Friday, May 30, 2014

Exercise Diary: Streaking

Turns out it's not that hard to fit in a mile into your daily life.

Streaking in the rain

It's no wonder that runners are goal oriented.  Goals make you get off your bum and run.  Jen from Running Tangents have recently been wondering whether running marathons is bad for your health, and the most I got out of her post and the discussions that ensued is that sometimes people are so obsessed with their marathon goals they sacrifice their bodies to achieve them.  As they should, I totally understand.  Although I have no marathon experience to speak of, I too have felt addicted to go out and run, and I too have been annoyed at my pains and aches instead of making rest as my priority.  When we set a goal and go out and achieve it, it gives us meaning and helps us see our progress.

Luckily I haven't been injured, nor do I love running so much to the point of breaking myself to do it.  But ever since I began the Runner's World summer Run Streak challenge (Day 5 completed!), I've set aside my pickiness and went out on a heavily forecast day and ran in light rain.  Thank heaven it was only light rain, which actually felt nice on my arms and my hat.  I think I would feel more sorry for myself if it had began down pouring.  But before I decided to do the streaking challenge I would've never gone out in that weather and risk being rained on.  And I would've gone out that day if it wasn't for Memorial Day, and the gym being closed.  So I really didn't have a choice but I was completely at peace with it.

Though the run was nice and uneventful, I failed at keeping my promise of running quality miles.  Any nice and quiet loop around the area require first getting there from home, and that can be either a fraction of a mile to a mile and half.  By the time I started on the actual course I had already run a mile, which wasn't too bad, but then I ran into hills.  And more hills.  And a final big hill which I couldn't do last time and did even worse on Monday.  I was walking a lot way before the big hill.

It was disappointing to fail at uphills, because it makes the subsequent downhill running feel like cheating.  It was fun, oh it was so much fun, but it felt too easy, thus making me uneasy.

So day 1 was completed, but my goal of the quality mile failed quite miserably.

New Shoes!

I did not intentionally went out to get a new pair of running shoes so soon after my Brooks.  But I needed new, season appropriate shoes to replace my favorite boots that I wore all winter, and since I'm in lab for most of the day I can't wear flip flops or any other kind of open toe shoes.  I wanted a pair of light sneakers, hopefully something of good quality, since last time I bought light sneakers I got holes in my toe box before the summer was over.

So I pounced when I saw a deal on on a pair of Inov-8 F-lite.  They were originally retailed for $116, but got reduced all the way to $35 (and I had free Prime shipping).  After reading all the reviews and carefully selected my size, I clicked the "add to cart" button.  They arrived on Tuesday,  and I decided to run in them.

They are very light and minimalistic, and really breathable, so perfect for the summer.  Though advertised as fashion sneakers, many of the people who reviewed the shoes on Amazon use them for cross training and running.  So if I'm working toward minimalistic running, I thought these would be good shoes to start.

The mid foot area was very narrow, which does not quite fit my feet, but the fabric on top hugs my feet very snugly so my feet are secured but not pressured the wrong way, so they are still comfy.  And the triply blue/magenta color is both fun but still me~

Back onto the Mill

Did my Tuesday run in the gym on the treadmill.  I was not eating at the right time and really wanted a nap so when I woke up it was almost 9pm.  Plus I didn't want to do a long run again, so I went to the gym to do my quality mile.  This is the first time I went back to the gym since I began running outside, and once I was there, it wasn't so bad.

It was still stuffy, and the built in fan on the machine didn't really help but giving me this uncomfortable chill.  My mile was consistent but so boring; I can now safely say that even the most boring scenery outside is more fun than the gym.  I wasn't tired, but it was still hard to make the full mile when all you want is to be done.

The shoes were fine, I found them easy to run in and very light.

Not quite the minimalist

I had an evening engagement on Wednesday, so I brought my gym clothes to work so I can do a quick loop around the pond I had run when first started, just to get the mile in.  I ran in my Invo8 again, after a good run the day before.

It turned out that these shoes were NOT meant to be run on concrete.  This was the first time I realized so clearly the hardness of different surfaces.  With other big bulky cushioned shoes I never understood how it was such a big deal.  But after half a mile my heels were aching, the poundings were too much for my feet, and I went to the muddy edge of the road whenever possible.  Toward the end it got so bad that I avoid touching my heels to the ground altogether and were essentially running on tip toes, and finally finished my mile.  I ran the loop well, just over 5 mi/hr, which is my treadmill comfort zone.  But I could tell that my heels are screwed.

My right foot took it worse than my left.  By the end of the night my left foot had almost gone back to normal, but my right foot just refused to be happy.  I tried to massage my foot a bit, and was beginning to worry about this running everyday thing.  Maybe not giving yourself a rest is not the most brilliant idea in the world.

Running on tip toes also caused serious muscle aches in the back of my calves.  They were injury aches, but felt more like the muscle sores I experienced after my first hiking trip.  I guess if I ever want to work on my calf, I now know what to do.

Lost in the Woods

With my foot still hurting, I went out around the pond loop again on Thursday.  Because the weather is so nice I decided to venture into the Pine trail again, which is right next to the pond.  The trail is supposed to be 1.8 miles, so I thought it would be manageable but not over-working myself.

Long story short, I got lost again.  I was running among the trees for a good while and reached a fork.  An old lopsided sign pointed one direction with the words "walker/runner's track" so I followed it, and ended up on a paved trail designed for golf carts and walkers (the trail loops around our country club golf course).  There were people playing golf, and similar paved track everywhere, and I had no idea where I was.  There was no familiar landmarks, and just a faint sound of traffic that suggested the road next to our school building.  I followed a track for a bit, turned around, and somehow ended up right next to the road, about a mile away from my school building.  By that point I had already ended my run on my Nike+ app, and jogged slowly back, annoyed at myself for getting lost in the trail every time I go alone.  This trail and I are just not meant to be I guess.
Heavy Bladder

Went around the pond loop again.  It was rainy today so no desire to try the trail at all.  Did one loop around the pond.  My calves are still aching, my daily runs are just not giving the muscles any rest.  Because of that I slowed down significantly during the second half of my mile.  It was still a quality mile I think, but I had to end at loop 1.  I made the mistake of not going to the bathroom before I went out, thinking that it wouldn't matter and it was going to be a short run anyway (I originally planned to run 2 loops).  But you can feel a full bladder more when you are moving about and jiggling your body than when you are sitting.  I constantly had the urge to go to the bathroom and it just wasn't fun.  My calves were also very tight when I stopped so maybe it was a good thing.

Thoughts about streaking after the first 5 days

  • I think I am going to complete this 40 day challenge to set myself up with a good routine about running and build some good miles.  It will also teach me about facing difference running circumstances.
  • That said, I don't think, at least for me, streaking is a good long term idea.  Other people may be able to run everyday, but I think I need more rest between runs.  With my 5 day running streak and all the aches and pains and even injuries I've accumulated it would be hard for me go to on longer runs on weekends.  My body will be too tired to take a good, long, 5-mile run, and I would be forever stuck with the short mile.  
  • Then again, this first 5 days have taught me that squeezing 1 mile of running into my daily life is really not hard at all~

Monday, May 26, 2014

This week on the net (5/19-5/25)

