Archive for June, 2008

June 9-15 Training

Maybe there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but on Friday I learned about a free 8K run the next morning in Kitty Hawk.  Held to increase publicity for a worthy organization, the Carolina Estuarine Reserve Foundation (CERF), the course took the couple dozen participants along woods, through a quaint sound-side village complete with goats and horses in yards, over a stretch of hilly, rooty trail, and across an old covered bridge — all for an optional $5 raffle ticket. Oh, and the cost of gas to drive an hour to the Outer Banks.

OK, so there’s no such thing as a free run either. At least it made for an extra scenic and fun one!

June 9-15

Monday –  4 miles easy (treadmill), took Pilates class

Tuesday — Taught Pilates

Wednesday —  35 min. Spinning; 6.25 miles easy (road)

Thursday —  8.25 miles with 3 X 1 mile at ~7:40 min/miles (path); taught Pilates

Friday – Rest

Saturday — 12.5 including Kitty Hawk Woods 8K (path and trail)

Sunday — 8 miles easy (road), yoga DVD

Totals:  ~  39 miles running, 1 Spinning workout, 4 yoga/pilates practices

Good stuff: The heat wave simmered down, and all of a sudden 80-85 degrees feels comfortable as long as it’s not in direct sun. Heat acclimating seems to be going much better this summer.

Stuff to keep an eye on: One of many good reasons to practice yoga and pilates is that they will show you exactly where you have tightness. Right now it seems my left ankle/Achilles area is still tight and in need of extra stretching and self-massage. I don’t feel it when running, but it was blatant during the Leg Pull Front.

Goals for the week: My head is still first and foremost in the office wrapping up projects right now. Running-wise I intend this to be my first 50+ mileage week in several months, so safe and smart running and lots of stretching to stay loose are all in order.


A Close Encounter, a Coincidence, and a Cookie

I will not typically write up a mid-week training run, as I figure they are interesting to no one but me. Tonight’s personal running adventure, though, was full of coincidence and even a close encounter.  Since I continually look to find and facilitate connections, I’m sharing it in the hope that it might help another runner notice an opportunity to be momentarily surprised by chance.

It was still warm when I started along my favorite path, and I had just finished demonstrating a lack of common sense by teaching a pilates class that focused on lower body right before running. After three miles, my legs still hadn’t forgiven me. If you can imagine running through drying cement with a super-size rubber band binding your legs, that’s about the way it felt. I intended to do some speedwork during this run, but after that warm-up was doubting whether I could eke any more pace out of my groggy legs. My rule of training is “Unless I am ill or hurt, I will always try,” so heading into mile 4 I looked for a pace that felt between “comfortably hard” and “all out 5K race pace misery.” The worst that would happen is I wouldn’t be able to finish the “fast” mile, and my confidence would be a bit bruised.

I made it fine, in a time I was satisfied with. To try for another, I retraced my steps and headed back in the direction of the trailhead.

Around a bend I encountered something that made me freeze for a moment. A doe was standing in the middle of the path facing me. Staring at me. Staring me down. Not turning tail and gracefully sailing off in the usual way that gives me deer envy.

Was she going to charge me? I had recently heard a few runners’ tales of aggressive behavior from Mama Deer, so I startled. Finally I asked Ms. Doe to move and she nonchalantly walked off the path. Despite the pause, I hit the .75 point of that mile way too fast and jogged in to come in faster the second mile. This wasn’t race day and I wasn’t out to deplete my legs.

During the rest period before the next interval, I walked to a water fountain at the rest area next to the trailhead. On the way I passed by two women holding the tiniest, most adorably snuggly puppies. The babies were the size of kittens, so they could cradle one in each arm. I’m not the type of person who squeals and gushes over Blatantly Cute Things, but at that moment it was all I could do to not walk over, gently take a puppy, and sprint off with it. I love dogs, so seeing those little ones made me smile as I headed off for the last mile repeat.

