October 25, 2019

An Exciting Ending to Cross Country Season

Good grief, I had no idea just how drained I would feel once cross country season was over. This was a long season for me--starting in early July instead of late August--and the first season coaching without Renee. A lot to handle!

I could have done just the bare minimum required to get the kids ready for their races in September and October, but you all know that when I take something on, I tend to put all of my energy into it. And that's WITH my bipolar meds, hahaha.

So, I poured my heart and soul into this season, and I'd consider it a success! The kids had fun; I enjoyed having a smaller team, so I could concentrate on each individual more; and the kids all improved their running strength. And so many of you were super generous by donating prizes from our Amazon Wish List. I can't even tell you how much the kids LOVED spending their points on fun rewards.

The Wednesday before last was our sixth of seven races. I wrote a previous post about Aaron, who'd been on the team since he was in second grade (longer than anyone else) and I loved coaching him and seeing him improve his running each year.

I wrote about the super exciting win that he had at our first race--coming in first place overall, and beating his competitor of the last few years, "Ferris". Ferris beat him at every race by just one place, and for the last couple of years, I've given Aaron the goal to "beat Ferris" that season. It happened at the first race this year!

So Wednesday's race was bittersweet for me, because it was Aaron's last race on my team. He wasn't going to be able to make it to our very last race on Saturday, and next year he'll be moving on to middle school. We hadn't run this particular course in a few years, so I couldn't remember it very well, except that there was a fairly large hill about 3/4 of a mile into the 1.1 mile race.

Unfortunately, this course is not one that I can go from one spot to another to watch (as a large loop, there isn't enough time). So, I chose to go to the one mile mark so I could yell to the kids to give their final kick to the finish line.

At the race's start, I was standing behind the whole crowd of kids, so I couldn't tell who made it to the front when the starting gun went off. I basically just had to go to my spot and wait until the kids came down the hill out of the woods until I could see anything. I was dying to see how my team was doing. We have white shirts, and they are easy to spot amongst all the colors. I was watching the opening of the woods, waiting for the lead runners to come through.

Finally, there were three kids that emerged, and Aaron was in the lead! I was SO excited (and surprised, actually--there was some VERY tough competition at the races this season). He had about a quarter mile to go. Aaron gives every race all that he has, and sometimes that's enough to carry him to the finish line; other times, he doesn't leave enough for a final kick at the end. I actually got kind of emotional when I saw him in the lead, knowing it was his last race with my team.

When he got to where I was standing, the gap was closing between him and the runner behind him. I started yelling like crazy (I'm sure that the parents who take videos of the races hate me!) that the person was right on his heels, just look straight ahead at the finish and give it everything he had.

I couldn't see the actual finish line, which was so frustrating. I saw the gap between Aaron and the runner behind him closing more and more as they got toward the line, and then I had no idea who won. I thought I saw the person with a red shirt get in front of him at the last second. I didn't want to leave my spot to find out, because I wanted to cheer on the other kids on the team, so I just had to wait it out.

Finally, I saw Aaron and his parents walking toward me from the finish line, and he held up his place card--with a #1 on it! I was so thrilled. He'd won his first and last races of the season--a great ending for his season.

I wish I could say the same for my team's final race on Saturday, but the race director made a huge mess of it. I already wrote about that disaster.

Even though it was our last race, I wanted to have one last "race" of our own--a timed mile at the track, just like I had them do at the first practice. As always, I don't care about the kids' race times nearly as much as I care about having them improve their own times. So I like to do the timed mile to see how much they improved over the season.

Afterward, I planned on getting pizza for everyone while I handed out certificates I made. The weather ended up being horrible on Tuesday, which was a bummer. It was super windy and it started raining. Running in the rain would be fine, but having pizza on the picnic tables outside by the track was not going to be fun. Although, the rainbow before the run was cool!

I called the rec center and asked if we could go inside for pizza, and thankfully, they said we could use their party room in case of bad weather. As I got set up for the run, I was super excited to see what Aaron's timed mile would end up being, because it wasn't under the realm of possibility that he could run a sub-6:00 mile, which nobody on our team has ever done before. When he showed up, he said that he'd been sick for the last couple of days, so he wasn't going to run. What a bummer!

The weather wasn't on our side, with 20 mph wind gusts, but the rest of the team did the timed mile anyways. For about half of them, it ended up being their fastest mile of the season. And every single one of them improved their original mile time by a significant amount! Bryce, who just started this year, improved from 12:12 in July to 7:39 in October! That's crazy.

It was bittersweet that it would be Andre's last season with me as well. He's gotten to be quite the distance runner--this season, he ran over 100 miles! He likes to focus more on distance than on speed, but he even improved his mile time from 8:28 to 7:27, which is awesome.

We ended up going inside for pizza (a good choice, so we weren't freezing and wet outside). I handed out their certificates--which I had so much fun making! I gave each of them a personalized "certificate of..." by thinking of what they did best that season or what goals they met, and things like that. I also gave each of them a spreadsheet that listed all of their miles, points, and race times for the season.

The kids (with the help of their parents) were super generous, too--a couple of parents paid for the pizza; I got flowers from a few kids; Andre's grandma made me a pumpkin roll(!), and Harper actually got the team an exciting gift--a tent for next year! We will finally have a home base at our races, just like all the other teams (and a place to hang our banner). I was a super fun last day.

When I got home, it was like the life just drained right out of me. I was SO exhausted. All of the build-up of the season--all of the time I spent working on practice plans and keeping track of mileage and points (for our awards system), going to practice three days a week, and then racing once a week-- seemed to just fall off my shoulders when I walked in the door.

It may not seem like volunteer coaching is much as far as time and energy, but all of that, plus spending Sundays at Eli's baseball games for two months, I just felt like I never had any time off. It was hard to find time to do anything for myself at all. Eli has a tournament tomorrow and Sunday (all day), but after that, I plan to take a week to get my house back in order, cook dinner every day, and relax a little. Fall is so busy, and then it all ends so suddenly.

Today is the last day of my fourth week of getting back to running with my 3-3-3 plan. If I have time after Eli's games tomorrow, I'll write my recap of that for the week. I honestly didn't think I'd stick with it this long! The cross country kids inspired me :)

October 23, 2019

Week 3 Recap of 3-3-3 Training

That's a lot of 3's!

I wanted to get this posted on Friday, but I have been SO BUSY and so stressed out that I haven't had a chance to write at all. Cross country season is now over, as of last night, so I feel like I can breathe a bit easier now. I loved it, for sure, but it wiped me out for the last few months. I'm going to write about that in a separate post. For now, I just wanted to do a (hopefully quick) recap of my 3-3-3 training last week.

(The 3-3-3 training is simply a way to get back into the habit of running regularly again. Run 3 miles, 3 days a week, for 3 months. It's simple and I'm hoping it'll get me back in the habit!)

I've been doing MAF training (maximum aerobic function) by using my heart rate to dictate my pace during my runs. After week two, I mentioned that I read that Dr. Phil Maffetone, who developed the MAF method, said that you don't have to subtract a heart beat per minute every year that you are older (the formula is 180 minus your age). I assumed that since I'm 37, my MAF rate would be 143, and then on my birthday, it would change to 142, etc.

However, Dr. Maffetone said that if the heart rate you've been using has worked well for you, then there is no need to change it just because you are 37 one day and 38 the next. When I trained for my 10K, I was in the best shape of my life, and I was using the MAF method (along with the 80/20 method). My MAF heart rate was 146 back then, so I decided for week 3 to try using 146 bpm as my MAF rate. (He did say that if the rate you are using stops working, then it needs to be adjusted)

I am very surprised at what a big difference it made! I was able to run (slightly) faster but it felt much more comfortable on my body. Before, at 143 bpm, I felt awkward and literally couldn't run any slower. Those three little beats per minute kept my body from feeling so awkward, and I was also able to get into a good breathing rhythm. It felt much more natural. So, I'm going to stick with the 146 bpm for now and see if it works out.

(The goal for MAF training is to keep your heart rate low as you train aerobically, and then as you get more fit, you'll be able to work harder--and run faster--at the same heart rate.)

