December 17, 2019

Recent Running Audiobooks and Week 11 Recap of 3-3-3 Running

I can't believe it's been 11 weeks since I got back to running regularly! I had tried several times over the last couple of years to get back to it, and other than training for the Martian Half-Marathon, I just couldn't find the motivation to do it more than a few weeks at a time. I really like this 3-3-3 plan that Thomas suggested (running 3 miles, 3 days a week, for 3 months). It's very minimal, but I think that's what I needed to adjust to the new habit.

Once I started running again, I became more interested in reading about running again. I used to love to read running books, and then once I took a (very long) hiatus from running, I just lost all interest in it. When I started the 3-3-3 plan, I also decided to finally read Born to Run--I liked that book so much that I wanted to read more.

I still love working on projects around the house, and I find that's a great time to listen to podcasts and audiobooks. While it's not quite the same as reading a book, I love that I can check out audiobooks from the library right from my phone, and within 30 seconds, I can find, download, and start listening. Listening while working on a project is the best!

I've listened to a few audiobooks about running recently, so I thought I'd write a little about them here. Listening to them motivated me to keep going, and made me actually look forward to running! (Not easy to do.)

All three of these are memoirs--not fictional or training type books. (Note: I didn't include spoilers here. Links are Amazon affiliate links, but I listened to these on Hoopla, so check if your local library supports Hoopla and you can listen for free!)

Reborn on the Run - by Catra Corbett

I've always loved reading memoirs about overcoming addiction, for some reason (I also love watching shows like Intervention). Catra is a former meth addict who started running after she got clean. Throughout the book, she describes parts of her past drug use and eventually what caused her to stop using.

She had to change her entire lifestyle (moving back in with her mother, losing her friends and boyfriend, and basically start an entire new life in order to stay clean). A friend suggested running a 10K with him and she discovered that she really loves to run. It seems to come very natural to her, also.

While I liked that she took up running so whole-heartedly, it was definitely intimidating to read about her extreme running feats. She didn't just run the occasional 5K, half-marathon, or even full marathon. She went on to run ultramarathons, including 100-mile races. As if that wasn't enough, she became the first American woman to run 100+ miles on more than 100 occasions. Crazy, right?!

And she doesn't just run long--she runs fast. She even holds the fastest known time for the John Muir Trail, which is 425 miles long. She ran that in 12 days 4 hours, and 57 minutes. I can't even wrap my head around that.

I enjoyed the entertainment aspect of this book, but I couldn't relate to it at all (not a bad thing; I just find books more interesting if I can relate). I have absolutely no desire to run that far, especially after reading how torturous it sounds in the book! haha. If you've ever wondered about running ultramarathons, though, this is a great read/listen.

My Year of Running Dangerously - by Tom Foreman

When I started reading this, I didn't realize that Tom Foreman (the author/narrator) is a well-known CNN correspondent. If I had known that, I probably wouldn't have chosen this book. (With a couple of exceptions, I don't typically like celebrity memoirs; I'm not sure why that is, but I usually skip over them when looking for a memoir to read.) However, I'm glad I listened to this audiobook--I enjoyed it.

When his daughter was 18, she asked him if he'd like to run a marathon with her. He had been a runner in the past, but he chose to focus on his career and family, putting running on the back burner. To bond with his daughter, he agreed to run a marathon with her, and while she was away at college, they trained and discussed their runs on the phone.

Tom didn't just tentatively step back into the running scene... he dove in head-first. He ran four half-marathons, three marathons, and an ultramarathon in the span of the book--I can't remember the exact timeline, but I believe he ran his first ultramarathon less than a year after starting his adventure.

He spends a LOT of time training (while juggling his career and family). Again, I didn't find this very relatable because of the long distances, but it was an entertaining read/listen.

Depression Hates a Moving Target - Nita Sweeney

Out of the three audiobooks, this one was definitely my favorite--and probably because I could relate so much it was scary! Nita is a middle-aged overweight woman with bipolar disorder who begins running to help combat her depressive episodes as well as lose some weight. (Already sounds very familiar, right? The events of the book were even during the same time period that I was losing weight and started running.)

