Thursday, August 20, 2015

Can I do the Dirty Du?

I've done a fair amount of talking about doing the Dirty Duathlon recently, for someone who had never gone on a mountain bike ride and who hadn't run on trails in almost nine months.

The latter part of that sentence remains true; the former has been taken care of. Cory and I spent at least an hour on the Center Trails last weekend, and (obviously) I survived to tell the tale.

I was in a bit of a funk when we started out, so I probably would've raved more in this post under normal circumstances if I'd woken up on the right side of the bed.

But still, even as a cranky perfectionist, I had to admit that the Dirty Duathlon is eminently doable, even if I do nothing more in the way of training this year.

The ride began inauspiciously — i.e., on a bit of an uphill with roots and other things that made wimpy little me nervous. I'm not an adrenaline seeker, nor was I very used to the mountain bike even on ideal terrain.

Over the course of an hour-plus and five or six miles, though, I slowly but surely got my legs under me. I definitely walked several portions, mostly sharp/bumpy uphills that I didn't shift for in time, or narrow, guard-rail-free bridges at the bottom of hills.

You know what I didn't do, though? Fall on the trails. (I fell later on smooth concrete while standing up and fully sober, for no reason at all. But not on the bike.)

I also didn't give up. I got nervous, I got freaked out by fast riders behind me, I got angry that I didn't wear bug spray, I got tickled by sweat rolling down my nose at the most inopportune time ... and I stuck with it.

And at times, when I wasn't convinced I was going to fall into a ravine, I enjoyed it.

Most of all I liked being in the woods; adding some higher-intensity exercise for a shorter period of time was a nice change of pace, too; and so was knowing I'd willingly ventured outside of my comfort zone.

The day after wasn't too painful. During our ride, I noticed the tension on top of my wrists and forearms fairly early on, but the next day just felt like I'd gone on a tougher-than-usual bike ride. Nothing special.

So it looks like I'll be doing the Dirty Du for sure, and I think I can even handle the longer distance. (Which is good, because I have a commitment that morning that would make the shorter distance's earlier start tricky.)

The plan now will have to be:

* Keep mountain biking.

* Go on a trail run.

* Bike to my trail run.

* Hit the trails with the bike first, then run.

* Sandwich a trail run around mountain bike rides.

Suddenly November seems very, very close. Even though my goal is just to finish, I should start planning this out soon.

Monday, August 10, 2015

How should I spend the rest of 2015?

I think I've settled on how I'll spend the rest of 2015, at least when it comes to workouts.

After the Bix, my bunions had started to bother me, and so had the heat/humidity. "Sit out August," I told myself. "Don't wreck running for yourself; just enjoy summer."

Easier said than done, evidently. I've been crabby and sedentary lately, and you know what cures both of those things for me? Setting — then following — a running schedule.

So August will be twice-a-week runs, with a heavy emphasis on cross-training (yoga, bike rides, walks). Ideally one run would be shorter and more intense, while the other would be longer (four to six miles) and more relaxed.

If I could get myself started on the habit of doing some pushups twice a week and planks twice a week, that would be great. 

Even better would be distilling a short post-work yoga routine, created with my personal favorite poses from the various yoga videos/classes I watch/take. But that sounds like the kind of lofty aspiration that I excel in never attempting ...

By September, I hope to have started on at least one, if not both, new challenge: Capital Striders track workouts and mountain biking. 

Why mountain biking? So I can do the Dirty Duathlon in November by myself, instead of just being someone's runner.

I mean, running two miles on trails — with a break in the middle for someone to do 10 miles of mountain biking — won't exactly be a piece of cake, but it's just close enough to easy where I don't want to pay to do just that.

After Nov. 7, I see two routes. One is just kick back and relax until Thanksgiving, when I embark on the holiday run streak again. (This is the most likely option.)

The other is to keep up the trail running, even when it's gross — especially when it's gross — so I can take on the Sycamore 8 in December, no matter the conditions.

That's a bridge I'll cross much later. For now, it's time to finish my beer and hit the sack early to rest up for my first run since the Bix 7.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Race report: Bix 7

The Bix — and my performance at it — far exceeded my low expectations, I am very happy to report.

Here's how I did with each goal.

* Focus on the experience. My friend Emily's advice, on the eve of the race, was to have fun with it, and that turned out to be a cinch.

I will say that pre-race logistics were a little annoying; parking far away and biking to the closed-off area worked out perfectly, but once I got to the staging area, it seemed like I turned into a pinball, bouncing from volunteer to volunteer who gave sometimes conflicting directions on where I should be and how to get there.

From the minute I got to where I needed to be up until the post-race party, though, I was fully able to soak in the sights and sounds.

The music along the route was as good as advertised (special shout-out to the brass band playing "Barbara Ann" along Brady Street, and the bongo drummers around the turnaround point who invited runners to take a swipe at their instruments as they passed).

The spectators were genuinely enthusiastic about watching, and there was indeed a slip-n-slide that people actually used. I would've felt slightly cheated had I not spotted that ... even though I had no intention of hopping on it myself.

My favorite sign, though, wasn't on a spectator; it was on a participant. The back of one youngster's shirt asked: "Can you run faster than a fifth-grader?" I wish I knew — I spotted him when the race was still fairly crowded, so I don't know whether he shot ahead of me or fell way behind.

* Don't walk. Done!

I started out speedier than I anticipated and thought I felt myself slowing down later in the race, but at most I slowed to an easy jog during the water stops.

Speaking of walking, let me rant one more time about people who line up closer to the front than the back and then proceed to walk right away ... in a race of literally THOUSANDS of people.

Seriously, folks. You spent at least 15 minutes waiting for the race to start and stared at the opening hill the entire time. If you didn't think you could run it, you should've moved farther back before the gun even went off.

* Finish under 1:10:00. SMASHED. Pie in the sky? More like a piece of cake, evidently.

My chip time was 1:03:27 (9:04 pace) — meaning I notched a negative split, because my first-half chip pace was 9:15.

That was a shock to me. I thought I'd gone out too hard given the heat and humidity (not to mention the infamous hills).

So that leads me to my most boastful observation of all: The hills weren't that bad, and/or I trained really freakin' smart.

Yes, I could tell I was putting in an effort, but it felt no different than tackling any of the hills I hate around Des Moines ... you know, the same ones I made sure to run twice a week for the past month or so.

