Short run, 4 miles, 42:08; splits 11:1, 10:53, 10:38, 9:35

Wow, look at those splits! I ran 6 intervals, .15 miles then easy jog (result of my usual bad mental math, I think I was aiming for 1000m repeats which are 1 km = .6 miles each, duh!), and the hill configuration helped, but I’m still pleased. (Guaranteed negative splits: run out&back; up a hill with the 1/2 way point at the summit. Hah.) Otherwise nothing particularly notable about the run that I can remember. I got up earlier than usual to be out the door by 8:30am, so I was on the sleepy side. Humid, foggy morning but not raining, so that’s a good day for this summer.

July 27

Short run, 4 miles, 43:08; splits 10:25, 11:17, 11:07, 10:16

My first run when it had already been raining hard for a long time (as opposed to the rain starting once I was already running). Heading out the door did give me a little psychological shudder, but it really wasn’t bad at all (it’s not cold, after all!) I tried a new run: one mile out & back to the right, and one mile out and back to the left. A mix of hard road & dirt road, uphill and downhill, views of the mountains and view of the pond, plus our neighbor up the hill’s lovely garden. I’ll stick to this one for a while. I didn’t feel 100% recovered from Sunday so I didn’t push too hard.

I need to take the mental training more seriously. Chapter 6 in Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer is the first one with an assignment I don’t already do sort of instinctively. Up until now, there’s been stuff like tacking “…but it doesn’t matter” to the end of negative thoughts that come up during the run (which hasn’t been an issue so far!); running mental videos of good runs and of finishing the marathon (which is part of the day-dreaming I do when thinking about any goal, so I’ve been replaying my marathon video for at least a year!); and thinking of yourself as a marathoner, ie with complete confidence that you will finish (which so far, I’ve had). But Chapter 6 asks you to create a self-talk paragraph to read to yourself several times a day and memorize. Here’s mine:

I am a marathoner. I love to run, no matter what the weather is like. I get stronger every day, physically and mentally. I can tackle any hill, any mood, any obstacle. I can run forever. I am a marathoner!

It occured to me that it’s just as easy for me to be complacent about little good mental habits (like mental movies, or generally using positive self talk) as it was to be complacent about little good physical habits (like parking at the far end of parking lots, taking the stairs when possible, walking up & down escalators). Those little good habits are fine, but there’s still a huge gulf between walking a few blocks and running five miles. So there might also be such a gulf between “yeah, postive self-talk, check,” and actually memorizing & repeating a paragraph like NRMT recommends. I’ll try & see!


Medium run, 5 miles, 54:29; splits 10:59, 9:56, 10:59, 11:53, 10:42.

I ran in the evening because tomorrow morning I’m attending a GPS class that starts at 9, and we have people coming over tomorrow night. Thunderstorms earlier, but they had cleared, so it was good running weather (not too hot or muggy).

I’ve been doing more thinking & research about gels vs sports drinks. It’s frustrating that NRMT doesn’t mention gels, and Marathon Training for Dummies promotes them & doesn’t mention sports drinks for during a race (as opposed to before & after). Author Tere Stouffer Drenth just says she doesn’t drink sports drinks during a run, but doesn’t explain why. What started me questioning was how some gels have varying amounts of electrolytes & some don’t; so if you want to make sure you’re getting them (which most advice says you should, although there are contrarians), you’d need sports drink in addition to gels–but you’re only supposed to drink water with gels! Plus I found a number of sites explaning that if you don’t drink the right quantity of water with your gels, they either suck the water back out of your intestines/tissues, or are too diluted. And I’d need at least 6 gel packets for the marathon, which seems like a lot; Gatorade is available at every aid station. Gels are expensive, too, and not as easily available as Gatorade.

The tipping point for me was this article which describes a study comparing sports drink to placebo to a solid/liquid carb mix (but NOT a gel, unfortunately). A quote I just stumbled across: “The plural of anecdote is not data.” Gels have a lot of anecdotes behind them, but not a lot of research. So I figured, let me try Gatorade (since you’re supposed to make sure you can tolerate the brand served at the race). When I did my 8-miler a few years ago, I got some Powerade and hated it. I don’t like Gatorade, but I saw the tag-line at their website about how it tastes different when you’re hot & sweaty. So I got some at the supermarket and tried it in the Hydrobak today.

