Sunday, February 28, 2010

Define a "good run."

A month ago, I ran 6 miles in 54 minutes and felt great about it. I wasn't trying for a specific time or anything--I was just running to recover from the ING half, and I felt good the whole time. It did feel "fast" as I was running; my whole body felt in synch, almost like I was dancing.

Today, I ran 6 miles (tapering for next week's Miami Beach 13.1) and felt lousy about it. It felt like I was pushing through mud and I thought unpleasant things the entire time. My iPhone armband kept slipping; I was overdressed in fleece-lined leggings for 45 degree weather; I nauseated by the road kill and angry at the motorists who seemed to be driving as close as possible to the runners, rather than steering away from us.

My time for the run? 2 minutes and 23 seconds slower than the run a month ago. I was shocked by this. I was expecting to have been a good 10 minutes slower, given how much of a struggle it was for me to complete.

Which leads me to conclude that a good run doesn't have very much to do with speed. A good time might be an ego boost, but I think that's all there is to it.

I think a good run is 100% in the brain. I've run with blisters and still enjoyed it. I've run with a shooting pain in my left calf and soreness in my right heel and still felt good about it. Today I had no such injuries, but had only run once this week--and I think I went into the run assuming it would be a slow, bad one. And so it wasn't exactly a triumph.

I have to say there's no better cure for a bad run than a good one. I'm looking forward to lacing up tomorrow morning and getting all traces of today's 6 miles out of my system.

What do you think makes a run good rather than bad?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Run, Kelly, run!

I just wanted to give a shout out to my longtime friend, running inspiration and "virtual running partner" Kelly, who is running the Tokyo marathon today. I say virtual because, well, she lives in Japan, I live in Florida, and we've never actually run together, physically. (If we did, I think she would have dragged me into running a full marathon by now.) But I often think of her courage when I'm running the suburban streets of Weston to keep myself going when I am dragging--and when I'm really loving the run, smiling with the beat of my feet on the asphalt, I think of her, too. Because I know she knows what that feels like.

Kelly and I never ran together, but I think you could say we built our base for prolonged cardio when we were high school kids, and used to walk from West Philadelphia (Unviersity of Pennsylvania campus) to the very most eastern point, Penn's Landing, talking the entire time, stopping into bookstores and coffee shops in that pre-Starbucks and pre-Borders era that was the early 90s, and doing it just because we could. We'd easily walk 10 miles on a Sunday afternoon, and unless I was wearing uncomfortable shoes (I remember dragging her into CVS more than once for Band-Aids), the physicality of what we were doing was never anything we thought about. We had so much to talk about it that it honestly isn't until now, as an adult who hopes her kids will also one day be that effortlessly active as teenagers, that I even considered the distance, or recognized that those walks were actually "exercise."

Kelly, you're going to do great! When you get tired, just imagine you're downing one of those enormous iced coffees at Caribou, or that we're racing to catch the Speedline together. I can't wait to hear how it goes.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

After 93 running-related posts, here's one about credit cards.

Sorry, runners, but I am just so amused (in a bitter cackling kind of way) by this letter I got in the mail from my Chase Freedom Card that I have to stop the running-related presses and blog about personal finance instead. Because this is a personal finance matter I'm taking very personally.

So this will not be a running-related post, except that it's (a) about how a bank is giving customers a "run for their money" (sorry, couldn't resist that pun, and (b) it annoys me so much I probably would benefit from a run right now.

This is what happened. Just checked the mail, and I got this pretty dark blue-and-cream letter from Chase saying that I've been "upgraded" from my current Chase Freedom Card (no annual fee; 3 points per dollar spent in your top three spending categories; redeem 200 points for a $250 check) to the new Chase Sapphire Account (1 point per dollar spent; no option to redeem 200 points for $250.) Some upgrade, huh?

I called the customer service line to refuse the upgrade (which fortunately, you can do) and had a little fun conversing with the woman about Chase's use of the word "upgrade." She explained that it was an upgrade because even though you were getting fewer points per dollar spent, you don't have to wait on hold for a long time when you call Chase if you're a Sapphire member. You get your very own "account manager" on the horn everytime! Well whoop-de-doo: I can count on my hand the number of times I've actually called Chase, today being one of them.

