Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What do you wear to run in 50 degree, windy weather?

So far I've tried two approaches. The first was the, "eh, I'll warm up after a mile" approach. Running capris, short sleeved moisture wick T and a baseball hat. I was sweating after a mile, but I had goosebumps on my arms and legs the whole time.

The second approach was, "Let's pretend we're in Alaska." On top of my one pair of full-length sweatpants and a tank, I layered two sweatshirts (one was mine, one was my husband's and very heavy) and wore a thick canvas cap. After about ten minutes of running, I kind of felt like I was sprinting in a sauna. But, I highly recommend this outfit if you do live in Alaska.

So what do you wear when the winter weather is "mild" (any location that gets more than two seasons) or "bone-chillingly cold" (South Florida and locations with similar tropical climates)?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A "running" list of New Year's resolutions

Last year I resolved to lose weight and get in shape. With just a handful of days left in the year, I think it's safe to say Mission: Get Fine in '09 was a success. Thank you, running.

Unfortunately, in the process of losing weight/getting in shape via running, I developed a bunch of bad habits I never had before, so I'm going to have to make 2010 the year I improve upon the following:

1. Develop better form. I've recently discovered I run leaning on my right side, making my gimpy left leg do all the work, making me all the gimpier.

2. Be nicer to pedestrians.

3. Mix up the cross training. Not just spinning but strength training, Pilates and yoga, too. (Just no more step aerobics, OK? I think I've done enough stomping on the bench to never want to do a revolving V-step again.)

4. Stretch more.

5. Talk less about running in social settings to avoid boring friends, family and co-workers to tears--or giving them the impression that I'm some holier-than-though exercise saint who looks down on them for eating Pringles. (This blog will have to become my super-secret outlet for everything running-related, as I attempt to convince the rest of the world that I'm much more interested in, say, antiques, than I am in the latest water bottle contraption.)

6. Run a marathon.

7. Stop defining success by the number of miles run or by race results and instead define it by....hmmm, I'm still searching for the second half of this sentence.

But when I find it, I promise I'll reveal it only in blog form--I won't tell you, if, say, we run into each other at the supermarket or at a party. I'll keep that discovery, and my feelings about Pringles, to myself.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

All I wanted for Christmas...

...was to be able to run more than 4 1/2 miles without my knee painfully "popping" as it has for the past month whenever I ran for more than forty minutes. Thanks, Santa! Today I ran 6.0 with no pain and no popping (just trepidation that slowed me down a bit, but hopefully I'll get past that soon and pick up speed.)

Actually, I don't think Santa deserves the credit--I'd say this post-Christmas miracle was the work of my orthopedist, who told me to spin rather than run until I healed, and my Team in Training coach, who spent a lot of time creating a low-mileage schedule for me to get me through to the half marathon next month without over-stressing my knee. And ME. I'll give myself credit for actually listening to the experts and not being so hot-headed that I ran through pain as I have in the past.

Oh, and in case you think I'm sooo running obsessed that all I truly wanted for the holidays was a good run, I have to disclose that I'm Jewish, and already got plenty of loot a few weeks ago for Hanukkah, including a massage giftcard, last year's fabulous if enormous Garmin Forerunner 305, iTunes, and a plastic "#1 Mom" keychain from my 4 year-old daughter.

I hope everyone had happy holidays.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I figured out my problem. I'm lop-sided!

It's a shame I can't run in front of a mirror, because I would have figured this out ages ago.

My trouble has always been with my left lower body (foot, ankle, calf, knee, quad). Every injury I've had, from when I sprained my ankle at age 11 to this recent knee problem, has been on the left. Meanwhile, I've had other aches and pains in the upper half of my body on the right side (ab soreness, shoulder strain, etc.) but never the right.

I joked before that I thought this had to be the handiwork of someone who had created a voo-doo doll of me and was sticking needs only on the left side. But I have discovered a more likely culprit: I overwork my left side when I work out, and then afterwards carry things (my laptop, purse, children, lunch, sometimes all at once) with my right side perhaps because my left side has already had enough.

This epiphany occured to me today during spin class, when the instructor forgot to dim the lights all the way. I had a bike right up front, by the mirror, and I noticed that when I was working the hardest, I was leaning to the right, while pushing much harder with my right leg than my left. I realized then that I kind of run in the same pose: Leaning right, powering harder with the left leg.

