Medium run, 4 miles, 45:29; splits 11:16, 11:01, 12:34, 10:33; RPE 4-7

Instead of the state game land route, I decided to run my usual course and turn around at 2 miles. I didn’t feel like dealing with the incredibly steep hills & tall brush, and I was curious to see where the Forerunner would place the second mile mark. Turned out to be a harder run than I planned on because Canada Road has just been spread with gravel, so the footing is very bad; a chance to practice keeping my legs loose below the knee. I still haven’t moved to a morning schedule, but Jonathan’s not out late rehearsing, so I ran as soon as I got home–but I had to stay late at work. It wasn’t too hot, even though everything smelled great after baking in the sun. Pine resin, the damp earth smell of the fresh dirt/gravel mix, and powerful sweetness in the honey locust grove near the end of the run–no blossoms visible yet, but it must be them. There’s a kind of grass (I think) around here that has a particularly pungent sweet smell, too–more noticeable in the spring but still around. I saw an animal sitting in the road ahead of me which at first I thought was a cat. But it was too big, and when it got up I saw that its legs were too long. Before I could get really close it leaped over the barbed wire fence into the woods. It was a fox–I think a gray fox. My friend Mary Beth’s rule of thumb that I just learned is that if you see a red fox, there’s no doubt, it’s knock-your-eyes out red. If you see an animal & you think “Gee, I guess that’s a red fox,” it’s a gray fox. If you see a foxy creature that definitely looks gray, it’s a coyote.

The Forerunner beeped for the second mile right where I had marked the split in the car, so I think the distance measurements are accurate. When I run the Stanley Lake loop again, I’ll see whether I messed something up last time. I stopped on the way back up the long long hill to eat wild raspberries–there’s a huge patch of them there. I love raspberries, but our wild ones are very seedy and not particularly tasty. Still, a raspberry break is an opportunity not to be missed, especially because I’ve seldom found more than a few bushes together. I love the Forerunner’s auto-pause feature!

We’re leaving on vacation Saturday, and I’ll do Sunday’s long run in Montreal! So next entry may be the last one until we get back (Sunday 7/11). I’m really glad to have the Forerunner for vacation–I don’t need to worry about picking routes ahead of time.

3 miles, 31:00; av HR 158; splits 10:18, 10:57, 9:45; RPE 6-8

I was trying for a tempo run (race pace, basically, if I’m remembering correctly), and I’m very happy with the results! Whoo-hoo, still improving! It was cool & pleasant this morning, which helped. I got up a little earlier than usual because I haven’t set up my ideal getting-to-work-late-on-run-days schedule. I might do the 4-miler tomorrow evening and the long run Saturday, because we’re going on vacation next week & might leave Saturday. I’m looking forward to a more consistent routine once we get back.

Tried the Forerunner on my bicep. It’s so much harder to see up there. I’ve been wondering whether its inaccuracy on the 5-mile run could have due to me not properly resetting the previous run–if I could have had a little bit at the beginning that wasn’t part of it? The split markers on the shorter runs seem to fall exactly right, and if anything the Forerunner should underestimate distance if it loses satellite signal. Hmm…

Saw 4 deer this morning–one a very young fawn–and heard more. The Canada geese youngsters are just barely smaller than their parents. There were about 40 of them by the pond, and they made the word “gaggle” look very appropriate as they milled about.

Miles for the week: 15 (3/4/3/5) TRAINING WEEK ONE
5 miles LSD: 58:12, av. heart rate 139; splits supposedly 10:12, 10:10, 11:04, 13:04, 12:32; RPE 3-5
Weight: 116
Resting heart rate: 49
Fitness test: 49

Setbacks on resting heart rate and fitness test, but I think it’s lack of sleep. This was production week for Drop Dead, so I was up late waiting for Jonathan, out late after performances, etc.

I did my long run yesterday, because we had company staying over Saturday night, and it was yet another wonderful day for a run and yet another great run! I was concerned I went out too fast, and I still think I should have taken it slower, but 139 average heart rate is the lowest I’ve ever had for ANY run EVER.

