Thankful for QuaRANteam

My school district gives us the whole Thanksgiving week off. So naturally I spent the first two days of the break binge-watching the first two seasons of “The Crown.”

Sunday, the dog and I went on a short trail run. I was super excited when I scored a Strava PR on a tough climbing segment.

Monday’s temps were a bit cooler and I ran an easy two miles with the dog. Tuesday was warmer again, so my four-mile Rogue workout felt more difficult.

I’d been looking forward to Wednesday for a while–a short road trip to a different part of the Balcones Canyonlands trails. Five Quaranteamers hiked almost four (social-distanced) miles and had a blast. Afterwards, we ate outdoors at a Thai food truck.

(Don’t worry–we took several cars so we weren’t risking one another in an enclosed space, and you can see gaiters and masks too.)

Since about 2012, my family has run a Thanksgiving Turkey Trot, either Austin’s, or more recently, Georgetown’s where one of my coaches is the race director. This year it was a virtual race, so I signed up myself and my family, then put together a five-mile route near my house and invited Quaranteamers to join us. Four of us ran together(ish), doing a couple of different virtual races, while my family ran on their own. Because despite a lack of training, they’re both still faster (or taller, or younger) than I am and left us in the dust.

We were even slower because we stopped a bunch to take pictures with Christmas decorations.

But we had a lot of fun, no matter how long it took us.

Friday I got in one more season of “The Crown” along with some foam-rolling.

Saturday morning was cool and slightly drizzly when I set out at 7am. Since the forecast showed the same temp basically all day, I saw no need to start before sunrise.

One by one, Quaranteamers woke up … and then decided to go back to sleep. 😀 In the end, only two of us came out for the long run. Both of us were also doing the Fraud Street Run, the (virtual) 11-mile distance between Philly’s Four Seasons Total Landscaping and the Four Seasons hotel. Registration was a $10 donation to Philabundance, a Philadelphia food bank. I sprung for the shirt too.

I guess because of the holiday, only a few people ran from Rogue, and most of them started at 5:30. So when I headed out, I met them coming back. And for most of the time I was out there, I was running solo since my co-Fraud Streeter had started from a different location. She chose the less-hilly route, which was smart. Despite the hills, I was comfortable the first few miles–a little warm, even–but it got cooler throughout my run. And the last two miles, the rain picked up. But I didn’t mind–even though it was in the 50s, it felt good. And I had a dry shirt waiting for me. 

I miscalculated my turnaround, so I had to tack on a little at the end. But I made it to eleven. And I’ m pretty sure eleven miles is the longest I’ve run since the 3M half-marathon in January. I have run ten a bunch of times, but nothing more than that. I’ve got to run the fourth race in the All For One series–a half-marathon–before December 20, so that will make a nice 13.1 bookend for 2020.

Who could have predicted the things 2020 had in store for us? But I am thankful for not only my family (we have spent a LOT of time together since all of us are working from home) but for my Quaranteam friends who 1) respect social distance and masks, and 2) make me laugh and encourage me to keep showing up.

Since the 2021 3M half has been canceled (probably just the first of many to come), I still don’t have much to train for, but Quaranteamers keep me going. Thanks, y’all!

Why is it still so warm in November??

The high temps are less brual than summer–by 25* or more. But mornings and evenings, AKA the time I do a lot of my running, it’s still hovering around 70. Bleah.

It’s weird how 70 as a high temp feels pretty good. But 70 as the low feels miserable, especially for running.

On Monday, I ran two miles with the dog after work. Tuesday’s Rush Hour workout hit the sweet spot as far as weather–it was in the low 60s when we started, but it dropped as the workout progressed. It felt really good!  Thursday, I took the dog for three miles. It felt less good.

Saturday, it was almost drizzling and almost 70. The route ran literally past my driveway, so about five miles in I had a nice water/bathroom stop. I finished ten miles, but let’s just say that the best part was the coffee tailgate afterwards.

In other news, the 2021 3M half marathon has been canceled. We have the option to defer or switch to the Austin half, which has moved from February to April. THAT is a no-brainer. I mean, the weather in February is a crapshoot as it is–the weather in April is guaranteed to be way too warm for a distance race. No thanks, I’ll take the deferral. I’ve got the Rogue All for One half marathon in mid-December, but that’s pretty much it as far as semi-organized races in the forseeable future.

