Tag Archives: running

Made to run

Photo by Morgan Sarkissian on Unsplash

Some would say running comes naturally to just about everyone. Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run suggested everyone’s natural-born inclination is to run and should do it barefoot.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved this book and highly recommend it to any runner. However, I cannot in good faith say we were all born to run.

There are those, like the elites, who really were born to run fast. Deena Kastor is a good example. In her memoir, she shares the story of her first race. She simply ran fast without any idea about what she was doing and would have won had she not had it in her head to follow the girl ahead of her without question. Deena Kastor had natural talent even before puberty. Most of us, however, are not Deena Kastor.

Running, for me and I believe many of us, is hard. I love it, but it’s hard. I suppose on some level I love it because it is hard.

In my thirties, I started distance running (half marathon or more) because I missed my grandmother so much I didn’t know what else to do. And in running, I found a new way to connect with her, and nature, and myself. I loved running because of that, but it was tough to stick with.

Running takes dedication, practice, discipline, patience, planning, research, and gear, for those of us who prefer to run with shoes and clothes and water.

If you are doing these things and you are out there on the pavement, trail, road, track or anything in between, you are a made-to-run runner. You are making yourself into a runner with each step, mile, race.

Speed is another area where a lot of us feel like imposters. I’m an incredibly slow runner. Slow AF. But, as the saying goes, I’m still lapping anyone sitting on the couch. 💥

Being slow doesn’t preclude me from running or writing about running or calling myself a runner, nor should it you. If you’re a slow, fast, full-figured, part-time, walk-more-than-you-run, or any other type of runner, YOU ARE A RUNNER.

Don’t let the doubts or lack of confidence creep into your thinking. Guard your heart and mind from such negativity. When you lace up or step out the door for a run, know you’re a runner.

You belong to this crazy community of runners, and I’m happy you’re here. Say it with me, “I am a runner.”

Now go for a run, runner.

Joshua Tree Half Marathon Finisher

We came. We ran. We conquered. And it was a doozy.

The course started uphill. It was a fairly large climb, leveled off for a few minutes, and then uphill again. I had never run at night. The movement of thousands of headlamps was quite a spectacle to behold. All of us lined up, slowly ascending a sandy hill, like rush hour for an army of fireflies marching up.

The dust was unbearable. I’m not talking about a little sand here or there spraying up. This was real dust swirling from the runners ahead, behind, and next to us stomping in the sand, unearthing the lightest of all molecules.

By the light of my headlamp, I saw dirt and dust ever-present in the air. Although, I had not started coughing as some of my fellow runners had, it was impossible not to see how bad the dust was moving, and we were undoubtedly inhaling most of it.

But we carried on. The first sip of water came for me around mile four. It was delightful. I had pulled up my buff all the way over my nose and mouth trying to filter some of the dust from going straight into my lungs.

My eyes still burned and watered. My nose leaked incessantly behind the buff. I had no idea how far I had run until I heard someone called out, “you’re halfway there.”

Great. Half is good. 

Then, several volunteers yelled, “it’s all downhill from here.”

A wave of relief washed over me. Downhill is really good.

But they were lying. All of them.

I couldn’t understand why. We never did anything to them. Why would they blatantly lie to a group of exhausted, choked out runners fumbling through deep sand in the dark? Because they were evil.

Not more than a couple of minutes after those shouts, we were climbing again. The elevation map told the story. Although it looked like runners should be coming down, in fact, they’re actually climbing first before a big drop, which gave the illusion of “all down hill from here.” Bastards.

Around mile 12, there was a wonderful downhill slope, which I bombed throwing caution to the wind, sinking each foot into the deep, ankle-straining sand, and letting gravity to the work. After that glorious forty-five seconds, it was uphill again.

There was also a short section, under a mile, of pavement somewhere in the middle, but other than that, the rest of the course was done in foot- and soul-sucking sand.

After completing the race, I received a medal.

A medal that depicted a fucking paved road and some sunlight. And a dude at the bottom, which is annoying. His silhouette looked more like a detective running to catch a perp than a racer.

