The Good, the Bad and the Coronita, Plus Running Truths for Newbie Runners

Let’s sum up the weekend quickly.  Friday night involved dinner at our friends, a raucous game of Cards Against Humanity and a few too many of these…


I didn’t win at cards, but when it came to next morning hangovers, I was the champ.  Those sneaky Coronitas left me feeling pretty pathetic on Saturday, so I scrapped my scheduled 3-miler.  I lounged on the couch instead and chilled with the family.  That was bad.  I felt like a loser (mainly because I was one.  Let’s call it like it is.)

The good part of Saturday?  My baby turned 12!  Here he is last night with his second birthday cake of the weekend (HH provides a lovely photobomb here.)

I love my new 12-year old!  And he loved his new Lego King’s Castle that you see on the counter…

ImageThat was the good…well, that and my 9-mile run yesterday morning.


I needed to get out and have a good long run to finish my second week of training, and I did.  The wind was calm, so I was nice and comfy the whole way, though I did feel a little like Randy from A Christmas Story.  My splits got faster with each mile, and I had to hold myself back so I wouldn’t go under 9:15.  It felt wonderful, and I finished with no fatigue.  Yippee for me, and hooray for my new Garmin Forerunner 220 that I purchased with Christmas gift cards.  I needed this thing like Anthony Kiedis needs a shirt and a stylist!

Some things you just can’t unsee…

So. Damn. Bad.  I think you can skip the belt when you’re shirtless, dude.

And now I leave you with a short Monday list of Running Truths for Newbie Runners…self-evident to me, perhaps not to others.  Feel free to add contributions in the comments and/or to disagree.  This might become a regular segment.

If You Are a Beginning Runner:

Never do an out-and-back run with an untried distance or a big jump in mileage.  Having to quit or come up with a muscle strain/cramp/injury with a long walk home sucks.

Always stretch after runs.

Never get in a race on a treadmill with some random person next to you (I admit that I race with unaware strangers to this day, but I don’t recommend it for newbies!)

Never decide one day that you’re going to start running and set a marathon as your first race (see my previous bitchy post on this topic here.  And may I add that the lovely gal and fabulous blogger got sidelined with a common running injury during Jeff Galloway’s pathetic training program and couldn’t run for months.  No marathon for her.)

Always invest in decent running socks, and if you’re running beyond three miles a few times/week, get yourself a proper pair of running shoes (preferably with a treadmill analysis at a running store.)

Never underestimate the potential pain of bloody nipples.  If yours can cut glass when hard, tape them, men, please.  Every time I see bloody nipples, I die a little inside.  Please, think of me and have some compassion.  🙂

Never run in 100% cotton.  You don’t have to spend a lot, but get yourself some moisture-wicking gear.  Please.  Chafing is a friend to no one.

Never increase mileage more than 10% per week.  Did you just start running last week, got high on the endorphins and now you ran 4 miles three times already since Sunday (and it’s Thursday?)  Oh my God, you are so kickass…and when you come up lame here soon, let me know.  I will send you a sympathy card.  Seriously…start slow.  Don’t be afraid to start with a jog/walk regimen.  Build up the time on your feet, with at least 70% of your running time spent jogging at a comfortable slow pace.  I always put a few songs on my long run playlists that I can’t help but sing to…and I sing them under my breath to make sure that I am keeping my pace where it needs to be (and just to show you that I have no shame, I will list those songs at the end of this post.)  Your entire body–muscles, ligaments, tendons–needs to get used to the pounding of running.  It’s not just about willpower.  I want you to be a lifelong runner, so don’t get hurt or give yourself a chronic injury right off the bat.  Oh, and if you are one of those exceptional people who was born to run and can just take off like a fricking gazelle with no running background?  I hate you :-).  Mazel tov!

Always be thankful.  Every run is a gift.  A good run puts you closer to nature, closer to your pure sense of self.  Your heart, lungs, legs, everything working together, testing your mental and physical limits…it’s pure perfection, and so many would love to be doing what you’re doing.  Take a moment to appreciate it.

