Running Questions and Answers a.k.a. Get to Know Me Better

I’m following up on an idea from a blog post by TracyNicole at The Writing Runner. I have borrowed some of her questions and included some of my own as well, so thanks TracyNicole!

I know some of you have been following my blog for a while, and others may be new followers or maybe you just stumbled upon my blog and haven’t read a single other post by me. Regardless where you fall into those cases, I’m quite sure I’ve never addressed the questions I’m going to put here. So, I’m providing a bit of an insight into myself and encourage you guys to post comments about some or all of the questions that follow. It’s meant to be purely for fun, so let’s go!

When did you start running?

I ran on the track team in grade school for two years, fifth and sixth grade. I still remember running with some of my team mates on days so cold it made my lungs ache but I loved the feeling I got when I ran and pushed my body hard. When I started junior high school I decided not to run in school but just ran for fun on my own. I also didn’t run on the high school team but continued to run when I felt like it and this went on throughout college until I developed shin splints. After taking a few years off of running, I ran my first race as an adult when I finished graduate school and haven’t stopped since.

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Not my first race by any means but I always liked this race photo for some reason

What do you consider to be the hardest distance to train for and/or race?

Hands-down the marathon is the hardest distance to train for. When I was training for the one and only marathon I ran, the Long Beach Marathon, I felt like the time it took to train was like having a part-time job. I was also injured with what seemed like one thing after another. Back then, I really had no idea what I was doing when it came to training for a marathon. I just followed some training plan I found online but I knew nothing really when it came to proper fueling, stretching, cross-training, or any of the other things that go along with long-distance running, even though I had run at least a few half marathons by that point.

I think the hardest distance to race is the 5k. The distance is just long enough that you can’t run all-out for the entire race but you can’t warm-up into it and speed up later like you can in a longer race like a half marathon. The 5k is an intimidating distance to me, even though I’ve run 46 half marathons, a marathon, a 10k, 15k, and 10 miler. I would rather race any of those other distances than a 5k.

Describe some of your favorite race courses.

One of my favorite races ever is the Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon in South Dakota. This course was downhill through a beautiful canyon surrounded by trees with water views along the way. I loved every second of the race. Not surprisingly, this was also my fastest half marathon to date. I also think the course for the Famous Potato Half Marathon in Idaho is one of my favorites. Similar to the race in South Dakota, this race in Idaho also began in a canyon and had several water views along the way. Apparently I really enjoy running races through canyons. That being said, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to run the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim and not in a million years the Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim.

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This photo from the race start of Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon doesn’t do it justice

Are/Were either of your parents runners or active in other sports?

Absolutely not. Both of my parents weren’t even the slightest bit interested in sports of any kind. My mom couldn’t and still can’t ride a bike or swim and never even went on regular walks. My dad had a physically demanding job with odd hours so when he was home (before my parents got divorced anyway), he was often sleeping or working on his car or tinkering on things around the house. I didn’t inherit the running bug from either of them!

What is one weird/unusual thing you do as a runner that most other runners don’t?

I’d rather run outside in the early evening during the summer when it’s 90 degrees than get up early to run before work even though it would be 20 degrees cooler. In other words, I’ll run in 90 degree weather over 70 degree weather if it means I don’t have to get up early. Crazy? Probably.

Do you have a bucket-list race?

Not really. Sort-of I guess. Since I’m only running half marathons in the US now (only 6 more states to go!), I’m pretty limited with my choices now to make sure I finish all 50 states. Once I’m done with all 50 states, I would like to run Seawheeze in Vancouver. I’ve been dying to go to Vancouver, I hear this is a fun race, and I love racecations, so I think this one would fit the bill perfectly.

What about you guys? Let me know some interesting running info about you! Feel free to answer some or all of the questions I’ve posted here.

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

 

 

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Beach Photos From Around the World

I grew up in land-locked West Virginia and while it’s a beautiful state full of mountains, as an adult I’ve found I much prefer ocean and beach settings. If I can have mountains to hike in with views of the ocean, then that’s just about perfect to me. I’ve spent my fair share of time at beaches since I started traveling as an adult. In fact, the first international vacation I went on was to the Bahamas when I was in college.