But my Forerunner GPS that I was so excited about says that the run was 5.08 miles, and that contradicts both a car tripmeter and Microsoft Streets & Trips, which both say 4.8 miles. I wish the Forerunner were right, because that would mean I’m running faster than I thought, but I’m afraid it’s not. And that level of inaccuracy makes it practically useless. Bummer! I am going to try it on my upper arm and see if that helps… The GarminF newsgroup also says that leaving it outside for 15 minutes before a run so it can maximally lock on to satellites can help. There’s even an amplifier antenna you can get, but that sounds too complicated & expensive to me.

On this run the only form thing I was working on was high stride rate on the downhills. I found this long discussion of various techniques and that seems to be what most people agreed was helpful. Since most of Steamtown is downhill, I need to be thinking about that.

New wildflowers this week: Canada thistle, some kind of white aster, viburnum, daylily, St. John’s wort, sumac, wild basil, lesser pyrola, wild parsnip. Honeysuckles berries are ripening. The flower I couldn’t identify last week (because I thought the leaves were simple when they are divided) is white avens. And some corrections: what I thought was wild sunflower was actually goatsbeard, and the phlox is dame’s rocket. Thank you to my co-worker Mary Beth who shares my love for wildlife and knows more about it!

Short run: 3.2 miles, 34:08, HR ?, RPE 5-8, splits 10:20, 11:14, 10:11

Well, the Forerunner is not as accurate as I hoped. The elevation and grade measures are way off at times (losing satellite signal is part of the problem, but also I was reading that due to the nature of GPS, the data can’t be accurately collected fast enough to do well at something like grade). And apparently pace is not necessarily accurate either. Bummer. I still think it’s helpful though. People say that moving the unit to your bicep or shoulder greatly improves the accuracy (because your body isn’t shadowing it from the sky as much). I might try that, although I can visualize falling over trying to look at the screen!

A decent run, certainly nice & fast, but I was focusing too much on the Forerunner to pay enough attention to my body, the world, etc. I’m a little tired–11 miles in three consecutive days, & not getting enough sleep with Jonathan out rehearsing for Drop Dead and coming home late every night. Things will settle down next week, I hope. I wonder how going back to morning runs will affect speed etc.

I wore my new shoes–they are so cool! They’re light green on the inside so they almost look like they glow. These will be my marathon shoes; I have enough miles left in my older pair to do most of my training, so I’ll try to keep these clean & newer looking.

107 days, if I’m counting correctly!

Medium run: 4.1 miles, 50:30, AHR 154, RPE 3-8; splits 10:02, 14:02, 13:24, 10:20.

I LOVE the Forerunner! I am SO GLAD I got it now; it’s going to be incredibly helpful–I had no idea how much. It tracks my pace constantly, a very useful piece of information I haven’t had before, on top of the wonderful distance measurement, and now I see it can do elevation and grade too! Wow.

Already tonight I learned that without much effort, when there’s little grade, I’m doing around 10 minute miles; but on the uphills it’s more like 13 or 14 mn, which is not made up for on downhills (maybe 9 mn there). So it doesn’t all even out, as I thought it did; the fact that every run I do has significant hills is part of why I seem to be so very slow! Which does make me wonder why I didn’t do better in the Chris Thater 5K, which was pretty flat. However, I did have trouble pacing myself that day (started too slow), it was really hot and humid, and I do find it more difficult to run on the flat (psychologically and physically too, although I think ChiRunning principles are really helping with that).

This run (up the “mountain” opposite our house, down to the end of a state game land trail & back) has two very-very-very steep hills (I’m interested in seeing the grade next time). Plus the trail is not mowed yet, so I was running on a narrow trail left by one tire of a truck through waist-high grass, which must have slowed me down too. I left a little late–8:30pm–so it was quite dark by the time I got back. Lovely sunset colors in the sky, and a crescent moon. (which makes me think of my favorite mnemonic:

O moon, how thou deceivest me!
Thou art not crescent when a C
Nor yet decreasing when a D.

