Summer running

The heat, my goodness how am I going to run in this heat?

That was my thought yesterday afternoon as I headed out in 100+ heat index for my run.

I learned last year that running in the heat is an acquired trait.  It is similar to running at a high altitude.  The reason being that the body sends extra blood flow to the skin to cool itself down.  This flow takes away from the blood flow that it is used to using during a run to give energy and help muscles.  Therefore running in the heat is sometimes similar to running through mud.

Fortunately, eventually as with running at a high altitude, the body compensates for this extra blood needed to cool itself by creating more blood (I think I have this correct, but I am about as far from a doctor as you want to get).  So after a few weeks of running through mud, runs get easier and this can actuality help you run more efficiently in cooler weather.

I haven’t been running much lately.  Just life getting in the way.  Yesterday I went out and felt okay.  It as HOT, but I ran the first two miles well.  I left my Pebble watch at home so that I wouldn’t be looking much at my pace.

By mile 3 I melted.  I went from an 8:30 average pace to a 10:00 pace and had to walk about every half mile for a minute or two.  Last year this would have devastated me.  Not only did I not understand what was happening to my body as it got hotter, but I also began training for my first marathon in this heat.  What a mess.  Yesterday though, I took it easy.  No pressure.  I know now that I have to take some time to get used to this heat and build up some endurance.

In the end, all will be well.  Summer will fade into Fall and running will become fun again.  Football will begin and my favorite time of year will make an appearance.  Here in the South the weather won’t turn cool until the last half of October, so I will just have to push through until then.

It is similar to life.  Sometimes life is like running through mud.  Those days make us stronger and then when the good times come, we appreciate them all the more.

Tom

The “Key” to Running Better

Over the past 20 years or so of my life, I have found out that in almost every difficult situation there is a “key” to making change happen.

What I am alluding to is that, for example, circumstances that are difficult in life can be like being in a pitch back room and continually running into walls with no way out.  The thing is that there is a door and a key to open that door near you .  All you need to know is how to get the key to turn and the door will open and things will suddenly work out.

This sounds philosophical, but honestly it is amazing how this works in everyday life, including running.

An example from my running life is the mountain I run.  I ran several times to the base of the mountain and at the left turn that went up the mountain, I turned around and went the other direction.  I got so close, but I didn’t know that the key to the door of running fast, more efficient and with less injury, was literally a left turn away from me.  It was like I was in a dark room with a door and a key, but I never unlocked that door and walked through until… one day with TJ.  We decided to see where that road went.  That left turn was the key that changed my running life in a way that nothing else has ever done!

Another example is Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV).  I wrote about this on this blog a month or two ago several times.  Not only has it helped my running in the afternoons by giving me something I had to have been missing, but over the past two months, my weight, which had plateaued at 192, has gone down 7 lbs to 185.  Even pizza night doesn’t seem to affect me much anymore.

I could go on and on.  In just about every area of my life this principle has helped.  I constantly pray for wisdom so that I can find the keys to shut doors in my life.

I guess I hope that there may be keys in your life to open doors to which you just haven’t paid attention.  It is an amazing feeling to find a key and suddenly realize there is a simple solution to a complex problem and it has been right in front of you!

My life, my running, and stuff you never knew about me

I write a running blog.

Most of the time, all I write about is something to do with running.  Something related to running.  Something/anything I can relate to and want others to relate to.  I write about a tiny slice of my day.  I have written a post for this blog about 90% of the days since I started… Just about running.

Ideas can be difficult to come up with. Sometimes when I run I think of what I will write the next morning.  Hmmm, there is a pain in my left foot… A blog post was born!

One of the consequences of magnifying a single part of my life is that people get the impression that this is all of my life.  If I am hurt and writing about my depression of not running, then people get the impression that all I am all day is depressed and hurt.

There are 23.5 hours of the day that I never write about.  Sometimes I’ll include some personal stuff in my blog, but that is rare and when I do it is usually related to my running.

So I decided to write some random personal things about myself that I don’t think I have written about before, or that people who are new to my blog don’t really know unless they have gone over the 300+ posts from the past year (and I don’t think they have).  Also this is in part accepting the Sunshine award that runningtoherdreams gave me last weekend.  Thank you.  It means so much.  It made me think of putting just a little about myself “out there” and I hope people read her blog.  It was one of the inspirations that got me to my marathon last August.

Here we go:

I was born the youngest of 4 children.

I am now the youngest of 3 living children as my sister passed away in a cave diving accident.

My mom went into labor with me at a Penn State football game.

