Posts Tagged by summer running

The Afternoon Runner’s Guide to Becoming a Morning Runner

I am an afternoon runner at heart. I always have been. But almost every summer, as the temperatures rise, I make a pseudo-commitment to try running in the morning in order to escape the heat. Except my heart has never really been in it. And after waking up early to escape a few unbearably hot days, I’d inevitably switch right back.

Afternoon runs, I just can’t quit you.

Or at least that’s what I thought. Because honestly — no matter how hot it was or tired I felt in the afternoon, running was more appealing because (wait for my pridefulness here): I could run faster. Plain and simple. Who needs slow-and-sluggish-barely-awake morning runs when you could fly in the afternoon?

But, my friends, I think I’ve finally found the secret. A perfect storm of events that have made me finally give up my afternoon runs for good. …or at least while there’s still light in the morning. And today I’m here to share my “expert” advice with all of you.

So all you afternoon runners who just can’t get yourself up in the mornings, take heart. If you follow my simple advice, you too should be able to call yourself a morning runner in no time.

How to Become a Morning Runner in 4 Simple Steps

AM run

In no particular order…

1.) Start your switch in the summer.

Obvious, but vital to success. Only crazy people get up at the crack of dawn when it’s dark and freezing out. Winter time is for afternoon runs. Summer is for escaping the heat.

2.) Accept a job that gives you a significant commute in the morning. And set a work schedule that requires you to leave the house before 7:00 am.

How is this conducive to morning runs, you ask? It’s not. But it is good practice for waking up early. After a few weeks of this super fun schedule, work with your supervisor to push your hours back just a bit, giving yourself one extra hour before you leave the house in the morning.

Now? Set your alarm for the same time (okay…maybe a little earlier). When it goes off – get out of bed! You’re already used to getting up early, and you tell yourself you’re not allowed to go into work late unless you run. Plus, it doesn’t matter how early it is — you’ll quickly realize that spending 40 minutes to an hour on the roads in a groggy, half-awake state is way more appealing than spending an hour in the car in the same condition. Probably safer for everyone around you too.

3.) Prepare yourself a breakfast of champions. Something that sits well in your stomach but gives you energy to make it through your run when you’d rather be sleeping.

Such as a small piece of toast with cream cheese and raisins on top. I know, I know…peanut butter is supposed to be the fuel of champions but I’m telling you all — cream cheese is where it’s at. Especially on toast. And especially when you add raisins.*

Cheese for breakfast, lunch and dinner

*Don’t worry…I would’ve thought this combination was disgusting a few months ago too. 

And last, but certainly not least…

4.) Get knocked up.

DSC 0452And prepare to get bigger from “here” to “here”

This is the crucial step here, ladies (gentlemen, I’m sorry…I don’t have an equivalent step for ya). For several reasons. First of all, speed is no longer an issue. Since pregnancy and speed are not friends, you no longer have to worry about running slower in the morning. You run slow all the time! So embrace it. And secondly, prolonged exposure to heat and dehydration isn’t too great for anyone. But word on the street is that it’s especially bad for growing babies. Which means that if you want to run and escape the summer heat, you basically have no choice.

 

This formula has proven so successful that I’m probably going to start marketing it. All I need is a catchy name. So set that alarm, roll out of bed, lace up your shoes and hit the road. And consider yourself lucky that you heard the secrets here first.

 

**Results not guaranteed postpartum

Runfessions

I have a running ego. Which is not really news to anyone who knows me, I guess. While I have no delusions about the level of my ability, I do take pride in being able to run certain paces, conquer certain distances…and pass lots of people. I’d like to say that said ego has disappeared since finding out I’m pregnant but…no such luck.

I may not be out there speeding up when I pass people I know or glancing at my watch near the end of a mile and picking up the pace so my split clocks in at 7:59 instead of 8:01, but I still do silly little things to make myself feel better about my current abilities. Like standing up straight and lengthening my stride to make it appear that I’m moving faster when I pass fellow runners. Or pushing the pace for the last mile just to see if I can get my overall average down just a bit.

And I hate catching my reflection in store windows…though I always look (I can’t help it!). I find myself excited for the days when I’m toting around a noticeable bump instead of just a protruding gut.

I’m also a running hypocrite. I would tell anyone else in my situation that she was being absolutely ridiculous and no one even notices (worry about yourself, you idiot!). But accepting the ridiculousness of my behavior has done nothing to change it.