You can even see from this finishline photo of me from my 10k--that was 54 minutes of running leaning right, working left.

Perhaps the answer to all of my troubles could be as simple as running with my head on straight?? Dare I hope?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

So this Type A runner goes to the mall 3 days before Christmas...

I'm going to stop prefacing everything unflattering I write about myself with, "I swear, I really am a good person!" because at some point, I just have to admit that there's something less than "good" about a person who collides into old people who dare to walk on her jogging path, tells off incompetent sushi waitresses and--today's confession--weaves aggressively between slowly browsing shoppers, occasionally bumping into them, in an attempt to acheive a shopping mall "PR."

(That personal record would be: One baby gift, one defective jewelry return and one stop at the Adidas outlet in less than an hour, at a mall where the parking lot is so crowded, you have to park at the furniture store across the street. Three days till Christmas. I know the ends don't justify the means, but that is pretty efficient shopping.)

Not that this makes me seem any nicer, but I didn't actually hurt anyone, and I slowed down when I saw parents pushing strollers and of course yielded to people in wheelchairs. (But that self-centered teenage girl who stopped walking in the middle of a throng of shoppers to answer her phone? Yeah, I might have clipped her shoulder a little bit. She'll get over it.)

I think from now on, I'll stick with shopping online, and catalogs.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My roller-coaster post-injury run.

Yesterday was the first time I was cleared to run since injuring myself three weeks earlier. I was given the task of running a cautious 4 miles, which I haughtily assumed would be a piece of cake. And not just any piece of cake, but an exquisite one. Chocolate lava torte drizzled in creme anglaise.

I have a tendency to daydream, and I'd somehow convinced myself that as soon as I laced up, I would just fly off the asphalt. All that rest and rebuilding of my quadriceps would make me Super Runner. I'd feel no pain. I'd feel lighter than air. I would discover that all along, I was actually an 8 minute mile kind of runner, and just the weight of discomfort and injuries had been slowing me down.

Here's my reality check. This is what actually happened: I started running and at first, it did not feel amazing. Not painful at all--I just had a sudden flash of sympathy for the people who have told me, "I don't understand how you can run that much! I think it's so boring." It was difficult and a little slow, and I was also very worried about injury that I ran self-consciously, trying to make sure my quads and calves were equal partners in my movement, which made for a really unnatural gait.

Then, after about 2 miles, the love suddenly kicked in. I'm back! I thought to myself, getting a little teary-eyed. Oh running, how I've missed you! At that point, my brand new Garmin displayed that my pace had changed from a 9:55 minute mile to 8:08 (pre-injury, a comfortable pace for me was somewhere in between those times) and I felt great. And indeed, I thought the "Super Runner" fantasy was coming true.

I got in another 1.75 miles of exquisite chocolate lava torte style running and could see the end of the loop on the horizon--when all of the sudden I got a tingling feeling in left kneecap. You know, the bad one. It wasn't pain. It was pre-pain. This led to a tingling feeling in my stomach that was neither pain nor pre-prain but 100% dread. I slowed down and continued to the end of the loop (the Weston Town Center periphery, circled twice, for those of you who know the Weston Team in Training geography).

And limped defeatedly back to my car.

Driving home I decided it wasn't so bad. I felt good during most of my run, and maybe I just needed more spinning and some light quad body work and shorter mid-week runs to keep on rebuilding. I hope that's the case; we'll have to see. Sometimes being a perpetual optimist means it's hard to know what you truly are capable of doing and what you desperately want to do.

Oh, and I'm not limping anymore. The pain lasted for a few hours afterwards. I feel fine, now.

Of course some ice and cashing in the massage gift certificate my husband gave me as a holiday gift definitely helped.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Playing with the playlist (song suggestions welcome)

My brand-new Garmin is fully charged, my armband and heart monitor chest strap have been laundered and Febreezed, I've correctly matched up all of my L and R Nike Dri-Fit socks to avoid running with two left (or two right) socks on my feet, and if there were a reason to shine my running shoes, they would be shined.

I am prepared.

