Monthly Archives: April 2009

A chill day makes me appreciate my running routine

As I said earlier this week, I really hadn’t planned on tapering before the Broad Street Run on Sunday (visit my DC Running Examiner site for my race preview).

But with orders not to run for a few days until a cortisone shot in my ankle has a chance to work, I entered into a sort of accidental taper on Tuesday. To that end, I took today off. Like, totally off. No abs. No push-ups. No nothing. It will be one of three off days this week, as I’m not planning to run the day before the race.

I’m not going crazy as I usually do. I am, however, amazed at just how much my running and swimming workouts dictate my daily routine. Like, when do people who don’t work out shower? (Answer: If I have to ask whether it’s time to take a shower, I should probably do so). What do you do when you need an energy burst, or an anger release? When do you eat when you’re not timing your meals around your workouts?

I realize all this planning may seem borderline depressing from the outside, like a burden I should be happy to shed. But I’m eager to get back to my usual routine. A quote from George Sheehan, my favorite runner-philosopher, sums it up this way:

“The more I run, the more I want to run, and the more I live a life conditioned and influenced and fashioned by my running. And the more I run, the more certain I am that I am heading for my real goal: to become the person I am.”

Sheehan, from my home county of Monmouth County, New Jersey, also referred to running as a “self-renewing compulsion.” Cool, huh?

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Wanted: motivation to swim

Has anyone seen my motivation to swim? I had it just a few weeks ago. I must have put it down, or dropped it on the way to the pool one day, because for the past week or so, I’ve wanted to swim about as much as I’ve wanted to step on a rusty nail.

This is awkward timing for two reasons. First, I’m on doctor’s orders not to run until the weekend, so a desire to swim would be really helpful this week. Second, the  1-mile Bay Bridge Challenge is getting closer by the day, and a desire to train for it would be awfully nice.

I took an off day  yesterday after getting a cortisone shot in my ankle. For once, I actually took the opportunity to chill out, rather than sit around feeling that weird runner’s guilt in which we understand that rest is training, but then again, we don’t. I read a book. I e-mailed. I baked a Cooking Light chicken tamale casserole (tastes way better than it sounds — try it for yourself!).

It seems the lazy has followed me into today, unfortunately.

I’m swimming this afternoon. A date at the pool with Steve is keeping me accountable. If left to my own devices, I might skip. Wish me luck. If you’ve got any amazing, fun, boredom-busting swimming workouts, post them below.


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Cortisone shots a fix for my swollen ankle?

I’m trying not to stare at my ankle.

This morning, my doctor gave me a cortisone shot to try to quell the swelling and pain that’s been nagging my ankle since I twisted running it in Rock Creek Park back in December. He told me it would take two weeks to work. Still, I keep looking down, expecting it to have transformed somehow, like a green, knobby, growling Hulk hand for feet.

Nothing  momentous has happened yet. And when it does, it will likely (hopefully) be in the form of the swelling slowly going down rather than my foot swelling up and turning green. But a Hulk foot would be SO cool, huh?

The only bad news: no running until the weekend (Dr. Pereles, a marathon-runner himself, winced when he told me, and asked: “Can you do that, do you think?”). I wasn’t planning on tapering before the 10-mile Broad Street Run on Sunday, but I guess I am now, which could be a good thing.

I’m also disappointed I’ll miss two Pacers fun runs, as I missed last week’s runs while I was in Florida. I’m especially bummed to miss tonight’s route — an awesome-looking trail run through Rock Creek Park. Yes, I see the irony here.


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Looking ahead to the Broad Street Ten Miler

After melting in near-90-degree heat at the GW Parkway Ten Miler this weekend, where I ran a disappointing 1:26:10, I couldn’t help but start obsessing about the forecast for this Sunday, when I’m running the Broad Street Ten Miler with Jen, my best friend and training buddy.

I’m happy to share the good news from the National Weather Service: Mostly sunny, with a high near 66. Whew! I’m looking forward to the race all the more.

Also, I looked up the elevation profile (I’m seriously going to stop procrastinating after this post. For reals.), and learned that this race is, in fact, mostly downhill — especially the last half. I’d hoped to take it easy this weekend after a stellar performance last Sunday, but it might be the other way around.


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GW Parkway Classic Ten Miler post-mortem

As I said in my DC Running Examiner race review, the George Washington Parkway Classic Ten Miler wasn’t the all-downhill joyride I was hoping for.

