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July 2007

The Training Puzzle

During my teaching years, I was also a high school cross country and track coach.  With a team of 30+ runners all training to improve over the same race distance week after week, coaches "dispensed" workouts, broadly targeting the different group levels of our young runners.  We didn't much tailor the training to the individual runners' needs.

Puzzle So when I retired from coaching, I focused on my own training.  I designed my own training schedules--plans crafted from running books and articles I digested.  I coached myself.

I'd wrestle with my training plans.  First trying the obvious--run more often, more consistently, more mileage.  Then I'd experiment with more formal training which became a puzzle trying to fit in all the types of running--short intervals, long intervals, hills, tempo, pace runs, long runs, etc. 

By the time I completed a masterpiece training program, all the special planned training represented only a small percentage of my actual running.  I tinkered so much with basic running that I was never certain which training plan gems and tweaks were Training_plan_6 breakthrough factors in my running

Over the last few years I've backed off the pursuit of brilliant training plans.  I still run hard during some seasons of the year, but these days losing weight is my new speed work.  When it comes down to it, I just need to keep doing what I've been doing for 90% of my running life--run easy and enjoy ordinary running with ordinary runners. 

Coaching yourself doesn't work well.   But if we're going to run and train coach-less, I'd suggest adopting a mindset like Kara at Between The Miles who says, "Not every run is easy. But I must run....It took many years to build up the privileged effortless pace I have today...I take nothing for granted... I treasure every mile with mind, body and spirit."

Thanks, Kara, for the coaching.

Puzzle on Flickr by B1uefish

Training Plan on Flickr by Arioj

"I am a runner" ...

I love to go visiting.  Not just with my family and friends around town, but also all the runners I_am_a_runner_2out there in the running blogosphere.  I just love our BIG small town of runners/bloggers.

One of my favorite topics of conversation is when people finally admit they are a runner.  You know my bias on this topic.   If you run, you are a runner.   It is about the physical movement, but even more it is about the spirit.

As I was stopping by a few houses and visiting, I ran across a post from Hilliary that started with a simple statement, "I am a runner".   If you want to feel the spirit of a real runner - read her story as she runs and fights Clear Cell Ovarian Cancer.

And then down the road a bit, a post from Tiffani caught my eye because of her first line which also started with a powerful, "I am a runner."  I hung around her porch for a while to hear her talk about how she starts, what she enjoys and her pride in finishing a race.

And then there was a cross-the-fence conversation with Rob, as he chatted about "fighting the desire to quit".  He runs because he can.

Ahh, the spirit of runners.   It just keeps me moving.   

Photo of boy running by Hamed Saber

Preparing for Our Next Races

We’ve met all sorts of wonderful runners and are amazed at the large number of races some bloggers have listed on their sites.  Some have more races scheduled than Lindsay, Paris, and Nicole have arrests

Airhorn Between Amy and me, we’ll be running about four races combined yet this year, which is a fraction of what many runners achieve solo in the summer and fall.  Amy has the Cy-Man Triathlon coming up in five weeks, and I’m still on course for the Chicago Marathon, and then we’ll both be doing the nation’s largest off-road race, Living History Farms Race.

Sometime after registering for a race and then telling family and friends, the initial excitement can fade, and I get mired in the challenge of training for it.  My training is going just fine, but it’s sort of that critical time when I need to stay focused.

I don't think I'm alone.  I sense that even the most dedicated of ordinary runners need a focal point to carry them to the finish line—unless that is you’re one of those aiming for prize money, in which case you're probably not reading this post.  My short list from 26 Highlights of Running the Chicago Marathon has a few reminders for me of what’s ahead.

A few other experiences I look forward to about my marathon:

  • Firstmarathonscover_2 For once mastering the pre-race moments when I shout back at my mind telling me how much more fit and ready everyone else is compared to me
  • Achieving a breakthrough once the race is underway.  For me it’s  reaching the point in the race when I’m not slowing down at the discomfort like I feared or where I have actually bonked in the past
  • Executing my marathon race plan along with 45,000 other runners also trying to do the same--can I ever start slow enough?
  • Crowds—there’s nothing quite so amazing about drawing my energy from a crowd, whether it’s millions at Chicago and New York City, or the familiar supporters from my hometown or charity race teams

So regardless of how many or which race distance you're preparing for,  just remember, somewhere there’s a starters’ pistol or air horn in a race director’s drawer waiting to start our events.