I’m glad I have the Quaranteam to keep me motivated every week.

Quaranteam road trip + Run for Ruth

The exhaustion of last week finally caught up to me.

Monday, after a long day plus a staff meeting, I didn’t have the energy for a run. Tuesday, I got 2.5 miles into my workout–roughly halfway–and I bailed. My stomach didn’t feel good and I was just exhausted. Wednesday wasn’t a lot better.

But Thursday was pretty epic.

I met up with two Quaranteam friends and we drove three-ish hours to Vanderpool, Texas to hike around Lost Maples State Park. It’s one of the few places in Texas to watch the leaves turn actual fall colors, and we were visiting at just the right time.

There are two main trails–East and West–with little offshoot trails in a couple of places. We planned to hike both, which would eventually total just under eight miles.

We started on the Maple Trail, a half-mile easy walk from the trailhead to the East Trail, basically under a canopy of trees blazing with vibrant red and orange fall leaves. It was overcast and threatening to drizzle–pretty pleasant hiking conditions. We saw quite a few people on this part of the trail–COVID is spiking in Texas, so we pulled our masks up whenever we saw other hikers. Few people reciprocated.

Not long after we picked up the East Trail, we stopped at Monkey Rock. I didn’t know what to expect, but it’s literally a huge rock formation that looks like a monkey.

About two miles in, we hit the first challenging climb–it was more than 2200 feet of climbing over maybe half a mile. It felt like we’d never stop going straight up.

At the top, we were rewarded with extensive views of the Sabinal River valley below, including the trail we’d eventually descend again. I think we made the right call going counter-clockwise on the trail loops–on the way up, we had semi-stairs, but on the way down, it was just as steep but the terrain was more like loose rocks. Without trekking poles, that would be much harder than the way we ascended.

At the bottom, we found a picnic area along the river valley. We ate our lunches and dodged a kids’ field trip. Fortunately, they weren’t tackling the West Trail.

We followed the creekbed for several miles. As we walked through Mystic Canyon, the trail became gradually steeper until we met another vertical quasi-staircase. We started at a slightly higher elevation this time so it wasn’t quite as steep for as long, but it was still challenging–especially after having already completed one steep climb and descent. The trail almost immediately headed back down again, and over the next two miles we gradually descended to the river valley again, following it almost all the way back to the trailhead and parking lot.

We ended up with almost eight miles, averaging 30 minutes per mile. That included photo stops and stuff, so it’s not quite as glacial as it sounds, but on those two big climbs you can bet we were that slow! I didn’t care though. We had no cell service and no distractions–just the three of us and nature. We laughed a lot, ate Pringles, and had an amazing day.

Friday, needless to say, was a rest day. My quads were pretty hammered, and sitting most of the day for work did not help. I ended up taking the dog for a walk, and that helped. But Saturday morning I was still feeling some soreness. It made our 8.7-mile Run for RBG virtual race a little more challenging (as did the 70-degree temps) but we got it done and celebrated at our usual coffee tailgate afterward.

Sunday I slept in–finally catching up, maybe? And ran 2.25 miles with the dog. A cool front had blown in and it felt better than the day before. Let’s hope the rest of the week follows suit.

Anxiety Week

On Sunday, the dog and I hit some segments of the trail we’d missed a few weeks ago. It was a warm day and a lot more folks were on the trail than the first time, so he had lots of dogs to bark at.

Monday, I met up with a friend and we ran four miles, mostly to burn off anxiety. It didn’t really work, but it was a pleasant run.

Tuesday  I worked as an election clerk at a polling site. We had to be there by 6am to set up. and the polls were open until 7pm.

At 7:00 we were ready to go.  Or so we thought. A line had formed, and we started letting the first voters in. The way the system works is that we check them in by scanning their ID, which matches to their voter registration. We confirm the address, then they sign on the tablet and we print their ballot. We were able to get through all of the steps except the last one. The tablets wouldn’t talk to the printers.

The election judge got on the phone with the county tech support folks, but it took MORE THAN AN HOUR to resolve. Not every polling place had this problem, but several did. We were able to send a few people to nearby functioning polling places, but we still had people waiting. Everyone was nice about it, at least to our faces, and even though it wasn’t our fault, holy hell that sucked.

