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Teresa is a great, great, friend. She’s been one of my biggest running cheerleaders, going so far as to meet me at the end of long runs and keep me company and promising to cheer me on at the Marine Corps Marathon.

Getting ready to hare for the first time

So when she started talking about hashing, I paid attention. And mostly what I noticed was that it sounded…odd. Hares? Weird marks with flour and chalk? Following a trail through heaven-knows-what kind of terrain? Sure. Okay. Whatever.

But Congress is out of session and I don’t have to work late on weeknights, so I promised I would venture out for my first hash this week. (I read up on it on Wikipedia, and the description of hashers as ‘drinkers with a running problem’ went a long way toward convincing me that I’d probably like it.)

Well, I followed through. It’s what you do for friends, after all. And it was odd. But it was also really fun.

Teresa hashes on Tuesday nights with the So Happy It’s Tuesday Hash House Harriers. And this particular week, she was haring (laying the trail for others to follow) for the first time. So she put me in care of a friend of hers and left me there, to discover what happens to you as a hashing virgin

Fortunately, she had prepared me for most of what happens. There’s questions and a mild bit of hazing, but nothing especially bad. There are dirty songs, too. It was all in good fun. There was a brief introduction to the various symbols used on a hash. I don’t remember any of them, but there’s a good sampling here.

And then it was time to follow the trail! (No smartphones are allowed out when hashing, so you’ll just have to use your imagination. Hashing has a lot of rules.)

I’m definitely not the person to tell you what, exactly, happened on the trail. We followed signs. There was a lot of call-and-response happening. I ran some, walked some, waded through a river some, and swiped at a lot of spiders with a stick. I also got scratched by a lot of thorns and because my little group didn’t quite follow the trail correctly (we were supposed to be in the riverbed, not on the riverbank,) it was full dark by the time we got to the beer check. One of the hares was picking up the beer, so I (and my caretaker) hopped in the car and drove back to the start. There wasn’t too much distance left, but it was dark and I’m not used to trail running. I really didn’t want to twist an ankle on my first time out.

After the hash, there are more drinking songs and more minor hazing for all concerned. And beer, of course. Always beer. (There is also water, food and Diet Coke.)

Overall, I really enjoyed it. It was a pretty decent workout and I liked getting out into the woods for awhile. Even with the spiders and the thorns. I’ll probably go again – maybe next week – before work starts to get crazy again.

 
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Published on August 13, 2012, by meg in Book review.

As I’ve increased my mileage, I’ve gotten crafty about my longer runs during the week. I ran to work on Thursday and was super-proud of myself, but of course I had to tell my coworkers what I was doing. And when they marveled at how far I ran to work, I had to point out that I would be running twice that long over the weekend and that this run was actually really important.

In response, I got a lot of wide eyes and a lot of variations on “are you crazy?” So I was happy to be able to tell them about the book I had just finished and about Dean Karnazes, which made me sound perfectly normal. Well, closer to perfectly normal, anyway.

I had never heard of him before fellow blogger Carly met him at the NorthFace Endurance Challenge last June. When she met him again at the same race (as part of a blogger team!), it reminded me that I had been meaning to read his book.

I know what ultrarunning is; this wasn’t a new discovery for me. But I didn’t know much about what drives people to run that far. I’m not sure I do now, though I do know that I don’t have that

The book is a brief recounting how Karnazes (or “Karno) started running long distances. It’s pretty cool to watch him go from a high school cross-country runner to a man driven to run the Western States 100 miler. And from there, he keeps pushing himself to run longer and longer distances. The whole thing is a fun read and definitely made my long runs seem completely doable!

My favorite part comes before he runs Western States when he talks about why he runs (which he does a lot in the book, and never comes up with one answer).

I’d also come to recognize that the simplicity of running was quite liberating. Modern man has virtually everything one could desire, but too often we’re still not fulfilled. “Things” don’t bring happiness. Some of my finest moments came while running down the open road, little more than a pair of shoes and shorts to my name. A runner doesn’t need much.

