training while sick

Despite all of my precautions, I succumbed to the current cold virus making its rounds. I took a few nights off from running, and was able to run a 10K race yesterday morning at a more leisurely pace. Today, I am feeling more improved, and will likely go for a short (~3 mile) run. Tomorrow, if I am feeling even better, I will attempt a long run.

Should we train when we are sick? I think that really depends on the person and the sickness. I exercise when I am sick if my symptoms are above the neck, I am feeling sufficiently hydrated, and the thought of fresh air and pumping blood perks me up. Often, I find that a jog here and there as I am getting over a cold helps to clear my sinuses and lift my spirits. What I have learned to be the most critical, is to honestly listen to the needs of the body before committing to a run. I can think of times when I ran too hard and for too long when I was feeling really sick and run down, and that actually compromised my health more. I try to play it really safe these days.

As a consequence of taking a few days off, my January mileage is a little behind, at 44 miles so far for the month. I hope that I am able to pick up my streaking again soon, and contribute some solid long runs to the remainder of the month as I finish preparing for the Birch Bay Half Marathon.

Yesterday’s 10K was pretty fun. My running buddy and I ran it together, and there was a lucky break in the rain for the entire duration of the race. I am most proud of us for running up an extremely gnarly hill right at the midpoint of the run. In comparison to where we were last year in our respective running practices, I think we’ve made some substantial improvements.

Happy trails, and stay well!

 

home cooking

It is definitely January. The term has started up at the university where I work, and I find myself keeping occupied with supporting my students and the case management required by that task. My doctoral studies resume tomorrow, the last semester before I take comprehensive exams, the penultimate semester before I begin dissertating… there is a light at the end of that tunnel! I am doing my best to keep up my running streak, so far, so good. On Saturday, I enjoyed an 8-mile run. Trying to keep my long runs in good shape for my upcoming half marathon in mid-February. This weekend, I will run the same 10K I did last year, with the hopes of a much-improved time. Since I am working around a bunch of students, and then picking up my kiddo from preschool every day, I continue to wash my hands frequently, get plenty of sleep at night, and eat nourishing foods (stay away, germs!).

Speaking of foods, we are two weeks in to an interesting challenge at my house, which is to not eat “out” at all this month (this includes restaurants, take-out, coffee stand items, drive-thrus). My partner and I both work full time, and that can make meal preparation every evening appear daunting. Last month, we realized that we had come to depend on food prepared by others as a mainstay of our diets. I worried about the impact on our finances and on our nutrition, and we agreed to try something different for the month of January. So far, I love the change of pace. Grocery shopping immediately became more exciting, as we stocked our kitchen with more produce, meats, eggs, and other ingredients. Meals have been much more satisfying and healthy; leftovers are being consumed. We are tossing less food because we are using it up to cook. Our compost and garbage output has gone down tremendously. Surprisingly, we are eating very few boxed or frozen food items.

Here are some go-to strategies that I have found really help:

-Bake a bunch of yams (my favorite) or potatoes and use those throughout the week in meals

-Scrambles (various ingredients cooked omelet style with eggs) are a great way to use up odds and ends in the produce drawer

-A crock pot is pretty much an error-proof way to make a tender and fragrant stew

-Chopping vegetables on Sunday night and storing them in Tupperware really does make it easy to throw together a “to-go” salad for lunch throughout the week

-You can make amazing pizza dough in the bread machine

Anyway, all of these are no-brainers, but sometimes we have to reset our habits before we can remember or realize the resources at our disposal. We are spending way less money to eat better food and feel more satisfied. I am sure, come next month, we will eat out again occasionally. But the break from restaurant food has been really good for us, and also fun for my daughter, who loves to help with the cooking.

your habits become your values

After a brief holiday break, I resumed chorus rehearsals last night. I used to sing in a large choir (80-100 singers), but joined a small ensemble in early fall to challenge myself to grow musically. Singing with this group has been a wonderful gift. There is a beautiful symbiosis between singing and running. Both provide a mental gateway through which to become freer and elevated. My chorus director and voice teacher incorporates a somatic approach to singing, meaning that we continuously attend to the whole body rather than just the throat. Through this paradigm shift, I have learned to appreciate the power house that is our inner balance, capacity for breath behind the ribs, and the system of pushing and pulling in our abdominal muscles, which, for women, is strong and powerful enough to birth children. When we tune in with our body as a whole system, we evolve. When reaching for a high note, I find that simply lifting up one foot off the ground is often enough to click me back in with my center and, all of a sudden, I hear that high note coming out of me with no tension in my throat. From this, I have learned that my attention, while running, should never be fully concentrated on my feet. My breathing should not be centered on my throat. Breathe in to the ribs, breathe in to the shoulders, and it feels like taking flight.

