Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sprinting and spirits

Over the weekend, I read in Runner's World magazine that NPR's Peter Sagal attempted — and could not complete — a beer mile in Chicago recently.

Let me be honest. Although I read each issue nearly cover to cover, I hardly ever look at an article and think "hey, I can do that." The yoga feature is the most notable exception to that rule.

And now you think that months of reading about wacky races in which participants must either chug (beer, egg nog, etc.) or chow (Krispy Kremes) in between laps has worn me down.

Well, it hasn't, so you can relax and exhale again. So why do I bring up the rarity of RW-inspired action and beer chugging?

Here's a blow-by-blow account of my reaction to the piece.

I can't even finish a regular mile in the amount of time the winner finished in. (Note: Nor could I finish drinking a beer in the winning time.)

I can't chug beer.

I can't really chug anything.

Except water.

And Gatorade.

Maybe milk.

Possibly wine ...

(End flashback.)

Now, I know there are plenty of races that lead you through wine country for the specific purpose of letting you stop and sip.

But I have yet to come across a wine race built around speed instead of savoring. It's even reflected in the distances: a beer mile, but a wine half marathon/full marathon.

I suppose this makes sense, because I also have yet to come across a college culture built around chugging wine — only beer. Please illuminate me if wine-related competitions even exist; the only boasting I hear about wine is a solo person's ability to tuck away a bottle ... or more.

Sure, wine drinkers have a reputation for swirling, staring, sniffing, everything but gulping their drinks. But there's nothing (aside from shattering the sophisticated image) that would prevent them from skipping those steps during a race.

In fact, my love for wine and tepid acceptance of beer aside, I'd think slamming 12 ounces of a carbonated, carbohydrated beverage — then sprinting! — would be much more difficult than gulping 5 ounces of a juicelike drink.

Is that the answer for "why no wine miles?" That it actually would be easier? Or is it just that old habits die hard?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Web wrap-up: July 23 to 29

Runner's World: Treadmill Innovator Bill Staub Dead at 96. I probably would've missed this news, actually, if my boss hadn't mentioned it. (The comment served a dual purpose — one, to inform a known runner of running-related news, and two, to inform a copy editor for a media company of actual news.)

The fact that a man inspired during the 1960s to turn the treadmill — then too expensive for mass consumption — into a home gym staple lived to be 96 should help shut up the "running is bad for everyone's health!" crowd. It's not right for everyone, but it's right for many people ... just like treadmills aren't right for everyone, but they clearly are right for a lot of people.

The Penguin Chronicles: The Trails Less Traveled. John Bingham, a self-described city kid, moved to the country, or at least somewhere a lot more rural, and learned to appreciate trail running. (Though, to be respectful of hard-core trail runners, "groomed multiuse trails" are a little bit different than forest paths. But I digress.)

The opening paragraph shocked me:
"I’m a city kid. I believe in the grandeur of the manmade concrete and steel canyons. Yes, mountains are beautiful, but the gleam of the morning sun off thousands of windows has a beauty all its own."
I'll grant you that there are many kinds of beauty, urban and rural. This might be the Midwesterner in me talking, but who in God's name implies that a whole bunch of windows reflecting light — a natural characteristic of glass — are more impressive than, say, the Rocky Mountains or the Alps?

Anyway, despite thinking this guy is cracked, I kept reading. I was heartened to hear him praise rural sights in a nonpatronizing way, but still, I couldn't help rolling my eyes when he discovered how much nicer shaded trails were during the summer compared with all those glinty windows and all that asphalt.

I must've put my judgy pants on that day, sorry. The rant ends now.

NPR: Summer Science: Clothes Keep You Cool, More or Less. I love exercise-related science, or at least the kind that someone who hasn't taken a science class since 2003 can understand: why your GI tract reacts to running in certain ways, why humidity makes exercising so miserable, etc.

Now, thanks to NPR, I have a much more nuanced view of how to dress for summer exercise. It's not just a matter of wearing as little clothing as possible; the clothes' color and fit, as well as the sun exposure, play a factor.

Miveu-X. My co-worker and friend Ken sent me this link (does that mean I'm getting one for my birthday?). It's a device that straps your smartphone onto your chest so you can record movies from your point of view.