Another way that I’m a hypocrite: I never really liked those “running for two shirts” (sorry, but I don’t!). Except now that I am pregnant I find myself wanting to purchase one so I can wear it on every single run. Again, no one cares about this stuff but me. Nor do they want it rubbed in their faces (#pregnantmotherrunner coming through!). But like I said, I have a running ego.

Speaking of which, how do we feel about the sports bra + pregnant belly combination? I can’t say I haven’t already been considering it…once I have a belly to show, that is. Hey – it’s summer and it’s hot…and in my mind I’m going to look just as amazing as Paula Radcliffe or Lauren Fleshman.

Pregnant lauren fleshman(Source)

Please don’t burst my bubble now…I’m sure that’ll happen naturally.

No matter how many times I go to the bathroom before leaving on a run, I always have to pee within the first mile. I don’t know where all that liquid comes from, but that urge seems to be getting harder to control. At this point I’m able to wait it out, but I’m starting to think that won’t last forever. So I’ve recently been trying to scope out some good “pit stop” locations along my favorite routes. The only problem is, I run mostly through neighborhoods and along well-traveled roads…neither of which provide for much privacy. My solution? I’ve been contemplating just “letting it flow” when the time comes. .

…or maybe I just need to find some more adventurous running routes.

Remember when I posted this story about my dad, which featured a photo of him racing in some sweet star-spangled short-shorts? Well, my mom had a matching pair (yes, they wore them during the same race. I love my parents) and has graciously passed them along to me. I cannot wait to rock them during the 4th of July 4-miler we’re doing next week. In fact, it’s pretty much the sole reason I signed up for the race.

star spangled running shortsI hope these still fit by next week. Though who am I kidding? I’ll squeeze into them regardless.

Now if only my dad had given his pair to Evan so we could match…

I have never been a morning runner. But you know this already. Pretty much every summer, I make a bold proclamation about how I’m going to start running first thing in the morning. But then after a few weeks I’m back to my old ways. It’s not that I can’t run in the morning…I just hate doing it before I’m well fed and caffeinated.

But now here I am once again attempting to climb back on the AM-run bandwagon (I fear I’m starting to sound like a broken record). This time because I have another person to worry about. Last week’s high temperatures made me realize that if I want to keep running through this pregnancy, I need to suck it up and start making morning runs a habit. The humidity in the morning sucks, but it’s better than running in 80+ degree heat. So this week I’ve started “LB becomes a morning runner attempt #5.” We’ll see if this one sticks.

I need new running shoes. Actually – I’ve needed them since April. But I’ve been holding off because I’m secretly afraid that I’m going to need something more supportive as I get bigger. I have to admit that I only just accepted the stupidity of this logic. First of all, the shoes work for me now, so continuing to run in my old ones will do nothing except increase the likelihood that I’ll get injured. And secondly, if the day comes when I do have to make the switch, I can put my Mirages on the shelf until post-pregnancy. Either way, it’s not a waste of money.

I still haven’t ordered them. Just like I’ve been holding off on buying new sports bras (well, besides one…but there’s only so many times you can wear these things before they need to be washed). I’m sure I’ll look back and wonder why I spent so much time making myself uncomfortable. But I’m stubborn.

I spend a lot more time than I should looking down at my feet when I run these days. Because I’m finally starting to see a little bump. And I have to admit that I kind of like the view.

pregnant running bump_14 weeks.jpg

 

Summer Racin’

For (what felt like) a long time, I couldn’t plan or even think about races because I felt so awful. Under that fog of never-ending fatigue, I was pretty sure that I’d never feel normal again…which made it tough to set goals or take on any sort of training.

But things are changing. Running is slowly getting better and I’m feeling a bit more energetic. And just like that, the drive to race is coming back strong.

Plus, I have to admit that I have some major race envy right now. Hearing about people training for and competing in fun summer races (especially now that relay season is back in full swing) has given me a deep ache that I haven’t felt in quite some time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to be pregnant and I know I’m so fortunate to be able to experience this but…my heart longs for a starting line and some good old-fashioned runner’s high.

IMG 7184Post-race glow. It’s been so long!