The tl;dr version of this post is: I'd do it again and encourage others to join me. And I'll actually be wearing the T-shirt, because despite it being a unisex small, it fits me decently.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Goals for the Bix 7

I don't have any special excuses for not blogging for almost a month (!), so I'll just acknowledge the silence and move on ...

Yes, I'm still doing the Bix 7. Quite a few pieces of this experience will be different from the past three years' worth of races I've done.

Totally new: racing seven miles; sleeping in a tent the night before (I'm joining my RAGBRAI friends in Coralville just so I can see Cheap Trick!); and coordinating a finish-line viewing with other out-of-towners (my parents are coming in from Rockton to watch my race and then hang out).

Unfamiliar: traveling any farther than a half-hour — and outside my metro area — to a race; racing a distance that isn't 5K or a half marathon; picking a race between Memorial Day and Labor Day; and doing a race where my goals are basically no loftier than "finish."

What are my goals? In a second.

First, let me emphasize how glad I am that they're so underwhelming, because pretty much all conditions will be against me Saturday: hills PLUS 90 percent humidity, with the start-time temperature at 75 degrees. It should, at least, be overcast.

With that said, don't laugh too hard at how lame my aspirations are.

Most attainable: Beat my friend Emily's 2012 time of 1:19:03 (11ish-minute miles).

That summer was awful, so I'm not judging her ... but back when it was still late spring and I was fresh off my half marathon PR, I thought this seemed like a piece of cake.

Midrange goal: Focus on the experience and not the difficulties.

Lofty goal: Don't walk.

Pie-in-the-sky goal: Finish under 1:10:00 (faster than 10-minute miles).

I haven't trained hard — running twice a week — and much of the summer has been mild, but I haven't let myself avoid hills, and I have stayed active. So I'm not really sure what to expect ...

... except beer and ice cream. Bent River, here I come!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

What I'm doing instead of the Des Moines Marathon

Most readers of this blog had no idea I was even considering the Des Moines Marathon, so the declaration that I've decided against it doesn't have quite the impact.

After my half marathon success, I began to wonder whether I should take on a new challenge, and the obvious next step seemed to be a marathon.

The even more obvious next step seemed to be the Des Moines Marathon: It takes place in late October; I live near one of the more challenging portions of the race; and I now work from home on flexible hours.

What I didn't account for, though, was the freedom of no longer working nights and weekends. I've been taking full advantage of this new development — it's like summer break for grownups, because there's time to play and income to fund the fun.

There were a few other factors pushing me away from the marathon, but that was the primary one.

Here are the races I'm considering instead:

Bix 7 (July 25). I still have to figure out whether I trust myself to not party too hard during the July 24 Cheap Trick concert in Coralville and then wake up at 5 a.m. to get to Davenport by 6:30 a.m. for day-of packet pickup.

Also, I'll be honest: Racing in Des Moines has spoiled me when it comes to race-day travel. With the exception of RAGBRAI 2014, I've barely given transportation and parking a thought since I left Rockton.

But the outlook looks fairly promising. I'm struggling with motivation to run, and encouraged by the general feasibility of doing this race.

Capital Pursuit (Sept. 20). The website claims it's a fast race, so we'll see whether I can beat my last 10-mile race, which definitely incorporated hills. This will force me to train, but not to suffer: I'd probably start training the last week of July (or early August, if I do the Bix 7).

Sycamore 8 (early December). An off-road race in the Midwest in early winter? If that doesn't say "new challenge," I don't know what does.

Half marathon wild cards: I would consider doing the NewBo half marathon (Sept. 6), the Des Moines half (Oct. 18) or the Hillbilly Hike (Nov. 7).

Friends have expressed vague interest in doing the NewBo half and the Des Moines half, so I offered to run with them should they decide to do so. Also, NewBo and Hillbilly both also host a 10K; I could use those as a baseline, if 10K becomes next year's speed target.

And finally (geez, I ramble), I have two formal bike rides actually planned: this weekend's Bacoon Ride, which we could manage to stretch into a century ride, and more importantly, the Tour de Fur on Aug. 30, which benefits Furry Friends Refuge!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Post No. 300 is about not running

(Irrelevant to the post itself: This is my 300th on this blog!)

This is sort of a mishmash of tangentially related topics — being at an athletic event and not participating.

First was my experience volunteering at Run for the Trees, which was a 5K/one-mile race the day before my half marathon. I very much wanted to go, because the venue sounded gorgeous and it benefited the Boone County Historical Society, led by my good friend Pam.

Running didn't seem like a smart idea, so I volunteered instead, though I'm not sure that standing outside for an hour on a cool, damp day was textbook pre-race prep. (Obviously, it all turned out OK.)

My job was to usher runners toward the finish line, which was a pretty low-effort job. That left me with plenty of energy to cheer on runners and shout out things like "first female finisher!" "top-five finish!" "lookin' good, almost there!" at people.

I'm not sure whether I was encouraging, annoying, or useless. It probably depends on whether you're a grumpy runner, like me, who doesn't want to hear uplifting comments when things get tough (and did I mention it was a trail race after a rainy morning?), or a runner unsure of your runner status and in need of a cheerleader.

But at any rate, it was fun in spite of the rain and the early wakeup call required to be in Boone on time. I would consider volunteering at another race; we'll see whether that ever manifests itself in action, though ...

On the other end of the emotional spectrum was watching Cory finish Dam to Dam recently. I arrived in time to cheer him on during the final 200 meters (he didn't hear me, but I know I was there) and hung out with him at the post-race party for a bit.

I was there about 15 minutes before he finished, and you would think that watching tired runners — or, worse, the incredibly gifted ones who sprinted to the end — would have made me think "man, I'm glad I'm not running, I'd look worse than the tired ones and be livid at the energetic ones."

Nope. I was jealous. I stood in the crowd, stereotyping much of it as not-runners, and thought wistfully: I belong with the people on the course. I might not look like it, but I do, I promise!

It is an odd feeling to be back on the outside again, watching sweaty people with huge grins hobble around, bubbling over with post-race analysis. Only a few weeks ago, I was clearly one of them — that day, I was just an admirer.

So that sounded rather bleak and self-deprecating, but it actually wasn't. It also refueled my running flame, in that I reopened my mind to Dam to Dam and that I resolved — sometime soon — to start working on a fall race schedule.

More on that schedule in a few days ... it's taking shape, but needs some actual thought still.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Race report: Woofin' It 5K

Funny that a race I spend so much time talking up to people and eagerly anticipating ends up being a blog post I just never write.

(Turns out starting a brand-new job immediately after the old one finishes, then going out of town every weekend, will put you behind on your personal to-do list.)

