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August 2007

When Running and Gardening Collide

Question:  What do you get when you mix a cheapskate, a runner and a budding Dscn1583gardener? 

Answer:  A use for old water bottles and race safety pins.

I love hanging baskets and pots in my garden - but do not enjoy the mess and time of watering them.  My solution:  Take my old water bottles, poke holes around the bottom using my race safety pin, fill with water, recap.   When it is time to water, set them in the pot and take off the lid and you have your own mini sprinkler.  WaaDscn1582_2 laa - an instant watering solution.  No mess, no waste.   

And look, my six pack carton even got a second life.  (Thanks Dad for that suggestion!)

Bonus Question:  What do you get when you take my watering bottles and place them in the hands of small children?

Answer:   Water fights!  And really wet kids!

If you like to run and love our world, check out a couple great posts and ideas from eco-runners like Sam, G.P.'s (Great list of tips), or Beth as she did her first eco-run.  On this weekends run, leave the world a little better than you found it. 

Wake up Call

Contestant: “I’ll take Overachievers for $500, Alex”

Alex: “Running harder and more mileage than necessary…”

Contestant:  “What is the #1 mistake runners make?”  (Ding!!!)

Reminder_3 “Hah!  I knew that!” erupts my wife (not a runner), while I sit in the chair with my knee wrapped in ice.

Yup, I’m a bit sore after Sunday’s 20 miler.  It didn’t hurt during the run, didn’t hurt Monday, a rest day, or yesterday, but today it’s stiff and I admit I’ve overdone it. 

I’ve gone on record as the patron saint of rest, the guardian of all things recovery, the poster child to stamp out overtraining.  So excuse me while I chew and swallow my words in this post.  Gulp.

My knee’s going to be fine.  But this whack up side the head signals the beginning of the season—for overtraining.  And I’ll go down on record as stupid if it means keeping one other runner out of the PT office or the medical tent.  Nancy, may I please borrow your club to beat myself a bit—and before my wife reads this post?

Many runners' sanity vanishes this time of year.  I read recently this question about overtraining: Why is it if an expert tells a runner they can run a 10k in 42:00 by training 30 miles a week, OR they can achieve the same time by running 60 miles a week, then most runners will run 60 miles to achieve the same result?    Overtrainers give common sense runners a bad rap.

Caution Greg McMillan wrote a great article, “Speed Trap,” about overtraining in the October issue of Running Times.  He says, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” and gives guidelines for optimal speed training and urges us to avoid becoming “workout kings” who compete too much in training.  He goes on to say, “As you get really fit, beware of doing too much.  Stop well before you overextend yourself.” 

Thanks, Greg, but your sagely advice didn't arrive in my mailbox until it was too late.  Sorry, injured and humbled brings out the cynic in me.

This is no call for sympathy.  I’m not sidelined with my knee, just zapped with a low-current jolt of reality about cranking up the volume too much.  But now really is the season—with more racing, more PRs and long runs on our radar—for overtraining.   No litany of advice from me; just: 

It's better to be 10% undertrained than be 1% overtrained.

Be careful and follow Elizabeth’s good example of taking USRD Un-Scheduled Rest Days.

And to reinforce why run, read See Diva Run's post on Girls Who Run Have More Fun.

Reminder stamp by Pussinboots

Caution sign on Flickr by Lungstruck

To Pee or Not To Pee

During my TRI on Sunday, I encountered every pee inducing moment possible.  There was the standing in warm water, watching and listening to a few hundred swimmers hit the water, hunching over on my handlebars, and jiggling over big bumps in the road.  By the Women_gotta_go time I started bouncing along in my run, I started to feel like a 2 year in a potty-training morale dilemma.  "Is it ok to just 'go' while running?"

As I am searching for a porty-potty, my bladder thought it had the answer and launched into a full sales presentation to my brain.  My bladder is saying, "Come on, elites do it, Dean Karnazes tells you it is ok."  My brain actually ponders this tidbit a while.  "Well, true.  Elites and professionals do pee on the run.  So, how fast do you have to run to be considered an elite?".  This question ping ponged in my head for a while, trying to find a way to equate my shuffle to the elite speeds category. 

