Demo Shoes, a.k.a., why I love Adidas

Certainly you are familiar with the concept of Pub Runs?

The idea is this:  A local running group loosely organizes an informal group run – typically anywhere from 3-5 miles in length – where you all meet up at a local bar afterward. Often, said bar will give some sort of drink special to the runners. Depending on who is organizing the run, sometimes shoe reps will be on site to offer shoe demos.

A local running store offers these up periodically in the cooler months, which is always a welcome treat for my friends and I as incentive to get out there and run. In the most recent one, there was a shoe rep from Adidas on site demo-ing the new Supernovas. They are an upgrade from the Supernova Glide series, which has been my go-to shoe since I started running. I’ve tried a lot of different models and brands, and I always come back to this shoe. They are on the pricier side, but I have a pair that have over 500 miles on them and are still sufficient to log shorter runs.

I was really excited to check out the latest model. Running Warehouse describes them as follows: “with a 20% boost increase, this trainer will offer the most underfoot cushioning to date while also offering a springy, responsive ride. A completely redesigned outsole closely resembles the premium Ultra Boost design and a softer engineered mesh should continue to offer fantastic breathability.” The shoe fit felt the same – which I’ve found to be the case with every pair of Glides I’ve had (I’m currently on my third). They DID feel springier underfoot, which I enjoyed. I initially thought this is because they were just new, but so far I have only 30 miles on my newest pair, and these were definitely springier.

They are also supposedly .7 oz lighter, though I didn’t necessarily notice a significant difference there.

However – as I said to a couple friends who also demo’ed the shoes at the run – my favorite thing about these shoes is that they are reliable workhorses. It’s like Goldilocks and Baby Bear’s bed – they are just right. There’s nothing specific about them that they do or that I particularly love that other shoes lack. I just like these. They fit. They feel good. They take a pounding. Most other shoes I’ve worn are shot at 300 miles – I have a heavy foot fall – and these still feel great well afterward. This past year I put the most miles in ever – just under 750 – and I have a goal of 850 for 2017. This means that I probably won’t need new sneakers until sometime in the fall. With how much money I spend on gym memberships, apparel, race fees, etc., only having to buy shoes twice a year (if that) is a relief for my pocketbook.

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Basically this. Running is NOT cheap!

So, given that I know I’ll have my current pair for some time (my old ones also still have life in them, so when I up my mileage at the end of next month I’ll start rotating those in to save the newer pair a bit), I know this means I don’t have to jump online now and buy 15 pairs of the “old” model before they are out of stock. If anything, I’ll have to resist the urge to buy these new ones because they felt so good!

Think you want to try these for yourself? Go to your local running store and have a fitting! Or maybe see if there is a Pub Run happening sometime soon near you! It’s always fun to demo new shoes and see how they feel in a non-competitive environment, where you get to really test out the sneakers for a few miles instead of just a lap around the parking lot.

*Note – This post is my own unqualified opinion, completely unsolicited. That said, if Adidas would like to sponsor me and send me pairs of their new Supernovas to review for a longer run, I wouldn’t turn down that opportunity! 😉

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New Year, New Habits

I’ve been struggling lately with what to write for my next post. In truth, I guess I’m feeling a bit in a rut with my workouts. Which seems funny to me as I write that, because between my big box gym membership (which I share with my husband … we snagged a 2 for 1 deal at the beginning of 2015 that apparently NEVER EXPIRES!), my boutique studio membership, my running habit, and my new daily yoga habit, you would think I would be anything but bored.

However, sometimes, choices can be overwhelming. And it’s easy to stay in your routine and not venture outside of your usual box.

This week, in particular, I took Tuesday off and went with my husband to the gym midday. The nice thing about our “Big Box” gym is, when the spin room is not in use for a class, members can go in and access virtual programs. This is a really terrific option for someone like my husband, who is a freelancer and doesn’t work traditional hours. His favorite time to go to the gym is between 2 and 4 pm on weekdays, when no traditional group exercise or spin classes are offered – most stay at home/work at home types prefer to go to the gym earlier – i.e., after 8am but before noon – but he’s a night owl. The virtual spin classes have been great for him. Sure, he’s a smart guy and can figure out the stationary bike on his own, but having someone guide you and push you really is valuable.

He insisted I was going to get a better workout than in the regular spin classes. I was skeptical – I didn’t think it would be worse, mind you, but I didn’t see how it would be better. However, he put speed drills on, which is something I really need and I never do. (I REALLY need to start doing speedwork on the treadmill, more on that in a minute.) We did 2 speed drills and 1 hill drill, for a total of about 55 minutes on the bike (each one was 15 minutes, the extra minutes the lag between programs, which I used as active recovery, then a short cool down). I felt pretty strong during most of it, and my heart rate and calorie burn report-out showed a pretty heavy duty workout. Okay, maybe it wasn’t “harder,” but it sure was a great workout. We also had the added bonus of hitting the gym on the most crowded day of the year, but the LEAST crowded time. 🙂

fitbit
The Fitbit Charge HR hasn’t been the most reliable in tracking heart rate on non-walking/running activities, but this is pretty great considering readouts from similar-length workouts!