The other component that I think athletics and music share is the orientation toward growth mindset (if you have not read Carol Dweck’s work, it is well worth a review). The development of skill and ability is a long term process, ushered in by dedication and consistent practice. If we only sing the range and material that is the most comfortable for us, we stop growing. If we only run flat miles and never on hills, we stop growing. Growth mindset is the incremental advance toward a goal which never amounts to a finite limit. There is no such thing as perfecting running or music. There is artistry to both, and they are lifelong endeavors.

One of the pieces we are singing this season includes lyrics from a Gandhi quote. This text resonated with me deeply last night, and I would like to share it.

Keep your thoughts positive, because your thoughts become your words.

Keep your words positive, because your words become your behavior.

Keep your behavior positive, because your behavior become your habits.

Keep your habits positive, because your habits become your values.

Keep your values positive, because your values become your destiny.

 

Happy trails!

 

 

Hello, 2016!

For my last race of 2015, I decided to run a half marathon that’s been on my “bucket list” for a few years now; the Last Chance Half. This is a trail race which goes along one of my favorite trails for long-distance training runs. There is a half marathon option and a full marathon—the full marathon does the out and back course two times. One time was sufficient for this runner.

When my alarm went off on New Year’s Eve, I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and checked the weather on my phone. It was 25 degrees, with little chances of climbing above freezing at any point during the race. I knew I was in for something chilly and frosty.

I dropped my daughter off at pre-K and drove to the park where the race started. There was a cheerful crowd of trail runners congregated in the (thankfully heated) park shelter. A few minutes after waiting around, we jogged over to the start, and the race began.

As I mentioned before, I had no time goal with this race. My hope was to simply enjoy the last month of the year. Typically, before I run a half marathon, I am doing longer training runs up to 12 miles. In this case, I had done some mid-length runs (6-9 miles), but my efforts have been focused more recently on running at least three miles per day. Even though I was not going into the race with terribly long training runs, my cumulative weekly and monthly mileage is at its highest right now… even compared to marathon training. I think that net mileage helped me.

The first four miles were really about getting my engine warmed up. It took some time. I took some walking breaks. My quads were absolutely frozen and the cold air made it more challenging to take deep breaths. After the first forty minutes or so, however, I started to feel like my normal self. I proceeded to have an utterly blissful run for the remaining 9 miles, completely avoiding any walls, aches, pains, or mental distraction. It is extremely rare that I get a run in with that much time “in the zone”—but I really think that the spectacular views of the bay, frosted trails, and glistening branches in their wintery glory really helped me to remain in the present and enjoy myself.

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Before I knew it, I was crossing the finish line. 2:26—not shabby! This was 6 minutes slower than my last half marathon in September, but the difference was that I finished the Last Chance half with enough energy in me to feel like I could run the 5-6 miles home. This is a good sign for my long distance training this winter and spring, as it means that my goal toward cumulative mileage and regular shorter distances is paying off, even with long runs.

The next day, I woke up and ran two laps around Lake Padden with my running buddy extraordinaire, Private Robot (my nickname for her). We celebrated the beginning of what is sure to be a great year for running. We are both strong and determined, and I am really proud of us both for sticking with our respective running practices, even through some illnesses, injuries, and life circumstances. Running is amazing medicine.

The next evening, we did a headlamp trail run in our neighborhood, which was really fun. The day after that, we attempted a 6 mile “airport loop” that I swear is cursed. Every time we do this run, it either rains buckets (one time we were actually scared we might be struck by lightening) or something else crappy happens. This time, it was just really hard. In retrospect, I think the poor air quality (lots of really cold clear days without any wind) was impacting us, as well as tired muscles. But hey—we pulled through and did the miles, even if it wasn’t pretty.

Last night I ran my regular 3 miles, and I plan to do so again tonight. Nothing longer than that planned until the weekend, when I might do 5 or 6 miles one of the days.