Have fun getting ready for yours...

Air horn on Flickr by 10 Ninja's Steve

First Marathons cover on Marathon Guide

Natural Law: Good runs. Not so good runs.

I can't hold back.  I feel another natural law of running brewing beneath the surface.   Drum_roll Everyone take a step back...you never know how explosive and meaningful this little bugger could be.   Drum roll....

Natural Law #2:  Good runs provide motivation.  Not so good runs provide learning.

There is a very smart woman I work with who is juggling two big projects.  One day when I asked her how they were going, she remarked, "at any one time, one of these things I enjoy and one of these things is good for me."   Oh my, the wisdom and truth in that statement.   Like work and life, running has it's ups and downs and goods and bads.   When we talk about our runs, we generally group them into one of these categories: good or not so good.   

Love_to_run For the good runs, we pump our fists, we jump for joy, we yell out a big "YESSSS!".  We hear from our fellow runners, phrases like "I PR'd" from 21st Century mom", "Every mile was faster than the previous" from Laurie, "Best feeling" from Carrie, "I can't wait for my next run", "this is why I run" from Joe, "I had a breakthrough run" by jetfuelburner.  It is these magically perfect runs that propel us to take on bigger goals or at least step out and try again the next day.  These runs keep us running.

For the not so good runs, we usually follow with a dissertation or semi scientific explanation exploring the multitude of reasons why the run went south.  You hear reasons like, "I should have recovered more" from Rob, "I won't eat Mexican the night before" from David, "i need to plan my hydration strategy!" by Mark "I went out too fast" by USJogger, and "I hit the wall" from Jess. And these snipets teach us valuable lessons in our running career.   They uncover the core of our running DNA, the quirks of our body, the limits of our mental sticktoittivity, and how conditions that are out of our control can play with our results.   These runs keep us learning and keep us thinking about running.  These runs keep us running well.

The yin and yang of running.   You need both to reenergize your running forcefield.  Next Phd_in_a_can time you have a good run, take an extra moment to soak it all in and celebrate.  And for the next not so good run, consider it a free 3 hour credit in your running PhD.  You can't buy these PhD's off-the-shelf or have anyone sit in the class for you. Take the lesson and throw away the experience.

Pst...Still in search of the (real) running rules....

The only one rule from moi

Don't forget Runners World 25 Rules of Runing

Running Planet's 12 rules of running

Check out YMCA Running's post on her first 10 of 40 rules of running

Photo of drum roll by yazyaz

Photo of happy runner by monkey town

Photo of PhD in a can by jukebox

Weird Running Experiences

I was talking with my brother and the subject of weird running experiences came up.  He mentioned a few, and it made me recall the strange stuff I’ve seen over my years of running. 

First of all, I run in a pretty ordinary neighborhood where the scene is typical stuff—kids playing, garage sales, folks mowing their lawns, etc.  But I also have a short list of strange stuff I've come across when running.

Out of the Ordinary

  • Bizarre_monkey_2 A pair of lion statues in front of the house dressed frequently in different hats, clothes, and accessories
  • Several arrests taking place complete with TV crews on hand and the apprehended faced down in the grass
  • The soldier I’ve nicknamed “Sarge” who runs each morning in full camouflage uniform, year round, in his combat boots
  • Homeowners stepping outside the door to get the morning paper pretty much naked

Without an Explanation

  • Bucket_of_chicken A perfectly beautiful bouquet of flowers on the ground perhaps tossed after a proposal abandoned at the last minute…or declined
  • A full bucket o’ chicken—plus side dishes—sitting in a lawn chair waiting to be taken to a picnic
  • The complete setup for a rock band—guitars, keyboard, drums, speakers—in the front yard with no musicians to play them at 5:30 a.m.

Slightly More Bizarre

  • Beatles A plane parked on a lawn of a home
  • The remains of a Vegas night party in the driveway complete with a roulette wheel and cut-out of Elvis
  • A large banner draped across the front of a garage reading, “Welcome Home, John, Paul, George, and Ringo!”  I’m thinking it was a retro party. Must have been A Hard Days Night, so I Just Let It Be.
  • A swing set on top of a garage


  • A drowning recovery scene along a river trail
  • Domestic fights complete with threats, cursing, and slamming doors
  • A dad telling his kids, “Wait here until I come out,” outside an adult book store (when I run downtown, not in my neighborhood)

The Most Absurd

  • A life-like bust of a man’s head resting on the sidewalk, sculpted out of an unknown gooey, material—until I saw the empty cans of Crisco tossed in the grass.  The next day it had melted into a greasy small mound.