I love Nita's descriptions of her early running--to start running while depressed and overweight is very challenging, and she perfectly described the self-consciousness she felt. She began by running around her neighborhood, in spite of worrying about what the neighbors would think if they saw her. She also described how, during her depressive episodes, it was hard to push herself to get out there when all she wanted to do was play solitaire at home.

Nita is super relatable (and likable!) as your average woman who starts running for health and weight loss. She describes throughout the book the things she learns about running (what to wear, how to train, etc). She joins a running group to train for different races and forms a bond with the others as they train. She doesn't have children, but she has a husband who is super supportive as she makes running a huge part of her life. She also has a dog that she takes for runs with her.

This book is great if you're a new runner or someone who wants to start running. It's motivating to see the positive changes running can have on your life without taking it to the extreme. It may sound boring to read about an "average" runner, but I loved the details about going from couch potato to runner one small step at a time.

I suggested this book to my friend Emily (who also has bipolar disorder and wanted to start running). She loved the book, too. She said she was glad she listened to it instead of reading it because she found the run talk to be a bit on the technical side; her opinion was interesting, because it was that "technical" part of the book that I loved! However, she found it motivating enough to start running--and now she is doing Thomas's 3-3-3 suggestion as well.

Speaking of 3-3-3, Sunday concluded Week 11. Just a couple more weeks and I'll have reached three months! This week was a pretty good one. I ran twice on the treadmill and once outside.

(treadmill; 3.65 miles in 40:48; 11:11 per mile; average HR 142)

This run blew my mind. I must have been having a very good day, because this was the run I'd been dreaming about since I started this 3-3-3 plan! I started the treadmill at 5.0 mph (which, according to my treadmill accuracy test, is actually 5.37 mph; I'll write a little more about this after I describe my outdoor run).

I fully expected to have to reduce the speed shortly after I started running in order to keep my heart rate at or under 146 bpm. Usually, I can do most of my run at 4.6-ish, and then end up having to lower it down to 4.3-ish; it's frustrating, but that's what I have to do to stay at my MAF heart rate.

For this run, I decided to use the manual lap button on my Garmin to see each mile split (when the treadmill read 0.94, 1.88, and 2.84).

Surprisingly, my HR monitor wasn't beeping at all to signal that my heart rate reached 147. I kept running and running, and soon, I'd hit a mile at 5.0 mph without going over my MAF heart rate. I tried so hard not to think about it and to just run, hopefully keeping my heart rate low and not jinxing it.

Two miles. Still nothing!

At that point, I started to wonder if I might be able to do the whole run at 5.0. I was very skeptical, because it's usually in the last mile that I have to reduce the speed a lot.

2.25 miles. Nothing.

2.5 miles. Nothing.

2.75 miles. Nothing.

I was stunned! I was SO SURE that it was going to beep in my final quarter mile, but it never did. I finished 3 miles at 5.0 mph, without a single beep from my HR monitor! I wanted to finish watching the episode of 24 that I was watching, so I kept running. At the end, I'd run almost 41 minutes without going over my MAF heart rate even once. I was so excited! This was huge progress, even if it was just due to a good day.

Below is the time spent in each heart rate zone. The goal is to stay in Zone 2 (my personal MAF zone), trying not to get into Zone 3 at all.

Interestingly, this run was on the 11th of the month; my splits for all three miles was 11:11/mile (making my overall average pace 11:11/mile as well). And 11 happens to be my very favorite number! All coincidence, but pretty neat.

I remembered doing some runs on the treadmill in January where I set the speed on the treadmill at 5.0 mph and just let it stay at that speed for 30 minutes while I ran. I was doing a sort of reverse heart rate training (training a specific pace and then hoping to see my heart rate get lower over time at that same pace). I didn't stick with the training, of course, but I'm glad I did that, because this was a good comparison.