It was OK! I had gotten home from work ravenous (which is happening much more now that my mileage is climbing) and gobbled a bowl of Cheerios, a banana, and a little leftover Jonathan coffee (ie STRONG) in a cup of milk, then headed out. So my stomach was a little uncomfortably full & sloshy (I’ll try not to do that again!), yet the Gatorade didn’t bother me. I still don’t love the flavor, but the plasticy water in the Hydrobak is no taste sensation either; drinking enough is a chore either way. So I’ll try Gatorade on my 11-miler this weekend. It would be great not to have to carry too much on marathon day (I’d bring a couple of gels anyway, one to share & one with caffeine for an extra kick–maybe the tangerine PowerGel, which is double caffeine).

Anyway, on to today’s run. Where the road turns around Stanley Lake, there’s a Rottweiler who’s always been chained, but he was off today. I heard scuffling and turned around to see him charging at me, barking. Rotties are such strong, dominant dogs that they scare me when they are aggressive, and this one’s behavior was unsettling: hackles raised, then tail wagging, approaching threateningly, then backing off in fear. My technique with dogs I’m not sure about is to stop, face the dog, pat my thighs, and ask in a high, happy voice (a la Barbara Woodhouse, who claimed that was one of the secrets to charming a dog), “Do you want to come say hi?” Even if we don’t actually make friends, this seems to reassure the dog that I’m probably OK. After some back & forth, he eventally turned & ran back around the bushes to the house (his owner may have been calling him). My heart rate had barely settled back down when I heard a lot of birds squabbling and saw a young redtail hawk quite near in the grass. It flew away holding something it had just caught in one claw, pursued by a bunch of starlings.

On the other side of the lake, I passed an eft in the road and thought a little too late that I should have picked it up and moved it before it got run over. Then, not much farther, there was a garter snake in the middle of the road and I thought I should definitely move it. As I recall, it was moving a little bit, but when I grabbed it behind the head, it didn’t thrash around like I expected, and it hung limp. I dropped it on the shoulder and it flopped there, stomach up. “Poor thing, it already got run over,” I thought, and picked it back up. I didn’t see any signs of obvious trauma, and it didn’t feel *quite* slack, but the jaw seemed to be lolling slightly open. I dropped it back on the shoulder and it landed on its back again–but it was definitely moving. Was it just its spine re-adjusting, like a spring? I watched it for at ittle bit and it continued to move slowly. I couldn’t figure out if it was really dead, but I’ve never heard of garter snakes playing dead (only hognose snakes–I’ve always wanted to see one!) And if it *were* playing dead, wouldn’t it eventually cut and run? After standing there for a while, I walked back and moved the eft, and then when I ran back I didn’t spot the snake. I think it must have been really dead. A quick Google on garter snakes playing dead doesn’t turn anything up, but reminds me that the one giveaway with hognose snakes is that if you flip them over onto their stomachs when they’re playing dead, they will turn themselves upside down again (“no! this is what dead looks like!”) I should have tried that with this one!

Finally, I passed a couple of deer young enough to still have spots. Seeing deer is no big deal, but I’m always excited to see a fawn, and the first one I saw was just like a postcard scene: posed on the far grassy bank of a pond (a pond which was built wrong and is normally dry, but everything’s flooded!), just looking up from nibbling the grass.

Long run, 10 miles; 2:03:50; average heart rate 147; splits 11:12, 11:25, 10:56, 11:13, 11:33, 10:57, 14:23, 13:25, 13-ish, ?
WEEK 5; total miles 21 (3/5/3/10)
Weight 115, resting heart rate 48, fitness test 48

Uncharted territory! First 10-miler, first 20+ mile week, and a new loop for my long run. I’ve been looking forward to running this loop for a long time (go out our driveway and make all lefts, which is a 10 mile triangle!).

The day didn’t start out very auspiciously though. Because of something that came up, we ate very late & went to bed late, but I wanted to get an early start so woke up before 7am (hence higher resting heart rate & lower fitness test, I think) with a headache & not feeling particularly energetic. Getting ready took a long time. I was using Two Toms foot powder for the first time, and it had clumped (maybe I didn’t reseal the jar properly after opening it the first time?), so it felt like sand in my socks. I tried crushing the little pebbles with my fingers which took a long time and wasn’t very effective. (They did crush themselves during the run without hurting my feet; I’m not sure if the blister prevention was as effective as it could have been, though. Next time I’ll use a spoon and try to avoid the clumpy stuff on top, instead of just shaking the jar.) Then I discovered that my Forerunner was out of battery power. Last time I used it I’m sure it had 5 or 6 hours left, but maybe it got turned on accidentally. No way was I running without it! I put it in the cradle & tried to go back to sleep without much luck. I checked it in a little while & it said 3 hours (fine) then quickly dropped to 2 (iffy, but I decided to risk it). Must remember to charge it the day before a long run, no matter what!

