2013 in the Rearview Mirror

Back in January, when the “Year in Review” posts pop up all over the internet, I started thinking about last year. It had felt like an off year. My running was generally iffy. Although I had a strong finish in the Griffith Park Trail Marathon, I DNF’d the Leona Divide 50k. I ran a 5k in June, but beyond that, hadn’t run a single race. I had attempted to train for 2 or 3, but every training plan ended up half-written, and my runs tapered off to 1 or 2 per week. When I went out for long runs, I usually cut them short by 4 or 5 miles and turned around early. Weight workouts went undone.

Riddle me this. Say you have a best friend, whose father died early in the year. Say that she started feeling disinterested in running after that, not completing workouts, didn’t feel like training for anything. Would you say:

“That sounds like it really sucks. You know, it sounds like maybe you just need to be kind to yourself and take a little time off. Want to go get coffee and chat?”

Or:

“Shut up and suck it up. God, you’re such a whiner.”

To be clear, I am both the friend and the responder in this little scenario. And I did not choose the nice response. I spent a year beating myself up for not feeling more “into” running and fitness, and never really thought that maybe my response to a traumatic experience wasn’t going to be “go run a 100 miler” but instead would be “take a little time to chill out and see what happens.”

My dad died in late February of last year. Three weeks after he died, I spoke at his memorial service. Then the next weekend, I ran a marathon. Two weeks after that, I DNF’d my first 50k attempt. I thought my response the rest of the year meant I was just a failure, but I think it meant that I am just a human.

I’ve spent enough time around runners now, both in “real life” and on their blogs, to realize that everyone’s running is affected by their life. Sometimes it means you have a really good year. Sometimes it means that you have a year where you need to take a little down time and gear up for the next one. But the best runners, the ones who truly enjoy the sport and seem to have longevity in it, seem to be the ones who can recognize which type of year they’re in and roll with the punches. They have patience.
It’s shaping up to be a better year. I feel like running again. I feel like getting into the gym. I’m training for a 50k in October. But most of all, I feel like I can more clearly see that sometimes you can’t muscle through and pull off an incredible year. Sometimes you need to let the year be what it wants to be, and set yourself up for the next one.

Runner’s World Is Reading My Mind

Jimmy Dean Freeman  posted a great article on Facebook from Runner’s World listing the 12 most common mistakes that runners make. I tend to open up these articles feeling a little smug, because sometimes the mistakes are things that I’ve managed to fix through trial and error awhile ago. But this list? Ouch. It was like someone followed me around for a week and wrote down everything I did. Thankfully, Leo isn’t as prone to these particular mistakes and tends to call me out on them, but they’re still things I really need to work on.

My worst ones?

Mistake #2: Make all runs “medium” runs. I have this ingrained idea that if I take all that time to put on my running clothes, rinse out and fill my hydration pack, and plan out a route, then I better run it fast! Once I get out on the road, I realize that it’s not really possible for me to run 10, 12, 16, or 20 miles fast…but maybe I can just push the pace pretty hard. “I’ll run it medium,” I think, convinced that I’ve come up with the next big training strategy. Except that I burn out partway through the run, crash, start whining, and generally become an unfun person to be around. It’s been hard for me to retrain my brain and convince it that an easy pace really is a good thing, and that I’m still a “real” runner if I’m running mileage splits that aren’t what I’d want to see in a race.

Mistake #4: Recover inadequately. When I start hitting the last few miles of a long run, the only things I can think about are a shower, and a couch. And if I’ve fueled particularly badly, a footlong Subway meatball sandwich. The thought of a long hot shower gets me through the last couple of miles, and the minute I hit my front door (or a little past it, since I like to run until my Garmin sings its little “you’re finally done running” song) I’m peeling off sweaty running clothes and heading for the shower. Then my butt hits the couch, and I don’t get up for the next few hours. Stretching? I’ll stretch later! Except when I go to stand up, my Achilles tendons have frozen my feet into permanent Barbie position, and my knees feel like someone forgot to oil them. I know that stretching (and delaying the gratification of a hot shower) immediately will make me feel better in the long run, but I often don’t put it into practice.