But I digress. This medal is should be illegal. Friends, do not be lured by its false promises.

For anyone interested in taking on the Vacation Races JT half, check the reviews of the race. It was hard last year so they changed the course. It was still hard this year.

Now, if you’re in it for a tough race, say mostly uphill in ankle-deep sand, go for it. You will feel like a badass when it is over. But if you’re looking to do a fun race, keep looking.

Happy running.

My half marathon training plan

If you’ve not run a half marathon before, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of training plans available. Some cost money to download and others are free for the taking online.

I’ve spent the better part of the last ten years evaluating race training plans, and found what works for some runners, does not work for others. One size does not fit all.

Some training plans have you running five or six times a week and others just twice. If I run four or five times a week, week after week, I’ll injure myself.

It’s best to test as many different types of training plans as you can to find what works for you. If possible, get a running coach, and see what she can build specifically for you.

Below is my half marathon training plan for the Joshua Tree race in November.

Sun

Mon

Tue

Wed

Thu

Fri

Sat

Mileage

Week 0

3

3

Week 1

Hike

Rest

Abs

3

Rest

Rest

4

7

Week 2

Rest

Abs

3

Strength

Rest

Rest

3

6

Week 3

Rest

Strength

Rest

3

Rest

Rest

4

7

Week 4

Rest

Cross-train

4

Rest

Yoga

Rest

5

9

Week 5

Hike

Rest

Yoga

4.5

Rest

Rest

6.6

11.1

Week 6

Rest

3.5

Abs

Rest

3

Rest

5

11.5

Week 7

3.2

Rest

4

Rest

Yoga

Rest

6

13.2

Week 8

Rest

Abs

Rest

5

Rest

Rest

8

13

Week 9

2

Rest

Yoga

4

Rest

Rest

10K race

12.2

Week 10

3

Rest

Rest

3

Rest

Rest

10

16

Week 11

Rest

Rest

3

Rest

4

Rest

8

15

Week 12

Rest

4

Rest

Rest

Rest

Rest

Race Day

17.1

As of this entry, it’s week five of the plan. We did a killer hike this morning to work out any stiffness from my five-mile run yesterday. Everything is feeling pretty good.👌🏽

What’s important to look for in any training plan is how the weekly mileage increases. Slowly. It should be very slowly. Anything over 10-15% increase in mileage week over week is a red flag.

Even the popular Couch to 5K plan gives you the option of running for a set time as opposed to distance, which gives you a baseline to start with. Once you know, for example, how far you can go in twenty minutes, then you can slowly increase your mileage from there.

Don’t forget to add in strength and cross training. I also like to include yoga every other week to help with flexibility, breathing capacity, and mental focus.

When you train, do it on the same terrain as your race. If you’re running on trails, train on trails. Road race? Hit the pavement. Come race day, your body will thank you for the conditioning.

Two things that are equally as important, but not shown on the training plan are your nutrition (go plant-based) and sleep (get lots).

Last, don’t skip the dynamic warmup and comfortable cool down with rollout and stretching post-run. Stretching has become somewhat controversial on when you do it, how effective it is at helping reducing DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), and impact on muscle health, but I’ve found it incredibly helpful.

The dynamic warmup helps get some heat to areas, like my hips, back and knees, that can’t get into gear as quickly as other parts like my quads and calf muscles.

Post-run stretching and foam and/or stick rolling are recovery tools that have become indispensable. If you’re short on time, and have to skip something, skip the dynamic warmup, but go out slowly. You’ll warm up naturally in the first few miles.

Stay healthy, friends. 🙏🏼🏃‍♀️💚

Running in the desert

Training for the Joshua Tree half marathon has begun.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve started to work my way out of not running and in to actual training. This weekend, I ran four miles without feeling destroyed (and therefore sad and depressed) post run.

Since going plant-based in June, I find my recovery time has shortened a little. I’m not as sore or sore for as long as I had been on a heavier meat and dairy diet.