Neuman You’d think I either live in the Twilight Zone or in The Far Side.  Trust me, most of my running experiences are very ordinary.

Please tell me others have some equally or weirder running stories!!!

Bizarre Monkey on Flickr by Nekominn
KFC on Flickr by Jvas90
Beatles album on Flickr by Shoelaces & Stereo
Neuman on Flickr by Thomas Hawk

Confessions Of A Low Tech Runner

One of the most common discussion topics of my running friends is running gadgets and gear.  It is hard to go more than a few days or conversations with out hearing about someone enjoying their Garman or their rank/total miles on Nike.   And even on the running blogs, technology is everpresent.  In the last few weeks alone, Mike, Jason, Joe, Dankinia, Grant, Brian, Cory...were a few of many chatting about their Garmins.

I smile.  I nod my head.  I listen intently in an effort to become a good student of the new technology.   But 1980s folks - huge confession.  I have none of that stuff.   My best guess is that I am stuck somewhere in the 1980's for my running gadgets and gizmos.    How do I survive?   What do I subsitute?   Oh, thank you for asking!  I have been dying to have something to say in one of these techie conversations.

Headphones.  Need fashion and functionality?  Ditch those earbuds and return to the headphones. The great thing about headphones is that they serve a triple purpose - tune delivery, headband/fashion statement and the big absorbant ear pads that act like a sweat band.

iPod or Shuffle.   Forgot your tunes at home?  Grab a 3 or 7 year old and pack them along.  They not only add a little weight (which is cross training) to your running schedule, but they are on permanent shuffle.  The benefits:  You never quite know what is going come out next, the questions or topics will make you forget about your running and you will be highly motivated/energized to finish the run.   My favorite playlists from my kids:  What is an egg made out of?  What besides space and numbers go on forever?  If I lived with God before I was born, what was my address? 

Running_gear_2 Heart Rate Monitor.  Need to know if you are running in your zone?  Here's one of my heart rate monitor substitute: easy runs are not measured by if you can carry on a conversation but instead if you can discuss it in so much detail that you actually solve one of the world's problem.   Running too hard?  If your breathing is so heavy that you have to turn up your tunes to actually hear them - lordy be - slow down.   

Nike iPOD+, GPS, Garmin, etc.  Need to know your time, splits and distance?  If you are slow like me, continue to use the suSundialndial and rock method or even the calendar.  Since I am in a small town, I also use the coming and going of my neighbors.  Where these methods fall short, my handy dandy cell phone is always around to tell me I am late for this or that.  Heck with splits and PR's, a successful run is one that is measured in how close to on time I am to my next engagement.  I have also found that trying to calculate my splits or pace in my head can occupy my brain cells for many, many miles.   

Next time your gizmo/gadget is not cooperating, you are welcome to try any of my substitutions absolutely free of charge with no postage charge or waiting.   Try one today!

Photo of 1980's by plecojan

Photo of running gear by SmartGoat

Photo of  sundial by key lime pie

Running Easy Can Be Hard

A few years ago I bought a heart rate monitor at our local running store.  Steve, the owner, took me aside to explain about HRMs. Nope, he didn’t show me how to operate it; instead he told me when to use it.  He explained how the most important time to use the HRM is on easy runs as most runners tend to run way too fast when they should recovery days.

Posts by Laurie have a lot of enthusiasm for training.  She wrote, “The way I see it, the two most important runs on a plan are the long run and the medium long run. All of the others are take it or leave it.”  She’s right, and the most dangerous and overlooked run is the easy run, where highly-motivated runners can get lost in their ambition and overtrain.

Run_easy_sign The importance of running slow seems to be misunderstood by many runners, particularly serious competitive racers.  We can get lost in the land of training hard and often miss the rich benefits of running easy.  Instead of running easy, we often pile on too much running at a faster pace than we need to, missing the enjoyment and training benefits of running easy

The World’s Best Running Coach, Dr. Jack Daniels, says running easy gets shortchanged, yet it has the highest importance in even the most competitive runners' training plan.  He refers to running easy as “free from trouble or pain” with substantial benefits and says it’s how runners should spend at least 85 – 90% of our running time.  And he’s even given this training intensity a technical name—Easy Runs!