I realize now that these weekly posts aren't really about what actually happened in the past week, but rather stuff I managed to dig up from the internet in that given time period.  And a general dumping ground for stuff irrelevant to an actual blog post, since I don't blog on days I don't exercise.  Maybe these posts now deserve a different, more exciting heading.  Oh well, here they are:
  • List of books on running.  Pdf of an appendix from something called Timeless Running Wisdom. Don't know what it is, could be a book.  I thought I would save the list here in case I will later find it useful.
  • Only You (Marathon special episode).  There is a reality show in China called Only You (非你莫属), which is about seeking jobs.  As far as I know there are at least two similar shows in China on this topic.  A "contestant" would come up, a job seeker, to face a panel of 12 bosses.  They are real bosses in charge of fairly large companies in China, and in a face-to-face interview with the contestant (which in reality lasts about an hour but is then edited into a ~15 min. segment), make a decision whether to hire the job seeker.  I used to be obsessed about this show but my enthusiasm has diminished somewhat.  But I recently learned that they had a special marathon episode, for which they brought a number of high executives who runs or have complete marathons, among them a guy named Tongsheng Tian, who started running when he was 55 and has completed over 35 marathons since he started (he's 61 now).  The episode was aired earlier this month, very appropriate to my current life events.  Anyway, there are many reasons why this show organized a running themed episode, but I was intrigued and watched it.  Wasn't too impressed with the episode, mostly because the four contestants who came up weren't very impressive.  And overall the episode only tangentially related to running, and got annoying by the end (the bosses kept saying to the contestant that he should start running marathons, which is probably the worst way to get someone who doesn't usually find running fun to start).  But I liked the spirit of the episode.  I don't know how big running is in China, or how popular running marathons has been or when the enthusiasm started, but it's an entirely new culture I discovered.  It's not completely separated from the running culture here, in fact a lot of the valuable running-related books are translated English best sellers, Born to Run and Running&Being among them.  
  • Speaking of this Tongsheng Tian, I've only recently learned about him.  But apparently he's a big  inspiration in China (or he has been advertised as such) and is considered one of the pioneers for introducing the people to marathon running as a sport.  He recently published a graphical autobiography on his journey from an out-of-shape, 55-year-old man to the distance runner he is today.  I haven't been able to get a hold of a copy of the book yet, and I'm sure his story is very motivating and inspiring, but the concept of a graphic book (comic book), the cover design, and even the title, seem to me a terrible plagiarism on an already popular book a Japanese female illustrator published on her own marathon running experience.  Just look at the covers and tell me if it's a coincidence:
Tongsheng Tian's new book, illustrated by his daughter (released just last month).

Naoko Takagi's book on her running her first marathon (the Chinese translated edition was released in 2011).

Oh, and guess what, Takagi has "written" several books since then as a series of her marathoning adventure.

Year 2, Chinese translation released in 2012

Year 3, on marathoning and eating at all the places she's run.  Chinese translation released in Nov, 2013.

Her most recent book in this series, on marathoning abroad.  It's so new that the translated edition is not even out yet.  I can't wait to read it~

You tell me what you think.  If you want to have an inspirational book on marathon running, a book by a great Chinese runner on a great running story, at least be original and not be so obnoxiously plagiaristic.  I believe his experience is real, but doing a book this way just makes him less respectable.  I'm sorry, but I truly feel that.

  • A review of the North Face Ultra Trail Shoe.  Not that I'm looking for a pair of trail shoes, but I was reading this post and could only understand about 1/3 of it.  I couldn't understand all the things this guest blogger is talking about with regard of the shoes he's reviewing.  So I will save the link here and go back another day to figure what everything means.
  • Tips for training for a 10K.  Just to have it, should be useful.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Exercise Diary and Random but Related Thoughts: Get real

The Inactivity

When I finally made myself to go and run today I realized that it's the first one in 5 days.  Although I never intentionally said no to running on a perfectly nice weathered running day (there was none), I couldn't help but also realize that apart from 2 planks I did at some point I didn't actually exercise in any other way.  I was going to go play badminton on Thursday, but due to some timing issues I decided to skip.

The Run

Woke up this morning and found a beautiful running weather.  Checked the forecast, low 70s for the few hours I planned to go running.  Got a nice, 9-hour sleep.

But there was a problem.  I didn't want to go.

I don't know what it was.  Whether my easy decision to say no to running from the week had seeped through my brain (which is bad), or whether I was just afraid (which we can work on).  I knew I haven't been moving much, and my last run wasn't really a success.  And just the night before I had dinner with friends and I ate way too much.  I ate so much that I was dizzy by the end (not drunk, didn't have any alcohol).  Although I didn't feel full this morning, and I made myself eat something for breakfast so I don't get weak, I could feel that it was going to be hard getting back into running again.  I also dug a hole for myself by planning a long, 6.8 mile route.  Not that I thought I was ready, but I just didn't want to waste a beautiful weekend day.  Weekend is the only time I can go out and explore new routes and be comfortable in feeling that I have endless time to explore and feel the route.

It didn't work.  I didn't get to run any of the streets I had planned to do.  There was a Memorial Day parade in the town, and they blocked the street I was going to go on.  So I turned onto a smaller street, and happily ran blind until it merged onto a street I had run before.  By that point I had already done almost 2 miles, and felt out of shape and unfit the whole way, so I decided to head back.  My body felt heavy, my heart beating too fast, my shoes were tied too tight so my feet are hurting (I feel that I could use even less arch support, maybe minimalistic running is a good choice for me).  I didn't feel good, I felt tired.  I stopped to walk after just 1.1 miles, and walked even more afterwards.  I practically walked all the way back.  I headed back early.  It was still an almost 5-mile loop from where I live, so at least I got some nice walk in, which will still help with getting back into regular exercise in the future.

I also think I picked a bad time to go.  It was warmer than I thought, there wasn't much of a breeze to keep me cool.  I also forgot to put on sun block or bug spray and that was bothering me more mentally than anything else.  All in all it was a failure.

Persistance is key.  With my upcoming Run Streak Challenge I will have to force myself to get into a more regular exercise schedule.  I now also realize the importance to quality exercise, not just the quantity (the long distances I rake up, or try to rake up, on weekends).  Although I have had good long runs in the past, today's run really made me feel that just because I did a 7-mile loop once doesn't mean I have to top myself every time afterwards.  Piling on crappy walk/run milages isn't necessarily good I don't think.  I really have to change my mentality to settle for doing a solid 2-miler and be happy.

The Shoes

I ordered a new pair of shoes which should arrive on Tuesday.  It's a pair of Inov-8 Women's F-Lite 185.  They are considered by the manufacturers as fashion sneakers, but most reviewers of the shoes use them for cross-training and sometimes running.  I got them because they were on sale, and because most people consider them true to size, so I risked buying shoes I haven't tried before.  I originally got them because I need everyday sneakers for the summer anyway, but I now am thinking of trying to run in them as minimalistic shoes.  Just to see.

The Magazine

I subscribed to Runner's World magazine and just got the first issue!  It was actually their April issue so I hope I will receive the May issue soon, not 3/4 into the next month.  I have been reading the RW website regularly and gradually came to the realization that what they put on the website is probably a portion of what's in the magazine.  So finally I decided to subscribe the printed version.  I was slightly nervous about this since all the magazines I've subscribed in the past have largely been left unread.  But I was hoping this one would be different since I had really wanted to read it, not merely thinking it would be interesting, or because it was on sale.  I finished the entire thing already, which is something I rarely do now.  I think this is the first time I subscribed to a magazine because I really want to read it, not because I think I should read it to improve my general well being.

The Festival

The Runner's World magazine naturally devoted large, full-page ads on their upcoming Heartbreak Hill Half&Festival in Boston.  I obviously will not be running the half marathon, but I really want to experience an expo, as well as attend the various seminars they organized.  As far as I know they are free but still requires registration.  They also have a 5K and a 10K event with the festival, which I was sort of considering, but timing-wise was just too cruel.  They start at 7:15am and 8:15am, respectively.  That's means I'll have to spend the night the day before and still have to get up obscenely early, and possibly miss a morning seminar, since I will be slow if I do the 10K (which I'm only considering because it starts at a later time).  I really want to see if I can drag anyone to go with me.  I don't know why, since I usually like to work alone, but this just seems more appropriate to go as a group.

The Challenge

In addition to the festival, another RW event coming up is their summer Run Streak Challenge.  Basically you run at least a mile everyday from Memorial Day (tomorrow!) to Independence Day.  You log it via MapMyFitness, and at the end of the challenge be eligible for some sweepstakes event.  I forget what you can win, but BelVita is sponsoring so I'm guessing food.  I signed up for it so maybe there will be a badge on my blog soon :)

Friday, May 23, 2014

Running Thoughts: Why I Run

I've only been running seriously for about two months, but I have asked myself this question quite a few times and surprisingly the answer has changed a few times over such a short period.

