Running with Pets

12 Mar

I really should title this post “Running with Dogs” as I don’t believe there exists another domesticated animal that takes well to being leashed up and dragged on a run. But got to make sure I’m inclusive and all that jazz.

I have two incredibly adorable, but insanely high energy pups.

Ella is 3 years old and a pointer/hound mix (this dog simply doesn’t know what tired is). While she’s calmed down slightly since adopting her, she could probably run 10 miles and still want to play a rousing game of tug-of-war. When we start a run, Ella’s mindset is “RUN!! Must run as fast as I possible can. Now! RUN FAST!” I would say she’s a sprinter, but she never tires no matter how long we run for. She’s a very unique combination of sprinter + long-distance runner.

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Roscoe is a 2 year old Beagle/Collie/possibly Lab/possibly Dachshund mix. He’s a bit smaller than Ella, and while he enjoys a good run he’d rather cuddle on the couch. Where Ella is out of the gate, guns blazing, Roscoe is content to just trot along, checking out the scenery, checking on momma to make sure she just saw that fascinating squirrel that ran by. He will sprint when a cat or other interesting creature appears, but otherwise his running is more akin to a Sunday drive, as opposed to Ella’s Usain Bolt approach.

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To say the least they’re interesting to run with. They both are also currently going through a phase where the have to bark at EVERY dog we pass. So that’s fun. But here a few tips and tricks I employ to make running with our pups a little less stressful.

1) Don’t run with a retractable leash. I know some people love to run with their dog using a retractable leash. I’ve found that our dogs are too unpredictable when we’re on runs (SQUIRREL! CAT! SMALL CHILDREN! TREE!) and it’s much, much easier for them to wrench a retractable leash out of my hand than it is to wrench a leash I’ve wrapped around my wrist. I use a Y-leash when running with the pups as it’s easier for me to handle than two separate leashes.

2) Do not give them too much leeway. The first time I took Ella on a run, I nearly killed her. We were running past a local gas station on a busy road, about to make a turn on a trail. The gas station had a few advertising flags out and as we went past Ella completely freaked as the flag flipped around in the wind. She half-back flipped around and was out in the street before I even realized the longer leash I had her on had run through my hands. Now, I keep them on very short leashes and avoid major roads whenever possible.

3) Not all dogs are made the same. Some dogs take to running quite quickly, others were just not born to run. Growing up we had 180-lb St. Bernard who were lucky to get to walk (if a 180 lb dog doesn’t want to do something, he is NOT going to do it). But Ella, at a lean 53-lbs of pure muscle would be happy to run around like a nut all day every day. Roscoe falls somewhere in between. He likes a good run, but then it’s nap-time. Get to know your dog and your dog’s capabilities. Don’t force a non-running dog to run and don’t keep a dog that loves to run caged up. Otherwise, you’ll end up down a few pairs of shoes. I speak from experience, people.

4) Keep an eye on the weather. Be careful of running with your furry, four-legged pal when the weather is tending to extremes. Our very first dog, a Boxer who was an absolute sweetheart died of heatstroke at 6 while out for a walk one summer day. Extreme cold can also be dangerous. Some dogs are better built to handle extreme cold (our St. Bernard for one), but Ella and Roscoe are lean pups with short-hair, not designed to withstand extreme cold for long periods of time.

5) Bring treats. This will save your ass if your dog manages to escape your grasp. Roscoe usually listens if you scream loudly to stop, but Ella just continues on her merry way. The only way she be lured back is with the promise of food. It can also be a good training mechanism if you’re working on teaching them to heel.

Any tips or tricks for running with dogs? Any one have a cat, or a rabbit, or a lizard that likes to run? Everyone knows cats, rabbits and lizards make the best runners.

Changing Your Running Form

2 Jan

*Disclaimer: I am not any sort of qualified expert in the area of running form. I can’t even pretend to be an expert with claims like, “Well I worked at a running store for a week and now know everything” or “I once took a course that one day discussed the importance of running form”. I speak merely from my own experience and reading the occasional Runner’s World article entitled Stop Heel-Striking or You Will DIE*

In my early days of running, I had no idea what I was doing. None. Not a clue. I played sports my entire life, but sports involving short bursts of fast running (basketball and track) or some alternate form of movement (hockey). To me running worked something like this: find old pair of basketball shorts, add old cotton t-shirt, throw in a pair of old sneakers, and GO!

