September 27, 2010


Today I ran my 100th mile! I am five days away from race day, and four months ago when I started trying to run, I never dreamed I would rack up 100 miles over the summer. I could barely run for 60 seconds without wanting to collapse. And tonight I ran 3.15 miles - without a walk break! ALSO! I wore pants today that I haven't worn in over a year. In the beginning I said, "I'm 29, and my pants don't fit." Well guess what, y'all. They fit! Sort of! Enough that I can tolerate them for an entire day of sitting and breathing! That's good enough for me!

The weather has cooled off significantly over the last few days, and it's definitely made running more pleasant. Tonight I went out in shorts and a tank at 61 degrees as the sun was going down, and it was more than a little chilly to me. Summer wardrobe was easy; I just tried to wear as little as possible. But now I don't know what I'm doing. The whole hot/cold/sweaty situation has me baffled. I started out freezing, but of course warmed up pretty quickly. I was hot and sweaty but my skin still felt like ice. Weird. I'll be experimenting with what to wear so I'm not too cold or too hot, but one thing I know for sure is when it's under 70 degrees, I'll be protecting my delicate ears with my ugly Bondi Band. I get terrible earaches and headaches when there's the slightest chill in the air, so I just have to not think about how ridiculous I look.

One of my favorite things about running is people watching. I know I've mentioned this before, but I love it when there are lots of people out so I can take my mind off my tired legs for a while. Lately I've seen deer grazing just a few yards off the path at the park where I run. Just tonight, as I was cursing Arkansas for the swarms of gnats flying in my face even though it was 60 degrees, I came up on EIGHT deer - babies and mamas - lazily grazing and completely unconcerned with the huffing, puffing, stomping human on their turf. And then I forgave Arkansas.

Seeing other runners also makes me feel better about what I'm doing. I always see people who are better and faster, and it makes me want to work harder. I'll see a runner farther up the path who looks like they know what they're doing, and I'll try to imitate their form before they leave me in the dust. The other day, I was struggling and not wanting to run at all. As I was trying to resist the urge to slow down and walk, I met two barefoot runners coming up the path the opposite direction. And I mean BAREFOOT. None of this Nike Free business. Bare skin on pavement.

They were FLYING! And they looked so happy! I almost tripped over myself gawking at them. There was no Garmin strapped to their wrists, no headphones in their ears. They weren't wearing approved, sweat-wicking running attire - or shoes - but they were running free and it made me want to run that way too! Not run barefoot, but simply run happy. To run for the sheer joy of running. I haven't gotten to that point yet, but I was inspired to speed up a bit. 

There are beautiful runners, who give me something to work toward, and then there are runners who make me laugh out loud. I sometimes forget that even though my music is blasting and I can't hear anything else, people can still hear me. But no matter how hard I try, I cannot keep from laughing when I meet Crazy Arms runner. I see this man at the park often, and I giggle every single time. Trea and I call him Crazy Arms because he flails his arms wildly and awkwardly as he runs. He's short with a bit of a tummy, and he runs crazy fast! Every time I see him, I think of Phoebe from Friends. Kudos to him though, for doing what works. Everyone is different. And he is hilarious.

In five days, I will run the Go Literacy! 5K for the Benton County Literacy Council, and I think I have about a 70/30 chance of running all the way without walking. I drove the race course the other day, and boy oh boy, the last half has some nasty hills! I've been so focused on just finishing my workouts and building up endurance that I haven't focused at all on strength training. I wish I had put in the extra energy to practice running hills so my legs would be stronger, but I'll just have to hope my training has been good enough. I usually stick to flat paths, so this 5K is going to be extra tough. Tonight is the first time I've ever run a 5K distance without walking, and the path was pretty flat. Saturday is going to be a beast. But it will be fun and exciting because I've never even attended a race before. AND! The race for literacy just happens to coincide with Banned Books Week. How awesome is that?

So wish me luck that I won't finish last, and I'll post a race report afterward. I get a cool t-shirt no matter what, so it can't be that bad, right?

September 14, 2010

Obstacles and Solutions

I'm only 18 days away from my 5K, and I've struggled the last couple of weeks, worried that I won't be able to run the full race without walking (and without finishing dead last). It's been really tough lately. It's also been hot and dry, until just recently. The pond at my favorite running spot dried up and made the park and trail awful to visit. My mysterious ankle pain returned, even though I've been wearing my professionally-fitted running store recommended shoes. My RunKeeper app stopped working and I got frustrated that my mileage wasn't being recorded accurately. I've struggled through the right gear and fuel so I don't flake out in the middle of a run. I still don't have it all figured out, but today I finally had a pretty good run and feel better about things.

Running requires fuel. I need to be hydrated, but not drink too much. I need to eat so I don't feel weak with hunger during a run, but I can't eat too much or I'll feel sick. I've been drinking water and avoiding Gatorade because I didn't want to add any calories to my day. But I've decided G2 has a fraction of the calories in Gatorade, and it makes me feel tons better, so it's worth it. Also, I've learned peanut butter and crackers are little miracles before a run in between work and dinner. It tides me over without making me full. A friend recommended that I eat Skittles, which I think is a fantastic idea, since I already have a mild addiction to them. I'm slowly getting this fuel thing figured out and learning what my body can and can't handle.

When my RunKeeper app started acting up, I was so upset. I knew Nike+ didn't record accurate mileage, and I was at a loss over what to do. Somehow spending over $150 on a Garmin just didn't seem appealing. But then Nike+ e-mailed me and said they had changed their cheating ways and wanted to get back together! For only $1.99! So I downloaded a new Nike+ app on my iPhone for two bucks, and I don't need the shoe sensor anymore.