Let's just say that Saturday, the first day I am cleared to run again since my knee problem on December 2, could not possibly come sooner. Most importantly, I know I've gained strength in my quads from all this crack-of-dawn spinning--which, more than an April-fresh heart monitor chest strap, is what I really need to be road-ready again.

To add some fun and funk to my modest 4 miler on Saturday (I build up 2 miles a week till the half marathon Jan. 31, as per my coach's suggestion), I've been trying to put together a really high energy, kicky playlist about 50 minutes long. I have the most fun when running when I'm listening to tunes I'd enjoy dancing to--which is why I've got more Lady GaGa than Suzanne Vega on this one. But I've got a little jazz and some "grrl power" type tunes, too.

Here's what I've got so far; feel free to steal it if you're a fan of this same kind of spin-studio-inspired programming.

Imma Be Black Eyed Peas
Paper Planes M.I.A.
Do Your Thing Basement Jaxx
Bad Romance Lady GaGa
Tick Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Seven Nation Army The White Stripes
Sinnerman Nina Simone
Only Happy When It Rains Garbage
3 Britney Spears
Still in Hollywood Concrete Blonde
Where Did You Sleep Last Night Nirvana (MTV Unplugged version)
You Spin Me Round and Round Jessica Simpson
Johnny Feelgood Liz Phair
Awful Hole
Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia) US3
I'm Too Sexy Right Said Fred

Am I missing any must-run-to tunes? If so, please suggest them in the comment section below or email me at joriemark@gmail.com. Even if I don't get them into Saturday's playlist, I've got a lot of miles ahead of me in the next month and a half, and a fresh new song always makes the run more fun.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Just wring me out when you're done mopping the floor with me, okay?


(I'm talking to my spin instructor.)

I know last week I was all happy and excited to be taking the 5:30 a.m. spin classes during my rest from running, but I'd like to officially take back that happiness and excitement. And replace it with misery and trepidation.

Last week, I somehow didn't notice the whimpering coming from the bikes surrounding me, because I was just so grateful to be doing cardio again. This time, not only did I notice them, but I contributed to the chorus of pain.

The crack-o-dawn spin dominatrixes are something, aren't they? Hup, hup, I said HUP!

I'm not new to spin. I was pretty much addicted to it from 2006-2008, before I eventually discovered running. But I never took a class like these 5:30 sessions. I used to go at 9 am, with the other new moms trying to lose their baby weight, and the retired people in the "Silver Sneakers" program. The 5:30 classes are populated mainly by Type A business people who eat their competitors for a solid protein breakfast after they finish their workouts.

It's not just who signs up for these classes: really, the difference between the 5:30 am class and the 9 am class can't be overstated. There were always moments during the 9 am classes when my heart wasn't rattling in my chest. Today, my heart stayed above 160 the entire 55 minutes. Which could be because Maria made us do our sprints on a level 7 resistance (scale 1-10 perceived exertion, with 3 being a flat road). I always thought level 4-5 was for sprinting, and that level 7 was for climbing. But nope, climbing would be 10 in Maria's class. And not just 10, but, as she puts it, "A real 10."

Now this will make me sound really strange, most assuredly masochistic, but after an hour of moaning and huffing and spastically dropping my water bottle, I actually felt amazing when I left the spin studio. (And only partially because my torture session was over.) I've been on a high all day. So I'll be back tomorrow at 5:15 for Maria's 75 minute class, and I know I'll probably hate every minute of it. Until it's over, and then I'll love it again. (I hope.)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Elliptical abuse

I've done things to the elliptical that are probably illegal, not to mention dangerous.

I've been trying to use it like it's a treadmill, or maybe even the open road. Because while I can get through a spin class without missing running, trapping myself on that boring old gym standby has been absolute torture.

Instead of using it as both my orthopedist and the cute little illustrated chart on the equipment instructed, I've been putting it on low resistance, while going at at high speeds, for long periods of time--and have been pretty much been using my toes and calves to power forward, not my quadriceps.

I haven't committed this gym-sin to be a bad patient or because I wanted the amusement of being reprimanded by the sixteen year-old high school student in a YMCA T-shirt who nervously hands out demerits to disobedient patrons of the fitness center without making eye contact. ("Um, ma'am," his voice cracks, "I'm going to have to ask you to limit your time on the equipment to, um, to thirty minutes during, um, peak hours.")