So, not quite a recipe for running success. I endured a few injuries and general discomfort in my first few months of running. But, as I submerged myself in the running community my old basketball shorts were replaced by Nike Tempos, or running crops; the cotton t-shirts yielded to hi-tech, sweat-wicking gear; and the old sneakers scooted over to make way for Saucony Kinvaras and Brooks Pure Connects. My discomfort decreased, but injuries persisted.

I read avidly about how to avoid or at least decrease persistent injuries. I discovered the twisted pleasure of ice baths. I proudly donned my compression socks under my work clothes. I obsessively foam-rolled. But I was still dealing with constant shin pain, pressure in my hip, occasionally knee pain, etc.

It was only a matter of time before all the niggling, tingling pain ended in some dramatic injury. Just over two months out from my first marathon, I was sidelined with a stress fracture in my right shin. By some miracle I was cleared to run my scheduled marathon (with no time goals). And run I did. But to cross that finish line I endured some of the worst pain I’ve ever faced. Marathons are not supposed to be enjoyable or even pain-free, but I knew this was above and beyond normal marathon pain.

Changing my running form was the only thing left to do. I already foam-rolled, ice-bathed, and compression-socked. My marathon photos confirmed the desperate need for change. Just look at those feet:

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Heel-strike much?

With a budget that lacked the room for “running coach” I took it upon myself to change my stride. Loads of aggravation, sweat, swearing and general frustration, were involved, but I was finally able to change my running form for the better. If you’re short on dough, or just don’t feel the need for a running coach, here a few handy tips to help change your running form.

1) Get fitted for running shoes. Even if you’ve been previously fitted, make a return visit. I was refitted before I started to actively change my stride, and I moved down from a stability shoe (Asics GT-2160s) to a neutral shoe (Saucony Kinvaras and Brooks PureConnects). Switching shoes made a big difference as the neutral shoes helped force me to change my stride.

2) Aim for a mid-foot landing. This is the best thing to remember when changing your form. Heel-striking or landing on the ball of your foot are both big no-nos. Aim to land on your mid-foot.

3) Run in front of mirror. I’m sorry. I know this means running on a treadmill, but it is one of the only ways to evaluate your form. It will also help you purposefully focus on your stride, which you’ll have to do in the early days of changing.

4) Focus on shorter distance runs (for now). It is much, much easier to focus on your form for 3-4 miles, then 10-11 miles. My focus would start to break down near mile 6, so in the early days of running with a new form I kept my runs under 5 miles. Now my new form feels natural and I’m able to maintain without having to constantly focus.

5) Recognize this will be difficult. Hate to break it to ya, but it’s tough to change your natural running form. The benefits are huge and it is totally worth it, but the process of making this new running form natural is difficult. Recognize it will take dedicated time and effort and you’ll ease some of the pressure on yourself.

If you’ve made the switch to a different running form, any tips for those trying to make changes?

Senseless.

14 Dec

I had a post all set to go today about changing your running form. But that doesn’t seem to matter much now.

After reading about the senseless massacre in Connecticut my heart is too full for much else. My thoughts tonight will be with all those parents who won’t have excited children racing down the stairs come Christmas morning. All those families who will have one conspicuous spot open at holiday dinners this year.

I’ll end with this quote from Nelson Mandela, “”There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

What Makes A Runner?

11 Dec

‘Tis a question I have often asked myself in the past year. After Marine Corps Marathon last year I completely jumped off the running bandwagon. Actually, jumped doesn’t do my nose-dive off the bandwagon justice. In the space of a couple months, I went from “OMG. I love running. It’s the best thing ever” to “Running is the worst. Ever. I’m not running another mile or even another step.”

Every run felt hard. I applied desperation tactics in an effort to motivate myself. I made training plans and paid no attention to them (even the color-coordinated plans). I bought new shoes only to leave them in a box in the back of the closet. For awhile, I just gave up on running. My life was changing and I felt none of my previous overwhelming desires to run as an escape.

But like bad 80s clothing trends, running just wouldn’t stay out of my life for long. I soon found myself lacing up my pretty new Brooks Pure Connects and heading out for runs. Shorter runs, but still runs. Adopting this psycho helped, as someone didn’t appreciate the brilliance of sitting on our butts all day:

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Adopting this little nutter helped too, as he thoroughly enjoys an excuse to don his stylin’ green raincoat:

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Between these two crazies and few other exceedingly dull reasons, my love of running returned. I ran the Las Vegas Half in early December and signed up for a few more upcoming races. Some super-serious thought is going into my 2013 running goals. And not just, “I want to own some lime-green running shoes” but real running goals. Things like “I want to run a sub-2 hour half-marathon.” That’s some super-serious thinking right there folks!

