Sunday, December 28, 2008

Running Logs

Most coaches, sports specialists, and athletes advocate maintaining an activity journal or a log. This is different than a plan or schedule, which put forth future activities and goals. A log is kept as a retrospective, a frame of reference as to what you did, where you were, how it felt, what the conditions were, who you were with, maybe even insights that you had while running. They are typically not something you share with other people, unless of course you want to! Some runners I know even log the particular pair of shoes they wore for that workout. What a good way to keep track of the mileage on your shoes.

A log can be helpful to recall races and times, weekly, monthly, and annual mileage, and possibly certain conditions that might have lead up to an injury. I know one runner who is very committed to keeping a journal and promotes it as a way to cherish all the effort and discipline that she puts into maintaining a running lifestyle.

I keep track of my mileage and races in an abbreviated way, usually writing them down on my monthly schedule, which is a month-at-a-glance type calendar. I also often use a Garmin heart rate monitor which allows me to download each workout to my computer, and keep track of a lot of information that way. But I'm a low-tech person and mostly appreciate the monitor for simply being able to see my heart rate and pace relative to terrain, and to see the neat map of where I just ran. I honestly don't do much with the stored information. At least not yet. Sometimes I track my weekly mileage in my head. I know where I like to be at the end of the week so it's pretty straightforward.

Sundays mark the beginning of my running week because this is when I do my long(er) run. Today being Sunday, I met up with a great group of people in Cape Elizabeth to train on the Mid-Winter Classic 10-Mile course and ran the ten miles. I really needed a fresh start today after a very long, low-mileage, sluggish Christmas week. Ten is a nice way to kick off the week and sets me up for a hopeful entre to the New Year!

Speaking of the New Year, maybe I'll add a running log to my short list of new behaviors. I say short list only because I want to avoid setting myself up for failure when I can't possibly accomplish a long laundry list of goals. Two goals that I have articulated are 1) to keep my business, A Running Conversation, healthy and productive, and 2) to follow the strengthening workout plan I received from Erica Napuli at Health Coaches in Portland. I also keep my list short because I have a second list of old behaviors to remove from my repertoire as well!

How are you lining things up for the New Year? Please feel free to make a comment below. I'd love to hear about your experiences and ideas, and I'd love to know you're out there reading this. Which leads me to one last topic - this blog. I've had some interesting feedback about it: One thought was that is should be more frequent, and another idea was to nail down a specific day each week to publish it and then stick to that. My interest is in doing it at least twice weekly, possibly more if I can, and to write about whatever comes up! What do you think?

Have a very happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Season's Greetings

It's Christmas Eve and I am savoring the day: It started with the team at Peak Performance Multisport, joking, laughing, getting serious, and doing a really great job all day long with customers, many of whom were last minute shoppers and others who had the rare gift of free time to get their own needs met. I think we all were carrying our own anticipation about the pending holiday yet were fully committed to being there and doing a good job. It's a gift to work with a group of people who are passionate, committed, fun, and funny. We laugh a lot there in a day's work. Today customers bought Nordic skis, poles, boots, bindings, hats, gloves, bike trainers, running apparel, gift certificates, socks, etc. etc. It was fun and spirits were high, despite the rain. Yes, it rained in southern Maine today....
I realize I focus on the weather quite a bit. This is because I'm a runner who prefers to run outdoors. So, as I savor this day, I am also trying to make peace with this feeling I have in my body that is a direct result of not running since Sunday (three whole days of no running!) I'm sure many of you are familiar with this feeling. It's a feeling of being full; of being starved; of being over-sensitive and cranky; of wanting to go to bed; of thinking the pants don't fit; of wanting to stretch for hours; of wanting to do a million sit-ups; of never wanting to eat another thing; of wanting only to eat everything; of wishing you could just run. Needless to say, it's not a great feeling.
Despite this feeling, I'm glad I made the call I did on Sunday to cancel the running group and thankfully I didn't hear that anyone went out to Cape Elizabeth that morning. Paul T. and I went to the gym that afternoon and ran on treadmills while the storm continued. I thought about some of the athletes that seriously train on the treadmill, and I have no idea how they do it. Like Christine Clark from Anchorage Alaska, who trained for the 2000 Women's Olympic Marathon Trials on the treadmill! She won that race in 2:33. And closer to home, Emily LeVan did much of her training for the 2008 Olympic Trials in Boston on the treadmill. Emily blogged her training on her Two Trials web site last winter. It was very impressive. Personally, I am good for about four miles on a treadmill. That's it. Even with music or a televisin screen in front of me, I just can't stand it. I guess that tells me my running is about going places and changing my scenery, not just the biomechanics of running. I applaud those of who who have the focus and perseverance to get 'er done indoors. Kudos.
I know some folks ran in these extreme conditions over the past few days. Matt D. went out in two or three degree temps yesterday morning. He said his eye-lashes started to freeze. In the afternoon, I saw runners jumping snowbanks on Commercial Street in the Old Port in Portland. Frankly, I let myself get busy with holiday preparations, and of course there was a snow day (no school!) thrown in there. How is Santa supposed to get anything done let alone take a run?!
Speaking of Santa, it's late on Christmas Eve. While I continue to savor the aromas of squash soup, apple pie, and a new recipe - cornmeal and kale stuffing, I need to keep the evening moving and the spirit of Christmas alive. Ho ho ho.
Best wishes for a wonder-filled holiday.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Why We Run