Anyways, here is the recap of my runs:


Monday was my last "official" practice with the cross country kids. We had a race on Wednesday and on Saturday, so Monday was it for the season (until yesterday's time trial, which I'll write about in another post). So, I decided to run with them during practice (they think it's fun when I run with them, probably because they can lap me about 18 times, haha).

The first two miles I ran by myself (the opposite direction of the kids, so I would pass by them frequently to see how they're doing or tell them to get moving!). Then for the third mile, Harper asked if she could run with me, and I said sure. Then the other kids started asking, and soon there was a whole group of us running. I felt like a mama duck with her ducklings--it was so fun! I had to keep herding them back onto the grass (I ran on the road, because I am NOT used to off-road training).

So, the first two miles show a consistent pace and heart rate. Then when the kids started running with me, it went all haywire. I was talking and they were talking (which meant a higher heart rate, so I had to keep slowing down). That's why the third mile is a full minute slower! But it was worth it.

Where it says "spm" on the left, it just means "steps per minute". Mine are nowhere near ideal right now, but that's because I've been running so slowly. It should be closer to 180. But I don't pay any attention to that, anyway.

We finished the practice with a 200-meter jog on the grass in bare feet. The grass felt SO GOOD on my feet! I'd like to end all my runs like that (well, at least in the fall). 


I ran outside for this one, too. And I decided to take Joey with me. Whenever he sees me getting my shoes on, he looks at me expectantly, waiting for me to say, "I'm sorry, not this time" or "Wanna come with me?". He knows what each phrase means. I felt sorry for him, so I took him with me.

He was an angel! I was so surprised that he didn't totally mess up my rhythm constantly. I think my heart rate monitor beeped only twice (indicating that it was over 146 bpm) during the run. If Joey would act like that every time, I'd take him with me on all my runs!

This is what my attempted selfies with Joey turn out like:

Thankfully, he's not a licker (I don't like dog kisses), but he likes to smell my face so close up that I can feel his tiny chin whiskers tickle my skin. So my face is always scrunched up in our photos, haha.


Since Joey was so good on Wednesday, I decided to take him with me again on Friday. He definitely wasn't an angel this time, but he's gotten so much better over the last few years (when we first got him, it was SO hard to run--or even walk--with him).

There were a lot of dogs and cars and other things to distract him on Friday, so my rhythm was off. My heart rate monitor beeped at me several times, but I was able to slow down quickly enough that it didn't affect my overall rate much.

Joey is very good when I say, "Leave it!" when he sees a dog or a rabbit or even a wrapper on the ground. But when there are so many distractions, I'm constantly saying, "Leave it!" which makes my heart rate go up anyways.

I'm pretty convinced that my first mile with Joey is my fastest because that's when he pulls on the leash the hardest. I have a hands-free leash that I LOVE (Amazon affiliate link) but no matter what, when he's running faster than me, he's going to be pulling me along. Having him pull me is the equivalent of having a tailwind--giving me an advantage.

The second mile is when he gets the most distracted (probably because we go through a neighborhood and there are dogs and people around). And then the third mile is slightly faster because it's a lollipop route, and the third mile is just the reverse of the first.

It's still too early to see if I'm making any progress, but I've done three miles, three days per week, for three weeks in a row now :)

The MAF formula is meant to go by current heart rate (not average heart rate) so my average will almost always be lower than 146. Basically, as soon as it hits 147 bpm, my Garmin beeps and I know to slow down a bit. I just try to get as close to 146 without going over as I can. I also don't look at my watch while I run; I just listen for the heart rate beeps.

I may write another post today while cross country is still fresh in my memory. But I at least wanted to get this posted before the end of another week of training!

October 20, 2019

I'm Moving to Australia

Not really, of course. But do you remember that children's book, Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day?

Not sure what this says about my personality, but that was my favorite book in my childhood. When Noah was in kindergarten, the teacher asked parents to come in and read a book for story time. Well, I chose that book!

Anyway, Alexander's terrible horrible no good very bad day makes him think sarcastically, "I'm moving to Australia". And that's how my weekend went.

I do want to write about Wednesday, too, but I'll save that for tomorrow's post. As well as my running recap for the week--I did my three runs!

On Wednesday night, Jerry informed me that he was leaving Thursday for a trip up north with his dad from Thursday through Sunday. Now, I'd known about the trip; but I thought he was leaving Friday afternoon and coming home Sunday afternoon. Instead, I learned it was actually Thursday morning through Sunday night.

This normally wouldn't be a big issue, but it couldn't have been a worse weekend--it was so busy and I was alone as a parent. And I stupidly decided to start working on making over the laundry room earlier this week, so I had that going on as well as all the usual stuff.

Thursday was pretty uneventful. Since it wasn't my day to carpool with Noah's friend, I was able to spend the whole day working on the laundry room. I did the usual--scraped the texture off the ceiling, took off the crown moulding, taped and mudded the ceiling seams, fixed a few random holes in the walls from when we had to replace the water heater and furnace.

Even when I was done, the walls looked far from perfect, but the amount of work it would take to get them perfectly smooth just wasn't worth it to me. Nobody sees that room except for my family.

As I was doing that, I decided to take out our home alarm system. It's super outdated (from 2008) and it's an eyesore in several parts of the house. And we've never, ever needed it. I'm going to search for other options--they've come a long way since then!

The problem with the alarm system is that in the laundry room, there was a main unit with wires leading to every single door and window in the house.

And what do you know, it was all routed in the crawl space under the house. I HATE the crawl space, because I can just imagine the spiders and other bugs down there.

After turning off the power to the entire house (I wasn't too sure what, if anything, needed to be shut off, so I just did the safe thing) I went into the crawl space and followed every single wire to every single spot where there was a window or door, and I pulled the wires out. In the end, the wire ball I collected looked liked Clark Griswold's Christmas lights.

Actually, there were probably twice that many--I had to go back down and collect the rest from the ground in the crawl space. My legs are KILLING me from walking in a squat position for about 30 minutes.

Anyway, I got all of that removed, and was left with spots in the house that needed to be painted over (the paint underneath was from 2008). Thankfully, I saved all my leftover paint from our recent remodel, and touched up the spots that needed it. Because look how inconspicuous it was:

On Friday, it was my turn to drive the kids to school, so after the usual hectic morning getting out the door, I dropped off Eli and picked up Noah's friend, then took them to school. On the way home, I stopped at Sherwin Williams to get a gallon of paint for the laundry room--I wanted the same color that I painted my kitchen cupboards (Aviary Blue). And it was their 40% off sale this weekend, so that was about the luckiest thing to happen to me all weekend.

When I got home, I had to sand everything and sweep, vacuum and wipe down the walls, prepping them to paint. Let me tell you, it is SO hard to work around the washer and dryer while doing all this prepping. I had taken the shelves down off the wall so that I could build wood ones instead of the wire ones we had there before.

I primed the walls, just to be safe, and then I didn't have time to paint because I had to take Noah to an eye doctor appointment. Noah lost his glasses earlier this week and after looking EVERYWHERE, we ended up needing to get a new pair.

When we got home, I had to figure out dinner for the kids (I am usually too busy to worry about eating, but the kids want to eat constantly). I made fettuccine alfredo (because it's fast and easy) and then I got to work on the laundry room. I got the whole thing painted, and I spent the entire evening (until 11:00) cutting and installing the floor trim. The flooring needs to be replaced badly, but I wanted to put a trim there at least temporarily--so I just used leftover pieces that I already had.

Saturday morning is when things got really rough. I had a cross country meet scheduled, and the race started at 10:00. It's always been my favorite race--the course is nice, the weather is usually good, and it's always the last race of the season, so there is a different vibe to it. The school wasn't going to pay for it this year, so I told the parents we could pay for it ourselves or just skip it. They all chipped in the $7.27 per kid to do the race, because I raved about how great it was.

Before I get into that, this season has had some issues that we've never encountered before, and it's been super frustrating. First, one of our races was canceled just minutes from the start. It was too hot, and even though we were lined up at the starting line, they canceled the race. Secondly, one of the races messed up the timing and three of my boys didn't have finish times. And third, another race messed up the timing somehow and the entire team didn't get a finish time!