Writing my 2013 running goals prompted some thinking about what exactly qualifies you as a runner. Is it hitting a certain weekly mileage? Is it signing up for a race? Racing a certain distance? Are there certain time qualifications? What invisible line do you have to cross to become a runner?

This topicĀ  has been discussed ad naseum in the blogosphere but I’m going to throw in a few thoughts of my own:

If you run you are runner. It doesn’t matter if you run 3 times a week at a 10-minute per mile pace, or 6 times a week at 7-minute per mile pace. By putting on your trusty running shoes and hitting the pavement a few times a week you are a runner.

If you find the time in your day to go out for a run you are a runner. It doesn’t matter if you find 20 minutes or 2 hours. If you carve out that time for yourself to run you are a runner.

If you are excited by the prospect of running, whether it be a race, or a standard Tuesday morning run, you are a runner. There will be days where you loathe running with the passion of a thousand fiery suns. There may even be months like that (ugh, been there, done that, got the t-shirt) but if there are days where you just OMG! cannot wait to lace up your running shoes, then you are a runner.

I’m not sure when being a runner started to involve having to run X number of races a year at Y time for Z distance (also, when did algebra get involved with running? I HATE algebra and all math. This needs to end!) Being a runner shouldn’t be about any of that BS. Above everything else, considering yourself a runner is an attitude. Why should someone who runs a 16-minute 5k be any more of a runner than someone who runs a 30-minute 5k?

Being a runner is about showing up. Day in and day out. On the good days and bad days. It’s about committing to constant improvement, no matter what your starting point. It’s about pushing yourself and picking yourself up when things get hard. That’s what makes a runner. Not fast times, not race medals, not fancy gear. But commitment.

What do you think qualifies someone as a runner? Cool shoes? Distance? Attitude?

A Promising Return

4 Dec

Well, well, well. So much for my grand plans to get back on track and start posting regularly. Said grand plans had to be set aside when life got in the way. Without getting into too many boring personal details it has been a year of extreme highs and very deep lows for me. A year of love and new beginnings coupled with loss and significant readjustments. One day I might be prepared to share, but I’m still getting a grip on the major changes to my surroundings and it’s a tough slog at times.

But, despite all the ups and downs, I’ve found that I’ve missed blogging these past few months, and while I probably have roughly zero readers left at this point (that’s what I get for teasing everyone with “Hey! I’m returning to regularly scheduled programming” posts and then doing the exact opposite) I’d like to start blogging again, even if it is just to keep my sanity in check. Maybe I’ll get lucky and a feel people will journey on over to my little piece of the internet. If so awesome! Welcome, you are fabulous and I’m happy to have you here. If no one finds they’re way over here, that’s okay too, life will certainly go on even if my blog doesn’t have, like, SO many hits everyday! So for these few readers who still occasionally check in over here, today’s post might be a little a serious, but I pinky-promise it’s probably just this one time. Serious isn’t my style. We all need a little sass and sarcasm up in here.

So along with blogging, running also took a backseat for awhile. But fortunately, that has started to shift over recent weeks and I’ve turned back to running. Sometimes for fun, sometimes to clear my head, and sometimes just because the sun is shining and I can. I stupidly signed up for another half-marathon, made a training plan and then promptly do not follow it. But in the end it wasn’t so bad. I ran the Las Vegas Rock ‘n’ Roll Half-Marathon on Sunday, and while I am definitely sore, it’s not abysmal. I promise a forth-coming post with more race/training details.

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I’m planning to sit down before the New Year and create some solid running goals for myself. Once I have a few goals set, I’ll make the requisite training plans and, fingers crossed, I’ll stick to those plans this time around. I may have gotten away with no training and no injuries this year, but knowing my body as I do, it’s only a matter of time.

I don’t have plans to become a three-times a day blogger, I can’t even promise I’ll blog every day (honestly, some days I just have nothing interesting to say, especially on Mondays they suck), but I will posting at least a couple times a week again. Although, I can’t guarantee it will be about anything remotely exciting or relevant or serve any purpose whatsoever other than I felt like ranting and rambling.

