Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Taking a stand against the weather swings

On St. Patrick's Day weekend — a dreary one, weatherwise, in Des Moines — I arrived at work Saturday to find my friend Annah in a hoodie, jeans and Birkenstocks.

When I applauded her courage/foolhardiness/hardy Michigan blood for wearing sandals, she shrugged off the praise.

"When the sandals come out, they're out. There's no going back," she said firmly. (We'd had at least one pleasant day earlier that week.)

I thought of that determination Monday as I did post-half-marathon laundry. All of my running clothes needed washing, but I had thought that some of the cold-weather gear might stay clean for a while.

The Midwest has something else in mind, I see, but I'm drawing inspiration from Annah as I write this: The spring gear is out, and it's staying out. I refuse to dirty all of my winter gear again.

This declaration, I admit, is somewhat less brave considering that I'm coming off a half marathon and thus can keep winter gear clean by "recuperating," i.e., not running.

It's also less dramatic when you realize that only two days are forecast to be below 50 degrees, which is when I begin thinking about covering more skin.

Nevertheless, I don't want to grow moss — so if you see a shorts-and-T-shirt-clad runner shivering at a stoplight this week, don't pity her. Salute her.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Race recap: Hy-Vee Road Races half marathon

So as not to bury the lead, several race-day fears came true yesterday at the Hy-Vee half marathon.

I was comfortable in a T-shirt and shorts at the starting line, meaning the abrupt warmup I'd fretted about had indeed arrived. And the combination of adrenaline, wanting to break free from the crowd and a prolonged downhill stretch at the beginning meant I started far too strong.

Toss in misleading MapMyRun distances and paces (apparently I ran 13.75 miles at a 9:30 clip!), and you've got the makings of a letdown. Watch the slow, steady downward progress:

My 5K split was 28:33 (a 9:11 pace); 10K split was 58:40 (a 9:26 pace); 15K split was 1:29:30 (a 9:36 pace); and overall time was 2:10:33 (a 9:58 pace).

I'd rather focus on the positives, though, and the good news is that, once I literally cooled down, this wasn't even a struggle.

* Spectator signs were excellent. My favorite was "If this were easy, it would be called your mom," followed by "Worst parade ever :( " and "Run faster, I just farted."

(I would've smiled more at "Don't walk, people are watching," except that I indulged in walking and did not care who saw.)

* The friend factor was off the charts. Emily and Zach ran the half with me; we let Zach take off with the fast kids, but we ladies stuck together for not quite half of the race. Even though we hardly talked (she's an iPod runner), somehow it made the miles fly by.
No sweat, no scowls: This is obviously a pre-race photo.
After the race, I got to commiserate about the conditions with the friends who ran the half, and I was consoled/credited by those who didn't run the half, all along the lines of "Seriously, you just ran 13.1 miles. That's amazing. I can't even fathom doing that."

And both of those groups united for a long, leisurely post-race celebration.

* Post-race brunch was beyond amazing. We hit up Jethro's for a $6 all-you-can-eat brunch, and words cannot describe how amazing everything tasted ... for a beyond-reasonable price.
That first bite of bacon tasted soooo good. I might've wept for joy. The potatoes, which you can barely see, were the real star, though. Yes, those are Bloody Marys; no, I didn't finish mine after the first two sips. 
To top it off, we saw Huckleberry stroll by and mark a shrub as his, and there was this sign:
Don't worry. I left a tip.
* Post-race beer was fantastic. One at Jethro's, a few more in a supportive friend's courtyard. There's no caloric guilt in having a few Summer Shandies after running 13.1 miles, right? And it's totally OK to drink your post-race fuel instead of eating it, right?

Overall, while I fell short physically and mentally during the race (I'm really sorry to everyone who heard me ask where the f*** the finish line was, or declare that this length was f***ing bulls***), I'm pleased with the lead-up and aftermath.

I trained my body well; it just so happened that race-day conditions didn't arrive until the taper period.

And with that, plus my embarrassment/frustration/anger at acknowledging hopes and dreams only to fall short, it was less than an hour before I was thinking and saying: "Maybe I can redeem myself at the Des Moines half this fall."

No declarations of "running sucks, I quit forever." It's just time to recuperate and think about RAGBRAI now.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Do I dare believe?

