Second week of training

Miles for the week: ~17 (3.4/4.1/3.5/~6)
Average resting heart rate per Fitbit: 60 (gave blood)
Weight: 116
CityStrides coverage of Northampton: 36%
Long run: ~6 miles; avg HR 135; time 1:18; dead phone so don’t know splits

Pretty good heart rate for having giving blood on Tuesday, which usually knocks it out of me for a while. Even my Thursday run wasn’t too bad (average HR 150). Since my phone was dead I didn’t bother to think about new streets, but I added a garden: Frankie’s Garden, a small bed next to the courthouse. And I took a relaxed walk through the community gardens, got buzzed by a mockingbird (which I was able to identify for a gardener who said she saw them frequently but couldn’t describe them well enough for her birder friends to recognize), and got a glimpse of a house wren after hearing it sing. My mnemonic for them is Neddie Seagoon going “whatwhatwhatwhatwhat?”, but having just been listening to this Owl City song, that’s what I thought of (hear the real bird at 00:10):

Rudbeckia and rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) in full bloom, plus butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) which I do see wild along the bike path in Easthampton, but mostly in people’s gardens and in Pulaski Park now that they’ve landscaped it with native plants. It’s so beautiful!

First week of training!

Miles for the week: ~16 (3.3/3.3/3.3/6.3)
Average resting heart rate per Fitbit: 56
Weight: 116
CityStrides coverage of Northampton: 32%
Long run: 6.28 miles; avg HR 129; time 1:19:25 (avg 12:39), splits 13:23, 11:46, 11:59, 12:09, 13:46, 12:25

Wow, 3 weeks in a row my long run speed has gotten faster while my heart rate has been lower. Probably almost entirely the weather? It was pouring when I started out; I know from experience that running in the rain is fine, but it’s definitely harder to get myself out the door. Once I’m thoroughly wet and have soaked my feet by splashing through the first unavoidable puddle, I start enjoying it. I’ve learned the term voluntary discomfort from the Stoics via Mr. Money Mustache, so  can name what I’ve long vaguely recognized: there’s a particular satisfaction in going beyond tacking “…but it doesn’t matter” onto negative thoughts (NRMT advice), to embracing and actually relishing physical discomfort. It makes me feel like a “badass” in the modern sense, if I have that right: someone who is not intimidated by circumstances (like rain or heat or snow—I’ve got that) or people (very far on that one).

One of the learning experiences from my childhood, a story I’ve told many times, is heading for school on a miserable sleety day and stepping into a gutter right across the street from our apartment. My boot filled with slush, I wailed, and my dad took me home to dry my feet and change my socks. Then, to my shock and indignation, he took me right back out to school, even though I was a little late. Surely that level of hardship meant I was done for the day! His expectation that I would just pick myself up and try again impressed me, even though I felt I couldn’t quite live up to it. I thought about that as my shoes squished and felt sad that my dad is past the point that he can remember and discuss that memory… but we’ve talked about it before, and I will remember it until it’s my turn to let the past drop away.

Then it stopped raining and I noticed a cool phenomenon: the shower continued in the woods. I’ve often experienced the way a gust of wind recreates a sudden shower by shaking off drops from the leaves, but this was the same tempo and volume as a steady rain. The colors of the fields were still beautifully saturated, and flowers in the orange and yellow spectrum glowed, as did the bunches of goldfinches ping-ponging around in the weedy verges.

I’ve started up a minimal (5-10 mn) daily meditation practice, and embracing discomfort while running led me to think about how you’re supposed to sit with itches and aches. And then, right on cue, my keys started jingling in my waist pack. Argh, that drives me crazy! But isn’t that a similar situation, where the sound is what it is and my annoyance is something I can explore and eventually let melt away? I did refrain from re-adjusting the keys (which is often fruitless and frustrating anyway) for quite a little while.