Given the fact that I’m completely over winter and ready to move on to warmer, sunnier weather, I thought it might be fun to share some of my favorite beach spots and of course include photos. We’ll take a little photo journey around the world, in no particular order, although I may have to divulge some of my favorites at the end.

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I even got married at the beach! St. Kitts in the Caribbean to be exact
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Agaete at dusk in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
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Sunset Cliffs in San Diego, California, one of my favorite places in the world
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Don’t you just love her enthusiasm? Taken in Naples, Florida
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Nearly deserted black sandy beach at Mount Maunganui in New Zealand
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Coronado Beach in the San Diego, California area during the winter
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Crete, Greece- the water was so clear and beautiful
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Black sand rocky beach in Tenerife, Spain just before a storm blew in
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One of my favorite beaches in Malta
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Black sand, rocky beach in Hawaii
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Powdery soft white sand dune in Charleston, South Carolina
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Quintessential Aruba photo
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World-famous Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman Island with the softest sand I’ve ever felt

I alluded at the beginning to listing some of my favorites but it’s funny because photos are really art, which taken as a whole are not only subjective to the eye of the beholder but also the context. For example, a person’s travel experiences are influenced by things such as who they’re with, what stage in life they’re at, how they were treated by the locals and other travelers, and even the weather. I may look at a photo and it brings back happy memories while someone else may see the same photo and just see the landscape and/or people in the photo without any context of what was going on when the photo was taken.

So what are my favorite photos here? I’m not going to take the easy way out and say I could never choose because they’re all my favorites. I really like the stormy photo taken at the beach in Tenerife, Spain because I love how I was able to capture that moment just before a huge storm blew in. I also love the photo of the beach in Malta because of the different hues of blue in the water and the rocky protrusion, so I’ll narrow it down to those two photos for my favorites here.

What about you guys- do you like black sandy beaches, powder-white, or the more traditional tan/beige the best? Rocky beaches or sandy beaches? What are some of your favorite beaches?

Happy travels!

Donna

 

What Did and Didn’t Work for Me in Relation to Running in 2018- Good Decisions and Bad Decisions

I got the idea for this post when I was listening to a podcast I often listen to called Marathon Training Academy. On the podcast, the hosts Angie and Trevor were discussing taking action and setting goals for running. At one point, Angie was talking about some things that she did during 2018 that were good decisions that ultimately helped her achieve some of her goals for the year. Likewise, not all of her decisions were the best which ended in not-so stellar results. Marathon Training Academy podcast link

While I was listening to the podcast and running, my mind began to drift to some of the running decisions I made in 2018 and how things ended up as a result of those decisions. I’d say overall, 2018 was a roller coaster for me when it comes to running. Right off the bat in January I wanted to do things a little differently and wrote about it in my post Shaking Things Up a Bit. One of the biggest things I changed is going from running hard three days a week with an emphasis on cross-training (with no easy running days) to running five days a week.

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Running in the Canary Islands in my Topo shoes that turned out to be a poor purchase

I wasn’t sure how my body would handle those extra running days but honestly I feel like it was a great decision for me and my body. The training plan seemed considerably harder than what I was used to, but I would say I handled it well and didn’t end up with injuries, other than some caused by running gear that wasn’t right for my body, which I’ll get into later. The training plan I followed for my half marathons in Idaho-42nd stateAnchorage, Alaska-43rd state, and Arkansas-44th state allowed me to finish in times that I was mostly happy with, but again, I’ll get into more details on that later. More importantly, I was able to follow the plan and only rarely did I find myself not having enough time to fit all of the runs in as specified.

Early in 2018 I also began Heart Rate Training, which honestly wasn’t anything that did much for me either way. Maybe I didn’t give it long enough (I’ve heard you really need to spend several months or even a year on it for you to really see changes) or maybe I just wasn’t doing it like I was supposed to. Either way, I’m not sure I would spend a ton of time on heart rate training again unless there was a specific reason I was seeking it out, like I had plateaued and felt like I needed to try something else to get faster or have more endurance.