After resolving that, it was a much quieter day than when I worked the primary runoff back in July; this time we only saw 450ish voters, and they trickled in throughout the day. We really didn’t have much of a wait unless the voter had a problem–address change, registration error, that kind of thing. They had to wait in line for the election judge to resolve those problems.

Most people were nice, and I loved talking to the first-time voters. But I got yelled at once because… the voter hadn’t updated their address. The way it works is this: if you can’t answer “yes” to my address confirmation question, I can no longer help you. You can still vote, and we will do whatever we can to resolve your problem so your vote is counted, but you gotta talk to the judge. So when this voter said the address had changed, apparently it was my fault and “This is bullshit!” at least according to that voter.

And we had a kerfuffle at the very end of the night when a self-appointed pollwatcher driving a huge truck with flags in the back (I’ll leave you to guess what the flags said) drove within the 100-foot “no electioneering” zone and the judge had to deal with that. See, people can’t just show up and declare themselves pollwatchers–they must be registered with a party and have to check in with the election judge. They have specific rules to follow–they can’t just declare they are pollwatcher and make it so. Thus, this caused some last-minute drama, especially because we were still an active polling place with voters inside.

Wednesday I didn’t have a lot of energy (I can’t imagine why…) so my friend and I went on a low-key trail hike. We started out running, but the paved Brushy Creek Trail was super busy so we dropped off onto one of the hiking trails to get away from them.

Thursday, still exhausted, I attempted the workout but really just shuffled my way through four miles. It wasn’t pretty.

Saturday morning, most of the Quaranteam was running their 10-mile Rogue All for One virtual race from a school near my house. I had to be somewhere later that morning so I kicked my long run to Sunday; instead I walked the dog over to the school to say hi to everyone.

Sunday morning was a lot warmer and more humid than the previous day. But what can ya do? I started about 5:45–five loops of the two-mile route. I didn’t race it by any stretch of the imagination, and I stopped for water every time I made it back around to my car.

I ran this course for the Army Ten-Miler virtual race a few weeks ago and felt pretty good. I did not replicate that this time. The best description is that I slogged through it. No doubt the week’s election-related stress (and accompanying emotional roller-coaster and lack of sleep) meant I wasn’t well-rested and ready to tackle this thing. But I got it done.

And that’s kind of a metaphor for the last four years. But I think tonight I will sleep pretty well.

Trick or Treat

On Sunday, it was 82 degrees, a beautiful day on Lake Travis. Monday, we flipped the switch to winter. Sometime mid-afternoon, a cold front came in, and by the time I got out to run, it had dropped to about 45. I ran three miles and felt pretty good.

Tuesday, it got colder. When Rush Hour started our workout, it had dropped to 37 and drizzly. I wore a windbreaker for my warmup mile, but left it at my car for the next three. I won’t lie, 30s and 40s are my running jam, but dude, we had NO transition time from summer to winter, so it was a bit of a shock to my system. I ended up with a little over four miles.

Wednesday I ran three miles around my neighborhood–it was windy but 20 degrees warmer. Thursday it was colder and super windy all day The power at our house went out three separate times–it killed my wifi and kicked me out of my online classes. I had all kinds of tech issues all day, and I finished my day super-frustrated. After work I ran a speed workout solo, again looping around my neighborhood so I could get water from home.

Saturday, I was awake before my alarm so I decided to get moving. It was 38 according to my car, and the first three miles felt really good. I wore gloves and long sleeves (and cat ears because it’s Halloween), but after a while my gloves were sweaty and didn’t do a good job keeping my hands warm. For a while they were super cold, especially while it was still really dark. Miles 4-5 were on an unlit section of the BCRT, and while the moon did a good job lighting my way for mile four, after that I ended up walking some just to be sure I didn’t lose my footing. I had planned ten miles, but this part of the route was so dark, I turned around at 4.5. It was starting to get lighter by now, so I ran an extra lap around the lake before heading back, but I still ended up a little short, finishing with 9.5. The last two miles, the sun was out and warmed my hands up a bit.

I finished before the rest of the Quaranteam, so I went home to find some sweatpants and a dry shirt for tailgating. We sat in the sun enjoying our post-run coffee and donuts.