Anyways, nearly a month ago now, I did my third straight Woofin' It 5K, which as everyone knows benefits Furry Friends Refuge animal shelter, the place that saved my Dusty cat and has since hired me. Obviously a great cause :)

Other factors that made this Woofin' It especially pleasantly memorable:

The weather was as perfect as weather gets. Cory and I biked out to Campbell Recreation Area in the morning, enjoyed a humidity-free run, then rode to dine outdoors in Waukee, all in total comfort.

We again shared a dog, though we could have each taken one of our own, and she was perfect. She pulled a bit early in the race, but then mellowed out; she didn't bark or lunge at anyone; she had a purple collar on to match my purple T-shirt ...

... and her name was Sadie.

Proudly crossing the finish line!
People came up to me after the race to ask what "my" dog's name was and praise her. I felt pretty proud, even though I'd done absolutely nothing except let her enjoy the outdoors.

(Hey, Des Moines readers, just an FYI that Sadie's still available for adoption. Sadye, on the other hand, is content in her forever home.)

And ... that's about it, I guess. Maybe next time I should blog closer to the actual event, so that I have more stories to share. (Though in my defense, we missed the costume contest because we left late, and during the race I was a bit stressed out by something that had happened at my now-former job.)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

What's next?

What's next for me? I don't have a quick answer beyond a charity walk on Saturday.

After a strong showing at the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick 5K, I found myself agreeing with Cory that maybe next year, the 10K would be a good idea.

Then, after our strong showing at the Drake Relays half marathon, I found myself with the odd feeling that I've — well, "conquered" or "mastered" are too strong of words ... maybe solved or figured out the half marathon.

And while I proved last year that I can bike across the state of Iowa in a week, I decided that for personal and not physical reasons, I would skip RAGBRAI 2015.

Clearly it's time for something different. I have a few ideas rattling around my head, but nothing I'm ready to commit to on the Internet.

New race distances are definitely in play, such as doing the Newbo 10K (to help a friend commit to the Newbo Half Marathon!), or, closer to home, the Capital Pursuit 10-miler.

Heck, even though hills, heat and humidity are my idea of hell, maybe this would be the best year to attempt the Bix 7 in Davenport — people rave about it, but it's always on the last day of RAGBRAI.

I'm giving myself the rest of the month to figure it out; I kept up a reasonable amount of exercise in the two weeks between the half marathon and Saturday's Woofin' It 5K (race report still to come). I chose "the rest of the month" for two reasons:

One, it seems like the right amount of time to keep myself from burning out, mentally and physically, on running.

And two, my personal life is getting pretty chaotic in a good way: travel plans and job transitions. Starting Monday, I'll no longer have a full-time job; I'm switching to two part-time gigs, one of which has a strong potential to become full-time by the end of the year.

So by the time June arrives, I'll be firmly parked in Des Moines for a while, and I'll have a better sense for what my days look like.

Yes, exercise is a stress-reliever, and I plan to keep active for the next few weeks, but to try to plan workouts around leaving one job/starting another/hitting the road multiple weekends seems like an added source of anxiety.

Tentatively, I'd like to get two bike rides of substance, two runs and two yoga sessions in a week. So many of my friends are into weight-lifting that I feel compelled to worry about getting strength training in ... but that's something I'll worry about in June!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Happy cycle-versary to me

A year plus a few days ago, I took the plunge into bike commuting. Back then, I didn't know whether I'd love it or loathe it, but I was cautiously optimistic.

It took me less than a month to cancel my work parking pass. And though I kept waiting for winter to discourage me into reactivating it, I'm still sitting here, parking-pass-free.

The way Cory feels about commuting by bike seems to sum up my feelings, too: I don't always leave the apartment/work excited about riding, but every time I arrive at my destination, I'm glad I did it.

That even holds true in the winter, shockingly. (Of course, I'd feel differently if I didn't live with a bike guru who got me in good shape, equipment-wise, for snow riding.)

I am definitely not as committed to it as many other riders are. I can fairly easily find an excuse to drive to the grocery store that's only half a mile away from the apartment.

If I cheat on my bike often enough, though, I remember why I prefer it — I hate paying for parking, especially now that I got out of the habit of doing it, and I dread parallel parking.

(So don't think I have some higher moral reasons for biking, or that I'm self-righteous about it. It's laziness in a different form.)

And I also start to feel guilty about driving if I do it too much now. I'm an abstainer, not a moderator, so I tend to expect 100 percent commitment from myself.

Sometimes when I wish I'd burned calories and not fuel/money, I have to remind myself that more often than not, I take advantage of the fact that bike commuting *is* practical for me. (Again, I don't want to sound like a bike evangelical — not everyone is in the right position to do it. No judgment here.)

I guess the takeaway from this particular post is that if I meet up with you and I have helmet hair or give off a faint odor of perspiration, you'd better either deal with it or make excuses not to hang out. The Shrimp isn't getting put away anytime soon.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Race report: Hy-Vee Road Races half marathon

This won't come as a surprise to anyone who follows me on Instagram, but this year's Hy-Vee Road Races half marathon was the polar opposite of my 2013 experience.

The short version: Race-day weather was perfect, I didn't stop to walk once, and I finished with a milestone personal record that far exceeded my goals.

The numbers: 1:58:59 (9:05 pace) overall; 56:32 (9:08 pace) at 10K; 1:02:27 (9:03 pace) for the final 6.9 miles.

I did Bulldog Hill in 4:19:54, which because I never bothered to time myself during training doesn't mean a whole lot. My preliminary results sheet says that was good for 17th in my division (in comparison, my 10K rank was 38 and my total race rank was 25).

So, to back up, for anyone who cares. Cory and I both decided to keep the 2:00:00 pacers within our sights for as long as it felt OK. That turned out to be the entire race, though how close they were did vary. (We figured out eventually that they went out a bit fast to bank time on the hills.)

I didn't feel fantastic starting out, but by mile 2 it became apparent to me that it was simply a matter of warming up. Everything felt springy and good until close to mile 7.

At that point, we'd changed directions, and we both actually started to get a little too hot. I even had a moment of light-headedness, so I made sure to get some water at the next aid station. That, plus a light breeze and more shade along the route, seemed to do the trick.

Somewhere after mile 8, Cory and I made a friend whose name we forgot to ask and for whom we later wished we'd waited at the finish line. We chatted with Mr. Quad Cities for nearly three miles about beer, pets and careers (as well as running) — a really nice way for us to keep our minds off the hills ahead.