Many people draw parallels between marathon running and life, and overall I agree with them.  We are here for the long haul, and a lot of things we go through while running long distance provide as good metaphors for things we go through in life.  Although I sometimes see the parallel, I'm not very keen on obsessively drawing detailed analysis on how running symbolizes life.  I guess when a big moment hit I would think about it a bit more, but I draw lessons about life on life itself already, to me running is just for fun.

Fun was and remains to be my main priority when it comes to running.  Fun and safety.  Safety came later when I experienced my first pain and injury and read so many accounts from avid runner/bloggers on the injures they have experienced.  I found it utterly ridiculous that such a natural exercise can cause so many injuries to the human body, and I feel that a lot of them are unnecessary and can be avoided.  But that's another story.  However, I have since paid particular attention to keep myself away from injury, which made me tread into unchartered territories such as deliberately taking time off from running (as opposed to procrastinating), venturing into the vast and complicated world of running shoes (as opposite to selecting the first pair of cheap shoes I see), and choosing distance over speed.  So far I'm happy to say, I'm injury free.  I don't run for the battle wounds, I run to be healthy.  I don't think it's too much to ask for.

But back to the fun part.  The more I run and the more I read about other people who run, the more I encounter people showing off their marathon finishing times and their rapid progress in speed.  I find it repulsive.  I think part of it is because I'm jealous and insecure since I'm still slow and unfit.  Maybe in the future when I can run better I will become those I now find obnoxious.  I find it repulsive because right now I find these numbers arbitrary and meaningless, like body weight.  It's one thing to be enthusiastic about your running goals, or your goal weight, it's quite another to be obsessed over the superficial goal posts that simplify the deeper, more complex achievements one should be striving for.

I go out and run because I like it.  I like to go when it's sunny out, I like to go during the day.  I like to plan routes on google maps and imagine running on the road.  I like to bring my camera and take actual pictures of the mental images I take in.  I like to run in a simple short-sleeve T-shirt and capris and not worry about the cold or the changing weather.  I like to have unlimited time for my run and not to worry about what I have to do afterwards or about if it's getting dark soon.  I like to run on an empty but not deserted road so I feel safe but private, and therefore completely comfortable with my flawed body.  I like to run somewhere I've never been before but at the same time not to be scared about the unknown.  I like the excited feeling I get when waking up on the weekend or when leaving work in the afternoon and find a perfect running weather.  I like the slightly nervous feeling when I'm about to leave home for a run.  I like downhills.  I like short, sharp uphills that I can get through without losing all my breath.  I like the polite and friendly waves that fellow runners and other people give me when I pass them.  I like my appetite for healthy and lighter food after my runs.  I like the fact that I have so far been continuously losing weight since I started running.  I like my new shoes and all my newly acquired running accessories.  I like to read about running.  I like to spend hours surfing the blogosphere and read other people's running tales.  I like inspiring stories from ordinary people who become marathon runners.  I like the being-in-the-moment feeling I have when running; I'm slow but I'm completely at peace.

I run because I want to, not because I have to.  And I just wrote a giant paragraph on why I want to run.  I have imagined running a marathon many times in my daydream, and I have very clear goals on the type of races I want to do in the future.  But I have never been obsessed with how fast I want to go, or what time I would finish a race (other than "oh my god if I have to finish within the limit of x hours this is how fast I have to go").  I believe that speed will come naturally when other elements are in alignment.  I believe that when I feel the need for speed I will have the desire to want to work on it.

So why the sudden enthusiasm on running?  For as long as I could remember I've always hated running more than any other form of exercise or sport.  Mostly because I'm no good at it and everyone else is better than me.  I think this is still true.  We typically think of running as "run as fast as you can for as long as you can", and as you can see from my detest of speed and time I still fail miserably in that department.  And when we apply the "run as fast as you can for as long as you can" mentality about running, I would think that most people hate running as well.  It's so discouraging to sprint for a short distance and run out of breath.  I've always hated it and I still do.

When I first started running I was fueled by a strong desire to just get out and run.  This fuel came very mysteriously, and I'm still trying to figure out how exactly it came.  All I can conclude so far is that this great fire of desire was ignited by a number of small sources that when came together, created this great ball of energy that was then continuously fueled by my desire to read about running when not running myself.  And these small initiating events are thus:

  • A few people I met in an online chatroom unrelated to running or exercising were talking about running.  At the time I still held a deep hatred for running and was happily obsessing over yoga, and felt very left out when others get excited about something I don't like.  At first I held distain toward these people; they seem like masochists to me for loving something so horribly painful and tortuous. But they kept at it.  They kept talking about it and kept running.  And at some point I must have been curious about the attraction of running.
  • My real life friend who first got me into yoga was one day talking about how she was training for a mini-triathlon she is doing this summer.  Half-jokingly she said she is going to persuade me into doing it with her.  I said a firm "no" but got very nervous, since she has successfully gotten me into doing hiking, running (yes we once did a miserable loop around a local trail and I still don't understand why she remembered the incident fondly like some happy memory), cross-country skiing, skating on an open lake, and the latest, yoga.  I know that I don't swim (read: don't show up in public in my swimsuit) or bike, and when she was talking about this mini-triathon I was planning on how not to embarrass myself in public and the easiest first step would be to practice running.
  • Literately the next day after the mini-trialthon conversation I got an email from someone in our department about a 5K to raise money for the cystic fibrosis foundation that was at the time, 12 weeks away.  I think that solidified my previous fleeting desire to give running one more try, and finally made me step on a treadmill again.  I still regret not running that 5K after all, which was last weekend.  But I'm thankful for its contribution to get me start running.
So that's how I started.  I don't remember the exact date anymore but I can clearly remember the Sunday I began running.  It was late March.  My parents had come to visit me that weekend.  We had a happy time together but I couldn't wait for them to leave on Sunday.  As soon as they drove off I changed and headed for the gym.  I think I only did about a mile and half that day.  I distinctly remember I was running at 5 miles/hr and ran for about 0.7 miles before slowing to a walk, and I was so discouraged.  No matter how out of shape I was before I could always go for at least a mile before getting too bored or too tired.  I remembered making up for this failure by going on the elliptical for another while before calling it a day.  It wasn't a great first day but I went back the next day and the day after that.  For the first two weeks of my running I didn't record my progress in any way, so before my Nike+ sensor arrived I only have my vague memory of going to the gym and agonizing over the crowded fitness room to prove that I was running.  And my runs were never long.  Half an hour of torture on the treadmill seemed a lot to me at the time.  

My biggest inspiration at the time was Naoko Takagi's Running alone series of comics.  She's a professional illustrator who published a number of comic books on different aspects of life.  Her Running Alone series documented her journey from an out-of-shape tatami potato to completing her first marathon and then some.  Her story is inspirational because she's so ordinary and relatable.  She had no talent in running, and she did not sacrifice her life to achieve some marathon dream.  She was frustrated at her sedentary lifestyle, inspired by the 2008 Tokyo marathon and started to run, incorporated running in her life and completed her first marathon at the end of that year.  She was an above average runner but not extraordinary, she was determined but didn't change her life to revolve around running, she was happy.  She enjoyed every aspect of running.  And she inspired many others to give it a try.  

When I first started I had the 5K in my mind as a goal.  I didn't want to be extraordinary, I just wanted to finish a 5K.  Although I missed the event that originally got me started I still completed my first 5K 8 weeks after I started running.  I wasn't fast and I was one of the last to finish, but I finished and I was happy.  Now my goal is a half marathon in October, and "why I run" becomes a more complex answer that require more careful planning to fulfill.  When you are running 30 minutes a day on the treadmill indoors it's easy; how many ways can you fail and seriously injure yourself?  But now that I'm doing outdoor runs of 5 or 7 miles on almost-summer days, there are many ways it can go wrong and many things I have to plan ahead and learn.  I started with fun, now I have safety.  I want to run until I'm 80 or older so I can't risk wrecking my body for some short-term thrill or my ignorance.  Maybe in a few months how I regard "why I run" will change again, and when the time comes I will bore you again with another thought post.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Exercise Diary: Worst run yet

Bad, bad run.  Terrible.

