When I started writing this blog, I was a newbie runner training for my first half-marathon. Five years later I have completed 18 half-marathons and a gazillion shorter races, and this week I am starting to train for my first full marathon (yikes!). So I’m changing my blog title to focus more on momentum and forward progress rather than how I accidentally became an athlete.
I feel like my running life is reflected in Newton’s First and Second Laws: a body in motion stays in motion, and momentum is proportional to the forces acting upon it. I didn’t run for years, but once I got started, I’ve stuck with my training, and that momentum has propelled me forward–in pace, PRs, and distance.
Two weeks ago, my Tuesday workout went down in flames pretty early.
We had a two-mile warmup to the track, and things went off the rails about a mile in. I’d run a few yards, feel dizzy and walk, and then the nausea kicked in. Repeat.
Yeah, it was 97* and we ran much of the warmup on asphalt roads, but I’ve run longer in hotter temps with no problems other than general misery.
Two days later I ran two separate two-mile segments about half an hour apart. It was hard, especially the second one because the temp was 97* and I was running with someone who was pushing me a little bit. But I felt fine.
Then Tuesday came around again. Our coach wasn’t feeling well (kind of an omen, I think) and left us water and workout instructions. The warmup was about a mile and a half, and halfway there my stomach started feeling … unhappy. I did two sets of the hill repeats but felt worse each time so I skipped the third. I pretty much walked the rest of the way back, the last half with a teammate who also didn’t feel well.
Thursday I had to take water and iced towel breaks every mile or so during the workout, but I had no issues running five miles in 97* conditions ranging from asphalt and full sun to shady sidewalk with no breeze. I mean, I was slow, but my body was not threatening to expel all of its internal liquids.
I can’t begin to guess why these two particular workouts went so badly–they were otherwise like every other day during the summer. I didn’t do anything different or start taking medication or increase workout intensity. I’d been hydrating well, eating healthy foods, and getting good sleep. My Saturday long runs (8 miles + a 5K that night and 10 miles) were humid slogfests but I didn’t have any trouble with weird symptoms.
I went back through my Garmin data–since June 1st, I ran thirteen times in temps above 95* and eight of those were five miles or longer. And this is my eighth running summer–not my first time around the (hot asphalt) block, you know?
I’m a little leery about what this-coming Tuesday might bring. Perhaps the third time’s the charm?
Although looking at this forecast, maybe I shouldn’t get my hopes up.
Saturday morning, most people in my training group ran 14-15 miles, but I dropped to only eight. Not because I had any residual effects from overheating Tuesday night (that was fun) or because I was slacking off, but because the day’s mileage wasn’t complete. After an abbreviated coffee date, we hit the road to Galveston for our semi-regular running of the Sand Crab 5K.
We’ve participated in the Sand Crab five out of the last six years, in two different locations; 2017 was Bo the Wonder Dog’s inaugural race, and he reprised his role this year. His presence tempered the teenager’s recalcitrance a bit, which is all I’m going to say about that. 😜
We left Austin before noon and arrived in Houston around three. Our first stop was the Lone Star Flight Museum in its new location at Ellington Field. The museum has long been a favorite of ours when it was on Galveston Island, but they moved to Clear Lake (home of NASA) last year so we took a detour to see its new home.
It’s a really nice, spacious museum–the new space is a definite upgrade. I especially liked the upstairs “overlooks” so you can see the whole hangar at once, from above. Each display has a description of the plane’s historical use and a section explaining that specific aircraft’s history. The building doesn’t have the character of the Galveston hangar, but considering the damage it incurred during Hurricane Ike, I can see why they moved these priceless planes further inland.
From there, we drove to our hotel, changed into our race gear, and headed to East Beach, on the very northern end of the island. We were really early, but we 1) needed to secure parking in the free lot because paying to park makes me crazy and 2) there was a pretty long line to collect our race packets.
I really like that they pre-package race number, shirt, and timing chip (they still use the little shoe tags) so that runners picking up packets same-day don’t lose out on requested shirt sizes. I’m sure it’s labor-intensive on the front end, but it sure makes things easy on race day, especially for folks driving in from out of town.
The kids’ race started at 8pm; the 5K and 10K began after all the kids were done, just about 8:30. Bo spotted a few other dogs while we waited, and he barked at them like he was Cujo or something. A few people gave him the side-eye, but he was smiley and waggy when little kids came up to him, so I guess it all balanced out.
I always run this race more slowly than a typical 5K because of the sand, but I’ve improved my time each year. However, I’d run eight miles that morning, so I had no idea how it would go. My first mile was slow–we had a headwind going out–but my legs felt good. No residual soreness at all, and I picked up my pace the second mile.