On Wednesday night, I went with my friend to BarreFlow. This is a relatively new workout format, developed by a local instructor, and it’s pretty quickly picking up momentum. Take a class and it’s easy to see why. Reading the description, it says it combines elements of Pilates, Barre, and Yoga. I would say it’s a higher intensity/cardio version of Barre/Pilates that utilizes more intense vinyasa yoga moves through transitions (such as, down dog, plank, etc.). However you want to describe it, it’s a class that targets the small muscles in your arms and legs while also strengthening your core. I love running and I love lifting, but I don’t work those small muscles as much as I should which has resulted in recent injuries. My friend, on the other hand – a former figure skater – loves Barre and prefers it to lifting. We’ve committed to keep each other honest on both – making sure we both get what we know we need but like to avoid!

(Funny story – we are both big fans of Fabletics and were both sporting our Fabletics gear on Wednesday, but didn’t take a photo. In fact, we *almost* wore the same pants! I couldn’t find mine, which is a reminder that I need to organize my workout gear and athleisure, and also a reminder that I do *not* need any more right now!)

fableticssquad
Not us. We’ll fix this. In the meantime, I love what Fabletics is doing with their #FableticsSquad Campaign! (Image courtesty @Fabletics)

In the capstone to busting my rut, winter running is far less easy to plan than warmer weather running in that it is just far, far too cold to run most early mornings (and, sometimes, treacherous, with black ice patches forming overnight). It’s worse when it snows, as there are limited places to go to run on cleared pathways, meaning I can’t just walk outside my door. This sometimes means that I have to forfeit some of my favorite staple classes in favor of going for a run, which this week was Thursday night. However the upside to missing my beloved Power class means that my body is not too broken and bruised to rise for Fusion early Friday morning. This particular class is a favorite of mine, but it is too much for me to go to a Thursday evening Power (which is very high intensity, involving heavy weights and intense cardio) and then turn around and get up at 6am for Fusion.

I’ve still been keeping up with my daily yoga, and better yet, Samara is back in town Saturday doing a focused class on hamstrings. I’m trying to decide between getting up super early and going to a Nitro class (which is high intensity cardio using all bodyweight exercises – it really kicks the endorphins into gear!), or getting up not quite as early (I maybe get an extra 30 minutes?) and getting a good 30 minutes of treadmill speedwork in. We’ll see. Good habits are good, and shaking up the rut is better, but so much change in one week is a lot to ask. 🙂

2016 Final Push

Well hello there.

My good intentions of keeping this blog relatively updated (1-2 posts a week) has fallen by the wayside, and for no good reason, I might add. Well, maybe that isn’t true. I haven’t felt terribly inspired to write. I’ve been reading voraciously – news, blogs, fiction – looking for the highest quality that I can find, but I have not been inspired to write. Which is interesting, because usually that does the trick.

So, anyway, sometimes you have to fake it til you make it, so here goes.

I’ve been thinking a lot these last few weeks about self care. After feeling pretty strong for a few weeks, my hip (piriformis, sciatic nerve, right glute, what-have-you) flared up again after what I thought was a strong 6 mile run a couple of weeks ago. I took the following week off from running, and since then have only been running twice a week at about 3-4 miles a pop. I don’t have any races scheduled until next Spring, and given how the weather has been already, it’s a good time to take a breather from running long and get healthy.

snowrun
From the Syracuse Half  last spring – yes, spring – right before running 13.1 miles in a blizzard. Not my favorite running conditions!

One of the ways I am doing that? Yoga.

Here’s the thing: I really don’t much care for yoga. It’s one of those exercises that I feel better *after it’s over*, but I don’t particularly enjoy it and I have to force myself to do it. The classes are usually really long and a little pricey, which makes it even worse for me. I would much rather go for a run or go all out at HIIT. I’m also not terribly flexible (a sign I need it), and while I’ve stopped caring long ago what I look like compared with others in class, it’s still a little demoralizing to watch everyone touch their toes while you are barely grazing your knees.