I was born with hips that turned in so severely that I spent a long time with corrective shoes and a bar between my feet.

I could hear when I was born, but soon lost my hearing. My adenoids grew and blocked my hearing.  Since I could hear for some time, I learned to read lips, so no one caught on that I couldn’t hear.  One day when I was 4 years old my mom put me on her lap, facing away from her and asked me if I wanted ice cream.  I didn’t make a move (I’ve always loved ice cream).  My speaking was so poor that my late sister was the only one who could understand me.  So after lots of tests and a surgery, I woke up from the anesthetics and the first thing I said was, “I can hear”.

I lived in a small town in Pennsylvania.  We left our doors unlocked and open when we left the house.  Us kids would all play at the other kids house and vice versa.  It was a good childhood.

We moved to Northern Va. (Mt. Vernon area) when I was in high school.  George Washington used to fox hunt in the backyard of the home my parents bought (long before I was born ). 🙂

I used to race sailboats with my mom and dad on the Potomac.  We won many trophies over those few years.

I was a messed up kid from the time we moved to DC (age 15) until after my freshman year of college.  During that summer after my freshman year I became a Christian (that story is under my “Faith” tab) and my life has never been the same.

I am married with lots of kids.  They are almost all grown (no more child tax credits), and have all turned out to be honorable, good children.

I have been an evangelical Protestant Christian my whole Christian life, and am becoming Catholic on Easter this year.

Although life has thrown in some challenges over the past few years, I am so thankful and grateful for my life, my family and my work.  I couldn’t have created a better life for me if I was the one creating it.

The day Joe Paterno got fired from Penn State, I was going to have wrist surgery, I weighed almost 300 lbs, I couldn’t get my wedding ring off and they threatened to cut it off, so my Lovely Wife “helped” me get it off.  Hmmm. That hurt.

I lost 100 lbs in under a year.

Running is a big deal to me because it has allowed me to do so much more in my life since I stated.  It was almost 2 years ago when  I ran my first 1.5 miles.  I have run many 5K’s a half marathon and a marathon since then.  I enjoy the outdoors for the first time since I was a child.  I am in great shape for the first time ever in my life.  Since the age of 49, my life has been more impacted from running than almost anything else.

Okay, I’m done.  I guess I wanted those who read this to know that running isn’t everything.  It is just a thing God has used to add value to my life and give me experiences that I never thought I would have.  One day when I finish this ultimate race I am running called life, I will look back and be in awe over my “midlife crisis” called running.

Thank you all for being a part of it.

Tom

An unexpected consequence of being a runner

I love running.

Okay, when I am out there and it is really cold or really hot or I just don’t feel good, running can be a chore.

What I love most about running is the freedom that it gives me.  An unexpected consequence of being a runner.

Last Saturday was a rough day.  In fact it was a difficult week overall, it just came to a head on Saturday.  I needed to get away.  A couple of years ago that would have entailed driving to Walmart and surrounding stores and walking through the isles of stuff.  Not this time.  Instead, I walked.  In fact I turned off my phone and walked for hours.  I walked on a trail I have run before, but never actually just took the time to look at the surroundings.  It was really cool.  Waterfalls, beaver dams and quietness.

I realized that day that because of my running I could walk as far as I wanted and not worry about how to make it home.  I was able to just go and be free.  It was awesome.

The other time this “consequence of running” occurred to me was this week while shut in at work for two days because of the snow.  I was able to spend hours outside helping people get their cars going.  I walked miles to the pharmacy to pick up meds for a coworker (and buy toothbrushes).  I never once thought, “can I make it back?”  I had freedom.  Who needs a car!

So if you are debating if you should start running or you are a runner and are trying to encourage others to run, remember what I learned.  There is a lot of freedom in life once the chains of poor physical fitness are removed.  Once you run 26.2 miles, it dawns on you that if needed, you can walk the 23 miles home in an emergency.

Freedom.  A basic instinct.  One that I am glad I received almost 2 years ago when I started running.

Runner’s mood boost

I ran yesterday.  The first non-stop run since my SI joint acted up last Tuesday.

All in all I’d say it was a good run.  I didn’t push myself as I didn’t want to get hurt again.  At this point, I’d rather run slow then not run at all.  I think my family agrees as I seem to be addicted to endorphins.  When I can’t run, I get just a bit grumpy.  I’ve never been one to get a runner’s high, at least not that I’ve noticed.  I can notice though, that if I don’t run I just seem more moody and angry at the world.  Fortunately I am a pretty laid back person, so I can hold in most of my frustration. It is amazing though how I miss that ability to get my frustrations out while on a run.  I guess I get a runner’s mood boost rather than a runner’s high.  Either way, it really helps.