And if you’re interested in what little writing I have been doing recently, you can scurry on over here to do a little further reading.

How to Run a Half-Marathon with Absolutely No Training

26 Jun

*DISCLAIMER: This is a really terrible idea and you have to be a few crayons short of box (like me) to actually run a half-marathon with no training. But if you choose to pursue this wildly ridiculously course of action here is how to not die on the course, which with no training, is the only measure of success.*

Back in February, I signed up to run the Marine Corps Historic Half-Marathon. It was my first half-Mary last year and I was determined to rock this course. My head was filled with thoughts of “I will PR this beast” “I will own this course” and “I will run 5:30 min/miles and become an elite runner as destiny intended”. Obviously, going from a steady 10-10:30 min/mile to a 5:30 min/mile was completely achievable (SPOILER: it’s not) and all I needed was a beautiful, color-coded training plan (and also a new body, one that is designed for elite running and not persistent shin splints).

So, I made my beautiful color-coded training plan. I purchased shiny new running shoes. I hoarded Gu and Gatorade in preparation for long runs. But, somehow those long runs never took place. Barely any runs took place. Despite taping my color-coded plan to both the fridge and my wall at work, I simply never ran. Two or three teams a week I would make a half-assed effort and get my sorry butt out the door for 30 mins, or I’d lift a few paltry weights for 20 mins. But that was it. No speed training, no long runs, no cross-training. Nada. My motivation had escaped me and was now cleverly disguising itself. Without any motivation, I was too lazy to look for it.

Suddenly, it was the day before the half and I found myself with a color-coded training plan, a snazzy pair of shoes, plenty of Gu, and zero training. My longest run since Marine Corps Marathon in October was 6 miles. I couldn’t recall what a track looked like as I hadn’t been near one since the previous summer. And my runner’s legs were starting to resemble cankles.

Now, I could have used that lovely little thing called a brain and decided not to run this half-marathon. Attempting a half with no training sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? Not so, said a stubborn little voice in my head. What’s the big deal, the voice whispered, you’ve run a marathon before the half is nothing! And so I found myself at the starting line of MCHHM with zero training under my belt, working hard to hyperventilate and/or pretend I was simply a spectator who had gotten lost in the corrals. 13 years later (at least that’s what it felt like to my untrained legs) I crossed the finish line, collected my medal, and downed a beer in record time (the perfect recovery fuel). I also declared myself an expert in running half-marathons with no training, and I will now impart all of my acquired wisdom to you lucky readers who stumbled here by accident when you searched for actual half-marathon training plans:

1) Have previously run and properly trained for a half-marathon. Seriously, if you have never trained for a half before, or you are just a few months into running, STOP READING AND DO NOT DO THIS. Half-marathons are hard with proper training, they are even harder without training and they are impossible if you are a newbie and have no training.

2) Wear good shoes. Not good-looking shoes, but shoes that you have been fitted for. At a running store. Run in them several times before the race. You will seriously regret this otherwise.

3) However slow you think you should go, go slower. With no training, you are not going to be able to maintain any kind of “good” pace. You’ll be lucky to finish the race without crying uncle. No matter how competitive you are, you will not be winning any ribbons when you haven’t done any training. So give it up and just run to finish

4) Along with the go-slow approach add, do not wear a watch. If you wear a watch you will look at the time. If you are looking at the time you will try to go faster. If you try to faster you will die. Don’t die. Don’t wear a watch.

5) For all of us goal-obsessed people (unite!), set goals, but do not set one single time goal. Seriously, do not. Or I will come find you and kick your ass for you. You haven’t trained for this so time goals are not an option. Set goals like: I will count the number of squirrels I see on the course. Or, I will take pictures of the most ridiculous shirts I see on the course. See? Great goals to try and achieve, everyone wants to count squirrels, exciting stuff.

6) Drink water, lots and lots and lots of water. The day before, drink water like it’s your job. Drink some more water the morning of the half. Although you might want to stop drinking a little before the race, don’t want to be one of those people caught peeing in the bushes. Try to drink a little bit of water at every water station. Alternating Gatorade with water might also help. Everyone knows winners drink Gatorade (losers drink Powerade).

7) Walk up the hills. Just do it. Your legs are already going to HATE you the next day, don’t make it worse by trying to run up the hills.

And finally…

8) Run with a friend who has also done no training so you can whine to each other about how you have done training. Honestly, this was probably the reason I finished the half because I had a good friend running with me who was in the same boat. Instead of thinking about how much everything hurt, we just bitched about how little training we did. Distractions are the best.