For these reasons , Youtube has been a lifesaver. I’ve done Yoga With Adriene with some regularity on and off for the last couple of years. After my 6 mile run followed by pain a couple weeks ago, I made a commitment to do some yoga every day this month. Admittedly, I have missed a couple days, but overall I’ve stuck with it. 2/3 of the month in, I’ve had less pain and my range of motion has significantly improved. I’ve also been attending a restorative/yin class at my gym with my mother once a week, and there is also always Samara’s Runner’s Yoga series that she brings to Albany each month. (And she might be doing additional in-depth workshops in Albany in 2017!)

roscoeyoga
Roscoe really enjoys participating in morning yoga.  He especially enjoys reclined pigeon pose! 😉

So, while it is a little early for New Year’s resolutions, it seemed like a good time to refocus and get a jump start, so to speak. For a number of reasons – personally, professionally, and otherwise – I am seeing 2017 as a reset year, a time to rebuild. It’s going to be a hard year, but, I’m hoping, it will be a hard year of working toward something worthwhile as opposed to simply reacting to every setback that has come my way.

Practicing Self Care

It’s been an emotional week.

Last week, I attended a professional development session on Wednesday afternoon, and as it was a State holiday on Friday, I decided to make an extra long weekend out of it.  Chris and I had discussed day-tripping (or even overnighting) somewhere, but given everything we’ve had going on in our lives we both found we were content to staycation.  I had registered for the Wednesday event and asked for the additional time off before I knew what the outcome of the election would be.

If you know me personally or even just follow me on Twitter, my political leanings are no secret. However, this isn’t a blog about politics, nor do I want it to be.

Self care is so very important, and it is not something many of us are very good at. I am not going to pretend I wasn’t really emotionally gutted from Tuesday’s results, and at the end of the day I feel no need to justify this to anyone who doesn’t agree that I should be gutted. Emotions are very personal, and while examining them from a logical lens is important, it is also important to acknowledge what we feel and why we feel it, as allow ourselves to feel these things. Everyone processes grief differently.

This is not to say, it gives one permission to treat someone else badly because you feel badly yourself, or use it as an excuse to shirk responsibilities. Rather, allowing yourself to feel the feels and process the bad news you’ve received in a way that helps you move forward (however that may be), is a vitally important piece of self care. And this is true if your beloved pet dies, if a parent or loved one dies, if you have a bad breakup (friend or romantic), or if your country has taken a direction you fear is a step back. It really doesn’t matter what the cause of your grief is – what matters is that you permit yourself to begin healing once it occurs.

There are hundreds of good articles on the importance of self care for your physical and mental well-being. Greatist breaks down 25 Science-Backed Ways to Change Your Life by Taking Better Care of Yourself. Dozens of scientific studies have been conducted to this effect as well, indicating that this is vital for our well-being, and yet we don’t do it nearly enough. We are conditioned as a society to think that every moment should be scheduled with something meaningful, and social media certainly hasn’t helped in that regard. In my time off last week, I kept thinking we needed to do something, plan something, go somewhere … but we didn’t, and the unscheduled time was restorative.

Part of my self care is exercising. It didn’t used to be. I have had a stressful year with a lot of personal loss, and I have been channeling a lot of my grief and stress through working out and/or being outside. On Thursday, I went to the gym and completed a tough workout with more effort than I have done in some time – or at least, that’s how it felt – and the adrenaline and endorphins felt great. It didn’t change anything about my circumstances, but for a moment in time I felt like I was in control of something, and that mattered. On Friday, I did a double with my mother, and we were both pretty sore (in good ways!) on Saturday, when we opted for a long walk on the bike path.

My grandfather – with whom I was very close, and who was like a father to me growing up – passed away 11 years ago. This was long before I began my personal fitness journey. In hindsight, I wasn’t the best at self care at that point, though I was also very new to grief and loss. I wish I had in my life then what I have now, if only to gift my younger self that coping mechanism. But we all learn and grow from these experiences, and each time we maybe take a step further on our own personal journeys in how to help ourselves heal.

I recognize that some of this comes from a place of privilege – that not everyone has sufficient outlets to channel their grief in healthy ways and practice self care effectively. However, I urge you to cultivate these in any way that you can. It doesn’t have to be exercise. It doesn’t even have to be time off. It can be a couple hours of mindless, trashy TV. It can be preparing a new recipe, or losing yourself for an hour in a good book. It could even just be a long walk in a beautiful place. Or, for some, it can be attending a protest. For others, it may be more quietly volunteering for an organization doing work you believe in. There are many ways to practice self care, and I urge you to find these things and give yourself permission to access them.

Saturday Shorts: Are you exercising TOO much?