And finally…Always act promptly when a BM feels like it falls off a cliff into your lower bowels and then starts chug-chug-chugging through your colon.  Take it from an experienced (average, but experienced) runner…the time to act is now!  Just google “chocolate rain” if you have a strong stomach.

Happy running, readers!

Cheesy-ass songs I check my pace with because I can’t help but belt them out:  We Belong Together by Mariah Carey, Giving You the Best That I’ve Got by Anita Baker, Jukebox Hero by Foreigner, Forrest Gump by Frank Ocean, Love on Top by Beyonce, Solid by Ashford and Simpson, Alive and Kicking by Simple Minds, We’re in This Love Together by Al Jarreau, Takin’ It To the Streets by the Doobie Brothers, Baby-Baby-Baby by TLC.

Allow Myself to Introduce…Myself

Any Austin Powers fans out there?

I’ve been gone for so long…and I’m sorry.  Not that anyone’s been unable to go on without reading my special blend of running encouragement mixed with a healthy dose of swearing and negativity, but still…I apologize.

I’ve missed writing.  I’ve missed reading about my fellow runners/bloggers and their lives.  I’ve missed it all.  I just can’t quit you!

I mulled over several possible post titles in my head this morning, all of which happened to be song titles and have me singing–

Please forgive me cues Bryan Adams…

I know not what I do

Please forgive me

I can’t stop loving you (yuck!)

Baby I’m Back cues Akon…

Now I’m back in the flesh

Feeling so blessed

Back in your corner, suga suga don’t stress

Forget about the rest

Let’s go inside

I’m back in your zone, baby

Back in your vibe

Alive and Kicking cues Simple Minds…

You turn me on

You lift me up

Like the sweetest cup I’d share with you

You lift me up, don’t you ever stop, I’m here with you

And basically this kind of shit is the reason I can’t get anything done lately.

I’m all over the place.  I might have seasonal ADD, if there is such a thing.

December came and went in a flash.  We had the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tapdanced with Danny Fucking Kaye…complete as always with a family viewing of White Christmas.

My family White Elephant gift exchange was a big hit.  Gifts included a horse mask, cold hard cash, a picture of an astronaut sloth, a singing toilet snowman, a handpainted coffee mug, and my husband entering the room in a parody of Dick in a Box (no one wanted his gift but me!)  My gift was a cross stitch…I am horrifically UNcrafty, so my gift was truly a labor of love.  It read, “Your Awesome.”  HH battled it out with my sister and came up the proud winner.

I also spent many hours stitching a (still unfinished) gift for my sister…Jocking the Bitches and Slapping the Hos (any Boyz-N-The-Hood fans?)

I had another birthday…41!  It’s not the years, it’s the mileage, right?  Right.

We had a frozen water line…damn you Polar Vortex!

Our fridge went out and we spent over a month heading out to the one in the FREEZING garage while a very strange repair guy kept coming out trying to fix the old one (and engaging me in strange conversations about his dancing Border Collie and other random thoughts.)  After six weeks, we gave up and bought a balls-to-the-wall kickass new one, but not before said repair guy dropped one final gem.  He told me that he had discovered a pill that makes bugs explode but comes in a food grade that kills parasites in dogs.  He and his wife occasionally take it for more energy, and they recently gave it to their 4-year old daughter and later found clumps of worms in her diaper.

Yep, I’ve been busy living the dream, folks!

As for running?  Well, I pushed it aside for the holidays and only managed 1-2 runs/week, so any posts during that time would have been titled, “Run, Says the Sloth!”  I tried to run just enough to not lose my fitness.  After a few weeks of few running endorphins, but lots of peanut butter balls, cookies, and holiday vino, I headed out with my running coach Oscar (my dog) and had an exhilarating, mind-clearing, sanity-restoring 4-miler on my birthday…so fun that I posted on facebook my goal for a 1:50 half marathon sometime in 2014….

then I woke up the next morning with bursitis in my hip.