Yes, it was crescent.) Lots of dogbane on the trail. I startled a groundhog–he startled me too!–who made quite a commotion getting himself up and running away. He must have been napping right near the trail, which hardly ever gets much traffic, let alone foot traffic.

On the way back up the long, long hill, a minivan pulled over. The driver, a nice woman accompanied by at least one teenage girl, said that “the girls” had thought I was bleeding, so she turned around to see if I was OK! Very sweet of them, but I can’t imagine why they would have thought that. I wasn’t wearing any red, but it was dusk. Unless the Forerunner, which I wore up near my elbow, looked strange? Anyway, they were nice, and I was pleased to see that I wasn’t gasping for breath as I talked to them. I guess it doesn’t say much about my running form for people to think I’m injured!

Short run: 3+ miles. 34:39, AHR 156.

Wow! What a good run. I don’t know whether it was the Cheerios after the long run or what, but that’s a fast time for me and I felt good. PLUS that includes at least a minute taking a couple of photos of the mountain laurel and greeting the boxer and black-and-tan mutt. NRMT wants me to track the “rate of perceived exertion” for each run, with 1 very easy effort, 5 hard effort, and 10 maximal effort; this ranged from 3 to 6, I guess. Splits for the first & last mile were 10:33 and 9:16 (the “mile” in the middle is definitely more like 1.2). Go me! I was at a plateau for a long time and it feels exciting to be making progress. I’m sure I’ll reach another one soon but right now it feels like running down hill–a pleasure!

I left work early and drove to the National Running Center store in Clark Summit. I’ve never been to a “real running store” and that’s the closest one, but it was a little disappointing–I’m not sure what I was expecting, but more than just one little room. I got another pair of shoes, New Balance 856s, which are really spiffy-looking, a pair of nice blue WrightSock double-layer anti-blister socks, and a waist pack. I hoped to be able to carry my camera with me, and it worked nicely for the short run–a little heavy, but it didn’t bounce around. Also got a few different kinds of gels to try when I get into the longer runs, and a pair of hi-tech underpants. AND my Garmin Forerunner 201 (wrist GPS) arrived today. Can’t wait to try it (it had to charge and now is locking onto satellites). I’m going to look like a total dork (although it’s smaller than I thought), but the lure of accurately tracking mileage is hard to resist. Plus, gotta face it, I love gadgets!

Rest day, and I’m thinking about food. I originally said I wanted to get closer to 110 than 120 before real training started, but I’m at 117. I’ve only gotten there by recently (past 2 weeks) formally vowing to cut out junk food and candy, and eliminating my normal glass of wine/beer on weeknights. Everyone says “don’t diet while marathon training,” which makes sense, and I mostly want to focus on eating extra-nutritious food as opposed to *not* eating stuff. Junk food can be a real temptation for me, and I also fall into that stupid trap where I think it doesn’t “count” if I’m on the road/on my own etc. So if I’m with Jonathan, I need real meals, but by myself a candy bar & bag of chips is fine. I want to treat my body better than that!

Going through a number of the running blogs that Mark’s collected, I was struck how many of the first ones I checked out referred to having had eating disorders. Scary! I’ve never gotten near that unbalanced about food, but there are things I need to look out for. Reading and eating are tied together: if I’m eating something delicious I particularly want something fun to read, and vice-versa. So I’m trying to keep a few principles in mind (eat slowly and avoid fake food–emphasized by Will Clower’s great The Fat Fallacy–focus on enjoying the food, choose good food even if it takes longer/costs more, etc.)