I decided to do a short trail run to ease back after 2 days of inactivity.  I didn't get home until 7, and the sun sets shortly after 8.  So I figured the new, ~3.8-mile loop would be a good work out.

The weather was great.  Perfect for a run in fact.  And the view was really good.  A good part of the trail extends along the river, and nicely shaded.  Some parts of it were too steep to run but fun.  I will definitely go again at a later date.  And take pictures.

Things that went wrong, roughly in the orders they happened:

  • I had forgotten to eat.  I was in a hurry to change and get out at 7 to leave me ample time to run that I only took a few sips of water but forgot to eat something.  I was already hungry when I left work, and only remembered after I left home again.  I thought it wasn't a big deal, but I think I was terribly mistaken.
  • Wrong shoes.  I was so excited to wear my new shoes again that I forgot I was going on the trail.  My old New Balance shoes are actually trail runners and at some point I had thought to wear them instead, but just forgot.  Didn't get the shoes too muddy but still, by the end of the run there are pebbles in my shoes and I didn't want that to happen on my second wear.
  • I was unsure.  The steep decent at the beginning of the trail took me by surprise, and the unknown feeling pretty much went on for the rest of the run.  Trails are difficult because you usually can't see where exactly you are going to run by using google maps or other means to familiarize yourself before you actually go (no street view), so I had a general idea of where I was going, but not specifically.  Not that it was too confusing, at least not at the beginning, but I think I was nervous enough that my heart was taking on a greater toll than usual.  About a mile after I left home my heart began to beat uncontrollably fast, despite having walked most of the way because of the difficult trail.  I was very scared and started to slow down to a walk.  I wasn't out of breathe, but my heart was beating really fast, and I didn't know why.  I will always believe that I was too nervous about the unknown, but I don't know for sure.
  • I got lost.  The trail is sort of a two-parter, separated by a main street.  After I looped around the river and went onto a more forest-y part of the trail, it started out nice and wide and followed neatly along a river, but then veered into the woods.  I know that if I followed one of the trails (there are several that branch out) eventually I would come out near a highway, but I ran into forks and I wasn't sure which one I should take, since if I go on the wrong one I could come out miles away from where I live and possibly end up in the next town.  If I were settling for an adventure on a weekend morning I wouldn't've minded, it would just be more fun, but by that point it was about to get dark and was even darker in the woods, that I didn't think it would be wise to continue.  So I headed back and decided to conquer it on another day.  On my way back I passed a trail map that took me a while to figure out, and I realized that had I wanted to continue on I would've indeed get on the wrong trail and may not emerge from it for several miles.  Plus there's always the fear for bears and other possibly vicious wild animals.  
  • I was tired and weak from not eating.  My heart was beating unreasonably fast for several more times so I was doing at most a walk/run.  Later I realized that although I didn't feel hungry, the weak feeling is directly related to not having something in my stomach before I go out.  Whereas my previous two run I had fed and hydrated myself very well that despite the need to want to go to the restroom halfway through the run I felt unbelievably energetic.  Terrible terrible move.
When I got home I had a disappointing banana from a bunch that was too ripe when I bought them and was absolutely disgusting because it's getting black and cold from being refrigerated.  I always keep my bananas in the fridge in the summer to prevent fruit flies from getting in.  I washed it down with some almond milk and felt more like my normal self.  I weighed myself and found that I had lost more than 3 lbs since I weighed myself before leaving for work this morning.  It was at first exhilarating because that's the default reflex feeling when finding out that I lost weight, but later alarming because it seems a lot.  I'm sure I'll gain most back after a meal, but after this run I now learned that I need to be more careful with my pre-run preps now that my runs are getting longer and taking longer.  

Monday, May 19, 2014

This Week on the Net (5/12-5/18)

Another week passed~  My lack of running in the past week seemed to have correlated with my lack of interest in running related things on the net.  I no longer have the urge to surf the web for hours and hours looking for running related things, which on some level is a good thing since I had been doing that when I was supposed to be working :P.  Anyhoo, here's the list.
  • More publicity on the Vibram class action lawsuit.  A friend shared on Facebook the news and commented on how ridiculous the shoes are, and lumped Vibram shoes with gluten avoidance and juice cleanse.  I strongly agree with him on the gluten thing, and don't care one way or the other on the juice cleanse fad.  While I understand that Vibram is at fault for exaggerating the effects of its minimalistic shoes, much of the vehement toward Vibram shoes is really ascetically based.  People don't like the 5-toe design of the shoes, they don't like how the shoes look like gorilla feet, or just how they look different from normal shoes in general.  I bet if you get on a pair of Nike Free or any other minimalistic shoes by other brands that look more like normal shoes no one will give a toss.  But from the Huffington Post article I found some articles that shed positive light on the shoes, and some that didn't let personal dislike or ascetic perspective blind the objectivity.  I personally still want to work toward minimalistic running, and I may or may not choose Vibram when I get to that point.  But I'm annoyed at the hate that people have for Vibram, and their glee that it's now giving refund for users.  To each his own I guess.
  • Found the Harvard barefoot running website.  From my cursory glance I think it's a site set up to disseminate foot strike and running related information to the general public, with findings based on the scientific work done at the skeletal biology labs at Harvard.  The information provided on the pages is contributed by Daniel Lieberman, Madhusudhan Venkadesan, Adam Daoud, and William Werbel.  I recognize the first name as he was feature in the book Born to Run.  I find it very interesting that they repeatedly emphasized that the information provided is purely for educational reasons and they do not wish to hold any responsibility over any stupid things people might do after reading their website.  And of course they also point out certain areas of debate that have not been properly investigated experimentally.  But the overall information is very logical and honestly, not very ground breaking.  People who don't wear modern, heavily cushioned shoes adopt a wider range of predominately fore- and mid-foot strikes, while the majority of shod runners heel strike.  And if you want to transition into barefoot running, you should learn to not strike with your heel in order to prevent injuries.  And the transition should be gradual.  Just like everything else in life, if you want to make a change, do it gradually  and safely, and don't blame any one or any thing if your impatience or stupidity made you unhappy. 
  • Interesting post on why we should vary our pacing for different workouts.  This reminds me of a workout called wind sprint, for which you gradually increasing your speed to a sprint and gradually slow it down, all in one stretch of running.  I feel that I can't even be considered as an amateur runner at this point, since my goal at the moment is just to run for as far as I can and still survive.  Speed is so not a concern right now.  But it's good to keep it in mind when I'm ready to work on my speed one day.

Weekend in Recap: New shoes, Longer run, New recipe, Beautiful Days, oh myyy~~

So much happened since earlier this week.  The weather had been crummy on Thursday and Friday so they were spend in agony trying to decided if I should go run.  In the end I opted out on both days, choosing for a late nap instead.

The weather forecast had been reporting heavy rain for Saturday for quite a while, and as a result when I went to bed on Friday night while listening to the rain dripping from the roof of our house I decided again running a 5K in muddy trail the next day.  I originally wanted to do this 5K which raises money for the cystic fibrosis foundation.  I'm still sad that I didn't get to do it since it's the one event that really propelled me into running.  But I hate mud and I don't like rain and at the end of the day, it really doesn't matter.

I woke up the next day (almost noon) to the most beautiful day I've seen in a while.  Clear sky, few clouds, nice breeze.  I'm never trusting the weather forecast again.  I got up, tried on new shoes, and went for the longest run I've done so far.

The Shoes

Last week I talked about getting a new pair of running shoes.  I decided on a pair of Brooks Dyad 7 for its wide mid foot and its sale on Zappos.  I got the shoes on Thursday and had been dying to try them for two days.  On Saturday I finally got the chance.