Finally I got going at about 7:45am. A partially cloudy morning, on the cool side for summer. I felt a little loaded down with the Forerunner, the heart rate monitor, the Hydrobak (sloshing problem solved, and I got the straps adjusted as best they can be), and the waist pack with 2 energy gels. But I settled into a good rhythm and the run went well. There are hardly any houses at all on this loop, so it was very peaceful, but the terrain and vegetation are quite varied and different from my other routes. Lots of new wildflowers: purple-flowering raspberry (like in Montreal), monkey flower, snakeroot, boneset, tearthumb, lady’s thumb, spotted knapweed, chamomile, sow thistle, galinsoga, tick trefoil, wild bergamot, and a couple I couldn’t identify. I used the zippered pocket of my waistpack for samples, otherwise I’d never be able to remember so many!

I tried energy gels for the first time. I brought 2 and ate them at 4 miles and 8 miles. The first was a chocolate Powergel with caffeine. I was prepared to be revolted, since I hate sports drinks, but actually it was good! Yeah, the texture’s a little difficult to deal with, but it was pretty thick and not too slimy. I didn’t feel a sudden surge of energy or anything, but my pace didn’t flag and I continued to feel pretty good. My knees were stiffening around mile 5-6, but when I started to go uphill again that went away, so I think it’s the downhills that bring it on. (Not a good sign for Steamtown…) From mile 6 on was all uphill (that’s the 14 1/2 minute split! gosh!) The second energy gel was a Carb Boom! apple cinnamon. Kinda yuck–it didn’t taste too bad but not great and the texture was definitely worse than the Powergel. I definitely felt like I had to choke down the last few swallows.

Then, alas, the Forerunner’s battery ran out, so I had to guesstimate when I reached 10 miles (I think I overshot a little, if anything). My last split probably would have been around 14 minutes also, as it included the infamously steep hill up to our house. Looks like 600+’ difference between the highest and lowest points of this loop, according to the Forerunner data I did get–in 10 miles, as opposed to 900′ in the whole of the marathon course.

I didn’t feel wiped out physically when I got home, but after stretching/Cheerios/shower I took a nap and haven’t done much since. I don’t think I’d better expect too much of myself on long run days.

Short run, 3 miles, 33:15; splits 11:04, 11:29, 10:31

“Rain, heavy at times,” as the weather radio says. It felt quite pleasant, actually. But a nice old guy in a truck pulled up next to me and asked, “Are you OK?”

“Yes, I’m fine!” I replied, and mentally added: “I ‘m a marathoner!” (as NRMT recommends you should repeat to yourself).  Which reminds me that during this past Sunday’s run, my dad (a worrier at times) thought I might call for help–because it was raining–on the cell phone he lent me. I have come a long way. It even occurred to me that if it does absolutely pour on marathon day, I can bring extra socks–maybe 2 pairs–and change along the way. I will finish, no matter what!

An unexceptional easy run. My last 3-miler–next week the “short” run goes to 4 miles.

Medium run, 5 miles, 59:07; splits 11:32, 10:44, 11:22, 13:02, 12:28

Muggy, overcast morning, and my first time running with my Camelbak water backpack. I bought it a couple of years ago when I started to go over 1 1/2 hours of running, but it didn’t come until after my 8 mile run (my peak back then) and so I haven’t needed it yet. But I will for my 10 mile Sunday run and figured I’d try getting used to it today. First mistake: I left air in the bladder so it made annoying sloshing sounds. I’ve figured out how to fix that for Sunday. Second mistake: I don’t think I have the straps adjusted quite right. I’ll have to work on that. Breathing & drinking definitely takes getting used to. My plan is to drink about a cup every 2 miles, since that’s how far apart the water stops are at the marathon. Third mistake: I didn’t measure how many small swallows is a cup. I’ll do that before Sunday. Two other new things I’m going to try Sunday: energy gels (I have one of each of the major brands to try), and Two Toms anti-blister foot powder. Everybody says with great emphasis, “Don’t do ANYTHING different on marathon day.” Lots of experimenting to do ahead of time!

As well as the usual rabbits and deer, I saw a red squirrel and a vole this morning. After the red squirrel, I was thinking about how I hardly ever see even common gray squirrels, so then I saw one too. The vole was crossing the road, just a little black speck, but I caught up to it and got a good look at it on the shoulder. I just saw one two days ago in front of the library, also. This must be a population boom year for them–I wonder if it’s tied to the rabbit population, which is also booming now (after a crash during which you hardly ever saw a rabbit).