If I did have this, I would most definitely face-plant and break my phone. However, as much as we chuckled over the Miveu-X — and the mental image of my face-planting video — I do have to admit: It looks like a better way to haul my iPhone on a run than the methods I use now.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Seen while running: Week of July 22

When I rounded a certain corner one evening, I thought I'd stumbled upon a miniputt course and started having flashbacks to Wisconsin vacations.
An office park in West Des Moines. My sources weren't kidding when they said this was the nice part of town ...

On the same route, if not the same run, it wasn't just the humidity making me think of the tropics and tropical drinks.
This is actually someone's house in West Des Moines. Makes our summertime Christmas lights seem a lot more subdued and less of a statement.

Can you guess what this is? Nope, it's not old carpeting. It's grass, on some stretch of land not owned by a business with money and water to spare on sprinklers.
A much better picture of drought than the one I took the prior week.

By far the scariest thing I've encountered on a run, including silent Lance Armstrongs: a possum. Before you laugh at me, just remember that our family dog had to visit the vet after tussling with one of these. The poor dog got bit in the jowls by that filthy creature ...  (Edited Aug. 1: Laugh at me. The dog fought a woodchuck, not a possum. I stand by my assertion that possums are nasty, though.)

Wild animals definitely have the right of way on rec paths. I yielded at a safe distance, hence the blurriness of the photo.

And of course there were Wednesday night's storm clouds, if you didn't catch my tale of daring ... or, rather, my tale of underpreparation and some darn good luck.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

I can outrun storms

The title of this post makes a bold claim: that I can outrun storms. Before last night, I wouldn't have believed it possible, either.

However, it's true. I set out blithely without a glance at the weather forecast; I already knew scattered storms had been predicted, so I figured there was no sense in wasting time and ambition by going to weather.com.

What should've been my first sign of trouble was simply treated like a photo opportunity. To the east I saw:

To the west, the eventual direction of my run, I saw:
With nothing more ominous occurring, though, I continued on my route: about 1.5 miles south, then west on the Greenbelt Trail for about a mile. The goal was to do five miles total, which I very nearly did. (That comes later.)

Around mile two/2.25, as I passed a white-haired gentleman, he said something to me that sounded like he'd called me "pardner." No, what he'd said was: "That's thunder."

Just 25 more minutes of safety, and then it can rain as much as the crops around here need, I pleaded — well, pleaded is too strong a word. It was more of a playful bargain I'd offered, with nothing in return.

I reached the top of the hill that marked my turnaround spot at 2.4 miles. More thunder, this time audible. "Keep the pace up," I thought, slightly less facetious than I'd been a quarter-mile earlier.

Then, as the white-haired fellow and I crossed paths again, there was lightning. Every droplet of sweat that splashed down my body made me think the farmers' prayers had been answered instead of mine. After the third mile, this finally became true.

I took off my tank top, wrapping it around my iPhone, and decided to welcome the rain on this hot, muggy evening. This optimism lasted until the intensity ramped up. Squinting against the raindrops, blinking furiously like windshield wipers to see forward, emerging from the protective tree cover of the trail and onto the open sidewalks, I began putting my dad's advice (borrowed from James Bond) into practice: "Always have an escape plan."

Less than a mile away was a Walgreens. Worst-case scenario, I could seek shelter and either try to wait it out ... or make a phone call for help.

While I planned this out, though, the rain subsided. I plugged on, not wanting to tempt fate; even with walking across one intersection to catch my hill- and wind-stolen breath, I did 8:57 over this stretch. As I continued north, the sidewalks grew drier. Could I have ... ?

Not yet. Rain — steady but light and thunder-free — returned as I arrived at the Walgreens intersection. A driver even rolled his window down as I waited for traffic and asked whether I needed a ride. I declined, for many reasons, but mostly because I knew it was less than a mile to my complex. I can do this.

The final 0.8-mile stretch is an upward-rolling one, not exactly where you want a storm to catch up to you. I could feel the judgment emanating from the cars going by as I plowed on, steadily pushed east by wind gusts that stung my ankles with dust.

During the final tenths of a mile, flashes of lightning occasionally illuminated the flailing traffic signal poles. I let the wind shove me downhill and into the apartment complex parking lot as rain once again began to hammer the asphalt.

Safely indoors, I unwrapped my iPhone and hit "save run." I'd managed 4.9 miles in 44:04 minutes, good for an 8:59 average pace. Miles two, three and four each had been finished in less than 9 minutes; during the last 0.9 stretch, I'd kept a sub-8:00 pace. (Thanks, powerful gusts!)