Run_easy_sidewalk Still, it seems running easy is hard for many runners. We tend to downplay the importance of our easy, short, and slow runs and the benefits they gain.  Instead, we see the gritty fast runs and the long runs as the key to getting better.  Running easy is the bread and butter of our most intense training.  Running easy helps keep us out of the land of overtraining, muscle pulls, and stress fractures.  Just ask Rich, who today posted about being on the ice and ibuprofen routine.

I’ve learned a lot from Steve’s dead-on advice, and I use the HRM regularly on my shorter easy runs to keep my pace and intensity lower than I would otherwise run.  It reminds me to slow down and reap the full benefits of easy running.

One of my goals for this year is to enjoy my running more , but it’s a shame I sometimes need to strap on a device to keep my running easy.  You’d think I’d figure that out with less technology.

Run Easy sign on Flickr by Running Engelhardt

Sidewalk sign on Flickr by Spotmaticfanatic

A Natural Law of Running: The First Mile

I took a leap a week ago and put a line in the sand of the Rules to Becoming a Runner.  And from that I listed the the only rule in running:  Run your own run, Run your own race. 

After that post, I have continued to think about the fact there are no rules but there is many unstated natural laws of Law_of_nature running.   I am not an expert on running.  Never been a coach, rarely finish in the top half of a race, heck - don't even know any famous elites.  I am in no way qualified to proclaim these "laws".  Except for one thing - with my scaled back training, I have more time to think of such trivial things.  So, I am proclaiming myself "Runner on High" for a day and putting forth a natural law of running.  And I use the term "law" liberally and incorrectly.

This unwritten law whacked me upside the head a few days ago when I jumped off my bike and got ready to do the run portion of my brick - boom - it made its presence felt.    It spoke to me as I peeled my body back to an upright position and began something my superpowerful imaginative powers told me resembled running. Chant There was a loud voice from inside my head carrying a Gregorian chant - the same chant I have heard for every run for the last 11 3/4 years: 

Law #1: The first mile is always hard.

This isn't a law that I came up with - I just try to coexist peacefully with the natural order of things.  When I first started running, I called my friend Sue for some advice.  I had been running for a few months, but it wasn't getting much easier - I was really frustrated.  My friend was a great runner.  She had run through high school and college and had oodles of marathons under her belt.  I knew she could tell me what I was doing wrong.   When I told her my dilemna, her simple response was, "The first mile is hard.  Learn to accept that and you will be fine."   And darn it, she was so wise.   

So many of my runs have started feeling like my body couldn't possibly do steps of a run ended with me grateful the the chance to be out there running at all. It's not that I am always slower or faster the first mile, it just doesn't feel as natural as the rest of my run. I know there is something scientific to this, something about inertia that makes this more than a law I dreamed up.   Whatever it is, it's powerful. 

A new running friend who is doing about 2 miles at a time sent me an email last week that simply said this,

Why is it I hate to get running, look forward to finishing the entire run, yet 10 minutes after I am done want to do it all over again? J

Can you guess my response?  You bet.  Law #1:  The first mile is always hard.

(Pst!  Run on over to Half Fast's post about running mantra's and take his quick poll on male/female running mantras. Very interested in what you tell yourself.)

Photo of board by Fallacy

Photo of Chant by awkward turtle

Take Your Runner To Work Day…

I work in Human Resources and for years recruited new employees to work for our company.  When reviewing resumes, my eye would scan for key work experiences, skills, and any other details that might tell me about the candidate.  When I saw “running” as an area of interest, it caught my attention, but I had to resist the bias of giving any undeserved consideration to applicants who run.  But my experience has proven that runners bring some highly useful capabilities to our work days.

Running_officeRunning makes us better workers no matter what we do—teachers, sales people, technicians, stay-at-home parents, ministers, customer service providers, laborers, and executives.  I think our employers get a better return from us as runners.

Because we run, I think we show up better at what we do to make a living.  We bring our healthy outlook to our work; we’re disciplined and energetic; we bring goal-mindedness to our projects; we bring our sense of planning, progress, and achievement to our work.  I think we're better time managers and relationship managers because of running--especially running bloggers.