Short run (tempo run), 3 miles, 28:52; splits 9:59, 9:59, 8:54

Whoooo! I ran in the evening after a long, long day (trip to Harrisburg to meet with state senate people about funding, so stressful too), and just thought as I was tying on my shoes, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I ran each mile under 10 minutes.” I didn’t really think I could–this run has 2 major uphills, it was hot & humid, & I didn’t want to kill myself–but look at that! I did push pretty hard; it is my short run, there’s a rest day on either side, and I wanted to see if I could keep the effort up the whole time. I still didn’t pour on everything I had (although I came close at the end), but this would match my best 5K time. Wow!!!!

I was thinking about my increased tolerance for sweat (I still don’t like it, but I’m getting used to it) and that the hot flashes I’ve been dealing with since my hysterectomy have helped me deal with sweat, heat, and discomfort better than I used to be able to. Add that to the running, and I’ve sweated more in the past year than probably in the rest of my life put together. Blech, but I think there’s an element of truth to the idea that it’s healthy. All systems work better when they are used!

Wildflowers today: the first goldenrod and Joe Pye weed, bindweed and pearly everlasting.

I’m making the actual running a priority, but too many other things are going on to be timely with my posts. This has replaced my pieces-of-scrap-paper “system” for tracking my progress, though, so if I have to keep catching up in batches, that’s what I’ll do…
Friday, July 16 Short run, 3 miles, 32:37; splits 10:57, 11:13, 10:27. Another gray morning with drizzle turning to rain. I didn’t push myself on this one. Spotted a chicory plant, which I see from the car but haven’t yet on my runs (normally they’re everywhere, but it’s been too wet).
Sunday, July 18 Long run, 8 miles, 1:29:20, average heart rate 144; splits 10:58, 11:10, 10:50, [got messed up], 12:07, 11:29, 10:36, 10:25. WEEK 4, total miles 19 (3/5/3/8). Weight about 116, haven’t measured heart rate.
We were visiting my dad in Delaware, so it was another run on new ground. I ran all the way to Pennsylvania, which was my goal–pretty exciting conceptually even if it was only 3 1/2 miles to the border. Thank goodness again for the Forerunner–I had planned out a route which went into White Clay Creek Park and picked up the Mason-Dixon Trail, but the roads weren’t marked, it was raining & muddy, and I ran a simpler route. There were tons of wild raspberries, much jucier & less seedy than the ones up here, so I took a few raspberry breaks (the splits got messed up because I manually stopped the timer, when I should remember just to let it auto-pause). I had been worried about proper hydration & bonking (sudden low blood sugar, which I’ve experienced a few times), but between the rain and the raspberries I had no trouble at all. The Delaware woods are so jungly–much more different from NE PA than Montreal was. Lots of loud birdcalls, mist, no cars, no people–very peaceful. I can’t believe how smoothly the training is still going! My joints felt a little sore starting around mile 6, and I was certainly very glad to be done, but I’m not getting near my limits yet. I sped up for the last quarter of the run & felt like I had some juice left. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. A few tiny blisters on the tips of some toes, but again nothing that bothered me (or that I even noticed until I stopped).  And I’m 25% of the way to the marathon! Wow…. now if the rest of life would just calm down a bit!

Medium run, 5 miles; 55:12; splits 10:59, 10:20, 10:54, 12:00, 11:00.
A gray cool morning with a little drizzle that then turned into pretty steady rain. Not too bad–and to think I used to worry about running in the rain. A really heavy downpour with big drops would be a different story, of course. So the Forerunner is definitely accurate and I must have screwed something up the first time I ran this course, because it measured just a little over 4.8 miles this time. I ran up and down the driveway to reach exactly 5, which seems a little anal, but I like those nice round numbers and being able to get my pace exactly. 2 new-to-me wildflowers: hemp nettle I think? (something in the mint family anyway, with white flowers) and some kind of agrimony.

Tuesday morning (7/13), short run, 3 miles; 30:22; splits 10:23, 10:28, 9:32.

Good run–I am thrilled that I am actually getting faster! It’s nice to be back home, too. Wildflowers have definitely slowed down, but I noticed one each of jewelweed, Queen Anne’s Lace, and evening primrose. Seeing deer happens all the time, but I passed within 20 yards of a doe who hadn’t seen or heard me coming and just barely stopped chewing, staring at me with sort of a “huh?” expression. I’ve started a schedule where I’ll be going in to work a little late on my running days–it’s much easier to run first thing than do it in the heat after a long day at work.

Catching up on vacation runs!