I've just used the elliptical that way because it felt good, and it wasn't until my left knee said, "Now, hey there, lady!" while popping out to the side that I realized I was doing a bad, bad thing.

I have five more days till I can start running again. I think I'll stick to spin class until then. I know I could amp the elliptical resistance up to 12 or 13 and push and pull more and sprint less, but the fact is, I'm over that hunk of metal. What a boring and uncreative piece of machinery--compared to a bike in a dark room, or better yet, my own legs, running on asphalt.

Man, do I miss running!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

You spin me round and round, like a record, I go round and round...

I have a confession. I don't miss running. (Yet.) I LOVE spinning!

It's so imaginative. I am one of the least New Agey people I know, but pedaling in pitch blackness, cold sweat dripping down the sides of my face, listening to a mounting orchestra crescendo while the instructor commands, "You're almost at the peak of the mountain! Come on, lean to the left, you can see the crested peak!" is really cool. 

Yes, getting up at 4:45 a.m. every day to get a bike at a 5:30 class is pretty brutal, but once I'm there, I'm in Utah, I'm in Colorado, I'm in the Himalayas. And that slow group of bikers the instructor keeps urging us to pass? I love passing them. Hah! And unlike running into real, living and breathing slow-walking elderly people on my jogging trail, I feel no remorse for leaving these imaginary bikers in my dust, because, of course, they are imaginary. (As is my dust.)

Anyway, it's fun stuff, and it's certainly worth getting out of bed for. That early.

I think my quads are getting the crash fitness course they need so I will be able to return to running next week strong enough to do a few miles without leaving my knee vulnerable to fatigue. Parts of my legs that were never sore certainly are speaking up. And maybe I'll even become a tad bit faster, if I can dare to dream. Pedaling fast up an imaginary mountain is good practice for sprinting to a real finish line. (Or so I am told.)

Monday, December 7, 2009

10 good things about NOT being able to run the marathon Jan. 31.

Outcome of my orthopedist appointment today: my knee problem is, as he previously diagnosed, runner's knee, not a sprain or a break. He seemed pretty optimistic that I can fix this problem and return to my runner girl adventures simply by building up my quad strength and resting from running.

Ultimately, my prescription is:

1. No running for two weeks (boo!)
2. Spend the next two weeks spinning and using the elliptical to build up my weak quadriceps (yay!)
3. Begin running gently; maybe starting with 3-4 mile runs, not 10-12. (huh.)

This means no to the marathon Jan. 31; yes to running the half-marathon on this date instead.

Here, a "boo" won't do; give me some good dirty expletives. I'm devastated.

But, let's not dwell on that.

I'm always one to look on the bright side, even when faced with big, stinky, dream-dashing setbacks like this one. So here are 10 reasons for me to be happy that I don't have a date with 26.2 miles anytime soon.

1. I will be saving a small fortune on gels, shots, OxyClean for stinky post-run laundry, and iTunes.

2. People seem to think running a marathon is either very admirable--or truly crazy. With a half-marathon, the general response is, "Good for you." With what I've been through lately, I could stand a few more "good for yous" and a few less, "are you nuts?"

3. I've still raised a lot of money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society as a Team in Training teammate; running a shorter distance in this race doesn't take away from that fundraising accomplishment, which is actually more important (to me) than the athletic accomplishment of running the full race.

4. Spinning is fun.

5. My injury is not a break or a tear or anything that will cause me to sit around cursing at my dentures in my old age, regretting my years as a runner. Just a knee annoyance.

6. I'm a lot less likely to encounter dead rats, live, hopping frogs or strange pedestrians in the early morning spin studio than I did during my morning runs.

7. The Miami ING marathon course isn't known for being the most beautiful or scenic out there, especially for Florida residents who are bored rather than moved by the sight of palm trees and Spanish cosmetic surgery billboards. Maybe now I'll get to lose my marathon-running-virginity somewhere more exciting and romantic instead, like Big Sur.

8. My awesome college roommate Ava is going to run the Miami ING half. My plan was to run the first 13 with her and then push myself alone through the last 13. Now I'll have her company during the entire race.

