Running with a Group

My running mindset has changed a lot ever since I joined my local running club a couple years ago. I used to almost exclusively run by myself, occasionally with friends but I didn’t understand the point: we’re running so we can’t chat, we’re probably both listening to music anyway and we can’t keep our paces the same.

Now, I prefer running with a group. I also rarely run with music, even when running alone (though I still love to make motivating playlists for races), and carry on some of the best conversations while running. I’ve made this almost-180 shift by discovering the power of a group. Running together makes the miles pass by quicker–sometimes we don’t even think about them–and magnifies the sense of accomplishment.

We train in pace groups as a club, and I know it’s the only way I had the discipline to accomplish some of our longest marathon training runs. I’m leading a half marathon pace group this season, so I do actually have to keep an eye out for the route (no more cruising along in the “peloton”), but I am still getting many of the other benefits.

When I thought about the extra miles I had to do alone after today’s group training run, I reached a clear decision. No solo long runs this season. I’ll do what I can with groups and friends and make the rest of the gains cross training. That’s how today’s planned 20 became 10 (6+4), and why I feel great about it: running with a group keeps running fun.

Mountain High

Summer training officially wrapped last week, and I took off to Denver the next day. Running at elevation is always unpredictable for me. I focus on hydrating the week before and slow down my pace when I arrive. I still haven’t found the exact key to success, but I’ve noticed that running early in the trip can be good acclimation.

My schedule said 18 miles for the weekend, but I ended up splitting it across a couple days. I ran 3 miles on Saturday morning and then another 14.5 miles on Monday. For the longer run, I wish I had run by time and not distance. I’d packed my trail shoes, which have less support, but ended up running on paved concrete. I also forgot to pack energy (my preferred fuels are Honey Stinger chews and Jelly Belly Sport Beans). Third strike? My route took me mostly uphill on the second half.

Despite all these errors, I’m happy with my run because I got out there and enjoyed the views. Also, my Starbucks drink tasted even better post-run. It all led up to my first run with fall training last night back home in Dallas. The humidity was a shock, but my legs felt stronger.

Last Speed Test

Cool breeze on my face, fast speed in my legs. That's the mantra I repeated in my head as we completed our last speed workout of the summer last night. It's hard to believe we've already made it to the last week.

We ran 2×2 mile with walking rests and water breaks in between. The temperatures have stayed mild (for August) but the humidity is still high. I wanted to see faster pace numbers, and I can't wait to really test myself in a race. What I'm satisfied with from last night was my pace consistency.

Montréal is coming up quickly, so it's time to make serious training decisions. As I up my long run mileage, do I also want to up my running frequency throughout the week? How much do I want to expand my cross-training beyond yoga? The best part is knowing I have a lifetime worth of training cycles to experiment and try new methods.

Not Quite 16

Training cycles tend to reach a point for me where the motivation is low but the miles are many. Running away from home can be either fun or overwhelming, particularly if it's hard to find a good route.

While traveling this past weekend, I faced the almost-daunting 16 miles on my training schedule. The time I spent stressing over a route and worrying about the cold temperatures was almost to equal to how long I would've spent running. Eventually I pushed myself out the door for a measly (and cold) three miles–not quite 16.

The clock and weather were against me, so my goal shifted from meeting the distance to just getting one foot in front of the other. I'm glad I made it out for a run, but I'm also a little embarrassed I chickened out so easily. Sweating it away in Beyoncé "Lemonade" yoga this evening helped cleanse some of the guilt. At the end of the day, it's about deciding to move forward.

Cold Front

Weather that makes you want to wear a jacket the first week of August is a rare gift. Of course, that was quickly put out of mind by the crazy humidity. A regular Texas summer storm is on its way, but we got in tonight's run before any rain.

Running intervals at the lake made the time pass quicker than at the track because of the constantly changing scenery. We ran 3×1.5 split up with a hairpin turnaround at each interval. I kept pace by breaking it up even more in my mind: through the trees, over a short bridge, past the parking lot, around the bend, over the wooden bridge, another bend, turnaround, all over again backward.

I left my watch running the whole time, even during the few minute walking breaks after each interval. This made it hard to know my true pace so I went by feel instead. I've just discovered Nike's speed feature in the running app, which works exactly for intervals. Next time I'll use it, but it's also good that I'm getting better at learning my pace by feel.

Harry Potter Run

We ran longer than usual with BoMF this morning for a special occasion. Apparently, today is Harry Potter's birthday. What matters about that is that the Hogwarts Virtual Running Club* has donated proceeds for this month to BoMF.

Our group grew as we joined forces with our other local BoMF team, additional volunteers and runners. The virtual run can continue through August 6 with online registrations.

We ran across two long bridges around downtown for a total of just over four miles. The view on the return was beautiful with the sunrise framing the city skyline. Four miles were tougher than usual after yesterday's fourteen, so I'm looking forward to an epsom salt bath.

