Sunday, June 30, 2013

Trail Running: It's a Mind-Game

This morning I "ran" five miles on a trail.  Last night I woke up several times from a nightmare in which I kept pulling ticks off my body.

This is EVEN WORSE than what I imagined in my nightmare.

I've never seen an actual tick, thank God, but I was scared to death that I would emerge from the high grasses of the trail covered in ticks.  I would prefer to be hunted by velociraptors.

Which of these images was worse for you?  EXACTLY.

Everyone in my running group knows that I do NOT like trail running for the following reasons:

1.  Ticks--isn't  that reason enough?
2.  Exposed roots--the scabs from my last fall are finally gone, but the scars remain in my psyche. . .and on my knees.
3.  Hills and steps.

Because of reasons #2 and #3 trail running makes me feel old and demoralized.  I'm afraid I'll twist an ankle coming down a hill. . . and that makes me feel old.  I have to stop running and walk the steps. . .and that makes me feel demoralized.  I don't want to feel this way; I want to feel like a badass.

Today I approached the trail with a new attitude:  I am not going for a run; I am going for a HIKE.  Hikers can walk when they want.  Hikers don't have to pace.  If I run a little bit during my HIKE, so much the better.  This seems silly, but it was exactly the mind-game I needed to play with myself to approach this trail with any sort of optimism, and it totally worked.

I even ran (I mean HIKED) the trail without music.

If I had emerged from the tall grass with even one little tick, this would have been a VERY different post.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Singin' in the Rain

Today I ran four miles in the rain.  When I got up this morning, I heard the familiar pitter-patter of the rain falling on the roof, and instead of crawling back into bed (tempting), I dug out my baseball cap and got to it.  No thunder = still gonna run.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I'm running in the rain.  Damn, I'm sexy!

I like running in all kinds of rain, from this morning's drizzle to the torrential downpour I  experienced during the multi-club practice run for the Akron Half Marathon last September.  I especially liked the rain this morning because it was a great relief from the oppressive humidity we've been experiencing in North East Ohio.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I run in the humidity.
It took me a while to figure out that rain doesn't make any difference in whether I run or not.  I run.  After being caught in a few storms, I realized that I was going to be wet, no matter what.  The important thing is to relax into the rain.  Hunching your shoulders will not prevent you from getting wet.  A ball cap helps, but your face is going to get wet, too.

Most importantly, get in touch with your inner child when it rains.  Laugh.  Skip.  Jump.  Dance.  Splash.  It won't make you any wetter than you are.  You are surrounded by water.  Make the most of it.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I discover my inner child.  I'm cute, right?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Review: Healthy Oatmeal

The Towpath Turtles are past the base-building section of their training season.  This means that there will be miles, many more miles.  Recently (the night before the Jim Klett 10k) one of the Turtles posted a question about pre-run fuel to the whole group.  The responses ran the gamut of fuel choices, but the answer that intrigues me the most is oatmeal.

Do you get the symbolism here?  Are you sure?

I like oatmeal.  I do.  I just never eat oatmeal, but I always think I should.  I know that in theory oatmeal is super-healthy for me, but I can't help wonder how many extra calories I add to it in my toppings.  The answer to my dilemma:  Healthy Oatmeal/    The website is user-friendly in the way it allows you to choose exactly what kind of oatmeal you like.  There are so many choices: oats, flavoring, fruit, nuts, sweetener.  I chose Banana Bread flavor with brown cane sugar, crystallized ginger, and pecans.

Because I didn't choose an instant oats grain, the preparation takes a few minutes longer than pouring cereal, but really, the whole process doesn't take more than nine minutes.  I have to say that the oatmeal smelled fantastic as I cooked it, and it tasted just as good.  The dry oatmeal smelled strongly of banana bread with hints of ginger, but the taste was more subtle.  I would say the strongest taste was of the brown sugar and pecans.  I still liked it.

The oatmeal, if you prepare it with water, is only 156 calories a serving, which is pretty good not only for breakfast but for a snack later in the day (I sometimes get the 3:00 grumbles).   I would say the calorie and nutrition information is one of the most appealing aspects of this Healthy Oatmeal.      I definitely need to rely on measurements to portion my food because my eyes are bigger than my stomach (and my stomach is pretty big).  I know that I can prepare this oatmeal for a nice treat, and it will stop me from opening the ice cream container.  Probably.

My next two tests with this oatmeal will be as granola and as Mason-jar breakfasts.

Great.  Now I have to buy Mason jars.

