Wednesday, March 23, 2016

That extra scoop of coal

Had a really good run today, though it was a struggle getting there.  By 6pm or so today I was suddenly famished, and desperately wanted crispy chicken pad thai for dinner.  So before I left work today I sat and debated with myself for a long time as to what to do.  In the end I decided to go to the gym, run my 5K, and have thai takeout as a reward afterwards to balance out the calorie intake/output.

I was originally going to just run 25 minutes non-stop, and then do a 4-minute run/1-minute walk thing until I get to 40 minutes, which usually equates a 5K more or less.  But luckily, I caught half an episode of Castle that just happened to be playing on the treadmill I picked.  It was a season finale, during which Beckett was fighting some bad guy on the rooftop of a building that ended with the bad guy getting away and left Beckett hanging by the edge of the building and had to be saved by Ryan.  The actual fighting part happened about 20 minutes into my run, and even though I kind of knew what happened, having seen the episode before, I was nonetheless engrossed in the plot and I almost jilted when Beckett was ambushed at one point.  The episode cut to commercial right after Beckett rolled to the edge of the building and was hanging by her fingers, and I could feel my heart pumping faster because of the suspense.

And that's when it happened.  Just minutes before I started to breathe really heavily and audibly as I usually do around minute 20 and had to really put an effort and focus on my breathing and running, but as I watched the show and I got excited by the plot I found myself breathing normally again, as in, no loud, forceful breaths to artificially pump my heart faster to accommodate the demand of my body.  Watching the show seemed to give me an extra shot of adrenaline without me having to do any extra work.  The effect was not long lasting though, half way through the commercial break I found myself having to breathe really hard again.  I managed to keep running until I did 31 minutes, and ended up running the fastest mile, km, and 5K according to my Nike, earning a pre-recorded congratulatory message from Paula Radcliffe, which was kinda nice.  The data is false, by the way.  Nike has a tendency of overestimating my distance and I don't always recalibrate afterwards.  So now I have a 32-minute 5K record that's not real that I will have to beat later on.  Oh well, none of that really matters that much.

But that kind of got me thinking.  I used to be really afraid of watching anything suspenseful while running on the treadmill because I didn't want the plot of the show interfere with my breathing.  But now it seems that having my heart beat faster is actually a good thing and I might need to do it more often.  I also found that during the first 10 minutes or so I really need to concentrate on whatever I'm listening to keep myself from being bored, but this distraction is less necessary beyond the 10-minute mark, as running then requires more conscious effort.  Now it seems that around 20-minutes I need something exciting again to give my heart an extra push.  I'm not sure this is completely good for me, as people usually talk about increasing their lung capacity instead of heart rate when exercise, but before the capacity of my lungs are properly expanded I'll have to settle with faster heart pumping.

Afterwards as I was walking home I asked myself if I still wanted pad thai, and as usual my appetite gets curbed after exercising and my desire for thai food and fried chicken was not as intense as before.  But I still like the idea of very savory food and I couldn't think of any good alternative that I could make at home that would be comparable.  I set my mind on the salty ramen noodle in the end, as I was feeling for something soup-y, but I still could not abandon the idea of pad thai.  I literally was at a crossroad, having one way leading home and the other leading to the thai restaurant.  I ended up sitting on a very cold bench and played 2048 for 3 minutes before my butt got really cold and I just told myself to go home and have ramen and save the $13 I didn't really feel like spending anyway.  In the end it was a very successful day with eating, exercising, and money spending.

I've also start to take more walks.  On Monday I walked around the nearby pond twice (roughly 2 miles) because I didn't want to go running but I felt the need to exercise.  Today I walked around the pond once, since I really need the time to think about the outline of a review I needed to write and I was too full from lunch to sit in front of my desk comfortably.  I still haven't come up with a good outline but I did stop feeling bloated.  As spring hesitantly approaches there are more runners coming out.  On my walk today I saw 2 guys and a girls jogging (separately), and a group of young kids doing some sort of track workout.  I started mile 2 and all of a sudden decided that I didn't want to walk anymore but would like to go back and start making a tentative outline and assemble a reading list, so I literally stopped abruptly, turned around, and walked back to my office.  As I turned around I saw the group of young kids running their third and they must have thought that I was most weird.  Oh well.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Random Thoughts

Running Documentaries

By sheer accident I started to watch documentaries on marathons or people running marathons. I saw one on the Barkley Marathon, one on Desert Series Grand Slam, one on Eddie Izzard, and one on Dean Karnazes. One of the things I learned is that there are a lot of bad documentaries out there about running and marathons.  Some of the ones I started to watch were really boring even though they are on very interesting events like the London Marathon or some other ultra event, so you really need to wade through a whole bunch to get the gems, especially if you are fishing on Youtube.