Then the running shoe gods came to the rescue and shouted - "Wait, what about the shoes!?  For goodness sake - don't ruin the shoes.  They are the harmless party in all of this.  This won't be pretty - don't take them down trying such foolishness.  Do not destroy this relationship - you have a good thing going."  He was right.  If I screwed this up and even dribbled a bit on my shoes, they would be out the door forever.

In the end, I just couldn't do it.  But the question bugged me since the race.   It is common?  Do runners do this?  When is it ok?  Do runners talk of such things?  And how do you go against all that you know is right and hygienic?  So I turned to Google for the answer.  If someone can find our site by continually searching for 'horse poop girl' - I can certainly find the answer to this one etiquette question.  My search for, "pee while running" hit the jackpot - you get pages of instructions, wisdom and even forums.  Here are the highlights:

Go_sign Amazing fact #1:  According to a Running Forums poll, 53% of runners would pee while running.  Here seems to be the generally accepted principles:  if it means reaching a Boston Qualifying time (BQ) or Personal Record (PR), you are in a long endurance event or no one could tell that you did it - then go ahead. 

Amazing Fact #2:  Runners are having conversations on this topic!  I was dumbstruck on the wealth of information on this topic.  There are tips on peeing while swimming, biking and running.  A good number are from triathletes.  Probably the best of all is Slowtwitch on "The Fine Art of Evacuation while Biking", but there are more:

Amazing Fact #3:  Generally, it is acceptable, although there are a few races with "no pee" rules - but overall it is treated as a badge of honor when you finally break down and just go with it.   

How could I be running all these years and not know of this perfectly acceptable behavior?  It made me wonder what else I was missing out on.  So I did another Google search on "peeing while working".  I mean come on - there are few endurance events that can match the gruel of 8 hours of meetings.  No luck.  There is not much out there for step by step directions on that one.  And as your friendly HR professional, I would be amiss if I didn't advise you against it.   But now I know.

Photo of ladies room sign by sarandipitous

Photo of go sign by Tanya HK

Running For the Feel of It

Amy and I have office cubicles a few feet away from each other, post on the same blog site, but we typically don't know what the other is going to write about…not until we read it right here like everyone else.  So imagine my surprise and delight at her post Why We Run.  And rather than leave her a rambling comment, I'm posting about it again.

Charmin_3 I run for the pleasure of running.  But there’s still a little gauge operating inside me comparing today's run with past runs.  The gauge factors in the distance, intensity, weather, my energy, mood, health—monitoring how today's run feels different compared to other runs.

Sort of like squeezing the CharminI run to experience what each run feels like.

Over my years of running, I’ve intimately courted every distance, storing a warehouse of runs to compare with my next run.   When I run easy, I compare it to other easy runs.  When I have a hard tempo run, I assess it against past tempo runs like it.  Sometimes the stopwatch helps measure a run, but mostly perceived effort and feel are the ways to size up my runs.

I'm not in search of the grand feeling from one of Runners' World's picturesque Rave Runs, and I don't run hoping to float along free from discomfort.  Instead, my runs have countless details to compare.  One day's easy street incline can feel like scaling Everest the next day.  Last week's butt-dragging distance can be easily doubled today with seemingly less effort.  After a restless night's sleep, I expect a grim zombie run, but my legs reward me with a cushy, country club run.  That's what I run for.

I continue to run marathons to see what it feels like, to enjoy the early miles and to see if I can better manage the fatigue until later than in past marathons.  Those early miles are pretty predictable, but it’s the later stages—at mile 10, halfway, 15, 18, 21, 23 and so on that have my curiosity.  I run wondering how I will feel at certain points, comparing them to how I’ve felt at those same landmarks during past marathons.

Run_down_road_2 Despite the appearance of sameness and repetition, I try to find something good in each run.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t run again day after day, year after year.  The point isn't to match or trump the feeling of past runs.  Instead, I run eternally hopeful that each run will eek out a slightly new feeling.

Watching runners like Pre looks painful and makes me wonder if other runners hope to achieve that intensity.  Veteran marathoner Elizabeth talks about a puking runner leaving it all on the race course.  That's not the feeling I'm going for. 

I'm not alone.  Da Big Leap is running the full marathon distance in his training—twice— to get ready for his first marathon.  He takes courting the feel of the distance to a new level.