It’s so true. I love the simplicity of running, of going out the door and making a loop and being done for the day. No matter how big that loop is, the whole enterprise remains breathtakingly simple. It’s a major reason why I love running. I don’t need tools or fancy equipment. I don’t have to drive anywhere and I get fresh air and sunshine and my day is inordinately better because of all of that.

 
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I haven’t been very consistent on my weekly runs – partly because I haven’t been very consistent on my long runs. I’ve been getting them in, but switching between Saturday (my preferred day) and Sunday (somehow, the day that ends up working best for me) throws me off for the week.

This explains why I wound up running nine miles the day after I did a legs/core workout in the gym. The niner was supposed to be done Tuesday and the legs and abs workout on Wednesday. That would have been perfect! But I ran long Sunday, rested Monday, and decided to flip-flop Tuesday and Thursdays workouts.

Bad, bad idea.

My legs were tight after doing squats and lunges on Wednesday, but I thought they’d loosen up as I ran. And they did – after about seven miles. The first seven, I had to keep stopping to walk, stretch, and swear like a longshoreman.

It was not pretty.

It was my first running commute; I had high hopes, especially after having a pretty good long run on Sunday. And it wasn’t a terrible run – it just took far, far too long. It was really hot, so walking wasn’t a terrible idea anyway, but the tightness just made me more frustrating.

Today, I was supposed to run five miles, and that’s just not going to happen. My legs feel like they’ve been dipped in concrete.  This weekend, I am going to have to push my run back to Sunday again, so I think I’m just going to have to switch up my training schedule a little bit. I don’t want to put myself at risk for injury, but I also can’t keep skipping all these base mile runs. I’d also like to get some speedwork/hillwork in and with my current schedule I just can’t fit it in.

That said, I AM glad to be back in the weight room. It felt really good to make it in twice this week. I’ll probably go in tomorrow as well.

 
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Every race I have trained for has taught me something new about myself. How I approach training, how I think about the race, how I react after – there’s a lot of self-knowledge to be gained in running long distances. Some of it’s profound, some of it’s not at all. The most important thing I learned when training for my first half was that distance running is as much mental as physical – your attitude and mindset have a huge impact on your runs. It was an amazing thing to learn.

The next two races taught me that running isn’t enough – I needed to strengthen my body as well.

I completed 17 miles this weekend and will hit 20 miles by the end of the month, so it’s a good time to reflect on what I’m learning this training cycle.

  1. Capris are the best pants to wear for sure. No thigh chafing!
  2. However, in this heat, the tightness of the compression capris I wear are causing chafing in other, more embarrassing places. So I have a special tube of BodyGlide just for that part.
  3. Back closing bras are just not good for a run longer than a half-marathon. More chafing. So I picked up the Brooks Infiniti Bra for C/D cups and am just loving it. No chafing, even though I was soaked by the time I finished Sunday’s run.
  4. Even though I find it in credibly frustrating to run in this heat, I’m getting better at it. I’m starting to find the Zen in SFTD – slowing the fuck down. Walking isn’t a sign of defeat; it’s just how I am making sure I get the miles in until the weather cools off a bit.
  5. I used to think that having a mantra was kind of silly, but I’m finding it really helpful during this training cycle. The mantra that works? “Just put in the work.” During my first half-marathon training cycle, whenever I got nervous about the race, I would just remind myself that I had put in the work and would succeed because of that. It definitely got me through those nervous nights!
  6. Changing things up definitely makes life harder. I’ve been training consistently with a handheld water bottle or a Nathan hydration pack. Going out without water is a recipe for trouble, mostly because I have become accustomed to having it at the ready.
  7. Drinking more than one beer or glass of wine before a run, even a 4-miler, is becoming a problem. I’m considering cutting out alcohol entirely for…a while. Maybe until the race. I’m still pondering that.
  8. I overthink things sometimes (this is not new). I just need to get my ass up and going and think later.
  9. I still hate mornings and probably always will. But if I go to bed early enough, it’s not really so terrible.
  10. I can do this. I’m learning that every week. Even when I think I can’t, even when I don’t really want to, I’m learning that I can do whatever I set my mind to it.
  11. Bonus thing: salt is your friend, especially when it’s hot. If I don’t take enough salt in through Nuun tabs, Gatorade, and Gu, I end up mainlining potato chips and fries. So, more salt.