And best of all, I was alive and unsinged, only slightly damper than normal after a Midwest summer run. My fears seemed so foolish as I sponged off — had I really considered phoning east-side friends and begging for help that I would never, ever, confess to my parents that I'd had to seek?

The cockiness of having escaped major trouble is sweet indeed.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Friends and 5Ks

Today, in lieu of bragging on/mocking my running, I would like to brag on some friends/fellow Truman State Bulldogs who have been bitten by the running bug.

It started with Zach and Chelsea (fellow Warrior Dash participants), who did a 5K in May even though both admitted on separate occasions that they hate running.

I was happy for them then, but I was floored (in a good way) by them a few months later: On the Fourth of July, they took an early-afternoon run. Remember how hot it was that day? "You don't even want to know how slow we went," they said, but sheesh, just the fact that they periodically moved faster than a walk deserves a high-five and a cold beer.

Next came Jessica. She's been running in the St. Louis heat — oppressive enough where she returns from runs "drenched" and is laughed at by her dad — as she trains for the Torchlight 5K on Aug. 31. Luckily, that's an evening run, so if she can survive outside right now, she'll rock the actual race.

And finally, there's Ashlee (apparently the new star of my blog). The Color Run comes to Des Moines on Oct. 6, and she's committed financially and publicly to doing it — in my opinion, the best way to force yourself to make running a habit.

It's always exciting when your friends pick up your hobby, without your putting guilt or pressure on them. But I think it's especially awesome when that hobby is something demanding like running.

A lot of people have to make a conscious decision to push through the discomfort for weeks or months before running becomes fun ... or at least before they find it rewarding enough to tolerate the sweat, fatigue, boredom, side stitches, etc.

During many runs, I still feel that way, and that, perversely, is what makes me so psyched for my friends. It takes work — work that I understand from experience — but the payoff, of the endorphin rush and sense of accomplishment and appreciation for showers, clean clothes and food, is so excellent that I'm glad they're sharing it.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Web wrap-up: July 16 to 22

Running Home: 50 Years Later, Little Has Changed. Amby Burfoot writes about knowing his hometown roads so well that he can judge mileage by cracks in the pavement.

It made me think of my own home turf, where I'll measure sprints from a mailbox to a different color pavement, or road signs that signal "start your engines" as well as "aaaaaaand done!" And I'm working on acquiring a few of those around here.

'Chafing': Weird and Wonderful. Mark Remy's book "C is for Chafing," which I can't believe I haven't read, was included among some website's compilation of weird books. You should click the link to see the screen grab of his cover among several far more bizarre-looking works.

I will, however, share his summary of the contents of "C is for Chafing" so that you don't miss it: "illustrations of roadkill and advice on farting during group runs."

Natalie Dee comic. On the same day I posted about the runner's heat index, Natalie Dee posted a comic about people who would disregard said heat index. (Click through, give her some traffic, and also read the small text above the image.)

The two posts were back-to-back in my friend Ashlee's Google Reader account, which makes it even funnier.

Out There: Lace Up Local. We start and end sentimental today (sorry). Susan Lacke joins the "buy local" chorus and sings the praises of her independent running store.

I won't lie and put myself up on a no-chain-stores-for-me pedestal, but I do agree with the thrust of her column: that the community experience of heading to a store where salespeople know, use and enjoy the products they sell ... and where they end up knowing you (right, Runner's Image?) ... can be worth the extra few dollars that a chain or online store might save you.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Seen while running: Week of July 15

Today's "seen while running" post is a mix of imagery and actual images ... can't get the camera phone out for everything, nor should I, in some cases.

Someone's driveway decorations. My hometown isn't close to many big-name football universities. The college I attended? Let's just say that the few fans at games liked to taunt the opposition by yelling our ACT scores, not the football score. The passion for the Hawkeye-Cyclone rivalry is a fascinating and confusing thing for me to observe.

Seen, but not photographed: in the neighborhood south of my apartment complex, a car in a driveway with its backseat doors open.

When the smell of an Abercrombie & Fitch fought its way through the thick humidity and to my nose, I realized that the figures in the back of the car were likely teens trying to make out. Sorry for staring (or, as I wasn't wearing contacts, for squinting intently).

Another image that reminds me of homeRock Valley College is our community college.

A poorly lit picture of drought. For comparison, see what Walnut Creek looked like before July 1 here.

Seen, but not heard: at dusk along the heavily wooded, winding Clive Greenbelt path, a biker who whizzed past and scared the crap out of me. The squeak of his bike reached me just as he did, without a single "on your left."