And Lia writes about running a short 13 miles this past weekend as she tapers for next Sunday’s marathon.  No doubt she’s hoping to feel 13-mile-fresh at the end of 26 miles!   You also gotta love her URL—http://smileatmile20.blogspot.com

I've never had two identical runs and don't expect I ever will.  On tap for me tomorrow is an easy five-mile run.  I'll run it to discover what it feels like.

Charmin on Flickr by Roadside Pictures

Road runner on Flickr by Ironmaikl

Why We Run

Running can be hard.  Running can make us sweat (literally and figuratively).   Running isn't Runners_crossing for pansies and wimps.   And because of that, we like to talk about why we run.   Running helps us define our character and who we are.   Our reasons for running are individual but when shared can be motivating for others. 

Many of us are coming off of races, long runs, tough workouts this weekend.  Or worse, we are tired and cranky today because we are back at work, school and routine.   To lift your spirits, follow these simple steps:  1) grab your favorite "get-me-through-it" beverage/snack, 2)  pick one or two of these posts that talk about the "why" behind their running and   3)  read, digest, enjoy.   Here is a list of some of the great ones in the last few weeks that have inspired me:

And of course, from Tom and me.

Aren't you glad you are a runner?

Photo by jng1x

I won!

Yeah right!  But I did finish the Cyman.  It was picture perfect weather and record participants - about 380 - which is more than double last year's 180.

If my life was a movie and we were at the music montage - the song playing in the background would be Toby Keith's, "Good as I once Was".    If you're not a country fan, it goes a something like this..."I ain't as good as I once was, But I'm as good once as I ever I_did_it was."   That about sums it up.

I haven't seen the official times or splits, but with my fabulous mathematical abilities, I am pretty sure my time was equal or a tad slower than my other TRI's.   I can't complain, or at least shouldn't, because I hadn't trained, had a sore back and knee and was a year older - so I couldn't expect any miracle results.  (But I always hope winged fairies carry me to a fast finish!)

I gotta' tell you, it was very useful to write the post on SaturdayIt helped me be clear and stay true to my plan.   When I saw the swim, all those thoughts went through my head.  I swear they add a buoy or two each year onto the end of the swim.  But, I just kept chanting to myself, "it's just a gentle warmup" and "fake it 'til you make it" over and over.  By a 1/4 in the swim, it was like I had been swimming all summer and I was catching other swimmers.   

The bike had the same hills and a SUPER DANGIT headwind.  The bike course is a 3-loop but with an extra out and back leg.   The coming "back" of the leg is up hill, into the wind and from an almost deadstop since it is a sharp turnaround.  My back and knee wanted nothing to do with that part of the ride.  But beyond that, Tiger (my bike) and I did ok on the first two loops, the last one...well....a bit slower - but not awful.   And, I did run out of the second transition!

And then the run.  The first part, the hilly trail run, kicked my butt, but I didn't stop.  The last mile was unpleasant.  I knew I was running slow and with each hill I lost a little steam and a little determination.   I was aggravated with myself for not finding all that magical speed that I had seen in past weeks - but it wasn't there today.   

Someday One big change was that I didn't run with music.  You are disqualified if you run with any kind of music.   Now I know I would never place, even in my age group.  But today I learned the utter depths of my optimism because I decided not to wear the tunes, just in case there was even the most remote chance.  I laughed about that all the way home.  I guess hope springs eternal.

Next race.  Next time.  Next year.  Great part about our sport, is there is always another chance to see what you got. 

Thanks again for your good wishes and great thoughts - they really helped power me through the morning.

Photo of sign by rosieeeee

Picture of girl by miss gem

Thinking and Listening on the Run

In fairness to non-runners it's a sensible question when they ask, “What do you think about when you run?”  And Rochesterian  Sandy also has disussed in a post what we think about when we run.

Tabloid Honestly, lots of my thoughts while running are unimpressive.   Oh sure, I’ve planned my day, rehearsed some presentations, solved minor problems, and even had a few creative moments of brilliance while running. 

Sometimes I have conversations with me—throwing down a challenge to my legs to hold a fast pace or scolding my ego for making the textbook mistake for the thousanth time of starting way faster than I can finish.  Several times, I’ve had to pull ol’ Tom back together after a startle by a dog or biker.

But I’d be lying if didn’t admit that many of my running thoughts are like a bad checkout stand tabloid—filled with nonsense, irrelevance, and pretty half-baked, flashes and poofs of a thought.  Not sure I even have many complete thoughts, and when I do, they're often not about running. 