Speaking of hills, the worst one for me was actually up Fleur Drive back to downtown. Not only was it the only one I hadn't practiced, but also it was very exposed to the strongest winds we'd felt yet that day.

After that, Cory and I were feeling much more confident: We'd entered our home turf. Up Grand we went, trying to encourage all the walkers (in an honest, voice-of-experience way), and turned onto 28th ... at which point I got butterflies.

We were so close at that point. I knew I had locked down all my safe goals, but only Cory had a sense for just how well we were doing. But so close didn't mean so easy.

Just as we got to the intersection of 28th and Ingersoll, I glanced at the spectators and saw co-worker Chris, there to cheer on his girlfriend with their beautiful dog. He recognized me too and yelled some encouragement, and I shouted back that I'd practiced on Bulldog Hill, I had it in the bag.

And maybe that was the pep talk I needed — not from him, but from myself — so up I went, passing quite a few walkers on the way. (What a jerk, right?)

Not long after we crested the hill, Cory turned to me and said he was gonna step it up. This came right as I felt the worst, far enough from the hill where we'd both caught our breath, but close enough where the fatigue had suddenly all settled into my left quad.

"Go ahead," I said. "I don't have anything extra." He tried to be encouraging, but I let a little whine creep into my voice as I insisted I really didn't.

I'm sure I slowed up some, yet I never lost sight of Cory. And once I was within sight of University Avenue and had about a mile left, my legs found a second wind.

I have never, ever, felt so strong during mile 12 of a race. Not even during the 2013 Des Moines Half Marathon, when I PR'ed by eight minutes. I did pass a few people and gained some ground on Cory, and my revival was rewarded when I entered the stadium ...

... this year, you barely had to run around the track. Instead of a quarter-mile left, I had not even a quarter of the track!

My spirits went from great to over the moon. I think I yelled "f--- yeah two hours!" as I sprinted that final leg, arms in the air, tossing that monkey off my back with conviction.

Once more: 1:58:59. I cleared 2:00:00 with a whole minute to spare. There is literally nothing I can think of, from my taper week through mile 13.09, that I wish I'd done differently or better.

Time to kick back for a week and bask in my glory before deciding what's next.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Sightings in the wild, part II

I've been spotted by co-workers while out on the loose again.

A while back, I was running past Walgreens as co-worker Jennifer was walking out to her car. I think she recognized me, in spite of what was almost certainly a crazy outfit; at the very least, she returned my wave.

A more recent spotting came from Jill, who was in a car at the time (but not the white CR-V that honked at me along 42nd Street).

It was raining at the time, which evidently prompted Jill to turn to her school-aged daughter and ask, "Do you think we should stop and offer her a ride?"

I didn't look miserable, though (hooray, no race face!), so they kept going. However, I think this was the same day it hailed, because I don't remember any other rainy runs ... maybe they should have stopped.

* * *

As for Sunday's Hy-Vee Road Races half marathon — I did it, and I did it well. I want to blog about it well, too, and today I just don't have the brain space. But details will be forthcoming, I promise!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

And now, the waiting begins

I went on my last run before the Hy-Vee Road Races half marathon today — a slow 3.25ish-mile endeavor. Nothing notable to report from it.

Tomorrow I'll ride to work, as usual, but otherwise rest up, and on Saturday, I'll be volunteering at the Run for the Trees 5K/1-mile fun run before probably just bumming around the apartment.

I really wanted to do the tree race, but it just seemed like a risky move, even when I don't have much half marathon pressure ... given that I'll likely be on my feet when I'm there, maybe it's ultimately a wash and I could have run ... but then again, standing is lower-impact.

Anyway, I've, unsurprisingly, been thinking about my weekend meals, for both before and after the race.

Saturday night dinner is looking like chicken pasta, maybe some garlic bread, and a beer (it's tradition!); Sunday breakfast could be scrambled eggs/toast or possibly blueberry pancakes.

After the race will probably be "wherever serves us fastest and cares least about how we smell" (in 2013, that was the Drake Jethro's breakfast buffet).

And now that I've wrapped up the workouts, I can lay out my race-day gear. I'm going with the standby outfit — pink T-shirt, black shorts, pink sweatband and sunglasses — and my newer Balega socks.

So that's probably it from me until next week, but I imagine I'll be posting my time on Twitter and Daily Mile, at the very least. Maybe there'll even be a sweaty selfie on Instagram afterwards, too.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Hy-Vee Half Marathon forecasts

We still have a whole week for this to change, but I am optimistic about the weather for this year's Hy-Vee Half Marathon.

A week of temperatures in the low to mid-60s lies ahead, which will be a welcome contrast with 2013's race-day weather. Unlike in 2013, though, I've had a chance to run long in warmer weather, so the system will be less shocked. Probably still angry, but less shocked.

And also unlike 2013, I don't have a slew of ambitious race-day goals. My goal had been to get into shape for a 5K personal record (mission accomplished) and to feel less miserable during this particular race.

Cory and I have discussed, casually, what time range we'd like to see out of ourselves, though. He'd like to beat his 2014 Dam to Dam time (2:08) -- as would I, actually, given that Dam to Dam was my second-best half marathon time.

We haven't timed our long runs, so I don't have anything more specific that I think I can do. Also, I don't want to start building up expectations with the reality of spring weather and late, steep hills.

However, I don't think it would be unrealistic to hope for a 2:05:00 finish, along with ending with a smile. That would pretty decisively wipe out memories of 2014 Dam to Dam and 2013 Hy-Vee Half.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Taking over the streets

Recently I was riding through Beaverdale in the middle of the day, and oddly enough, I was neither the only non-automobile on the road, nor the most unusual-looking user of the road.

First I came up behind two women in motorized scooters — on the road, not the sidewalk. I've seen how uneven, narrow and noncontinuous sidewalks can be, though, so I'm not judging.

It was kind of funny, in a way, to see how they took control of that lane. They were side by side, not in a line, for what I assumed was greater visibility to drivers.

Closer to home, I turned a corner to find myself behind a tricked-out golf cart zooming along a side street. Evidently that's how florists now deliver.

But hey, if I had the chance to do my job in pleasant springtime weather instead of in an enclosed space, I'd jump at that chance, too.

Cheers to my fellow travelers using means other than the automobile.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Entering the taper

Sunday's 10-miler was the last significant run before the April 26 half marathon. Woo-hoo!