When I put them on they somehow felt tighter than I thought.  I didn't quite get the same feel while trying them on at the store, but even with the thinnest socks I was nervous when I put my foot in.  Perhaps the laces were more loosened at the store so my feet had an easier time.  I tried to do a few extra loops with the laces to prevent my heel from slipping but the laces became too short, so in the end I had to compromise a bit.  They felt loose but snug, I had enough room in the front between the shoes and my toes, and after running for 7 miles they still feel fine and my feet were happy.  I guess I will keep them for the long haul.

New Brooks!  When I told people or showed them this picture they either made fun of me splurging on expensive brands or said that they are cute.  Even after the cheaper find on Zappos they were still a bit over my budget but since there don't seem to be many choices out there my budget just needs to be readjusted.  Besides I don't think I will be buying new shoes for a while.  I still have my old New Balance shoes for rotation and trail runs.  They do look pretty cute, I must say.  At first I wasn't too impressed with the color (and the lack of style choices), but I never hated it and let's be honest, I buy boring looking shoes even when given a choice.

On a brighter note, I was able to return my new-ish pair of New Balance (another pair of trail runner I got in March right after I began running, but I just couldn't make them work even after the replacement insoles and everything).  By "able to return" I mean that Amazon sent me return slips and shipping address to mail the shoes back.  It will be another week or two until I get my refund, fingers crossed.  The shipping itself cost me $12, who knew they cost so much to ship (got Prime free shipping when I bought them).  So with any luck I will get ~$50 back, and we can pretend this irrational and uninformed shoe purchase never happened.

Thanks heavens for my terrible procrastination problems I still kept the packaging and the box it was shipped in.  So after wiping the bottom of the shoes, taking out the replacement insoles and putting the originals back, rewrapping them and putting them back into the original box, they almost look like they have never been worn.  Almost.  You can see what I mean about buying boring colored shoes.  Bye bye shoes!  It's been fun (sort of) while it lasted.

The run.

Saturday's run was super exciting to me.  I had my new shoes on, I was finally able to go out after being cooped up for three days, and I was going to try a new, slightly longer route.  I also decided to bring my camera for the first time in a while in anticipation of the new scenery.  

I had a rough start.  I will always blame it on too many days of resting and the associated junk food I eat when I'm not exercising.  I stopped to walk a few time at the beginning, taking pictures as an excuse.  I don't think I like the new route, the scenery isn't as nice and there's less shade.  There was, however, enough sidewalk so I could run carefree without paying too much attention to the traffic.

There were quite a few streams though, and I like the rushing waters.

At the end of the loop I was reluctant to go back, so I turned and went onto the loop I went before, this time going the reverse direction from what I had done.  It felt much, much harder.  I don't know if it was because of the 4 miles I had already done, or I'm just not very good at long inclines.  But I still liked the view much, much better.

On the way back was a bit dangerous.  Since I was coming back the other way I was on the wrong side of the road, which not only does not have sidewalks, but also had quite a few intersections for turning cars.  They were quite nice at letting me pass, but I imagine they must be quite annoyed.  Sorry cars!

Despite being the longest run I've done so far, I didn't stop for water and didn't really feel dehydrated.  I did keep thinking of stopping, and I did bring money, but I just never did.  I passed one shop after another, and by the end I didn't even want to go to the bathroom anymore.

When I got back on campus I was hoping for some food, or at least for some drinks.  We had a music festival this weekend and they were giving out free food left and right.  Unfortunately the run took me almost 2 hours and by the time I got back they had already clean the grill so all they had were popcorn, cotton candy, and caramel apple.  I normally would go for the popcorn or cotton candy but by then I was so thirsty the apple just looked amazing.  Even the caramel wasn't as sweet as it normally tastes.

All in all, a most wonderful fun.

The bottom of my feet did hurt for sometimes afterwards.  I don't know if it's because I just ran 7 miles or if it's something more serious.  I massaged my feet with a bottle of ice and it helped somewhat.  I hope it wouldn't turn into plantar fasciitis later on.

The next day I wanted to run more, but I had a walking engagement in the morning.  My friend and I walked 4 miles in a charity event that raises money for our local humane society.  It was a beautiful day as usual.  I had originally planned to run in the evening after to avoid the strongest sun, but after a nap I was just exhausted so I decided against the idea, despite the run I had in mind was quite short (but new, so you never know what might happen).  Oh well, we'll do that tomorrow.  Better be safe than overdo it.

The food.

Finally got to try some new dishes.  The main motivation: cooking for others.  I was invited to a dinner that turned into a potluck.  So I decided to make this creamy tomato sauce for a pasta dish I brought.  My lab mate gave me the recipe, which you can find here.  I was particularly excited about it because I think it's the first dish I made that turned out okay from my first try.  Everything tasted perfect and I didn't have to scramble to make another batch for the next day.  Everyone said they liked it but at the end there was still a ton left; it's just too heavy I think.  I made it for myself with grilled chicken, but brought it with roasted cauliflower the next day for my vegetarian friends.

Very tomato and very creamy

Since you make the toppings (grilled chicken, roasted cauliflowers) separately, they can stand alone as individual dishes.  So the next day I made myself roasted cauliflower again, since they just smell so good with sesame oil.  You can't beat sesame oil.

Yum, but so simple.

I do feel that I'm more inclined toward "healthy food" nowadays.  I had a hard time eating the creamy sauced pasta, and found myself craving more for the salad, vegetables, and less heavy dishes.  I don't think I'm being pretentious and all of a sudden going all healthy, and I do enjoy the occasional fried chicken tender and burger, but I feel that I just crave for the more watery, lighter food.  They have to be flavorful though.  The grilled chicken has to have salt, pepper, chili powder, basil, and other spices, and the salad has to have flavorful dressings.  But overall, my big surge in the exercise department definitely has had tremendous effect on other parts of my life as well, and these changes come willingly and naturally, instead of feeling forced.  Hooray for change!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Exercise Diary: Cross training? Fun!

Even since I started paying attention to running related reading materials, I've come across many new terms.  Tapering, pacer (a concept I still don't quite fully understand), foot strike, positive and negative splits, carb load, and LSD (long slow distance, that is, and I wonder if Americans actually use this term, since I've only read them in Chinese or Japanese running materials).  And one of these terms is cross training.  From what I understand, cross training is any activity besides running that helps with running, or whatever main sport it is that you do.  They are usually done not only as a break from running, but also serve to improve the running.  I've seen people say they do core exercises, weight lifting, boot camps, swimming, cycling, etc., etc., and I can see how they would help with running.  There are even shoes designed specifically for cross training, which I really don't understand.

But what I really, really, really don't understand the most is why anyone would label all of these activities under the ominous category of "cross training".  To me they are just "hobbies," other fun, active things you can do when you are taking a break from running.  Maybe you do them not because you like them (why anyone would like boot camp is beyond me), but you make yourself do it anyway because it's good for you.

Anyways, I had to take a break from running today since doing almost 5 miles two days in a row has taken some toll on my legs.  Besides, I have not gone to yoga in 2 weeks and am starting to feel less and less flexible every day.  I also have not been working on my core, even though I really want to so my stomach and belly don't wobble as I run.  So I made the commitment to go to yoga class today, even though it was actually quite nice out.  It's harder and harder to be excited about yoga these days, when spring has finally reached the northeast and when it's getting warmer and warmer.  I can't imagine spending an hour and 15 minutes in a windowless room with the heaters turned on to 80 degrees and sweat my ass off only to emerge into an equally hot summer evening afterwards.  It's probably why fewer and fewer people are attending the classes nowadays.

I had to make myself go to yoga today not because it's the kind of "cross training" I dread, but because I wasn't sure how it would go after a 2-week hiatus and with tired legs from too much running.  I was partially optimistic since I've had similar experiences before and half of the time I actually felt stronger and more improved, and the other half when I just felt like dying halfway through the class.