Mistake #8: Search for the perfect workout. Hi, my name is Jessica and I’m a librarian who can’t stop researching things. Training plans? I’ve read books about them, Googled them, and looked up blogs and followed training recaps through the weeks. Workouts? I’ve tried to find the perfect speed workout, weights workout, cross-training workout, hills workout, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. While I firmly believe that information is a good thing, I forget that a lot of working out is trial and error. If I don’t try one thing at a time, I can’t figure out what’s working for me, and what isn’t  Plus, when I get all fired up and create a new training plan, I tend to overschedule with every.cool.new.thing that I’ve found out, and I get tired just looking at what I’ve decided I’m “supposed” to do in a week. I’ve started trying to make more minimal training plans, that I can expand if I’m feeling good, but it’s hard to resist the siren call of the next betterfastermoreperfect workout.

Head over to Runner’s World to check out the whole article, including some suggested fixes for each mistake…it’s really worth a read!

Leona Divide 50k Training: Week 2

DailyMile Week 3

 

This was such a great week! DailyMile isn’t hip to the fact that I shifted my week by a day, thanks to the Monday holiday, but I was able to stick really close to my plan this week, and everything went relatively well.

Monday

Weights!

Set A – 1×10 split squats no weight, 1×5 with 20lbs, 2×5 with 30lbs. 2×10 hanging leg raises (straight) 1×10 hanging leg raises (tucked).

Set B – 3×10 box jumps (high, low, low). 3×10 inverted Ts.

Set C – 3×10 stepups fast, no weight, high, low, low. 3×15 back extensions.

Set D – 3×20 calf raises. 3×10 pushups. 3×15 russian twists (5kg).

Set E – 3×5 assisted pullups (85lbs). 2x:30 planks.

Stretch.

I’m working really hard on my pullups, and I’d love to be able to get 1 unassisted by the end of the school year. A new trick I learned is to work on starting the pullup from my shoulders and back, and try to pull my chest towards the bar, rather than just my chin. It’s a little hard to do on the assisted machine, but I think it’s helping me move towards an unassisted one quicker than just staying in the machine’s plane of motion.

Tuesday

Off

Wednesday

Track Workout (2 miles) - 4×800 on 3:55 (2 min RI) 3:43, 3:46, 3:56, 3:46. My first track workout of this training cycle! It was brutally cold (for Southern CA) so I started out way too fast in an attempt to warm up. It worked a little too well. There was also a bathroom break in the middle, so the 2nd rest break was more like 5 minutes.

Thursday

Tempo Run (7 miles) – I knew I needed to get this tempo run in in order to have a rest day on Friday, but I wasn’t feeling the idea of getting out on the roads by myself. So I ran on the treadmill, which is my least favorite type of running. However, watching Spirit of the Marathon on Netflix made up for it a little bit. I’ve told myself that I can’t finish it until I do another treadmill run. Splits were 1 mile warmup (10:00), 5 miles @ 9:39, 1 mile cool down.

Friday

Off

Saturday

Off – Unscheduled, but Leo was sick with the flu and so I took a down day.

Sunday

Long Run (12 miles) – Decided to run to the Sullivan Ridge trail (3 miles there), run 6 miles on the trails, and then run the 3 miles home. There went great, and the trails were really fun and beautiful. The stairs out of the canyon, not so much, but I’m sure they were good for me. But it was midday, and I got a little overheated on the way home. I was still fighting off the hordes of flu germs from work, and I’m pretty sure the brand of sunscreen I used was making it harder than usual for my skin to sweat normally. Even with this though, I managed to take two gels, which is HUGE progress for me on fueling. I’ve finally found a brand of gel that works for me, and I’m working on taking them more regularly. The last 3 miles were almost entirely walking, but I was able to recover pretty well the rest of the day.

Murphy Ranch Gates

Monday

Back-to-back mileage (6 miles) – My extra day this week! Went for an easy 6 mile run around the Brentwood Country Club, and checked out some new running gear at a nearby store. Kept the pace pretty easy (about 10:00) and felt relatively good.

Total Mileage: 27.4

Slightly over the planned mileage for the week! I’m thrilled that I managed to get everything in, even though I left myself only 6 days for the next week (I love fuzzy week math). I’m also really happy that I managed to get out on the trails for part of my long run. Bring on Week 3!

Murphy Ranch Gates 2

Leona Divide 50k Training: Week 1

I think my favorite part of training plans might be swapping them around every week.