I was pointed to a Well + Good piece that ran earlier this year on overexercising and metabolism.  I’ve been thinking really thoughtfully on how best to incorporate all the things I love and be healthy, and this definitely spoke to many things that trip me up when trying to do All The Things!  (FOMO is real, friends.)
I was SORE this week, guys.  Sore in a good way!  I mixed up my routine a bit from the last couple of weeks solely for scheduling reasons, and it proved to be just enough to keep me on my toes.  I like to keep my weekly workout schedule somewhat consistent for planning purposes, but really this week proved why it’s totally worth it to switch gears on occasion.  With Chris away this week, I was trying to make sure I maximized my time at home with Finnegan, so I opted for morning HIIT classes and an earlier evening spin class (on a different day, with a different instructor).  This meant missing a format I really like, however it also meant attending a couple of other formats I really like that I haven’t been to in some time.  I struggled through the workouts in a good way because I hadn’t done them in a while!
Also, apparently according to the article, mornings really are the best time to burn!
Of course, if I don’t go in the evening with my mom at least once a week or so, she’ll be really sad.  She is not a morning person and won’t hit up 6:15am with me!

November check-in: Modified goals

Taking a break on the London trip report. It’s gotten longer and more unwieldy than I anticipated, and I’ve started chunking it out based on experiences rather than timeline – it seems to flow better that way.

Anyway, as I mentioned previously I have been scaling back the amount and intensity of my workouts – HIIT limited to 3x/week, no committing to races I hadn’t already signed up for through the end of the year (this one is hard – a lot of friends are running Stockadeathon and that race is a perennial favorite of mine), and trying to incorporate meaningful cross-training (i.e., spin, yoga). I did join a step challenge for the month of November, with a personal goal of 15,000 steps/day. Yesterday I got over 23,000 – this included two long walks with Finnegan, walk to and from work, and a 3 mile run. Today, no run and I had to drive, so I’m worried I won’t break 10,000. I am planning on taking Finnegan for a walk after my board meeting tonight, as the weather is nice. Tomorrow it’s going to rain. This will be a tough goal, but that’s why I set it.

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While Chris is away, these are the types of pleading looks I get to take him on a walk!

I mentioned that I hadn’t been feeling as much pain in my hip. I ran the Squirrelly Six Miler on Sunday with some friends (I had previously signed up!), and I took it relatively slow. It was a trail race and I hadn’t run trails since Ragnar, and it was quite muddy making the downhills – where I typically like to make up time after speed-hiking the uphills – mildly treacherous. The last 3/4 of a mile, after the last big downhill, are relatively flat (if anything, still slightly downhill, but not steep), so I took off at that point.

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This view. Even on a cloudy day. Hard not to stop and take it in.

I did feel some soreness in my hip toward the end, telling me that I had made the right call in continuing my stepped-back (for me) schedule as I am clearly not 100 percent healed. But I am getting there! In fact, after All The Steps yesterday, my OTHER hip/glute had some mild soreness – nothing that persisted, but maybe a sign that everything is finally starting to equalize? One step at a time, as they say.

I was supposed to run with a couple of friends Tuesday night, but both had separate work issues come up end of day, so I ended up running by myself. Truth be told, I didn’t have the best day at work myself and was pretty upset, so I decided to use the solo run as therapy. As always, it helped, and helped me work through a liveable solution and centered me. However, I was watching the clock pretty closely on this run and was pretty frustrated with my speed. I know there are good reasons I’ve slowed down some and it’s going to take me some time to get back to where I was before, but it was still disheartening. (Though, overall, the run was healing.)

And then Wednesday morning happened. I did a HIIT class before work, and our “Afterburn” – the last 2-4 min of class that is an all-out exercise once our circuit is complete – included a 60s push up hold. A push up hold is similar to a plank, except you bend your elbows. Even the instructor said this was tough and advised to do what we could and then drop to our knees. I’ve been struggling with core strength lately, but my push ups have been stronger recently (thanks to the 22 Push Up Challenge that I completed in August). I got into position, and thought, “OK, this is hard, but let’s see if I can hold this for at least 30 seconds.” Then we got to 30 seconds (sooner than I thought based on my internal counting – apparently that slows down when my brain is focused on a tough exercise!), and I thought, maybe 45 seconds? “GOOD, Jen!” the instructor says, and though I don’t look up, I wonder if I’m the only one left on my toes. “TEN SECONDS!” she shouts. OMG, I’ve GOT THIS.

I collapsed when she said we were done. But I stayed up for the full 60s. On my toes. I still don’t know if I was the only one in class that did it, but part of me wants to pretend that I was.

Later that morning, I pulled up Timehop and found this:

timehop

4 years ago, I did 20 minute workout videos a 2-3 times a week and could run 5 miles max. And look at me now. It’s been a long road, but it’s a worthwhile one, and sometimes the uphills are steep and the downhills are muddy, but then sometimes that finisher is primed for coasting.