Back when I was still doing long runs for training — seems so long ago, as I lounge on the couch! — I was conversing with a fellow Scoop Chaser about my progress.

I don't remember which run I'd most recently done: the nine-miler at 9:30, the 10-miler at 9:36 or the 11-miler at 9:23. But whatever one it was, it prompted Zach to ask about my race time target.

I gave him the same tired line I've clung to since registering for the race, that is, just keeping it at or under 9:45 so that I'd beat my previous PR. Can't sustain those paces, blah blah blah.

Though I don't recall his exact response, I do remember the gist of it: "Sure you can. You just did."

This conversation came back to me courtesy of a recent Competitor.com post that asked whether your marathon goal pace is too slow.

I expected the same mushy argument that adrenaline will carry you, which turned out to be wrong in my first half marathon; race-day excitement can't overcome peanut-butter-related GI crises.

Instead, I found hard science. If you taper, your muscles will be fully rested, and your glycogen stores will be topped off. And you're likely to be better fueled during the race, because you don't have to be your own water/Gatorade/Gu station.

All of this — not loosey goosey pep talks — prompted me to reconsider my self-deprecation. Zach's right, Competitor is right ... and my hidden ambition is probably right, too.

Back in January, I boldly declared that I wanted to run a half marathon in 2:05:00, which would mean 9:30 miles.

Once training started, I mentally retreated from that for a handful of reasons: I didn't want to jinx myself, even though I didn't really believe I could do it; I didn't want to build myself up for other people; and I didn't want to experience the letdown of falling far short on race day.

Yet all this time, I've been plugging my long run results into the race pace calculator to see what could happen. The answers have nourished dreams of PRing by far more than a handful of seconds.

With two days to go, do I believe? Do I believe that I trained well and rested well; do I believe that I have the right equipment to pace myself and refuel myself; do I believe that I can talk myself through some discomfort and, no matter what race day brings, be proud of the work that I'd done leading up to it?

I believe all of that, without question. Which means that, beyond superstition and a habit of pessimism, there's no reason I shouldn't believe I can finish minutes under my PR.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The last workout before race day

Today was my last run before Sunday's half marathon.

That meant that I put on one outfit, set aside another for race day — and dumped all the rest, including the long-sleeved shirts and tights, into the laundry basket.

(I have many reasons to look forward to the race, and one of those is washing a somewhat overdue load of workout clothes. And once those are washed, I have a strong hunch that the winter clothes will stay clean for a loooooong time.)

The good news is that because Sunday's still forecast to be sunny and pleasant, I can wear my favorite running outfit — pink T-shirt, black shorts and the newest pair of Balega socks — and also, as a co-worker pointed out, not succumb to the temptation of bundling up because of how cold waiting can get.

Judging from the easy three-miler and post-run foam rolling, my taper is doing exactly what it should do.

I didn't even really try that hard during the run — OK, on that long, steady upward slope, I did have to try — and still kept a 9:36 pace.

When I stretched, it felt nice but not massage-nice, like it does when I'm fatigued, and when I used the foam roller, only the most finicky of spots complained. Which then prompted me to realize that my muscles haven't ached in a few days.

So I'm physically ready. All that's left is to pick up my packet, find my way to the start line without parking illegally and not mentally freak out over the idea that I'm going to run 13.1 miles at a time I'm almost always still in bed, with the last mile or so being a hill.

No big deal, right?

Monday, April 22, 2013

It's time to relax ... and also live it up

On Friday I declared my excitement over seeing race day in the forecast. I wasn't lying, but it did occur to me that not so long ago, I also would have been admitting to a twinge of sadness that game time was almost here.

Training had been going so well — and it still is — and I'd been reveling in the discipline it imposed on my life. In fact, I even feared its end a little bit, because it signals the end of significant running for the next three months. That will be RAGBRAI time.

Over the past few days, and with a close-to-perfect forecast for race day, though, I've cast that melancholy aside for two reasons.

One, I'm ready to rest. Two, I'm ready to party.

For the first point: I took last Wednesday off, as I'd planned, and Thursday off, as I hadn't planned but certainly didn't refuse. And still, the siren songs of couch lounging, napping and hitting the snooze button one more time are blaring.

I don't think I've overtrained, because the runs feel fine, but the mileage is adding up for sure. An extended period of laziness seems like the most efficient way to make me stop wondering whether I've caught the sleeping sickness, somehow, despite living far from any tropical regions.