I say all this knowing full well that racing while pregnant is going to be very very different. Probably even more so than I realize. And I know that it’s going to be difficult to tame that inner competitor. It’s one thing for me to take it easy on a run around the neighborhood after work…another thing altogether when I’m on the starting line feeling that adrenaline rush. Now obviously I’m not going to be physically capable of pushing my body to the same levels I did pre-pregnancy, and I’d never want to do anything to put Baby at risk, BUT doesn’t mean that I won’t want to…deep down. I’m fully expecting to feel some sort of internal struggle while I’m out there (though I’m preparing myself not to act on it!).

So I need some advice:

1.) Pregnant runners — how did you calm that competitive beast during a race? Again, I have no delusions that I’ll get out there and my speed will magically come back. I know my new limitations and really, I just want to have a goal to work toward and be a part of the racing environment again. I’m more wondering about how you came to terms with your new limitations and simply enjoyed racing for fun.

2.) How did you assure your nervous husband that everything will be okay? Evan is (understandably) a little hesitant about the whole racing thing. I don’t blame him — he knows how much I (normally) like to push, and although he trusts me, I know it must be hard to “sit on the sidelines” as I grow this baby. I’m so close to the baby all the time, it can be easy to forget what it must be like for him — in a position where he has essentially no control over something so important. I respect his feelings and he fully supports me, but I think he needs some reassurance from people who have been there before.

All that said, I currently have my eyes on a few summer races. They’re all short, local, and relatively inexpensive. Nothing that will take weeks of training or a complicated plan to prepare for. But, hopefully they’ll be fun ways to stay motivated to run during the summer (I need all the help I can get these days!) AND help me scratch that race itch. I feel like I’m going to be pregnant forever. It’ll be nice to have some mini-goals to work toward along the way.

With the exception of the Grafton race and the Cigna 5K (which I’ll be doing with work), I’m going to hold off on actually signing up for a little while. Obviously I need to respect all the effort my body is putting into growing a human right now, and so I won’t actually participate if I’m not feeling up to it.

Bill Powers Memorial Firecracker 4-miler on July 4th

I love the sound of this race because it’s so Brattleboro — local/organic foods, compostable cups, reusable water bottles — just the epitome of this quirky, crunchy little Vermont town. Plus it’s on the 4th, and I haven’t actually done a race on the 4th of July in a very long time.

Grafton Ponds Bear Hill 5K/10K on July 6th

bearhill-5k

Yeah, I know…two races in one week might be a bit ambitious. But this is the inaugural event in my old town — the town that brought me to VT. I’ve got to go back to support it!

Stowe 8-miler on July 14th

I know it’ll be hilly and tough, but the race looks so fun! Plus there’s ice cream (and Smuttynose, though I’ll have to miss out) at the finish. How can I say no to that?

Cigna/Elliot Corporate 5K Road Race on August 8th

This is an evening race…in August. It’s going to be hot. And I’m still going to be pregnant. But work is putting together a team and I really want to be a part of it.

Just as a closing note…despite all my babble above, I am really excited about racing with Baby. Running and racing while pregnant are things I always hoped I’d be able to do. I love the thought of sharing this passion with our growing baby and the bond that that creates. I accept that right now my primary “training plan” is focused on growing a healthy human child, not running and racing. But I do hope to be able to continue doing so for as long as he/she will let me.

Let the summer of short/EASY racing begin!

When 7 Miles Feel Like 20

As so often happens after big race weekends, I came back from Hood to Coast with high hopes. The relay gave my running confidence a huge boost, and spending a weekend surrounded by runners usually leads to one thing — the desire to run more.

HTC_vanessa_lauren_caroline.jpg{Picture via Caroline}

Unfortunately my big plans about upping the mileage and diving head first back into training didn’t exactly play out. Because Hood to Coast knocked me out in the worst way, and it seems to be taking me weeks to recover.

I guess that’s what happens when you fly to another coast and run a race on zero sleep that you really aren’t in ideal shape for, faster than you have any business running. But that hasn’t exactly lessened my frustration over the fact that my body doesn’t seem to be bouncing back as quickly as I would like.

I tried to be patient at first. The day after I got home from HTC, I came down with a severe respiratory infection. That, combined with high levels of exhaustion, forced me to take off more days than I actually ran. I told myself to relax and just embrace the recovery, figuring that I would re-structured my plan to get back into it after a few days.

htc finish line party.JPGI guess my body needs extra time to recover from this level of excitement… (Thanks Robyn!)

I’m sure you can guess where this is going…

Last week started off well enough. I had a few great runs early in the week and was excited to attempt some speed. So last Thursday I set off for a 7 mile tempo run, eager to get my legs moving again. Sadly, however, my legs weren’t feeling that same excitement.

