It is Monday morning at the time of this writing. I’ve started writing this blog post three times and still haven’t gotten around to finishing it. I’ve been busy; I’m preparing to move out of my mom’s house and into my own apartment (I’ll spill all the juicy deets about that in another post). This involves not just packing up my stuff, but packing up all of my mom’s stuff. And my grandmother’s stuff, much of which my mom kept. Letters, books, clothes, pots, wine glasses. Old bills, broken remotes, thousands of photographs. Preparing for an estate sale (a phrase I never thought I’d say). Donating items. Packing things. Throwing stuff away. Many trips to the recycling bin. Bubble wrap. Boxes. Tape. More tape. And even, some more tape.
But this blog is not about moving, it is about running. And while I’ll write about Not Running at times, right now I want to write about Running.
Yesterday I looked at my workout page on MapMyRun – a workout tracker I’ve used dutifully since 2014 – and was surprised to see that I’d run four days in a row. Not shocked – I mean, I don’t have Alzheimer’s or anything – but I was like oh wow, I ran four days in a row? I guess I did.
This is a far cry from several years ago, when I mistakenly thought it was “bad” to run two days in a row. Somehow, at some point along the way, I must have gotten it into my head that running for even a half hour was some kind of immense strain on my frail, delicate, small-boned woman body, and I would always follow a running day with either rest or some light strength training. I did this for years.
Until early 2014, when I decided to step it up a notch. I still wasn’t running long distances (my “long run” was an hour) but I realized that running two days in a row for 2-3 miles each time was perfectly safe, and would not cause my body to break in half.
In 2015, I started using MapMyRun’s running programs, which were 17-week schedules to run four or five days a week, starting with four and eventually doing five. Still, my long runs were a little over an hour and all of my runs were at a relatively slow pace – even the “interval training,” which I never really did as I was supposed to because there was nowhere flat to run where I lived in LA. and also I usually felt too sluggish anyway because I never ate anything before runs.
I kept running throughout 2016, increasing my mileage a bit but not really my speed. It wasn’t until I started doing races again last summer that I really pushed myself to a higher level. Even since the fall, I can feel an improvement. It’s exciting to get better.
Anyway, this is all to say that I’m happy and proud I’ve come so far. I feel strong. I no longer feel like a fragile, breakable flower who avoids minor exertion. Not only am I able to run four days in a row now, but I barely noticed that I did.
Running has become that normal to me. And I love that it has.
I’ve also come a long way from running only 2-3 miles at a time. The past few days consisted of:
Thursday: 5 miles (speed work)
Friday: 6.2 miles
Saturday: 7 miles (tempo run)
Sunday: 11 miles
A far cry from an easy 30 minutes and then calling it a day. Which, by the way, is absolutely fine if you’re just starting out. It’s a hell of a lot better than sitting on the couch. But after a few years of that sameness, I was ready to move on.
I’ll write a little about each of these runs now.
THURSDAY: I already wrote about the track workout I did on Thursday, running 4 x 800 repeats for a total of five miles. This was a great workout and I am genuinely pumped to do incorporate more speed work into my life.
FRIDAY: 6.2 miles at 9:19 pace. I didn’t intend to do a literal 10K, it’s just the length of the particular loop I do. This run went well – a bit faster than I’m used to. And it felt easy. I’m starting to realize that eating before a run actually… helps? What a concept: food = energy. Incredible. This morning’s pre-run snack was a rice cake with a tablespoon of peanut butter. I might have put some raisins on it. That’s it. Not a ton of food, just enough that my body didn’t feel like crashing to the ground while it was moving. Not crashing to the ground = a good thing.
SATURDAY: 7.04 mile tempo run. Along with speed work, I’ve decided to start incorporating tempo runs into my life. I’ve never really done true tempo runs. I have done 3 mile runs at a slightly faster pace, mimicking a 5K, which I guess technically is a tempo run. I tend to think they should start and end easy, with the fastest part in the middle.
Although maybe not. Here’s how Runner’s World describes it:
A tempo run is a faster-paced workout also known as a lactate-threshold, LT, or threshold run. Tempo pace is often described as “comfortably hard.” Tempo running improves a crucial physiological variable for running success: our metabolic fitness.
and Jack Daniels (the coach, not the whiskey):
Ideally, a tempo run is nothing more than a steady 20-minute run at T-pace. Subjectively, the intensity of effort associated with T-pace running is comfortably hard.
You might know all of this. I just like to explain for the people who read my blog who might not know. Like my dad. Hi, dad!
So for Saturday’s tempo run, I decided to keep it flat and run to Crab Meadow Beach. This is 7 miles total, and I thought I’d try one or two miles at “tempo pace” in the middle, which I decided for the purpose of this run would be 8:30, about a minute faster than my “easy.” This went better than I expected and I felt good enough to keep it up for three miles. I kept checking my watch to make sure I wasn’t going too fast because I actually wanted to go faster. But I didn’t want to push it. For the most part, I kept the pace steady:
Mile 1: 9:14
Mile 2: 9:04
Mile 3: 8:22
Mile 4: 8:22
Mile 5: 8:25
Mile 6: 9:09
Mile 7: 9:36
But the best part of this run was that when I got to the beach, I stopped to take a pic… and decided to take off my shirt. I ran back home in a sports bra! Folks, I haven’t done this in YEARS. Like, since my 20s, and even then I didn’t do it often. IT FELT SO GOOD! I totally get why elite female runners wear like, bikinis. It honestly makes you MOVE FASTER. And the wind, ah the wind! It felt so good on my skin. I don’t know, I just felt great doing this. I will do it again.
In fact, I went to Dick’s Sporting Goods later that morning and bought some new running crop tops I plan to wear this summer. Or sooner.
SUNDAY: A nice long run. 11 miles at 9:23 pace. Felt great. Again, eating a couple of hours before running makes a world of difference to me. I just wish it was easier to do on the weekdays. It was brisk this day – about 50 degrees and overcast, and I wore a t-shirt and shorts. I was a little on the cool side the entire time, but I honestly don’t mind that. I felt good and strong, although when I got back home my fingers were slightly numb and it took me awhile to untie my laces.
For lunch I decided to make blueberry pancakes topped with bananas, cinnamon, and maple syrup. A very good choice of lunch, if you ask me.
By the way, I finally finished writing this Monday afternoon.