I’ve been a vegetarian (lacto-ovo) for more than 20 years, by the way, and normally I don’t worry about protein at all, but I’ll have to keep that in mind a little more. We have a good source of free-range eggs, so that will be easy (especially since I love eggs). Through another blog I found this page on what to eat after a long run. Slim-Fast? No thanks, that spells “fake food” to me, but what seems just perfect is Cheerios with milk & fruit. I love love love them but normally avoid them most of the time because I tend to not be able to stop at one bowl. A legitimate reason to down 2 bowls after a long run? Hurray! “My advice is to find something that you really love to eat and use it as a celebration of your hard work from your training.” Exactly. A reason to look forward to long runs! I just better check the Cheerios box again–I remember them as being basically pretty healthy without too many additives, but…

Miles for the week: 14 (3/3/3/5) PRE-TRAINING WEEK 4
5 miles LSD: 1:00:18, average heart rate 140 (good!)
Weight: 117
Resting HR: 44
Fitness test: 53

Another gorgeous day for the long run: cobalt sky with a few bright white clouds, on the cool side, dry, breeze, sunny, perfect! I focused on keeping my heart rate under 140 if possible, having relaxed arms & legs (especially ankles), and “body sensing” (I’m making my way through Danny Dryer’s ChiRunning). At one point my right knee was hurting a tiny bit. When I became aware of it, I tried to consciously relax the muscles around the knee and straighten my feet a little, and the pain went away.

Long runs on sunny days create the right conditions for my version of “runner’s high”: a feeling of perfect happiness, that all is right in my world, my body and mind are in sync and I’m doing just what I ought to be doing. I’m a monist, not a dualist–I think body/mind is one thing, that I am my body and my body is me, so it’s unfortunate that I’ve often been more focused on the cerebral and not taken my body seriously enough. One of the great things about running is the necessary focus on listening to my body, fueling my body (instead of just eating what my mind thinks I *want*), appreciating my body and what it can do. So that feeling that my body is doing what it was designed to do, that I’m using it to its full capacity as well as my brain, brings happiness and fulfillment.

I have a hat and wristbands now, but the jury’s still out (maybe a visor would be better; a TOWEL would definitely be better than a wristband!) I wore shorts on Friday’s 3-miler and got a blackfly bite on the thigh that hurt like the dickens (especially when my sweat got into it and made it sting) and still itches. I’ll definitely put up with the increased heat of tights in order to avoid that happening again (plus the sunscreen factor). Of course I get bitten & sunburned on my arms, but I’m used to that. My poor legs are usually covered up so they would have a lot of toughening up to do.

Still lots of new wildflowers this week, though it’s got to slow down soon: milkweed just starting, crown vetch, yarrow, musk mallow, aslike clover, curled dock, wild madder (awful weed!), butter-and-eggs, one small brown-eyed susan, bittersweet nightshade, Deptford pink. A spiked rush of some kind, lots of grasses. Ones I didn’t know & had to bring home to check: whorled loosestrife, moneywort, clasping-leaved dogbane, and one I still can’t find although it looks like it should be easy! At the opposite end of Stanley Lake I saw a couple of dandelions with three or four skippers on each (cute little brown insects that are not true butterflies but in the same suborder), and I saw one mourning cloak butterfly.

Tomorrow will be my last long run in pre-training, and then I’ll start the Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer 16-week program. I’ve been posting once a week, but now that I’m moving into high gear, more frequently feels right. I’ve read NRMT all the way through a number of times, but I’m going to go through methodically one chapter a week as I prepare for that week’s training. So I read the introduction this week & it led me to think about why I want to run a marathon.

I’ve never been athletic; last-picked all through school, etc. I don’t stand a chance of ever excelling at any physical activity. The beauty of the marathon is that just finishing is an achievement–and one that most anyone recognizes as such. I mean, it was an achievement for me to finish my first 5K, but in the grand scheme of things that’s not a big deal. But running a marathon is. Sure, it’s something just about anyone could do, but few people actually attempt it. Lots of fit people could hop out of bed and run 3.1 miles without any preparation, but not 26.2.