Amok Vacationing Part 2: Air Travel

Now that the passport was secured, we could relax and get excited for London. And pack. I’m a chronic over-packer, which I’ve been trying to curb recently. A friend brags that she can manage with a large carry on for a 2 week trip abroad, and here I was barely able to zip my largest suitcase for checking for a 5 day trip. But, you feel me, right? You need at least three outfits for every day – daytime, nighttime, and workout gear on the off chance the mood strikes you to work out EVERY DAY. (I always work out on vacation. I never work out every day. But if I don’t have the gear and I wanted to …?) And, certain times of year, in certain climates, you have to pack extra in case you need layers! And you need at least three pair of shoes, maybe four depending on colors …

packing
Let’s just pretend my packing only looks like this when I only have a few days’ notice of international travel and not all the time. 😉

Anyway, yeah. I have a problem. I’m working on it. Sort of. It would be a lot easier if I was the type of person that didn’t have to plan for every contingency that runs through my head and just sport a carry on. Sometimes, I wish I was that breezy. It would make airline travel a lot easier, that’s for sure?

Speaking of, have I mentioned I find airline travel stressful?

I mean, I’m not afraid to fly. I don’t particularly love turbulence, and when there is a rocky landing, it’s really not my favorite, but that’s not fear. That’s me not liking the sensation of falling. I’m not a fan of elevators, either, and will typically opt for the stairs whenever practical. (My old job was on the 40th floor. That was not practical.) I also don’t like the pressure buildup in my ears, especially since I have inner ear issues to begin with. But again, not fear.

Even so, these aren’t the primary reasons I find it stressful. Sure, it’s convenient for long distances. But, the longer the distance, the more likely 1. I need a connection (and I can’t control what the plane is doing or when I get there!) or 2. I need to fly out of a larger airport, which means additional travel.

We flew out of JFK for our trip to London. It is my least favorite airport to fly in or out of. All things being equal, I would choose Logan or even Newark over JFK. But, Chris’ family lives on Long Island near the light rail, and the light rail goes direct to Jamaica Station, and from there you take the Air Train that connects directly with the airport. Painless, brainless. That is, unless you don’t give yourself enough time.

A few years ago, when Chris was still writing his book, I flew out to San Francisco to meet him for a week of sightseeing through the city and wine tasting around the Sonoma Valley. My flight was scheduled for a Sunday morning at 8am, and the earliest train from didn’t get into Jamaica until something like 6:15-6:30am. In hindsight, I should have let my mother in law call me a car service that morning, but it seemed silly to me to spend the money on that when the train was just as easy.

Needless to say, TSA on a springtime Sunday morning was MOBBED. (I didn’t factor in the honeymoon contingent into my travel plans.) After lugging my bags from the LIRR to the AirTrain, I had just barely an hour to get through security, and it took me nearly that. I sprinted to my gate, only to learn that the gate had changed (I didn’t have time to confirm on the board!). However, I will be ever thankful to the gate agents at JetBlue who knew the flight had not yet taken off, and they called them to hold the plane the extra 5 minutes it would take me to run across the terminal.

Ever since then, I have been ultra paranoid about getting to JFK super early “just to be safe.” We took the train, because our flight wasn’t scheduled to leave until after 6pm, though we took the 3pm train.  However, a Tuesday afternoon was far less chaotic. Checking into our flight and checking our bags was a bit of a hot, disorganized mess, but once that was done TSA took all of about 15 minutes. A record. Or maybe because so many people have TSA Pre-Check now, it makes the commoners line that much shorter. Who knows. However, we had a full hour before our plane would even begin BOARDING. Luxurious. Also, a little annoying. Because what were we going to do for an hour? (I’ll tell you – we were going to find outlets to charge our phones and play Words with Friends and troll Facebook, that’s what. At least, that’s what I did. Chris might have found a more productive use of his time.)

plane
Yes, yes it is.

We headed back to our gate shortly before we were scheduled to board. Chris – who despite being a bit afraid of flying, is a total aviation geek – was really excited because we were flying in a new model jet, the 77W. Of course, it being BRAND NEW, when it pulled into the gate there was a minor mechanical issue. Nothing to be terribly concerned about, but it was going to delay our trip by about an hour. Well, let me rephrase: in a normal airport, it would delay our trip by an hour. But this is JFK, and once you lose your place in the queue, you have to get back in line. We ended up taking off about 2 hours late … an hour of that sitting on the tarmac, in line. More things I have no control over. Meanwhile, even though upon learning our flight was going to come in about 2 hours later than scheduled, even though it was still afternoon in LA and we could let those making our arrangements know so that they could notify the car service that was picking us up, it was past bedtime in London meaning whatever poor driver was scheduled to come get us was going to be there 2 hours earlier than necessary. Though he was very polite and pleasant to us, knowing it was not our fault, he was pretty clearly peeved by the inconvenience of being at Heathrow at the crack of dawn only to learn he could have slept in an additional 2 hours. Me? Despite having slept for a few hours on the plane, I was BEAT. I passed out in the car on the way to the hotel, and was so relieved to find out that even though it was only about 10:30am, we were able to check in and I could squeeze in a much-needed catnap before we began to explore the city in earnest.

on-the-plane
We weren’t this smiley on the trip home.