 
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Published on August 6, 2012, by meg in Book review, Diet, Food, real life.

I’ve talked a little bit about my Hashimoto’s thyroiditis diagnosis before, but aside from annual visits to the endocrinologist to check my hormone levels and make sure the nodules aren’t growing explosively, I haven’t really thought much about it until recently. An acquaintance on Facebook was recently diagnosed with thyroid cancer and Hashi’s, and she has been pointing me to some resources about the disease, including Gina Lee Nolan’s Thyroid Sexy Facebook page.

I also saw many references to thyroiditis in the paleo and primal communities. So when Mel at Clothes Make the Girl highly, highly recommended Mary J. Shomon’s The Thyroid Diet Revolution, I thought I’d take a look at it.

A few facts about my thyroiditis:

  • I was diagnosed by my OB/Gyn because my neck felt swollen
  • I haven’t felt any severe symptoms that I know of. I feel pretty tired sometimes, but I’m also running a lot, so
  • I have noticed some discomfort after eating a large amount of pasta, but nothing especially dramatic or terrible
  • I have several thyroid nodules but no trouble breathing
  • I have had the nodules biopsied and they are benign

So! That’s where I am. I have an autoimmune disease that is, so far, not having any ill effects and I have thyroid hormones in the normal range. I know the basics about my disease but a lot of the specifics people are dealing with (or are angry about on sites such as Stop the Thyroid Madness) really don’t apply to me. I feel fine, for the most part. I wanted a calm, rational, even-handed source for more information about thyroiditis. The Thyroid Diet Revolution is exactly that.

Things I learned:

  • Even though my thyroid is functioning within normal levels, you can treat it anyway. Apparently treatment for a ‘eurythyroid’ (normal) Hashimoto’s can reduce the chance and severity of autoimmune disease progression. Some researchers say it can halt the progression of Hashi’s or prevent the development of hypothyroidism. I definitely need to follow up with my doctor about this! Apparently a lot of doctors won’t do this, though, so it may be a struggle.
  • I had read a bit about food sensitivities in Hashimoto’s patients but I didn’t know a lot of specifics. The most common items thyroid patients are allergic to: wheat, dairy, corn, soy, and fish. I don’t know that I have problems with any of those things, but I might try cutting out some of them.
Other things about the book I loved:
  • The focus on so many kinds of diets without judgment. The ones she endorses are heartily endorsed, but even others such as Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, etc., are reviewed even-handedly. It’s great. She does such a good job of pointing out what might work for you about them.
  • The focus on the mind-body connection is wonderful. My favorite part is something I have found true for years:
Think about your goals positively…So instead of “I need to lose weight,” focus on “I will eat more healthfully and get more exercise so that I can get to a better weight for me.” I don’t know why this works, but it does. Perhaps instead of challenging your body to a duel and telling it you are going to take away something, you are saying that you will be adding good things to it, improving it, and making it better.
  • The resources section of helpful websites and doctors is AMAZING. I’m happy with my doctor, but it’s good to know that if I’m ever unhappy, I have ways to get the care I need.
I didn’t find her supplement information incredibly helpful, probably because my symptoms are unnoticeable. It’s a good reference to hang onto for the future though.
All in all, I found this an incredibly helfpul and enlightening book.

Again, Mel at Clothes Make the Girl wrote a really helpful review at her site, so I recommend checking that out as well.

 
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Published on August 3, 2012, by meg in real life, Running.

I do not have the body of a long distance runner. I’m curvy and broad and a little overweight. I’m “fat” for a long-distance runner.  I don’t look anything like the runners you see in the Olympics. My body fat percentage is in the 20s, not the teens. I look nothing like what most people think of when they hear the word runner.