A decision I made that ended up to be one of the worst decisions I made in 2018 was to try new shoes without fully understanding the mechanics behind them and how they would work for me. I vowed early in the year to try new shoes instead of sticking with the same brand and style for years on end like I previously had, so I tried two brands that were completely new for me, On and Topo. Not long after running with these shoes, I began experiencing calf tightness and pain when I would run. It got so severe I would have to stop and stretch my calves and my feet started falling asleep when I was running. Initially I thought surely it’s not both pairs of shoes that’s causing my problems, but yes, it really was both pairs of shoes. I finally looked into the shoe specifics and learned that both pairs that I was running in had a much lower heel-toe offset than I was used to. You can read all about the details on that here. I switched to running shoes with a 10 mm heel-toe offset and haven’t had any calf issues since then. Lesson learned, no matter what you may hear, minimalist shoes are not for everyone, and that’s perfectly fine.

One of my better decisions was to do more trail running. That not only helped me cope with the hot, humid weather since it was cooler on the shady trails but it also undoubtedly strengthened my ankles and feet. I won’t lie, though, summer was tough to get through. I couldn’t take any time off from running during the summer since I had a race in Alaska in August and after that I had to pretty much jump right into my next training plan for the race in Arkansas in November.

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Rediscovering trail running

In 2018 I ran my first “fun run,” Color Vibe 5k,in September and honestly I can’t say now if I think it was a good decision or a bad decision to run it. I had very mixed emotions after that race, mostly because of it not being a timed race. Apparently I’m too competitive to run a race that’s not timed, and this is coming from someone who has only rarely (three times to be exact) placed in the top three in my age group, one time each at first, second, and third place. I think I need to see an official time if I’m going to run a race, otherwise I’ll just go out and run on my own. I also now have mixed feelings about running a timed 5k in 2019. I’ve only ever run three 5k’s in my life; my first race ever, with my young daughter at her first 5k, and this fun run. Although I feel like I’m long overdue to see what I’m capable of running a 5k at, I’m not sure I want to put myself up to that test. Let’s face it, to truly race a 5k is tough, much tougher than a half marathon, in my opinion. Do I really want to do that to myself? I’m not sure that would be the best decision for me.

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Color Vibe 5k

To cope with the abnormally long summer that stretched well into fall, I began exploring new running routes and other ways to fight boredom on my runs. This in itself was a good decision but I began to develop other issues unrelated to my running route or the heat. Gradually I began to notice my runs were getting harder and I was out of breath more and more. I chalked it up to the heat and humidity but when things finally started to cool off and I was even more out of breath than normal, I went to the doctor to get my iron levels checked. Sure enough, I was anemic once again (I have a history of it). The even worse news is this was just a couple of weeks out from my next half marathon in Arkansas in November. No way were my iron levels going to get anywhere close to normal before the race since they were so low.

I made the decision to run the half marathon despite being able to barely run a mile on training runs without getting out of breath. To my shock and awe, I ended up running one of my fastest half marathons in quite a while in Arkansas, thanks to the downhill course and nice weather conditions. Running that half marathon and especially finishing it strong was definitely a good decision for me. I have no doubt my doctor would have told me to not run the race, had she known, but if I hadn’t run it, I wouldn’t have known what my body is capable of even when it’s not at peak condition.

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Finishing strong at the half marathon in Arkansas

That pretty much ended the year for me as far as running goes. I decided to take it easy in December and let my iron levels come back up so I just ran when the weather wasn’t too bad and I felt like running. Since my iron levels have come back up, I’ve been experimenting with pushing myself even more. I’ve seen some split times on runs that I haven’t seen in years and I owe that to the ability to push through the pain and focus more on the mental aspect of running, some tricks I picked up after reading Deena Kastor’s book “Let Your Mind Run,” which I have an upcoming review on.

What about you guys? Do you reflect back on the previous year to figure out what worked for you and what didn’t work? This is the first time I’ve done this for an entire year, although I’ve done it for individual races before.

Happy running!

Donna