The truth is I emerge the best from my runs when I give up hard-core thinking to figure things out and replace it with listening.  Not listening to sound sounds like footsteps or breathing, but listening to check-in messages that explain what I’m overlooking.  Messages like…

  • You’re feeling sluggish because you’re carrying those nagging car repair worries with you…
  • That boost to glide up those hills came from the better sleep you’re finally getting
  • Hey, did you just notice how much stronger you feel this week at mile 12 than you did last month...
  • Nice recovery from last week's tempo run blunder...see what a difference the right pace makes...
  • Did you ever consider how six weeks of hot, humid running might just be making your attitude crappy...

Tomorrow is a 20 mile run for me.  It’s a hefty task on the body.  But I also look forward to it as a place-holder for three plus hours to listen and understand what’s going on with my running and life.

Tabloid on Flickr by Vermontjm

Time To Get My Game Face On

Thank you for your well wishes!  Yeah!  It's finally time to play!  The Cyman Tri is tomorrow and I am excited to go out and enjoy a great morning swim, bike and run.  I had the world's most complete taper - didn't run a step all week.  The good news is my back is functional again so it was worth it. 

Here's da' plan:

Game_face Swim - Try not to think about that fact that it has been a year since I did an open water swim or any true swimming.  Ignore my little voice that will continue to repeat that I am getting way to old to do this event without training.   Look past the true, fit triathletes that will be swimming over the top of me and kicking me in the face.  Try to ignore my chubby rolls in my spandex - ick. Avoid gazing out to the buoys and thinking - that's really far - that can't be right.  Yep, the swim.  Go out there and fake it and until I make it back to shore.

Transition #1:  Big hill, long run.   It is the cruelest way to get back land legs!  I am darned determined to run all the way to the top.  For pure pride, no other reason.   As usual, I will be singing out names of the race directors who laid out this little cruel appetizer before the bike.

Bike:  Ride like my butt is on fire!  Three laps of "rolling hills".   My goal is to not say "uh-Shorts_on_fire oh" down the big hills and pound on the pedals on the up hills.   I will ride like a mad woman who has just had her cookies stolen.   I am bringing the heat!  Whew - I can feel my heart beating already.

Transition #2:  I am going to push away that tiny little voice that gets off the bike with me and whispers, "Why did you want to do this again?  You do know that you have to RUN a 5K now!?!  You could stop right here.  You can walk.  It is such a gorgeous morning, how about a slow stroll?"  I am going to pile drive that little bugar into the wet muddy grass, grind him with my heal and RUN, yes I said RUN out of transition #2. 

Run:  It's a hilly trail run for the first mile.  There, I said it.  Now, I just need to accept it and move on.  My plan is to get my legs back in the first 1/2 mile, turn up the knob to my Run_fast new level of "fast" and then hold on for dear life.   I am going to run with the speeds I felt the last few weeks.  I am going to try to catch another runner.  I am going to go fast.  Hold on to your loved ones and button down the hatches, I may just explode.

Well, that's my plan. Or not. It is always beautifully laid out the days before the race - let's see how it comes together on race morning.  And remember, fast is a relative term.  My only real plan is to not finish last.  Oh yeah, and get home in time for soccer! 

Photo of swimming boy by Caretta71

Photo of sign by purplespace

Photo of van by drgwhite

Putting Enjoyment Back in Marathon Training

Paint_by_number Remember paint-by-number art?  I used to attempt them as a kid—landscapes, wildlife, portraits.  I hoped the numbered diagram would guide me to create a color-coded masterpiece.  It didn’t take long to forget what color was on my brush and soon some section was the wrong color.  Auugh!   What was supposed to be fun and produce something to remember ended up requiring too much attention, too much frustration, and nothing to show for it,  I’d rather have been playing.

With six plus weeks to go until the Chicago Marathon, the most demanding, intense training is ahead.  This is the same point where in other years my stress increases, I tend to overtrain, try to avoid getting injured, and live guarded.  September and October, the best months for running, surround me, and I let them slip by without fully enjoying them.  Not really the desired outcome of what should be fun getting ready for a thrilling race.