Also, you can get double points if you shop from Chase's Web site, which features an impressive 300 vendors. Yawn.

I said, "Yeah, but exactly how is that an upgrade? I'm busy. I already have my usual online shopping behavior. You're asking me to change how I shop, use your Web site instead, and meanwhile get fewer points for groceries, gas and Starbucks?"

Chirpily, she noted that Chase offered a price-matching system so if I found an item cheaper on another online store, they'd match it. If I called my own personal account manager to complain.

If I had time to do all this, I would really rather spend it on more important things. Like, um, my family. Sorry, lovely Chase account managers of the world, but I'd rather squeeze in another game of freeze tag with my kids than challenge you to top the deal I found on Turkish cotton sheets. No offense, of course.

I'm really annoyed. Does anyone have another no-annual-fee, high rewards yielding card they'd recommend? I'm staying "downgraded" at the Chase Freedom level for now, but they are taking away the $250 checks for 200 points for Freedom cardholders to as of March 10. So I'm looking to shop around.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Flat feet, revisited.

I have flat feet. Non-existent arches. I'm sure the nice lady at the nail salon who paints my toenails "coral rose" must feel like she's been given the odd assignment of decorating two foot-shaped Wheat Thins crackers.

Running on flat feet isn't impossible, but sometimes you get random aches and pains and when you type your symptoms into Google, invariably the phrase "common among runners with flat feet" will pop up.

The good thing about flat feet is that you can stick a little silicone or plastic under the arch (orthodics) and kind of train your feet to sit the proper way in their shoes, instead of just sitting their flaccidly while the rest of your body absorbs the shock of asphalt. Kind of the way a corset forces you to have correct posture. But who wants to wear a corset?? That's exactly how I've felt about orthodics.

About six months ago, I got expensive, custom-made orthodics at Foot Solutions, and because they weren't properly fitted, the blood and goo that resulted (blisters on every toe and on my heels) was so terrible that I decided I'd rather deal with the consequences of running on flat feet than ever have to run wearing those evil orthodics again. The owner of Foot Solutions actually called me and re-made the orthodics from scratch for me, going out of his way to make sure they'd fit in my running shoes, but I was so spooked by my first experience running with them that I only would wear them in my walking shoes.

I was in training--I didn't want to have to take a week off from running just to heal from blisters, which is what had happened the first time I wore them.

Well, my official training is over, and just recently I noticed a return of my plantar fascitis. So I decided to give the newfangled orthodics another shot.

The added weight underneath my feet did take a little getting used to...but no blisters! And not only that, no knee pain after an 8 mile and a 10 mile run! I actually seem to have better form, and my pace wasn't slower. So I'd have to say that my Foot Solutions orthodics really were worth the money. Now I can't imagine running without them.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Two-paced liar

I'm an honest person, but I'm wondering if I should fake it a little when I register for the Miami Beach 13.1 when they ask me what my expected finish time will be.

In the past I've been honest--if anything, modest. But what does honesty buy you when you're signing up for a race?

In my case, at the Miami ING, it bought me the horrible experience of weaving through a thick throng of walkers and slower runners who were put in the same pace category as me. I'd put myself down as a 9:15, because that's typically what I ran in previous races. I think I would have had a better experience if I'd shaved about a minute off of that time, because the non-walkers who actually ran at my usual speed were put way ahead of me. I wonder if they all had said they ran an 8 minute mile just to get put ahead of the walkers?

(And who could blame them? I cannot stress enough how awful it is to spend three miles simply weaving through people! It's exhausting and potentially dangerous--I banged into the sweaty shoulders of more than a few race participants.)

I'm not going to lie about my age (I'm almost 36). Or my weight (please don't ask.) But my pace? I'm thinking that in the next two weeks, I could surely get down to an 8:10 minute mile.

Sure, yeah, that's the ticket...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How many times have you had this conversation with yourself?

I hate to invoke the image of the "angel on your shoulder" and the "devil on your shoulder," because I don't think skipping a run should be considered "evil," nor should completing a planned run be considered "angelic," but I'm at a loss for how else to describe the following back-and-forth I go through several times a week--and I'm sure you do, too.