So my running yesterday was a good thing for everyone.  I ran in my old Saucony Mirage shoes.  I am trying to get away from my Fastwitch shoes because I think they might be some of the reason for my injuries.  I am a heavy runner and they are basically a racing flat.  The Mirage are much more built up and steady.  The Mirage I ran in yesterday also only have about 100 miles on them, so they have plenty of time left on them.  I will be going to my Brooks PureFlow 2 after I get over my SI joint issue.  I don’t want to introduce another variable into my running until I know I am well.

Back to my run.  I got in 3 miles at about a 9:30 pace.  My hip felt a little strange.  It didn’t hurt, but it did feel like it wanted to turn inward as I ran.

Today I am going to walk a mile before my run.  I hope that will loosen me up more and remove any stiffness.

I guess running has become a way of life.  I never thought I’d become so dependent on it, but I’m glad I am!

How do you deal with a bad day when you can’t run?

Yesterday was a particularly rough day.  It was one of those days where you know that a good run is “better than therapy”.   One of those days where you would barely get out of the door with your running gear on before you are off running as hard as you can just to get the junk out of your head.

For me, yesterday was a day of frustration.  Yes, the day was difficult, but the frustrating part of the day was the fact I can’t run until Friday.

Seriously?!?

I could have set a PR.  I could have run so hard and so long.  I could have run off the day.  I could have saved my mind and my body a lot of stress if I could just have gone for a run.

I walked.

I walked for hours.

I walked along highways with no shoulders.  At times I was inches from cars on a two lane road.  I had to leave the neighborhood and there aren’t many areas to walk nearby and I didn’t want to drive somewhere.  I was careful though and most of the time stayed a few feet from the traffic.  Cars were considerate and moved over for me when they could.  At one point I slipped on pine straw, but I caught myself and was fine.

Finally after miles of walking I headed home.  This walk helped.  I’m glad I could walk and I am thankful I am in shape.  I had no fear of doing “too much”.  I just walked off my day.

I miss my running.  I think some of my problems from the day was the fact I haven’t really run much in the past month.  I was hurt the week before my marathon so I didn’t run.  I was too sore to run (or even walk) the week after my marathon.  Now I had to take a week off for other reasons.  I guess I’m having endorphin withdrawal.  🙂

Tomorrow my hiatus from running is over.  I can run as much as I want.  I already have a 6 mile run planned with my friend Neill on Saturday.  I’m looking forward to that.

We take so much for granted in this life.  I never knew how much of my mental well-being was tied up in running.  I never knew until yesterday how much I NEED running.  I have been transformed into a runner and I cannot go back.

NEVER QUIT

Running has taught me a lot about life.

I was getting ready to head out for my long run Sunday and not looking forward to it.  It was 5:15 and I was getting my water and GU together to put in my mailbox for my refill on my 4 mile loop.

I looked at twitter and saw something that stuck with me the entire run.  At the time, I read it and moved on.  I thought it was insightful, but I didn’t retweet or favor it.  I wish I had.  I looked again and couldn’t find it.

So here is the gist of that tweet that I pondered during my run and that helped me go 20 miles:

You’ve gotten this far
You’ve suffered this long
Don’t quit
Finish the course

As I said, I passed over this tweet, but I still cannot let it go.  Funny how things like this stick in your head and you don’t realize the implications until you are in that situation and it pops up before your eyes!

My run on Sunday was the most difficult physical experience of my life.  I am not athletic.  I wanted to quit.  I wanted to give up.

  • At mile 10 I was thinking, “Maybe I should just tell TJ that I am going to run the marathon and then at the last minute not run it so that he will enjoy the race and I wont spoil it for him.”
  • At mile 12 I thought, “If I feel this way after 12 miles, how can I do 26 in 4 weeks.”
  • At mile 16 I thought, “I got this far, I have to do 20.”
  • At mile 18 I thought, “I don’t care if I have to crawl, I WILL MAKE 20 MILES!”
  • At mile 20, walking in the early morning heat, exhausted, literally soaked from my hat to my shoes, I wanted to cry.

I made it.  Never in my life did I think I would one day make my body travel 20 miles on foot.  It wasn’t pretty.  I walked the last two miles, but I made it.

