2012 in Review: Running

So, as promised, here is my last year-in-review post. I saved running for last because I wanted to add to my yearly miles total with a last-minute run today, but also because I’m so proud of my accomplishments in this area. Eating right and losing weight is something to be proud of, too, but running is work. And even though I’ve been a runner for many years now, I still consider myself not much of an athlete, and I think of being fit and competitive as something I have to put a lot of effort into. So, here are the numbers and highlights:

1. By the Miles

2012 Total Miles: 757

December Total Miles: 100.3

Screen shot 2012-12-31 at 6.17.45 PM

December was my first ever 100+ mile month of running. Part of that is due to training for the Tinkerbell Half Marathon next month, but part of it is because I had a lot of time off and didn’t do as much cross training as usual while the gym was closed for the holidays. I’ll start to taper over the next couple of weeks, so January 2013 will be a lighter month. Nonetheless I hope to add to my overall yearly mileage in 2013. I’d like to continue averaging 20-25 miles/week, and to avoid some of the injuries that bothered me this past year.

2. By the clock

This year was the first time that I regularly kept track of my speed in training. Especially with 10Ks and half marathons, my goal in the past was always just to train and finish. This year, I got more ambitious and thanks to my purchase of a Garmin Forerunner 210 in the spring and some careful data collection from March onward, I got some great results.

Fastest Mile: 8:39 (Nov. 15, training run)

Fastest 5K: 27:59 (Sept. 25, training run)

Fastest 10K: 59:25 (Nov. 4, training run)

Fastest Half Marathon: 2:14:XX (Oct. 6, Arizona Half Marathon)

Each of these is an all-time personal best for me, and note that each of these times have come in the last few months. I’m getting faster. I started 2012 running 10:30-11:00 miles. I am now consistently running 9:00-9:30 miles, except on my longest runs. In 2013, watch out. I may become almost competitive. LOL.

3. In pictures

I got some great medals, great schwag, and a few cool pictures of myself.

Race medal

Temecula Half Marathon/5K Medal

Lost Dutchman 10K Medal

Lost Dutchman 10K Medal

Fast and the Furriest 10K

Fast and the Furriest 10K

photo-2

Thanksgiving Cross Country Classic 5K

Thanksgiving Cross Country Classic 5K

AZHalf_Web

Safe to say 2012 was my best running year ever… But I have a lot planned for next year, too. Thanks again to my blog friends and followers for your motivation, encouragement, and attention this year!

2012 in Review: Food, Glorious Food (and Drink)

Pizza with fresh basil and black olives, with a strawberry and baby spinach salad.

Pizza with fresh basil and black olives, with a strawberry and baby spinach salad.

In my continuing series on things I did right this year, I’d like to focus on one of my favorite things: eating. I started 2012 with a week-long vegan challenge, which ended with my decision to go vegetarian again after a several year hiatus. Since then, I’ve really embraced the meat-free life. There’s such a variety of meat-free dishes from cultures all around the world, and if you’re really stuck on eating animals, the wide availability of meat substitutes can help you make the transition. My decision to go vegetarian was primarily influenced by my compassion for animals and ethical concerns, but the health benefits are also clear. I’ve lost just over 50 pounds since last Christmas, and I still get enough calories and nutrients to fuel me through 20+ mile weeks of running.

If weight loss is a goal for you in 2013, here are some tips I’d share from my experience:

  1. Give up meat, at least part of the time. If you’re not ready to make the vegetarian commitment, consider becoming a weekday vegetarian or giving up meat a few days at a time. Meat certainly can have a place in a healthy diet, but especially in the U.S. our portion sizes are out-of-control and concerns about the environment in which meat is produced cannot be ignored. If you’re concerned about a lack of variety in meat-free diets, check out my posts on vegetarian living.
  2. Cook more. This can go hand-in-hand with number one. I’ve always enjoyed cooking and was never one to eat at restaurants every day, but becoming vegetarian really forced me to become engaged in meal planning to ensure variety, proper nutrition, and because the menus at some of my favorite restaurants just didn’t have many options. By cooking at home you can prepare foods with better portion sizes, less salt/fat/preservatives, and you can also share the joy of cooking with family and friends. Cooking to me means love, and it also is a creative outlet. I look forward to every trip to the grocery store these days because of the possibility of finding something new. Some of my favorite sources of meal ideas this year have been Scott Jurek’s Eat and Run, The Pampered Chef’s The Vegetarian Table cookbook, Giada de Laurentiis’ Everyday Italian, and of course a variety of Internet sites. The more you cook, the more you’ll find that you also learn tricks to improve every recipe and make it your own.
  3. photo-16Drink less. Giving up booze was harder for me than giving up meat, but ultimately it came down to the same issue: compassion. I gave up meat because of my compassion for animals; I gave up alcohol because of my compassion for myself. Given my struggles with depression and emotional health, I finally had to acknowledge this year that I just drink too much and it makes me too emotionally volatile. Even if you consider yourself an average drinker, consider the double-whammy that alcohol does on you: Every drink is extra calories you take in, and it also slows your metabolism over time so that your other calories burn more slowly. While I haven’t been perfect on this by a long shot, I’m proud to say that I’ve only drank once in the past six months. I know there are people in my life who would never believe that I could do that, but I truly believe that anyone who has the right knowledge, a good reason, and a dedicated will can also kick the habit. If you need some baby steps, I recommend toasting 2013 with sparkling cider or grape juice. The variety pictured here is an affordable $2.99 at Trader Joe’s. A ginger ale or soda from the bar is also indistinguishable from the real thing if you’re worried about looking cool in front of your friends.
  4. Don’t skip dessert. In case I sound like some sort of foodie saint, I’m not. I may have given up alcohol and meat, but I’m a total junkie for pastries and cheese, and you can pry my Starbucks from my cold, dead hands. It’s just a matter of moderation. Make what you eat so you understand portions and calorie counts. Read every label. Share treats with friends. Exercise. If you have to, download a smartphone app (I enjoy the Livestrong calorie tracker, which has an extensive food database and syncs your mobile data with your online profile) or keep a food journal to ensure balance. As Buddha would say, the Middle Way is best. Total deprivation, just like total indulgence, is a path to failure.

I hope these tips will help some folks looking for success in 2013. In the days to come, I’ll also talk about exercise and particularly running, which has been a major part of my life this year. In the meantime, stay warm out there and enjoy some food porn–courtesy of my holiday baking frenzy.

Brown sugar cookies with white chocolate chips and almonds.

Brown sugar cookies with white chocolate chips and almonds.

Chocolate Chip Muffins, recipe from Food.com

Chocolate Chip Muffins, recipe from Food.com

photo-17

Last known photo of my Cocoa Brownies (recipe by Alton Brown) before they were scarfed up by me and my two friends. Lousy photo, delicious food.

Race Recovery and Future Goals

Well, I’ve been recovering from the Arizona Half Marathon and I feel OK, though still a bit depleted. Earlier this week I also had a meeting with my dissertation committee and a big activity with my students, so it’s been a lot of living spread out over just a few days. I can, however, reflect on what worked well in my training for the race and what I’d like to do better in the future.

 

(If you’re interested, compare this with my race pics from February!)

  • Of my three half marathons, this was the first time that I did multiple 10+ mile runs. Many beginner half marathon plans recommend a single, 10-mile run as the longest run pre-race. Building to 12.1 this time really helped me prepare both physically and psychologically. It helped me prepare a good strategy for pacing, when to refuel with Gu and water, and just to get used to the impact of 2+ hours of running.
  • Before this race, I was also running four times a week which I’d never done before. My fourth (Friday) run was never more than 3 miles, but I think it really helped me get used to running on tired legs.
  • I’ve said it before, but swimming is great cross training. Swimming helped me think about form and posture.
  • What I wasn’t prepared for on this race were the hills. I thought the hills in my neighborhood and on the river path where I run would get me ready. I did meet my goal for this race, so I guess I can’t complain too much, but it’s obvious that I have no idea what a 100-foot hill looks like or how to climb one!

I don’t have much planned for the future as far as racing. I may or may not do the Dirty Six Mud Run in Phoenix later this month, depending on whether my co-workers manage to recruit enough people for a team. Next month, I am definitely doing the Girls on the Run 5K (an untimed fun run for the Girls on the Run program). I am not registered for any “serious” races until the Tinkerbell Half Marathon in California in January… but we’ll see. This is really when racing season ramps up in Southern Arizona, so I may be tempted to do something else. Or I may just do some fun hikes and take great pictures to share with you all. You’re welcome, people of the Internet!

More Thoughts on Blogging, Men, Dating, etc.

As much as I tell myself that I don’t care about who, if anyone, reads this blog, it’s impossible not to pay attention to the trends. I noted yet again this morning that this post I wrote several months ago on men, disappearances, and the end of breaking up has received more hits in the past couple of days. I believe it has by far gotten more hits than anything else I’ve written on this blog. WordPress is kind enough to also show me search terms that people have used that led them to my blog. I consistently see things like “why men disappear” or “men who disappear for days.” Jezebel also wrote a piece last week about etiquette and the electronic breakup that may be of interest to some of the lonely hearts that visit this site.

