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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

End of Year Challenge: Day 2

It's great to love running again.

When I'm not watching the clock on every run, it gives me a great deal more freedom to let my mind wander to all the odd little places it wants to go. As a result, I finally understand people who talk about running as "Me Time." The last couple mornings, as the sun rose behind a rather unnecessary number of strip malls, I was just enjoying the miles.

I'm still fighting off the cold, which meant that there were plenty of physical issues to deal with. However, I've found that running is a great way to work various toxins out of the system. Now, whether this means a morning detox or an evening flu-fighter depends on the day. What's important is that I felt myself draining everything out of my super-clogged head, both physically and mentally. That's a good way to start a morning.

I was even able to get up a little earlier today. I bought an alarm clock app that wakes me up with a song from my iTunes. This is really nice, except that I pick songs that won't jar me awake unpleasantly, and as a result, they can be as relaxing as they are distracting. I may have let mine play for ten minutes this morning. Whoops.

Still, I got up and out the door pretty well. It was very dark, but I stayed to sidewalks, and besides that, there's no traffic this week, since no one has to drop their kids off at school. Victory.

Overall, the last couple days have been great. So great, in fact, that I'm fairly confident in my ability to complete (and maybe surpass) any challenge from the week.

Then come the resolutions, but we'll get to that later.

Wednesday's Run:
39 Degrees, Clear
7.924 Miles

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

End of Year Challenge: Day 1

Seriously, I went to bed at 9:30 last night.

It was awesome.

After a wonderful weekend of friends and gifts, I returned home with a bit of a head cold. It wouldn't be so bad were it not for the pressurizing fun of flights, which has left my ears feeling like they're underwater for the last two days. As a result, I went to bed super early last night, ensuring that I would be able to wake up nice and early for my run this morning, with plenty of time to write my post and have breakfast before work.

Not so much.

What I forgot to take into account was just how nice it feels to be in your own bed. I wanted that feeling to last as long as possible, so I stayed there a little later than I meant to, which meant that the posting had to wait until the lunch break. Not too bad.

The good news, however, is that I did manage to get out of bed and hit the road this morning. It was all of 37 degrees when I left the house, and I forgot to wear my gloves, which was not the most pleasant realization I've had. Fortunately, I had fun new technology to distract me. I got me an IronMan watch.

This wasn't specifically a Christmas present, since I bought it for myself, but I found it online for a third of its usual price, and I really couldn't pass that up. It's even got the pulse monitoring system, but I think I'll wait until it's a little warmer before I start attaching metal things to my body. I've seen A Christmas Story too many times to make that mistake.

I didn't watch it for my pace, necessarily, since it was hidden in the sleeve of my shirt which I was trying to use as a substitute for gloves, but it worked like a charm. The distance reading was within .05 miles (over an 8 mile stretch) of what I had planned from MapMyRun.com, which gives me confidence in the GPS. I really can't wait to use it in a race capacity and track my speed that way, but that's a ways down the line as of right now. Today, I just wanted to see that it worked, and I was not disappointed. Even managed a decent time, though that wasn't the point either.

Mostly, I just wanted to get the miles in. It's great to have a short-term goal to finish out the year. We'll see how all this goes, and if I'm feeling up for it, I might take a crack at the Austin Half-Marathon in February, but again, I'm not looking too far ahead. For now, I had a solid run today, and I hope to have a solid run tomorrow.

After what I expect will be another early bedtime.

Tuesday's Run:
37 Degrees, Sunny
7.924 Miles

Monday, December 26, 2011

Gauntlet

I'm throwing down the gauntlet on myself.

In keeping with an idea of reachable goals to set for myself, I recognize that I have not been running much lately, and the main reason for that is a lack of urgency. As I am not currently signed up for a marathon, I don't feel the need to train for one.

But something happened this weekend that I found interesting. While visiting with family back in Ohio, I was asked a question several times that I didn't expect - "When is your next marathon?" I didn't realize how many people (even among my family members) even knew about this little goal of mine. I suspect it has something to do with my mother telling everyone, but it still meant quite a lot to have them just ask the question.

