Questions for Smart Runners

I posted before about following a real running plan for the first time in pretty much ever. I’ve been glad to find out that I can run almost every day and easily do 25 miles per week (was running three or four times per week and usually around 15 miles per week before this) without injury. BUT I have been really slow.

At least I can do a few of these?

I’m hoping it’s a temporary thing, from increasing miles, and eventually my body will make the gains and I will be faster. This makes sense to me theoretically so I hope it’s happening. I run with the jogging stroller Monday through Friday so I can’t really tell if I’m hitting my tempo paces. On the weekend I run without it for a long run, where I have struggled to hit the last couple of miles at goal pace as my plan calls for.

At least until they sit on my head.

Then the Great Bronchitis of 2013 hit and I had to take off a lot of days. I took off five days, thinking that HAD to make me better, than ran five more than took off three again. Today I started Week Four of my plan for the third week in a row. I don’t want to skip the week since I think I need to repeat it and actually get the key workouts in (tempo and long run.)

Maybe some smarter running brains than mine know the answer – Is it okay to just run with the jogging stroller at a pace that feels the same exertion-wise as my tempo run pace even if it’s almost two minutes per mile slower or is it key for me to hit the tempo pace? If so, I can finagle running without the stroller during the week one day for a tempo run, even if means running at 7 p.m. in the dark (boo.)

Also, is it normal to expect to get slower before I get faster? Or do I just suck?

Don’t answer that last one.

Gosh Darn It I’m Good Enough

I’m currently working on an article about New Year’s Resolutions and why we fail so spectacularly at them.

I spoke with Tara Newman, who is a healthy lifestyle blogger by night but an organizational psychologist and goal setting coach by day. She had a lot of really thought-provoking things to say about what goals we set, how we should approach making changes and common pitfalls. It got me to thinking.

See, “my friend” has a little problem with yelling sometimes. Well, not really a friend. A little birdie that lives in my yard and has my face and name is what I mean.

Yelling.

Now, I have to preface this by explaining that yelling seems normal to me. I grew up in a half-Italian family where yelling was just one setting on a vast dial of emotion, one that could slip momentarily into happiness, elation, anger, sadness, and myriad other expressions and then back as if it had never happened. Like a loose dial that could spin around and around. You were never meant to be upset about the yelling because kissing and love and tomato sauce were around the corner. It never meant anything. Just an opera of unmediated human expression.

The problem is other people don’t experience it this way, people like my dad, and my husband, and the vast hordes of pale Northern Europeans that have mostly populated North America, and even me, even with that upbringing, I know it’s not quite right. It’s not the way to be. But at moments of stress, exasperation, overwhelmed, I revert back to what I know. The easiest path. The worst response. I’d like to not yell as much.

Tara brought up the point that a good way to start is to do a little research. Why do I yell? What happens right before it, both externally and inside my brain? What are the circumstances surrounding it? Do I really mean to say something else, perhaps:

UNCLE!

Or I GIVE UP Or I NEED TIME ALONE Or I’D LIKE TO GET ON THE FIRST GREYHOUND BUS TO FUCKING ALBANY I DON’T EVEN CARE WHERE IT’S GOING BUT THEN I’LL MISS MY KIDS SO I BETTER STAY HERE AND YELL BECAUSE NO ONE IS GETTING DRESSED AND I HAVEN’T BEEN ALONE IN THE LAST 500 HOURS

Or whatever. And then instead of just setting the goal to “not yell,” which is way too big and unwieldy and non-specific, I should set action-oriented smaller goals like 1. Plan for a small mental break each day to keep sane and avoid getting overwhelmed 2. Express my feelings in other ways and so on…

So I’m going to try this jazz. Me and Stuart Smalley, we up in this bitch.

Yell Free 2014, here we come. This is going to require a lot of drinking, but please note I did not say Drink Free 2014. I’m good enough, but I’m not a saint.

Hell Week

Hell Week is kind of like Shark Week, but instead of sharks, it’s filled with trips to the pediatric emergency room.

I’m going to write this in the past tense in a hopeful/defiant middle finger to the universe and a way to proclaim that it’s over. That THAT was last week, and this week will be a spectacular return to the mundane.

Like the week before last, when I was just worried about getting my runs in each day, and what time the kids napped and went to bed at night. And that my four year old didn’t like soccer that much.

This week we didn’t even try to go to soccer, or preschool for half of the week. It was pure survival mode.