Luckily I survived the class today feeling much stronger, more flexible, and more awesome than ever before~  All that running has really strengthened my leg muscles so that I no longer feel like collapsing after doing endless crescent lunges and warrior poses.  I could transition from a chair twist to a lunge twist quite easily, and keep up with all the poses without having to take a child's pose to catch my breath (not that I've ever allowed myself to do that before, but now I can keep up with less and less effort).  I could also breathe longer; my exhales are louder and longer, so I guess all that running has increased my lung capacity.  I was also able to reach my leg during a full pigeon pose (still can't grasp it with my elbow, so I guess it's an almost-full pigeon), which I could never do before without serious cramping myself.  We didn't do any tree poses or other poses that require standing on one leg, so I don't know if my balance has improved or worsened, but my balance usually gets worse so I'm glad we didn't do any to prove me right.

All in all, it was a lovely class.  I don't usually pay attention to other people, even when I have to turn to face them during a twist or something, but I could see out of my peripheral vision that my neighbors had to constantly take breaks with child's pose, and I actually felt quite proud of myself for chugging through the whole class without feeling the need to do so.

Side note:
After my Boston trip I decided to get myself a soft bottle (you know, the Capri Sun-like pouches, except these are re-useable and probably shouldn't have anything but water put in them) to carry during my runs.  I had realized the importance of hydration as my runs are getting longer; I can't always count on convenience stores along the way, and I just don't like the idea of either putting a bulky hydration belt outside of my shirt or carrying an empty bottle after the water is gone (I have yet to see a functional outdoor public water fountain and even if I do see one I would be reluctant to fill my bottle with its water...).  So I thought that getting one of these collapsible water pouches that's light and foldable when it's empty would be a good choice.  I ended up buying a Platypus brand soft bottle because I liked how it has a curve around the middle (for better grasping, I had hoped), rather than a Vapur one I originally saw in a store.  After some debate I decided to get a 1L one, thinking that I could always let the air out if I don't need the full liter so it wouldn't be a bother.  If I needed more than a liter of water then I would bring my 2L hydration backpack, which I hope I won't get to till much later.

The good news is that the bottle came today (yay for Amazon Prime).  The not so good news is that the bottle is HUGE.  Way bigger than I imagined, although I had flickers of worry after I bought it that it may be too big.  But it's way too big.  It's too long so it spills out from both ends of my hand, and when filled with the whole liter, quite heavy too.  It also takes a bit of an effort to squeeze all the air out when not filled all the way.  I guess I will take it out for a try on a weekend morning or something to see how well it works.  I don't think it's a complete mistake.  I think I will definitely use it for my runs, and that it's still a better choice than a real bottle.  If it doesn't turn out well I would have a convenient water bottle for everyday use.  I guess I'm just too greedy, should've gotten the smaller size or something.  We'll see.  Practicality comes first.  The minor inconveniences wouldn't be such a big deal if I go on a 6 or 8 mile run in the middle of nowhere with no water stops.

That's how big it is with my hand as reference.  But again, I'm confident that it will work out.

Exercise Diary: Deja vu with an awesome twist

Well, this is a first.  I went on the exact same route I took yesterday, and again without my camera.  It's just too much to carry.  I can't wait till I get an iPhone in July.

Anyway, I went to Vermont again and did the same ~5mi route I did yesterday (Nike told me it was 4.7 this time).  It was just so nice today that I had to go for a nice long run.  A long run without the dead squirrels, without the dog trying to chase me, and without having to make a decision as to whether I want to try the trail.

But this time, I completed the entire loop without having to stop and walk.  This never happened to me before.  Yesterday when I tried the route I stopped at 1.5 miles because the last mile was all inclines and I was just exhausted.  I remembered that I had stopped right before reaching a bakery and started running again after passing a farm stand.  This time I was hoping that I would at least past my stopping point last time and just see if I could go farther.  Although I kept climbing,  I never stopped.

It felt wonderful!  Although I had seen the scenery already yesterday I wasn't bored.  It was still fresh enough that I didn't quite remember exactly what to expect.  There were more cars on the road that I had to avoid, and few other runners and a dog walker.  I didn't even stop for a drink.  I ran right passed the convenience store that I got my ginger beer yesterday, and just kept going.

As I was running I could kind of feel that my shins were getting tense and tight, and my ankles were protesting a bit.  But I had better controls of my downhills so I didn't get any sharp pains in my ankles, and after stretching my shins now feel better.  I didn't even get aches in my thighs like I normally do after running too much the day before.  It was just so wonderful, and I again felt sad when I turned onto Main Street, knowing that my run would be over soon.  It was also getting dark and there aren't a lot of street lights in the country side so I wasn't too keen on taking longer than I had to.  But I definitely felt like I could run more.

I just read online today an article about how to improve one's running form.  Proper running forms described in written forms are always so mysterious to me because I feel that I know what the person is talking about, but cannot quite replicate with my own movement.  And the article really didn't offer anything new, just stuff I had read before but have felt that I haven't really mastered (which is why I didn't save it and now I can't find it anymore).  There was a section about arms, and about straightening the back and relaxing the shoulders to open the chest more. Again, not new info, but it was put in a slightly different way that I thought was a nice technique to pay attention to.

And I put that to test during running today.  Toward the end of my running I was getting tired and my form was slipping.  I kept reminding myself to straighten my back so I don't slouch (which took some self-cajoling to do at first but definitely helped with running after I did it), but I also remembered to take a deep breath and drop my shoulders, and it really helped.  My torso was straighter, my head was held higher, and I had an easier time moving forward and even climbing hills.  I still shuffle quite a bit, my feet didn't kick very high, and I noticed that I scraped my shoes a lot.  They were making so much noise I could hear my shoes scraping the pavement even over the audiobook that was blasting through my headphones.

Anyway, it wasn't the most exciting run in terms of route, but I feel that I have reached a new milestone.  I feel that I have improved so much over the past few weeks since I took up running, and I'm just really happy with how I can push my body and my will to keep running, and how my body allows itself to be pushed.  I still didn't run faster than I did at my 5K, so now I really know that my speed has not improved as the distance increased, which really is okay, but still, I was hoping that I could go even faster.

The rest of the week is going to suck, weather-wise.  I don't like to run in the rain and it seems that we are going to get quite a bit of rain on Saturday, the second 5K I signed up for.  If it really rains as hard as the forecast says it's going to, I may just not go.  Running in the rain and mud is not going to save the world from cystic fibrosis.  I will just send a check or something.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

This Week on the Net (5/5-5/11)

Had a great time last week jotting down various things I read on the internet.  Too excited, in fact, that I didn't post it until the following Tuesday.

Here's to another fun week~ Didn't have too many things to write down.

  • Barefoot and Minimalistic running foot strike patterns.  Peter Larson had just published a paper on Journal of Sports and Health Science on the distribution of foot strike patterns of barefoot and minimalistic runners at a 2011 NYC Barefoot run.  I was surprised to find that there is still a substantial proportion of barefoot and especially Vibram Fivefinger users who heel strike.  My guess is that the individuals that fall within the different foot strike categories correlate with their experience in running barefoot or minimally, i.e., new converts would still subconsciously land heel first, etc.  Interesting read.  I've been thinking a lot about whether I should prepare myself for minimalistic running while reading Born to Run, which is easy to do with all the evidence the book presence on the benefits and logic of going back to running without modern shoes.  But I think going straight to a pair of Vibram is just not a very responsible move for me.  Oh well, we'll see.
  • This week celebrated 60 years since Sir Roger Bannister's sub-4 mile run, and NPR had a nice article on it.  Kind of related to the TED talk posted on my last week's weekly review, but in less depth.  As a related article, NPR also listed a bunch of unusual mile runs, including the beer mile which I saw before.  I'm most impressed by the burpee mile, crazy, crazy people.
  • Vibram settled a class action lawsuit buy paying everyone who bought their shoes $95.  Essentially that's the gist I got.  Some woman wasn't happy with the Vibram she got since they didn't do what the company had advertised to do, like reducing injuries and strengthening foot muscles and what not.  On top of that there was a study that also said that recreational runners who switched to minimalistic running over a 10-week period are more likely to suffer bone damage.  But this lawsuit essentially is about false advertisement, and there is really no consequence as to what Vibram is going to do next in terms of their shoe production.  They probably have to change some stuff on their commercials and things.  So what's the point?  Some people got some money, and Vibram lost some money.  But mankind has not advanced in anyway from this circus.
  • On a related note, found some article and article on how to transitioning to minimalistic running.  Haven't read them so I'm just posting them here.