It works through GPS and some other magical technology that can even track my mileage when I run INDOORS! I don't know what Nike+ is thinking, providing such a great app for practically peanuts, but so far, it's working great. The GPS has been accurate when I run outside, and it kinda blows my mind that it knows how far I'm running inside at the gym. I am loving it! I love it because it works, but hearing a silly congratulatory message from Tracy Morgan when I do a good job doesn't hurt either.

Overcoming Weakness
My ankle pain returned a couple of weeks ago. It wasn't as painful as it was before I switched to my Brooks shoes for overpronators, but it was still noticeable and getting worse each time I ran. So I finally gave in to the idea of barefoot running and all the amazing stories I read in Born to Run. Born to Run is a book that would make the laziest of sloths want to get up and race around the countryside. It's filled with inspiring stories, but it also contains compelling arguments about why we shouldn't wear giant, thick-soled protective shoes. Because we truly were born runners. All humans can do it. All humans can't do it well, as I'm proving, but everyone is capable. In Born to Run, the author says that if we encase our feet in protective padding, our feet can't get strong. And our feet can't tell our legs and our brains how we need to move so we won't get hurt. So I took a chance and got some new shoes. I'm not running barefoot by any means, but I got a pair of Nike Free running shoes, which is a slimmer, much more flexible version of other Nikes.

I ran on Sunday for the first time in my Nike Frees. It was totally weird. For the first time ever, I was very aware of my toes. Instead of striking on my heel and slapping my toe to the ground as I do with my huge Brooks shoes, which look like boats on my feet, I can now control and change the way my foot hits the ground. The shoe is flexible enough that it lets me run however my legs need to run, and it makes my feet and legs work a lot harder. There's no two-inch sole to spring me forward anymore. I didn't run very far because I didn't want to overdo it. But today, I tried my usual 30-minute run in them, and I didn't have any ankle pain. I did, however, have serious foot and calf cramps. I had to slow down and walk a few times because my muscles were so tense and tight. They're having to work so much harder than before, and it was too much for me to handle. I'm thinking of switching back to the Brooks on some runs because I don't want these Nikes to throw me off for the race. I have a hard enough time as it is when everything feels "good." Getting new shoes less than a month before a race is probably not the best idea, but I want to do whatever I can to get stronger. So far, I think Nike Free is the way to accomplish that.

My Route
I have a place where I like to run, but I haven't been able to go there lately. It's been too hot to run outside at all, but my place in particular has been extra awful. It's a pond filled with geese, but the pond dried up and the geese stayed. There was an unpleasant smell and what little water was left turned green. It was a sad sight. But it finally rained! And rained and rained and rained. And now the pond is full and there's water flowing under all the little bridges along the path. I'm going back to my safe zone with pretty views and semi-flat running path. This place makes me happy.

My Motivation
I haven't quite finished the PodRunner program, but I'm finished with PodRunner. I can (sometimes) run 30 minutes without stopping, and I still need to work up to 35 before I "graduate," but there's only so much techno dance music I can stand. So now I'm working on the ultimate playlist to keep me going when I want to collapse. My taste in music is probably pretty odd compared to most people. I like songs that are slow and mellow almost all the time. So my iPod library is not meeting my needs when it comes to motivational running music. When I'm cooking or driving, I love Death Cab, but that just won't cut it when I'm running in the summer heat and gasping for air. I downloaded some new songs, and I was in love with my playlist today.

Sweet Pea - Amos Lee
All Cause of You - The 88
Pumped Up Kicks - Foster the People
Bad Sun - The Bravery
Help I'm Alive - Metric
Crossfire - Brandon Flowers
Out of the Blue - Julian Casablancas
Good Life - OneRepublic
Why Don't We Just Dance - Josh Turner
I'll Stop the World and Melt with You - Modern English

September 8, 2010

Santa-Cali-Gon Days

Three years ago, when Trea and I had just started dating, we decided to hop on his motorcycle one Saturday and drive to Independence, Mo., to visit the Truman Presidential Museum. And because Trea was driving, we spent the entire day experiencing the journey, rather than focusing on the destination, and when we finally arrived at the museum, we barely had time to look around before it closed. As we were leaving, a museum employee asked us if we were in town for the festival.

Me: What festival?
Him: Santa-Cali-Gon Days.
Me: Santa what?
Him: Santa-Cali-Gon Days. Y'all should go. It's awesome.

OK, random stranger, you talked us into it. We went to the festival, and we LOVED it. We had no money and had not planned on staying the weekend, but we decided to be spontaneous and just go with it. There was a carnival, carnival junk food, tacky crafts and Mark Chestnutt in concert! We had a fantastic time. And since 2007, we've been reminiscing about our perfect weekend at Santa-Cali-Gon Days and dying to go back.

So to celebrate Trea's 30th birthday and to relive the good old days, we spent Labor Day weekend in Independence. We stayed at a breathtaking bed and breakfast -- a 110-year-old mansion that was the highlight of our trip.

We had a lovely suite, complete with a sitting room.

And we woke up each morning to fresh brewed coffee right outside our door.

And went downstairs to a full three-course breakfast at our private table.

And then we went to Santa-Cali-Gon Days.

Because where else can you get chicken on a stick.

Practice your dart skills.

Win a sweet prize for your girl.

See Scooby end it all.

Test your manly muscles.

Stir funnel cake batter with a DeWalt drill.

AND ride a ferris wheel.

Only at Santa-Cali-Gon Days. 

It was just like it was three years ago.

We went back to the Truman museum and saw the replica oval office.

Just like three years ago.

We love Independence, Santa-Cali-Gon Days, and, of course, Harry Truman!


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