September 20, 2016: Chasing boredom

This little guy kept landing on my arm.
This little guy kept landing on my arm.

I’ve been in Denver the past 4 days; this was a vacation for me, a business trip for my husband. I managed to get most scheduled runs done, staying in my HR zones and enjoying the beautiful and cool pre-fall weather here.

I don’t know what I actually expected from this trip. It wasn’t like I was dying to visit Denver. I just wanted to get away. In fact, I purposely resisted almost any trip planning whatsoever – very uncharacteristic of me – because I long to feel – wait for it – bored. Bored, with nothing to do, nowhere to go, no direction, no idea, no obligations, no stress, no anxiety, no house to clean, no laundry to do, no errands to run, no one to worry about. I wanted to luxuriate in the self-indulgence of hours-long day dreaming.

And when I finally had the opportunity to do just that, what did I do? I started looking for something to do. Next to the hotel was a butterfly habitat – naturally I had to check it out. After that hour was gone, walking back to the hotel I noticed there was a movie theater across the street. So then I contemplated watching the new Bridget Jones movie (because there’s no way my husband will suffer through that with me). I had my phone out, looking up showtimes, when the voice in my head gently but firmly said “stop.”

I reminded myself that the one thing I did NOT want to do was fill up the day with “stuff” to do. I plugged in my earphones and chilled. In the lobby, then the pool deck, and finally in the room. I meditated. I listened to a book. I painted (just on my tablet but still). It was actually pretty fucking awesome. I felt my creativity begin to stir, as if from a long, deep slumber.

Processed with Snapseed.
That’s me, determined to do absolutely nothing. Yah.

Now I’m headed home but not back to work right away. I’m hoping to continue my “thought” vacation for a few more days in my own environment. I need to learn to relax at home, instead of blaming my home environment for evoking feelings of stress (due to the fact that it is always in need of cleaning, in one form or another).

How do you keep the creative juices flowing?

Rest day: Daydreaming

This is me writing. Like the mythical Snipe, it’s a pretty damn rare sighting.

Rest day for the body but not the mind! Instead: a day to daydream. Write. Create. Ponder. Remember.

Although I’ve never been poetic, I find myself drawn to reading poetry lately. With the recent passing of Gene Wilder, the phrase “We are the music makers; we are the dreamer of dreams” has come across my screens and I wanted to find out where it came from. Some quick searches revealed the lines to be a passage from Ode by Arthur O’Shaughnessy; you can read this wonderful poem here.

The full poem (which has 9 verses, not 3) includes the following passage:

A breath of our inspiration,
Is the life of each generation.
A wondrous thing of our dreaming,
Unearthly, impossible seeming-
The soldier, the king, and the peasant
Are working together in one,
Till our dream shall become their present,
And their work in the world be done.

It’s a shame that the entire poem is so difficult to find (but you can read it here – you’re welcome). Because I find this verse to speak so closely to how I feel about the importance of the arts and creativity, and of day dreaming. (Day dreaming isn’t important you say? I would beg to disagree but these writers do a much better job and yes, each of those words are a separate link to a separate source – let the AP know I’m available for freelance work.)

Walt Disney said “all our dreams can come true — if we have the courage to pursue them” but if we never stop and give ourselves the space and time to let our minds wander, to dream up fantastic ideas, whatever will we have pursue?

Be sure to take time to daydream. Regularly.



Unguarded Thoughts: Don’t be gross

HR training journal: Today was a long run – 90 minutes. I covered 8 miles. I maintained an average bpm of 141. And I loved every step! Total mileage for the week: 29.5 miles. That’s my mileage for week 2 of a 20 week half marathon plan, folks!

This past week I’ve bumped into more than a few examples of gross human behavior. I’m not talking poop or blood. I’m talking…utterly disappointing. Mean-spiritedness for no real reason other than to assert superiority. I’ve seen it more at work than in my personal realm, but it feels like it’s everywhere lately.