But of the ones I did finish I was inspired by all of them.  Like how humble Dean Karnazes is.  I first read about him in Born to Run, and for some reason he came off as charismatic but arrogant so I didn't have a good impression of him.  And I think this is completely untrue.  I've acquired a few of his books now and at some point I'll get around to reading them all.

I was more amazed by Eddie Izzard I think.  At 47, this transvestite comedian who had no previous running experience decided to run a marathon a day, 6 days a week, until he goes around the entire Great Britain, for Sports Relief.  His marathons averaged about 10 hours each but he still did it and it looked absolutely miserable but entirely amazing.  He essentially did it by sheer will power and stubbornness.  I think he will have lifelong injuries from this experience, but I can't deny it was just a great feat no matter how you look at it.  I was more amazed, and sometimes angered, by how unprepared he was, and how little he seemed to know or care.  The support team he assembled was okay at best.  The trainer was annoying and not very helpful, and he spent more time in the documentary talking to a camera in sit-down interviews than he was actually by Eddie's side, and somehow he's the trainer, of someone trying to do an impossible feat with no experience.  In the middle they brought in some random nutritionist who gave bland and very crappy advice.  Eddie did the whole thing while being accompanied by his own ice cream van that went around giving out free ice cream to people for donations, and he essentially snacked on ice cream and candy bars and sometimes beer through the whole thing.  And he did the most irresponsible things like trying to do a sub-4 marathon after taking a day off for some pretty bad toe injury, or taking really long detours and refusing to listen to his therapist until he was in serious danger of having to discontinue the runs.  But it's Eddie Izzard, and he ran a marathon a day, 6 days a week, around Great Britain.  And I was inspired.

Almost Two Years

It's been almost two years since I started running.  I started late in March of 2014 for a number of reasons that just happened to occur all at the same time, and I've been running on a off for two years since. I still consider myself a beginner runner, since I don't think I make much progress at all since I started.  I didn't lose a significant amount of weight, I've only done a 5K so far and cannot run faster or longer than when I first started, and I'm not sure how much better as a person I've become since I started.  The only consolation I could give myself is that, just imagine how much more weight I would've gained if I hadn't run.  It's true that I've not gained much weight since I started so I guess that's something.

Advice? What Advice?

Over the two years I've done a lot of reading about running.  I've had a Runner's World subscription for almost as long as I had this blog, and I read books about running, watched documentaries, perused  blogs written by fellow runners, and read endless articles.  I've downloaded marathon training calendars, saved posts about post-run stretches and core-strengthening exercises, listened to talks about running gears, tech or otherwise, and managed to get a signed photo of Shalane Flanagan and had a picture taken with her.  I know a lot of stuff, and I've been reading long enough to have some of the basic stuff repeated over and over again.

And there are a number of things that on paper I theoretically should abide by.  Things like you have to do tempo runs to increase your speed.  You have to vary your workout.  That I need a certain kind of shoes given my build and my feet.

Some of the things I read were very helpful.  I'm happy with my running posture.  And with all my yoga and pilate exercise I've strengthened it somewhat and nowadays I really try to engage my core as I run and the runs do feel a bit easier and more effortlessly.  I think I'm done with getting more running shoes for a while.  I've worked out my own system while running outside (I've tried bring money to buy water on the way, holding off until I get home, and by the end of last year I got myself a hand-held running bottle with a zipper pouch).  My running time are pretty set; I always go around dinner-time.  And I've given up on trying to follow any training calendar and just run as I see fit.

I feel that a lot of the advices and guidelines and how-tos are not quite designed for me.  I have no explanation for the shoe thing.  I guess we'll find out if running with unsupported shoes will give me problems later on.  And I no longer do tempo or speed runs.  I know they are supposed to help you build your speed, but every time I push beyond my comfortable speed my plantar fasciitis comes back and it's agony.  I've done 3 5K runs this week, which is too big of a milage increase from the week before but I don't care since I'm happy with my runs.  And I think I'll leave the anaerobic exercise to the HIIT class I signed up again for next term.  Running will remain my cardio workout.