*Register using PO Box 631236, Irving, TX 75063 for 100% of proceeds to benefit BoMF DFW.

Thinking About Gelato

Runners love food. Some runners love food more than running, some run because they love food and some just love both. Long runs are mostly driven by (and discussed when in a group) thinking about what we will eat next.

I put off my 14 miles until Sunday, which is a very risky move. I didn't feel rested enough Saturday morning so I committed to an early bedtime that night. The wait worked in my favor because temperatures have cooled down at least 10 degrees back into the 90s. There was a beautiful breeze my whole run and the sun was not too hot.

Despite the gorgeous lake views, I passed the run by dreaming about gelato. At a water stop, I even checked to see if Paciugo was open yet. My front door, around the lake and back is not quite 14 so I needed a diversion anyway.

Since it was apparently too early for fresh gelato, I ran right until the entrance of nearby Whole Foods. Fortunately, they sell gelato by the pint. I opted for Halo Top instead because of its protein value. The best thing about running 14 miles is how much better dessert tastes after a couple hours exercising in the sun.

Hot Hills

Motivation comes in many different forms. For me, sometimes it's more imagining how I feel if I don't try. Refusing to give up was what got me out to the hills tonight.

The local news ran a story with the headline "too hot to run," and it took everything I had to ignore them. What finally helped was realizing how much of a mind game it is to see the number 100 on the temperature reading. Sometimes I just need better perspective. I thought about 85 compared to 87 or 31 compared to 33 to help me cope with 100 compared to the high 90s. That helped me see that tonight wouldn't be significantly different than previous weeks.

Staying hydrated and acclimated are important factors in being able to handle the heat. Since I've been running in similar temperatures all summer, I knew I could handle tonight. I also reminded myself to listen to my body: take water breaks, slow down a little bit, stop if it's too much.

I made a plan and I mastered the hills. We stopped at 10 repetitions or 80 minutes, whichever came first. I made it through 9 (all without music!) and knew that was the safe place to stop. Tonight definitely earned a beer so I joined up with my Pint Striders (social run) friends right after to indulge. Making it to tonight's workout and running up and down that hill was so worth it.

Speedwork, Abridged

Track nights really only exist to long distance runners to build speed for out "in the real world." That means we need to see results on our regular routes.

Tuesday night's run was supposed to be one mile intervals at the lake, but my sick day got in the way. I did an abridged version of my own tonight.

While I'm still chasing that sub 7 mile from earlier in the summer, I felt good out on the trail. Unlike the consistency of the track, the real world has elevation changes, turns and changing scenery. That made it harder to keep an even pace.

I'm still learning what fast will look like for me by the end of the summer (and again when it starts to cool down). In the meantime, I'm pushing myself and seeing what it feels like to give it my all then have to keep going.

Sick Day

About once or twice a year my body comes to a halt and forces me into a sick day. While yesterday was a sick day for me, a better perspective is to think of it a recovery-minded day.

Here's what I do to get up and running again faster:

  • Sleep is really the easiest medicine and best preventative tool. Ariana Huffington's book "The Sleep Revolution" gathers all the obvious and not-so-obvious reasons we should prioritize sleep, but I've also seen sleep affect my running performance.
  • Rest is different than just sleep and includes resisting the urge to binge watch the latest Netflix series. When my body is sick, all of my senses need a break.
  • Hydrate purposely. Water should come first but vitamins and electrolytes are also necessary for a fast cure. I alternate every third or fourth bottle of water with a tablet of nuun. (My bkr bottle rarely leaves my side.) Hydration also means avoiding caffeine and alcohol.
  • Medicate when necessary* but otherwise on a limited basis. Ibuprofen typically works better for me than aspirin, but I only reach for the medicine if the pain is too bad to fall asleep without it. (*Absolutely medicate and see a doctor if you have a fever or worse symptoms!)
  • Eat what your stomach can handle. The simplest and safest policy is the BRAT diet: bananas, rice, applesauce, toast. Once your body can handle any of those four, slowly move on to real food. I'm not usually very hungry when I'm sick but food is necessary fuel to help my body rebuild.
  • Clean your home and yourself. In between napping, I find that taking a shower and tidying up always helps me to feel better. While it's tempting to just wallow all day, the image of health can go a long way toward recreating health.
  • Go out even for just a little bit. Fresh air and a change of scenery are a great reset. If I've been sick all day, it helps me to run a quick errand in the evening or go out for a light dinner.

When I get to feeling better, the hardest thing is to hold back and ease back into training. After sleeping most of the day, I felt more ready than ever to run last night. It was tough to remind myself to take it easy so I didn't undue all of the recovery. The only thing worse than being sick is prolonging your sickness.