Last weekend we celebrated Henry’s first birthday with a trip to the farm with hay rides and giant swings and cupcakes decorated like pigs, cows and duck-chicks, and on that day it became known to me that there was a family health crisis going on, no not Henry’s, ANOTHER one, then I spent the next few days stressing, but then started to come up for air on that one, Tuesday Henry started having a runny nose, no big deal, Anna had had a cold a few days before, wasn’t a bad one, just involved copious amounts of nose running, he was running around happy as can be, went to bed Tuesday night, then at some point when I was nursing him around 5 a.m. the next morning, I felt him making a weird thumping with his stomach against me. He was asleep so I figured he was dreaming, you know how you can sometimes make involuntary movements while you dream? But then I turned on the light to check and realized he was having a little trouble breathing.

Am I overreacting? Am I delirious? Please don’t be this breathing shit, God knows I can’t handle this, can’t handle watching stomachs and necks and fingertips and lip color like we did when Anna was three months old and sick with RSV bronchiolitis do I wake up my husband? Yes I do, check Henry, yes he agreed he was wheezing a bit, do we watch him, do we go to the after hours urgent care do we go to the hospital where are your shoes do we call someone to watch Anna no get her in the car no warm it up I think cold air is bad for breathing or is it warm? I can’t remember is there time for Googling no, no Googling, that’s panic inducing let’s go, call the pediatrician on call my phone is dead get your phone Anna is crying where are we going is it morning no it’s not morning yet

is henry getting worse in the car why yes yes a little bit

drive to the urgent care, they are closed, who invented an after hours urgent care clinic that is closed ever?

and so on. ER visit, diagnosed a reactive airway situation, gave steroid shot, three treatments of Albuterol, sent us home with a nebulizer. Second night, rinse, wash repeat.

So Thursday morning we got back from the ER around 6 a.m. The kids wouldn’t go back to sleep, because why would they possibly sleep after being up at 4 a.m.

By nightfall the following had transpired:

My phone had gone missing. I assumed it fell off the roof of the car somewhere between our house and the hospital.

That morning the street sweepers came through. They come through maybe twice a year, but of course they came Thursday and sucked up my phone (?).

Henry managed to throw his mesh feeder into the toilet just as Anna was flushing it. A plumber and $300 later the rubber gasket blocking the pipe was removed.

I went into the backyard and realized the ground was squishy beneath my feet. I had turned the hose on to water the trees THREE days before. The hose had been on since Monday.

Henry peed on Walt’s sandwich.

We were too tired to make another one.

And that was just Thursday. You see how this is going.

I’m glad the week is over. I will never take health and sanity for granted ever again. Right now Henry is still on the nebulizer but I’m hoping he’s finally on the mend. I also got sick and couldn’t run so I was even more of a basket case of stress than you’d imagine, and I just tried to run this morning and had like a lack of air/asthmatic type coughing afterward so who the hell knows when health will return to my house.

I’m doing woo-woo crap I don’t normally believe in, anything, kale shots, burning mugwort, positive thinking, all hands on deck, get me to health week.

Hell week is for the sharks.

La Mia

Today is Henry’s first birthday but I haven’t yet written about Anna turning four. It’s been a busy whirlwind since traveling, coming home and jumping back into the preschool year and routine, and both birthdays. The school year has been off to a rocky start. Jet-lagged, overwhelmed, Anna balked at the five mornings of institutionalization (plus soccer on Sundays!) and we are slowly getting into a new groove.

Wake up, preschool prep, walk to school. We walk every day we can, which is the best new ritual ever. I run with Henry in the jogging stroller while Anna is in preschool, so Anna hitches a ride on the end of the Bob, or walks a bit.

Henry’s not sure he likes it. He kicks her and she screeches in mock annoyance which is actually joy. She loves when he pulls her hair, when he wrestles her and they roll around on the floor, when he sits on her head and grunts. She’s pretty much the best big sister that ever could be, and he can do no wrong in her eyes.

Now that’s she’s four her eyes are all brown. They’ve lost all the hazel of her babyhood, and even though she’s a petite flower of a four year old, clocking in at 32 pounds and 36 inches tall, four years old can no longer be mistaken for a baby’s age.

Except it can, and in between her adult-like interactions, hobbies, loves, dislikes, habits and conversations a wide-faced baby lives. One that gets way too tired after being forced to go to school five days a week and wants to be carried upstairs, cradled on her way to pajamas and a book.