And all of a sudden last week and this week I'm able to push through my 1-mile barrier and today I ran for 30 minute straight at a constant speed of 5 mph before slowing to a walk and I've never ever done that before.  I know it doesn't sound like much and I'm not going to go any faster in a while but to me it's a substantial achievement.  And nothing had changed in the two weeks except my mindset.  I told myself that I would run for 30 minutes before stopping to a walk and 40 minutes total and that's what I did.  I almost didn't go run today but I told myself that if I wanted to order Thai food for take out I need to go run to burn off the calories.  I persuaded myself to hit the gym and somehow also managed to not get Thai food.  And I normally suck at self-motivation.

So I'm gonna try something new and just do my own thing for a while.  Nothing as crazy and stubborn as Eddie Izzard, but just things that suit me.  The heavy, slow me.  The unathletic me.  I think I need to tailor plans that I can handle, instead of things designed by professionals and for very experienced people.  And one of the things is to make small goals.  Small and tangible, and make them often as I (hopefully) reach the goals.  I told myself that I shouldn't get the Thai dish I really like until I lose 5 lbs.  I'm also going to stick with my 5K runs and increase the frequency with which I run them.  I want to work my way to one week, hopefully in April sometime, that I do one 5K a day for 7 days.  Not at race speed, but just the distance.  And I'm not going to do that right away, but I'm going to build to that point.  I want to run again on Sunday, so I will have done 4 5-K workouts this week.  Maybe next week I'll try 5, maybe I'll stick with 4 again, depending on how I feel.  And once I reach my 7-day goal I'll increase my runs to 45 minutes instead of the now-40.  Or I'll do a 4-mile target distance.  We'll see.  But it'll be slow and steady, until my body gets used to it and wants more variety.  I'm also going to work more on my mental readiness.  Like how not to over-eat, or what to do when I just don't feel like running, or how to better manage the boredom while on treadmill.  I know my body is capable of doing more but mentally I'm scared and nervous.  I don't really have a race I want to do in the near future but I'll slowly tread toward that direction.  And it's going to be good.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

It's official; I have a shoe problem

Unlike many other girls I was never one to be obsessed with shoes.  I remember in my freshman year I went to a shopping plaza with my friend and we went into a boutique shoe shop.  After we flipped over the price tag that told us that the pair of unappealing flats we were staring at cost $130 we both commented on how ugly the shoes were and how many books we could buy instead if we had that $130 to spare.

So I'm surprised at myself now at how obsessive I get when it comes to running shoes.

No I don't have a shoe fetish, but I do have a compulsive shopping disorder when it comes to running shoes.

We all know that finding the right pair of running shoes can be difficult.  And as I've learned recently that even when you find a model that fits you your quest will still never end since the old models go out of styles and the new models may not fit as nicely.  I've been running on and off for almost two years and so far I have 1 pair of Saucony Kinvara 5 that I run in regularly, another pair of the same model (different colors) that I stocked in a panic after I learned that when Kinvara 6 came out (now the 7 is too) they stopping selling the 5s.  I had a pair of Brooks Dyad 7 I got after a visit to the Marathon Running store in Boston, that I no longer use to run (think they were too small and way too heavy; I switched out the insoles and use them semi-regularly for daily walking).  I have a pair of Saucony Cohesion 7 which I bought on a whim on Amazon (first time buying an unfamiliar brand without trying them on first) for very cheap, and ended up running almost 60 miles in them, as I recently realized while updating my Nike+ profile. I had a pair of NB trail running shoes I originally used for casual walking but ended up putting a good double-digit milage on, before they became old and full of holes and I had to throw them out.  I replaced those with a new pair of NB (model forgotten) that I planned to use only as walking shoes but they are so comfortable I'm thinking of trying them out for running as well.

And today I received in the mail yet another pair of running shoes.  This time it was a pair of Saucony Hurricane Iso (1st gen, can't afford the $100+ newer model).  This was recommended me on my second trip to the aforementioned Marathon store, and at the time of all the choices I was given I liked those the best.  I was told that I needed more support and the Hurricane Iso would be a good fit, and Saucony as a whole is a good brand for my feet.  I did not find an affordable pair until recently, and after a 2.9 mile test run today I have mixed feelings about them.