It felt like an eternity to get healthy, but now that I am, I give all the credit to my plant-based diet, raw iron supplement, essential oil concoctions, shedding any old negative feelings, and yoga regiment. They have breathed new life into my body and soul. 🙏🏼

My training plan for Joshua Tree is a 12-week program that includes training runs two to three times a week. I designed it so I could ramp slowly, ever aware of not running too much too soon, and peak just in time for the race.

Although, I included a two week taper into the plan, my hope is to continue the training beyond Joshua Tree to build to a full marathon in January or February. We’ll see how it goes.

Joshua Tree National Park is made up of two deserts that converge next to one another. The actual race will take place in the Mojave Desert in Joshua Tree, CA.

In 2018, I visited Joshua Tree National Park. It felt, unmistakably, like everything in the park and both deserts were designed specifically to kill humans. Spiders and snakes and sharp, needled plants and desert bees; and did I mention spiders? 🕷 Big ones.

Running at night means all those dangerous things will still be there, only hidden by and lurking in the darkness waiting to take out any unsuspecting racer. I plan on bringing an enormous – potentially two enormous headlamps. Imagine the light on the front of a train – that’s what I’m going for. I want light 40 feet out and 15 feet wide. I wouldn’t mind if it was able to be seen from space.

Speaking of gear, since I’ve not had much experience with night running, I have even less with headlamp running.

Earlier this year, I participated in REI’s night run, which was a mile, and wore a workable headlamp. But it was cold and I wore it over a trucker hat, which I wore over a warm beanie, which was soft and cushy. And we jogged only a mile along a local trail. Neither of us broke a sweat.

I won’t have those luxuries running 13 miles in the desert night. The headlamp needs to be reliable, last the whole race, which for me could mean hours and hours, comfortable, and, of course, really, really bright. Open to recommendations.

The race is supported with aid stations every other mile after mile 3. It’s cup-free race, and I’m toying with the idea of testing out a vest on the trail. Correction: I’ll test out the vest in training, and then decide hopefully weeks before the race whether or not it’s for me.

If it’s not, I’ll stick with my old trusty Nathan handheld. It didn’t fail me in Antarctica, so I have a fair amount of confidence it’ll do just fine in the desert.

Last, but essential to a solid training plan: nutrition. I ran the Antarctica race on starburst candy. I need a real plan for this race.

Friends who also ran Antarctica used sport jellybeans. I might be open to that if they’re vegan. I’m leaning mostly on using medjool dates, but I’d like a few more healthy options to test during training.

Over seven miles is usually when I start to introduce some sort of nutrition during the run. Anything under, I can do without and eat a recovery snack afterwards.

Again, open to ideas or suggestions.

Lots of training and running and testing still to come.

Stay healthy, friends. 🙏🏼🏃‍♀️💚

Progress

My heart pounded in my throat, and my lungs burned desperate for oxygen. Sweat trickled down the back of my neck. Legs were heavy, knees throbbed, and back ached.

I might actually die, I thought. How long had I been doing this? Forty minutes?

My watch showed 6:33. I’d been running for six f*cking minutes.

That’s how my first run in over three months started.

A mile into it, however, my body remembered, my heart rate regulated. Although it hit 197 and that felt a tad high, I paid little mind to such insignificant details. I was running. 

And running is f*cking amazing. 🏃‍♀️❤️🙌🏼

Best three miles of my forties. Antarctica shmantarctica.

While on the epic jaunt, I came across a massive construction project that spanned the better part of half a mile. It must have started while I was hurt.

New buildings and structures littered the once serene view. The wild grass, brush, and vast greenery (or brownery in the summertime) were gone.

The foothills were blotted out and NASA’s folded dome that I had come to think of as almost home when returning from a long run was indistinct.

What once was the only standing structure in my view had become an impotent and dusty half nickel squeezed out by the shiny titanic-sized scaffolding.

In the photo (above), I can’t tell if when the construction is completed, I’ll lose NASA’s dome altogether.

But this is what progress is: change.

I’m grateful for the progress my body and soul have made in the past few months going from not being able to walk to being in a stupid boot to running.