I felt like my legs were filled with lead right from the start, and my slow warm up did nothing to loosen them up. In the end, my planned tempo run basically became two fast miles sandwiched in between {what felt like} a death march. I tried to pick up my pace twice, both times with the same result. I would start off feeling okay, like I might be able to hold a quick pace for a few miles. But by a half mile in I was overcome with the sensation that every ounce of my energy was literally seeping out of my legs. It was as though I had holes in my skin. With every step that I took, all my speed and strength were just pouring out onto the pavement. It was an unsettling feeling that quickly left me doubting that I’d even make it home. Somehow I convinced myself to hang on for the remainder of that first fast mile before I gave myself permission to slow down again. I jogged the next mile, stubbornly decided to give the speed one more effort, and promptly failed…yet again.

At this point in the run my new plan became to just finish the dang thing without walking. My 7 mile run (which, at this point in training, shouldn’t be that hard) may as well have been 20. As I shuffled along during those last couple of miles, I lost touch with all rational thought. I told myself that I’d probably never be able to run fast again. It didn’t matter that I’d just raced HTC…my prime was most certainly over and I may as well just accept it now.

And then I began having flashes of myself lying helpless on the side of the road for hours before a random passerby came to rescue me…

Like I said, just a tad bit dramatic. And although I did feel better after my run (and made it home alive and unscathed), the rest of the week didn’t improve. A few awful recovery miles on Friday left me feeling wiped out. By the time the weekend rolled around, I was congested, nauseous and exhausted. My little family went for a short hike on Saturday morning and I found my heart rate soaring with the tiniest incline. I was out of breath and having a hard time keeping up.

This was about when my spirit broke. I came home and spent a long time lying on the couch feeling sorry for myself. Sunday morning, instead of waking up early to try my long run, I slept through both Evan and my alarms and woke up after 10 am feeling discombobulated. I skipped the run again, and instead spent the day perfecting my recipe for homemade Italian bread (so at least I accomplished something, right??)

homemade rustic italian bread

I wish I could say that I woke up this morning feeling like a brand new woman. But despite the promise of a new week that brought with it the perfect running weather, I did not. I knew that it was important for me to just get out there and run whatever I could manage, even if that meant I couldn’t run long. So I made a plan – I’d do a couple out and back routes, and see how far my legs would take me.

I ended up covering 12 miles. It wasn’t fast, and it certainly wasn’t quite the same as the 17 that I had scheduled (though it took enough out of me to have been!). But it was something. 

I spent this morning’s run doing a lot of reflecting…trying to figure out what the heck is going on with me lately and (more importantly) how I can make it better. I know I need to give myself a bit of a break. Sometimes you don’t bounce back from things as quickly as you would like. As much as I wish I was feeling stronger at this point in my marathon training, I have to remember that I’m only working off of two months of running — after almost 4 months of essentially doing nothing but sit on my butt. It feels like I’m making excuses for myself, but oh well…

At the very least, these past couple of weeks have served as good reminders. First, that my speed is still there. It may be tucked away most of the time, but when I need it (like for relay weekends), it’s hiding in reserves ready to come out. Second, my strength is not. Which brings me back to my initial goal all over again. The main point of this training cycle is to build up endurance. To become a stronger runner. I am not going to get to the starting line of NYCM in the best shape of my life, but that is okay. I need to focus on building up the miles and getting myself as ready as can I can be in the time that I have.

I also clearly need to start taking better care of myself. By getting more rest, eating better, taking vitamins, and letting go of some of the stress I’ve been internalizing over the past month. If nothing else, these crappy runs have been a wake up call that I can’t just float my way through training this time around.

This weekend I’ll try running long again. That’s all I can do, day after day. Just keep on keeping on. And really, when it comes down to it, this important truth (which I tweeted last week after my disastrous tempo run) is why I keep on running day after day, week after week, year after year:

Even if the run sucks or workouts don’t go as planned, I always feel better on days that I run than days that I don’t.

Always. always. always. AMEN.

Taking the Good with the Bad

Anyone who has been in a relationship with running for a period of time knows that you don’t stay in the honeymoon phase forever. Being in a lifelong relationship with the sport means that you are committed to a life of ups and downs. Sometimes the “up” phases (or down phases) can last for months – other times the rollercoaster ride is all part of the day to day.