Not long after the turnaround, I fell into step with a woman who didn’t have a headlamp and was staying near people who did. She was running juuuuuuust a little faster than I was, so her pace pushed me while my headlamp lit up the beach for her. Symbiotic.
We didn’t really chat, just tossed out some encouragement a few times. But it was nice having company, especially someone pushing me.
There was some confusion at the end of the course–do we turn at the police ATV or that light on the pole a little further? No one was there to direct us so we sort of split the difference. Turns out we probably should have gone around the light–I ended up with 3.07 miles.
I finished seven seconds slower than last year. But last year I hadn’t run eight miles just 12 hours earlier! I also ran an excellent negative split, with my pace at the end a minute and a half faster than my first mile. All things considered I am happy with my race.
I thanked my companion, collected my medal (yay, medals this year!) and returned my timing chip. As usual, the guys-who-don’t-run finished ahead of me, and I was greeted by Bo the Wonder Dog wearing his own medal. We didn’t stay long, though, because he kept doing the Cujo thing with other dogs.
All four of us came home with medals!
As we secured Bo in his seatbelt, took off race numbers, and got our stuff organized at the car, eleventy jillion mosquitos attacked us. Some of them were the size of hummingbirds. They invaded the car too, so the whole way to Whataburger (hello, post-race food) we were fighting them off. I even found one after I took off my race clothes to shower, and another inside a sock. So let’s hope we didn’t contract Zika, West Nile, or some form of malaria.
But then again, I’m not ready to go back to work tomorrow anyway. 😄
So this morning we got up early and went to run around Town Lake. We parked at Barton Springs, then ran the three-mile loop from Zilker Park to the Mopac bridge to the Pfluger bridge and back across Barton Creek to Zilker.
I ran 12 miles on Saturday, biked 18 miles on Sunday, and ran another mile Sunday night. So my legs were only grudgingly participating in this event. But I love the trail and all its distractions–smiling at all the dogs, seeing the same opposite-direction runners on both sides of the lake, watching the rowing teams practice, and stopping to admire the view from the pedestrian bridge.
I don’t recognize the skyline anymore, and there’s only a tiny sliver of space where you can still see the Capitol between all the condos and construction cranes (i.e. the state bird of Texas) but I still love the trail. It’s wide enough that cyclists and foot traffic can generally co-exist without trouble, it’s easy to navigate, and there’s never a boring view.
We finished just over 3.5 (slow) miles as we came back in to Zilker Park, then grabbed our stuff from the car and went into Barton Springs. It’s free before 8am, and we’d just made it. I didn’t even change into a swimsuit–it’s natural spring water, so there’s no chlorine to damage my running clothes, which were stuck to me and I’m not sure I could have easily gotten out of them anyway.
I’m a wade-in-to-cold-water-very-slowly kind of girl, so it took me a few minutes to work my way to waist-deep water. Even this early in the morning there were dozens of swimmers–some wading like me, others swimming laps. One guy putted around with a snorkel. This place is probably the only remaining untarnished-by-Austin’s-growth city gem. I’ve been swimming at Barton Springs since we moved here in 1982, and except for the high-rises in the distance, it still looks like something out of a 1940s postcard.
The water is 68* year-round, which this morning felt basically like an ice bath on my sore, tired leg muscles.
After our swim, I rinsed off in the locker room shower. A lot of people seem to run/swim in the morning, then shower and go straight to work. I’m kind of jealous of that–I live and work in the northwest part of the city, so I don’t make it downtown very often. And for good reason–traffic here is crazy bad–but if I did, I’d love to be able to include the trail and Barton Springs in my morning routine.
Next we headed out to breakfast. It’s not difficult to find a good Mexican restaurant on South First, so we enjoyed coffee and breakfast tacos (me) and migas (him) before heading home.
I am not a morning-workout person, especially while I’m doing it, but it’s hard to argue with 10,275 steps and a bracing swim completed before 10am.
We start off together, but before long I’m lagging behind. I’m used to it. But sometimes, when it’s hot I’m struggling and everyone else makes it look so easy, I find myself hosting a pity party in my head.
I know, I know. Runners aren’t supposed to compare ourselves to others. But it’s hard not to when everyone else is literally way ahead of me and I feel like Vern from Stand By Me. They’re not shuffling up the hill. They’re not drenched in sweat. They’re having easy conversations. Their pace is way better than mine. They’re natural athletes. They’re done and I still have a set (or two) left.
The sneaky hate spiral is a formidable foe indeed.
But I am working on reframing my thinking. Building a growth mindset. Retraining my brain to focus on positivity.
So I remind myself that teammates and coaches really do mean it when they say “good job” and “way to go” when we pass each other.