This route was even more race-day-specific than its predecessors; it included a loop around the Capitol as well as the hills up from Gray's Lake, from downtown to the base of Bulldog Hill and of course Bulldog Hill itself.

It was another solid, strong effort. We had some obstacles in a strong southerly wind and an early side stitch for me, but we stuck it out.

Oddly enough, I kept a better pace and attitude going up Bulldog Hill than I did at the end of my nine-miler — I don't get it, but I'll take it.

So what now?

I'd already started to scale back workouts that weren't the long run, just to save my feet a little bit, but I'll continue that.

I'll still have a longer run this coming Sunday (thinking about five miles), and I'll continue with the speedwork (just at a shorter distance).

Originally I'd thought of incorporating more yoga to keep active, but if the weather continues to grow nicer, bike rides might be more tempting.

And I'll just enjoy the dramatic spike in free time. People always talk about the taper crazies, and maybe my own memory is fading and I've ranted about them in the past, but right now I'm just glad to scale back a bit.

I am profoundly grateful for having found the right post-long-run routine to prevent stiffness ... but it definitely takes up time beyond what the run already sucked up.

Throw in eating and a shower (and, OK, the procrastination before the run!), and it often feels like the day is totally gone.

But not this Sunday!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The agony and the ecstasy of Midwest springtime

It's only natural that a bit of a down post would follow such a cheerful one.

To be fair, I'm using a little bit of artistic license to help inspire the blogging, but it was still a pretty mediocre week in terms of workouts.

We started out with thunderstorms in the forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday, meaning I chose to drive to work rather than bike. (Safety second, not being cold and wet first.) I never stop being surprised by how guilty I feel when I drive someplace that I generally bike to.

At least on Thursday, I felt confident enough in the weather forecast/my ability to persuade some nice guy to rescue me via car, if need be, to start biking again. And holy moly did it feel great to be chilled by a damp cold wind as I flew downhill that day.

I had a similar struggle-and-redemption story in my running. Given that it was overcast, cool and wet, and that a cold virus was still lurking in my sinuses, I didn't really want to run.

Tuesday, I went on an easy three-miler without issue, but I got lazy afterwards and didn't complete my foam-roll regimen. You better believe I felt it the next day, when I mustered the ambition to get ready for a tempo run.

"Expect rain to end by 11:45 a.m.," said the forecasting website as I warmed up around noon. Liar.

A gentle rain began to fall as I ran a mile away from my apartment. It picked up when I got to where I intended to cross the street, so I could eventually head south, and I tried to wait for the light to change.

But the crosswalk light was elusive, and my patience finite, and the skies ever-gloomier. Forget it, I thought, I'll just head back to the apartment and maybe cross there.

You know what those 30 to 60 seconds resulted in? My being that much farther away from the apartment when the hail hit. Emphasis on hit. Poor arms.

By the time I got back inside, dried off and did my complete round of stretching, the rain had stopped. Go fly a kite, Mother Nature and

To make up for the 10 minutes of tempo running I didn't do, though, I did a short hilly run on Friday, when sunshine and dry weather returned to Des Moines.

Oh, the euphoria of running in pleasant weather after you've completed what you feared would be a brutal work shift, without having a meltdown, in time to have a friend-filled Friday night!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Progress report on Hy-Vee Half Marathon training

I have been a very diligent little runner this spring, and it seems to be paying off.

Of course this year, I haven't had to contend with the polar vortex, so skipping workouts has been harder to justify.

Nor have I brought my phone on most of my long runs — I get tired of holding it and of obsessing over the statistics. Also, Cory has joined me on most of them, so I feel less likely to encounter trouble with no way of calling for help.

So that means I'm judging progress on feel alone, which is OK. I signed up for this half marathon to keep myself accountable in general and to get in tip-top shape for a spring 5K. (Mission accomplished.)

Here are my takeaways from the long runs so far, though.

Seven-miler: My parents had visited us this weekend, and while we hadn't indulged ourselves on a Roman emperor's level, we certainly hadn't skimped on the calories or hydrated optimally.

We also didn't head out until midafternoon on the first truly nice weekend Des Moines had seen all year, so temperatures were a little higher than what we were used to.

Nevertheless, I felt amazing through the first four or five miles. I did lose a little bit of giddy-up once we hit Bulldog Hill, which only surprised me because of how good I felt leading up to it, and how easy the hill had felt in earlier shorter and colder long runs.

Eight-miler: We left much earlier this time. It took me longer to find my groove during this run, but I did find it.

Our route also hit three hills that we'll encounter in the race: up from Gray's Lake, west on Grand Avenue from downtown, and up Bulldog Hill. Yep, definitely getting harder ... but not impossible.

Nine-miler: I noticed my enthusiasm shrivel once I put running clothes on, a sure signal that training is peaking and that race day had better be soon OR ELSE. (This is the second-to-last long run of the plan, so race day is close.)

If you were in Des Moines on Easter Sunday, you can easily imagine how this run took some effort. If you weren't — it was warm and windy. Not constantly windy, or constantly in-your-face windy, but definitely drying.

I felt slow and sluggish at first, probably because of both the weather and a lingering cold, and when we stopped for water around mile 5, I developed a side stitch. Good timing, as we had our three hills still ahead of us.

Either my random prodding of muscles worked, or my body handled the stitch on its own, because by the time we got up Grand to take on Bulldog Hill, I don't remember it being there anymore. In a way, I was glad for the wind, heat and cramps — any or all of these could happen on race day, so might as well be prepared.

Cory peeled off at 28th, so I had to do Bulldog Hill alone. Even without peer pressure, I did NOT cave and walk. But man, is that hill growing tougher as the runs get longer ...

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Upcoming races, of sorts: Woofin' It 5K and Walk MS

May is apparently my charitable athletic month this year. I've signed up for two events that benefit causes with particular significance to me, so I'll use this platform to recruit others to join me.

May 9 is the Woofin' It 5K, which loyal readers recognize as a fundraiser for Furry Friends Refuge, the no-kill shelter that kept Dusty for 1.5 years before I adopted him.

The first picture I ever took of Dusty, when he'd just come home. I wasn't sure whether he'd like me, and he probably wasn't too sure about the whole situation, either.  
It's literally the cutest 5K I've ever done and probably will ever do, because dogs are invited to accompany their owners and participate in a costume contest.

So. 9 a.m. start on Saturday, May 9, in Campbell Park in Clive. Registration is still only $25; sign up here. (Please. Think of the puppies! And the kitties, even though they're not invited!)