Daily Mile Week 1Monday

8.2 miles (1:25) – This was technically supposed to be a rest day, but we really wanted to go see The Hobbit, and the only conveniently timed movie theater was 4.1 miles away. The run there was stymied slightly by a nagging cough and congestion, but we refueled at the movie theater with mozzarella sticks, coffee, and a pizookie. The run home was quick and easy. Not having a car has made us think twice before any trips out, but we really enjoy the ones we make. Note to self: bring a change of clothes when going on a movie run, because it gets cold and sweaty sitting in a theater.

Tuesday

Weights!

Set A – 1×10 split squats no weight, 1×5 split squats with 20lbs, 2×5 split squats with 30lbs. 1×10 hanging leg raises (straight) 2×10 hanging leg raises (tucked).]

Set B – 3×10 box jumps (low, high, low). 3×10 inverted Ts.

Set C – 3×10 stepups (20lbs). 3×15 back extensions. 3×20 calf raises.

Set D – 2×10 pushups. 2×15 russian twists (5kg). 2×5 assisted pullups (85lbs).

Set E – 2x:30 planks.1×10 1 arm should press (10lbs). 1×10 dumbell fly (5lbs).

Stretch.

Wednesday/Thursday/Friday

Off. I was going to do a tempo run, and a track workout, and I decided sleeping was more fun. Which, honestly, it really wasn’t. I also wanted to make the Coyote Thursday Trail Run (although I would have just been running to the run and then running home) but it didn’t end up working out.

Saturday

13 miles (2:45) – Decided to go on a runventure to spend a Sephora gift card and to check out the Old Navy Activewear sale. Still having coughing issues on the way down to Santa Monica, and had serious electrolyte issues on the way back which led to some stomach upset. After some very salty pasta, I was feeling much better. Had an interesting moment during mile 11 when we got onto a nice dark trail and I suddenly switched from running 11 minute miles to running below 9 minute miles. Apparently having only a single point of light to focus on while covering uneven footing takes my mind off all pain.

Sunday

Off. Not feeling well, slept in a tried to eat well. Probably a holdover from my fueling mistakes on Saturday.

Total mileage: 21.2

A little low for my taste, but not terrible and I’m happy I got in a weight workout. I struggled a lot with getting out of bed early enough to workout, and that really impacted the number of workouts I got in. Something to work on for next week!

Leona Divide 50k Training: Week 0

I spent a lot of hours this week creating a pretty new color-coded training plan…and several more hours remembering that I am not a superhuman athlete with unlimited time and cutting back to something that is actually achievable. But I also got in a few workouts this week, even though I’m still not feeling 100%. I’ve decided that I’m not going to log random walks to the store (like I did a lot of last year), and am just logging the actual miles run.

Ah DailyMile and your constant rounding up.

Ah DailyMile and your constant rounding up.

Monday/Tuesday

Rest days

Wednesday

13 miles (2:35) – Started with a 3 mile warmup run since I was still feeling pretty awful. Then took a break to eat breakfast before heading out on a 10 miler. I felt REALLY bad around mile 2-3 and was doubting that I’d make the whole 10 miles, but managed to pull myself together, eat some almond butter, drink some water, and made it to the beach and back. The weather was perfect, and I really got into a groove near the end. One of my better 10 milers, despite the rough start.

Thursday

5.3 miles (1:24) – Decided to get in my first back-to-back run of the year. The first 4.3 was a trail run with the Coyotes which was a lot of fun. Got lost a few times, but had beautiful views of the ocean and the surrounding hills as the sun came up.

Sunrise on the trail

Friday/Saturday

Rest days

Sunday

2.5 miles (25.00) – Quick run just to see how my legs and lungs were feeling. Decided to call it to give my lungs a little more rest and stretch out my legs.

 

Not a bad week all in all. Work starts again on Tuesday, and the “official” training plan starts this week. I’m going to try to ease in slowly for once and not burn myself out right at the beginning. We’ll see how that goes.

 

The End of 2012

Last year, on the first day of 2012, I wrote that if it was true that whatever you did on the first day of the year was an omen for how the rest of your year would go, “I will apparently be rising obscenely early, running, reading funny books, and driving in LA.”

This was mostly true.

Rising Obscenely Early/Running

I had a lot of fun running the Virtual 12athon this year, although my participation was much heavier in the early part of the year. It was a good challenge to get 12 miles in on the 12th of every month, no matter what else was going on. I think my favorite 12athon run of the year was June, where I succeeded in running 12 miles all uphill, while staying up far too late (or early?)