When I interact at work with other runners, I believe the stage is set for better results  because runners think profoundly, care, plan (like daily), make great decisions, ex-plore new possibilities, gather input, solve problems, and lead others. Give me a project team full of runners and I believe we can out perform a comparable business team of non-runners anytime.  All the time.

Office_bibs_3A true story.  I recently had the chance to hand pick a business project team, so I chose all runners.  Their backgrounds are Customer Service Manager, Business Analyst, Mutual Funds Compliance, Accounting, Statistical Consultant, a Training Consultant, and an private business owner.  Each one of them runners!  Yessssss! This group thinks like a team, champions the project, and their ideas and output have been nothing short of amazing!

Every day we bring our running selves to our work.  We don't wear our race medals.  Most of us don't even discuss our running with others, but fortunately we bring our best to our lives and work outside of running.

I can't say I run a faster 10k because of my profession, but I'd say I'm a better employee to my employer because of my running.  Our work, co-workers, and employers are better because we keep bringing the best of ourselves--AS RUNNERS-to work each day!

Runner's office on Flickr by Chicken Puppet

Runner's office bibs on Flickr by Moojie Turtle

Headline: Crazy Deer Stalks Family

Ok, the deer started it.   You can blame Psycho Deer for the fact that this post has nothing to do with running.   

It's been about 6 weeks since this deer knocked me on my big ole bumper car whenDeer  I was out running on my trail.  Yep, I had to whine and tell you about it because it was the second weirdest thing that has happened to me while running.  But, I then I read a string of other people who had the met with the same fate and thought, hey -ok, weird nature quirk - no biggie.

So about a week later, I am running on my trail and I see this deer watching me run.  Not just a chance one time, but a couple times.   And not the usual look you get from a deer where they look fast and run or stand like a stupid statue and then run, but this was more like the head nod, "hey/what's up - yep, still stalking you, better watch your back" kinda look.    I shook it off and decided I was becoming cuckoo in my head.

Deer_crossing Then another week goes by and 3 out of the 5 times I pull in my driveway this crazy deer is hanging around by our front entrance.  Again, just stlurking (stalking/lurking).  If it had thumbs to pull a long piece of grass and put that (or a cigarette) in its mouth - I am sure it would have done that to accompany its menacing stare.

So now - I tell my husband that I am pretty sure we have a lurking, stalking, crazy deer somewhere on our property.  He sighs and doesn't even acknowledge my official reports.   I remind him of his duty to protect and serve and he rolls his eyes.  I guess protection against hoodlum wildlife is on the wee edge of his deputy sheriff duties.

Well, a couple more times over the last few weeks, the deer and I play a cat/mouse game on the trail.  My dog Buddy is always with me and I can tell he doesn't care for this deer and they even start chasing each other during some of my runs.   After one particularly weird run, I am standing on the porch of my house, looking out of our front yard and this deer walks out of the tree line, takes a few steps toward me and lingers.   Ok, now I am freaked out. 

Later that night my husband opens the dinner conversation with, "hey, Crazy_once what's up with some deer and Buddy".  He tells me the story of how this deer continually reappeared around him as he worked on various things on our property and how Buddy and this deer would chase each other across the front of our property.  At one point, he said he was working on some electrical stuff and "felt a presence".   He turned around, and yes, you guessed it, there was that deer.   Ahh - I feel a wash of sanity coming over me.  I know I can add a drop of sarcasm and dash of exaggeration to make a point.  But, my husband, he is as honest as they come.  It is official - we are the proud owners of the world's craziest deer.

And what are we going to do about it?  Nothing.  It is a joke, albeit a nervous-laugh-kinda-joke, witCyclone_fansh our family.   Last night as we pulled into our driveway after a trip from ice cream, there was the deer, just making sure we know it is still stlurking.   My 7 year old son pipes up from the back set, "hey mom, there is your cyclone deer."   

After I stopped laughing, I said, "son, it is our 'psycho' deer, not 'cyclone' deer."   But as I am not an Iowa State University fan, I did let him know the terms could be used interchangeably. 

Photo of deer by suhail ixe

Photo of deer crossing by TooFarNorth

Photo of crazy once by pluginbaby

Photo of cyclone fans by nat-chan

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