Sunday 7/5 in Montreal; long run, 6 miles (ended up 6.7 plus lots of walking) in Mont-Royal Park, 1:28:04. Splits 12:13, 12:49, 13:32, 12:10, 12:29, 15:34. WEEK 2; total miles 16.

I was nervous–my first run away from home, my first over-5-miles in a couple of years, an afternoon run, an area I didn’t know, etc. It was quite a long walk to the park even from the closest Metro station, and a hot day too. But I quickly found my way onto Chemin Olmstead (as in the Central Park designer, who also landscaped this park), a nice wide finely-graveled path which goes all the way to the summit. The park overlooks the city. A good run initially–the first 3+ miles all uphill but on a very gradual incline. Quite a few other runners, lots of bikers and walkers. I was watching for form and noticed a lot of people with conspicuously asymmetrical arm carries–left arm swinging normally but right hand sort of flapping forward. Interesting. Near the top of the hill there’s a “chalet,” really an imposing building with a broad stone belvedere and magnificent views. I brought my camera in my waist pack and so was able to pause and take photos. The path diverges into a long loop at the top and by the time I got back to the intersection, I had already reached 4 miles. I wanted to end back at the hotel at 6 miles so I could stretch and have my cereal ASAP, so I decided to leave the broad path and take smaller ones directly back to the park entrance. Mistake! I took lots of paths that didn’t end up where it seemed like they should, and exhausted myself trying to run up and down and back–eventually I just walked anything too steep (there were lots of stairs too). On many occasions I could see exactly where I wanted to go, several hundred vertical feet below… The Forerunner kept losing GPS signals and by the time I finally got off the mountain it was way past 6 miles and I was nowhere near the hotel. Luckily I had brought an oatmeal bar and I ate it as I trudged back. Wildflowers pretty much the same as at home, except for purple-flowered raspberry.

Tuesday 7/6 in Montreal; short run, 3 miles along the harbor (Vieux-Port), 32:57; splits 10:25, 11:56, 10:37. Perfect in terms of length–I got just about all the way to the end of the road along the harbor before turning around, then got back to the hotel just at 3 miles. Nice views, but it’s definitely hard to relax on a run in a new place and especially in an urban environment. Too much stimulation, too much self-consciousness, or something!

Thursday 7/8 in Quebec City; medium run, 4 miles from the old city into Battlefields Park, 45:41; splits 11:49, 10:48, then got messed up, but overall pace 11:25. It was raining quite hard off and on, so I was the only person out there, which was nice. I was running along the St. Lawrence but couldn’t see it most of the way because trees were too thick. Lots of comfrey, which spread wild from the first colonists’ gardens. On the way back I ran through quiet streets parallel with the Grande Allée; lots of beautiful houses and pretty gardens (it reminded me of Berkley in that way). I stumbled across Jeanne d’Arc Park, an oval sunken garden, and ran around it to admire all the flowers. A really nice run!

Friday 7/9 in Quebec City; short run, 3 miles along the walls of the old city, 37:15; splits 11:52, 13:31, 11:53. The Fodor’s guide said there were 3 miles of path along the walls, but that’s not true; by two miles I was practically back where I started, so I ended up running from the Terasse Dufferin in front of Chateau Frontenac to the end of Promenade des Gouverneurs (basically a huge set of wooden stairs and decking along the cliff) and back. Amazing views, but the stairs were starting to tell on my knees.

Sunday 7/11 in Montreal; long run, 7 miles in Mont-Royal Park, 1:23:26; splits 12:16, 12:24, 13:18, 12:41, 10:53, 10:51, 11:03. Average heart rate 132! WEEK 3, total miles 17.

That was a great run! I managed to keep my heart rate way, way down and kept my pace pretty consistent (great splits for me). So 12.5 to 13 minutes is a good slow pace for me on uphills, 11 on downhills (at this point in my training). Good to know for the marathon, so I can plan it
out from the course profile. But I realized how hard it can be for me to keep my breathing & running rhythm when faster (& noisier) people are passing me! I ran from Duluth Street to the start of Chemin Olmstead to the loop, then turned around at the belvedere, then back down the way I came. Nine miles including walking on both ends from/to the hotel.

Thoughts on running while on vacation: I won’t do it again if I can help it. We usually walk 5-10 miles a day when visiting cities, so I was physically exhausted. It takes too much time & planning away from fun stuff. And although theoretically it’s nice to see more/new places this way, I’m too distracted by focusing on my run to really enjoy them. But hey, I kept up with my training and I’m glad to have tried it once. And the Forerunner was *invaluable*! I’m so happy I got it.