It was a bitterly cold clear day last week when I met my long-time friend Ray Shevenell for a walk through Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth. It was so great to see him face to face and to share in his joy about being able to take a walk.

Almost to this day one year ago, Ray was driving to the movies with his wife Diane when he started feeling a strange and sharp pain in his jaw. It moved down his throat and chest and he knew something was terribly wrong. He pulled over and Diane drove them to the emergency room where it was quickly discovered that Ray had a tear in his ascending aorta. After an emergency surgery, which by the way had to be performed twice because of subsequent leaking, Ray embarked on his recovery journey which eventually led him back to work at UNUM in late February, and to running again.

But it wasn't over. During this past summer, Ray learned the once life-saving dacron graft was causing problems. The top of the graft had become constricted, creating a bottleneck which made the heart work overtime to push the re-oxygenated blood through the aorta to the rest of his body. Without repair, the long-term prognosis was not good. It was bad. So what was it going to be, surgery or wait? His response was to go for it, of course. He had surgery in Boston on October 8th.

You see, Ray is a runner with a goal to live an active life until he's 110 years-old. That means 43 more years.

We met nearly twenty years ago; I distinctly remember Ray coming up to me before the April Amble Four-Miler at Westbrook College, introducing himself, flattering me about my running results, and then proceeding to beat me in that race. (I haven't forgotten that sly strategy.) Ray recalls another race when we ran together, Doc's Tavern Three-Miler in Biddeford. Eventually, he became one of the "select men" to join the Run to Win Ladies Team, coached by Ziggy Gillespie, and a true friend to me.

Long-distance running is such a gift. Over the years, Ray and I ran many many miles together and had many many wonderful running conversations. We got to know each other and our families, shared our hopes and aspirations, and like recently, have shared some of the scarier times.

Yesterday, I received an e-mail from Ray. He said it is his last Recovery Update. Here's an excerpt:

"The post op restrictions issued by the cardiac surgeon will cease on January 7, 2009, so I am being released to return to work on January 8, 2009, and am planning to do so. And, I cannot wait to rejoin my Unum teammates!
I am now walking three and one-half miles five days each week and plan to increase that total to five miles at a fifteen-minute-per-mile pace by January 8, 2009. That I am able to make this progress during my walks is why I am optimistic about being able to retain my active, albeit less vigorous, lifestyle. Biking, swimming and dancing are activities on the horizon. AND the doctors say that I may be ready to do some light jogging in the Spring!"

So, this is why I run: to have people like Ray Shevenell in my life; to try and have a long and productive life; and to remain hopeful and vital, like Ray, despite the uncertain challenges that will undoubtedly cross my path.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

'Tis the Season to Share the Road

It snowed about three inches in Southern Maine yesterday, and unlike the "first snow" a couple weeks ago, this blanketing gives the impression it's here to stay. This means road running gets even trickier than the normal game of dodge-traffic.