I was really looking forward to Saturday's race to end the season on a good note. At this race, almost all of the kids run their fastest mile. I even stopped and bought cider doughnuts from Monica's and some good apple cider to bring for the kids to have before the race.

I planned to get there early to get a parking spot up front so that we could have a "home base" since we don't have a tent. Noah came with me, and brought his camera, so he could take pictures of the kids, which was cool. Noah never wants to go anywhere with me! ;) I'm sure it was because of the doughnuts, haha.

Anyway, I got stuck by not one, but TWO very slow-moving trains. Then there was a wait at Monica's for my pre-order. Then a ton of traffic on the way to the race. I'd left the house with plenty of time, but I didn't get to the race until 9:20 (obviously not in time to get a close parking space). I hurried and paid for the race and got my coach's packet of bibs and pins and maps and all that stuff. As the kids showed up, Noah (thank God he was there) gave them each cider and and a doughnut while I got them pinned.

I explained the course to the kids, which is a very simple 1.1 mile course. Then we lined up at the start (the race was separated into two groups--K-4th grade ran at 10:00 and 5-6 grades started at 10:20. Aaron wasn't there, so Andre was the only 5th grader on the team who was running the second race. After getting the kids lined up, Andre and I went to cheer them on (and Noah came along to take pictures).

Everything was going well until about the last quarter of the race, when I noticed there was a bottle neck at the finish line. The kids weren't able to cross the finish line because there was a line for them to get their bibs scanned! I've never seen that happen at a race before, and I was furious. It's a very simple issue--you just have the scanner far back from the finish line so that there is no pile up of kids. But Logan, who is usually closer to the back of the pack, had to wait in line for a few minutes before getting to cross the finish line.

As I was discussing this with some of the parents just to the side of the starting line, suddenly we saw a bunch of kids start running. We were all confused, and we realized it was the 5/6 grade race! Andre was standing with me, and I told him just go! So he took off, ducking under the flags of the finisher's chute, and starting out dead last in the pack of kids.

I felt horrible. How could I have missed the start of the race?! I was focused on the bottle neck. But then I looked at my watch and saw that it was only 10:18--the race was supposed to start at 10:20. So, they'd started Andre's race two minutes early with NO announcement and before the first race was even completely through.

The only cool part about starting dead last is that once the race is over, you can see how many people you passed during the race. Andre finished in 35th place, passing over 140 kids in his 1.5 mile course! Here he is in his final kick to the finish (thankfully, there was no bottle neck in his race).

His accomplishment was completely amazing. But I still felt horrible about everything having to do with this mess of a race.

The parents had all paid an extra $7+ (plus $2 for parking, which NO OTHER SCHOOL charges) for this ridiculous race. What a great way to end the season. I will NOT be doing that race again.

And I'm moving to Australia.

After the race, I told Noah I'd pick up his girlfriend, Ashley, on the way home. While I was driving, Eli called, so I had Noah answer it (I hate talking and driving). Noah said Eli said something he couldn't really understand and then hung up. He called back. No answer. Again. No answer. I was super worried, so I just kept calling his cell phone over and over again while Noah used his own cell to call the house phone over and over. Still no answer.

I was panicking at this point, so I called my dad and he said he would drive right over to check on Eli. (My parents live just 2/3 of a mile away.) A couple of minutes later, Eli answered his phone and told me he left it in the house while he was feeding the squirrels in the backyard. Ugh! Kid nearly gave me a heart attack.

Eli had a baseball game about 30 minutes away at 2:00 (we had to get there by 1:00 for practice). I told him to be ready by 12:30. I had about an hour before we had to leave, so I figured I would paint the trim in the laundry room.

Then Eli told me that the toilet was clogged.

I tried the plunger, which didn't do anything. When I tried to flush, the entire toilet flooded with water and poured all over the floor. I yelled to the kids to get our "rag towels" and Eli grabbed a bucket to start getting the water out of the toilet. I shoved towels all around the toilet, and after cleaning up that mess, I continued to plunge. I even push the wire handle of a fly swatter in there, jiggling it around, hoping it would help (my hand up to my forearm in toilet water).

Then I went under the house, wondering if it was something that could be fixed under there (my second time going under there in two days). Discovered that it doesn't work that way. I continued to plunge and plunge, POURING sweat by this time, and finally cleared the clog. With just minutes left until we had to leave for Eli's game.

I changed clothes and washed my arms really well and then we all headed out (Noah and Ashley were coming too). The game ended up being freezing cold. I had on two shirts and wrapped myself in a blanket and wore gloves, but I was chilled to the bone. I kept score in my scorebook, just for fun (I like to keep score when I watch the games).

Noah and Ashley started getting impatient because they had a Halloween party at 5:00. Eli's coach said the game should be done by 4:00, so I assumed we'd have time. Well, at only five innings into the game, it was already 4:30! TWO AND A HALF HOURS for five innings?!

Finally, the other team said they'd like to be done (the score was 8-3 and we were winning), so they took one last at-bat and then we left. I drove home so Noah could shower quickly and then I drove him and Ashley all the way to the south side of Monroe (a good 25 minutes) to their party. They were bummed to be late (5:40).  I was supposed to pick them up at 9:00, but thankfully, Ashley asked her mom to pick them up instead and she said yes.

On the way home, I felt terrible that I hadn't cooked dinner for Eli and I had no idea what to make (or even pick up on the way home) for him. I stopped at Kroger and walked around aimlessly, and finally decided to get one of those pre-cooked chickens and a few other things. I went to the self-scan lane and when I scanned the chicken, the plastic container it was in broke open and the chicken went all over the floor.

I felt like I was going to have a complete breakdown, so I just put my things back (not the chicken, obviously) and left the store. I cried all the way home and parked the car in the driveway. I continued to cry for about five minutes before I finally went inside. In desperation, I called my mom to ask her if she had made dinner that day, and if she had anything Eli could eat. (I refused to make a frozen pizza for him--the kids have had it way too often lately. Almost every day that I have cross country practice, that is their dinner. Which just made me cry harder.)

My mom was super nice about it and told me to drop Eli off and she'd give him dinner (she had spaghetti all prepared for him). She invited me to stay, too, but I really had to work on the stupid shelves for the laundry room. I was wishing I'd never even started the project. (Later, she brought me spaghetti and even a piece of cheesecake.)

I spent the evening painting the floor trim in the laundry room and doing the measuring and leveling lines on the wall of where I was going to put the shelves. I wanted to start on them last night, but I was too exhausted.

Today, my plan was to wake up early (5:30) to go to Detroit and spectate the Detroit Marathon (which I go to almost every year, either as a spectator or runner). But last night when I went to bed, I was just too exhausted from a very (literally) shitty day, and I couldn't imagine waking up and driving to Detroit. I didn't even have signs made for the runners or anything.

So, I just went to bed without setting my alarm, and woke up (at 8:00!) when a couple of people texted me to ask if I was there. I felt bad about not going, but I just feel so stressed out. Meanwhile, Jerry was texting me about all the fun he was having up north. (I'm glad he had fun, but when I was up to my elbow in toilet water, I wanted to punch him.)

Today, I built the shelves. From the time I woke up until I realized it was close to dinner time and I had no groceries. Right when I finished the shelves, I started to put stuff away, figuring I could paint the shelves another day. It was then that I realized I made the shelves about an inch too short. I can't fit my laundry detergent and softener on the shelf! I made sure to measure the paint cans that I've accumulated so that I could put those up there, but I guess I just assumed that the detergent was smaller than the paint cans--it never occurred to me that they might not fit.

I felt SO defeated at that moment. Again, I started crying. I gave up for now and I will figure out what to do later. I think I can lower the bottom shelf an inch or two--it'll just be a huge pain. So, again, I'll work on that later.

I felt bad about not cooking (again) so I wrote a quick list for grocery shopping for the week (at least what the kids need for lunches). Then I went grocery shopping (which I hate) and I still feel totally unprepared for the week.