I’m rambling a bit, but I felt the need to say that it makes me sad when these things come up in my stats over and over again. Broken-hearted people, I feel for you. Nine months later I’m still angry, unable to forgive, and unwilling to trust. If I don’t blog much anymore about love or dating, know it’s because I don’t do it anymore. Every time I think about the effort I might put into finding love, I think how much more worthwhile it will be to put that effort into running, or into finishing my Ph.D., finding a job, and getting the hell out of Arizona. I’m just saying: Channeling my anger into running has gotten me four new PRs this year and helped me lose 45 pounds. Throwing myself into work has resulted in two degrees and getting ABD status. Throwing myself at men has gotten me a handful of nothing.

There’s only one guy in my life who I can count on standing by me and never running away. Of course, technically he did run away once… and then he came crawling right back to my bed. Sooooo typical.

Short, dark, and handsome is totally my type.

Eight is the Magic Number

Happy Wednesday to everyone out there in Internet-land. The past several days have been busy but productive for me, which I suppose is the most a grad student can hope for. My running goal this past weekend was to run 7.5-8.0 miles and to achieve a faster pace than last week. My long run two weekends ago was hindered by a bit of a late start, heat and humidity, and I think general burnout. I managed 7.6 miles at a 10:30/mi pace, but I knew I could do more this past Sunday. Let’s just say, goals met and exceeded:

  • Mile 1: 10:15
  • Mile 2: 10:07
  • Mile 3: 10:09
  • Mile 4: 10:07
  • Mile 5: 10:20
  • Mile 6: 10:23
  • Mile 7: 10:29
  • Mile 8: 10:35
  • Bonus .2 @ 10:10
  • Total: 8.2 @ 10:18/mi

I feel good overall about how Sunday’s run went, and it actually left me feeling that I could have gone a bit farther without, you know, dying. My plan is to reach a total of 20 miles this week, then to slow down next week.

A tasty reward

I celebrated this weekend’s achievement with a delicious mint chocolate chip gelato and a new pair of jeans. Since every pair of jeans I own is too large for me now, I figure it was time to break down and buy something suitable to wear before fall comes. Imagine my surprise and amusement at purchasing jeans in a size 4. Last Christmas I was wedging myself into a 12. It’s amazing how far I’ve come this year… and we’re only just 2/3 through!

Toward a 20-Mile Week

It’s been a while since I made a real running post, but I had a great run this morning. Lately, I’ve been saving Fridays for an easy, slow 3-miler–my shortest run of the week. I’ve normally been doing this on a treadmill at paces of over 10:30/mile, but today I decided to get outside. Even with really tired legs, I managed a 9:42 pace and finished out the week with 19.1 miles. This run also put me over 400 miles for the year! Icing on the cake was when I saw a friend on the way home who hasn’t seen me in months. She yelled, “you’re so tiny!” and squeezed my face.

 

So will next week be my first 20-mile week this year (and, really, my first in several years)? It’s going to be tough. Next week I also start my volunteer coaching position, I have to teach, and I’m traveling to a conference Thursday through Sunday. But as they say, there’s someone busier than you running right now. Less excuses, more miles!

Giving Back

Today has been a very tiring day. I spent much of the day volunteering at an orientation on campus for new students, which meant being up and looking presentable much earlier than I’d like (getting up early isn’t an issue, but putting on clothes rarely happens before 8AM). But a funny thing happened: I actually had a good time.

I’ve had some fun this summer, but I’ve spent most of the last seven weeks isolating myself to work on dissertation, job applications, and to generally behave like a hermit. I struggle every summer when many of my friends (almost all of whom are also students) are out of town. Being broke doesn’t help, either. Next time you envy a graduate student for getting summers “off,” remember two things: 1) We are never really “off,” we’re always working on research, course planning, etc.; and 2) In addition to the fact that we’re still working, we also aren’t getting paid. Anyway, though, I saw some friends today that I hadn’t seen in months and met some new people, too. A lot of folks who haven’t seen me since May have been telling me how great I look… which is funny, because I lost most of my 42-pound weight loss during last school year. I guess it’s more noticeable when people haven’t seen you in a while.

We got a whistle at training. Well, technically the head coach got a whistle and I got to say, “Oooh, a whistle!”

Helping others today felt good, too. Which is lucky, because I’ve recently signed up for another volunteer opportunity. I’m going to be an assistant track coach for girls at a local school. I heard about this opportunity through a running store that I shop at, and it seemed like a good fit. I’ll be working with pre-teen girls who are just getting into the sport, and I attended my first training session last weekend. I hope that discovering running will be as enjoyable and confidence-building to them as it has been for me. As runners, we sometimes tend to be very solitary. We sometimes forget that there are always race organizers and volunteers and people maintaining our trails and an entire support system for us. I’m pleased to have found a way to give back to this community and to the sport that’s done so much for me over the years. I’m also happy that, even though summer is coming to an end, I have something to look forward to in the fall!