worse and then the fear greater.  Asthma is really awful for a child.  Thankfully as an adult I can manage my breathing and my anxiety.  Well, truth – I still struggle with guided meditations that ask you to relax and focus on your breath.

In my early 30’s I developed exercise induced asthma – which I consider to be the biggest insult in the breathing department.  I know it could be worse, but come on!  Seriously?! Exercise induced lung problems? 1. Exercise is good for my lungs and 2. I need them to exercise.  What a terrible invention.  Wouldn’t it make more sense if someone who didn’t exercise had this one?

So what does this really mean for me? (just me – everyone with asthma is different)

  • It means I work very closely with my doctor to make sure I have an asthma management plan that supports my life and my goals.  Some seasons it’s allergy meds and inhaled steroids.  Sometimes I am fine with just a couple of puffs of albuterol before a run.
  • It means that sometimes, I have to cut my runs short or run flat roads because even with management my breathing is too constricted to provide the oxygen my muscles need.  It’s hard give in, but I have gotten better at it.
  • It means that I need to remember to use my inhaler before races, even if my breathing feels OK.  This is especially true for triathlons with open water swims. When I forget –  my legs turn to lead and the only way to finish is usually flipping on to my back and backstroking in.
  • It means that I need to warm up and cool down really well.  An abrupt demand for oxygen is painful and futile for these lungs.  And an abrupt stop, without cool down also creates painful constriction.
  • It means that sometimes it’s too cold in the winter to run outside.  It’s just too hard to warm up and get past the constriction.

I’ve kept exercising throughout my life with asthma.  Despite the frustration, it really has strengthened my lungs.  I’m sure my lungs wouldn’t be as strong as they are if I had opted to avoid the discomfort and the hassle.  I imagine my lung capacity is probably stronger than a good deal of the population because I opted to keep at it.  Just not as strong as an athlete who trains the same as I do who doesn’t have asthma.  And other athletes have other challenges. And others have challenges that prevent them from training all together. I keep all of this in context.

I know I’m not alone.  I had the pleasure of sharing a bike rack and an inhaler with a fellow triathlete this past September. Right before we both got into the water to warm-up long enough to get our lungs ready.  We both had to swim the full course as our warm-up that day.

Unexpected Joys of Running

Monster Inc.
image courtesy of Pixar

Sully and Mike Wizowski were right.  There’s more energy in laughter.

This past Sunday, I ran the Ashland Half Marathon.  The plan was to leave the garmin at home and run in a tutu and fairy wings,  1. It was so close to Halloween and 2. To remind myself that I was doing this one for fun.  Somewhere, maybe 15 yards past the start line, I started making plans to ditch the wings which were flapping all around.

And then I ran past a group of spectators.  The youngest were toddlers.  I was unprepared for their un-containable excitement.  There were squeals and smiles and exclamations – “mom, look there’s a fairy!”  Wow!  You can’t get that from from two cups of coffee!  And it was contagious – I smiled.  All the runners around me smiled – and we kept running.

13.1 (hilly) miles.  It never stopped.  The squeals, the excitement, the smiles.  They came from toddlers most readily, but there were no shortages from parents and grandparents. Each and every time it happened – I smiled wider and felt a surge of energy.  The wings kept flapping and bumping my arms, but there was no way I could ditch them, anymore.  I was hooked on this and I was actually having a blast  – running a half marathon.

When the race was done, I waited in line for my complimentary massage. It was such a hilly course, my quads were burning and my hamstrings were tight, as expected.  But for the first time, I was aware of sore muscles where I’ve never felt sore.  My cheeks.  The muscles in my cheeks were actually tight and ached from smiling for 13.1 miles.

I accomplished my race goal for Sunday – “have fun.”  And as an added bonus, powered by laughter and joy, I also set a new half marathon PR.  Go figure.

I may re-examine my perspective on endurance and trying hard.

Alex running in a tutu
this is why my cheek muscles ached.