A week after that is an event to help humans: the MS Walk in Cedar Rapids. My good friend Chelsea has been doing this event for a few years now, inspired by our friend Doug's battle with MS.

In the past I've given to team Mighty Myelin Power Rangers, but this year I'm headed out to the actual event. If you feel like supporting my endeavors without running, you can donate here.

/end soapbox.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Race report: Friendly Sons of St. Patrick 5K

When I woke up Sunday, there was no sign of rain to come; there was, however, a weather alert on my phone: "wind advisory."

Great, I thought. But without that wind, I don't know that I'd be able to say the 2015 Friendly Sons of St. Patrick 5K was one of my best races yet.

Not because I notched a personal record (which I did — 23:35!) or because I got an age group award (third place among ladies 20-29), but because it wasn't necessarily an easy day and yet I did not give up.

Toasting our victories: We both finished in under 24:00 and in third place in our respective age groups. 
The first half of the race was the worst part, in terms of the wind. I knew it would give me back what it had taken once we hit the turnaround, so I gritted my teeth and pushed through.

Sure enough, when we hit that turnaround, my pace went from feeling awkward and challenging to smooth ... and still a little challenging, given how much energy had already been used up.

Despite that, I had enough energy and optimism to thank the police at intersections, smile for a photographer and respond to cheering spectators. (Speaking of which: Check me out in this gallery!)

I was more tempted to slow down or stop to catch my breath during the final mile than I was during the first, but I did not yield. Thank God!

As I charged toward the finish line, I had no idea how well or poorly I was doing — I almost immediately had bumped the MapMyRun record-workout screen to an ad and also the friends page, and fiddling with my smartphone hadn't seemed worth it.

So when I saw 23:30 on the race clock, with steps left to go, I couldn't help gasping "oh my God" out of shock as well as fatigue.

It sure felt good to finish seconds after Cory instead of literally minutes. And to know that I focused on what I could control (my own effort) versus what I couldn't (the weather conditions).

The splits: first mile 7:20; second mile 7:36; third mile 7:30; final stretch, at a 6:36 pace (hello, downhill with a tailwind!).

What else can we conclude from this race performance? That every race day must begin with my sister sending photos of our family's tortie cat, Allie, and that my own cats are obligated to repeat this every race-day morning.

OK, so I imposed myself on Dusty, but he didn't flee!

Friday, March 27, 2015

5K forecast: Beating the rain, maybe not the PR

This weekend is the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick 5K, which is once again a race I signed up for in hopes of beating a personal record. (24:09, as I'll tell anyone, as evidenced by my beery boasting in a taproom in Gulfport, Miss.)

Going into last year's attempts, I had a lot of thoughts about whether I'd achieve it or whether I'd come up short. The thoughts varied from day to day, but the ones that were right were those that predicted I'd flunk my test.

I haven't thought very hard about it at all this year, however. The race crept up on me a little bit, mostly because I decided to train for a half marathon and hope for a bonus of a 5K PR, a strategy that's worked better than my one 5K-specific training plan.

In fact, I haven't done any practice 5Ks. I'm not sure what effect that will have on my race, but I know it's had a positive effect on my psyche: I spent a lot of last year's practice 5Ks scolding and berating myself.

All of this is to say, I'm not sure what to expect out of myself on Sunday.

After a 40-minute tempo run on Wednesday, I feel more confident that I can start strong and not run out of gas midway through (like last year).

But is that strong start enough to break my PR? I don't know, because I've done all tempo runs and some of my intervals by feel, instead of by MapMyRun.

This year, though, I don't think it matters. I'll go on a slow, easy shakeout run today; stay off my feet for most of tomorrow (and probably hydrate well, because I'll actually be working during prime boozing hours); and head out to a flat course that ends in free beer on Sunday.

There, if nothing else, it looks like I'll beat the rain, which is forecast to arrive in the afternoon, justifying a lazy Sunday twofold.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Other people suffer on the stairs, too

More days than not, I take the stairs, from ground floor up to the fifth, to get to my workplace.

I don't know exactly how long I've been doing this, but it's been long enough where I feel like it should be getting easier. You probably inferred, correctly, that it does not feel easier yet.

Every day, I trudge into the reception area out of breath, hopefully not sweating too hard, and need a minute before speaking in full sentences to co-workers. And because I think too much, I worry about what these co-workers think.

If someone sees me entering or exiting the stairwell, I worry they think I'm a smug athlete quietly judging their elevator usage. If they see me just a few steps away at the top, I worry they think something is creepily wrong with me, to make my cheeks flushed/my breathing so heavy.

So it was with much excitement that I recently discovered: I'm not the only one!

I was passing the stairwell entrance on my way to the company kitchen when the door opened. A guy emerged and followed me to the kitchen, so I said to him: "Hey, did you take the stairs all the way up?"

(I seem to have forgotten how much I dislike talking right after the stairs. Either that or I subconsciously suspected he got on at floor four.)

He had indeed. Once he caught his breath, we commiserated about how horrible they were, even though we each had athletic hobbies, and how apparently you just have to train on the stupid things if you want to get any better.

What a nice discovery, that I'm not the only self-important athlete/heavy-breathing slug in my office.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Bulldog Hill

Recently I happened to notice on the Hy-Vee half website that there's a special competition attached to Bulldog Hill — a medal for fastest ascent in each age group.

At that point in 2013, I was mentally checked out, so I didn't even remember there being timing mats, but Zach said he remembered seeing them. (We both recalled spectators urging us to go hard and not walk ... and walking nevertheless ... full of irritation at these people not running ... )

Now that I live at the foot of said hill, though, I'll actually pay attention to the timing mats.

I doubt that at mile 10 or 11, I'll have much giddy-up, but if I'm in an OK mental state, it would be fun — well, OK, interesting — to use up what I've got, then see how I stack up to the elites.

Repeated exposure to the hill is definitely paying dividends. Not in increased speed after more miles before it, but in a decrease in dread/fear/loathing. I hope this pays off in fewer scowls aimed at the innocent spectators on race day.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Two steps forward, one step back

After my sports massage Wednesday, I was of course very interested to see how my hip would feel during runs.

I went on a short run Thursday, not quite 24 hours after the massage, and the hip felt much better, though I could still feel it at times. 

But Friday, even though I was working harder (it was hill day), I rarely felt the hip tenderness at all. When I did, I would shorten my stride, and it seemed to go away entirely. Woo-hoo!

On Sunday, Cory and I did a seven-mile run, starting with five mostly flat miles from our apartment up Polk Boulevard and back, then concluding with two miles along 28th Street.