9. You don't have to get up as early on Saturday mornings to run 8-10 miles with Team in Training as you do if you're supposed to run 18-22.

10. I can still run. That's the biggest silver lining of all.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Just gimmee a spin bike, a vaccuum cleaner...or an air guitar

Good news about my knee: it's OK, I think.

I don't see my orthopedist till tomorrow to give me his expert's take on the state of my sprain, but as the knee's rightful owner, I can give you my semi-expert opinion that it seems to be healing nicely. I really only had two bad days of limping, icing and Advil. In fact, I spent yesterday exploring Universal Studios with my family and came pretty close to running with the stroller when my daughter told me no, she couldn't wait till after the ET Ride to use the potty.

Bad news about ME, though: I am in severe cardio withdrawal. This is the longest I've gone without exercise (I don't think sprinting to the Ladies' Room counts) since maybe 2008. It's making me restless. I find myself looking for excuses to move swiftly--racing, without actually running, to check whether there's a wait at a restaurant; leaping up, without actually jumping, to grab my kids an extra ketchup packet at Chick-Fil A.

I'm not sure what my ortho will tell me tomorrow about running, but I've got my fingers crossed he'll at least let me spin or use the elliptical, or vaccuum boisterously or something.

If I don't get my heart rate up into the 140s or higher soon, I'm going to become one of those fidgety women who never sits still, who is constantly twisting her rings around her fingers or fixing her kids' collars or pretending TV remotes haven't been invented so she has an excuse to change the channel manually.

Either that, or I'll audition for "So You Think You Can Dance."

Last night when we passed a grooving bar band at Unviersal's City Walk, my son started shaking his hips and doing some kind of quasi-karate-chop choreography, and I started--uncontrollably--shaking my hips and karate-chop dancing, too. Soon the two of us were burning up the pavers outside Jimmy's Margaritaville, air-guitaring, do-si do-ing, belly-gyrating and hair-tossing.

It was a blast, and as close I've come to the feeling of running since my injury.

So come on, Dr. Sheldon. Stop me before I dance again. Give me the green light to spin tomorrow. I can do a lot less damage cycling in the dark than shaking what my mama gave me out in public. And even though my kids love it now when I get down and get funky, they are young, 6 and 4. I think the video my husband took of me getting jiggy with it is more likely to be blackmail material for them than me one day, when they're older.

After running a half-marathon dressed like Rainbow Brite, I don't embarrass easily any more.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

This isn't good.

It happened again. My knee popped.

Five miles into my intended 18 today, pop. OUCH. I tried to run on it and ended up almost falling.

The five miles pre-pop were easy; limping home five miles was hard.

OK, I'm being stoic. It was beyond hard. It sucked. It it was upsetting. Humiliating. And frightening--what if this painful "pop" was a serious injury that would sideline me for months, if not indefinitely?

I ended up in the ER. And on crutches. It's a sprained ligament--they couldn't tell me more than that without an MRI. Which I will hopefully get on Monday, when I can get in to see my orthopedist.

It hurts and I'm upset. But being a silver-lining kind of gal, I'm not 100% convinced that being forced to take a break, even if it's for a few weeks, is such an awful thing right now.

I've been running on empty fumes for a few weeks now, ever since my half marathon in November, which I'm starting to think I should have taken the time to recover from.

You know, more than one day off.

I've felt run down. Exhausted. Waking up at 4 am has lost its die-hard charm and has become, well, waking up at 4 am.

I hate limping. I hate being sidelined. (And don't get me started on how much my armpits HATE crutches.)

But I'm hoping to return to the road a wiser, calmer and more well-rested runner. OK, I won't lie--at this point I'm scared, and I'm just hoping to return to the road, period. But if I could do it with better needs and a cooler head, I think that would be a good thing.  Because having an "overuse" injury is no badge of honor.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


For the first time in seven months, when I woke up this morning, I didn't have a single ache or pain.

I haven't run since Saturday. My limbs feel light.

Tomorrow, I'm getting up at 4 a.m. to attempt 18 miles. I think I can do it.

In seven months, I haven't taken off more than one day from exercise. This is the first week where I ate and slept a lot, but didn't burn very much at all. Aside from a nasty head cold, I feel pretty good. Rested. Pampered even.

And ready to go.