Weekend in Recap: running, shopping running related things, more running

The goal for this blog is to document all my runnings, other workouts, and all the food I make as a hobby.  But sometimes my workouts are just not that interesting to devote a whole post on, or worth my time thinking of something interesting to write about it.  And when I put it off like that and do a more interesting workout or exercising related activity, things accumulate.

Thus the lumping together of my weekend.

Friday Run

Went for a run on Friday.  I had wanted to do a loop in Vermont, a loop I saw on the running route website that I thought was manageable for me.  But it was so cold that day, I gave up on the idea as I was being blown into an icicle on my way home to change.  It had just stopped raining and was very cloudy, and the wind was merciless.  So I decided to finally hit the football track.  It was close to home, you run in loops like a hamster, and if it starts to rain you can just run home.

When I finally hit the track after weeks of fantasizing about running on it, it turned out to be incredibly boring.  I realized now that I am no longer satisfied with running in one place (treadmill) or running in loops (track or pond).  I really needed some interesting scenery to keep me going.  It's all part of the motivation and fun.  I especially like to try new route, because not knowing where I am going somehow keeps me calm and focus on running ahead into the unknown.

I lost count after 4 laps.  I must've done 8 or 9, and called it a day.  It was freezing but kind of suffocating at the same time.  I think I much prefer running in the heat than in the cold.  Not good for New Hampshire life, but it makes you cherish the summers here even more.

Saturday Boston Trip

On Saturday I went into Boston.  I had something I was intending on attending in the morning, but for some most ridiculous reason (that's too irrelevant for this blog), we didn't go.  We (my friends and I) were supposed to carpool to Boston, do our thing, with me taking off on my own afterwards and come back via the bus.

But I was too wound up to not go.  I was too mentally prepared to get out of here for the day.  So at 11am I hopped on the bus anyway and went by myself, and boy it was worth it.

My main mission for the trip was to find a pair of new running shoes.  I was unhappy with the two pair of trail running shoes I have, and really want some professional opinion on what is the best for me.  And professional opinions I got, thankfully.

There are two City Sports and one Marathon Sports stores within walking distance in Boston, and countless shoe stores in between.  One was near Washington Ave, and had a basement outlet.  I went in and a sales person was very nice in helping me.  He let me take off my shoes and walked away and toward him, and told me that I'm more of a neutral walker and should pick from their line of neutral shoes.  He skillfully pointed out the features of different brands and models.  They even had the new Soucony Kinvara 5, which I just read about and didn't know were out already.  I looked around a bit more and left the store.

I then went to the second City Sports, since it was the next on the way.  It was more crowded in there, and the selections were a bit different, but not as numerous, and they had fewer sales.  I left.

I eventually made my way to Marathon Sports.  It's a small cozy running store on Boylston Street near where the Boston Marathon bombing occurred last year.  It's actually right next to a candy store I went last year, but I had never paid attention to it then.  And it was bustling with activity when I went in.  Everyone wanted to get fitted, and there was some sort of line forming that was very mysterious to me. What's worse, the employees don't have any ways to identify themselves; they look just like the customers, and only revealed themselves as they rolled out professional opinions or brought out shoes.  I was just standing about, trying to catch the eyes of someone who's hopefully trained to looking for eye-catching confused customers.  I befriended an equally confused lady, and we got fitted together by this really nice girl.

The procedure was similar.  We had to take our shoes off, roll up our pant legs, walk really fast away and toward her.  We also had to stand feet shoulder length apart and together, and were inquired about our injury history.  Then she got us some shoes to try.

I think she was really good.  She bought me a pair of Brooks Dyad 7 and a pair of Asics Fortitude 3.  I tried the Brooks first, they felt good, in that I didn't really feel anything in them.  They were a good fit.  I ran around the small store, and ran outside around the block on concrete (the store was carpeted).  I liked them.  Then I was asked to try the Asics.  They also felt okay.  But I could feel the structured heel that didn't quite fit with mine, and the rubber strips they put around the side (for decoration, I presumed) were rubbing against my little toe.  I didn't quite feel them as much when I was running, but I wasn't sure if after a longer run I was going to get blisters from them or not.  Needless to say, I preferred the Brooks.

The Asics Fortitude 3.  The mint colored strips were bothering me a bit.

I was only given these two models as options.  I was told that I have flat and wide feet that don't need a lot of arch support but do need more room around the mid foot.  I'm also a neutral walker like the other sales person said.  And only these two models (at least, the only two they sell, I suspect) had soles wide enough at the mid foot for me.

The top is the Brooks, and bottom Asics.  You can sort of see that the mid food does constrict as it rises from the heel before expand at the forefoot.  And if you pay attention to most of the other shoes, they all constrict in the middle.  There's a curve.  

Both models were priced the same.  $110.  Which was quite out of my planned price range, which was, sadly to say, $65.  I was defiantly determined to get something simple.  But the saleslady told me that the small mid foot section of most shoes is what was giving me all the shin splints I've had, and I think she's got a point.  She was nice enough to write both models down for me.  And I'm chagrined to say that I left without buying anything.  I was going to buy a selection of GUs just to try for taste, but the line was long and it didn't seem worth the wait.

I'm happy to say that I found a pair of Brooks on for $20 cheaper than the retailed price.  I think I'll be getting my shoes later this week and I can't wait to give them a try!

At the end of the day, no shoes, but I did buy new running socks, some GUs from City Sports (fewer selection), and sunscreen, which was greatly helpful for today.

Sunday Run

Today was such a beautiful day, I went to a nearby town in Vermont to do a loop that I thought was going to be short.  But I ended up missing a turn so it was a longish run in the end.  I did bring some money and stopped for a soda after 3.2 miles.  I mistakenly chose a ginger beer, which was delicious but too sweet so when I got home I was desperately thirsty from the sugary drink.

I had a GU (peanut butter flavored, and tasted just like peanut butter with its texture) and a bun I got form Chinatown yesterday for breakfast so I wasn't weak by the end of the run.  Putting in some energy is important I now realize.  

The run was so pretty, too bad I forgot my camera.  It's so sunny out but had a nice breeze.  I had a hard time running at first, then I realized that I was slowing climbing up the whole time, so that when the trees cleared at the top I could look down, and look far onto the other mountains.  The people were out doing yard works and whatnot, and there were plenty of runners and cyclists about.  They were all so nice and smiled and waved at me as I shuffled by.  There was a small (manmade I think) pond, and a small stream along the way.  At the end, when I finally looped back out onto the main street, I was kind of sad that it had ended, although it took me another 1.7 miles to get home, and there was a huge hill (downhill on the way there, you have to pay for what you enjoy) going back up, and in the end I was panting so hard, the sad feeling long gone.  

Still, I think I will loop farther out next time.  It's just such a nice day to run.

But I was also sad that even though I ran most of the way and only stopped to walk for a little bit (first time after 1.5 miles, I just couldn't do it anymore, and later on only when I felt I was lost and stopped to look around), it took me way longer to do an approximate 5K than I did at the race.  Granted I wasn't in a hurry or had a time goal in mind, but I had always thought that if I started my Nike+ workout as soon as I start running (which was what happened today) and skipped all the warmup beforehand, and if I just keep running nonstop for most of the way, I would be faster than my race time.  The truth was far different unfortunately.  I maintained mostly a 13:30 pace, and just shuffled happily along.  Oh well, I think I can run a lot longer now and keep at it for further, and that's all it matters right?