Here are a few strategies I use since I prefer to run outdoors through the winter:
  1. Run on the left side of the road facing traffic. We simply need to follow pedestrian traffic rules, and this is so much safer than not seeing what is coming up behind you. If you approach a blind curve, however, and have no shoulder in the road you might need to cross over to safely make it around the turn.
  2. Watch your footing. I know this sounds silly, but you need to practice a different kind of running in snow and ice. You'll want to find dry stretches when available. The requires keeping your eye on the road and the oncoming traffic. You might need to shorten your stride considerably. Be confident, it is possible to run safely in the snow. And be patient with the inconsistency and lack of fluidity with your run. It's not going to be perfect but you're outside in the fresh air!
  3. Thank the motorists who give way. I really appreciate it when a car moves over to the other lane. There's nothing more unpleasant than a driver trying to play pickle with you when you're being a good pedestrian. So when they give it up, I give them a wave.
  4. Share the road. We need to do our part by staying as far left as possible. Try not to be to self-righteous about your pedestrian rights when we're all dealing with the inconveniences of snow and ice.
  5. Enjoy the scenery. I know I said you have to watch the road and traffic, but take a minute to notice the beauty of the winter landscape. If you're in a rural area it's easy; and if you're in a more urban area, try to notice the lights and seasonal decor. People put a lot of time into decorating their homes and businesses. Enjoy it!

Monday, December 15, 2008


There's a new mantra in the air at my house since the end of last week and it is, "We are so lucky."

We awoke typically early on Friday morning with no electricity and probably like most had no real idea what was in store. The landscape was disastrous in an artistic-suburban-landscape kind of way: tree branches and limbs were ripped and mangled, the shrubbery was weighted down with an ice coating and the roads were heavily glazed, several power lines were down. We confidently delighted our eight-year old with a no-school announcement (since we hadn't officially heard it) and then quickly realized we were not so well-prepared for a serious outage. We didn't even have the right batteries for the transistor radio (!) and the furnace had been down for several hours meaning no more heat or hot water. Hmm, this was for real.

I am in the second half of my life and I like to be comfortable. I don't really like to work too hard, particularly in areas where I don't have an interest. I feel like I've done enough due diligence already. The truth is, I'm somewhat lazy and take much for electricity, hot water, warmth, good food, transportation, etc. etc.

It wasn't the stillness, the lack of "purposeful" activity, or even the cooling house that got under my skin on Friday. It was the loss of control and the uncertainty of when this grim situation would end that drove me out the door.

My daughter and I drove into Portland, fascinated by a Route One in Scarborough with no traffic lights, and "oohing and aahing" at all the property damage we saw along the way. We maneuvered the parking in the Old Port and shopped for Christmas gifts for the several teachers, bus drivers and care givers that mattered in our world. I think it was during this time that my thinking - my awareness - started to shift. Boy, aren't we lucky?

We ate lunch in a small Thai restaurant and my humility continued to surface as we were helped by a small, elderly Thai woman with missing teeth, "living the dream" in the U.S.A., who bowed with her hands in the prayer position to her compatriots when they entered. Thank you, for reminding me of my time in Cambodia and what lovely people live there.

After lunch I phoned the home answering machine to hear that it was working; the power was restored. Wow, a whole 12 hours.

The weather for Sunday morning was forecast to be cold and clear. I communicated with the running group on Saturday as a reminder of the run and with information and suggestions about cold weather running. The group is open to all and while people register on-line at Peak Performance, there is no commitment to show up. (The only commitment is a personal one, to do it or not.) I'm never quite sure how many will be there, and yesterday with temperatures in the high teens, we had 12. Thank you for coming out.

The Sunday paper reported 95,000 Mainers were still without power. One of our group members had e-mailed from his office that he was still without electricity and facing the daunting situation of draining pipes before freezing. Others I know were stranded inland without power. I felt so lucky to be out there, warm and invigorated, and looking forward to the ten-mile workout with the hills of Spurwink and Scott Dyer Road.

The ice covered landscape made for a beautiful scene, especially when the sun came out and created a sparkling winter wonderland. Sunday was a beautiful morning for a run. Unfortunately, much of the course we ran in Cape Elizabeth appeared dark and quiet except for the hum of generators, some loud and cantankerous, others less noisy and assured. There was serious damage along Sawyer Road and the utility workers were out on Eastman. The whole time I kept repeating my mantra of good luck, fortune, and gratitude.

There's a bronze statue of Joan Benoit Samuelson in front of the Cape Elizabeth Public Library at the top of Scott Dyer Road, running and wielding the US flag as she did on the track at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles when she won the gold medal in the first ever Women's Olympic Marathon. I salute that image every time I pass it, thanking Joanie for all she has done for women's running. Yesterday as I made my way by, my sense of gratitude and privilege was especially acute, knowing all that I have to be grateful for here in my life; running with friends, planning for success, and being truly gifted with abundance - a warm home, food, health, and family.