Anna the baby is there, but now she just shares space with Anna the mini person, Anna the artist, Anna the athlete whose body sometimes gets ahead of her (“I can’t calm down, Mom!” She laments after whirling and screaming through the house or yard for an hour). Anna the thinker and Anna the girl who loves her princesses and her dress up clothes, who fashioned makeshift Rapunzel hair by finding a long white ribbon that she demands we tie onto her hair, just so, that she then flounces around the room like a Disney heroine on stage.

Anna the ham.

Anna the artist shows the most. Left-handed, right-brained, anti-authoritarian on a tricycle, she refuses to be quizzed.

“Do you know what number this is?” A well-meaning lady at the park asks.

“No.” She answers, factually, even though of course she knows, she’s known since she was two years and zero months.

Her ditto sheets from preschool come home all wrong, all right, with the doodles all over, mermaids and suns and dogs and people with eyebrows and the drawing that’s supposed to be colored in ignored, with the spaces empty and the backside covered in elaborate artwork.

She doesn’t want to be tested. She wants to be loved. On her birthday I read her all the nice comments people left on Facebook about her, about how she was special, and funny, and super kind, and she considered it all, mulling it over in her little doll head, and then she asked, “What else did they say?”

But they couldn’t say it all, and neither can I. I’m just here as co-illustrator, ghost writing credits. I’m still looking for enough words for my love, for the world’s love. What else? What can I say?

What else will they say?

Woman With A Plan

A training plan, that is. This is really the first detailed running plan I’ve ever followed. Last winter I roughly followed a plan for my first half marathon, but it just gave me miles per week/runs per week and not specific workouts with targeted paces. Well, that’s not technically true, I followed a coached plan for a sprint triathlon last year, but it wasn’t running specific.

So I’ve historically never run more than like 15 miles per week consistently. I don’t think I’ve ever run more than 20 miles IN a single week. I just always do three or four runs, one fast and short, one long and slow and maybe speed work if I’m specifically training for a race or something else. I’ve wondered if I could really improve my times with a lot more miles per week. It seems to be what everyone and their motherrunner says: more miles, faster. My body just always rebels against me when I tried to add miles, though, with nagging sorenesses and quirks that I worry might turn into actual injuries.

Maybe I just need to slowly add more miles, get over an initial hump (dead legs, bad runs, a right butt cheek that needs an elbow in it every second of the day, ouch) and then see the benefits?

Or maybe I have a decrepit body that responds better to less miles, just more quality workouts? I keep reading that if you try to get faster by just running HARDER you can make short term gains but then hit a a wall, but if you run MORE you can reach your potential over the long term. I’ve already tried the former (and got faster on it) so I might as well try the latter. I can always find my personal happy medium. It’s like experimenting on yourself.

So I signed up for the 10K challenge that Michele at NYCRunningMama put together. I chose the PR Crusher because I want to crush my PR. I’m a little worried about getting there in such a short time (I want to do the Run for the Warriors in Lindenhurst on November 10th, even though the PR plan goes through November 30). Also, I’m not even BACK to the peak fitness I was at when I got my last PR (my 50:02 on the trails). So how can I expect to BEAT that PR? But that’s what I want to do, so I’m going to try. If not now, I know it will happen soon.

So this week my legs feel like crap and I couldn’t even hit my tempo pace on my tempo run, which I was faster than just like week, and I’m blaming Crossfire, the Crossfit knockoff at the gym I did for the first time on Saturday.

I wouldn’t recommend the following workout. Because apparently it makes you look like a man when you’re done.

Because: 150 kettle squats + 120 jump squats + 90 sumo squats with kettle bells + 60 one leg piston squats + 30 handstand pushups + 400 meter run x 3. No rest. Just leg death. (And I used a 25 lb kettlebell.) Yeah, I hurt my quads. Or at least got so sore it was bordering on injury. Like I was swollen for two days. So every run after that kind of hurt, even though I gave myself an extra full rest day on Sunday.

So I’m hoping that’s what it was, and I can hit my paces and tempos next week. I feel so fancy writing that sentence. I DID hit my speed work paces, mostly, this morning. Although I shouldn’t start off with 5:13 pace. Guess that’s too fast. Who knew? Ha.

So here’s to planning. And running more. And less squatting.