I went on Facebook “hiatus” back in 2012. I remember it well; it was when President Obama was running for re-election, and after four years of his presidency, during which (thanks to Facebook) I was exposed to the “secret inner thoughts” of friends, family, in-laws, co-workers, bosses, etc., I found that I no longer wanted to know about 90% of them. For me, it was better to just go “offline” for a while. So I de-activated my account.

When I returned last year, it was solely to have a convenient communication forum for a Ragnar event I was part of. When I signed in, I cleaned up my “friends” list, whittling it down to just those handful of people I actually knew and loved, along with some long-distance friends and family for whom this would be a convenient way to keep in touch, and my Ragnar teammates. Gone was anyone even remotely related to the place I worked. And gone were those whose cruel vitriol left a permanent, painful impression on my heart and mind. The result: a nice, small friend list. One that looked more like my reality. I thought I’d created a well-curated feed.

When I signed up for Heart Rate (HR) training, I was invited to join a closed FB group created for all of us who had signed up for this training plan. For the most part, it’s been really positive. I mean, overwhelmingly positive. Seriously, a mostly amazing group of women who inspire me daily.

Which is why recently, as I was quickly glancing through some posts, I was so strongly struck by the negative tone of person who posted a “pet peeve.” And several others who joined the herd, pitchforks in hand.

The pet peeve? So stupid it isn’t worth explaining. Except to say that “I” have totally done this. And it has ABSOLUTELY NO IMPACT ON A SINGLE OTHER LIVING BEING WHATSOVER.

It was a “behavior” that they witnessed, that they didn’t understand, and rather than ask the person “why are you doing that” they instead jumped to (possibly erroneous) conclusions, and deemed the behavior to be riduculous. Dumb. Stupid. Suspicious. Deceptive even.

As for those doing the complaining? Well, THEY were such BETTER human beings for NEVER engaging in such strange behavior. They were superior. Their way was better. SUPERIOR.

Holy fuck did this strike a nerve. To think that as I’ve gone about my business, doing my workouts, keeping to myself, that there might have been some asshole sitting nearby observing me (rather than minding their own damned workout) and thinking about how “irritated” they felt. All because I was engaging in an activity that had absolutely no impact on them? The fucking nerve of me, right?

I posted a reply; it went something like: Hey peanut gallery, it turns out that “I” do that same thing too. And the reason is too long to post here (not to mention I don’t actually owe you a damned explanation). But there are legit reasons. And just fyi, I do try to reserve judgment when I see something I don’t understand because there might be a completely rational explanation that I am unaware of. 

Oddly, just this week I’ve run into similar encounters at work (possibly made worse because I was face-to-face with said peanut gallery). And it can only be described as: Gross. Fucking gross. The need for people to find ways to assert their superiority is out of control. I know it’s real; there are studies that show this phenomenon to be absolutely real. Coupled with the need to control the behavior of those who have absolutely no impact on their lives in any way, shape or form, simply because they do not understand the behavior (therefore it must be not only inferior to their own, but it must be eradicated)? Gross. Fucking gross.

It reminds me of people who are opposed to gay marriage; who themselves are not gay, nor do they have any gay people (that they know of) in their circles of friends and family. Yet they will assert with passionate fervor their opposition to gay marriage, and throw down their religious texts as proof of their righteousness. It’s so fucking gross. Why do you even care?

I should not have posted any response at all. My rational brain knows that. I’ve come to understand an important truth about Facebook. For the most part, by the time someone has posted something – a personal opinion, support of a “thing,” opposition to a “thing,” whatever – their position on that “thing” is final. Nothing anyone posts in response will sway their opinion . And the more extreme that “thing” is, the stronger their resolve to stand by that opinion. It’s pointless to offer an opposing view; no matter how much kindness, how much logic, or how much evidence you offer; once a person has declared their position (on Facebook), they won’t be moved (by replies on Facebook).

Still, I wish people would just mind their own business. As I type that, I realize that Facebook is, quite literally, the opposite of minding your own business. So live and let live? Or better yet – don’t be a dick? Really, just don’t be gross.