When I looked at the Forest City News article on Steamtown and saw the long list of names, I realized that each of those people had done something amazing. And that’s what started me running on a small scale, 4 1/2 years ago, even though at that time the marathon was not a realistic goal for me. So: an achievement. A physical achievement. A peak experience, which in my philosophy of life are to be sought out whenever possible.

And what really sold me on NRMT when I flipped through it at Barnes & Noble was the focus on the psychological benefits. All the regular people who took Whitsett & Dolgener’s class (NRMT is based on a 3-credit “marathon class” taught at University of Northern Iowa) said preparing for and running the marathon changed their lives. They talked about feeling, believing that they could do anything now. I want that!

Running a marathon is a peak experience available to anyone that will take you to what you thought were your personal limits and beyond. It is easily accessible, relatively inexpensive, and is the single most physically and mentally challenging activity (equal only to childbirth) I have ever experienced.

Granted, running a marathon is certainly not the only way to exercise control over your life. But it is one way. And it could be your way. We will lead you through it, and if you follow our instructions, you will finish. And it will change your life. That’s a promise.

And here’s what Hollie, author of my favorite running blog, said:

i want to turn 29 a few days after the race in october, having the pages of this story written, and feel like i made something of my 28th year– i got off my ass and did something so remarkable, difficult, and inspiring that i can carry it with me as long as i’m alive to remember it.

Change 29 to 40, and yeah, that’s it in a nutshell. And she did it, and it felt just as amazing as she hoped.

Miles for the week: 13 (3/2/3/5) PRE-TRAINING WEEK 3
5 miles LSD: 58:31, average heart rate 150
Weight: 119
Resting HR: 48?
Fitness test: 49

Perfect day: sunny, breezy, not too hot. I tried to keep my speed down by focusing on a 3/3 rhythm for the first 4 miles, aiming for heart rate under 150 (except up hills), then picked up the pace for the last mile. Thanks to Mark adding me to his collection of running blogs this week, I got hooked on Hollie’s enthralling marathon training blog, which I spent way too much time reading but led me to think about focusing on not overdoing it! She pushed herself too hard in the early stages of training and suffered through several injuries. My mileage is still very, very low (and will stay that way with the Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer schedule), but I have to be careful of the desire to run faster on the long runs. I’ve also been reading that hills are equivalent to speedwork, in which case I’m forced to do speedwork on every single run. So taking the long run as easy as I can (“you should feel like you’re not working hard enough”) is important.

I’ve already started to think about how I plan to break down the marathon mentally, since the longest runs before it will be two eighteen milers. This will probably change as training really gets underway, but right now my plan is to think of the first 20 miles as “the last training run,” and the final 6.2 as “the marathon.” “The marathon is twenty miles of running and six miles of truth,” quotes Hollie. Yipes. And the amount of pain she ran with…I’ve had it really, really easy up until now.

The new running tights are working out OK. I’m also going to need non-cotton underwear, maybe a hat, & something to deal with sweat–tennis wristbands would work. Next week 14 miles, and then real training begins!

Flowering now: multiflora rose, which is *everywhere* and perfumes the air (it’s a noxious weed and I’m trying to get rid of it on our ten acres, but it does smell good); Virginia rose; wild sunflower; heal-all; yarrow; hop clover; mountain laurel in full bloom now. I saw some kind of ichneumenon wasp with an incredibly long ovipostor (at least as long as the rest of the body), a dragonfly, and lots of butterflies. There was a tiger swallowtail feeding from the mountain laurel (beautiful together), some tortoiseshells, and many butterflies I can’t find on a quick flip through my books: mostly black with a white stripe across the wings. [Turns out they were admirals; alive the white stripes line up to make a V, but the identification pictures I was looking at were of dead pinned butteflies, with wings spread out as they never are in life. 6/19/04] A couple of male goldfinches right near a stand of yellow hawkweed, so they looked like flying flowers themselves. No dogs or geese today, but earlier in the week there were about 7 or 8 geese couples with maybe 50 or 60 goslings, various ages but all quite large. Too many geese!