On Food

As I run more and more I feel that I've become less and less of a "glutton", as my blog title suggests.  I used to be obsessed about food and felt the need to quench any sign of hunger, and now I'm just annoyed by it.  I'm annoyed when people salivate over food they either cannot get or cannot make, and am just baffled at their self-torturing exercise in lust and loss.  I am annoyed whenever I get hungry now, which is usually right before I would go for a run.  The annoyance was particularly prominent when I ran out of bananas on Friday.  Instead of going crazy over what I wanted to eat or where I would go for food, I just try not to think about it too much.  And after I run I usually don't have any appetite.  For example, I came back from my run almost 2 hours ago.  I showered and I'm writing this blog.  I think I'm a bit hungry and really want soup, but I'm too lazy to make soup so I think I'll just have a sandwich and water later on.  See, indifferent about food and eating, this never happened to me before.  

I don't eat quite as much in the evening now either.  I used to compulsively eat, especially in the evenings, just so I have something to do.  I used to have cravings about ice cream, chips, random things at night and now I don't desire any of them.  I eat dinner (a rather late one, but that never stopped me before) and that's that.  I rarely take tea anymore either.

And yesterday, I went into Boston thinking of all the different things I could eat while I'm there.  I thought about seafood, Chinese food, other asian cuisines, or just small bars and cafes that are not chains.  But in the end I had to force myself to get a customary bubble tea and had a sticky rice wrap while waiting for the tea, and felt like a pig for doing so.  The bubble tea wasn't really good so I tossed half of it.  I was genuinely tired after visiting Marathon Sports, since I think I ran quite a bit in jeans and jacket in very warm weather, I stopped for an ice coffee and thought their small size was too big.  I passed Legal Seafood but had no desire to go in.  I bought candy not because I really wanted them, but I just felt I should.  And in the end I was debating whether I should catch the 7:30 bus so I could get home at a reasonable time or go to a restaurant and catch a 9:30 instead.  Instead of going to a restaurant and justify my trip to Boston, I bought some packaged food and pastries, and a McDonald meal and hopped onto the bus.  

What's wrong with me?  While I don't want to continue to be a disgusting glutton who's bulimic without the throwing up part, I don't want to be dispassionate about food either.  I still want to appreciate and enjoy food, but now I'm just disinterested.  I did lose some weight because of this (yay), but at the same time I'm kind of sad of what I also lost.  Maybe this is just a transitioning period and things will get better later on.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Exercise Diary: Hydration required!

Yesterday was the first time I went running since my 5K.  The weather has been perfect and it was an agony not being able to run, but there are just some circumstances under which you don't run, and this is one of them.  I was able to finish Born to Run in the main time, and despite what people say about inaccuracies or complaining about writing styles or depicting certain characters the way it done, I thought it was a fantastic story, and MacDougall is a great story teller.  I was touched several times throughout the book and sobbed at one point, and was sad to say goodbye too all the characters in the book as it ended.  Not sure if I'm going to write a formal review, since it would require re-reading the book more carefully, and I don't think I'm going to re-read it any time soon.  I don't think I want to think too hard on the whole minimalistic running thing, but it was satisfying to see the book calling the whole running shoe industry for the bullshit that it has become.

Anyway, the weather was again perfect yesterday and I went out for a run.  I didn't have a goal in mind when I started, since I wasn't sure how out of shape I would be after all these days not running or exercising.  But I had a route in mind.  I was going to follow a road up to our local pond (not my usual pond, but the local recreational area pond), maybe run around the pond trail, and take the same road back down.  And I didn't bring any water or money with me since I thought it wasn't going to be that long of a run.

But I forgot to calculate the heat into the equation.  It was warm, and after I climbed up a hill I was regretting not bringing a bottle or some money.  I didn't carry money because the route I had planned didn't have any stores along the way so I thought it would be useless.

But on my way I saw a dead squirrel.  Not your typical, flat-on-the-road roadkill, but one that looked like something else had skinned it.  It was all bloody and gross.  After running a bit more I saw a giant dog in its front yard trying to chase me and was barking the whole time.  It looked as if it was confined in some invisible fence, since it never left the yard, but he still spooked me to stare and walked the whole time I passed it.

That was when I decided that I would not take the same way back.  Or running on that road at all for that matter.  I was also very thirsty, and was debating whether I would go to the pond at all or just start to loop back.  I still took a detour to the pond, although I still couldn't find a water fountain there, and was too timid to ask anyone on the boys tennis practice for something to drink.

Despite my hydration failure it was actually a good run.  I did 5 miles total, but that included ~1 mi of warm up and cool down walk.  And it took me forever to do the 5 miles because I stopped at the pond and strolled for a bit.

I was still happy with my run.  I could run for much longer now, and have less desire to stop.  I still struggle after climbing up a hill, but I'm getting better at doing milder inclines.  And next time I really need to bring my camera with me, the afternoon sun shining onto the blossoming leaves and flowers and mountains is really pretty.

Going into the city this weekend.  I'm really looking forward to getting a new pair of running shoes, and maybe some accessories, like a handheld water bottle (still debating).

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

This Week On the Net (4/28-5/4)

I come across a number of interesting things on the internet every day, and some of them are relevant to eating and exercising.  I list them here, so I don't leave them scattered in my brain, never to be found.

  • Rise of non-traditional races.  An article on RW about the increasingly popular fun races like the mud races, color runs, electric runs (which I want to do in Nov), zombie runs, etc.  I think it's awesome that people want to make running fun.
  • Feeling inadequate during your training?  Just makes me more convinced that an actual race is a different beast all on its own.
  • TED talk on athletes getting better, faster, stronger (or not).  Featured on Runblogger, it's an interesting talk because it's not discouraging, it's funny, it's smart, and extremely informative.  It makes me hopeful of both the human body and the advancing technology.  
  • Social Media and Better Running. Social media is definitely one of the big motivators that got me started to run and kept me going thus far.  I met running enthusiasts online, by whom I was inspired to try running myself; I use Nike+ to track my workouts and share them with said people (it's also automatically synched to my Twitter account); I write this blog to document my thoughts and progress, and to connect to other blogs and websites about running.  I'm also discovering lots of other resources related to running.  I live in a world where social media and the internet is taken for granted, and this article is interesting because it gave me a persecutive I haven't thought about before and showed me just how much social media is impacting our runnings.
  • TED talk on humans born to run.  An interesting talk given by Christopher McGougall (author of the book Born to Run) that's a few years old now.  He presented an interesting view on how running may be the only advantage pre-historic humans have to survive their environment, and how we are really built for running and are really good at running long distances.  He also gave a glimpse on his passion of minimalistic running, which I find very interesting and tempting.  In addition, he posed a question I've been pondering ever since I began running: I want to run because it's fun and it would make you healthy, but people keep getting injured and somehow that's a sign to show that you are a dedicated runner, and pushing though those pains make you are more hard core running enthusiast.  I don't ever want to get injured, especially not from running, and I do wonder why people are injured so often while running.  Any many presented minimalistic running as a solution, and maybe there's some truth in that.  I also recognize that because of shoes our feet are probably not adapted to run barefoot right away, so until I get some professional opinions and advices on how to gradually switch to minimalistic running I'm not gonna just go out a buy a pair of expensive rubber 5-toe shoes and seriously screw up my legs.
  • Born to Run.  The book written by Christopher McDougall (see above) on which the TED talk was based.  I got interested after listening to the talk and am now reading the book.  He's a great storyteller, so I'm hoping that this book well be engaging as well.
  • Beer Mile. Interesting concept I came across while looking at an article shared by my friends on Facebook on the new Beer Mile milestone, a sub-5 minute beer mile (James Nielson, Canada, 4:57).  Personally I don't see joy in any parts of this activity; it combines two of my least favorite activities: drinking beer and running really fast.
  • What is good running form.  A question asked frequently but never extracts a straight answer, and this one is no different.  But it does goes into detail some of the debate on shoes vs. minimalistic running which I found interesting.
  • Leadville Trail 100 Run.  Some crazy dude came up with a race across 100 miles of the Colorado Rockies terrain back in the 80s, and more crazy dudes and dudets run it every year.  It's apparently so popular that the race is sold out the first day registration is up.  I feel like I fell head straight into a subculture of ultra marathons and trail running, and I realize that there are people out there that I wouldn't normally think could possibly exist.  Isn't the world wonderful!