For the second point: As a runner in training, I don't regret making sure my body is hydrated, rested and ready for race day; as an introvert fighting her nature, I'm concerned about my growing reputation for — and inclination toward — staying in.

A few times, I've passed on grabbing a few drinks because I wanted to wake up refreshed for the next day's runs.

Other times, I've declined post-work because I was tired/hungry and wanted to go home, a problem I don't recall having as often last fall, when my running was less focused and more recreational. (I don't think the constant gloomy weather is helping my nesting instinct, either.)

And once — remember the only day in 2013 that we broke 70 degrees? — I had to decline because the day's workout had utterly drained me.

None of this is to say that I regret training for a half marathon.

I probably wouldn't find the thought of waking up with a smile after 7.25 hours of sleep — or waking up with a wine headache/beer gutache — as appealing had I been experiencing those phenomena frequently over the past few months.

Nor would I have netted one PR and cast my eyes on another, if I hadn't been relatively dedicated to my training.

In conclusion? It's a good thing I decided to follow up my half marathon with RAGBRAI, because as I understand it, training for this event will require me to practice nomming cake, raising a glass and demanding that I get up and crank out serious miles the next day.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

This will be me for the next few days

The grandparents are coming to Des Moines to visit me and Dusty this weekend, so I've lined up the rest days over my taper weeks with their visit.

For the next few days, instead of being the jogger in this comic strip, I'll be the woman on the bench. My sandwich will likely be from Jethro's. Maybe, if the family and I are lucky, we'll even have sunshine instead of wind, rain and clouds.

Happy restful weekend to everyone!

Friday, April 19, 2013

It's almost here!

Race day is finally in the 10-day forecast: 57 degrees, sunny and no precipitation.

So now I can stop telling people that I'm praying Iowa doesn't suddenly deal me a hot, humid day, like every day last summer and no days yet in 2013.

Will this end my worrying? It actually might. Sure, forecasts change, especially in the Midwest, but a high below 60 still leaves me an acceptable margin for potential warmups.

It's funny; every other time I can remember being thrilled that an event finally breaks the 10-day forecast, it's for a vacation.

This time, it's for something that will require me to wake up far earlier than normal, stand outside in a T-shirt and shorts when I should be wearing a hoodie and pants, run 13.1 miles before noon and spend the rest of my day being tired.

The nerves will start hitting in about a week and culminate in that googly feeling in my stomach that morning, but today, at least, I'm excited, and barring disaster, I should be sky-high once I've finished the race.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sorry, Hal: I'm not running 12 miles this weekend

During my half marathon career, I've stuck with Hal Higdon training plans, and I've been mostly pleased with the results.

One question I've had, though has been growing more persistent as I gain more experience, read more about running and talk more to other runners: Why do long runs continue to add distance right up to race day?

Just about everyone else suggests weaning yourself off the long run in the final few weeks. Not Hal.

I've kept faith with Hal, though, for varying reasons: Because at some point, we're all noobs and follow the first voice we hear. Because I wanted confirmation that I could run longer than 10 miles. Because the previous long run had been awful, so I wanted redemption. Because I think of myself as running better while a little tired than super-rested.

This time around, after I'd finished the 11-miler with a little more than two weeks until race day, it was that long runs had gone so well, I wanted another triumph and the satisfaction of a hard day's work — plus practice in actual springlike weather.

It doesn't look like that weather will arrive in time for the days on which I can do the 12-miler, but that's OK: I've changed my mind and won't be doing another double-digit run.

Don't think this is a total rejection of Hal; this is just an agreement to disagree.

Leading up to my first half marathon, I had a bad encounter with two loose dogs that scared me past tapering into becoming a couch potato, and I could definitely feel the rust. Since then, I've been leery of tapering — and I think that's the underlying reason behind my dedication to Hal's persistent long runs.

The pre-5K taper plan seems to have paid off; a PR is irrefutable proof that proper tapers work.

And, as it stands right now, all of my previous diligence — a personal best — has paid off tremendously, and I feel both physically and mentally prepared.

So why pile on more miles than necessary? I have no nagging injuries, but there are the occasional aches, pains, stiffness and soreness that could probably be eased or avoided by easing up a bit.