Note: sent me the oatmeal in exchange for a review.  I only paid for shipping.  Believe me, if I didn't like the oatmeal, I would have said so.  Do you think I can be bought for oatmeal?  Heck no!  Beer. . . maybe.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer Solstice = Buff Arms

Today, I greeted the dawn with 54 Sun Salutations in a meadow with about fifty other people.  It was incredible.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I do Sun Salutations.  It's amazing how I change color at each step.

Today is the Summer Solstice, and many yogis believe that the proper way to greet this day is with 108 Sun Salutations.  Why 108?  Why would anyone do this?  Look here for some pretty good reasons.

I registered for the session (which was free) at 5:30 in the morning in Howe Meadow in Merriman Valley.  The morning was cool, and the grass was wet.  A lady (who looked as hesitant as I felt) greeted me with a stick of burning sage to wave around and then pass on to another nervous novice, and I spread my mat in the wet grass next to the other people.

At 6:00 we started some Ohm chanting.  Keep in mind, please, that I have NEVER done yoga outside of my living room.  To chant with fifty other people was a little intimidating.  Once the Sun Salutations began, however, I forgot about the people around me, and I just tried to focus on my breathing.  As I followed along with three sets of eighteen sun salutations, with stretching breaks in between each set, the sun rose slowly through the trees, and I could feel it on my face as I turned my heart upward in Cobra position.  At that moment I felt so in tune with nature and aware of my connection to it.

Why am I writing about yoga, you ask?  Well, that connection I felt is the same connection I feel when I run outside.  I feel more spiritual when pushing my body to its limits, and I feel one with the Universe when I can see, hear, feel, taste, and smell the trees, grass, and life around me.  During these moments, I know there is a Purpose, and I know that I have a part in it.

I had to leave after the first three sets because I had to get home to my son before my husband left for work.  I would have loved to stay.  I will DEFINITELY do this next year.  Maybe by then my arms will stop trembling.

Have you ever done yoga?  Have you done 108 Sun Salutations?

When do you feel a connection to Nature?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Race Review: Jim Klett 10k

It was a beautiful day in Merriman Valley, a great day to run 10k, and that is what the Turtles did.

Here we are, revved up!

Look, a bale of Turtles!  Fear them!

Today was the Jim Klett 10k, sponsored by Summit Athletic Running Club.  This race is part road, part trail, and it winds through really gorgeous country.  I have lots of opinions on this race, so let's just get to it, shall we?

The Good:  This was a very small race--less than 200 participants.  This means that I was able to take 3rd place in my age group!  I've got a nice plaque on my dresser now.  I think I'm going to mount it in my classroom and make the students bow to it when they enter.

 I've already mentioned the scenery and the weather.  Both were outstanding.  The course has a few hills on the trails, and I'm a hill person, so I was happy there.

This is NOT me.  This is a hillbilly; it's not the same thing.  
The Bad:  The race was small because, in my opinion, SARC made a lot of errors.
1.  They moved the start time from 9:00 (which is kind of late anyway) to 8:45, and they did it a mere few days before the race.

2.  They eliminated the 5k portion of the race, a REALLY bad move.  People LOVE 5k's.  I don't understand why they got rid of it because I would think it would be the money part of the race.

Some errors didn't directly limit registration, but they were obvious nonetheless:

3.  Runners had to park and walk through a wet field to get to the starting line.  My shoes and socks were wet before I started the race.

4.  Not only did we have to walk through that wet field to get there, packet pick up was only that morning, so we were now supposed to WALK BACK through that wet field to stow our packet.  Uh, no.  The Turtles put all of their bags together and left them (Great idea, Sheila!) in the hopes that nobody would swipe anything.

5.  The t-shirts were COTTON!! UGH!  If I'm running 10k, I want a TECH SHIRT!!!  If anyone HAD stolen my cotton tee, I honestly wouldn't have cared.

The Ugly:  Bear with me here because I'm a little angry.  I guess right now you could call me a Snapping Turtle.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I'm pissed off about a race.
There were more than twenty Turtles at that race, which means that we made up about fifteen percent of the participants, something SARC knew from registration data.  We are named the Turtles for a reason: we believe that slow and steady wins the race.  Some of the racers had never run an official 10k, and they were really looking forward to this race.  In a weird, clueless move, SARC rerouted the race to go over railroad tracks.  They moved the race time to 8:45 at the last minute because they actually checked a train schedule, but in doing so, they only thought about their faster runners.  As a result, about half of the Turtles got caught waiting on a train.  That is completely unfair.  These runners paid just as much as anyone, and SARC never thought about their needs.  I don't think it's too much to ask to allow participants the opportunity to run from beginning to end.