It’s a point-to-point course along the Potomac River that includes lots of gentle, rolling hills. While it included more downhills than uphills, it didn’t strike me as a particularly fast course — though maybe that’s just me …

After running roughly 8:20-minute miles at the National Half Marathon in March, I set out today to run tough but(I thought)  do-able 8-minute miles on the 10-mile course. Instead, I ran 1:26:10 –8:37-minute miles. My 5-mile split was 42:18, and my 7-mile split (strange place for the race to take a split time, but whatever) was 59:02.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a tad disappointed. But it’s certainly not a disastrous performance for me, especially considering what a wimp my body is about running in the heat. It was pretty toasty this morning, with highs expected to climb up to 90 degrees by the afternoon, and I get annoyingly light-headed and slow at the slightest rise in temperature. And some running days are just better than other, you know?

One small word of advice based on today: You know how you’ve read that it’s a bad idea to mix up even the smallest parts of your routine on race day? You should take heed. I was so excited about the scallions I bought at the Silver Spring Farmers Market yesterday, I put a ton on my pasta before realizing they really upset my stomach. Also, I tried the super-cute Feetures! socks I got at the Silver Spring Earth Day 5K, which are really comfy for short runs, but are apparently blister-inducing for longer ones.

I still really enjoyed the overall race experience, though I’m not sure I loved it enough to run the race again. I did get a sweet technical T-shirt (it doesn’t take much to make me happy). Plus, my IT band and ankle got some post-race attention from Dr. Paul Glodzik of the Maryland Sports Injury Center, a chiropractor who specializes in sports injuries.


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Mixing it up

We, as runners and as humans, are routine-driven creatures.

I'm running the GW Parkway 10-miler this weekend. My training for it this week included mixing up my workouts in Florida.

I'm running the GW Parkway 10-miler this weekend. My training for it this week included mixing up my workouts in Florida.

When it comes down to it, most of us benefit from a regular schedule, and a regular lineup of habits that help us get through the day. I’m that way with training, and I benefit greatly from Tuesday and Thursday runs with Pacers, and Monday and Wednesday swim dates with Steve.

Still, it’s helpful to mix things up. I learned that this week, when maintaining my running and swimming schedule helped me keep my head on straight while visiting my parents in Florida.

Contributing to the mixing-things-up vibe: My iPod froze in “play” mode on the plane, leaving me tune-less for a 45-minute run through their Gulf coast subdivision.

I was shocked to find that it was, in fact, really peaceful, even though I had to listen to the sound of my own huffing and puffing, and my own thumping footfalls. I actually did find it easier to tune into the crepe myrtles and jasmine in full bloom along the route, and was able to push myself into “go” mode even without my pump-up songs. I’m not about to give up my precious iPod, but on this run through unfamiliar streets, in an unfamiliar climate, the change in my running habits was more than welcome.

Same deal with swimming. My parents live near an outdoor pool, and I headed there to work out yesterday. Swimmers often talk about “fast pools,” those with deep water and seemingly mystical powers to make you slide through the water effortlessly. After a couple of uses, I’m dismayed to report that this was a slow pool — the kind that makes you feel like you’re suspended in molasses rather than water.

But for all its molasses-ness, it’s a gorgeous pool, clean and bright and reminding me with every stroke of the outdoor pools where I swam my first practices on a beach-club swim team when I was 7. So I decided to take my workout back in the day, doing sets I’d done either in high school or as a little dude on my first-ever swim team. It’s unlikely this workout will take you back to your own athletic roots, but perhaps it will inspire you to reach far back when planning your next swim.

1,000 warmup

5X 200 breaststroke (my stroke in high school – I haven’t swam longer than a 100 breast since then)

10 X 100, alternating IMs and free (when did I stop doing 100 IMs in training? This quick-hit set is hard enough to make your triceps and shoulders burn, but a 100 never seems to long to tackle).

Next up: The GW Parkway 10-miler this weekend. I’ve been told this race is almost entirely downhill. I’m hoping this isn’t a big, fat lie. Stay tuned for my race review …

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Bethesda resident beats odds, streaks at Boston

Not that kind of streaking, silly.

According to a piece from Runner’s World Amby Burfoot, Ben Beach of Bethesda has run 42 consecutive Boston Marathons. Actually, the Runner’s World piece from March 2008 says he’s completed 40 — Monday marked his twenty-second, with a finish of 4:48, according to race results.

In addition to being consistent, Beach is fast, with a PR of 2:27. He is also committed against all odds: A neurological movement disorder called dystonia has affected Beach’s gait, making training difficult and racing harder.

But he has persevered not only in Boston, but at the annual Cherry Blossom Ten Miler, the eponymous Washington race that defines April for many DC runners. Burfoot writes that as of March 2008, Beach was the only runner to have finished all 35 Cherry Blossom Ten Milers. He finished this year’s race with a time of 1:37 — which many runners who aren’t coping with a debilitating condition like his consider pretty speedy.