At first I thought it might be my IT band, just really high.  The pain was on my side, lower hip, not my glute but not far enough around to be my quad.  I applied my tried-and-true adaptation of the R.I.C.E.(W!) regimen…sitting on the couch with my ass and saddlebag hanging out on a pack of ice while nursing a medicinal glass of wine postdinner.   I tried to run again with Oscar two days later.  Same problem, and pain with every step throughout the day, especially on stairs.

So I rolled it.  Big mistake.  I made it angry.  Finally, I consulted Dr. Internet and realized that it was the start of bursitis, and instead of rolling out sore muscle tissue, I applied a significant (ahem!) amount of body weight on the bursa sac in my hip.

Oops!  My bad!

trochanteric hip bursitis


Disclaimer:  My ass is not this ridiculously tight

hip bursitis


Bursitis scares me.  It makes me think OLD, for some reason, maybe because it makes me think of bunions, which I know are totally unrelated.  Still, it just seems like an old person injury.

“Boys!  Bring me an icepack…my bursitis is killing me!”  See?

It also scares me because I know it’s one of those injuries that can quickly become chronic, and between you, me and the entire internet, I’ve got enough chronic pain with my plantar fasciitis (“Boys!  Bring me my frozen water bottle…my plantar fasciitis is killing me!”)

So I took a few more days off and tried to figure out what went wrong.  I knew that I’d pushed it with my lack of running, but please—after ten years of running, I know my running base and my injury inclinations, and my hips don’t get injured (they don’t lie either…wink!).

FINALLY I figured it out.  The problem was the waist leash I wear with Oscar!  I was wearing it too low across my hips…like an airplane seatbelt or this year’s Christmas cookies.  It was a trauma injury from where the belt smacked my side.

Adjustment made…now I wear it at belly level, where this year’s Christmas cookies also reside, but where there are no fluid-filled sacs.  Problem solved.  I also spent some extra time at the gym working on isolated hip strengthening exercises.

If you have bursitis or are trying to figure out hip issues and pain, here are a few great articles that I found helpful, including some exercises…and I found the single knee bend exercise to be very helpful and informative.

Now I’m 100% and one week into my training for my next racing goal–the Heartland 39.3 Challenge.  It’s three half marathons in five weeks.  The first race is Rock the Parkway on April 12th.

I’m on the fence between Hal Higdon’s Intermediate and Advanced Half Marathon programs.  I want to run the most that I can in order to feel prepared, but the Advanced program calls for 6 days/week of running, and the first long run was 90 minutes with the last 1/4 at goal race pace, and my buddy Hal said you should finish feeling refreshed, not fatigued.  Um, right.  I decided to run 6 miles slow and 2 at close to goal pace, which ended up being around 9:25 for the slow part and 8:45 for the last two miles (my legs were getting tired and I was running into hurricane-force winds.)  I ended up stopping at 1:16 and figure that’s good enough for Week One.  I also took the next day off because my legs felt like they needed it.  I’ll try to do the full 6-day program next week.

If you’ve stuck with this long post, thanks for reading and not giving up on this post or on me!  I am so glad to be back writing, and I’ve missed you!

What I’m running to:  Psylla by Glass Animals, Shake Your Body Down to the Ground by the Jacksons

A Seven Nation Army Couldn’t Hold Me Back…and All About Heart Rate Training

I’m giving a big thank you today to those blog readers who took the time to comment on my previous post.  One of the great things about starting this blog last December has been the discovery of other running bloggers and the online community that I’ve found.  I love following other bloggers and reading their running stories, and the support that these runners offer each other is fabulous!  I appreciated the comments (and the respectful tone!) and want to address the issue further in a more detailed post next week…

But first…I’m off to Wichita.  Yes, the boys and I are piling in the car and heading to the middle of Kansas this afternoon (ooh la la!) to see my Swiss bestie Pam and her family once more before they fly back across the pond to Geneva.  We will celebrate Pam’s birthday today and her son’s birthday tomorrow.