I was really hoping our flight home wouldn’t be delayed. We were flying home Sunday and I opted not to take Monday off, which I was beginning to regret. If we were delayed 2 hours getting home, it was going to make Monday morning that much worse. More things I couldn’t control. Fortunately, our drive back to Heathrow was uneventful and featured a friendly and chatty driver, with whom we had a wonderful conversation. The drive home from Albany to Long Island that evening was painful. Our bodies were convinced we were leaving Long Island at 1am and getting home just before 5am, instead of reality, 8pm and midnight. Night owl Chris made it until about 11pm (4am) before he really began to crash, when I took over for the last leg after having fitfully napped on and off the last couple of hours. Otherwise, uneventful. As return trips usually are barring any adverse circumstances. Traveling home is never as fun or interesting as getting there.

Amok Vacationing Part One: The Consequences of Procrastination

It occurred to me that all of my posts to date have been about running.
Not that this is necessarily wrong.  The blog is called “Running Amok”, after all.  I had, however, meant it to be a play on words, albeit a somewhat ironic play on words.  I am extremely Type-A and highly scheduled, and though my desk (and my apartment!) might be organized chaos on a good day, for the most part I am pretty hyper when it comes to keeping order and plans and schedules and lists.
In other words, I am very much a classic ENFJ.
Anyway, I digress.  Given my choice of blog title and knowing my personality type (and the weaknesses that go along with it!), it seems most appropriate that the first “non running” post should be about the very impromptu trip that Chris and I took to London last month.  As I said in this post, Chris found out on a Thursday that he had won a trip for two through iHeartRadio to go to London to see the world premiere of Eight Days a Week, the Touring Years, in Leicester Square.  Of course, said premiere was only a week away, and they were looking to schedule our flights for that Tuesday.  Tuesday! Four days notice!  I didn’t even have a passport!
See, yes, I am as I mention above incredibly Type A.  I am also a Grade A Procrastinator, especially when whatever it is does not have a deadline.  I’m driven by deadlines.  Without one, it’s difficult to prioritize.  Until recently, I didn’t need a passport, so I didn’t bother to get one.  It wasn’t a money issue – of course, they are pretty expensive, and that is the reason most people don’t have them on hand unless they need them, but for me it was just not a priority.  That is, until it was.
Chris told me when I took a late lunch that afternoon where he was bringing me my favorite donuts.  I walked back into my office, relieved that my boss was at his desk, to tell him that I wanted to take the next week off and why.  I didn’t think there would be an issue taking the time – I had the accruals, it wasn’t a prime sought-after vacation time that would create a coverage issue, and I didn’t have any pressing deadlines looming – it was more that I was asking for time with literally no notice … after all, I needed the following day (Friday) off, as well, because I needed to secure a passport.
As I had mentioned in my previous post, my boss graciously granted me the time off, so the next step was calling the passport agencies to see about getting a passport in one day.  The Department of State website clearly discourages this practice, but it was clear from friends who had done it before that it was an option for “non-emergencies” that were just, well, surprises.  I made my appointment for mid-morning in Boston, giving us plenty of time to drive out there that morning. (I chose Boston instead of New York because we were originally supposed to spend a long weekend in Portland, ME, that weekend, which we ultimately decided to cancel, but not until after I made the appointment in Boston.)
For all of you who are wondering, here is how it works:
  • You make sure you have proof of immediate international travel (emails from the Universal Music with my tentative itinerary – Check)
  • You call and make an appointment at the nearest Passport Agency (being in the Northeast, we are fortunate that there are actually quite a few within about a 3 hour drive)
  • You get yourself a Passport Photo (thank you again, Kristin, for sending me a coupon!)
  • You gather all of your vital identity documents – birth certificate, social security card, driver’s license, marriage certificate, etc.  Being Type A, all of this was safely tucked in drawer with other vital documents for safekeeping in case I need them quickly – the animals’ shot records, our recent year tax returns, the titles to our cars, etc.
  • You set your alarm for Ass O’Clock so you give yourself more than enough time to drive to your Passport Center of Choice the next morning.
I did the first leg of driving, and Chris took over for me in Lee, MA.  It was then when I looked over at his head. “You aren’t wearing your hat,” I said.
“I brought a hat,” he replied.
I smirked.  “Which hat?”
“My Saratoga hat.”
Indeed, Chris was as concerned as I was about securing the passport.  He didn’t want anything – not even the fact that my husband is a Yankees fan – ruining my chances.
There was no parking to be found in and around the O’Neill Federal Building (no surprises there), so Chris dropped me off and proceeded to drive around Boston, potentially looking for parking while he waited for me.  I walked by a CVS across from the building, and felt some relief that, if I needed it, I could get another photo taken if necessary.  That photo center must get a LOT of business.  I was an hour early for my appointment, which was fine, as it seems like it is merely so they can be prepared for the number of people who will be coming in that day.  After chatting with the woman at the point of entry, who confirmed I had all of my necessary documentation, I went inside and waited about 15 minutes before being called to the counter.
This is where things got a little dicey.
You see, this isn’t my first passport. I had one when I was in high school for a trip to Mexico.  Not only had this long since expired, but I didn’t renew it right away because I was in the process of legally changing my name.  By the time I got all of that situated, it became a source of procrastination for, oh, 15 years? 🙂  Anyway, in the meantime, I found out with my legal name change I could also legally “correct” my birth certificate.  I did so, only to find out that an official “correction” results in having the old name crossed off, rather than a clean copy be reissued.  Had I known this, I would never have bothered!  What a waste.  Because of this, I still carry around the court order allowing the name change AND the birth certificate when both identity documents are needed.
I filled out a cancel passport request for the old, presumably long since thrown away, passport.  I handed that in with all of my identity documents, including the court order and the “corrected” birth certificate.  The woman processing my forms looked confused.  I didn’t blame her.  I tried to explain why I was giving her so many forms.  She then went into the back to speak to her supervisor.  In reality, I probably only waited about 10 minutes, if that, for her to return.  However, it felt like an eternity.  The government is not a fan of aliases.  What if this is what keeps me going on this trip to London with Chris next week?  I began to panic.  I did my best to maintain my composure while I waited.  I tried to look in the back to see if I could see what was happening.  (I couldn’t.)
She FINALLY returned.  “Oh, so sorry about that.  Your old passport was so old we had trouble finding it in the system.  It’s so long since expired we didn’t even need to cancel it out.”
That was it?  A technical glitch?  I blinked, nonplussed.
“Also, I was getting approval to issue your passport this afternoon.”
*Blink*
I asked, “Did you get it?”
“Huh? Oh, yes.”
Well.  That’s a relief.
I paid, and was given a receipt with a confirmation number and instructions to return at 4pm. I called Chris, and as he still had not found parking, we decided instead to spend the next few hours at Trillium.
trillium
After all of that excitement, I needed to calm my nerves.