My mom is being awesome and offered to drive the kids to school in the morning. Noah has to be to school at 7:00 for a meeting, so I would have to leave here at 6:15. Tomorrow is the first day in a LONG time that I don't have anything else going on, so all I have to do is prepare for cross country Tuesday evening.

Even though the season is over, I am going to have a one-mile time trial for the kids so we can compare it to their first practice of the season; and then I'm going to order pizza for the kids. I am going to make each of them a certificate/award for something special they accomplished this season and I'll hand out one final award to everyone.

Some of the parents asked about my continuing to coach through the winter, and I really like that idea. So, I'm going to come up with a program to offer to the kids who would still like to run in the off season. I think it would be fun to continue to coach!

Anyway, let's hope that tomorrow goes better than this weekend (especially yesterday) did. From the mess of the cross country race to the clogged toilet to the chicken falling on the floor at Kroger, I just felt like I couldn't handle any more!

October 17, 2019

Race Expectations: How to Find One, Register, What to Expect on Race Day, Training, and more

Race Expectations: How to find one, register, what to expect on race day, train, and more

For those of you that have walked or run races before, then you can probably skip over this post. Sometimes when I talk about running with people (parents of my cross country kids, for example) I forget that some of them don't know how road races work. A lot of people don't even know how many miles a 5K is!

So, for people who are curious for one reason or another, I thought I'd dedicate an entire post to what to expect at your first road race (as well as some other common questions and tips about running).

Before you read this post, I'd head over to a post called Running Lingo--if you really don't know anything about running, it helps to know the "language".

First, let's start with race distances when converting from metric to imperial. (K is for kilometer, which is equal to 1,000 meters or 0.6 miles.) For reference, the inner lane of an outdoor track around a football field is 400 meters (about 1/4 mile). A mile is equal to 1.6 kilometers (or 1,609 meters; about four times around the track). Is that totally clear? ;) Good.

Here are some of the most common race distances:

1 mile = 1.6K
5K = 3.1 miles
8K = 5 miles
10K = 6.2 miles
10 miles = 16.1K
Half-Marathon = 21.1K or 13.1 miles
Marathon = 42.2K or 26.2 miles)

(Anything that is longer than a marathon is referred to as an "ultra" or "ultramarathon")
50K = 31.1 miles
50 miles = 80.5K
100K = 62.1 miles
100 miles = 160.9K

Most people start out with a 5K race (3.1 miles). It's a challenge for total beginners, but definitely do-able and it's such a common distance that you can find local ones nearly every weekend. In this post, when I use the word "race", I'm implying a road race, NOT a trail race. Trail races are a completely different category altogether. A road race is done on pavement. (Here are tips for training for your first 5K)

Now that we've covered race distances, let's go through the entire process of signing up for a race all the way up until you get in your car to head home from your first race:

1) Choosing a race.

There are SO MANY races happening all the time and you may not even realize it. I never knew that there were local races around my town until I started running them. A lot of times, we learn of these races by word of mouth from other runners, or we've done them in the past. But there are some resources you can use to find local races.

One of them is called Race Find. It's very simple and fast to find races near your city, and you can filter out races by distance, dates, and cities. And the best part is that they have links to the race's website.

From the race's website, you can find the date, time, and location of the race; the distances offered; whether or not there are medals, trophies, or prizes; if the race has a theme; and all the other details you'll need. Another consideration is how hilly the race is--hills are tough! So you can view the course as well to decide if it's right for you.

*Note: You may hear of a race that is referred to as "chip-timed". This means that your bib (the number you wear on your shirt on race day) has a special chip on it that will keep track of your time as you hit certain spots in the race.

When you cross the starting line, for example, the chip will note that your race has started. If you are running a long race, like a marathon, you may cross over mats throughout the race at the 5K spot, 10K spot, etc.

The chip on your bib will keep track of when you reach these spots. This is done for a couple of reasons:
  1. So people don't cheat (there is a woman who is notoriously known for taking a train during a marathon, and then jumping back into the race about a mile from the finish line. She actually won the race, and it was later discovered how she cheated). 
  2. So, your race starts when YOU cross the starting line. In a race of 35,000 people, for example (like the Indianapolis 500 Festival Mini Marathon), it takes a good 20 minutes from the start of the race just to get to the starting line when you're in the back of the pack. With chip timing, your own timer doesn't start until you cross that starting line mat.
  3. This also ends your race the second you cross the finish line. Because of the chip timing, you will know exactly how long it took YOU to walk or run the course.
Most races these days are chip-timed, but not all of them are. I think it's preferable to have a chip-timed race, so I personally won't pay for a race without chips. But it's up to you to decide. When I ran the Chicago Marathon, I had to cross several mats--and they recorded my time at each, based on my chip.

2) Register for the race.

Once you find a race that suits you, it's time to register. I highly recommend registering BEFORE you start training--knowing that you're signed up and you've paid money for it may help you to stick with the training schedule.

On the race's website, there is usually a tab that says "Registration" or "Register Online" or something to that effect. Click on that link and just follow the prompts for the race you choose to do.

Sometimes, usually in a large race, the registration will ask what your expected pace or finish time will be. While you may be ambitious, it's always best to err on the side of slower than you expect. The race director asks this to know where to "seed" you--in other words, the faster you are, the closer you will be to the starting line when the race begins. So, be very honest about it when you are filling this out.

You will probably have to pay online for the race, and there is usually a "service fee" like anything else (I find these so annoying--why not just add it to the cost of the race?). Races are usually priced by popularity and by distance--the small, local 5K races with a couple hundred people might cost $15-20, while the cost of running the NYC Marathon is a whopping $255.

You can expect to pay less for a 5K than for a marathon. Also, the pricing can depend on what you receive--a shirt is commonly given out just for doing the race, and most races now give out finishers' medals (a medal to every participant who finishes the race). If you receive shirts and medals, expect to pay more than for a race without any bling.

A lot of races have early bird discounts, so that if you sign up by a certain date, you pay less than if you wait. It gets more expensive as the race gets closer (another reason for signing up right away!).

3) Choose a training plan.

Of course, I highly recommend one of mine (haha!) but you can find tons of different plans on the internet as well as in books.

There are a few considerations when choosing a plan:

How many days per week can you devote to training? (I suggest a minimum of three days a week for ANY distance, but in general, the longer the race distance, the more training you should expect).

Are you planning to aim for a specific finish time goal? Or are you planning to train just to cross the finish line in one piece? (If you're aiming for a time goal, then you'll want to choose a plan that includes speed work--which I'll explain below. If you just want to finish the race regardless of how long it will take you, then I would choose a plan that doesn't involve speed work.)

Note: Most runs on training plans are called "easy runs". These are VERY important to training (read this post about why). They should be run at a pace that is, well, easy. You should be able to hold a conversation with a running partner, and shouldn't be very out of breath or pouring sweat.

"Speed work" is just what it sounds like--running that helps you to work on building your speed. There are numerous types of speed workouts, but the most common is probably intervals/track repeats. Intervals are where you do a warm-up jog, and then run at a very hard pace for a particular distance or time, and then slow to a jog or walk to cool down for a specific distance or time. And then you repeat the hard pace/slow pace intervals for as many times as your training plan calls for. It is commonly written like this:

10 min warm-up
8 x (400 m fast with 200 m recovery)
10 min cool down

This would mean that you jog at an easy pace for 10 minutes to warm up before starting the speed work. Then, you run very fast for 400 meters (one time around the inner lane of a track); then you jog or walk for 200 meters (half the track). You repeat this seven more times, so you do a total of eight intervals. Then you jog easily to cool down for 10 minutes. This should be a very tough workout--speed work isn't supposed to feel easy!

An early speed workout at the high school track...

Another common speed workout is called a "tempo run". This is a run that is done at a faster pace than your easy runs, but not as hard as your intervals or at a pace that makes you feel like you're going to die.

Technically, a tempo run should be done at a pace that you could hold for a 10K--but since you're a beginner, you don't know what that pace is yet. On an effort scale of 1-10, a tempo run should be at a 7 or 8. It should feel uncomfortable and like you want to slow down or quit, but you know that you can keep going to finish the workout. A training plan may include tempo runs (usually no more than once a week).