Angel: It's 5:30! Time to get up and run!
Devil: It's 5:30. Time to stay asleep.
Angel: Come on, we set out our running clothes the night before. Let's go.
Devil: No. It's cold out there. And this bed is so warm...
Angel: How are we going to run 10 miles this weekend if we skip the short runs this week?
Devil: Maybe we could just not run 10 miles?
Angel: Get UP.
Devil: Will you please be quiet? I am trying to sleep.
Angel: Well, now that you're awake, let's get a move on. If we wait any longer, we'll only have time for 3 miles.
Devil: And that would be a tragedy because...?
Angel: Come on, we'll just have a nice, easy run today. No speed work. I promise.
Devil: Why even bother running if we're going to do it half-assed? How about we skip today and do a really good job tomorrow?
Angel: Look, we're wide awake. The running clothes await us. The running path awaits us. And have we ever regretted a workout after it's been completed?
Devil: Afterwards, no. But during? Sure.
Angel: Brat.
Devil: Nag.

So Angel wins, and off I go for my run, half enthusiastically, and half grudgingly. I hate the first 10 minutes. The second 10 minutes are bearable. And then after that, I don't want to stop. And yet, the Angel/Devil conversation repeats itself again and again. For some reason, the Devil almost never wins. (Which is why I really hate to refer to the running-adverse part of me as "the Devil," as the non-goody-goody part of me often wins during much more pressing moral debates.)

Do you have this conversation, too?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Who wants to run 13.1 miles on her birthday?


My birthday is in three weeks, and so is the Miami Beach 13.1. We have plans to go out the night before and celebrate, but I'm thinking as long as I don't eat or drink too much, I should be in decent shape for another half-marathon.

And besides, is there a better way to enter your 36th year than with a triumphant run through Golden Girls territory?

I can't believe I'm actually contemplating this. No, not contemplating: training for it! I ran 8 today and plan to do 10 next week. I had actually sworn off racing right after crossing the finish line at the Miami ING a few weeks ago. I remember thinking, why would anyone intentionally put themselves through the agony of sore quads, gastrointestinal distress, the visual and olfactory assault of Port-a-Potties, lips so dry they were cracked, bruises in bizarre places from iPod armpands, sports bras and who knows what else?

Why would anyone put themselves through this? Well, I really can't answer that, except to say that it reminds me of childbirth. Ask any woman recovering in the maternity ward whether she'd want to give birth again, and you'll get a HELL NO. Check back even a few months later, and you'll probably get a much different reply.

There's just something great about racing that extends beyond the race itself. Even a miserable race where you hate every second of it and wonder why you didn't just stick with 5ks. I can't really explain it. I enjoy having something to train for, and I enjoy looking back on a race and remembering how hard it was, and the fact that I finished. Even if the race itself isn't so hot.

The woman I run with, who was my mentor when I ran with Team in Training, was wearing a headband today that said, "I love to run. I hate to run. I love to run. I hate to run." Which basically sums it all up. Especially with regard to racing. Yep, I'm an addict.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Naked jogger

Yesterday I took a really intense spin class. One of those 5:30 a.m. killer sessions where only the true masochists stay for the full hour--about half the class had melted off their bikes and limped out the door by the time we were on our fifth sprint up an imaginary steep mountain.

When we were finally cooling down (because I was one of the masochists), the instructor advised us to do "recovery cardio" the next day. "Walk or go for a fun run," she said.

A fun run? What's that? Like not try to go really fast, or go really far, or both? That sounded pretty difficult to me. But I decided to try it.

So this morning, I found some mellow iTunes (it's hard to go too fast when running to Crosby, Stills & Nash) and decided I would jog. Not run, but jog. Of course the first time I glanced down at my Garmin and saw that my pace was two minutes slower per mile than usual, I got kind of anxious. But anxiety isn't fun, and I'd been told to go on a "fun run."

That was when I did something crazy (for me): I jogged the rest of the loop without looking at my Garmin once. It really felt like running naked--I'm usually so conscious of how far I'm going, and my pace. But this time I just went merrily along.

It was a fun run!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Miami ING half marathon photos (and 2 second video of my biggest fans!)

I think I finally mastered the art of smiling while racing; I look downright gleeful in these pictures. (You wouldn't know that I was suffering from pretty severe GI distress, or that I had a blister on my baby toe the exact same SIZE of my baby toe.)