 

Given the parking and traffic situation in Boston, we miscalculated how much time we would need to grab a late lunch before heading back to get my passport, so I ended up being quite early.  Chris had an opportunity to drive his long loop through Cambridge and back while he waited.  At about 10 minutes to 4, a guard came out, with a thick Boston accent, explaining how everyone proceeding in an orderly manner would mean everything would go faster.  “You get your passports, we get to go home for the weekend.  It’s a win-win.”  His jovial manner put me instantly at ease – even though I knew logically I was very likely to have a passport in hand in the next few minutes, I still was not going to celebrate until I physically had it in my possession.
Finally – FINALLY – the wait was over and I had it in hand.  The angst of the last 27 hours or so had paid off.  I had a passport.  I could legally travel to London.  Let the adventures begin …

Spin!

As I mentioned in my last post, one of the things I realized during this year’s training cycle is that too much of a good thing is, well, not a good thing. My cross training last year included 1-2 HIIT classes a week, along with yoga, aerobics, weightlifting, trail running, hiking, and spin.

This year, it was very sporadic yoga, 4-5 HIIT classes a week and … not much else. The weather was certainly a contributing factor in keeping my road mileage up, in addition to cramping my style for trail running and hiking as much as usual, but I otherwise had no excuse for the lack of variety in my workouts.  As much as “every day is different” in HIIT (especially when there are different HIIT formats on each day), like anything the effectiveness declines at a certain point.  In fact, this article explains exactly why doing HIIT more than 2-3 times per week could be detrimental to your overall fitness gains.

Therefore, in my new “off-season” training plan, in addition to upping my yoga attendance, I’ve resolved to start going to spin class more often. Hiking season (for me) will be coming to a close soon – the next few weeks are quite busy and I’m not a huge fan of winter hiking. (I do enjoy snowshoeing on moderate trails, such as those found at Thacher Park, the Albany Pine Bush, and Plotter Kill Preserve, but I generally just say no to high peaks if it involves needing crampons.) Anyway, last night was my first spin class in nearly a year, and I felt it in all of the good ways. I was excited to see that my favorite spin instructor is still teaching at my “other” gym (the big box one with multiple locations nearby and a low membership fee, that comes in handy when I need to use the treadmill or … well, want to go to spin class!), and the room was recently redone with a large screen that plays virtual videos of beautiful roads during class. (When class isn’t in session, it plays videos of spin instructors, so basically even if there isn’t a spin class scheduled, you can still go to spin class – one of the things my freelancing husband loves about this gym.)