My high-pitched, breathless "oh gosh!" and melodramatic, yet involuntary, hand to my throat did not teach him anything, apparently. When I came upon walkers a few minutes later, I asked them whether they'd seen and/or heard the biker; one told me that she had to yell at him for his silent approach.

My foot, after a 6-foot-tall man wearing heavy boots stepped on my ballerina flat-clad foot. Note the bruise on the bunion joint. This, fortunately, did not impede my running.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Whoaaaaaaa, I'm halfway there!

This past Sunday, I broke the 500-mile mark for the year (that's running plus the walking I've been able to record), and I didn't even realize it until probably a day later.

It wasn't that I didn't know it was coming — at some point last week, I calculated the right-then mileage, and it was close enough where I thought, "Here comes 500!" ... and then promptly forgot.

My absent-mindedness probably worked in my favor here, however: I always want milestones to feel electric, to make me buzz with excitement, and inevitably that urge to note a special feeling means the moment falls flat. Guess I put too much pressure on the milestone.

Instead, the surprise of No. 500 gave me that sought-after jolt of accomplishment as I added up my previous-week and year-to-date mileage on Monday night.

Anyway, I notched 500 somewhere in the neighborhood south of my apartment complex during a nighttime run, so odds are good that I was focusing on not falling and on not running over any walkers (the sidewalks are normal-sized in this neighborhood, instead of extra-wide, as they are along some of the main roads in West Des Moines).

It was probably on the long, steady, slight incline, so I probably was also huffing and puffing and possibly swearing delicately. My overall effort that evening was strong, though: My splits were 9:43, 9:15, 9:30, 9:42 (is this it?) and 9:24. Not bad, considering the low light and high humidity.

Obviously, the title of the post is a reference to both the 1000 Mile Challenge and "Livin' On A Prayer." As I mentioned earlier, I'm unlikely to reach 1,000 miles, but I looked back at my 2011 wrap-up post to see how many running/walking miles I was able to record that year: 669, plus several outings during which I didn't have a tracking device.

So a few weeks past the year's halfway point, I'm at 75 percent of last year's total, and well on my way to surpassing the modest goal I mentioned in the early 2012 post (breaking 700 miles).

I'm pretty pleased with these numbers. They've come at a cost to my biking, of course, and a recent solo excursion has reminded me of what I'm missing, but next year's big adventure should compensate for that ...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A runner's heat index: Blessing or curse?

Yes, when I most recently blogged, I linked to a motivational poster that scolded runners who whine about the heat. So what am I gonna do today? Write about oppressive heat, of course.

One of the Runner's Digest entries on RW Daily linked to a tongue-in-cheek post titled "The runner's heat index." The author included a serious chart — one that combines temperature plus humidity to tell you how safe or dangerous running under certain conditions is — and suggested that math-savvy runners create one more specific to them.

Miss Zippy proposed a formula adding temperature, humidity, miles run, pace and time of day, possibly subtracting degrees depending on how hydrated you are. If I were actually qualified to build said formula, I'd drop time of day in favor of whatever figure measures sunshine (maybe UV index?) and the type of terrain. During yesterday's mid- to late-morning bike ride, it was remarkable how much different I felt on the forested parts of the Neal Smith Trail as opposed to the wide-open ones.

Which reminds me that wind — speed and temperature — would be other important variables in this now-very-complex equation. (I'd need to build an app where you just plug in a few numbers in order for anyone to use my hypothetical formula.) Thus far, though the humidity in Des Moines makes me perpetually droopy, the breezes around here are basically perfect: gentle and cool, as opposed to the fierce and blazing ones I encountered in the Rockford Half Marathon.

Joking aside, I think I'm glad I found this blog post. I say "think" because it doesn't exactly endorse some of the running-related decisions I've made.

For example, it confirms my decisions over the past two days not to run at all — highs were in the upper 90s, and it's safe to say the humidity was high enough to warrant "extreme caution" — and, over the past week or two, to run at night when the temperatures fall into the 80s.

But on the other hand, it's like a delayed scolding for runs that, while not resulting in heat stroke or heat exhaustion or dehydration, were technically ill-considered. Example: Fourth of July midmorning run. And let's face it, when you're a heat-hating, fair-skinned late-comer-to-running, do you need any more encouragement to sit on the couch?