Last pre-training weeks (3 & 4)

Miles for week 3: 14.5 (~2/3.5/2.5/6.5)
Miles for week 4:  15.5 (2.8/3/3.3/6.5)
Average resting heart rate (per Fitbit):  57 both weeks
Weight: 116 both weeks
CityStrides coverage of Northampton: 23% week 3, 27% week 4
Long run 7/8/2018: 6.54 miles; avg HR 142; time 1:23:22 (avg 12:45), splits 14:11, 15:09, 11:53, 12:35, 11:43, 11:47)
Long run 7/15/2018: 6.56 miles; avg HR 138; time 1:21:43 (avg 12:27), splits 13:09, 12:43, 11:53, 12:56, 11:59, 12:08)

These were only supposed to be 13 and 14 mile weeks but I’ve been going a little long in my exploration of new streets. It’s fine! Since my mileage is going to be lower than most training programs, I can totally go over, and the added fun of completing streets is extremely motivating. I made it to position #3 for Northampton! And I found this adorable 1901 brick cottage on a dead-end street:I’ve been exploring other voices for the audio cues in RunKeeper; the default (Kat) is a typical “yady,” our term for automated female voices based on my nephew’s pronunciation of “lady” when he was tiny (“Dose yadies are yaffing at me!”) I tried Announcer Guy on 7/8 and Your Conscience on 7/15. It turns out the non-default voices all have little extra random sayings (“You’re doing GREAT!”), which is enjoyable briefly but will probably send me back to the default after cycling through them. I changed the cue from my usual 1 mile to a half-mile, which was helpful in figuring out that the first few slow miles are primarily due to the gardens rather than the hills.  And weirdly, on 7/15 I ran significantly faster, even though it was warmer and much more humid.  Maybe I’m not that much slower than I used to be. The variability is certainly interesting.

7/8 was a gorgeous day, much cooler than the heat spell we’d been having, clear and dry. I saw a kingbird chasing a crow; my friend Harold had just sent me an article about crows chasing ravens, so the kingbird comes out on top in that hierarchy. That’s why the genus is Tyrannus! I ran into an old friend walking with her new baby—ah, I was forgetting that was one of the things which made the run slower—and also stopped to pet an exotic-looking cat who was lying in the road. But I stopped on 7/15 too. Always read the plaque was my curiosity-driven inclination anyway, but 99 Percent Invisible stuck it in my head as a phrase, and I so I took a picture of the plaque on the side of Ninomiya House which I might not have stumbled over if it weren’t for CityStrides, and submitted it to Read the Plaque, who published it! So much gratification! This Vermont license plate with my initials jumped out at me because it was a green spot on a yellow car: One of the pleasures of this route is passing both the entrance to the trails on the north bank of Mill River where people walk their dogs, and the main entrance to the unofficial “dog park” on the south bank. Everybody, dogs and people, is socializing while getting ready to walk, and everybody looks happy!

The next Sunday was a great weather contrast; the humidity made all the outlines fuzzier and the colors softer. All the daylilies in Capen Garden (they have a planting for each year’s best variety) are flowering, and it’s chicory season; the fields on Burts Pit Road were a sea of blue. But already the catalpa pods are lengthening, the green crabapples are falling, and the first unripe black walnuts too.

Useful running

Life is short and I want to pack as much as possible into it. Exercise for its own sake alone doesn’t grab me, which is why it’s always been hard to motivate myself to do stretching/pilates/weights. Running—if it’s outside, and especially with a race in my sights—is so much easier. (Podcasts make the indoors stuff  a tiny bit easier, but not much). Any kind of running at all has some benefits, but I want to maximize them.

Serious runners (which isn’t me—I’m a having-fun runner) talk about “junk miles,” runs without a training purpose. This article interestingly points out that runs in between easy and tempo are particularly problematic because they tire you without being useful for training, but then also links to a Runner’s World “every mile you run has value” counterpoint, which is where I line up. But I’ve been thinking about the extras that I reach for and what else I could add on.