After running, I needed a few things from the store. Fifteen miles down the highway back to town there’s Wal-Mart, which is normally 12 miles out of my way. I don’t prefer to shop there, but tonight it was too convenient to pass up. My usual M.O. in a store is get around and grab what I need as efficiently as I can. I was doing that in the produce section when I passed a familiar face: one of the puppy women! We had that weird “I recognize you” moment, and she asked if I was the one who had been running. She wanted to know how far I had run and if I did that every day, and complimented me. I answered her questions as modestly as I could, feeling a bit self-conscious since I’m not out on the path looking for praise. I asked her about the puppies, and said how much I’d enjoyed seeing them and how cute they were. For the second time that night I headed away from the puppy woman too shy to follow her out of the store and ask to hold a dog.

It took a moment, but I realized this total stranger had given me a little lift twice in one evening without having any awareness of what she contributed. So, thanks, puppy woman!

My evening of minor and probably insignificant coincidences was completed by the fortune cookie that completed tonight’s Chinese take-out.

I am gingerly, often clumsily, spending more time on trails these days to add variety and fun to my running and prepare for a trail 50K next month. How is it that an assembly line worker (or, more likely, machine) knew of those ambitions when inserting the fortune I read:

(“Be careful! Straight trees often have crooked roots.”)

That might be one to slip in my race bag.

(H)OM(e)made Yoga

With the nearest yoga studio 40 miles away, taking a class isn’t a realistic option for me most days. Aside from teaching, which is for the students, my yoga practice has been mostly solo and home-based for the past four years. Really for six years, since before that I was a grad student who couldn’t afford $10-$15/session.

As a student and instructor, I firmly believe that nothing can take the place of working in person with a qualified teacher in an appropriate level class, even if just for a half-dozen sessions. I recommend that to anyone. A good teacher can tailor the class to individual students’ abilities, work one-on-one within the class to help each student feel best in the asanas (poses), offer encouragement, answer questions, and more. There’s really no substitute, but unfortunately many of us (including myself) have full-time jobs, major commitments to training and/or family, live in inconvenient places, or are on tight budgets.

The next best option for beginning yogis, I believe, is some type of visual media: DVD, Web-based class, podcast, cable show, etc. More and more instructors and studios are providing classes online, some for purchase and others free of charge. I haven’t explored many offerings, but a good search engine result for “online yoga classes” should come up with plenty. If you have TiVo and a satellite dish service, you can record “Namaste Yoga” on FitTV or “Exhale,” broadcast on the Oxygen network.

To have the optimal experience, take the time out to simply watch the video before trying a new routine. It is frustrating and counterproductive to be hanging out in Downward-Facing Dog craning your neck to see what’s going on on the screen, and in some poses (Bridge, Shoulderstand) could compromise the cervical spine.

Above all else, listen to your body when practicing solo. If anything causes sudden, sharp pain, dizziness, lightheadedness, or shortness of breath, carefully come out and take a break.

Yoga Conditioning For Athletes

These titles are just one yogini’s suggestion. There are hundreds on the market, and I’m sure another practitioner would have different recommendations. Yoga is a very individual and personal experience, and part of the yoga tradition is connecting with the teachers we feel drawn to. If you want to begin a yoga practice, trust that you will discover what you need as you go. A DVD or book that ignites one person’s enthusiasm for practicing will sit on someone else’s shelf collecting dust and taking up space. That’s why, if you have access, I suggest first sampling from the public library, renting from a video store or Netflix, or downloading free online classes.

All DVDs I mention should be available through or’s “Shop” section.

The title I recommend most to runners and other athletes is Yoga Conditioning for Athletes. I love this practice and in the past, have done it after every week’s long run during marathon training. The whole hour-long routine is a complete practice with stretching, strengthening, and relaxation. The DVD also includes short, sport-specific routines, and instructor Rodney Yee tailors his instruction to explain how the poses benefit sports performance. It is very easy to follow with three people demonstrating three different levels for each pose.

New and intermediate yogis will do well exploring the titles produced by The Web site offers previews and categorizes titles by level of difficulty. Every Gaiam DVD I own features an experienced instructor, is beautifully filmed, well-organized, easy to follow, and has quality content. Some of them do have more of a “workout video” feel than a yoga practice feel, but that’s just my experience.