Swiss expats come back to the U.S. for the summer (or any short visit) and drop boatloads of money on clothes, etc.–all the things that cost a fortune in Switzerland or just  aren’t available.  You stock up, rip the tags off and cram that stuff in your luggage for the trip back overseas.  Pam has approximately 200 pounds of clothing, shoes, and athletic apparel that she needs to fit into a few small suitcases, so I’m thinking that I should get her a necklace as her present.

As for running, I am three runs into my half marathon training.  I ran 3 easy miles on Monday and averaged a 9:47 pace.  On Tuesday, I ran my first speedwork session since ‘Nam…5 x 400m repeats.  My splits averaged from 1:50-1:56, which I was very happy with.  Yesterday I ran another easy 3 miles at an average 9:52 pace.

I got on a lark and decided to dig out my heart rate monitor for the runs this week.  Do any readers use HRT (Heart Rate Training?)  I tried it once when I trained for my first race (the 2007 Hospital Hill half marathon), but I basically ignored it for several reasons:

  • My heart rate always seemed to be higher than the ranges I’d calculated using the basic 220 minus age formula, yet I always felt like I was right where I should have been based on level of exertion.
  • I always experienced Cardiac Creep but didn’t know what it was at that point so didn’t know to ignore it.  Cardiac Creep is just the fact that your heart rate will gradually creep up during a long run as you get tired and if you get dehydrated.  I saw my heart rate go up, even though I was giving the same effort, and I didn’t know whether to slow down dramatically (which seemed silly based on my level of exertion) or to ignore it.
  • My heart rate would spike during hills, and once it spiked it tended to stay elevated.  It was like Cardiac Creep, but more than that (I’ll describe more below.)

Basically, I called it phooey and moved on.

After six more years of running, I now have a better understanding of HRT and my heart rate zone numbers, I dismiss Cardiac Creep as long as my perceived effort remains the same, and most importantly, I have a much more accurate and finely-tuned FEEL for what the numbers mean.  I am no expert (funny how often I offer opinions on this blog with that caveat!), but here are some thoughts…

The key is not to just go with the online formulas and their estimates based on your age (most articles state this upfront, but it’s really important.)  You have to know your personal resting heart rate (RHR) and maximum heart rate (MHR) for those zones to be anywhere close to accurate.

Your RHR is easy enough to calculate.  Put on the old monitor strap and measure first thing in the morning before getting out of bed.  Do this for several mornings and take the average.  If you don’t like to strap things on in bed (sorry, couldn’t resist–ha!), get that free heart rate app by Azumio (I have it and love it) and do the same thing with your phone (just be aware that keeping your phone near your bed can lead to trouble when your spouse wants to get romantic and you are stalling so you can fit in one more level of Candy Crush–hypothetically speaking, of course!)

My RHR is 40-41, which my doctor verified last fall when he did an EKG during my physical.  Many websites will assume that your RHR is around 60.  Now, I’m no mathematician, but those numbers are way different and would throw off any calculations in my view.  Calculate your own.

The MHR is an entirely different kind of flying altogether (any Airplane fans out there?).

This is where the feel part of it comes in.  I’ve exercised enough and at enough levels of intensity to have a good sense that my MHR is probably around 185-190.  I can get into the upper 170s and sustain it with some good sprinting, and we’re not talking the kind of sprinting that’s godawful painful and forces me to stop within seconds.  We’re talking sprinting where I could still give plenty more.

I can get it up there, people!  So I assume that my max is actually in the upper 180s somewhere, and I’m not really interested in dying on the sidewalk to test its exact limit.

Over time, I’ve experimented off and on with checking my heart rate for runs but not actually training with it.  I prefer to go by feel, which is an actual method…the Borg method.  This, of course, makes me want to include this…

Must stop laughing…making important points here…

Ok, back to feeling it…I know what easy runs feel like to me by now.  I can sing under my breath, take a deep cleansing breath when I need to (you know, those stretchy lung breaths) and generally keep it together.  Think of it like a victory lap run…you could wave to the throngs and talk to your friends.  Depending on the article/training program/expert, easy runs should be about 60-75% of your MHR.  For me, 155 is pretty much the exact point where I leave my happy place and start working too much, but I haven’t tested it lately.