No hard feelings, Hal. It's just that your novice is growing up, and she knows that it's OK to disregard advice if it doesn't work. (Peanut butter before long runs, I am glaring hatefully at you.) Just don't say "I told you so" if I fall flat on my face April 28.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston Marathon explosion: What is there to say?

In lieu of self-deprecation, occasional boasts and frequent complaints about the weather, this post will be the equivalent of a moment of silence, out of respect for the Boston Marathon tragedy yesterday.

Many people will have eloquent and moving commentary about the explosion. I'll let them provide the emotional insight, and I'll keep all of those affected in my thoughts.

Monday, April 15, 2013

A feat of mental strength

When I stepped outside Sunday morning to test the temperature, I discovered good news and bad news.

The good news was that a T-shirt and shorts were completely weather-appropriate.

The bad news was that it was drizzling, and I had to be at work in two hours — meaning it was either run now or hope I was committed enough to go after work.

As I've admitted before, I'm a wimp about rain. Getting an iPhone has only made this worse, because it's a crutch: "I don't want to get my expensive high-tech phone wet, you know?"

This time, though, I managed to kick my own crutch out from underneath me (hooray!). I told myself that if the rain's pace picked up — I couldn't tell it was raining from inside — I could just turn back. But on the first springlike day in at least half a week, I would regret staying home.

So I went and was rewarded with:

* Very little rain. My shirt was merely speckled, and my smartphone was never in any real danger.

* A smug sense of superiority. The same girl who bundles up in a blanket at her office desk was out on a windy, overcast day in shorts and a T-shirt, while other Jordan Creek Trail runners had long sleeves, windbreakers, earmuffs, even sweatpants on.

* Shiny stats. I took a break midway through the speedy portion of my tempo run (YES I KNOW I WENT OUT TOO FAST), but each half was almost 1.5 miles at a 8:28 pace.

The fact that I even ran might not seem all that impressive, but I'm kind of a baby about the weather. I spend a great deal of time at weather.com, looking at the hourly forecast to find when it will be driest and how many of my long-run fears — heat, humidity and wind — I can avoid.

To deliberately head out into a condition I dislike took willpower.

Apparently I have willpower.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Fortune favors the brave, right?

Earlier, I wrote about how a post by Kristin Armstrong had resonated strongly with me: "When we wait to be perfect, we wait too long," read the summary.

I didn't mention it at the time, but the reason it spoke so loudly to me was that I was debating whether to do four days of RAGBRAI — from Des Moines to the end — like I'd thought about doing when the weather was safely cold.

It was like a tornado in my brain: Was I fit enough? Organized enough? Ambitious enough? Sufficiently equipped?

Just like public safety warnings about road conditions during snowstorms, I knew, logically, that RAGBRAI's website likely erred on the side of severity. You don't want people who have only logged a few 10-mile rides thinking they can and should sign up for a weeklong, 400-plus-mile event.

And just like with snow warnings, my emotional, worrywart side took over:

"Well, yeah, I live in one of the host cities, know several people interested in doing it — a few who have even done it, actually — and have enough vacation time left over after weddings, but maybe I'll just wait for the 14th-flattest and shortest route in history, rather than the 15th-flattest and second-shortest. I'll be in better shape then!"

That day, I was IM'ing with one of those friends, who'd fearlessly committed to the full week, at the same time as I was sifting through my Google Reader (I'm holding on until the bitter end).

Enter Kristin's post. I don't make all my decisions based on signs, but this one was neon and flashing. I couldn't ignore it. A few weeks and $100 later, I was officially in.

I can't say the worrywart side has shut up; right now, I'm procrastinating on paying $14 for Scheels to fix my second flat tire in a week and berating myself for leaping into a road bike with no mechanical skills whatsoever. (Evidently I don't always wait to be perfect.)

But I can say that, just like when I committed publicly and financially to running a half marathon in my first year of running, I stopped waiting to be perfect. Barring extreme circumstances, I'm unlikely to throw my online cred and $100 — OK, just the latter — away out of cowardice.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Figurative meltdown over a possible literal meltdown

One or two long runs left to go, at most, before the Hy-Vee Road Races half marathon.

The 11-miler's mapped out, and there are two days remaining this week on which I can do it. The high both days: 46 degrees at the most, depending on which weather site you consult.