There are lots of other speed workouts that I won't get into on this post, but intervals and tempo runs are the most common. When choosing a training plan that incorporates speed work, I would certainly choose one that has some sort of interval training as well as a tempo run here and there.

Something else to consider when choosing a plan is how much time you'll need to prepare. If your race is in six weeks, for example, you'll obviously not want to choose a plan that is 12 weeks long.

4) Make time to train

Once you choose your training plan, make the time in your schedule to do the workouts as written. If plans are written correctly, then each and every workout is important. If you don't do the work, you will be unprepared for the race on race day, and believe me, it's NOT fun.

If you have a hard time getting and/or staying motivated, think about what motivates you and make it happen. Maybe if you sign up for the race with a friend, you could meet your friend on run days to make it more fun. Think of ways to reward yourself for each week or month of your schedule that you complete. Or plan on having a special treat once a week after a particularly hard run (I used to love getting carrot cake on my long run days).

5) Get proper shoes

Go to a running store and get fitted for a proper pair of shoes. A good running store will look at your gait (the way your body moves when running) to see what shoes may be best for you. The wrong shoes can definitely be a cause for injury while training.

So can ice ;)

6) Clothing

You don't have to spend a fortune, but it's worth the investment to buy some running clothes that are comfortable, fit well, and moisture-wicking. Wearing cotton while running is very uncomfortable--it gets heavy and sticky, whereas moisture-wicking clothing does just the opposite. I wrote a post including all of my favorite running gear, including clothing.

My very favorite running tights! Wish they looked like that on me today. They don't ;)

7) Be prepared for race day.

Know ahead of time exactly what you plan to wear, and make sure it is something you've done some training runs in. Race days are not the time to try out new shoes or clothing. Also, if you're running a distance longer than 5K or 10K, you'll want to try out different forms of running "fuel" (food, drinks) to consume while running.

If you drinking nothing but water while training, for example, you're not going to want to try drinking Gatorade during the race. Any fuel choices you make should be practiced with ahead of time. Here, I wrote a post all about fueling for runs.

It's always good to check the website for information about aid stations. Aid stations are tables that are set up at certain points during the race where volunteers hand out cups of water or Gatorade, and sometimes (for longer races) packets of Gu or other running fuel. The race's website will usually tell you if and where there are aid stations during the race. This can help you plan on whether you need to carry food or drink with you.

This was a very small race, so not much of an "aid station"... but Eli helped pass out water to the runners. So cute!

8) Race week

So, you're registered for the race, you've been training for weeks or months, trying out the clothes and shoes you're going to wear on race day, and you've been finding the right fuel you'll need. Next, it's time for the days leading up to the race...

Usually a day or two before the race, the race will have a "packet pick-up" and/or an "expo". A packet pick-up is simply where you go pick up your race "packet"--your bib, your shirt (if included), maybe some local running store coupons or ads for other races, a course map, safety pins for your bib, etc. The packet varies by race. Some races will simply hand you a bib and a shirt!

Some races will have packet pick-up a day or two before the race, and some will offer it the morning of the race. Just make sure you check out the times on their website that you can get your packet before the race.

Other races, usually large half-marathons or full marathons, may have an "expo". At the expo are lots of booths set up from different companies that runners may be interested in--everything from running clothing to sweat headbands, from phone straps to samples of nutrition bars. Most of the booths give out free samples of things or have sign ups for drawings to win items. It's basically a way for companies to advertise their products to tons of runners in just one weekend. At the expo, you can also pick up your runners packet.

This is Rik and me at the Detroit Marathon expo... they had a huge map for picture taking.

Make sure that you are hydrating well for at least few days before the race. It's nearly impossible to have a good race when you're dehydrated. Drink water throughout the day for the days leading up to the race.

9) Food

Regardless of how long the distance of your race, you'll definitely want to take into consideration what meal you eat the night before. I wouldn't recommend going out for Mexican food and margaritas the night before the race. Some distance runners like to "carb load", which just means eating a meal containing a lot of carbs the night before the race--pasta is a favorite! This isn't necessary for a 5K, but even if it's not necessary, it's fun to have a special meal the night before the race ;)

10) Nighttime prep

Before bed, lay out all of your clothing. Attach your bib to your race shirt. Lay out any fuel you plan to bring with you, and charge your running watch (if you have one). Have everything as prepared as possible so that you can wake up and get dressed without having to search for things or forget things at the last minute. Make sure you have directions to the race location saved on your phone or at least written down.

This is a terrible photo, but I had all my stuff laid out in my hotel room for the Chicago Marathon.

11) Get some sleep

Go to bed early if possible so that you can get a good night's rest. If you've done the training, and you've got your stuff ready to go, then there isn't anything to worry about before the race. Set your alarm so that you have plenty of time to get dressed, eat breakfast, go to the bathroom (pooping is every runner's top priority on race day).

This is *technically* a picture of me finally getting some sleep after a Ragnar Relay (overnight race, and I was up for about 40 hours at that point!). But we'll pretend this is pre-race.

12) Ready to race

When your alarm goes off, get up and ready to race! Drink lots of water to be well-hydrated. Hopefully you won't feel rushed because you'll have prepared the night before.

Make sure you leave the house with enough time to find parking (remember, depending on the size of the race, you may need extra time). I prefer to get to the race rather early than to get there just before starting time. That way, you can pee one final time before it's time to line up.

By the way, if racing is going to become a regular thing for you, make sure you get used to using porta-potties. I despise using them, but that's pretty much your only choice while racing.

13) Starting line

About five or ten minutes before the start of the race, you can head to the starting line and find your spot to start (large races may have corrals, and your bib will usually have your corral assignment on it). If there aren't any corrals, and it's a smaller race, then line up about where you think others will be running the same pace. Unless you're running 5-minute miles, don't line up at the front. If you're walking, make sure you line up at the back.

This was a small race, but I just made sure to get ahead of the people who had strollers and people who looked like they were walking.

Some races will have "pacers"--a pacer is a runner who holds a sign stating his or her pace for the race, and they run that pace the entire time.

For example, a half marathon might have a 2:00 pacer (a goal finish time of two hours). If that's the goal you've been training for, you may want to stand near the pacer and run close to them throughout the race. They are trained to run at that pace, and will usually finish within 30 seconds or so of their stated time.

If you're very unsure where to start, ask a few people around you what their planned pace is; then just line up accordingly.

14) It's Go Time!

This is when you'll probably be the most nervous. Usually, there will be a race announcer who will speak of any info you need; there may be music playing over loud speakers; and someone may sing the Star Spangled Banner. It all depends on the race itself. But once all that is done at the starting line, the announcer will trigger the starting gun, and the race begins.

This is the starting line of the Detroit Marathon.

Depending on where you're lined up (and how big the race is) you may end up shuffling your way toward the starting line. Remember, if it's chip-timed, then your personal clock won't start ticking until you cross the mat at the starting line.

Once you cross the mat, you are probably going to start running way too fast. It will feel like everyone around you is flying past you and you may feel a little bit panicked. Don't let anyone intimidate you--just go at your planned pace, and you'll be passing them a mile into the race ;)

I ALWAYS have a dry mouth (from nerves) for the first half mile or so, and I like to bring a starlight mint or a Jolly Rancher to suck on. You might find that the first mile goes by really quickly because it's a new experience and you're running with a ton of people all around you. It's a lot to take in! On the other hand, the first mile might feel like it takes forever because you probably started out too fast and you're trying to set your pace.

15) Settling into a rhythm

Your nerves will eventually settle down after a mile or so. From this point on it depends on how long your race is. If you're doing a 5K, you're already 1/3 of the way done! If you're doing a 50K, well... you've got a bit longer to go ;)  Just trust your training to get you through it.

16) Lay it all out there

When you see the finish line, or you know you are about 0.2 miles away, go all out and give it everything you have left in you until you cross the finish line. You will think you are going to die (and if you don't feel like you're going to die, then you're not running hard enough at the end) but you can do it! DON'T slow down before the finish line--wait until you've cross the line to slow to a walk. I can't tell you how many times kids in cross country get passed at the very last second of a race.