Mostly I felt great during that run. The back of my right knee did have some twinges during the five-mile portion, which concerned me a little bit. 

The good news was that it went away; the bad news was that it was replaced with hip twinges during the 28th Street portion. I'm chalking that up to fatigue. 

So all in all, a very successful half-week ... which, unfortunately, I almost completely undid on Monday.

Monday was insanely nice, weatherwise: high of 84 degrees, low humidity, mostly sunny. All of that, plus the minimal soreness I had after the previous day's long run, meant I threw caution to the wind and went for a shakeout three-miler.

Wrong choice. It wasn't a bad run, but it was an unexpected challenge that I'm still feeling a little sore from. I felt worse after that three-miler than I did after Sunday's seven-miler.

I shouldn't have run at all — should've found some other way to enjoy the weather — and if I did have to run, I should've stuck to a route I knew to be flat, no matter how many times I've already run that route.

Oh well. I'll look at it from Cory's perspective: that I seized a good chance to "shock" my system with a weather change (which of course was what happened on race day in 2013).

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Report from the sports masseuse's table

So, this post is mostly to help me remember the key points of today's sports massage and to remember the long-term value of the expense.

First: the issue. Tenderness in my right hip tends to crop up during the later part of half marathon training cycles, then fades away once I cut back on running.

It's been happening for a few half marathons now, but this time it's much earlier in the training cycle. And I've got a masseuse whose prices are totally reasonable, so I figured maybe it was time to get this issue figured out.

What Jake ended up targeting most was my TFL, which goes across the hip and hooks up to the IT band.

My understanding is, when that's tight, it makes a lot of other things tight — the IT band, the outside of the quad, parts of the glutes, the knee. Its tightness could also be coming from tightness in the lower back, all of which combines to pull the right hip up instead of keeping it level with the left.

I walked out feeing much more supple in my lower body; Jake said to wait a day or two to run, which I was planning on doing anyways based on my personal sked.

Here's what I learned and need to apply at home: Roll my hip over a lacrosse ball. Keep foam rolling the IT band and quads.

Stretch all tight muscles by flexing the opposing muscle (oh how I hope I can remember this if I get one of my every-few-years in-the-middle-of-a-sleep-cycle charley horse).

Do the series of stretches that we ended with, during which my flexibility was praised (OK, that's not helpful to anyone else reading this, but I got to work in some self-promotion, which is nice).

And so back to the comment about remembering the long-term value of the expense. I don't mean that as, I'm broke and/or massages are absurdly expensive.

What I mean is that I should think of them as preventive care rather than treats/rewards — more like the equivalent of spending more money on healthier options (compared with cheap, processed foods) than the equivalent of splurging on dinner out instead of eating at home.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

My recurring yoga epiphany pops up again

When it comes to running, I seem to have very short mental and muscle memory.

I can at least remember that any hiatus from running generally results in complete muscle deterioration. (Generally, because being a bike commuter has changed my life in terms of how hard it is to run after time off.)

But what I can't seem to remember is that doing yoga after a run, especially long ones, actually reduces my fatigue and stiffness the next day.

I don't care whether it's placebo effect or scientific fact. I'll keep doing it.

The latest case study comes from Friday's amazing run. (It was in the 50s! And looked to stay that way for a while!)

I combined some Neal Smith Trail action with the Hy-Vee Half's loop around the state Capitol, which I remembered having a beastly hill, to hit 6.5 miles.

I felt pretty good — not like Mary Cain, but also not like The Blerch.

So that night, once I got home, I did Rebecca Pacheco's recovery yoga sequence and indulged in a lazy night in. I fully expected to walk a little funny the next day; that's just what happens after long runs.

BUT NOT THIS SATURDAY. My muscles functioned completely normally. Getting up out of my desk chair wasn't an ordeal, nor was riding my bike to and from work.

Maybe this time is the time the revelation will stick in my brain.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

You know you're an outdoor runner when ...

Yesterday I compared my work schedule and the weather forecast with my training plan, and decided that I'd better get a workout in, even though I'd done two consecutive days of (short and fairly easy) running.

It was 30 degrees when I prepared to head out. That meant I put on my slightly thicker long-sleeved T-shirt but opted for the now-infamous purple scarf because it's thinner than my fleecy headbands.

I stepped outside at the same time as one of my neighbors, who smiled at me and said: "I can't even think about running this time of year."

I gave my usual two-pronged mild self-deprecation: that I can't handle a treadmill and that I can't handle starting out warm and getting warmer.

But I did so standing still, in a single layer of clothing, and felt OK — chilly, but not freezing. And I knew, once I started moving, that it would truly feel good outside.

I must really be an outdoor runner.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Head games

In the early stages of half marathon training, the runs are short, easy and generally unnoteworthy.

So I have to write about my clothing instead — today, the items I wear to keep my head warm.

Headgear story No. 1: On Saturday, I went out midmorning, when temperatures were maybe in the low 20s. I wore a fleecy headband to keep the ears warm, which also makes for even sweatier hair.

When I got back into the apartment building, I started shedding sweaty layers — gloves, windbreaker and headband.

I expected to feel relief as warm and clean air hit my skin. Instead, I felt a tenderness along my scalp.

Huh? It turned out that a quarter-sized patch of ice had formed in my hair and fused it to the headband.

I bet I looked super-cool standing there with a headband dangling from the side of my head, while I waited for the ice to melt a little more.

Headgear story No. 2: On Wednesday, I put in my first "long run" — five miles, nothing to brag about — of the training cycle.

As I headed down Bulldog Hill, thinking excitedly about the food and shower that awaited me back home, I noticed a car slowing down alongside me.

I slowed down too, thinking the driver was going to turn left at an intersection we were approaching. But instead, its window rolled down, and a woman stuck her head out.

"HEY! Where did you get that purple scarf you're wearing?"

Yes, I have taken to dressing like a cartoon eastern European grandmother:

Unsurprisingly, the woman did not ask about my skin care routine.
Because she caught me on the downhill, not the uphill, I was able to call back: "Sorry, my uncle gave it to me when I was 10 years old."

"Well, damn, it's a beautiful scarf!"

I had no idea I was such a fast-inista. Or that my uncle was so hip circa 1996. Good for us.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Half marathon training is officially underway

Training for the Drake relays half marathon is officially underway, based on two factors:

1. The calendar.

2. My dreams.

This past week, I've already had two running-related dreams. The more recent one was pleasant and inspiration: I realized that while I'd been missing workouts, I'd been consistently doing my long runs, and doing them well.