Looking back at my running goals for this year, one is to enjoy running more.  For me that means not letting the mileage, intensity, and a rigorous schedule overshadow the fun of running. 

Running isn’t supposed to be like those paint-by-number efforts, complete with drudgery, stress and a slave to detail.  It’s supposed to have some play, flexibility, and satisfaction in it.   So from now until race day I’m focusing on enjoying the runs, the season, and the anticipation of race day. 

Instead of meticulous running, I’m lightening it up to have a little more fun...

  • Leave my watch at home except for tempo and pace runs
  • Find at least two new trails to take on easy runs
  • Rewards after my remaining 20 milers—Starbucks, a book, and a nap, beginning this Sunday
  • Set two time goals for the marathon—a dream goal and an achievable goal
  • Grant a couple permissions to hit the snooze, roll over and go back to sleep
  • Buy something fun at the expo to remember this year’s race

I want to look back after the marathon and say I had some fun down the final stretch weeks.

Uplifting running post of the week was by Laurie.

"Running has brought many good things into my life. Most importantly, it has greatly improved my mental health. ... I think it helped me give people and other things an opportunity to change my view point."


Hey, Amy runs her triathlon on Sunday morning. 

Join me in wishing her good luck!


Paint-by-Number on Flickr by Jamie Lee Haas


Natural Law: Smart Person, Stupid Runner

Rewind to Sunday morning.   Woke up with a bike/run on my to do list and knew I shouldn't do it.   I have trouble with my hip joint going a little out of whack - had this issue for years and know what causes it, how to fix it and what to do and not do when it happens. 

Big on the "not do" list is run.  Because if I run when it hurts - I change my stride.  Idiot_sign Changing my stride causes pain in my knee.  Pain in my knee causes a bigger change in my stride and then forces the hip that isn't quite right to firmly lock into this new uncomfortable place and can only be adjusted by my friendly chiropractor.  But, all that running wisdom aside, my stubborn streak won out over my brains and I went for the bike and run. 

Mistake #1:  I looked like a puppet on a string in the bike ride.  I would try to lean over on my aero bars and pretty soon would pop back up - my back was screaming at me that I was being ridiculous.   

Mistake #2:  Should have cut it short and headed home.   Nope, did all 18 miles. 

Mistake #3:  Back at the trail head, it took me three minutes to get the courage to swing my leg over the bike so I could dismount and run.  Pretty big clue to call it a day - por nada - leaned the bike over and fell off and I went on the run.   

Mistake #4:  A half mile into the run, my brain is chanting, "turn back, turn back, you are goin' pay for this one."  Didn't listen, tuned out all rational thoughts and finished the three miles.

There were so many places that I could make a good choice.  I didn't.

Fast forward to Monday morning.   AAAGGGHH!   Pain, pain and more pain.  By the time I arrived at my chiropractors, my right leg was 2 inches shorter than my left.   Good guy I_am_stupid that he is, Doc patiently started putting me back together so I can do my TRI this weekend.

Super stupid move by me.  Stupendious outrageous illogical decision!  This one is on my long list of stupid running decisions like eating barbeque before a marathon, running with stress fractures, and pulling an all-nighter with a sick baby and still racing.  I am allowed to operate a vehicle and raise kids but yet I can't make logical decisions about when to run and when not too.   As runners we can be a stubborn, pig headed group.  We are smart people but sometimes get a little cuckcoo in the head when it comes to our running.   

Natural Law:  Our passion for running can result in stupid decisions from smart people.

It is a sickness we have.  Running makes us loco in our coconut. We become so excited, so focused, so energized by the act of running that rational decisions become a not-so-important element of the moment.   

The only comfort of my stupidity - outside of many adjustments, ice, and ibuprofen - is knowing that I come upon this affliction of irrational thought naturally - it is a runner thing.    Some of the posts showing this law have included IM Able in her list of how not to do a long run, da Big Leap's recipe for Jelly Legs, and Ian starring as Dr. Stupid.  There is comfort in sharing!

A solution to our problem?  Next time you need to make a decision about if you should be doing this run, this distance, this pace, in this weather....ask yourself what advice you would give to your best running friend.   And then LISTEN to it.  No "ya' but..", "but maybe just a little..."  And then do the right thing.

PS....Thank God for Chiropractors!

Photo of license plate by idiotboy

Photo of idiot sign by eddiemalone

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