And that I don’t have to apologize for taking a little longer. If they’re waiting for me, it’s because they want to.
And that no one else cares if I’m a lap or a set or a mile behind. Hell, some of them finished before me because they didn’t run as far, or as many laps. So what? We’re all ahead of those who didn’t show up at all.
And that I don’t have to be invited each week–everyone has a standing invitation to Torchy’s after the workout (Taco Tuesdays!) and we take turns buying the queso. On top of that, more than once teammates have picked up the breakfast tab or the pizza tab or opened their houses (and kitchen, and bathrooms, and swimming pools) to the whole group.
And that this Instagram post from one of my coaches applies to all of us, not just the people who looked strong on the hills or finished the workout first.
It seems like just yesterday I was nursing the pinky toe I’d bruised the last week of school. That’s long since healed, along with my suspected plantar-fasciitis–as long as I keep rolling it with the little nubby ball.
This week I’ve had yet another setback in the form of a seized-up muscle near my left shoulder blade. It’s feeling better today, but yesterday most vertical movements felt unpleasant, so I was pretty sedentary. I only managed about 4000 steps–and just taking a shower gives me a couple hundred, if that tells you anything.
Did I mention that in July Austin had 17 days of triple-digit temperatures? One day last week my car told me it was 110* at 5:30 in the afternoon. It’s not as bad as the summer we experienced the hell that was 90 days over 100*, but still tough for marathon training.
It’s quite the game of Would You Rather.
Would you rather turn off the alarm and sleep in, then run in evening air where the only breeze feels like it comes from a hair dryer? Or would you rather get up early, work all day herding cats, then run in somewhat cooler temps?
Fortunately I don’t have to decide that. Because even after I go back to work, it will still be hot for another month. So I get to do both.
My friend Lauren Markowitz Sheinberg is my guest blogger today!
This week, something that’s pretty commonplace with runners (stashing a water bottle) turned into a neighborhood kerfuffle thanks to social media. Just last week I wrote about some of the challenges we encounter (one of which is water stops) when we run, so I invited her to share her story here.
It was a brutal run. I didn’t get started until 9:00 a.m., which showed questionable judgment on a day that would reach 109 degrees in Austin. Still, I came home feeling my sweaty post-run zen. Before I even had a chance to stop sweating, my cell phone chimed. My fellow running friend and neighbor sent me this screenshot from her Facebook feed:
Yep. That’s MY water bottle. It was tucked in my neighbor’s shrub on the corner of the street where I live. If you’re reading a running blog, you obviously know that stashing a water bottle is completely unremarkable.
For 15 years in this particular neighborhood, I have run some variation of a six-mile route, always tucking a water bottle near the halfway point. This shrub in the picture is four houses away from my home, but let me be honest: I’m lazy. If I stashed the water on my own front porch I’d probably bail on the second half of my run. Hence, the bush on the corner, the scene of the crime. Every time I finish my run, I grab the empty bottle and shuffle home the remaining four house lengths.
The woman who wrote the Facebook post took the time to snap a picture of the bottle and write a lengthy post about it. But that post was just the beginning. Equally upsetting were comments from all the passengers that jumped on the Hate Train:
Why has cyberbullying become acceptable? Do people think it’s okay because we’re adults? No one would tolerate some of those Facebook comments from kids. Threats of “stalking” someone to see where they live so you can litter their lawn with bottles? Calling someone lazy and entitled? Yes, I am an environmentalist, and yes it’s a disposable bottle, but I was reusing one I got at the airport. And OUCH: new to Austin? Okay that’s hitting below the belt. I’ll have you know I’ve been here longer than Mopac.
Facebook and other social media outlets such as Nextdoor were created to bring people together and share helpful information. Yet increasingly social media seems to be used for publicly shaming people and cultivating the mob mentality. Take a picture! Gotcha! If that woman had time to take the picture and write the accompanying post of indignation, why didn’t she simply say something to me in person? She hid behind her computer and used social media to start a neighborhood scandal. Our own Water-gate.
So what happened when I returned home after my run, water bottle in hand, and read this post and comments? I went from experiencing an endorphin high to a sad and angry low. Upset, I posted screenshots of the hateful comments on my own Facebook page, which helped me vent, but the hypocrisy of that is not lost on me. I used social media to shame the shamers. Water-gate indeed.
Two wrongs…. In the future I’ll show more restraint and use social media to connect with, rather than rant about, other people.
Today’s note was not as eloquent as Woodward and Bernstein, but I was eager to stash my bottle and start my run.
After many years of speed work and marathons, Lauren Markowitz Sheinberg is now a social runner and member of Austin Runners Meetup. In addition to her passion for running, Lauren enjoys spending time with her three kids and practicing corporate law.