So, hopefully everyone has a few more brain cells than me and would never actually run a half-marathon without training, but just in case, these fool-proof, completely scientific bits of advice will get you through.

So about that blogging comeback…

22 Jun

Yea, less of a comeback, more of “hey remember that one time a wrote a post saying I was making a comeback and then never wrote again because I am awesome like that.”

But, oh well. I’m never going to write a post when I have nothing to say (because I’m too lazy to be creative, it’s such a time suck), and I wasn’t really sure of the direction I wanted to take with the comeback. So I took another little break. But just like Lindsay Lohan, you can’t get rid of me.

Back in my days of blogging on a regular basis, I used to do this series called ‘Fess It Up Friday, where you all have the opportunity to learn ridiculous and pointless bits of information about me. So here it is again ‘Fess It Up Friday, I know you’ve been anxiously awaiting its return:

1) I always think I “super-OMG-LOVE-summer” until summer actually arrives in DC. I don’t care if this place was built on a swamp or tidal-basin or the moon. It gets hot. Unacceptably hot. I feel like I just stepped out into an oven hot. I try to remind myself that the world has bigger problems, wars and famines and all that, but all I can really think about is, I could actually cook on egg on the sidewalk right now. Literally, cook an egg.

2) Nothing annoys more in this world (at least this week), than guys who grunt ridiculously at the gym. Seriously, dude stop it. You look like a tool. Actually, you probably are a tool, so maybe it’s better you continue to grunt like a jungle animal (do jungle animals grunt?) so everyone has fore-warning of your tool-dom and steers clear.

3) On the topic of annoying men, just because I am out running in what is standard running gear (shorts and a tank top) does not mean you get to ogle me with your eyeballs falling out of your head and say things like “Hey baby, looking good, we should go out some time.” I mean, really, where do you think this is going to lead, other than me kicking you in the family jewels with my runner’s legs.

4) Moving on to the topic of annoying women, why do so many women go to the gym with their hair perfectly done and their make-up just so. You are at the gym, people! You are going to sweat (shocker, I know), you are going to smell gross, and your hair is going to get ruined (unless you’re Kate Middleton). If you’re going to come to the gym looking like you’re going to the club you might want to save yourself the trouble and just go to the club. This strategy will also save you money, no more pesky gym membership fees.

5) I buy most of my clothes at thrift stores. A) It’s cheap B) I’m broke and C) DC area thrift stores have some awesome, awesome finds. Oh, hello Theory jacket for $6 and you lovely Coach purse for $3, and you classy Kate Spade shoes for $5, I will indeed add you to my wardrobe. Seriously, thrifting is the best. If you ever need a thrifting buddy I will happily accompany you. For a price. A very, very high price. It’s only fair since you’re getting clothes for so cheap.

6) Marathon training is much, much better this time around. I think it has something to do with this major revelation I had which I will call my “don’t train like a complete freaking idiot” revelation. Instead of reading all about how to properly train and then doing whatever I want to (no I don’t think I’ll run hills, sure I’ll drink this bottle of wine the night before my long run, no I don’t care to stretch or foam roll), I’m actually doing some things right. I still hate running hills (but I’m doing them), I still have the occasional glass of wine, and I still don’t always foam roll and stretch. But I’m getting better. And I’m a million, zillion light years from where I was last year. Also, cross-training=life-saver.

7) I switched from running in the Asics GT-2160s to running in the Saucony Kinvara 3s. I think this falls into the category of “don’t train like a complete freaking idiot” category, but you know what? I feel so much better in the Kinvaras. No shin splints, no aching knees. The only issue I had the first few times I ran in them was achiness in my right hip. And I stretched the sucker out, and like magic the achiness went away.

8) I hate Lebron James. I also hate that he finally won his stupid, precious ring last night. I don’t really care about the NBA at all and if you asked me to tell you the last time I watched I game I couldn’t. But I can tell you I have an abnormal hatred for Lebron.

9) I used to be incapable of remembering to pack a lunch for work. Then one day I looked at my budget and realized the insane amount of money I was spending every month by not packing my lunch and I have now successfully taken my lunch to work for several months. Yes, I am exceptionally proud of myself, you should be too.

10) The first casualty of marathon training has appeared. Good-bye left toenail, it was nice knowing you.