Kara Goucher is awesome. I don’t look like her at all.

And yet. I am a runner. In a really fundamental way, it’s become part of my identity and I am so happy to have it that way. I’m sure it will phase out at some point – all things come to an end – but I have a feeling it’s how I’ll define this period in my life when I reflect on it.

And I love, love, love that. Do I wish I were thinner or less curvy? Yes. I’m working on the weight thing, but nothing is going to change the basic shape of my body. Even with the weight, it’s very important to me not to make myself crazy about it. I’m strong and healthy and I can run 10 miles at a stretch in 80 degree weather.

Compared to a ‘real runner,’ I’m crazy slow – that 10 miles is at a slower-than-10-minute pace – but compared to a lot of people, running 10 miles is pretty damn good.

So it’s all relative, is what I’m getting at.

Comparing yourself to other people only ends badly. All you can do is learn to accept yourself as you are and identify what you can do to make yourself healthier and happier without making yourself into a crazy person.

 

 
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I have issues with doing things the way I’m supposed to. Whether it’s “tweaking” a training plan until it’s unrecognizable or refusing to take more than 12 hours of classes a semester in college (I took summer classes! It worked for me!), I’m used to going my own way. Sometimes people don’t quite get it, but I do what works for me and try not to think too much about their opinions.

But a few things have happened this summer and I’d like to recommend you NOT do them when training your first half-marathon.

The first: Don’t try to sell your house. This is what’s causing me the most stress right this second. We emptied out our house of a lot of stuff – mostly books, winter clothes, bulky furniture – so we could put our one-bedroom condo on the market and eventually move into a place. It’s definitely throwing me off and using energy I should be saving for my runs. Or maybe my runs are using energy I should be using for my move?

The worst was this weekend, when I scheduled a Sunday 10-mile run. The mobile storage units didn’t come between 11 and 3 on Saturday as they were supposed to. No, they came at 7:45 on Saturday, putting us a full day behind schedule. So post-run The Man and I had to load up the storage units and start cleaning the house.

The realtors are supposed to come to take photos tomorrow. That…is not going to happen. We have a very long list of things we have to do before we can show the place. We crossed ONE THING off of it today. I’m a little frustrated and stressed about this.

The second: Move. I mean, yeah, this sort of falls under the first category, but moving and selling your house are different enough that I feel it should be counted twice. Even though we’re not actually moving yet, trying to deal with just the idea of it is stressful enough.

The third: Prep for a big big time in your job. I work at a Congressional newspaper and we’re getting ready to cover the Democratic and Republican conventions. I won’t lie, I’m pretty nervous about that with my training. It’s going to be tough to work everything in! It’s going to be an intense couple of days in late August/early September and I hope I’m just not moving at the same time.

 
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I took a week off of blogging last week (obviously) because my brain needed a break. I took the week before off of running because my body needed a break. I was exhausted all the time, so I focused on meditating and getting good sleep. I was able to start running again this week feeling like a brand-new person.

Not actually this kind of loafing

So I loafed. Mentally and physically. It was good for me. Burnout is a real concern – I started training for this race really, really early. And I don’t think it’s a bad idea. I really want to do well and not be injured, but I don’t want to run out of determination and get frustrated and blow my training off entirely. I’m trying to find the middle ground.

I imagine it’s not something that I’m going to stop working toward any time soon.

This training is definitely harder than half-marathon training. And not like, twice as hard. It’s more like five times as hard. Finding the time and energy, coping with all the other crap in my life…well. It’s been something I feel like I’m falling down on, actually.

Part of the issue is that I think running five days a week is just too many for me. I want to do something else once a week! So I think I’ll probably try to swim or something instead of running once a week. I just need a break.

The other is that I’m letting myself get overwhelmed by my plans. I probably just need to cut them in half – instead of strength training for an hour twice a week (which hasn’t been happening) I should probably aim for 45 minutes 3 times a week.

The other thing I really, really want to make sure I’m working in is speed and hill work. I’m starting by working on tempo runs this week – I did two miles at 10:20 this week and I want to get it under 10 minutes by the end of August. I think it’s completely doable.