I want to end this post the way I started it.  Running has taught me a lot about life.  Life isn’t easy.  In fact, many days (before I started running) I lived my life at mile 12…  “Maybe I should quit.”  “This is too hard.”  “How am I going to get through the day?”

Now, I live my life at mile 18, “If I have to, I will crawl though this life to finish this race!”

Lesson learned.  By the grace of God I will run this race, I will finish 26 miles, I will run or crawl, but I will finish.

Obviously that last sentence has a duel meaning to me now.

Running has taught me a lot about life.

Running is cheaper than therapy (part II)

Yesterday was not a fun day.

Work was piling up.  My family has been sick.  It seemed all the world wanted something from me.

I love my work, but somedays are frustrating.  I thought of running after I got home, even though it was my off day.  Then my son was sick, so I took him to the doctor and didn’t get home until 4:00.  By then I was not in a good mood, even tough my lovely wife tried to cheer me up.

So I ran.  It was only 3 miles since it was my off day, but I ran an 8:09 pace which is good for me.

I wrote a post a while back about a bumper sticker that I saw that said, “Running is cheaper than therapy”.  Really, to be totally honest, running has become therapy to me.  Yes, I want to run races and to do well in them.  Yes, I want to run a marathon as my dad did in his 70’s.  But I realize that running helps me deal with life.  It helps me at work to be more efficient and productive.  It helps me at home to be less frustrated at normal circumstances.  It just helps.

Here is an article that says that running increases dopamine.

Health newstand says this about dopamine:

Dopamine is widespread in the brain as well as the rest of the nervous system. This neurotransmitter plays a critical role in the control of movement. It has a stimulating effect on the heart, the circulation, the rate of metabolism, and is able to mobilize many of the body’s energy reserves. It helps to modulate brain activity, control coordination and movement, and regulate the flow of information to different areas of the brain.  Dopamine is believed to release chemicals that allow us to feel pleasure (e.g., endorphins).

I’m not sure why I went in this direction with this post.  I guess I realize that my days are better when I run.  Is it chemical (dopamine, endorphins) or just the fact I am finally getting in shape and feel better about myself?  I don’t know.

This is what I do know…

I love running.

Why I run

I have a couple of reasons that I run.

To begin with, I always regretted not running with my Father and siblings back in the 80s and 90s. My dad began running around age 55 and ran upward of 15 marathons before he stopped around age 74. He eventually passed away due to lung cancer. My late sister and my brothers also ran and all ran marathons with him. I was in college when he started and then ended up 800 miles away raising my family later on. Well here I am now dad, 50 years old and running my first half marathon. Here I am now KT. You always encouraged me to at least get on a treadmill once a day as you saw me gaining weight and getting sick more often. Here I am. I run because of you. I wish you both were here to see.

Secondly, I run because it is the one competition I can enter that has a level playing field. Sure there are those like TJ that are naturals. But for the most part, I know that if I run 6 times a week and slowly increase my mileage, one day I can be good, at least for my age. I am not an athlete and never was. I was the last to be picked for teams when I was a kid. Really, sports didn’t interest me much. Now at 50, I run. I’ve run almost a thousand miles in the past 10 months and am one of the 10% of runners that get through the year without getting hurt. Each run I pray for God to keep me from getting hurt. He knows I have to run and why I am running.

Running, as I said, makes a level playing field. Thus I started running 10 months ago and this month came in 22nd out of 690 in my last 5K. I didn’t come in 22nd and 3rd in my age group because I am a natural. I did so because I run 6 days a week whether it is hot, cold, raining or snowing.

I cannot make an excuse.

I just run.

“I like pizza”

You might think running can get boring… and sometimes it does. But if you look for the little things in the journey, it can really make it interesting.

Yesterday, TJ and I were out together on our run. I went 5 miles and he continued on for 3 more. About half way through we came across a few neighborhood kids sitting near the road. I’ve seen them before on other runs, but I don’t know them. Anyway, as we ran past, this approx. 6 year old girl look up at me and simply said, “I like pizza”. I replied, “I like it too!”

How random was that?

Life can seem random and running can seem like a long boring journey, but it is the random things that happen that can make your day. I thought about that random comment the rest of the run. I am trying to notice more things and enjoy those little random things that happen. It makes a “boring” run, much more tolerable. For that matter, it can make a difficult life more tolerable. How many random things do I miss during the day? They don’t seem to mean much, but who knows what it can add to my day?

I bet that little girl had no idea that random thought she expressed to me would make me think all day and then become a post on a blog.

I’m about to go out running. I’ll try to pay a little closer attention to the journey.