Lower temperatures don't bother me; it's wind, humidity and heat that frustrate me. I'll be fine in this weather.

Moment of calm. Then —

But what about normal April weather? Or abnormal-in-the-opposite-direction April weather?

Weather.com, my bible, says the average high for April 28 in Des Moines is 67 degrees.

Moment of panic. Have I run more than once in that temperature yet this year? Have I run long on a day that reached the 60s yet this year, even? Maybe my nine-miler ... during the final few miles.

The 70-degree-day run had many complicating factors besides the heat, but wow, that was a tough run. My body is not used to sun and warmth.

If I keep my faith in Hal Higdon, I might have one chance to reacquaint myself with late-spring conditions. If I bow to the advice of the rest of the running world — end the long runs already! — I'll have well-rested but ignorant legs.

Breathe in and breathe out. The high doesn't hit until later in the day, and the race starts at 8 a.m.; it can't be worse than last year's half marathon, held on a day that reached 80 degrees.

I might be the only one in Iowa thinking this right now, but if there are weather gods and they're listening, I would really appreciate your keeping temperatures cool until April 29. Or even just after noon April 28.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Your body knows best

One thing I love about the Midwest is the thrill of the seasons changing. One thing I don't love is how that thrill overrides rationality sometimes.

I woke up Monday feeling just peachy, even though I'd run a fast 5K and biked 24 miles the previous day. With the 70-degree forecast — and midweek cold-and-rainy front — there was no way I was taking a rest day.

Another bike ride was on the schedule; a flat tire five miles into what I'd hoped would be as close to 30 miles as my condition would allow, however, was not on the schedule. The Shrimp (my bike) and I trudged home defeatedly.

I hadn't felt fatigued before getting the flat, but the walk of shame did wear me down some. Still, the weather was so nice, and I had the whole day off work, so there didn't seem to be any reason not to pick one of the week's running workouts in its place. Right?

Wrong, as I realized within the first tenths of a mile. My legs felt weird. At first, I thought it was just post-bike adaptation; when I stopped "to retie my shoe" before a mile was done, I knew that wasn't the case.

And yet I pushed on, thinking that if I simply willed myself through the first half of my out-and-back, I'd be able to float home without trouble.

On a different run, that might've been the case. But I was running on tired legs; I was running on a relatively empty stomach; I was running in temperatures I hadn't seen since September on a sunny, windy day. It just wasn't my day, period.

The cherry on this sundae of crappiness was the jerk driver who honked at me as I crossed — while I had the crosswalk sign! — because I was impeding his ability to turn right. You know, if I were moving that slowly to ruin your day, why didn't you turn while I was still crossing the three lanes before yours?

I ended up getting in 4.75 of the five scheduled ones, and I'm 100 percent OK with that. I should've listened to my body earlier, but better late than never.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Will I or won't I break my PR?

So I ran the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick 5K on Sunday, which as you might remember was the event at which I hoped to better my personal record. Let's take a look at how that day went.

1:30 a.m.: My cat, annoyed that I didn't come straight home after work, develops a case of the crazies as I prepare for bed. This results in a (minor) bloody toe. I hope this is not an omen.
This was not taken during the kitty-crazies outbreak. I just wanted an excuse to post a picture of Dusty, and in particular the unimpressed/skeptical look he often gives me.
6, 7 and 8 a.m.: I wake up, realize it's not 9 a.m. yet and roll back into a fitful doze.

8:50 a.m.: I crawl out of bed and recall one of my dreams last night — that the race went poorly, for some reason. So far my dreams have shown no sign of a latent psychic talent, but will this streak continue?

9:30 a.m.: I check Facebook to see that a college acquaintance ran a 5K in 23 minutes, good for a trophy in our age group. My 24:58 three-miler ducks its head, ashamed of its bragging.

10:30 a.m.: I pull into the True Value Hardware parking lot, observe lots of spandex and stretching, but no starting line or registration table. I ask one of the spandex-clad stretchers where the race begins, and she tells me to walk around the fence that says "plague." Her directions are spot-on:

I hope I'm not disseminating gang messages by posting this.
10:50 a.m.: "THE RACE WILL START IN 10 MINUTES," blares a megaphone. Regina and I keep walking until we find ourselves literally at the starting line. Yards behind us, the other runners mill about.