Endorphins Rock!

img_5555Hell yes they do! Today was a free run workout, meaning no heart rate cap, just run at whatever speed my heart desires for 60 minutes. These free runs have been on the plan since I started with the pre-plan workouts (HR101) and I’ll admit right now, I definitely didn’t get them right at first. Initially I read “free” as “fast” as in, I can go my “normal” pace for an hour. The problem was, I found that my old normal pace (around 9:30 for the average, no-goal run) felt challenging. I chalked it up to the heat (this was still August), residual burnout from marathon training, and of course, running super slow the rest of the week. So being the brainiac that I tend to be, I would try to force myself to go faster, which felt like shit on my legs, my lungs, my…wherever. And I grew to dread free runs.

Today as we walked out the door to start the run (I totally forgot my pre-run workout – dang it), said to Dar “maybe we’ll just keep it at 140bpm today.” That’s the effort at which I do most of the other runs in this plan. I didn’t feel like being demoralized by my lack of speed. So we started out at a slow plod; I didn’t worry about heart rate at all; instead I focused solely on “feel good.” Because I’ve come to feel really flipping good at 140bpm. The first mile was on the slow side (10:45); it felt great, it felt like a proper warmup. At the start of mile 2 of every run on this particular path (which is, like 90% of my runs) goes straight up a hill for about .2 miles. Instead of trying to maintain pace, I focused again on maintaining feel good. My overall pace for mile 2 was 10:15.

That trend continued – run at feel good pace, slowly get faster: 10:08, 9:40, 9:45. By the time I got home I felt amazing! At some points my pace actually dipped down to 8:55, enough to get some drops of endorphins in my brain! Speaking of my brain, it was nice to know that I could still feel good at those paces – and not just my “old” good, but dare I say it, at paces that felt downright easy. I guess “trust the plan” it is!


September 7, 2016: HR Training Check-in

Reporting in on day 10 of the AMR Heart Rate Training Excellent Half Marathon Plan.
Today I covered more ground in 60 minutes at 140bpm (actually 136 bmp) than ever before on this plan. I’m pretty stoked. And I did this in spite of feeling a little under the weather – I actually went home sick yesterday and was in bed by 5pm. Hmm; perhaps tons of rest does help.

Some Strava stats – and a sweet alliteration!

I’m sure the 73 degree tempurature helped tremendously. On the run this morning I felt a tiny bit feverish but still, my HR stayed low, my effort stayed easy. I was a chatterbox with my husband who forgot his earphone and was thus trapped into conversing with me. Every mile I picked up the pace for 20 seconds. And can I say, thanks to this particular workout, I’ve come to discover that 20 seconds is a magical length of time? I feel like I’m barely getting out of 1st gear when the 20 seconds is already done, and it’s time to bring the HR back down. In fact, I feel like I could endure anything for 20 seconds.
The only downside I’m experiencing lately is a noticeable lack of energy, not just during my workouts, but for much of the day. I am still following a LeanGains-type fasting window (I only eat between 11am and 7pm) so I’m thinking that once I get to a weight that I’m happy with (I’m trying to get down to around 125lb – fasting is working but the weight loss is very, very, very slow), and I start fueling more evenly throughout the day, my legs won’t feel like lead weights during my workouts. I still think its a good habit for me NOT to eat past 7pm. But before I started fasting, I’d wake up and sip on a sports drink just before and during my early morning runs, and that little bit of sugar really made a difference. But I haven’t been doing that lately.

Hope you are making progress with your training!

September 6, 2016: My HR training journey begins (well, it began about a week ago)

I have followed quite a few training plans: Higdon, Galloway, Hansons, and McMillan, just to name a few. I try to stay very faithful to the (running aspect of the) plans, so when I reach an outcome, I don’t spend too much time wondering if the outcome was a result of the plan or my deviations from the plan. No, instead I totally blame the plan!! Kidding!