In January, at 5.0 mph for 30 minutes:
Jan 17: average HR of 150 bpm
Jan 20: average HR of 151 bpm
Jan 22: average HR of 150 bpm
Jan 24: average HR of 147 bpm
Feb 4: average HR of 153 bpm
Feb 6: average HR of 149 bpm
Feb 8: average HR of 151 bpm
Feb 11: average HR of 157 bpm

And that's when I quit. No runs until May, where I only ran once. Then July. So, while I can't say anything for sure after this specific run on Wednesday, it's nice to see the difference from January. Those runs were also just 30 minutes, and on Wednesday, I ran for 41 minutes.

I also read my notes from a run in August on the treadmill, which is encouraging for now:

"Started out at 5.0 and was miserable. Decided to run by heart rate. MAF is 143 bpm. Had to 'run' at 4.1-4.3 mph on the treadmill to stay at MAF." (That run had an average HR of 143 for 40 minutes, where Wednesday's was 142.)

(treadmill; 3.54 miles in 41:17; 11:40/mile; average HR 144 bpm)

Not quite as good as Wednesday, but I wasn't expecting such a good repeat. I wore my Altras (still only doing that once a week to adjust to them). I also had a horrible, relentless headache that had started shortly after my run on Wednesday.

I started the treadmill at 5.0 mph, but after half a mile lowered it to 4.9 and then 4.8. I ran at 4.8 for a long time, occasionally switching to 4.9 or 4.7. Not as steady as Wednesday, but still a big progression. Again, I wanted to finish my episode of 24, so I ran longer than necessary.

(outdoors; 3.03 miles in 37.25; 12:21/mile; average HR 145 bpm)

This is the run that leaves me with doubts about the stupid treadmill again! I was very confident with the accuracy test that I did; the tool I used was the same type of tool that is used for measuring sports' fields, race courses, etc. Known for accuracy! However, considering my outdoor pace was over a minute slower than Wednesday's pace, I wonder (again) about the treadmill's calibration. I think I'll start taking the distance on the treadmill at face value, rather than adjusting later. If I'm wrong, it'll just mean that I'm running a little longer and faster than the treadmill shows. I'd rather err on that side.

Anyways, the higher heart rate and slower pace could be because my anxiety was really high for this run. I have no idea why I was so anxious about running outside! I felt like I do before running a race, and for the first mile or two of a race. Super dry mouth, very weak, wobbly legs, and feeling like my throat is closed up. I wonder if I was nervous because I worried I might not see any progress from the outdoor runs, which would negate the progress I thought I was seeing on the treadmill.

I don't know why it was, but I was very nervous during this whole run. I didn't look at my watch at all, but my heart rate monitor beeped several times (maybe eight?) throughout the three mile run. This run also seemed SO much longer than my runs on the treadmill. It wasn't entirely miserable, but it wasn't enjoyable until it was over.

I had expected to see a pace in the 13:00's, so I was pleasantly surprised to see 12:21 average. My splits were very even, too--12:18, 12:23, and 12:23. Pretty good for not even looking at my watch!

Looking at the zones below, you can see that I kept hitting Zone 3, so I had to slow down whenever that happened.

I'm so glad that I saw some progress this week. Even if Wednesday's was a one-off for a while, it was encouraging to do that!


  1. Thanks for the book reviews Katie! I read Reborn on the Run and really enjoyed that one. Depression Hates a Moving Target sounds like something I would love so I will see if my public library carries it.

  2. Thanks for the book reviews Katie! I read Reborn on the Run and really enjoyed that one. Depression Hates a Moving Target sounds like something I would love so I will see if my public library carries it.

  3. I just finished depression hates a moving target and really enjoyed it. It was nice to read about a beginner runner. I would also recommend Running with a police escort, that was another good new to running book.

  4. I love book recommendations, and I recently discovered the overdrive app from the library which offers free audio books, so definitely going to see if they have these there!


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