New yogis who want more in-depth instruction can try the series Step by Step A Total Guide To Beginning Your Home Practice produced by Yoga Journal magazine. Each of the three DVDs has a practice routine, but the special features include in-depth instruction of every pose. This is the next best thing to taking a Level 1 class.

I gravitate to vinyasa (“flow”) yoga for its dance-like feel, creativity, and more moderate pace. This style is also called “Power Yoga” and emphasizes strengthening as well as stretching. I have nearly 20 DVDs of ths style, but my two favorite titles are Eoin Finn’s Power Yoga For Happiness and Shiva Rea’s Yoga Shakti. Both titles let practitioners choose short or long practices. Finn’s instruction is playful and fun, yet he has a way of helping students experience poses on a deeper level. “Yoga Shakti” has an especially cool Matrix feature where you can select and sequence your own routine.

And finally, to anyone who needs a good laugh while learning a pose or two: Yogabeans!

June 2-8 Training

I feel fortunate to have this training week on the books. Runs felt good, offered a lot of variety, and I was pleased with my effort. I got back into pilates & yoga practices, too. Sometimes I think about all the things that have to go right on a cellular, neurological, or biochemical level just to breathe and blink my eyes, and am blown away by the gift of enjoying a fit, active body. Moreover I am safe and fed, so have the luxury of “issues” like fussing over where to run. It’s important to step back and appreciate the ability to participate in these activities. I truly wish everyone could share the fun.

June 2-8

Monday –  6 easy (road), 2.5 mile walk

Tuesday — 5 with 4 X 800 (track); yoga DVD

Wednesday —  1800m swim; pilates class, 2 mile walk

Thursday —  9 easy (treadmill), yoga DVD

Friday – Yoga DVD, pilates DVD

Saturday — 20 easy (12 road/8 treadmill)

Sunday — 8.5 easy (trail)

Totals:  ~ 48.5 miles running, 4.5 miles walking, 1 swim, 5 yoga/pilates practices

Good stuff: Swimming! Weightless, supportive, refreshing, and gentle, this workout is the perfect antidote to hot-weather running.

Stuff to keep an eye on: Running slower due to heat & humidity results in achy feet and tighter calves. TLC like self-massage, stretching, and heat/cool soaks offer relief.

Goals for the week: With a cut-back planned, my goals are more about my non-running life this week. I have so much to do to get out of town for a while in a week to 10 days, and can’t seem to get my butt in gear to do any of it.

Running in Hell

My true feelings for the small eastern North Carolina community I’ve inhabited for nearly four years have ranged from private loathing to precariously negotiated contentment. Though I’ve always tried to make the best of being somewhere where a healthy, progressive way of being is by default a radically alternative lifestyle, I’ve never embraced the local culture. Truthfully, I never thought it worth it the effort and internal change required for that to happen.

With my time here waning, I experienced a realization: This really, truly is Hell.

Heat wave

The epiphany arrived with an unseasonable heat wave earlier this week. “It’s 99 in the shade,” isn’t an exaggerated cliche. Additionally, when the wind shifts just so it delivers smoke and haze from a 30,000-acre wildfire contained but still smoldering 45 minutes south. It’s as if the fire and brimstone ever-threatened from the pulpits of unairconditioned Southern Baptist churches has finally arrived to punish us for all our evil-doings.

What’s a would-be ultramarathoner to do about the torrid conditions? Run in them — but with modifications and precautions. Here’s how I kept from getting too hot and bothered.

Beat the heat.Finding the most temperate conditions meant getting started by 6 a.m. and finishing before the sun rose too high. As pre-dawn activity isn’t my true nature, I traded one comfort zone for another. It was more than worth it.

Slowed down and drank up. In heat and humidity, I’m good at my usual training paces for an hour, tops. I gave myself permission to ignore pace and run by feel, always finding a comfortable effort. Though speed decreased, the frequency of needing liquid increased significantly. Carrying water or stashing refreshing bottles of melting frozen Gatorade to sip from quenched my thirst.