I know, I know. Knowledge is power. Forewarned is forearmed. Always be prepared. Still, I can't help wanting to use that chart as proof of my toughness afterward, instead of arguments for joining a gym (UGH).

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Web wrap-up: July 9 to 15

The bloggers I follow turned it up several notches last week — one link even got saved for a future standalone post!

I'll try to keep this short to encourage you to check out a post or two (or three ... etc.).

Another Mother Runner: Why I Run (Joan Markwell). Pretty much everything that Joan Markwell listed as reasons why she runs — the exception being "positive role model for my daughters — are ones that I share.

This one, though, I tend to forget, especially now when I'm meeting so many new people and having to talk about my interests:
"A sense of belonging — You are a runner. Repeat after me, 'I am a runner.' It feels nice and other people respect you for that no matter your pace, distance or outfit. Just making the effort makes you part of the club."
Gotta stop trying to qualify my hobby with "but I'm slow," "but I'm not competitive," "but no, I don't do or want to do marathons" or any other "but" statement!

RW Daily: Motivational Poster #28. This picture's 10 words are truly worth a thousand. Have I mentioned that I love Mark Remy?

Running Is Funny: Do Bosses Prefer Moms or Marathoners? Mike stumbles upon the most random and delightful articles. The one he references here is about women in the workplace, and the pertinent section has the author claiming that employers are likely to think of marathon-running employees as more dedicated, disciplined and hardworking than they would of working mothers.

If this is true — which Mike and I both doubt — I know what I'll be stressing in any future job interviews. Though the interviewer will only give me half the credit that I apparently deserve.

Another Mother Runner: Why I Run (Annet Maurer). Annet Maurer's lived all over and has picked up the language(s) everywhere she's been: Dutch (her native tongue), English, French, Swiss-German, Spanish and, she jokes, Australian. Those linguistic adventures — having to jump in and start from scratch — inspired her comparison of running as learning a foreign language; it's the third paragraph in the post, so you don't have to scroll far.

It's such a good analogy. I remember being so righteously outraged that I had to take gym class for most of my school career, thinking how unfair it was that I had to do something so difficult in front of people who found it so easy. (Side note: Who misses being a teenager? Not me.)

Did it ever occur to me, as I whizzed through French class or aced spelling tests, that other people were struggling with it and miserable and embarrassed by my comfort? Yeah, right. If I ever go back in time, one thing I'll be sure to tell my adolescent self is "get over it."

Running Is Funny: Hockey Writer Comes Up With Worst Marathon Analogy Ever. Some hockey writer wanted to make the point that the L.A. Kings' Stanley Cup victory doesn't mean the city will suddenly go hockey crazy and embrace the team (as, I'd like to point out, Chicago does and has for several years before the Stanley Cup win). So he made this statement:
"[It] reminds me of what people think when someone runs his or her first marathon. But contrary to popular belief, it means only that person has the fitness and endurance to run 26.2 miles. It doesn’t mean he or she can have another child, go back to school, change jobs or accomplish anything he or she tries."
One, does anyone truly believe that if s/he runs a marathon, s/he can turn water into wine or cure cancer? (I'd say no.) Two, wouldn't you think that the qualities necessary to train for and complete a marathon would assist someone in achieving the goals this guy rattles off?

But I digress. The point is that another blogger created a list of reasons why this hockey writer has such venom for marathon runners. Read them here.

Runner's Digest: 7.13.12. Olympian Michael Johnson posted an awe- and jealousy-inspiring photo to his Facebook account. Scroll to the bottom of this post to check it out.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Seen while running: Week of July 8

The sights were a little scarce last week ... time to start working in new terrain, or keeping the sweat out of my eyes more efficiently. My sweatbands aren't prepared to handle what a Midwest summer can do!
Seen along 60th Street. I hope this is some sort of road patching material ... or basically anything other than what it looks like. I didn't notice a smell — I'll say that at least.
Also on 60th Street. Looks like our family dog isn't the only critter who bounds through freshly poured pavement!
I also saw/overheard a belligerent man on his cellphone across the street from my apartment complex: "Are you retarded? I think you're mentally unstable. You shouldn't be driving," he was snapping, very helpfully, at someone who apparently was having some sort of car issues.

Usually I love eavesdropping, but this time I just felt bad for the person on the other end. Don't worry, I had no intention of intervening — I just put an extra spring in my step to finish the last quarter-mile and round a corner out of his sight.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Model runners

I have no illusions about how I look while I'm running: slow, sweaty, red-faced, white-bodied and probably grimacing.

