Liv to run

Lots of random ranting, whining, and attempts at being humourous as I run, run, run in pursuit of higher mileage and better races.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

It's my life

Some of you may be wondering why I have been AWOL for so many days. Well, maybe you don't care that much, but I'll pretend you do. The truth of the matter is, I have been ever so busily evaluating my life.

No, really.

This deep and meaningful-sounding process is actually an assignment for a psych class that I am taking at the moment. We have been sentenced to complete an exercise of "future authoring" - that is: imagining what our ideal future would be like, establishing the goals such a future would require, and creating realistic strategies for attaining those goals. Sound like a brainful? It is.

Surprisingly though, the task, though incredibly lengthy, is not nearly as monotonous as I was sure it would be. In fact, it's pretty darn interesting after all. It's made me actually set down in writing some of the zillions of plans that have been floating around in my brain, which makes them seem a little more real, a little more scary, and a little more possible.

The funny thing that I noticed, though, was a certain difference in specificity. The goals that I have chosen to write about are pretty broad - I want to have a good job, have a family, travel around the world - that kind of thing. So even the "detailed strategies" I established for attaining these goals have a certain vagueness about them, for the most part. Except for one: the one about maintaining good health and physical activity. That one, I've got so nailed, it sticks out of my plan like a sore thumb. More like a thumbs up, really.

The thing is, being a runner, I have so many concrete goals, I have a training plan, I have all kinds of strategies picked up from everywhere. I want to run a half marathon, then a marathon. To get there, I have to increase my weekly mileage, but only by 10% at a time so I don't injure myself. I also have to crosstrain, stretch and strengthen. I have to do easy runs, long runs, tempo runs. I can monitor my distance, pace, overall feeling of fitness, and *gulp* even my weight. I need to balance carbs, protein and fat, eat enough vegetables, get vitamins and minerals. And a billion other little things. It's all so quantitative - and as such, so attainable.

Not that I'm much of a control freak, but all of us feel most comfortable when we are in control of our own lives. Having a running regimen really gives you that power, that mental and physical edge, and it leads to a really great "I can do that!" attitude. You can always push the boundaries, test your own limits, and feel an amazing sense of accomplishment for going there.

I guess when I'm evaluated on this assignment, they'll probably notice the sharp detail of my "health" plan stand out against the background of the rest. Which, really, is great - there isn't much in life that's more important than your health, after all. Yep, I know I obsess over running more than over most things. But that's just part of what makes us all runners - and proud to be so.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Here's one for you: what looks like an orange on the outside, a grapefruit on the inside, and tastes somewhere in between the two?

Answer: I have no idea, but somehow I managed to pick one up at the grocery store, thinking I was buying just an innocent little orange. But I have to say, the mystery fruit was delicious - just the right balance of sweet and tangy, and a perfect post-run hydrating snack. I'll have to find out what they're called and get me some more.

Here's another one for you: what's purple and creamy and all over my floor?

Answer: my damn yogurt that I just spilled there. ARG. Cleaning time.

Monday, January 23, 2006


It's so easy, as a runner, to get annoyed with people - they're in your way, they leer, they sneer, they yell stupid comments as you trot past (especially if they're construction workers - what's up with those guys anyway???)

But then there are just those days when the whole world seems so friendly - as though there is a good mood in the air and people are breathing it in. Today was one of those days, apparently - this incredibly seasonable January weather must be doing us all some good.

I got so many smiles from people today, just nice friendly smiles - not sneering or being lecherous (of course, I'm not the most attractive object these days, encased in my fleece vest and gloves - but my leggings are pretty damn hot) - just genuine, benevolent smiles. I even had one funny old guy say to me as I cruised (okay, shuffled) past: "keep runnin', keep runnin - such a nice day!"