I expect the next few days I will be riddled with anxiety over the election. Maybe I’ll run, maybe I’ll sit here rocking back and forth until Election Day, when I am working at a polling location for 14+ hours. At least that will keep my mind busy.

Oops I forgot the title

The dog and I tried out a new-to-us trail this week. It included an abandoned VW bus, a rainbow tree, and a lot of elevation changes. I only explored about a third of it, though, so I hope to bring some friends back soon.

Monday night, I had to go to Election Clerk training from 6-9pm. I worked the runoff election back in July, but they required retraining for the general election. This makes sense, though—when I voted last week, I noticed the new system of touchscreens that looked very different from what I learned to do back in July.

Part of the training included what to do if voters show up wearing MAGA gear (not allowed) or BLM- or RBG-themed clothing (allowed), if they refuse to wear masks or put their phones away, or are unauthorized poll watchers. It’s a little unnerving, but I’m ready.

I wasn’t feeling Tuesday’s workout, but I managed a little more than three miles. Afterward we celebrated our coach’s birthday with cupcakes, so that was fun.

Wednesday evening a few of us ran three miles on Brushy Creek Regional Trail. It was really fun to run with a few people in-person. The trail wasn’t crowded so we could spread out—plus I know these people are all working from home and being safe.

Thursday I played Garmin Workout Roulette. I asked my group text to pick a number between 1-48 (that’s how many workouts I have stored in Garmin Connect) although the first two they picked were hill workouts and I didn’t want to drive somewhere with a hill. Or do a hill workout, for that matter. So the third time was the charm, and I did 200m repeats.

Saturday morning QuaRANteam started later than usual because a cold front had come through and temps were in the 50s—we didn’t have to get most of it done before the sun came up. Yay fall! It was an easy route for eight miles—run a mile, turn right. Run another mile, turn right. Run two more miles, then reverse.

I love the cold and typically run much faster when it’s below 60*, but I struggled at first. On the way back, though, I got something of a second wind and suddenly felt pretty good.

The cold weather presented something of a challenge for post-run coffee tailgating, but I brought a hoodie and a blanket so I was … not warm, exactly, but not too cold. Hot coffee helped.

Sunday I wanted to go back to last weekend’s trail, but I was invited to go sailing. I’m not used to boats without motors, so this was a new experience.

We meandered around Lake Travis watching zippy little boats race each other, and I learned a little about sails. Damn, a lot of rope is involved! It was a pretty day for a fun adventure. Unfortunately we got back too late to hit the trail, so that will have to wait. Hopefully next weekend.

Looks like Austin is having winter on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the highs in the 40s. I’ve almost forgotten what that’s like.

Two more virtual races

Quaranteam has been at this for so long, we’ve kind of run out of Saturday themes. But we’ve had several virtual races to complete, so that’s keeping us busy.

Sunday, the dog and I ran three miles on the trail; it was pretty warm and he stopped in the creek twice. Monday I had a staff meeting after school. We were informed that the campus has a confirmed COVID case and several people are self-isolating now. That news pretty much consumed the meeting, and by the time it was over, I had no mental energy left to run.

Tuesday morning brought some of the coolest temps in months, so when I woke up early, I decided to run my Rogue All for One 10K virtual race. It wasn’t a terribly good pace or finish time, but I got it done and returned home in time to shower and make coffee before my first class of the day. During my lunch break I checked the early voting wait times, and my usual polling place listed a 15-minute wait so I headed over there and found no line at all. Civic duty: done!


Tuesday evening, my group was meeting at a nearby elementary school, but since I’d already done my workout I took the dog and ran the half-mile to say hello. Wednesday turned out to be a rest day; Thursday I completed the workout from home. The dog ran with me for a mile warmup and cooldown; the workout was a ladder fartlek, 2-4-6-4-2, and I ended up with about four miles. For the first time in months, I felt strong during the speed segments.

Saturday morning, a lot of folks were completing their 10Ks along the same two-mile route from Tuesday evening. I needed to run my virtual Army Ten-Miler, so I decided to run five laps of the route. I drove over there so I’d have everything there instead of having to carry all of my provisions.

I started my first lap around 5:15am, before everyone else arrived. It was about 60*–not cold, but cooler than most mornings in recent memory. One of the coaches had sprinkled flour on the turns so that made it easier to run without consulting a map. At 5:30am, there wasn’t a lot of traffic–or distractions. And even with the flour, I missed a turn and ended up with an extra .25 on my first lap. It kind of made me happy to think that I could cut my last lap short.