Hal calls for 65-75% on my current plan.  Here is a copied page from one of my favorite links (here) for heart rate zones with my numbers plugged in…

Heart rate zones

My resting heart rate is:   My maximum heart rate is:

FAQ: Heart rate zones

Zone What it does % of Heart Rate
Heart rate
beats per minute
Long, slow runs, easy or recovery runs Training in this zone improves the ability of your heart to pump blood and improve the muscles’ ability to utilize oxygen.  The body becomes more efficient at feeding the working muscles, and learns to metabolise fat as a source of fuel. 60-70% 130 – 145
Aerobic zone or “target heart rate zone” Most effective for overall cardiovascular fitness. Increases your cardio-respitory capacity: that is, the your ability to transport oxygenated blood to the muscle cells and carbon dioxide away from the cells.  Also effective for increasing overall muscle strength. 70-80% 145 – 160
Anaerobic zone The point at which the body cannot remove lactic acid as quickly as it is produced is called the lactate threshold or anaerobic threshold. It generally occurs at about 80-88% of the Heart Rate Reserve. Training in this zone helps to increase the lactate threshold, which improves performance. Training in this zone is hard: your muscles are tired, your breathing is heavy. 80-90% 160 – 175
VO2 max
“Red line zone”
You should only train in this zone if you re very fit, and only for very short periods of time. Lactic acid develops quickly as you are operating in oxygen debt to the muscles   The value of training in this zone is you can increase your fast twitch muscle fibers which increase speed. 90-100% 175 – 190

Funny enough…the 75% mark would put me right around 155 for my top limit, which corresponds to how I feel.

I decided to check my numbers on my runs this week.  Lo and behold, the numbers held up, which makes me fee like I’m in the right place with my planned paces.  During my speed repeats, I never went over 168.  During my easy runs, I only spiked up over 155-156 on elevation changes, and then only briefly.  This brings me to another key point.

One of the most valuable parts of checking your heart rate (TO ME, the non-expert) is seeing not just how the numbers for the zones are, but how your heart rate changes as you become more fit.  Cardiac Creep is not as severe for me as it once was, and more importantly, my heart rate spikes less on hills and RECOVERS quickly, allowing me to get right back into my zone, physically and mentally.

Here is one of the most rewarding things about tracking your heart rate, even if you don’t train with it.  The time it takes for your heart rate to drop is a significant indicator of your fitness.  Recovery Heart Rate is a great thing to know!

Here is an excerpt from a great article (here) that describes it:

Recovery Heart Rate is the change in your heart rate after you stop working out. You compare your workout heart rate with your heart rate after you have recovered for 1 – 2 minutes. If you do not have much change in your heart rates, you are not very fit (your heart still has to beat rapidly, even though you have stopped working out. ) To calculate your Recovery HR, take your heart rate 1 or 2 minutes after completing a workout. When working out in an aerobic zone, a common recovery heart rate is 20-30 beats per minute. A person who is fit will have a higher Recovery Heart Rate than an unfit person.

For me, it doesn’t matter how hard I run…unless I’ve been out-and-out sprinting, my heart rate goes right back down into the 80s within two minutes, and I am back to normal lickety split.  Talk about feeling good about your running and what you’re doing for your health…it’s an amazing accomplishment to watch that number drop right back down.

So try it out!  Check it again in a few months and track your improvement.  Get up and get back down with your bad self!  When you see that number drop right back down into a happy place, pat yourself on the back.  Tell yourself, “This dance ain’t for everybody–just the sexy people!”  (Morris Day?  The Time?  Anyone?)

I’m interested in your thoughts.  Does anyone track their heart rate or train with it?  Do you think it’s all a bunch of junk?  Do you know your RHR?  More importantly, do you like the Time?

Some further links (there are tons more if you search, but these are my faves): (the link is referenced above, but I include it again because I like it and this is my blog.) (again, this is the other link from above, but I include it again)