Earlier this week, though, I dreamed that I was doing a half marathon, in which even my stop for a meal (?) didn't halt my momentum through mile eight or 10.

What totally derailed me in this dream race was reaching the indoor portion of this race. As soon as I got inside the building, I struggled to figure out the route and had a total and complete meltdown.

It wasn't even a PR-attempt race, but I told my boyfriend that I was DONE, maybe even insisting that someone (him?) come pick me up — I wasn't even going to finish.

Fortunately, week one of the training schedule more resembles the first dream I described, not the second.

More on that once I have a bigger sample size of runs with a purpose.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Eating my words, spring half marathon edition

As promised, here comes my explanation for signing up for a spring half marathon, something I declared I wouldn't do again*.

The best explanation I have to offer is that this is a practice half marathon (there I go again, saying things that only "real" runners say).

A half marathon registration forces me to run, and that the training program puts me in optimum 5K shape, which I need in order to redeem myself after last year's Friendly Sons fail.

Yes, I could do these things without spending $60 to wear myself out on my day off work. I could also totally bail out on the financial commitment.

I probably won't do either, though. I'll spend two month being some combination of sore, sleepy and starving, complain about it the entire time, and then (finally) be grateful I did at the end of each race.

Nonrunners and some really intrinsically motivated runners might not understand, but I have full faith that most other runners are nodding their heads emphatically or empathetically.

My choice of race — the Hy-Vee Road Races half marathon — might also have some of you wondering about my sanity. In descending order of importance, my reasons for picking it are:

1. It's a month-plus earlier than Dam to Dam and on my regular day off of work. The timing thus hopefully works better for training and racing weather, and it definitely lines up better with the 5K race date.

2. The horrible hills at the end of this route are very close to where I live, so I can prepare myself — it won't make them that much easier, but it'll help me, mentally.

3. I know the route is a beast, and I know that race-day weather is a total crapshoot. With that in mind, I'm highly unlikely to secretly and/or realistically think about a PR attempt during what's supposed to be a shake-it-out event.

4. Cory and I were able to guilt friends into joining us. (Zach and Emily are totally going down.)

Base-building is in progress right now; full-on training starts Feb. 16-ish. Wish me luck.

* Have you noticed that of my first four posts in 2015, half of them address me retracting previous posts. So much humble pie.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Putting my plan to the test

I opened 2015 the same way I've done for the past couple of years — by not running.

This time, though, I committed to not running. I sketched up my workout routine through the end of April as follows:

* First few days of January: Total rest.

* Weeks of Jan. 5 and Jan. 12: Moderate cross-training (biking, "Just Dance," yoga, walking).

* Week of Jan. 19: Mostly cross-training, but add a two-mile run.

* Week of Jan. 26: Two short runs, plus cross-training.

* Weeks of Feb. 2 and 9: Three runs a week.

* Week of Feb. 16: Vacation and recovery.

* Week of Feb. 23: Time to train for the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick 5K, on March 29, and the Hy-Vee Half Marathon, on April 26. (Yes, I know I declared myself done with all spring half-marathons and this one in particular, but that's a post for another day.)

I designed this to achieve three goals: avoid spring-race-signup-overexcitement, which results in me getting tired of running long before said races; accommodate a nearly weeklong vacation; and acknowledge that Midwest winters can be beastly.

I'm confident that goals one and two — the one I can actually control — are in the books. As for the third one ... well, it turned out there wasn't much horrible weather in January to avoid. (It's here now! Just like the multiple-run weeks on my schedule!)

Let me be clear: I am NOT complaining about mild temperatures and dry skies. I'm just a little sad that my moment of clarity on winter workout planning came a year too late.

At least I'll have that spreadsheet ready for all the miserable Januaries to come.

Friday, January 30, 2015

A visit to the shoe store

Last time I bought running shoes, the sales guy suggested that I think about buying lighter-weight shoes to wear for my shorter runs, to save some wear on my primary pair.

I didn't feel like he was just trying to upsell me, but I also at the time didn't feel like buying two pairs of expensive shoes.

The thought stayed in the back of my mind, though, and resurfaced every time I thought about replacing my one pair.

And then news of Fitness Sports' super-sale arrived in the mailbox: at least 15 percent off shoes, up to 30 percent for some.

Time to take the plunge!

The pink ones are the Brooks Ghost 7 (if it ain't broke, don't fix it), for heavy-duty running.

The blue ones are a lighter-weight New Balance model, probably something from last year because they were 30 percent off.

Back when the sales guy mentioned having a second pair of shoes, my reluctance wasn't simply financial — it was also a bit of self-deprecation. I'm not that serious of a runner, I told myself.

I still, mostly, don't take myself too seriously as a runner. I'm solidly middle of the pack, purely an amateur and latecomer.

But I do put enough miles on one pair that having a short-distance model is worth a try ... especially because I tend to replace running shoes based on how much time has elapsed or how many seams are splitting.

If I spread the mileage out, maybe those measuring sticks will be a little more accurate.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The return: Painful but rewarding

Five months ago, I signed off the blog, with an acknowledgment that it might be a Michael Jordan-esque retirement.

I don't remember missing it for quite some time, unless you count being mournfully touched when faithful readers told me that they missed it.

The decision to reboot lacks a quality explanation, just like the one to pull the plug did.

A writing assignment for The Des Moines Register on how to keep running through the winter probably deserves credit for laying subtle groundwork, but in total seriousness, I mostly just decided in recent days that I'd like to revive it.

(You know, the same way I started running — on a whim.)

My return to blogging coincides with my return to running in 2015.

Since I last blogged, I've notched very little of significance, mileage-wise and time-wise, but I did achieve the goals of making running fun for myself again and completing another Runner's World Holiday Run Streak.

After Jan. 1, I began my Post-Holiday Run-Free Streak. It was glorious. So was the weather, actually. Getting motivated to start running again is much easier when the sun is shining and temperatures reach the 40s and 50s.

My run last Saturday, the first since New Year's Day, was two flat miles in shorts. No walk breaks even necessary. It was a treat to run that day, not a chore, though my quads disagreed the next day.

Then on Tuesday, I ran the farthest I'd run all year: three miles. There were a few inclines, so I walked, but without guilt. (And without pants — shorts in January again!)

This time my calves and right hip complained a bit. I'm just about ready to go for a third shorts-in-January run, so we'll see what else has gotten rusty. Possibilities include: my bunions, my shoulders, my writing inspiration.