Lots of other runners share none of these characteristics, it seems. Just today, I'm pretty sure I saw my 1970s-era Ken doll (immaculate hair, immaculate tan, immaculate muscle definition) gliding down my street.

But recently, I've stopped paying quite as much attention to their looks in favor of watching their gaits. Several months' worth of seeing panicky "are you striding wrong????" stories in my Google Reader account probably accounts for this.

And instead of feeling envious, like when I see sweat-free faces, I feel slightly uncomfortable — when people run, they look funny. Arms are sticking out from the body at 45-degree angles, instead of swinging smoothly; calves and feet move up and out, like they do while you're swinging on the playground ... limbs are moving in all directions, wildly, gracelessly.

Before the discomfort came the amusement — look at that clown! But, of course, I'd barely completed the smug thought that my arms rocked forward and backward smoothly, unlike crowd-clearer girl's, when the self-doubt interrupted.

Sure, when the going's good, I don't feel my body moving in strange, herky-jerky ways ... but that doesn't mean I'm not flailing like a kid at swimming lessons.

It occurred to me that I could settle the question of whether I look awesome or awful fairly easily. I could rope a buddy into recording me with my smartphone, and then I'd know if bikers were snickering at me as they passed me.

But it's like nutritional information on most desserts: Why would you want to know? It would either depress or discourage you.

I'll settle for being this image.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Making headlines

Ashlee, a friend and one of my Des Moines docents, shared happy news with me recently: The Road Runners Club of America designated my city as a Runner Friendly Community (one of four chosen in the second round of applications).

It didn't take me long to appreciate what was out here: wide, well-maintained sidewalks; easy access to extensive trails; money for upkeep (I've seen more closures for repairs in a month than I did in years of using the Long Prairie Trail); and frequent, clear signage (apparently a recent upgrade — more evidence that people in charge are paying attention).

And that's only a sampling of what Des Moines boasts for runners, according to the news release.

So glad to see national positive recognition for my adopted city, and that I can claim a tiny corner of said accolade ... not credit, but bragging rights and a sense of satisfaction each time I enjoy this runner-friendly land.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Hearing voices

Several runners in my Twitter feed and on my Daily Mile account seem to like the RunKeeper app.

I tried it once and hated it, for two reasons: One, its GPS couldn't handle my country roads like MapMyRun had consistently been able to; and two, it spoke to me. I wasn't expecting that robotic observation of "one. mile. at. nine. minutes. and. fifty. seconds," and it didn't matter to me that disabling voice was probably very simple —trial over, RunKeeper loses, MapMyRun wins.

So over the weekend, I finally hooked up my wireless Internet, which in turn inspired me to finally listen to my phone's prompting to upgrade my apps. I did so ... after clearing off RunKeeper, something I apparently hadn't managed to do last fall.

MapMyRun's welcome screen looked a lot different, but the important part — the live mapping, another feature that RunKeeper either lacked or hid from a certain lazy smartphone user — was the same. Off I went, two easy, gently breezy, humidity free miles.


This is why I don't like to upgrade my apps. Last time, it was the garage door opener app that hit a huge snafu, deleting the account name and password that no one could remember with certainty and causing us to reset the password.

Now this time, the user name and alphanumeric password with special characters (IT gods are smiling!) survived, but apparently the price I paid was having the default set to "unexpected robot voice blaring at interval I never track anyway." For me, there isn't any especially good time to hear a voice less humanoid than a GPS one, but why every two miles? I record my single-mile, not double-mile, splits ...

Unlike RunKeeper, MapMyRun gets another chance, with the "voice feedback" setting easily turned to off. But app developers, if you're reading this, please heed this advice: Surprise noisy additions to your products don't make friends, just soiled pants.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Web wrap-up: July 2 to July 8

Today's Web wrap-up begins on a sad note.

In a pleasant break from Syria, Sandusky and other disturbing news, I was assigned to proofread a story about a baby beluga whale rescued off the Alaskan coast. His care was incredibly expensive, and the research center that was nursing him was going to host a 5K run to help defray those costs.

I Googled the whale as I prepared to write this post, only to discover that he'd died earlier today. Poor lost little guy. RIP, "Naknek."

However, my job at a media company did yield a more cheery item for the wrap-up: Steve Cannon of Des Moines finished his 40-day streak of running 26 miles around Lake Michigan last Thursday. According to the Des Moines Register's article, he raised more than $32,000 for cancer research while doing so.