In this photo, you can't tell, but I felt like I was going to DIE. It was awful! But my best (PR) personal record to date!

17) Don't pass out

Once you cross the finish line, it's important to keep moving so you don't pass out. There is usually a finisher's chute that you will follow--and most likely, there will be water and some sort of food (bananas, bagels, cookies, etc.). A volunteer will probably be handing out medals if those were included, too.

Some of the bigger races, particularly half and full marathons, will have a "post-race party". Usually, this consists of a beer garden, maybe a food truck or two, music, and a tent with race memorabilia for sale.

18) Congratulations!

You completed your first race! Hopefully all of your hard work paid off and you feel good about your finish. ALWAYS wait until safely after you cross the finish line to stop your running watch. Getting finish photos of pressing your watch aren't very fun.

October 12, 2019

Cute and Creative Homecoming Proposals!

This is just going to be short and (quite literally) sweet. I just wanted to share Noah's homecoming proposal to his girlfriend, Ashley. I've been dying to post a photo of it for days, but he hadn't asked her yet, so I didn't want to spoil the surprise.

Since Noah and Ashley both attend the Middle College (where students from all over the county attend) they actually have three homecomings they could attend--Noah's high school (it's technically his high school, but he doesn't go there); Ashley's high school; and the Middle College they both attend.

So, Ashley's high school's was first, and she came up with the cutest idea to invite Noah to her homecoming! It was very elaborate, so I made sure Noah did something just as elaborate for her.

Anyway, Ashley wrote on a poster board, "Out of all the fish in the sea, will you go to homecoming with me?" and gave him a TON of fish-themed items--including a betta fish! She put it in a tank and explained how to care for it, because I'm clueless (and she asked my permission first, which was nice).

Estelle hasn't moved from this spot for two weeks now. She's obsessed with the fish!

When Ashley gave it to him, she and her mom came over and stood on the back deck (with all the stuff) while I made an excuse for Noah to come outside. He was shocked and excited, and of course he said yes. (And yes, out of everything in the picture, the betta fish was just out of sight on the far left, haha)

For the dance, I found this tie for Noah and thought it'd be perfect in respect to Ashley's theme:

Now, for Noah's proposal...

I told Noah that girls like to have things they can post about on social media to show off to their friends, so it should be something fun and creative. I remembered my mom putting together clue hunts for church when I was a kid, and she did something with candy bars (arranging them in order to make sentences or something like that).

I thought that would be a great idea, so I asked Noah about it, and he loved it. It was easy, too!

Step 1: Look up a list of candy bars and start choosing ones that you think would make sense in a proposal. Also make sure that are fairly easy to find.

Step 2: Write up a rough draft of what you want it to say, finding ways to add the candy bars into the proposal.

Step 3: Type the paragraph out in a word document at the font size you think it'll need to be (and in the font you want).

Step 4: Cut out the words and place them on the board, adding in the candy, so you can see how it all fits on there. Some of the candy is really big, so it takes some maneuvering to place it where it fits nicely.

Step 5: Once it looks how you like, then print it all again--this time on sticker paper. (Sticker paper is literally just white paper with an adhesive backing that you can print stickers on).

Step 6: Cut out the words from the sticker paper and place them where the rough draft ones were, trying to keep it as neat as possible.

Step 7: Glue the candy onto the cardboard. This was the hardest part! We tried tacky glue, super glue, and rubber cement, but some of the candy was still falling off. I thought a hot glue gun would melt the chocolate, so I wasn't sure we should try it, but it was our only option (other than taping the candy on, which wouldn't have looked good). The hot glue worked perfectly, and I don't think it stayed hot long enough to melt any chocolate.

(This is the final product--everything glued in place):

Here is a translation, if you need it:
"I hoped it would be a Chunky Payday when I first saw you looking like $1,000,000. There are Good & Plenty of men out there like Clif, Heath, and Mr. Good Bar. Even Airheads and Nerds like Mike and Ike. But I knew I would hit the Goldmine if you would be my Honey Bun. Of all the Smarties and Sweetarts in the Milky Way, I only want *YOU* to be my Hot Tamales and go to homecoming with me. I don't want to Twix your arm, so take a Fast Break if you'd like--heck, Take 5 if you need to. But I promise Extra Mounds of Almond Joy and lots of Chuckles if you'll throw me a Lifesaver and say you'll go... What are my chances from Zero to 100 Grand?"

Step 8: Come up with a cute way to show the proposal poster. I texted Ashley's mom to let her know what we were doing, and Ashley saw Noah standing in the front yard holding it when she came over.

Super cute, right?! (And, of course, she said yes.)

And here are a couple of pictures from the first homecoming (Ashley's). The next one is next weekend!

October 11, 2019

How I Escaped an Ice Cream Pig Out; and My Running Review: 3-3-3 Week 2

This morning, I was dying for a pint of Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby. It was my turn to carpool for school, and I thought I'd stop at the store on the way home to buy some and have a relaxing day because I've been so busy all the time!

I knew I didn't want to sabotage my efforts lately, and I tried to come up with reasons NOT to buy the ice cream. Right now, the only thing that I enjoy more than eating ice cream (this is sad, I know) is going to Lowe's and planning a new project, hahahaha. Thankfully, Lowe's is open so early. I chose to go there instead of buying the ice cream, and as I drove, I planned on what project I could work on.

Our laundry room is the last room in the house that I haven't redecorated, and it's going to be a total pain in the ass to work on. First, there is a hole in the ceiling that has been there since we switched to a tankless water heater. The drywall in that section is a mess. I always picture spiders getting into the house from that hole, too; not to mention, it's just plain ugly.

I'd recently bought a small piece of drywall to patch the hole. It was roughly a 10-inch diameter circle. I had no idea how to patch holes that big. I finally googled it and found super easy instructions (on the Lowe's website of all places). I cut out a square from the drywall piece and then used that piece to trace on the ceiling I cut out the hole in the ceiling (butchered is more like it--I didn't have a drywall knife, so I had to improvise).

Then I screwed in the furring strips and attached the drywall square into place. I was so proud when I was done!

I don't want to show photos until I'm done, and then I'll do a big reveal. This room looked the worst of all the rooms in the house. Tomorrow, I'll have to tape and mud all the drywall seams.

I took a photo of all the drywall dust from scraping off the textured ceiling. It's SO heavy! I don't understand why they put that on there. BUT, that was the last of it. It completely filled two plastic grocery bags. I have NO MORE CEILING TEXTURE! :)

(That's a 10" drywall knife, for size reference).

And when I was done scraping the ceiling, the area just outside of my laundry room looked like this:

Since I don't want my house being a huge mess again, I'm going to move this project along as quickly as possible.

I bought the stuff to make custom shelving when I was at Lowe's, and once I get the boring stuff done (taping and mudding), I can get to the fun stuff!

Anyway, instead of caving to the Ben & Jerry's I followed my own advice for keeping from binge eating and I found something else instead :)

The rest of this post will be rather boring. I like to provide that disclaimer before posts like these!

I explained what 3-3-3 running is last week (it's not a "real" running method; just something my friend Thomas made up to get me back into running). Literally, this is all it is: running 3 miles, 3 times per week, for 3 months. 3-3-3.

It's more about forming a habit than anything else. Once I got out of the habit of running, I can't even begin to describe just how hard it is to get back into it! I ran for seven full years, and then took a long time off--which I don't regret. I wanted to do what made me happiest, and running was not making me happy at the time.

Eventually, though, I started to miss it. I even wrote a whole post called "5 Things I Miss About Running (and they're not what you may think)". So, I want to get back into it, but all I can say is that it's HARD. Running at an easy pace used to feel so... well, easy!--and that was at a 10:00-ish minute mile. Now, to run at an easy pace, it's been in the 14:00's!

As I also mentioned before, I'm using the MAF (maximum aerobic function) heart rate training during this 3-3-3 running. The first two runs this week were frustrating for me. I literally couldn't run any slower, and I really didn't want to walk (I was on the treadmill). So, I lowered the incline by 1% to make it easier and bring my heart rate back down.