These new buildings represented someone else’s progress, I guess. Maybe this is how I know I’ve moved into a new chapter of my life. I resent someone else’s progress. 👵🏼

Especially, when progress destroyed the view and eliminated the oxygen-creating trees and plants along the running trail. They better install green rooftops on those massive steel dinosaurs, or I’ll write a letter. 😀

Onward. But first, I need a nap.

A vegan in the woods

It’s only been a week, and I’m so over this vegan diet. Finding acceptable food has been difficult and time-consuming and annoying. I’ve also seemed to forget how to operate my hands, feet, head, and body to my own detriment. It’s been a miserable and bloody week.

We camped in Big Sur last weekend. My heart goes out to anyone who has had to find something non-animal-based to eat over a campfire. Even friggin marshmallows have animal products in them. If you don’t know what I’m talking about and like marshmallows, don’t look it up. Gelatin is pure nastiness.

🍡🐷🔥

While my friends enjoyed copious amounts of processed meats and a delectable selection of artisan cheeses for happy hour, I reluctantly chomped on sugar snap peas and hummus. For dinner, they indulged in sausages, feta cheese, chicken, pizza (with cheese and sausage), and more sausages. I ate an ear of corn and sweet potato. I mean, shit.

To be clear, I take full responsibility of the crappy planning. I’d been on a plant-based diet for only a couple of days and had absolutely no business trying to camp on said diet. But life happens. It’s too easy to put something off because it’s inconvenient to begin. If I did that, I’d never start. Life is inconvenient most of the time.

Camping was happening. So was going plant-based. It was unfortunate that they coincided, but it gave me the chance to see what it would be like camping newly vegan-style. And it sucked.

Not only was I not able to have s’mores over the campfire every night, my adjusted vegan meal usually consisted of simply removing the meat and cheese from the meal, so I was left with a couple of warm vegetables and some pasta. Never again will I go camping so unprepared. No – never again will I go camping on a vegan diet.

Switching gears to a meal I really enjoyed: breakfast. I stumbled on these single-serve instant hot cereal cups, and on a whim picked up a couple of them. Angels must have been with me because they were delicious! 👼🏼

They’re organic and contain multigrain oats, chia and dried berries. All I needed to do was add hot water and bam! instant breakfast goodness. They’re also reasonably priced at a dollar and some change per cup at Whole Foods. I added nuts, seeds, and dried cranberries (vegan trail mix), and it was a perfect camping meal.

I also enjoyed the snacks I brought – dried mangos, dates, walnuts, and homemade granola. Side note about going vegan, the amount of fiber that is added to your diet overnight will clean a body out. Go easy on the dried fruits, girl.

My first week on a plant-based diet has also been the clumsiest week of my life. And that’s saying something for someone who has had two hundred stitches put in and taken out of her body, excluding the hernia stitches. (They just kept those in.)

Last week, I burned, cut (thrice), scraped, banged, gnashed, stubbed, knocked, hit, twisted, and poked various different parts of my body. Half of it included bloodshed. I have new scars, bruises and swelling throughout my body from injuries I’ve sustained while on this diet. Can someone tell me why? What’s happening to me?

Not only has my own body taken a hit, I’ve done really clumsy things. Before leaving for camping, I spilled almost an entire bag of popcorn seed while transferring them from one container to another. What felt like hundreds of thousands of them poured on to the counter, floor, sink, stovetop, and God knows where else. It sounded like I hit the jackpot on the slot machine. Ring, ting, ting, tingle, dingle, ling. When all the chaos was over and the last kernel it the floor, it looked like my kitchen got the chickenpox. Oy vey.

The lack of food options while camping, the injuries I’ve sustained, the injuries I’ve caused (mostly to my kitchen and myself), and my bad attitude have all contributed to an awful week one on the plant-based diet. Plus, my face broke out for no apparent reason. Finally, my achilles is exactly the same, if not more achy and sore than it was last week. 😕

Five more weeks to go.

🥬🍅🥒🥕🍓🍌 🙏🏼