Excellent advice, from my point of view. And I followed it with pleasure. 4k at 10:20s - I'm slowly, oh so slowly, getting faster - yay !!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Drugs part deux

I've received some interesting commentary on my "addicted to running" post, so I thought I'd elaborate by sharing with everyone my *very* rudimentary knowledge of how this addiction really works... I took a course on physiological psychology this past semester, and actually got a good enough grade in it that I feel I can share information with a reasonable degree of certainty :)

Without going into too much detail, here's what happens when you run (or engage in any kind of cardiovascular exercise. But running is the best. 'Nuff said.): neurons are activated which release chemicals called endorphins into your system - these are known as "endogenous opiates", which basically means they're your body's inner version of opium, morphine and heroin. Needless to say, there is major addictive potential when these guys circulate. They act as a natural reward system for your body, so unlike their artificial, poppy-derived companions, are not dangerous. However, the potential to get addicted is very real. It explains why once we've established a running habit, we go so crazy if we have to stay off our feet due to injury or illness - we are actually experiencing a form of withdrawal depression. Runner beware: some people end up turning to artificial stimulants to replace their loss, and this is of course very bad for your health.

But as with everything running-related, as long as we are sensible about fueling our addiction, it's likely the healthiest dependency we can possibly cultivate!

My "fix" today was a gorgeous 8k run through the neighborhood - I haven't run outside since I got back to rez, but today was such a beautiful mild day that I just had to take advantage of it. Total time 53:01 - aka comfortably sustaining a 10:38 mile, woohoo! Yes, I AM proud of this - major improvement!!! In fact, I've noticed that my "easy" pace seems to get progressively faster the longer I run - it's as though I need a while to settle in before establishing a rhythm - at around 30min I suddenly felt like my body "melted" into the pace and every movement became easier. I wonder why this is but I'm not complaining - makes me hold out the hope that I'll survive a marathon one day!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Arms Amuck

I may not be a speedy runner, but I think that, on the whole, I am at least an efficient one. Not that I've ever had the opportunity to observe my own stride or anything, but I do pay attention to it, and feel that, in general, I've got it right: torso upright, upper body relaxed, feet forward, arms pumping gently back and forth beside me. My shoes keep my tendency to slightly overpronate in check. In short, I hope I don't look like a nut out there.

Because let me tell you, some people seriously do. A lot are stoop-shouldered, some are pigeon-toed, and others lurch in an ungainly fashion or lean drastically to one side. But above all this, I have noticed that the oddest things people do while running seem to involve their arms.

I run at my university track, and get to see an awful lot of this. Most of them are regulars. There is wonky-arm guy, whose left arm is in perfect glide, while his right swings wildly back and forth across his body. I swear, it encroaches on the adjacent lane. There is forgetful guy, whose arms just hang limp and useless by his side, wobbling around a little, as if he doesn't realize they're there. And then my personal favourite - he's either a cheerleader or a musician, because as he runs his arms beat up and down in front of him as if he were trying to play the drums or shake some pom poms with wild abandon. On second thought, tje gesture also kind of looks like when kids pound on the table because they're hungry or want attention or something - temper tantrum fists.

So yeah, I'll admit it, most of these people are passing me. But - I think I look a lot prettier :)

Speaking of arms and all, mine are killing me - in the good way: finally got to some weight lifting again today. Hoping to make this a regular thing, but so far "regular" equals once a week. Still trying to step it up a little - but it's something. Ran 6k yesterday and felt great, even though my boyfriend must have lapped me about six million times. *Sigh* - he does motivate me, but he's just too damn fast...!

Monday, January 16, 2006

My drug of choice

I'm not a drug person. Well, I'm big on Advil and its companions, but not a huge fan of getting high - on chemicals, anyway. They don't "enhance" my experience of anything the way they're supposed to. I guess they just don't work that well on me (alcohol excepted :)).

But I think I do get high nonetheless - on running.

Otherwise, there's just no logical reason to explain why a person who was sick for two days, then drank her brains out and lost her voice at a party on Friday night, would be even remotely interested in running 5 kilometres on Saturday. Which is what I did. And I was more than remotely interested - I was just itching to go.

It was more than just guilt, it was more than the thought of my weight. It was actually a desire for nothing more than the act of running itself. It was simply this amazing motivation from an intrinsic feeling.

And that feeling was amazing!

(My friend who was staying with me took a nap while I went to the gym. She thinks I'm on crack - I'm not. I'm just addicted to running!)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The only thing that's running is my nose

It's just some sort of law, right? Every time you are really on track with your running, and dreaming of all the progress you are going to make in the coming weeks, bam! you get injured - or sick.

