Birthday Plans

This year, the Seattle Marathon is on my birthday. What better way to celebrate than to run a half marathon?

I really am serious. By the end of this week, I may be signed up.

I have had a week of fantastic runs. This morning, in the cool rain, I did a fast run in the neighborhood – my fast run being 32 minutes at an average pace of 9:18 and average HR of 168. It’s my best time as of yet, though I purposely ran less hills for this run.

I’ve decided that since I’ve taken to running up Phinney Ridge on at least one long run that I will use Phinney Ridge for my interval runs. That’s a 350ft gain in something like 4-5 blocks.

My last long run was almost 8 miles, and it felt great. The only problem was that I had to take two bathroom breaks! I blame this on pre-hydrating a bit too much, and coffee. Other things I’ve learned is that I need a hand-holster for my water bottle.

I think the next few weeks I will be figuring out what my Fall exercise schedule is going to look like. I’ll be working full time at least until January (when my internship is up) and I will be in class two nights a week. I’ll also have to adjust for the changing light.

Lots more to come. I’m loving running right now. I especially love running in my Five Finger Bikilas. They’re the best shoes I’ve ever worn! Looks like they’re still in great demand, though. I feel lucky to have gotten mine. Thanks, See Jane Run!

Training Progress and Bikila’s in Sight

First, I have to say how proud I am of myself for my run on Sunday. It started out as my long, slow run, with no real hills planned. It ended up with me doing a half mile with an elevation gain of over 350 feet! I ran through three different neighborhoods, and 6.26 miles at a pace of just under 11:30. I was a little sore on Monday and Tuesday, but I can’t help but be pleased by the experience over all. My knees and hips really didn’t like it – and this I partially blame on my conventional running shoes. You see, I’m still running in my conventional shoes as that the Vibram Five Finger Bikila‘s have been out of stock and backordered for the past month, and I sold my Sprints in expectation of getting the Bikilas. Oops.

This morning I’m a bit worn out after not sleeping well, and then doing a morning run. I’ve tried to switch to mornings during the week as that it allows me to get more done with my evenings. Also, I can run half-awake if I have to – which I definitely did this morning. It was a misty humid morning, and I did my short fast run at under 10min/mi for 27 minutes. I’m making sure to make hills a part of my routine – something I expect will be a sharp contrast next week when I take lazy runs along the Chicago lakefront.

Speaking of Chicago – I’m really excited that I was able to find Bikila’s available at the second store I called. They have them on hold for me to be picked up next Tuesday! There is only ONE official retailer of Vibram FiveFingers in the Seattle area – and that’s REI, and they aren’t even available for backorder in my size on their website. Chicago, on the other hand, has tons of stores offering FiveFingers – and if I have the misfortune of someone selling the Bikilas before I get to them, I will have at least a half dozen places nearby to check out to see if they have them in stock.

I’m not sure how I’ll adjust back to minimalist running after wearing the bone-jarring conventional running shoes. I’ll be bringing them with me just in case the Bikila’s don’t pan out – or end up not working like the FiveFinger Treks.

I’m loving running right now – it’s sort of like my co-drug of choice, with my other drug of choice being delicious food. I’m a foodie now, more than ever – I think because my interests have turned to quality over quantity. A running store I had hoped to get my Bikila’s from (See Jane Run, whose customer service seems to be ignoring me) sells shirts that say “I run for chocolate.” It’s true. I run because it feels great to run. I also do it because I can eat more delicious food (with reason) as a reward.

And for a weight update – I’m now below 150 lbs, and my body fat percentage is down to around 29%. I still have 12 lbs to go before I get to where I want to be (20-22% bodyfat) I don’t know if I’ll get there before my next challenge, but I just thought I’d put this down here for now.

Trail Running Ridiculousness

What do I know about trail running?

1. Trails are involved.
2. Running is involved.

That’s simple, right? Find a trail and run on it.

Thanks to my scuba diving training I’ve developed a keen sense of how any sport can be disastrous given particular circumstances. Running, at least, you’re in the open air and should have a pretty good supply of air to breathe, however, there are other factors that can impact your health and well-being. Upon first telling my father-in-law my plans to just run in the suburban neighborhood in Westchester Co, NY, he let me know of a recent coyote problem in the area.


Luckily, I haven’t had any encounters with coyotes in the neighborhood. I didn’t bother to think of the coyotes when I decided on driving out to Saxon Woods this morning to do a long run. In fact, I didn’t bother to look beyond the Google Map or GPS on the car to see what kind of running conditions I would encounter. I was honestly expecting more of a shady city park, not wilderness and gravel/dirt trails.

This did not bode well for my choice of travel running shoes (Vibram FiveFingers Sprint) which have a very scant amount of protection on the bottom. At least my choice of heart rate monitor was well suited for the trek (Garmin Forerunner 405CX).