I think that's because I really was happy. I was proud of myself, and it felt good to be among other runners.

Click here to watch a very short video of my daughter, Rebecca, cheering on the thousands of people passing her by at the 12.5 mile mark, while her big brother, Jacob, goofs for the camera:

Monday, February 1, 2010

The good, the bad, and the amazing: My Miami ING half-marathon experience

I didn't beat my time from my previous half-marathon. But on the bright side, I did avoid pooping in my pants. Here's my story.

The Good

There was lots of good. Some of my favorite moments:

  • What it felt like to see my friends Lucy, Ali, and Meri and my coworker Carolyn right before the race started, and to begin the race running next to my running coach, Ana, and my best friend from college, Ava, who flew in from NYC to run her first half-marathon with me.
  • The thrill of passing the first few miles without feeling like I'd run at all, making terrific time.
  • Seeing my husband and my two kids one mile before the finishline. Rebecca, age 4, was calling out, "Go runners, go!" and Jacob brags he managed to score 40 high-fives. I had to stop and hug and kiss them, I was so glad to see their faces.
  • Being greeted by my wonderful friends, Shari, Julie, Samara and Karen with a sign that read "RUN JORIE RUN" and a bouquet of flowers. What amazing friends I have!
  • Knowing that I raised almost $3000 to fight blood cancer--how awesome is that?
  • Knowing that I finished the race at all, given the "Bad" I'm about to describe.
  • Knowing that I very thinly avoided a disgusting display of public poopery. (Again, the rest of this story lies under the "bad" part.)
The Bad:

OK, here is where the story gets messy. So if you are put off by "TMI," just skip down to the "amazing" and we can just say I had a bad case of what's cutely described as "Runner's Trot," but isn't cute at all and really doesn't involve trotting.
  • I began the race with the goal of beating my last half-marathon time of 2:02. Sometime between mile 4-5, suddenly seized by painful cramps, I revised that goal to simply "finishing" the half-marathon. And by mile 6, when those painful cramps had become more urgent and no unlocked Port-a-Potty was in sight, my goal simply became to not poop in my cute little running skirt. Seriously.
  • The mood of the race started out so wonderful. I waved and smiled at the people standing on the sidelines. "You go, girl!" some nice Team in Training lady shouted at me. "Whoo-hoo!" I called back. But forty minutes into the race, as the cramps took over, I realized I needed to go, and go NOW. "Rock on!" shouted another nice sideliner. "BATHROOM???" I cried back. Mis-hearing me, she said, "Yeah, WHOO-HOO!" And then looked puzzled when I made an anguished face at her.
  • Port-a Potties are disgusting. That was my first impression when I finally found one at the 7 mile marker, but after waiting five minutes to use it, I had to admit I was grateful they existed. My next experience with a Port-a-Potty made me realize the first one I'd been in was actually BEAUTIFUL compared to the second one, which had no toilet paper in it. Just a banana peel. I want to bathe in Purell just remembering this experience.
  • Severe diarrhea combined with sweating for over two hours equals incredible dehydration. At one point I really just wanted someone to catapult me over the finishline, I felt so weak.
  • During my frantic attempts to find a bathroom, I lost pace with both Ana and Ava, who I'd hoped to run to the end with.
The Amazing

As awful as being sick was, as down as I might have been about not breaking 2:00, which had kind of been my goal, there is one thing really special about my time: it was the exact same time Ava came in on. I didn't even realize that we crossed the finishline within seconds of each other, but once we were through, she tapped me on the shoulder, and sure enough, she'd been right with me all along. Here's a picture of us right before we crossed.

Ava and I lived together for eight years--from when we were college freshman until I moved in with my now-husband. She was my maid of honor at my wedding, and even though I don't see her very often now that we live so far away from each other, whenever we do meet up it's like we're still two twentysomethings in our pajamas, staying up late and watching "Love Connection" together on basic cable.

She's the one in black, I'm the one in purple.

Anyway, I did it! I'm done! And now Ava is asking me when we're going to run our first marathon together. Hmmmm...I would guess the answer might be, "When they find a cure for Runner's Trot." Which I'm sure does exist. It might entail a diet of Immodium and bananas. But if it does exist, I'm all over it!