It won’t be any surprise to you all when I say that my relationship with the marathon training part of running has been in a bit of a “down” phase this summer. While I’m still committed to toeing the line in DC at the end of this month, something has changed within me (name that musical) this summer. For whatever reason, I’m just not loving the process of training as much as I have in the past. It’s not the marathon itself that I’m struggling with – it’s the training. (Yes, I know you can’t get to one without the other.) As a result, I’ve already started dreaming up new goals for after this race is over. (Something I plan to talk more about in a future post).

Despite a marathon training cycle that has been a bit lackluster, my summer of running has not been all bad. In fact, I’ve experienced some pretty high highs – starting with a new 5K PR when I least expected it and finishing with two relays within a few weeks of each other. For all my problems with sucky runs, overall, running has definitely made for a very fun summer.

LB Mt Hood

But more than anything this summer, I’ve learned to take the good with the bad. To appreciate the gift of the great runs, and to tough it up during the bad runs. I know this is all just the nature of this sport.

The thing that’s a little harder to accept is how that can change from one day to the next.

Last week was the perfect example of that. On Wednesday morning, I found myself with a very limited amount of time to run. I realized I could squeeze in 5 miles – if I kept a speedy pace. After a moderate warm-up mile, I figured that since I was going so short anyway, I might as well turn my run into a bit of a workout. I really wasn’t sure what my legs were up for, so I just dropped the pace below 7:00 minutes/mile and started running. I ended up getting faster with each mile (finishing up at 6:34) and ended feeling like I could have run faster and further. That day, I was over-the-top in love with running.

A similar thing happened again on Friday evening. Do you ever get the feeling that if you could just run fast enough, wings will sprout from your shoes and you’ll fly away? (No, just me?) Well that’s how I felt on Friday. The plan was to just go out for a run and not think about pace. After about a mile, however, the only thing I wanted to do was run fast. Since this doesn’t exactly happen everyday, I figured I might as well embrace it. All I wanted was to feel like I was flying. I was pushing the pace, but I wasn’t tired. I was floating in the clouds. It was one of those runs that left me thinking – THIS. This is what running is all about!

And then the weekend came. I slogged through a recovery run on Saturday, cutting it shorter than my original goal because my legs just weren’t feeling well. And on Sunday, when my goal was to run “just” 13 – 15 miles, I woke up with a head that was not in the game. Despite my awesome runs from earlier in the week AND the cooler temperatures, going out and running for a couple of hours did not sound the slightest bit appealing. But the miles had to be run, so I dragged my butt out the door, thinking that if I could run 20 the week before without any real problem, I could certainly run 15.

Unfortunately I had already set myself up to fail before I even started running. And even though I really focused on changing my attitude at the beginning of the run, my body was just not cooperating. My breathing felt way too heavy, my heart was racing, and my legs were filled with lead. Why, when I was running a much slower pace, did my body feel like it was working harder than it did when I was running sub-7:00s earlier in the week? Why was this cut-back run feeling so much harder than my 20 miles did the week before?

IMG_1888.jpgIf someone had been following with a camera on my long run, I’m sure this is what I would’ve looked like.

I never did settle in or find my groove during the run. Instead, highlights of the morning included: forcing myself to run for an hour before taking a break, stopping in front of a random stranger’s house and half-heartedly pretending to stretch out my tight calves while I stewed about the situation, and tricking myself into taking the long way home – which gave me 5 more miles for a total of 13.1 for the day.

I know we’ve all been there. Sometimes, for no real reason, running is tougher than we want it to be. But other times, everything falls into place and you feel like you could run forever. Part of being a runner means learning to take the good with the bad. Not every run is going to feel effortless, just like not every run is going to be torturous.

This summer I must sound like a yo-yo – one day I’m talking about how tough running is, and the next, I’m loving it.

BP_LB_Blessing

But that’s the reality of the phase I’m in right now. I’ve gone through long stretches of time where every run feels great, and I’m more in love with the sport than ever. But sometimes my motivation and desire to run changes every day, and I can’t really figure out why. All I can do is take things one run at a time, knowing that each time I lace up my shoes, I’m stronger for it.

Despite that, I can admit that it’s not really fun to feel this way – I wish I could ride the high of running forever. And sometimes the fact that I don’t actually makes me feel like an imposter. Because real runners love running all the time, right??

Sure. And dark chocolate doesn’t have any calories…

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