I found settling into a hard pace a lot easier than I anticipated – not physically, per se, but mentally. Before I knew it, I was pushing away in a hard gear, out of breath and sweating, while telling myself I just needed to get through the song before I took a sip of water and slowed down a bit. I forgot how much harder I push myself in spin class compared with other workouts … including running itself. Which explains why my body was missing this form of exercise so much. In fact, after class, I was not only excited for my next spin class, but I am also excited for my next HIIT class and see how hard I can push myself. I am also excited for my next run, to see if I can push myself harder and faster there as well.

Also, good news: I haven’t been having hip pain! I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve dialed back the mileage, gone to more yoga, visited the chiropractor, or switched back to a higher drop shoe (or some combination of all of these), but whatever it is, I’m glad for it! It still hurts to drive long distances (cruise control helps), but otherwise I am obviously doing something right!

Racing to spark joy

Well … it went.

It didn’t go terribly.  I knew I wasn’t going to make my goal of sub-2:00, or even PRing, but I didn’t even make my revised goal (2:10).  I came in just north of 2:13, which is about an average of a 10:09/mile pace.  Given most of my training runs have been in the 10:30-11:30 range, and given my injury, this really was not a bad showing at all.  My legs were feeling pretty wrecked at the end of the race, but by and large, I made it through this race feeling pretty strong.  My hip was bothering me in points, but it is definitely a lot better than it was.

This past year, and in particular this most recent training season, has taught me a lot about why I race and what I want to get out of it.  I had grand plans of training year round, increasing my speed, breaking a threshold I once never thought possible. Except I didn’t train year round.  This year’s winter was mild enough to allow me to run far more than I had even intended, but this summer’s humidity stopped that pretty solidly in my tracks.  Instead of subbing out missed runs with spin class – a tactic I’ve used in the past with some success – I subbed out for HIIT classes because I enjoy HIIT classes more than spin classes.  While HIIT is a great complement to training, it is NOT a substitution for running.  My endurance continued to improve, but I got slower.  A LOT slower.  And when I tried to push harder, I got hurt.  Too little, too late.

Even so, I’m glad I ran Hartford this year instead of deferring.  The race itself is really great – gentle rolling hills (just enough to keep it interesting), some really nice portions of the course, great spectators, well-organized, terrific post-race food and beer, good swag.  Hartford in and of itself isn’t exactly a choice destination, which is why I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it unless you have a tie to to the area.  I was happy that I was able to reconnect with an old college friend who ran the race as well, which, for me, gave an added bonus to the trip.

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Always fun to catch up with old friends.  It’s also always fun to drink a good microbrew post-race!

However, more than anything, I am glad I didn’t defer because it reinforced that my approach to choosing races has been all wrong.  At one point, I had thought I wanted to be a 50-stater, however I have since decided against this as I didn’t want to travel to a certain place or run a particular race just to check off a box.  With limited time and limited funds, I simply don’t want to commit to that.  Not only that, but some states have multiple races (and places!) of interest, and I don’t want to overlook those in favor of arbitrary race-bagging.

However, I still was registering for races to check off a box:  wanting to do X number of races in a year/season/time frame, without regard for whether it was something that would actually spark joy.  If I am spending the money and time, and putting in the work, I want it to spark joy.  Convenience is a legitimate factor, too, but not at the expense of joy.  As I said in my last post, I want to love my sport again.  This is how I’ll get there.

I’ve made some preliminary choices for possible 2017 half marathons, and I am already getting really excited about the prospect of competing in these races and seeing these places. As it so happens, the preliminary choices are all in different states (and none of them states I have ran half marathons in yet), but that’s merely a coincidence.

In the meantime, other than the races I am currently signed up for (Squirrely Six Miler and Troy Turkey Trot 10K), I won’t be competing in any additional races for the rest of the year.  While this decision certainly lifts any self-imposed pressure for the time being, the decision is bittersweet. Stockadeathon – one of my favorite local fall classics – is coming up too soon for comfort, and even on my four mile run last night I felt some nagging hip pain (it passed relatively quickly, before I even completed my run).  I still am going to keep running as long as the weather cooperates, but I am not going to push myself.

I also really need to get new sneakers.  There’s definitely still life in my sneakers (many reviews have my sneakers going for 700+ miles, I currently have about 450), but if I am going to run for more than 5-6 miles, I need some newer cushion.  I can hold onto these for short runs while giving my legs a rest in newer shoes with longer runs.  I have a box full of sneakers to donate after a recent Fall Purge, so I really need to make a trip to Fleet Feet anyway…