About halfway through my second lap, I joined the Quaranteam call, and I found the correct turn. Another water stop at the end, and I started #3. I figured this one would be the most difficult, mentally, because I’d been at it enough that it was starting to get repetitive but I was only halfway done.

I did okay though, and started on lap #4. My legs were beginning to get tired and my back felt kind of sore. But I plodded along–even sore and tired, even running my longest distance since the spring, I was having the best long run in MONTHS.

The fifth lap, I planned to turn a little early and cut off part of that last mile to make up for that extra .2 on the first lap. But I somehow missed the street and ended up doing the whole thing anyway. I finished ten miles just before the final turn, so I stopped my watch and walked the last .25 as my cooldown. Kind of like I’ve always had to do at ATM, walking back to the car. At least I didn’t have to climb over a concrete barricade this time.

We had some Abbey Road fun in the crosswalk that also served as our faux finish line.

And then it was time for our usual post-run coffee tailgate–a hot drink felt SO good–but it started drizzling and we called the party off early. Still, I’m cautiously optimistic that I might be moving past the “terrible run” season and can start feeling good about my efforts again.


Beat the Blerch: how it started ➡️ how it’s going

If you’ve never read The Oatmeal’s book on running a marathon, go do that right now. I’ll wait.

He describes The Blerch as “a fat little cherub who follows me when I run.” The fluffy devil on his shoulder encouraging him to slow down, to walk, to be lazy.

A few years ago, he started Beat the Blerch, an in-person 5K/10K/half marathon/marathon in Carnation, Washington that featured couches, cake, and an actual Blerch running after people on the course. It also offered a virtual option long before virtual was much of a thing. And in 2014 we signed up for our first Beat the Blerch. That first year, I ran the 10K; the next year a few of us ran 13.1. I think I ran the 10K one more time, and then I got distracted by some PR goals and then marathon training.

But 2020 happened, and the Quaranteam has signed up for occasional virtual races to keep us honest. So the Blerch fit right into those plans.

2014 ➡️ 2020

We were supposed to run it in late September, but we also had the Womxn Run the Vote relay and a couple of other virtual things going on, so we delayed until this weekend. I have a feeling the Blerch would approve.

We decided on the 10K distance and selected a three-mile route that would allow us to stop at our cars for water halfway through. It was still pretty dark on our first lap, but there was enough light from streetlamps that I didn’t have any trouble navigating. The second lap was more interesting–we kept seeing things we’d missed the first time. A park, a garage sale, a foggy park, pumpkins.

I felt the Blerch’s presence the whole way. My running hasn’t been going well and my pace is terrible these days; add the stress of teaching during a pandemic and not sleeping well, and there’s no way I was going to race this thing. I plodded along at a walk-run.

And in true Blerch fashion, afterward there was cake. Please notice the cake looks like a pizza. It was amazing.

Would you like a pizza cake?

More of the same

After seven months of COVID-related reshuffling of our lives, the weeks keep blending together. But one thing that’s certain? They all feel like drinking from a fire hose.

Because I’m still teaching remotely, I spend a lot of time sitting, tethered to my laptop. Having two computer screens (well, one is a big TV pressed into monitor duty) is amazing for watching kids on Zoom while also seeing what I’m teaching, it doesn’t lend itself to moving around a whole lot. Especially when two other people in my house are working remotely as well–I’m stuck in my little guest room. So I sit. A lot.

When the school day ends, I’m not interested in some kind of home-based workout–I need to get outside and run, shake off the cobwebs and recurring nights of poor sleep. So that’s pretty much all I’ve been doing. Just trying to stay afloat.

Sunday I finished my portion of the Womxn Run the Vote relay. Monday I ran a couple of miles with the dog; Tuesday’s Rogue workout ended up at five miles. Wednesday I ran three social-distanced miles of trails and enjoyed the sunset over Lake Travis with some Quaranteamers. Throw in a couple of stressful staff meetings and a few nights of crappy sleep, and I only got out the door because my friends encouraged me.

Thursday’s workout was a lot like Tuesday’s, but I made up my own route and ended up with more like 4.5 miles. Friday was a rest day, and Saturday I ran a mile with a dog before heading out to an early-morning nonrunning appointment. So that left my long run for Sunday again.