Mile One

Mile One

I also ran a lot of races in 2012, again mostly in the 1st half of the year. Although I enjoyed them all, I’m most proud of my performance in the Griffith Park Trail Half Marathon since it was the longest distance I’ve ever run by myself.

Photo Credit: RaceFace Media Race Photography

Photo Credit: RaceFace Media Race Photography

Driving

I did a lot of driving in LA as I finished up my Masters degree from UCLA and graduated in June.

UCLA MLIS Graduation

I also managed to land a fabulous job, and then cut my driving almost to zero by moving right across the street from my work. We are now a no car family, and it will be interesting to see how that works out in 2013.

Reading Funny Books

I don’t know about all funny books, but I read 69 books in 2012 according to Goodreads!

Goodreads 2012 2

2013

And what’s up for 2013?

Well, I’ve started a new running challenge and joined Moon Joggers! Our goal is to run enough miles together to run to the moon in 2013. I’ve pledged 1,000 miles, and I hope that’s a conservative goal rather than a reach. Should be fun!

I’ve also entered my first ultramarathon, and will be running the Leona Divide 50k race in April of this year.

Leona Divide Signup

 

As for goals:

1. Post more frequently! I enjoy reading others weekly wrap-ups and event recaps so much. I want to look back at the end of 2013 and have a great record of the year.

2. Train consistently – not trying to do too much, and not trying to take it too easy.

3. Be willing to be uncomfortable in the short term for gains in the long term – this means getting up early to run before work, and being willing to try longer and harder runs that I’ve done before.

I hope you all have a happy and safe New Year’s Eve, and a wonderful 2013. See you in the New Year.

Running in the Red (Softcup Product Review)

Anyone who gets iffy about talk of menstrual issues might want to click the little “x” in the corner of this tab, ’cause we’re going to talk about “that time of the month.”

When I first got my period, there were tons of books, websites, and various informational pamphlets on what to expect, what to do, and what to use. While useful, the “what to use” portion of these was limited to pads, and tampons. And while both are useful, I never really knew about any other options.

When I started running, one of my first questions (beyond, “what shoes do I get?”) was, what do other runners use during their periods? And the answers…well, there wasn’t much information that I could find. I assumed the answer was just tampons, which I used unhappily. They never felt entirely comfortable, and produced way too much chafing for my taste, even after removing that annoying little string.

Then, several months ago, I saw a note on another runner’s blog that she had gotten a sample of a menstrual product called Softcup to review. And she LOVED it, saying it was much more comfortable and convenient to use than tampons or pads. So I asked if I could be included in the sample pool. (Full disclosure: they also offered reimbursement for a race entry fee…but I was honestly more interested in the product than the perks).

A Softcup is a flexible plastic cup that can be worn internally for up to 12 hours. It collects menstrual discharge without leaking (once you get it settled correctly), and is hypoallergenic, non-toxic, and doesn’t mess with your body’s natural pH balance (which helps reduce the risk of yeast infections). They’re approved by the FDA and have been on the market for 10 years.

It comes in a box of 24 (or a box of 2 if you choose the version that can be reused for an entire cycle). Thankfully, some wonderful person decided to package them without cutesy designs or figures of women running around.

From left to right: Softcup, tampon, overnight pad. Note the absence of cutesy designs.

From left to right: Softcup, tampon, overnight pad. Note the absence of cutesy designs.

When you open it, the Softcup seems a little larger than a tampon.

Looks a little large compared to a tampon.

Looks a little large compared to a tampon.

But, once you squeeze the sides of the Softcup for insertion, they’re about the same size.

Tampon vs. Softcup 2I found the Softcup extremely easy to use, very comfortable, and absolutely essential for good runs while on my period. During the LA Marathon, I carried a tampon in my sports bra in case of emergency (which was good, since I ended up being out there for 6 hours). If I’d had a Softcup, I would’ve had nothing to worry about. This is my new favorite product for “that time of the month” and I won’t be going back to pads or tampons any time soon.

I will admit though, that when I first got my sample, it sat in my bathroom cabinet for awhile before I could get up the courage to use it. It just seemed a little too different from what I was used to. Trust me, getting up the courage to try it is a good thing, and I felt pretty stupid for waiting so long.

Check out the Softcup website for tons more information on both use and ordering! And feel free to leave a comment or send an email with any questions you might have for me. I know people often don’t like to talk about these kinds of topics, but I think that the more information we all have, the more we can all find the solutions that work for us. Besides, runners seem to have a higher threshold for squeamish topics than most!