So I decided to set an immediate challenge for myself. Something urgent. If I can run 28 miles in the next five days, I will surpass 1300 miles for the year. Granted, I was on pace to do much more than that before my burn-out mid-October, but this is still a pretty darn good number, and I want it. So for the next few days, I'm going to push myself to get out the door and get moving early (and maybe late as well, depending on how it goes).

Immediate goals breed instant satisfaction.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Into Place

Sometimes, things just work out.

It's not often, and God knows, it's usually not for those big, important things that make a lot of money. Those things take long hours and dedication. But sometimes, the little things work out so well, it's like they were meant to be.

With the recent addition of our second dog, we've found several similarities and differences as compared to the first one. Similarities include love of treats and playing, differences include willingness to listen and not to hide my shoes in various locations around the house. One of the big changes, though, is in how each reacts to exercise. The first really enjoys leaving the house, but upon recognition of running, suddenly has somewhere else she'd rather be. Eventually, once she's moving, she's great, and at the end, she lays on the coldest surface she can find for as long as she's allowed.

New Dog, however, is a perfect little running buddy. He trots along right beside, ignoring pretty much everything around him, and stays in perfect unison. The real problem here is when we get home. Instead of spending his energy, running seems only to amplify it. First Dog would get what we called the zoomies from time to time, but they only lasted a moment or two. New Dog's energy knows no bounds, and when I'm done with the run, he's just getting started. In the interest of saving all the fragile items in our home, we're limiting his running time.

My work day today had one of those endings, so I was glad to have saved my miles for the evening. At the wife's suggestion, I suited up First Dog, and figured we'd give it a try, with a new twist. Instead of holding the leash, I wrapped it around my waist and cinched it. This decreased the overall amount of leash that I had to worry about, and also freed my hands for running. The surprising side effect was that it suddenly made First Dog a terrific running buddy. She fell right in line, and only pulled a little in the dog-filled corridor to which I inadvertently subjected her. Note to self, no dogs on that route from now on.

The important thing here was just how great the run ended up being. It broke the stress from the day, encouraged me in something that had given me trouble in the past, and just made me feel good all over. Add to that the new toy I got in the mail, and it's been quite the day for the runner in me.

What toy, you ask?

Tell you tomorrow.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Just Run

I always wondered how some people found running relaxing.

I don't think this is an uncommon questions. People like myself, who overtrain and put too much importance on every run, no doubt know what I mean. People who hate running entirely definitely understand.

Ever since high school, I was a runner because it was the one physical thing at which I actually had some skill. When I decided, a little over a year ago, that I needed to take my health more seriously, there was really no other option to which I thought about turning. Running was the answer, just like it always has been.

But, just like I always have, I pushed too hard, too fast. It left me with knee pain, exhaustion, and a bit of a mental burnout, which is just ridiculous. How could I possibly burn myself out on my own personal hobby? Easy. Too hard, too fast.

Now, I'm taking it easy. A little too easy, but I think that's better than the opposite extreme. Still, I want to strike a balance between getting better and still enjoying the activity. I hit that balance today.

Despite repeated personal promises to the contrary, I have not been running regularly for the last couple months, and yet something last night told me that I'd enjoy it this morning. I had planned for a little four-miler, so I checked my course (a nice, simply out-and-back), and set my running stuff out. I got up a little later than I meant to, but still had plenty of time to complete the workout, so I did. I jogged four miles, not taking a watch with me, and just enjoyed the world around me. Sure, it was cloudy and dismal out. I didn't care. Just meant that I wasn't going to overheat. I didn't run hard, I didn't work the hills, and I didn't have any idea how long it took me. Today, I just ran.

And what was the result? When I got home, I did a little extra workout. Then I had a lot of water, followed by an actual breakfast. I've had more water today than probably in the last week combined, and I went to my work with a gusto and focus the likes of which haven't been seen in me for some time. I've already got tomorrow's work done. Booyah.