Serves me right for thinking I could schedule a month's worth of runs and have them actually work out. *Sigh* And while I've been told that it's okay to exercise with a head cold, I both admire and wonder about the sanity of people who can muster up the energy to walk up a flight of stairs while sick, let alone go for an actual run.

Me, I'm just going to crawl into bed. Wake me up when it's over.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Back to school, back to rez, back to the good ol' gym

It appears that everybody in the world's New Year's resolution is to get in shape. Ah, it's inevitable. The population at the gym always doubles in January. Thankfully, it will peter out soon enough. Two, maybe three weeks. Oh, don't get me wrong. I'm in favour of the world getting in shape - our entire continent is plagued by obesity. It's just that, well I'm jealous of the gym, and I like it best when you don't have to wait for your weights (ha!)

On the flipside, I find myself truly missing the outdoors. Yes, I whined at first about running in the snow - but I kind of got a kick out of it after a little acclimatization. Runs are so much more interesting when you are trotting around the neighbourhood instead of mindlessly lapping the track, over and over again - which is not only boring, but also mentally taxing, because seeing that Santa didn't bring me a watch which counts laps, I have to constantly remember which one I'm on (it's not really Santa's fault, I didn't think to ask ;)) But, I mustn't forget, the track has it's perks - it's warm, precisely measured, and the rubberized surface is a lot better for my tender knees than the pavement. I'm still friends with the track.

So, I think the best course of action is to mix things up a little - map out some outdoor routes for scenery and fresh air (oh gmaps how I love thee!), and save the track for speedwork and/or rotten weather. And for when resolution runners start going back to their respective couches and getting out of my way :)

Friday, January 06, 2006

Something to be proud of

Today marked my last official run while on Christmas vacation, and in complete immodesty I want the whole world to know how proud I am of myself. Usually, winter vacation inevitably entails serious slacking off, and I'm lucky if I fit in a single workout. Plus, of course, this comes right alongside stuffing my face with all sorts of fabulous cooking and oodles of chocolate concoctions.

But this vacation was different: I got out and ran 3-4 times every week, despite the cold, wind, slush and darkness. I topped it off today with a 7k easy run, the farthest I have gone since a major setback last month. I even fit in a couple of strength workouts. So overall, yay!

Of course, I haven't stood on a scale yet... we'll see what the numbers have to say about my efforts. However, I think my belly is distinctly flatter than before. At least - it is in the morning, before I've eaten anything. Which, I maintain, is the only sensible time a woman should critically look at her body, anyway.

And just so you don't all think I'm completely self-centred, I am quite sure that I can attribute a lot of this success to reading so many running blogs which kept my motivation high throughout. There's nothing like reading about others who are running marathons, or working towards them, to make me want to push myself a little bit further. So thanks everyone! Keep running!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Cookie monster

There is a tin of Pirouline at work. A big tin chock-full of those blessedly chocolately hazelnutty cookies of goodness. Or at least, it was full...

It was sitting on a shelf at about my eye level (not very high...), so every time I reached in and took one I couldn't actually see how many were left. Until now, when I reached in, and closed my hand around - nothing!

They're gone! Only a few crumbly half-pieces in the bottom! And I think I may have eaten them ALL myself - the only other person who's been working here this week doesn't LIKE chocolate (which, I must point out, seems to me very unnatural.) Oh dear. I really have surpassed myself.

But they were SO yummy. Totally worth it.

Anway, I'm going to burn off all those calories when I tackle a 7k "long" run on Friday. Maybe it's not that long, but it will be the farthest I have run all in one go since being injured, so I am excited about it anyway. Baby steps.

I also managed to get out today, for a tempo run. It's funny, when I do them (not as often as I should...), I always feel cheated - the slightly faster pace makes me feel like I'm working SO much harder than normal, but my runs are so short that the difference in time is usually hardly noticeable - today I cut barely a minute from my "easy" time! But averaged over the measly 3k that I ran, that adds up to a 20 second reduction in pace/km, which is actually huge! It just doesn't feel that way.