Quite impressive, especially coming from the perspective of someone who A) has never run farther than a half marathon and B) who has never even attempted any incarnation of the Runner's World Run Streak.

That's it for today. Blogging and/or running may be a bit sporadic for the rest of the week as I host the grandparents.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Seen while running: Week of July 1

On my way to the Clive Greenbelt path, this is what I see (in addition to everyone stoppin' and starin' at me):

Every time I pass this, I think it's an abbreviated expletive aimed at the city of Clive. If anyone knows what it really is, please do share.
Is this a squash shell? Whatever it is, it's been hanging around for about a week now.

And then once I was there, I spotted these things:
I too was tired when I snapped this photo. Did someone create this graffiti after watching me slog by recently?
Oh hey, I ran all the way to Chicago! In 88-degree weather, no less. Definitely warrants a leap into the lake.

Back home, after a post-half PR of 6.5 miles, I found this. Scratch "foot model" (or LMFAO music video extra) off my list of career possibilities.
Left foot, covered in popped blisters. I didn't even know I had those.
Right foot, covered in blisters and topped with calluses. Friday night fun, this particular evening, was exfoliating.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Not another post about the heat wave

Everyone who's stepped outside or consumed some form of media is probably not only tired of the heat wave, but also of hearing about it.

I think I'm even tired of complaining about it and railing about it, so in the vein of a Phoenix resident's tips for coping, I'll focus on what I've learned this week. Warning: If you're, like me, a cold weather runner desperately combing the Internet for a magic bullet ... I don't have it.

* Des Moines' trail system isn't awesome merely for the bathrooms it features (hey, when nature calls ... ) — it's awesome for the frequency of water fountains. On a related note, it might be time for me to give my Simple Hydration water bottle another try.

* Listening to my body has gone from being veteran runners' wisdom to something completely automatic. It's not a choice. I wish I could say that's because the switch has clicked and I've become a zen runner, but it's actually more like the human body flipping a lever and going into survival mode.

Example: Runs on July 3 and 4 averaged paces around 10-minute miles for the first two (downhill/flat terrain). They flew up past 11-minute miles for the second two (series of uphills) and reached 13:20 during what was apparently my toughest run. The stop-and-walk breaks aren't a matter of me being mentally weak, at this point; they're my body preventing me from overheating.

* There is no "good time of day" to run. Even though the figure on the thermometer almost doesn't matter — it's oppressively hot and muggy, period — I've been checking. We had 88 degrees at 10 a.m. on July 4; on July 6, 99 degrees at 8:15 p.m., 97 at 8:45 p.m. and 96 at 9:30 p.m.

But look at these numbers from my runs on those days: an average of 10:27 per mile over 4 miles on July 4, with the slowest being 13:20, versus an average of 9:56 per mile over 6.5 miles on July 6, with the slowest being 10:50. Plus, after returning from the shorter run, I had to spend probably twice as long in the A/C before I stopped sweating and could take a shower.

The difference was heading out midmorning versus later in the evening. Maybe the heat melted my brain so I don't remember how intensely I suffered during the July 4 run, but I can say with certainty that while I might not have hated running during the midmorning adventure, I know I liked running during the late evening adventure. (Sundown, by the way, comes closer to 9:15 or 9:30 p.m. in Des Moines right now, so the majority of this run was not done in the dark.)

* The last and most uplifting nugget: I'm adjusting. Or getting used to it. Or being worn down by it.

This isn't like "Green Eggs and Ham," where I hated summer runs before I tried them. This is more like being scared of driving on interstate highways until I graduated from college and had to choose between never visiting people outside the Rockford, Ill., metro area and dealing with merging/others merging at 65-plus mph.

To be serious for a second — and honest — I'm pretty proud of myself for choosing the "learn" option (in both situations) instead of the "hide" one. I haven't reached the full-on addiction like the folks I see running around asphalt-heavy, shade-free downtown at 1 p.m., and I don't plan to, but I'm able to suppress the urge to hunker down in the A/C for at least 40 minutes a day, a few days a week.

Take that, climate change. Actually, don't take that, and certainly don't read that as a challenge to throw even more devastating and drastic changes at us.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

My sixth check-in on the Rock River 1000 Mile Challenge

With the year halfway done, here's how I'm doing on Daily Mile's Rock River 1000 Mile Challenge.

Obviously, I should be at 500 miles ... and I've logged 461, or 39 off pace for the year.