I really wish there were a more convincing voice in my head for the good-for-me things in life. The voice that wants candy and beer is plenty convincing already. It needs a legitimate counterpart. The one that says, "Don't do that. You'll feel like crap tomorrow." Or the one in charge of, "Remember how good you felt after your last run? Do that again." I need those voices to wake me up.

And not just some alarm.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Treadmill Weather

I will not complain about the rain.

God knows, we absolutely need it, what with the whole massive drought thing and everything. They've been predicting all-day rain off and on since about August, but today is the first time that it really lived up to the weatherman's hype.

What I really wanted this morning was a nice easy 5-miler, but when my alarm went off this morning, two things went wrong. First, I forgot to check the volume level of the phone before I went to sleep last night, so instead of a nice, gentle song to wake me up, I had guitar blasting in my ear. It took me three tries to figure out what was making the noise, and many more than that to make it stop. The ensuing silence was more than welcome.

But then I heard a different sound. Rain. Desperately needed, but ill-timed rain. And I knew it was going to be cold.

For the last couple weeks, I've been fending off a bit of sickness, so I made the wise (if not easiest) decision that spending half an hour in cold rain wouldn't be the best idea. I thought that maybe I would go a little later, but it really hasn't stopped all day. Which is great, but not for the running.

Today is a day when it would be great to have a treadmill. For all the many, many reasons that I love my house, the one (and so far only) thing I miss about my apartment complex is the lack of a gym. Sure, I could spend money on a gym membership, but I would only use it on days like today (and in those equally discouraging days of incredible heat that I've been writing about). So the next option becomes setting up some sort of gym in my house, but even then, I won't have a treadmill. For one thing, there's nowhere to put it. For another, well, I don't want one. I want to be able to run outside, and perhaps if I wasn't sick, I might have done that today.

Or not.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Full Schedule, Empty Miles

What does it take to be truly committed to a lifestyle?

Every morning, as my alarm goes off, this question floats through my head. If I want to be a runner (and I think I do), then why am I not able to focus myself enough to actually get out there and do it?

It's been a month since the Marine Corps Marathon, and in that time I have done a grand total of three runs: two 5Ks around the neighborhood, and a 5-mile race on Thanksgiving. That's 11 miles for the month of November, which is hardly an inspiring number, and certainly not what I have come to expect of myself as a marathon personality.

I have lots of excuses and very few reasons for this lack of consistency, but the biggest of the excuses is just that: my life has been incredibly inconsistent. There were birthdays and holidays and plane rides and new dogs and old jobs and moving and setting up a house and at least one instance of lawn-mowing. November was quite a month overall.

But now it's over, and I'm facing a lot in the next few months. Work on my next show starts next week. Travel plans for the holidays are set. I've got a lot of exciting prospects looming, with alarmingly low levels of certainty. I've got dogs to train, songs to write, blogs to revisit, and money to bank, and amid all of this, somehow, I'm supposed to stay in shape. With everything else competing for my attention, how can I possibly say that I'm committed to running, when that's the one thing that is entirely for me?

Easy. Because it's the one thing that's entirely for me.

As of right now, I am not signed up for any races. I was going to do the Eisenhower in Kansas next April, but it appears I may have to work that weekend, so I'm not sure that I can make the decision yet. Another consideration was the possibility of doing the Austin Half in February, but for that one, I can't really spend the money right now. For a free hobby, it sure seems to cost me a lot.

I went on a run yesterday morning, and I took our new dog, who is much better as a running buddy than the first one. Where she will stop and refuse to go on, he simply keeps moving, and manages to stay out from under my feet (for the most part). I even forgot he was with me for about half a mile of the run, which in many ways is exactly what needs to happen. And since I'm not timing myself right now, it doesn't really matter if we're a little slower because he's along. As long as I can still keep the run about me (and not about my struggle with the pup), then I've got a fighting chance.

We have reached December, which means that I am almost at the one-year anniversary of returning to running, and I have done a whole lot in that year, but I'm just getting started. Maybe, just maybe, if I can keep myself on the pavement, then I'll be able to keep myself sane through whatever is coming over the horizon.

Just maybe.