Ah well. No one ever accused me of being speedy :)

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Old Shoes, New Shoes, No Shoes

Though I'm as big a sucker as the next runner for paraphenelia, gadgets and awesome running outfits, the one accessory none but the hardiest of Kenyans do without is, of course, a solid pair of shoes. Pictured here are mine. Aren't they pretty? Can you tell which ones have now retired to walking-only status???

Yes, I did that ultimate of geeky runner things: I bought the same model of new shoes to replace my dying old ones. Why? Because they are perfect.

I have, on a scale of such things, a pretty weird pair of feet. They're small but wide, callused and perpetually unpedicured, bent slightly out of shape from too many years of torture by ballet. I love them because they're mine, and I appreciate them for all the millions of steps they've carried me. But finding a pair of shoes to fit these babies is a nightmare.

Much as I love that coveted, just-right pair of shoes, just thinking about the search gives me the chills. I need to try on eighteen pairs before I find ones that are even remotely comfortable, and then wander aimlessly around the store, hopping and jogging, trying to imagine how these will actually feel when I go for a real run in them. Then of course I inevitably end up with two candidates, switching them over and over again, weighing which ones are better. I dread the moment of finality when I have to make the commitment.

Oh, stores will pretty much always accept returns - on new, unworn merchandise. Ha! How, may I ask, am I to judge the worth of a shoe without giving it a beating first? This is why I have perfected the art of the careful, post-purchase jog on an indoor track, no knocking the shoes together, no wearing them on the way to the gym: "yes, yes, Mr. Sales Clerk, I've barely walked around in them at all, I just don't like the look of them after all (and *ahem* they gave me horrendous blisters on that 10k run...)"!

So naturally, when I finally came across a pair that truly felt like a dream, standing the test of time and the merciless pounding of my gait, I thought I had at last solved my problem for good: from now on, whenever my old shoes kick the bucket, I will simply waltz into the nearest store, ask for Nike Air Perseus size 7 please, no muss, no fuss, forever.

Until they stop making that particular type of shoe. Which, of course, to my ultimate dismay, was last year.

Bugger! This last pair I managed to track down, store-hopping for an entire afternoon; they were actually the Running Room's old display model, and slightly discoloured from being out of packaging for so long, but they felt perfect. For the last time. Yes, they are now making a Perseus 2, but it just doesn't mold around my feet the way the old one does.

Why, why so cruel, Nike? You tantalize me with the perfect fit and then change it forever? Unjust, unfair. *sigh....* Isn't that the way things go? At any rate, I plan to get as much distance as possible out of my babies, and after that, it will just have to be back to square one again. When you think about it, how could I really envision the eternal quest for the perfect shoe coming so conveniently to an end? And so, I will shop on. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, January 01, 2006

I think I can run faster...

Once again, Runner's World has given me something to fantasize about (in the good clean runner way :)) - a faster race finish time. I know, I know -duh. Isn't that what everybody is working towards? But the other day I found this table on their website which tells you what paces you should doing your training runs in order to improve your VDOT/max VO2 (oooh, fancy speak). It's based on your previous race times, so I worked out that my efforts from last summer, 30:41 for 5k and 1:02:46 for 10k, put me roughly in the humblest and lowest of VDOT categories represented in the table, a.k.a. 30.

Fair enough - I know I have a lot of ground to cover. But then, my eyes lit upon the training pace I was recommended - 12:40 for an easy run?!? (Now, I habitually think in kilometres, and I painstakingly converted the whole table to be more metric-friendly, but I read enough American publications to know that this is slooooooow.) I'm no jackrabbit but I can keep up a mean 10:30 mile for quite some time.

This means one of two things: either I'm training far faster than my optimal level, or racing way slower! I think I can honestly justify the latter, as running 10:30-11:00 really feels easy for me - nice and relaxed with steady breathing. Much slower and I actually feel like I'm stifling my stride. So my conclusion is that I must have run those races way too conservatively and I actually have a lot more juice than I think. Which is an encouraging thought. By the table, I should roughly be able to eke out a 26:22 5k, or a 54:44 10k. Which may still be slow for most, but I would be totally thrilled.

When will the snow melt and give way to racing season, so I can test out my brilliant theory???