I feel like my running gait suffers a bit when I run so slowly, too. Hopefully, the MAF training will do its thing and I'll be running faster at the same heart rate soon enough.

I've been listening to several interviews with Dr. Maffetone about the MAF training, and a common question is whether you are supposed to subtract a heartbeat each time you have a birthday (since the formula is 180 minus your age).

I always assumed you did, and that's why my current MAF rate is 143 (because I'm 37). However, he says no--when you find a heart rate that works for you, you can stick with it until it's just not working anymore. When I was training for my 10K, I had phenomenal results with the heart rate of 146 bpm.

Starting next week, I'm going to increase the heart rate to 146 bpm (it's only a 3 beat difference, but I'm curious how it'll feel). This week, however, I stuck with 143 bpm for comparison's sake.

Anyway, here is the lowdown on this week's runs:

Monday - I chose the treadmill. Last week, I did treadmill on Monday and Wednesday, and then outdoors on Friday; so, I decided to do the same thing again this week (again for comparison).

I started the treadmill at 4.7 mph, hoping that I could maintain that speed. But I quickly realized I had to lower it because my heart rate just went up too high. (By the way, my Garmin isn't sensitive to speed changes at all. 4.1 mph might as well be 4.5 mph. Especially when I mess with the incline. I'll just look for a pattern over time.)

Wednesday - I was SO tempted to postpone this run until Thursday. I had told myself that I WILL run on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday each week so that I don't procrastinate.

One of the boys on my cross country team refuses to run without constant walk breaks and water stops. He's perfectly capable of running at least two miles on his own, but he refuses to do it. So, I was thinking I would skip Wednesday and then wear running clothes to practice on Thursday and run with him--to make him do it!

It sounded like a legit excuse, but I knew that if I made an exception to my MWF rule, it would be the start of constant procrastination (or quitting altogether). So, I put on my running clothes, turned on an episode of 24, and hopped on the treadmill. The first mile went by rather quickly, but still--I had to lower the pace to 4.1-4.3 mph several times, and decrease the incline to keep my heart rate down.

Still, I got through the three miles while keeping my MAF heart rate where I needed it to be.

Today - I actually chose to run outside. It looked like it was drizzling a bit of rain, which sounded nice (after working with all that drywall dust!). So, I dressed in my running clothes and headed out. For some reason, it felt kind of easy today.

I didn't look at my watch at ALL during the run, so I had no idea what my pace was. There were very few times that it beeped because I was going too fast, so I just ran at a speed that felt comfortable (slowing if the watched beeped at me for high heart rate). And it felt slightly faster than before.

I was surprised when I was done. Finally--a pace in the 13:00's! (Well, since last Wednesday.) Here are my last six runs:

My heart rate has been nearly identical for every run, but my pace hasn't been consistent. (Except for Monday and Wednesday this week--my time was off by ONE SECOND. There is no way I could plan that if I wanted to! Today, my outdoor pace was about 40 seconds per mile faster than last week's outdoor run! I have no idea why. But it will be interesting to see if there is a trend!

October 09, 2019

Born To Run (a super simple book review) and a giveaway!

Born to Run paperback

So, for YEARS I've been saying that I was going to read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. I bought the paperback copy so long ago I don't even remember buying it. I took it on airplanes with me, I tried reading it when I was between other books, but I just couldn't get into it!

As a runner, I felt it was a rite of passage to read that book. It's been on my list forever, and when I was able to borrow it from the library and read it on my Kindle instead of the paperback, it seemed much less daunting.

And it was! Once I got about 50 pages in, I could definitely understand the appeal. I happen to forget books as soon as I read them, so this isn't really going to be a real review. I'll just write the gist of my thoughts on it and include some parts that I highlighted. (I love that on the Kindle, you can highlight things and have them all emailed to you!)

Let me first apologize if I don't have everything EXACTLY perfect on this post. I finished the book about a month ago, so the details are a little fuzzy. I wrote this based on my notes and on what I found most interesting in the book.

In a very small nutshell, the book is about a running tribe called the Tarahumara that is so remote in Mexico, they seem non-existent. Very exclusive, and despite the fact that they are literally some of the fastest long-distance runners in the world, they are very humble and don't travel around, running races. They just run for fun amongst their community.

The author of the book, Christopher McDougall, spent some time trying to track down anybody he could to learn about this mysterious tribe. Once he finds them, he learns all sorts of running tips and techniques from them. He meets an eccentric man named Caballo who lives among the Tarahumara who comes up with a plan to have a real race in the tribe's home turf. He invites some of the best runners in the world, including Scott Jurek--and he accepted!

While I thought the race preparation was very interesting, I was mostly interested in how the Tarahumara run, which is what I'll focus on here (because that's mostly what I have highlighted).

Here is what McDougall was told about running the Tarahumara way:
"Think Easy, Light, Smooth, and Fast. You start with easy, because if that's all you get, that's not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless, like you don't give a shit how high the hill is or how far you've got to go. When you've practiced so long that you forget you're practicing, you work on making it smooooooth. You won't have to worry about the last one--you get those three, and you'll be fast."
The Tarahumara seem to run with no effort at all, and I'm talking dozens and dozens of miles at a time. They have races that seem to go on forever--FOR FUN.
"...the only way to truly conquer something, as every great philosopher and geneticist will tell you, is to love it." 
Since the Tarahumara love running so much, they've got it conquered. Without sponsors or coaches or even running shoes, they are some of the best runners in the world.

When this book was first published, it started the big "barefoot running" trend. I was never on board with it (then again, I'd never read the book). I can totally see why people started running barefoot! The Tarahumara run barefoot or close to it (flat-soled sandals that are strapped on).

Something that I found very interesting was about easy and hard runs. I'm always preaching about the importance of easy runs, and Ken Mierke (developer of Evolution Running, a method of staying injury free) says of this,
"Nearly all runners do their slow runs too fast, and their fast runs too slow. So they're just training their bodies to burn sugar which is the last thing a distance runner wants. You've got enough fat stored to run to California, so the more you train your body to burn fat instead of sugar the longer your limited sugar tank is going to last."
Perhaps that is why when I switched to running VERY easy 80% of the time, I dropped to my lowest weight almost effortlessly and my body fat was as low as it's ever been. I was eating a lot of calories, but I was running very slowly 80% of the time and VERY hard 20% of the time.

Another interesting note about the Tarahumara is about their diet, both for running and health: Eat like a poor person (eat less). Also, the more generic, "Eat better". In this case, eating better is referring to building our diets around fruit and vegetables instead of red meat and processed carbs (nothing new).

The Tarahumara tend to eat pinto beans, squash, chili peppers, wild greens, pinole (a sweetened flour made from ground dried corn mixed with flour made from mesquite beans, sugar, and spices--this seemed to be very popular throughout the book, something that was eaten daily), and LOTS of chia seeds. I admit, I ordered some more chia bars from Amazon after I read this, haha.

I don't want to spoil the race itself in the book (the entire book is leading up toward this unofficial race full of elite runners and the Tarahumara.

Finally, about the barefoot running...

I always thought it seemed so dumb. A passing fad (which it kind of was). However, I did take something from it in this book that I think makes a lot of sense.

Running shoes these days have a LOT of support. However, our bodies weren't made to have all that support under our feet, so our feet have adapted to require it. The benefit to running barefoot is that it strengthens all of the little muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones that make up our feet.

When all of those things are tough, as they are meant to be, we don't need all the support from running shoes. We may want to protect our feet from things like rocks and debris, but the added arch support is only there because we've adapted to it.

I did learn all about this when I went to the Runner's World headquarters and listened to Golden Harper, founder of Altra running shoes (I wrote an interview with him here). And I believed everything he was saying about the shape of our feet and having less support is actually a good thing (in context).

However, when I got the shoes (a cushioned, but flat running show, without arch support--basically barefoot only with padding), I switched to them immediately. I did not, as recommended, *gradually* make the switch as recommended.

I wound up injured, and I wondered if it was the shoes. I believe, after reading Born to Run, that my feet weren't strong enough to just switch to running without any support. The solution to this? Run barefoot every once in a while for a very short distance (a quarter mile or so) until your feet get adjusted to it. Each time you run that way, you're strengthening your feet to use less support from shoes--which will in turn make you a better runner with less injuries.