So those are the goals I want to work toward in the next month.

 
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I feel burned out on running. Whether it’s the heat or the summer cold I can’t quite shake, the last thing I want to do is go outside and get all sweaty and breathe hard.

Courtesy of Forest Runner via Flickr

So I haven’t this week, and I didn’t much last week either.

I’m finally starting to miss it, so I expect I’ll be back out there pounding the pavement tomorrow and this weekend. It’s also supposed to be blessedly cooler weather starting tomorrow. Since half my problem is still frustration with myself for walking so much on my runs, that will also be helpful.

I need to get my mojo back. Or else stop caring so much about having mojo at all. Because, let’s face it, I don’t have a lot of it. Mostly what I have is stupid, stubborn, refusal to quit entirely, even when I want to.

So I’m not going to quit. I’m going to talk my way out of this slump and talk myself out of the ‘don wannas.’ I’m going to run this damn marathon and be insanely proud of myself when I do.

And I will know then that it’s because of the days where I didn’t wanna but did anyway. And that all the days  I didn’t wanna and didn’t only made the damn thing harder.

It’s a good thing to know.

 
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The escalator at the Pentagon Metro station is broken.

This is not, in and of itself, unusual for Metro. Lots of escalators are broken now. One of the entrances to the Dupont station is entirely closed for escalator work. The system is kind of a disaster.

But three years ago, it was in slightly better shape. An escalator outage would happen occasionally, but not daily. I would trudge up the stairs, huffing and puffing my way to the top, swearing under my breath. I was tired, my feet hurt (mostly from wearing heels), and I just wanted to get on the damn bus and go home.

So much has changed.

Sometimes I still swear under my breath, but it’s because my legs are sore from running or doing squats. I don’t breathe harder going up the stopped escalator unless I’m really moving, trying to make it to a bus in the nick of time. Running to catch the bus on my street might be irritating, but it’s not nearly as embarrassing as it used to be.

The hill by my house? I can walk it at a brisk pace without raising my heart rate much at all. I can run up the entire thing without stopping, even though I’m really tired by the time I get to the top.

I ran 15 miles this weekend. Mostly. (I walked maybe two or three miles, because it’s hot and I’m still adjusting. But I was on my feet for 15 miles, and

The top part of the hill by my house.

that sure as hell counts.) I lift weights on my own regularly and feel like I know what I’m doing. My clothes fit better and I have more energy. I’m eating significantly less crappy food and enjoying what I eat a tremendous amount more.

It’s an amazing feeling, to feel so much better about myself and my life.

And yet. I’m still not at my ‘goal weight.’ I’m still outside what BMI says is a healthy weight for my height (160 is the max, and I’m around 173).

I’m learning to care less about that. I’m strong and healthy. I had a physical last month and all of my numbers on those tests came back well within the healthy range. And yet. I’ve been thinking of myself as overweight and unhealthy for so long that the only thing that I thought would satisfy my health and my vanity was to hit my goal.

I think I was wrong. I thought, as I started this marathon training, that losing that last ten pounds or so would be critical because I could be faster and run more easily. I’m not convinced it’s true. Oh, sure, it would probably help some, but I’m trying to focus less on weight and more on building muscle to help me run faster and recover better.

I don’t know. I’m happy. I feel good about the way I look and I have a wardrobe I adore. Why on earth should I kill myself for a weight my body may or may not be able to maintain, using a set of data that are of limited use (the BMI charts). I want to get my body fat percentage tested – the last time I did it I was at about 30% body fat, down from 36% in 2009. Any progress on that front would make me happy.

I’m trying to use a different measurement than just weight, is what I’m saying. And I think I’m getting to the point where tracking my food is hurting more than it’s helping. I already barely weigh myself – mostly just a check every few weeks to make sure I can still fit into my pants – so it seems like this is the next step I need to take for my mental health.

I might never weigh 160 again. I might be completely okay with that. But I’m still mulling it over, hoping to reach a conclusion.