Searched for shade. The neighborhood where I live has no shade and plenty of baking pavement. Not ideal. The extra time and effort to drive to a tree-lined section of town and nature trails near the breezier coast paid off. I still felt the sweaty weight of saturated air, but never had the sensation of being too hot. Thank you trees!

Sought motivation.If pushing through humidity ever started my mind grumbling, I reminded myself that no one makes me run, and the ability is a privilege. I thought of runners who complete the inferno-like Badwater Ultramarathon. I thought of soldiers in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, letter carriers, and laborers, for whom making a living requires being active in any conditions. I looked ahead to when safe training in heat will provide an additional increase in fitness.

Treated myself to the treadmill. One day I pampered myself on the treadmill with built-in fan and satellite radio in the climate-controlled YMCA. The relief of not having to deal with sticky conditions translated into a grateful, super-charged run. It was more like going to the spa for eight miles.

Reviewed information about running in hot weather. It’s potentially life-saving to follow these practices and recognize signs of heat illness. I stayed mindful to the typical symptoms I experience when overheated: chills, nausea, and cramping.

Temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit will never be ideal for performing an activity that raises the body’s temperature. But with time and safety practices, the amazing human body will adjust. After all, people have lived and run comfortably in the Middle East and Southern Hemisphere for thousands of years. I aim to follow in their footsteps.

If you’ve got a tried-and-true method of keeping your cool, please add it in a Comment.

May 19-June 1 Training

Let’s hear it for summer vacation! Since May 15, I’ve been free to move about the country. I took advantage of this teaching career benefit the second half of May and embarked on a running tour of the Midwest. The trip took me down several new trails in Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Cleveland’s Metroparks system, and down memory lane in Madison, Wisc. 

All along the way I enjoyed good company, and got used to the camaraderie of running with a best buddy or group. Arriving back in North Carolina, it took a few runs to get used to “the loneliness of the long-distance runner” again. Fortunately, I met some new four-legged, furry friends on a few familiar local routes: An orange cat who appeared just when I wished for someone to talk to, and the friendliest Golden Retriever on the planet who tried her best to get me to stay and play rather than move forward.

May 19-25

Monday –  6 easy (paved path)

Tuesday — 8 with 6 X 2:00 95% effort pick-ups (treadmill)

Wednesday —  Travel day; no workout

Thursday —  6.3 easy (trails)

Friday – 5 easy (pavement and dirt path)

Saturday — rest day

Sunday — 15.1 miles (Madison Half Marathon race plus warm-up/cool down)

Totals:  ~ 40.5 miles running

May 26-June 1

Monday –  Travel day; no workout

Tuesday — 8.3 easy (pavement)

Wednesday —  4.75 easy (trails)

Thursday —  6 easy (road)

Friday –  3.5 mile walk

Saturday — 18 easy (road)

Sunday — 6.25 easy (treadmill); yoga

Totals:  ~ 44 miles running, 3.5 mile walking, 1 yoga practice

Good stuff: Too much for this little blurb. First and foremost, priceless company and memories made. I benefited from Trail Running 101 instruction on the Buckeye Trail, site of my summer goal race, and for the first time truly realized and appreciated the different, specialized techniques needed to traverse off-road.

Stuff to keep an eye on: After almost a month off from yoga and pilates due to a bit of burnout from teaching so much, my body feels clunky, weak, and stiff. Just one yoga practice helped loosen a tight lower leg and settle my mind, a reminder of how beneficial these supplemental activities are. I will schedule them into my training weeks until they become habitual again.

Goals for the week: Start heat-acclimating! I came back to what feels like mid-summer in N.C. It can be downright miserable to run in the steamy, stuffy conditions, but it can be done with some safety precautions and adjustments. Not giving in to the temptation of an air-conditioned treadmill with built-in fan will mean better performances in summer races and much stronger running when fall comes. Sadly, I confess to already longing for that more runner-friendly season!