I decided to try it out a couple of times. The first time, I was running (in shoes) on the treadmill and my knee started hurting after two miles. I have no idea why! Remembering the book, I kicked off my shoes to run just a short distance (0.25 miles) and my knee pain went away!

I had to put my shoes back on to finish the run (running without the shoes was tiring on my feet and the book recommended only doing it for shorts periods of time as you adjust), but it was interesting to see how much my gait had changed when I took off my shoes. I was landing on the balls of my feet, which I don't do in shoes.

And I have to say, the following day, I was SO SORE. Just that short, easy run without shoes definitely used muscles that I wasn't used to. So, I'm hoping that doing that once in a while will strengthen my feet.

I've even had my cross country kids take off their shoes and socks after practice and do about 0.12 miles (across the field and back) with their bare feet. I tell them to run naturally, and not sprint. Just run however it feels comfortable. They said they love the feeling of the grass on their feet, and taking off their shoes feels great after running 3-4 miles in them.

I'm hoping that by doing it now and early, while they are young, they won't need so much support in running shoes when they are older. I hope that their bare feet will be nice and strong to help prevent injury. And besides, running barefoot is actually pretty fun! ;)

So, now that I've finally finished Born to Run, I can say that I actually recommend it. It took me a long time to read far enough into it to really get invested, but once I did, I found so much of it fascinating. It's a funny read, and reading it on the Kindle made it go by so much faster than the paperback! (Read how much I love my Kindle Paperwhite on this post. I can't say enough good things about it!)

Since I love my Kindle so much, I still have this paperback copy of Born to Run that isn't going anywhere. It's not brand new (like I said, I started it 8 million times) but I'd love to give it to someone who would like to read it!

So, if you live in the U.S. and are interested in reading Born to Run, just fill out the Google form below. You don't have to jump through hoops by posting on social media and all that jazz (although it would make me feel good if you followed me on Facebook or something; even though I rarely post there! "Fans" have been dropping like flies, hahaha).

Just fill out your name and email address--it will be for my eyes only--and I will select a winner via random.org on Monday, October 14th at 1:00 pm ET. I will email you if you're selected :) And let's pay nicely, kids--one entry per person. I hope you enjoy the book! I really did like it a lot once I got into it.

(Ugh, apparently I didn't change a setting when I posted this, and the form wasn't working. It should be working okay now!)

October 08, 2019

Having My Dad Teach Me to Change the Oil in My Car (a 40 Goals by 40 Years Old Goal)

40 x 40 Goal: Having My Dady Show Me How to Change the Oil in My Car

For those of you that read my previous post in its entirety, props to you! Hahaha, I have never written a post that long before without breaking it into different segments, but I hope that it will be helpful to anyone that coaches cross country or is interested in coaching cross country. It explains a lot of what I do during the months of July through October!

Today, I had such a great morning with my dad! I got to cross off one of the goals on my list of things I'd like to do before I turn 40 years old (in January 2022): Have my dad teach me how to change the oil in my car.

It sounds like an odd goal, but my dad has been an auto mechanic for his entire life; even now that he's retired, people still prefer to bring their cars to him. I wouldn't trust anyone else with my car!

Because of his expertise, I've saved literally thousands of dollars over the years by having him do the work (for free, because family discount, haha). My dad is getting older (so is everyone, obviously, but working on cars isn't as easy on his body as it used to be. He's not going to be around forever, so I wanted to learn how to do things for myself. (I also asked him today if, when he dies, I can have his garage full of tools! 😂)

I literally knew NOTHING about changing oil going into this. I may have learned something in Auto Shop class in high school, but mostly what I remember of Auto Shop was leaving class to get fast food with my friend Jake. (Our teacher was a first-year, and sadly, we took full advantage of that).

First, I had to buy the oil and filter. My dad explained that it would either be in the car's manual or I could look it up in a book at the store (they have books for a few different brands at the store so you can conveniently look up by car make, model, and year to get what you need.

Unfortunately, my car (a 2015 Jeep Renegade) called for an expensive oil: 0W-20. They didn't sell it in the big containers, so I had to buy several quart size ones (I bought five but it turned out that I needed 5-1/2, so I still have to add half a quart as soon as I can get one). My dad said next time, I can buy the 5W-20 instead, which will work just fine and and be much cheaper.

Expensive 0W-20 oil

Sometimes my dad is very patient and sometimes not so much. I was glad he was very patient with me today, because I learned so much! He taught me how to check the levels of brake fluid, antifreeze, washer fluid, oil, air in my tires, the condition of the brake pads, fan belt, engine filter, and more. The engine filter was filthy! He said I should probably buy a new one, but for now, he used a high pressure air hose to clean it out. That's what I'm unscrewing in this photo:

unscrewing the filter

He told me to wear clothes that I didn't mind getting messy, and once I got started, I discovered why. There is a lot of lying on the ground (he has carpets outside to make it a little more comfortable, but they aren't the cleanest, either).

After checking all the fluid levels and filling what needed to be filled, we got to work on the oil. After checking the oil level, he was shocked at how low it was. He said it wouldn't have lasted a couple more weeks and would have done some serious damage. Yikes!

Anyway, he said the very first thing I should do is open a window in the car so I don't somehow lock myself out. (Smart. He remembers all the times he had to rescue me in high school when I either ran out of gas or locked myself out of my car).

Then, he showed me where to put the jack lift under the car to raise the car up.

lining up the jack lift under the car

When I was a kid, I remember playing with the jack lift--one of us kids would stand on it and the other would jack us up, hahaha. The lift seemed so much bigger back then! I specifically remember one time I was standing on the jack, chewing root beer bubble gum (with a liquid center--ew! and some of the liquid dripped on my thumb. Apparently, a bee was attracted to the syrup I was stung. It's funny, random the things you remember.

Once I got the lift in position, it was time to jack it up. This is basically a good arm workout, pumping up and down until the jack lifts the car off the ground high enough to get a one of those small jacks underneath it.

jacking up the car

Once I had two jacks under the car (one on each side) as well as the jack lift, I prayed that the car wouldn't fall on me while I was underneath it. My dad's been doing this for 40 years and has never had a car fall on him, so I was pretty confident.

Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of the messiest part--removing the old oil. I had to unscrew the old filter and the oil came gushing out (it's not just a drip when you remove the old filter--it gushes!) into an oil pan, but while I was unscrewing the cap, the oil was pouring down my hand. My dad has a dozen (well used) towels lying around, thankfully.

Once the oil had all drained into the pan, I had to screw the new filter in. Thankfully, I'd bought the correct size! If it hadn't fit, I'd have to go buy another (with someone else's car). Screwing in the new filter was messy, too, because there was still a bit of oil dripping down into the pan (and all over my arm). After that, the mess wasn't too bad.

getting read to empty the old oil

Once the new one was screwed into place, it was time to lower the car. Basically, I did everything backwards. I lifted the car just a touch so that I could remove the jacks, and then I slowly (well, he told me to go slowly, but it was tough to keep it from dropping down quickly!) lowered the jack lift.

With the car back on the ground, he said it was a good time to check the the air in the tires (which I did, and they were all at 30 psi--and they needed to be at 35 psi, so I added some air. Then he said it was a good time to check all the lights (headlights, brake lights, etc.). I checked them all and they all worked except for one fog light, which I'll have to replace (although I rarely use the fog lights).

If you have a Jeep Renegade, here's a short tip. Even after changing the oil, the oil change light will still come on when you start the car. To reset this, you just turn the key halfway (to where it's just the battery on) and then pump the gas three times within 10 seconds. Turn the car off. Then start the engine, and voila! No more change oil light.

Other than the air filter, the only other thing that needs replacing is my tires. I'm dreading it, because it'll cost a fortune, but it must be done. Preferably before winter.

Anyway, I'm glad to have knocked another goal off my list, and this was a fun one! I got to spend some quality time with my dad and learn all about my car. And now I'll be able to change my own oil the next time it needs it :)

Dad and me

Featured Posts

Blog Archive