My personal baseline for place is running outside (that is, treadmill < indoor track < outdoor track < [outside-not-on-a-track = minimum to be enjoyable]), and that’s because I get to see things that change, and explore new places. Here’s my brainstorming list so far in various categories, which obviously supports a lot of overlap:

  • Observation/enjoyment (in already-familiar places)
    • Informal phenology, which my blog entries were kind of doing before I even knew what it was
    • Admiring gardens and smelling flowers
    • IDing wildflowers
    • Seeing wildlife
    • Meeting people, dogs, cats
    • Watching construction over time (example: Live 155 from the demolition of the previous building to its completion)
    • Noticing posters for events I want to attend, sales, etc.
  • Exploration
    • Randomly picking new parts of town, or streets I haven’t been down
    • Running in new places (when we’re traveling for example)
    • But best of all, now that I’ve discovered CityStrides (planning a whole post just on that), I’ve added the goal of running all the streets in Northampton—if I can’t finish them all during the marathon training, it will be a long-term project!
  • Transportation
    • Errands (I’ve often returned library books on a run)
    • To and from scenic destinations (like the gardens on my typical long run, but also I’ve done things like run to the Connecticut River to see ice floes locally,  and to all kinds of places when vacationing)
    • For years I’ve been planning to run to the movies someday. The closest theater is 5.5 miles, though. 11 is a lot when I’m not training, but when I am, I don’t want to break up a long run into 2 shorter ones. Still thinking on this…
    • Now that Valley Bike Share is available in Northampton and Amherst, I could run to the Amherst farmer’s market some Saturday to visit my friend Alex’s amazing Pop-Up Astronomy and then bike home (round-trip would be 16 miles, same problem as above)
  • Thinking
    • I think of long runs as the opportunity to “comb out my brain,” which is one of running’s biggest benefits for me
    • It can also be an idea generating machine—I’ve come up with new projects, some of which survive the cold light of not-running thought, some of which do not
    • Writing incubation (especially characters’ voice & thoughts, sentence level, etc…. larger plot structure comes more easily when biking, I find, presumably because of the relative speeds?)
    • Problem solving in general
  • Other
    • Picking up trash—I tend to do this much more when walking, but have sometimes taken an old drawstring backpack specifically to pick up cans on my usual long run. It turns out this has a name: plogging!
    • The occasional tag sale (not under transportation since it’s serendipitous)
    • I’ve wondered if my trail running could get good enough to keep ahead of mosquitoes—I’ve tried it downhill and I think it helps, but running fast enough uphill might be a pretty hopeless goal. Theoretically they don’t like wind (varying numbers from 1.5 to 10 mph); when I’m hiking at 2-3 mph I get mobbed, not sure how much faster than that I could go…


Pre-training week 2

Miles for the week: 12.5 (~ 2/2/2/6)
Average resting heart rate (per Fitbit): 58
Weight: 115.4
Long run: 6.24 miles LSD; average HR 156; time 1:19:30 (12:44 avg); splits:

Mile Time Elevation (ft)
1 13:45 73
2 13:25 7
3 12:12 -5
4 13:05 62
5 12:14 -52
6 11:44 -82

It’s going up to 99 today with a heat index of 109(!) so I got up at 4am to run and I’m very glad I did—it was already hot and humid, and I see my HR was hitting 170. I didn’t get out the door until 4:45 because it takes me a while to wake up enough to put in my contact lenses (I’ll run a few miles in glasses, but the more I sweat the more unpleasant it is, and my uncorrected vision is so bad that I can’t do without). Dawn was already well in progress and there was a mostly-full moon too—I could have started even earlier. Jonathan pointed out I’d get the dawn chorus, and though it’s not as active as earlier in the breeding season, there was plenty! Trying to remember everything I heard on the run in order: jay, house sparrow, robin, cardinal, catbird, chipping sparrow, tufted titmouse, song sparrow, chickadee, chimney swift, house wren, Carolina wren, downy woodpecker, crow, goldfinch, mourning dove, wood thrush. Wow, that’s a lot, and it makes me realize how many I know by ear now (trying to add a few species a year, but past the common ones it gets harder!) The humidity and still air made the gardens smell really good even though I couldn’t see the details of the flowers. I’ll write more about this later, but I just signed up for the amazing CityStrides so I’m motivated to run more side streets I haven’t covered before. It makes the runs harder to compare to each other, especially since I tend to go over, but it’s totally worth it. It’s also pushed me to vary the short runs more too. Fun!