After trying ALL of the plans over several years in an effort to qualify for the Boston Marathon (an effort which was simultaneously successful – I BQ’d – and unsuccessful – I still wasn’t fast enough to make the cut), I was facing some serious burnout, both physically and mentally/emotionally. This past May after my hamstring decided to sabotage my latest BQ attempt, I picked myself up after the race and put together a mashup the plans I’d successfully followed, with the intent to try (again) at the Ventura Marathon (the one that is happening next weekend, in fact).

I joined a gym so I could get out of the searing desert heat for my long runs. I didn’t want to take any chances that I wouldn’t be able to train at a hard pace. My PT was very encouraging of my recovery and my goals. I embraced strength training. I aggressively shed my marathon training weight. I was all in.

Or so I thought. Because as it turns out, I wasn’t all in. I wasn’t in at all.

Peg and Al Bundy – because why not? Oddly, running in that wig wasn’t that terribly difficult.

I was heartbroken. It felt, well…it felt like shit to have qualified for Boston and not make the cut. There’s no other way to put it. Boston qualifying times are basically invisible moving targets. As a runner who is not a “gifted athlete” in any way, in order to qualify for Boston I trained myself into the ground in order to run at the cusp of my speed potential. Three times. And in the end it wasn’t fast enough. Maybe I’ll never be fast enough?

If I’m being totally honest, I went into Mountains2Beach with a fearful attitude. Because I was totally afraid. Not of not qualifying. But of just barely qualifying. I mean, what would I do then? Wear myself out trying yet again? Wait to get cut again?  If you haven’t gone through that, I promise you this: you cannot imagine how demoralizing it is to wait out that registration week, to get that rejection, and to read the joyful responses from those who did survive the cut. It sucks. Trust me. No amount of rationalizing makes that experience suck any less.

In any event, I went into M2B fearful; I had a plan B race and I told my husband if I felt like I wasn’t having a good race at M2B I’d just drop out (yes, DNF) so I could try again in a few weeks (why get hurt right)? But then my hamstring… It blew up I guess. And that was at mile 15-16. I should have just stopped right there, but I knew in my gut that even if I had, I wasn’t going to be able to run hard in a few weeks. I was done. So I crawled to the finish line.

My desire to stay in the fight is strong, though. So initially I did. Until one day in July. July 17th to be exact. I completed an 18 mile training run nowhere near where I needed to be. I could see the writing on the wall. During that 18 miles I cried. I walked. I beat myself up mentally. And by mile 18 I knew I needed to let this goal go.

I’m an avid follower of all things Another Mother Runner: the books, the authors, the podcasts. It’s a great running group. And I knew they had a heart rate training plan. I thought perhaps that heart rate training would completely shift my focus from speed to effort. It sounded like exactly what I needed. So I signed up!

This is my exciting shuffle-walk-shuffle “recovery run” (trying to keep it under 120bpm). Every peak represents me apologizing to my husband for having to walk to get my HR back down. Folks, this is the stuff!

I am now a little over one full week into the AMR “Excellent Half Marathon” Heart Rate training plan. I find myself feeling ambivalant about this plan.

On the one hand, my ego takes a solid beating everytime I look at my statistics on Garmin, Strava, and now Training Peaks (where the plan is posted) as well.

On the other hand, something inside me is overjoyed that I don’t have to worry about running fast (at least, for now). Anxiety has been noticeably lifted; for me, that is a BIG deal.

The plan suggests a PR is possible at the end of this journey. I’ve (tentatively) selected the Phoenix Rock and Roll Half Marathon as my goal race. My current PR (from a downhill race) is 1:50. I feel like my faith in my ability to improve as a runner would be restored if I could beat that time next January.

So I guess I’m all in again.


August 1: HR training fail…

So today was supposed to be my first day officially on an HR plan (although the “real” plan doesn’t start for 4 weeks). So I went out for 45 minutes at 14bpm and, of course, my Garmin wouldn’t display my heart rate. I kept restarting the run but no luck. I could only see my HR when my Garmin was in regular watch mode. And this just pissed me off every time I looked at my watch, so much that my HR would jump into the 150s with the slowest jog. So I mostly shuffled and walked. My husband said I landed on a strange feedback loop where looking at my high HR made my HR stay high. Well wtf…