I'll say it again, "We are so lucky."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Worth Repeating

Last week before our first group run, I sent an e-mail to the group about what they could expect in terms of the area, facilities, weather, etc., in case they'd never run out in Cape Elizabeth. I thought I'd make it public here for newcomers to our group and to serve as a reminder...

"Not only does a group this size command respect, it too has a responsibility to demonstrate respect to the town we are visiting. Here are some guidelines I am going to lay out now, so we don’t get bogged down on Sunday morning....

Safety First – When we head out en masse, please run on the left side of the street, facing traffic, and be cognizant of running too many abreast. Route 77 has a sizeable breakdown lane making it tempting to run side by each; but be smart, and please stay out of traffic. And by all means, assume motorists can’t (or don’t) see you. If it is overcast or snowing, wearing a reflective vest is a fabulous idea.

Rest rooms/Facilities – There are none, so take care of yourself before the run. We will head out at 9:00 a.m. The Public Safety building on Rte. 77 has a public restroom; the IGA might have one; there’s a gas station on the corner of Scott Dyer Rd. that might have one....on the course, Spurwink Church has a fenced-in porta-potty and we might pass one restaurant/coffee shop. You get the picture. If you miss the civilized options, remember, discretion is always a good thing.

Weather – Yeah, it’s December in Maine and we might get some unfriendly weather. Use your judgment. I certainly plan to cancel if it seems unsafe to drive, but will run in most conditions. If you attended the Team Nor’Easter Social this past Wednesday and heard Pat Charette’s talk, you know about “Muscle Confusion Training” - training in anything to be prepared for that something the day of the big event...Footing could be tricky. In these cases, it’s wise to just take it easy and enjoy the company. What to wear depends on the temp and your personal preferences – hat or ear warmers, gloves or mittens, thicker/cold weather tights or wind pants over an under layer, technical layers on top, wind will warm-up, trust me. Try not to overdress. It’s a matter of trial and error to figure out what is best for you. This course can be windy on account of the ocean exposure.

Hydration – Do not be fooled by cooler temperatures. You are a runner and need to drink a lot of water every day no matter what you’re doing. Period. There will be water on the course and refreshments after the run, courtesy of Peak Performance Multisport.

Warming Up / Cooling Down – Due to the potential for cold temps, we won’t be hanging around too long before or after the run. Before you head out, you could do some light jogging and “dynamic” stretching, that is, exercises to get your blood flowing and your body temp up without risking injury - squats, inch worms, straight-leg kick outs, heck, even good old fashion jumping jacks. After your run, it is good to do some more static type stretching, poses you hold for a minute or two.

Housekeeping – There will be a roster to check in and to check out. Because I’ll be running as well, I need you to indicate if you leave before I get back. I want to be sure no one gets left out on the course. Before we get started, I’ll outline our specific plan and route distances, and help you get organized by pace.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

First Mid-Winter Group Run, First Snow

We launched our Peak Performance Mid-Winter Training Group this past Sunday, as the first snow fell on the greater Portland-area. Cape Elizabeth was pleasantly quiet for our 9:00 A.M. start, and our group was a very spirited 13 runners. In the weeks before the run, nearly 40 people responded to the open invitation to get together on Sunday mornings throughout December and January. Most are in-training for the Mid-Winter Classic 10-miler on February 1st, (check out the course here) but it is certainly not a pre-requisite to joining. Every week will be a new adventure with different faces!

Paul and I had put out two waterstops along the 10-mile course, and we had bagels, fruit and gatorade for the post-run. At the beginning we introduced ourselves, most for the first time, and talked about how long and fast we planned to run that day. I also let people know my preference for training on the course in a clockwise direction, at least for the first few weeks. We'll definitely run the race course several times, which is counter-clockwise, but I think it's harder; the downhill first mile can be deceiving for first-timers; legs aren't warmed-up for the hills in miles two and three; and I just like running it clockwise! It's an awesome run to build base and strength and to get familiar with the territory.

We had a range of paces and distances covered - Justin was probably running a seven minute pace for seven, and we had a couple at ten minutes; six-miles was the shortest leg, and six of us ran the ten miles, Pat and Rick for the first time! I love firsts, especially in running accomplishments. Kudos gentlemen.

The snow was certainly not a deterrent, altough it did get too chilly to hang around too long afterward. Dry clothing was a saving grace!

So there you have it - our inaugural mid-winter group run. It was really pleasant and I know the folks who made it out were definitely glad they did. Hope to see you next Sunday.