I'm mildly excited, because there are no timing chips, but also feel out of place with the fast kids. Will they trample me? Regina doesn't take any chances with that and bids me farewell.

The man next to me turns out to be a friendly and speedy veteran of this race. We discuss his pace (faster than mine), his clothing choices (not as smart as mine!) and the terrain/route.

10:59 a.m.: "THE RACE WILL START IN ONE MINUTE." Mr. Friendly gives me a fist bump for luck.

11:07.50 a.m.: One mile in, I'm being passed by quite a few people, but MapMyRun tells me I've just run another sub-8:00 mile. Logically I know it's too fast; physically, I know it's faster than normal yet not miserable. Please don't bonk!

11:15.47 a.m.: I've turned around and feel much slower, though MapMyRun later will tell me I was only seven seconds off the first mile's pace. I feel like I'm working — not miserable, but not eager to prolong this much more.

(Time unknown, but 0.66 miles later): Leading up to the turnaround is a slight but long incline. I wimp out and walk a few seconds. Yep, with less than a half-mile to go, I walk. Maybe 0.2 miles later, I do it again. Come ON, Sadye. Seriously.

11:24 a.m.: I've turned the corner, literally, and am headed literally down Grand Avenue, with the finish line in plain sight. Also in plain sight? A completely pancaked squirrel on the road. RIP, buddy.

11:25 a.m.: There's a guy in front of me, but he's not picking up his pace even though we're so close. Well, I'm going to.

11:25.25 a.m.: I pass the guy.

11:25.30 a.m.: I officially finish, breaking my PR by more than a minute.

11:25.33 a.m.: I remember to hit stop on my phone.

11:24.40 a.m.: The nausea subsides.

11:24.45 a.m.: The guy I passed smiles at me and says: "Good job!" in a nonsarcastic way.

11:25 a.m.: The sun comes out, perfect for my sweaty T-shirt and shorts. I wonder how the jacket-wearing Mr. Friendly feels right now.

11:45 a.m.: Regina and I have both finished, rehydrated, dried off, etc., and decide to have a celebratory drink. As we try to enter Sully's, we discover the first one is on the race organizers. Free beer and a PR; what could be better than that?

Nothing says classy like sitting on a Burger King stoop with free mass-produced beer before noon.
12:24 a.m.: We're polishing off the half-beers I snagged before the keg ran dry when age group awards are announced. Turns out I placed second in the women's 20 to 29 group (out of 17).

That's what's better than free beer and a PR — earning your first athletic trophy ever, and NOT just for participating.

I might put this on my desk at work, to make more people ask me about it and then having to congratulate me. 
(And if, like me, you were wondering whether my walk breaks cost me first, the answer is no, thank God. The first-place winner beat me by nearly five minutes.)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A week on easy street

Back in January, when I registered for a 5K and a half marathon, I snuck one week from the 5K training plan into my half marathon schedule.

So in the midst of training for a half marathon, I've suddenly begun tapering for my upcoming 5K. And talk about a contrast.

Two Mondays ago, I ran 10 miles in the snow at a 9:36 pace; this Monday, I ran four — twice as many as I was "supposed to" — at a 10:34 pace and knew 60-degree days were right around the corner.

Two Wednesdays ago, I did nine 400-meter intervals; yesterday, I did a 30-minute tempo run.

Last Friday, I ran five miles in shorts and a T-shirt; when I run either today or tomorrow, I'll still have the shorts and T-shirt (I hope!), but I'll only need to go two miles. That leaves plenty of time for me to bake a cake. (If you work with me on Saturdays, get excited!)

Last Saturday, I dragged myself out of bed a half-hour early so that I could do a test run. This Saturday, I might venture out to soak up some sun ... or I might hit the snooze button.

No wonder I've felt like I had more time on my hands lately.

It's odd to hear about my running friends' third 10-miler in three weeks on the same day that I slept nine hours. Judging from some deep naps and serious tuning out of the alarm clock, though, the lower-mileage week has been much-needed.

And thinking back over the past month, as the long runs have grown longer, it seems like I've been mixing in a few easier weeks (to accommodate out-of-town trips, visitors and lack of perfectly timed 10K and 15K races to enter).

I'm pretty sure that's a training tip I've read online, though all the sleeping I've been doing could be clouding my brains. Just to be safe, I'll pat myself on the back for doing something right, even if it's on accident.