I know objectively that this is a somewhat significant gap, as far as catching up goes, but when I think of how much I avoided summer runs in the past few years, I feel like patting myself on the back, high-fiving myself and buying myself a celebratory drink.

After all, I logged about seven-ish miles for the two weeks after my half marathon, which had put me within three miles of being exactly on track. Those two weeks were spent recovering from the race and moving 300 miles for a new, improved job, so I don't have any reason to berate myself.

That fortnight is responsible for about two-thirds of my shortfall; over the course of the following month, I came up short a few miles a few weeks, and that's it. So I'm well on my way to establishing the habit of running four-plus miles regularly, and I'm working on going past that more often.

Will this get me to 1,000 miles by Dec. 31? Maybe, maybe not — I have to average closer to 21 miles per week for the rest of the year. But it's not outside the realm of possibility, and I'm on track to break 900 if I maintain the status quo. That would still be worth celebrating.

* * *

Past monthly check-ins: January through April (at Get Running) and May (at Little Runner, Bigger City).

Monday, July 2, 2012

Web wrap-up: June 25 to July 1

Running Is Funny: An Army Jogs on Its Stomach. Mike shares the vision of a Pennsylvania man who launched a series of races, called Jog 'n Hog, based on the Krispy Creme Challenge. Each race's eating portion is tailored to the city's particular specialty.

I liked this post because of the regional delicacies it described: pepperoni balls, ice cream and clusters of caramel/nuts/chocolate. And I thought it was worth sharing because of the call for what your city's food item would be.

Des Moines is apparently known for steak de burgo and Graziano's sausage. My former residence, Rockton, would have to feature Dairy Haus ice cream, and my true hometown, Roscoe, would definitely serve up pizza from Pietro's; extending to my home metro area, we could pig out on Edwards Apple Orchard donuts, anything from BeefaRoo or Swedish pancakes.

Now I'm hungry for home.

Another Mother Runner: Time to Talk Dirty. Sarah lists punny slang terms that describe mud race phenomena. I did the Warrior Dash last year, so this sounds pretty familiar as well as accurate. My favorite? "Souv-in-ear – the keepsake dirt you find in your ear three days after the race." For me it wars more like souv-in-toenail, but that's much less catchy.

Well: What Runners Can Learn From Cheetahs/Running Is Funny: Other Things Runners Can Learn From Cheetahs. The New York Times article (first link) is highly scientific and discusses the mechanics of how cheetahs and greyhounds move so fast. What humans can learn from them, it says, is that strong thighs and lighter shoes probably help, but that "there’s no indication" that the critters' lolling tongues boost speed. Michael Jordan probably would beg to differ, and judging from some of my hot-and-hilly runs, I'd say it's at least worth a little psychological boost. That's probably just a child of the three-peat era talking.

Mike's post, the second link, is easier to digest. Lots of pictures of cute cheetahs of all ages and sizes. Also, there are far-more-practical tips from cheetahs: I don't think I'll struggle putting "Cuteness trumps speed" (I've gotten some hollas recently, sunscreen, sweat, grimace and all) and "Recovery days are very important" into practice.

RW Daily: Congrats to Our 1 Millionth 'Avid Runner'!. Mark Remy points out, correctly, that articles never describe "runners" without using the adjective "avid." He explains the distinction:

"Avid runners are people who run and then talk about it, even to people who don't run and don't care. Also, avid runners wear race T-shirts instead of giving them to Goodwill."
Hurray! I'm an avid runner, because I talk about it to people who neither run nor care! Thanks, Mark.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Seen while running: Week of June 24

Last week while running, I made some new friends ...
Somewhere along 50th Street, providing me a nice catch-your-breath break.

 ... saw some natural and man-made art ...
"Paths Unite," by James Bearden, on the Clive Greenbelt Trail
Walnut Creek, seen from an overlook with a bench, looked awfully inviting on a muggy summer evening. This was the night I checked out the Clive Greenbelt Trail on foot.
... had flashbacks of the upper Midwest (home sweet home) ...
Also the name of a neighborhood in Rockton, Ill.! This one looks a little swankier.
Just like in Stevens Point, Wis., near the Schmeeckle trails, Clive has phallic brick structures near its rec path!
... and watched sweat pool on every square inch of me.
That is a bib of sweat forming on my shirt.
Overall, a good week in running, even with the hiatus for extreme heat, and even with the not-extreme-but-just-intense heat.