Did I mention I haven’t been sleeping well? And then Saturday a muscle in my back froze up, which made both sleep and movement slightly more challenging. Well,  Saturday night I woke up around 1 or 2am and wasn’t sure I would fall back asleep, but eventually I did. And then my 4:45 alarm went off. I almost ignored it, but I knew my Quaranteam friends, who were also running this morning, would drag me out of my house if I didn’t show up. 

So I drove to our usual Starbucks–it was about 60*, a nice change from the gross summer. My back was still somewhat sore, but the Halloween decorations and phone conversation distracted me a little as I meandered around a couple of neighborhoods.

I finished eight miles, then I enjoyed coffee tailgating. Conversation bounced around like my Twitter feed–COVID, the election, and college football. All of which are veritable shitshows right now.

Next week starts another stretch of virtual races–the Blerch, Rogue 10K, Army Ten-Miler, and Run for RBG. Buckle up!

Fold in the cheese

These weeks aren’t getting any easier. Teaching through Zoom is so so difficult, but I am encouraged that my students keep showing up. A few parents have told me their kids like my class and at the dinner table voluntarily discussed the short story we read the first week of school. 

Sunday I spent a lot of the day working on my car stereo. Its crazy complicated system is the vehicular equivalent of Christmas lights–one component stops working and the whole thing goes dark, and you have to try all of them one at a time to figure out which one is the problem. We had to buy a replacement online, so for the next few days I drove around (to the extent that I took my car anywhere…) singing to myself.

This week I participated in the Womxn Run The Vote relay  by joining a team running virtually from Atlanta to Washington D.C.–each of us was supposed to run about 35 miles this week to contribute to the 687-mile total. So I planned five miles a day to get there.

Monday morning, I woke up to rain and temps in the 60s. I knew that at some point this week I needed to run my one-mile time trial for the One For All series, and looking at the weather, this seemed the friendliest for pushing myself. So I ran my mile (fastest I’ve run in a while, but not impressive in any way) and then ran a second easy mile. After work I ran three more to reach my daily relay goal.

Tuesday, the Rush Hour workout was … the mile time trial. We were meeting 2.5 miles from my house, and since I’d already run my mile, I just ran easy over to meet the group, and 2.5 back to reach my five. Wednesday, I ran almost three right after school, came back for a faculty meeting, then went back out for the rest of the five miles. I needed it, considering the faculty meeting and what the district wants from us. 😦

Thursday, we met at a park nearby–along with every kid in the area. There must have been five soccer teams practicing, a couple of flag football teams, and a bunch of runners like me. Oh and swim team practice. The parking lot was packed.

So I got out of there as fast as I could, running on the neighborhood roads instead of getting near people. I finished my five miles and then walked the dog for another mile after I got home.

Fridays are rest days–which is good because I slept poorly and was up (involuntarily) at about 5am. I spent the whole day tracking down attendance–we don’t have live classes, but we have to account for kids and find evidence that they participated in my class.

Saturday morning, I got up and met some friends in Georgetown to celebrate one friend’s upcoming wedding. She’d found a virtual Bachelorette 5K, so we signed up and then met for a social-distance run.

So that meant doing my long run–I needed about nine more for my share of the relay–on Sunday morning.

Three of us met up at our usual Starbucks and I managed to get all of us on the same phone call (since our fearless leader–and his WebEx–were unavailable) so we could amuse each other. About a mile and a half in, I learned that our relay team had already completed the race distance, so my nine miles were unecessary.

Immediately, I lost all motivation for running nine miles. Plus, my stomach didn’t feel good and I’d already started walking a bunch. So I walked the rest of the way to five miles and called it good.

In the end, I contributed 31 miles total, and my team is currently 50+ miles over the required distance, so I don’t feel bad about running 31 instead of 35.

We were going to run our Beat the Blerch virtual race this weekend too, but on top of everything else it was feeling kind of overwhelming so we decided to postpone it.

Besides, Central Texas usually sees its first below-60* mornings around the end of September, so we are holding out for more pleasant temps since we’re considering either the 10K or the half-marathon option. We’re also looking at a RBG-themed virtual race for the end of October. Stay tuned for more on that.