It turned out that the trails were not as well marked as I would have liked, and that the trails themselves were pretty rocky, both with imported gravel and the natural rocky terrain of the region. It was BEAUTIFUL on this sunny day, with many chipmunks scampering about and songbirds singing. There were only a few people on the trail, making it rather lonely – and as I got deeper into the trail, it occurred to me that maybe I was fresh meat for a coyote. Alarmist, sure – but I realized I don’t know how to deal with wildlife, let alone, spot and avoid poison ivy. And did I smell a skunk? I’m pretty sure I smelled a skunk. This was enough to get me to turn around about 10-12 minutes into my run.

It all would have worked out well, too, if it wasn’t for a fork in the road that I somehow missed on the way in. I ended up taking the wrong fork in the basically correct direction, leading to a bit of panic calmed by the fact that I really was surrounded by civilization (a nearby highway could be heard). This is where my Garmin 405CX comes in handy. You see, I can switch to the GPS mode and it will help me get back home. It’s a wrist compass, and was basically accurate in getting me back to my starting point. To say the least, I only ran for about 15-20 out of my 45 minutes in the woods. What I basically know about survival is to not over exert myself, and to conserve resources to get out of the jam.

I was relieved to get to the car in short order – basically navigating through natural navigation, supplemented by my compass. It’s good to recognize your surroundings on the way in to help you on the way out.

I think I may want to go to a trail running clinic. There is so much in Washington State to hike and run in, and it seems a waste to do all my running just in the neighborhood.

Who wants to be my buddy? (Another good safety measure, btw!)

Mt. Si and FiveFinger Treks

My friend and bad/good exercise influence Emily was in town for the weekend, which meant saucy* happenings abounded amidst barbecues and typical Northwest weather.

Emily was one of the first FiveFingers enthusiasts that I met, and this past weekend she showed me her newest acquisition,Vibram Fivefinger KSO Trek. Since we had planned on hiking during her trip, we ended up doing a pre-hike shopping trip wherein I bought my own pair of treks.

Interesting to note, the store we bought them at (REI) had most of their selection of FiveFingers obliterated – only the Treks were available due to high demand. Crazy! Luckily, they had them in my size, and we headed, late, to Mt. Si, where we did the 8 mile, round trip hike, burning more than 2000 calories each, and exiting the mountain ravenous, tired, and a little beaten up.

I loved the feeling of the ground and the rocks, and the rugged soles of the Treks served me well those first 4 miles up, and I couldn’t help but run up the trail a bit. Looking out for sharp rocks and watching my footing was a bit distracting, but I may learn to compensate for my insecurity over time. 🙂 My toes were definitely sore by the time we were three miles down the mountain, and the last mile was really rough. At one point I stumbled as my hips through ankles were starting to complain, and I don’t know if it’s my improved fitness, or if the Treks gave me cat-like reflexes, but I did not faceplant, but instead, deftly caught myself on both feet, not even dirtying my hands. Truly remarkable.

It’s now Thursday – and the hike was on Monday – and my calves are STILL aching, while my hips and thighs are a little more tempered. It was a wonderfully brutal experience, and I look forward to taking the Treks out for another hike or trail run sometime in the near future.

*sauciness comes from letting me/me taking the liberty to update your Facebook ustatus updates. Offer not available in all cities.

Still Recovering: Long Slow Run

Today I did my first long slow run for recovery since my two weekends in a row of racing. Let’s just say my body is still not quite up to where it was. I don’t think I’m going to do two races in a row like that again!

I’m still running in my Five Fingers Sprint(36, Slate/Palm/Lichen), and loving every minute of it. I did have some funky minor blister/bruising after my race last weekend, but it cleared up in short order. I have to say that my dress shoes in the same amount of time are more hell on my feat than running in the Sprints!

My run today was a short 33 minutes and change. I cracked just under 12 minutes a mile, and kept my heart rate at around 140, give or take. I had to go pretty slow to start off to keep my heart rate from getting too high. I tried to do some more hills, but it turns out no matter which route I take in my neighborhood, I’m not equalling the elevation I saw around Seattle Center for the LIVESTRONG Challenge. I might need to find a hillier place to train.

I canceled my gym membership this week in order to seek out alternative cross-training opportunities. Should I do the climbing gym? Maybe get back into yoga classes (this is most likely)? There are definite possibilities out there. I may rejoin a gym once the cold/dark season comes back, but for now, I’ll enjoy the freedom.

It’s funny doing two races and realizing I’m a very small minority of runner with the minimalist shoes. I would have thought they were all the rage – I hear so many people talk about them, even just an aside at a bus stop when I’m not even wearing them! So many people I know are converts, and I’m definitely noticing benefits of my own – but I’m curious as to why this isn’t catching on like wildfire. I mean, they’re light, washable, packable and fun! What’s not to love?

More on my minimalist shoe fetish in the next post.