To understand how Beach keeps going, check out this amazing video showing his three adult children pacing him to a 2007 Boston Marathon finish. If you don’t get a little weepy listening to self-effacing Beach talk about how much his kids’ support means to him, and how he was afraid he was letting them down, you might be a jerk.

Learn more about Washington runners at the Boston Marathon at my DC Running Examiner page.

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Ethiopian girls get a lift from DC-based Girls Gotta Run

Washington resident and former women’s studies professor Patricia Ortman was reading The Washington Post in her rocking chair one morning in December 2005 when her life changed course.

She read a story, “Facing Servitude, Ethiopian Girls Run for a Better Life,” that detailed the plight of young women in Ethiopia, many who find that running provides a bridge from poverty and teenage childbirth to education and independence. Among the hurdles was shoes, which girls described borrowing from their older brothers in pre-dawn hours so they could train.

“I thought, ‘It’s just shoes. There’s got to be a way to get girls some shoes, even in Ethiopia,’” Ortman says. “Ethiopia isn’t across the street, but it’s not solving the Middle East crisis, either.”

The resulting nonprofit organization, Girls Gotta Run, has raised more than $24,000 in the past two years to buy shoes, training clothes, food and other training essentials for Ethiopian girls training to become professional runners. Among its fund-raising events is an immensely popular art exhibit in which local artists design and sell artwork related to shoes, running and motion.

The organization has enriched the lives of not just Ethiopian girls, but of Washington women, such as board member Sheena Dahlke, who ran the 2009 Boston Marathon yesterday on behalf of the girls.

If you’re looking to raise money for a nonprofit during your next marathon, you’d be hard-pressed to find one more deserving than this one.

Remember to visit my DC Running Examiner page for some pictures from the Girls Gotta Run art show, and check back here later today for my take on running in Florida, where I lived for four years and am now visiting after a four-month hiatus.

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Boston connection:Girls Gotta Run

I was thrilled to learn that my marathon time of 4:34 in 2007 qualified me to run the coveted Boston Marathon. That is, it would have qualified me on the age-graded qualifying scale if I were a 75-year-old woman.

In the meantime, I live vicariously through other Washington-area locals running the mother of all marathons, which starts its notoriously hilly race through Boston this morning. Among them is Sheena Dahlke, who’s running to raise money for Girls Gotta Run, one of the coolest non-profit organizations I’ve heard of. Washington resident Pat Ortman founded the all-volunteer group a few years ago to raise money for Ethiopian girls training to become professional runners. The girls use running as a bridge out of poverty, not to mention teenage marriage and childbirth, and to a better life.

Stay tuned for more about this fabulous organization in future posts. For today, send your best wishes to Sheena and other runners from the greater Washington area who are running their hearts out as we speak. Check back here later for results.

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Post-race report: Earth Day 5K

For a review of today’s Silver Spring Earth Day 5K, I’m going to refer everyone to my DC Running Examiner page.

For those interested in knowing how their favorite middle-of-the-packer finished, read on …

Let me start by saying that 5Ks are in many ways my toughest races. Whenever I look up my times on race-pace equivalent charts, which tell you what you should run for a 5K based on, say, a half-marathon, I’m shocked to see how fast I’m expected to get through 3.1 miles. In other words, I’m scrappier than I am speedy.

Still, like any challenge, the fact that I’m not very good at 5Ks makes me even more determined to get better at them.

I wasn’t expecting much from myself on Sunday morning, as Steve and I spent a lovely weekend drinking delicious things in the sun at various parties, from the Tiki Bar opening in Solomons Island to our dear nephew’s first birthday party in Annapolis. I know runners who have placed in their age group in half marathons after being stumbling drunk the night before. I am not one of those runners. I have to treat my body pretty well if I want it to perform well, and a diet of Mai Tais, Pinot Grigio and birthday cake doesn’t qualify as treating one’s body well.

At least for the first two miles, this morning, I surprised myself byhow decent I felt. I let myself fall behind the last mile, as my dehydration suddenly became acute and a giant hill (one participant described it as “murderous”) mocked my efforts to rally. But I still ran 23:46 — an average of 7:38-minute miles, which is a good 5K time for me in general.

Still, after the race, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed by being unable to suck it up that last mile. What’s seven minutes of pain compared to feeling great the rest of the day?

As I told one of my running buddies this morning, I’m mostly motivated by internal cues. Pass me, and I’m likely to smile and wave rather than try to catch you. But feeling disappointed in myself after what could have been a better race had I just been a little smarter … that’s motivational for me. Stay tuned for a faster 5K in the near future.

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