Furthermore, SARC served a breakfast starting forty-five minutes after the beginning of the race, so when the Turtles showed up en masse to eat, we got the leftovers.  I'm not saying everyone should have waited; I am saying that someone should have realized that a huge group of runners (some of whom had to wait for the train) would be coming much later, and that someone should have started a second wave of food prep.  It's not rocket science, people.  Hold back some eggs and stuff, and make those later.

I'd like to end this post on a good note, so I will.  I LOVED watching the Turtles come in today, and my favorite part was when we all ran in together with our Tail at the end.  Sheila taught us that being a Turtle is more than just running; we cheer on all runners, and we cheer them on until the finish line.  I'm so proud today to belong to our running club, The Ohio Runners Network, of which the Towpath Turtles are a subgroup.  Thank you for a great time today, runners!  I love you, Man!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Look out for the Geese-Wrangler!

Geese are nasty and mean.  Swans are nastier; they are essentially snakes with wings. . . but I digress.

Today Heather and I put in five miles before the Turtle run of an additional five miles.  We were on the Bike and Hike trail, and if we weren't both so miserable in the first couple of miles, it would have been beautiful.

We knew the geese were coming when we had to start dodging their "little gifts" on the trail.  Sure enough, ahead of us was a gang, about twenty of them, waiting to jack us up.

This is EXACTLY how the geese looked.  I'm not joking.

I used my superior intellect and innate connection with Nature and started clapping my hands to get them off the path. . . and it worked!  "You can always be a geese-herder if the teaching thing doesn't pan out," said Heather.  I have to say, I took a certain amount of pride in the fact that with my quick wits I averted a violent end for the both of us.
Next week, I tackle swans.  Maybe.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

I Gu, Do You?

The topic of the week at the Turtle run was fuel.  The Turtles have hit their seven-mile mark (Yay, Turtles!), and they now know that the mileage is going to keep increasing, so everyone needs a plan for re-fueling during a run.

Let me first say that I resisted any form of fuel for the longest time.  My thought was that I'm carrying at least thirty extra pounds, and that (plus lots of water) should sustain me on any run, no matter how long.  
It took two bonks for me to change my mind (I'm a slow learner, I guess).

The first time happened at the track during a Wednesday night speed workout.   I hadn't eaten since breakfast that day, but it had been an enormous breakfast, and I wasn't hungry.  Within half an hour, I had decided that I was NEVER going to do speed work again.  I just couldn't continue.  When I confessed to Sheila (our coach) that I hadn't eaten, she looked at me as if I were insane, but Sheila knows how I operate (my motto is Don't F--ing Tell Me What to Do), so she just shook her head and let me figure it out myself.

Who needs food for the rest of the day when you start with this?

The second time, I was running in the evening with Deidre, and I hadn't eaten since lunch, but I knew I was going to eat dinner when I got back.  Big mistake.  Both of us bonked around mile 2, and it scared me because I thought this meant that I would never be able to complete a run again.

I finally figured out that fuel is necessary for me.  I experimented with Chomps (nasty), and Beans (just candy, right?), and then I tried Gu power gels.  I went with the Gu brand because the Akron Marathon supplies Gu during the race, so I wanted to make sure it worked for me.

Yummy!  Well, more like mmm. . .tolerable!

Gu has a frosting-like consistency, which, frankly, is not a pleasant mouthfeel, but it's perfect for me for the following reasons:

1.  It has about 100 calories per pouch, just enough to carry me for an hour or so.
2.  It's small and easy to carry.
3.  It's easy to tear open and easy to squeeze into your mouth as you walk.  No chewing involved!
4.  Many of the flavors have added caffeine--bonus!
5.  It doesn't upset my stomach in any way.

If I am racing, I take a gel at the sixth mile and another at the tenth mile.  Sometimes, if I ate breakfast two or three hours before a race, I take a gel fifteen minutes before the race starts.  It's easy to time my fuel breaks with water stops, and I don't worry about choking because. . .no chewing!

I have to admit that I have an iron stomach; if I could, I'd fuel with burritos, but I haven't figured out how to make that happen.  You need to find what type of fuel works for you.  Experiment well-ahead of your race; it would be awful to decide during Mile 9 that gels just don't feel good in your stomach.

I'm gellin' like a felon!