This is also the first time I bought shoes second hand.  Granted they weren't from any individual sellers trying to get rid of some old shoes.  They were sold by Amazon Warehouse where they would resell returned or opened item.  They don't usually have second hand running shoes available all the time but I saw them earlier this week.  New shoes often go for about $90 at least and the ones I got only cost me $50.  I was very nervous about buying them because unlike sellers on eBay there were no pictures of the shoes at all, and the description made it sound like someone's walked in them for months.  But they had such a good return policy that I thought there was nothing for me to lose if I just get them and see how they look.  Around the same time I also saw a deal on the same shoes (different color) on Running Warehouse that was a good backup for me so either way I'm adding a new pair of running shoes to my collection.

The shoes looked a lot newer and in better condition than I expected.  They came in a Saucony box but no stuffings or wrappings.  The bottom of the shoes looked like they've definitely been worn and walked in, but the rest of the shoes looked absolutely brand new.  The insoles did not show much ware and the shoes didn't really smell like anyone's feet.  I think someone wore them for a few times and decided she didn't like them.  I've returned a number of pairs of shoes myself and they didn't look worse than the conditions I returned my shoes in.

So I decided to keep them and ditch my back-up plan.  There was no point spending an extra $25 to get a brand new pair when the ones I got were pretty good.  And I wore them to the gym, where I ran almost 3 miles in them.  Even at size 9.5 (my standard Saucony shoe size; I normally wear 8.5 for casual and 9 for NB running shoes) they felt a but snug, which was kind of alarming since they look huge in my hands.  And they do have much better support than the fairly support-less Kinvara I had, and heavier than Kinvara too.  As I was walking to the gym I could feel the shoes pushing at my feet in all directions in ways that were not felt with my other shoes.  The shoes were't tied right so all the way there my ankles were slipping out, and I had to adjust the laces in the locker room before I went into the fitness room.

I can't really access what really happened during my 3 mile run, but by the end my plantar fasciitis was acting in full force and I started to feel that the support may not be unnecessary.  It was refreshing and roomy when I stepped into my New Balance afterwards.

I don't know why my plantar fasciitis was acting up again but I have been feeling it for days now.  It could be that was running longer too soon, it could be the shoes.  Maybe I'm not ready for running in them yet and still need time to figure them out.  Maybe the snugness is a problem.  Maybe the assessment given to me by the running store was wrong again and the shoes are just not right for me. I think I want to test them some more before returning them becomes a real possibility.

While I have more shoes than my running habit can justify, I do have rationales for getting all of them.  The reason why I wanted another pair of (better support) shoes is that it's getting warmer out and it's almost time for outdoor running again.  And while the Kinvara are absolute a dream on the treadmill I am afraid that they would not be enough for while I pound on concrete.  I don't remember whether I ran in them outside last year, but honestly I didn't do a lot of running last summer.  I wanted something sturdier and something that could maybe handle the trails (even thought the Hurricane is not designed for trail running).  But if the Hurricanes are not helping then there would be no point in having them.  I still need to give them more time, and I can't bare having to go another half size up.  Me wearing a size 10 is just too ridiculous.

But rationales aside I still like to look at running shoes I know I will never buy.  I don't have he same attraction for other kinds of shoes, not even canvas shoes or casual athletic wears.  Just running shoes.  Sometimes it's the colors and patterns, other times it may be the cool design (like the Honka One One shoes).  Sometime I suspect I dream of putting them on and go running in procrastination of actual running.  Also I'm still trying to work out how the different shoes can suit different people.  I'm told by every one that I need shoes with support because I over-pronate a little.  And I need arch support. And because of my weight I'm usually recommend heavier shoes like the Brooks.  And I was told by some that the Kinvara it not a good fit for me because it has no support.  But I'm so happy in them.  They are so light and I don't get more injuries wearing them than I would with other shoes.  And I can't figure out why that it.  Why does logic and reasoning not work?  I got the Kinvara 5 purely based on it's good reviews.  Everyone seemed to like them.  I tried them out in the store and they fit my feet.  It took a few tries for me to realize that I needed a full size up with this model (apparently the 6 is even narrower), and I run so happy in them.  Yet I still can't ignore the logic and kept wanting to try out different things, and so far none of them have yielded promising results.  My baffles only resulted in more temptation to buy; usually it would have to take a few days for me to find out whether I'm truly comfortable in them or not so a quick trip to the shoe store does not usually do it.