Saturday, December 28, 2013

Running Streak: Week Four

When we last left off, the running streak was over three weeks through and things were going well. The weekend of Saturday, December 21 and Sunday, December 22 proved a bit of an unsuccessful one.

Saturday: My legs were very very tired. All that running was starting to catch up with me and I was beginning to feel it. (I'm certain it's because I remarked on my blog on Friday about how happy I was at how my body was holding up that the unraveling started the day after.) For Saturday, I wanted to be able to keep up the streak, so I played it smart and did a short one mile run around my neighborhood, Echo Hill, and then did a half an hour stretch.

Sunday: After taking it easy on Saturday, I was hoping that I would feel ready to go on Sunday. However, I woke up Sunday wanting to do anything other than run. It was warm out, 55 degrees in December in New England, but I could barely get up the enthusiasm to run a mile. My legs were tired, running felt hard, and I was getting sick of the running streak. I focused instead on doing a half an hour resistance training workout and then ran the minimum of one mile.

As you can see the weekend was not a great one. Next up was the week of Christmas. I knew that I was going to have to balance my running with traveling to Connecticut for the holidays and family get-togethers. None of this was bad at all. I love seeing my family. Plus, I was thinking, decreasing my focus on the streak would be a help both for my body and my mind.

Monday: After a rough weekend I was dreading going for a run on Monday. When I got up, I noticed that it was raining. My legs felt tired, and the weather was junky. I decided once again to do a half an hour resistance training workout with a focus on my upper body. I then put on my running clothing with a sigh. And had a wonderful run!

That's right. Despite what I thought would happen I had a blast! The music was right, my legs warmed up right away, and I had a fun time running around in the wet. I felt like a kid. I ran a mile in 10:00, my average in general, but the fastest I had done all week since my legs had been fatigued. I felt revived!

Later in the day, Seth and I decided to take an advanture to Springfield, Massachusetts, around a forty minute drive south of Amherst where we live. Seth's parents had given us a gift card to the restaurant Plan B, a well-reviewed chain burgar restaurant. Seth loves a good hamburger to we headed to the Basketball Hall of Fame, where the restaurant was located.

I am, in general, not a huge lover of hamburgers; however, I decided to check one out since it was the main focus of Plan B. I ended up having a hamburger with avocado, an egg, and kalamata olive spread. It was quite good! It was also quite huge. I was glad I had done an extra mile run after weight training.

Tuesday: I got up fairly early on Tuesday to travel down to Connecticut for Christmas Eve. My mom and I were planning to celebrate together just the two of us since, unfortunately, my brother had to work Christmas Eve and also Christmas Day.

When I arrived at the house, we decided to do some decorating. Mom had already done some, but we wanted to add garland to the mantel. My mom said, "Very festive for two Jews!"

After decorating and before lunch, I decided to go for a run. I like running when I am home in Bethany. It's a quite town. The streets are tree-lined and, more or less, traffic-free. Like in Amherst, there are trails everywhere for small side adventures.

I set off for a nice three mile run along a mix of roads and trails. One highlight of the run was chasing a deer through the woods. I lost him when I had to jump a particularly high fallen tree.

As I've mentioned before, I've been having some problems with cramping in my left calf. I've been diligent about stretching and rolling it on the foam roller, but it still tends to tighten up in very cold weather or on hills. Where my house is in Bethany is very hilly. The word "hill" is even in the name of our street. I was a bit worried about this as I set off on a particularly hilly section. However, I ended up doing okay and not having too much of a problem. I tackled a hill that was decently steep and was able to run the entire way, albeit slowly. I took a very small break at the top and gently stretched out my calf, but found myself to be alright.

I got back from my run, took a quick shower, and then it was time for the holiday festivities to begin. Mom and I made steamed meat wontons and bread with pepperoni and cheese. We enjoyed our holiday treats with prosecco.

Wednesday: Christmas Day! My brother, Greg, didn't have to work until the afternoon, so we came over to enjoy breakfast with Mom and me. It was great to see him. As a bonus, he brough Demo who got to spend all day with us for Christmas.

When Greg left, I headed out for a run. It was a busy day, one which I wanted to spend with my family, so I decided to keep the run to just a mile. Plus, it was beyond cold out! It was around 19 degrees and running felt like a punishment. I started by running half a mile up hill and then returned running half a mle downhill. The calf was slightly tight towards the end of the uphill half mile, but that's to be expected in the extreme cold. I hastened back to the warm house as quickly as possible for a hot shower.

My aunt and uncle were going to be joining us to Christmas, so after I got cleaned up I set the table for the holiday meal.

My theme was "winter wonderland". I used a white brocade table cloth, silver chargers, and Duncan Miller Teardrop pattern plates, candlesticks, and glasses. I folded the napkins to look like Christmas trees and topped with ornaments. My aunt provided flowers from her store.

We had a fantastic holiday with lots of fun times with family!

Thursday: Thursday morning, I got up and left for a visit to my father in Glastonbury. We had plans to go for a morning run and then clean my Beetle.

When I got to the house, we exchanged holiday gifts. I got these awesome Injinji socks for running. I am oddly fascinated by things where your toes are separated and found these socks very exciting.

I got to check out the socks right away. My dad and I decided to go for a quick run around his neighborhood. Dad had done a hilly and cold 10:30 a.m. 5K race on Christmas Day. His quads were feeling it, so we opted for one loop around the "block", a fairly flat 1.2 mile course.

The quick run gave us plenty of time for project #2: Cleaning the Volkswagen (also known as Volkie). It was 27 degrees out, too cold for washing the car outside. We headed over to the car wash.

The car wash near Dad was a magical fun experience. I have never gotten to do to a do-it-yourself carwash. There isn't really one near my house. I was loved getting to got through the instructions, pressing the myriad of bottons for the different options -- we focused on the rinse and foaming brush -- and racing the clock

By the end, the Volkie was looking very fine! (Although, sadly, the car got dirty again later that day when I had to drive through some slush and rain back up to Amherst.)

I spent the afternoon with my dad and stepmom, visiting with Greg and his girlfriend at Greg's house. After three days of time spent with family, I then headed back to Amherst.

When I got home, an exciting package was waiting. It contained a t-shirt and membership card.

I had decided to join the local running club, Sugarloaf Mountain Athletic Club. This was a big deal for me. I have been running for a few years now and would really like to have the opportunity to run with others. I, in general, run by myself, and I want to broaden my horizons.

I have two things that I want to try this year. The first is doing more trail running. The second is doing running with a running group. I know from my experience with taking an aerobics class, that exercing with others is more fun and makes you push yourself. I want to push myself more with my running and start doing more challenging runs and speedwork. I think that joining a running club and spending time with other runners will help me reach my goals.

The Sugarloaf Mountain Athletic Club (SMAC) looks like a very active club. It's the big running club for Western Massachusetts. They sponsor a lot of the local runs that I have done, as they sponsor their own race series with around a dozen races that you can sign-up for at reasonable prices. Members get points for the races they complete in the series. SMAC also sponsors a track series at Smith College in January, a 10 mile race in February, speed workout sessions in South Deerfield in the spring through fall, and weekly 5K's in Northampton spring through fall. Members also have a chance to win a lottery entry into the Boston Marathon, plus get 10% off on apparel at a couple of local running stores. Membership is $15 for the year. For that price I decided to check it out.

SMAC is having their annual meeting a week from today at the Amherst Brewing Company. I'm planning to attend both the run before the meeting (three, five, and ten mile runs are offered as options) and the meeting itself. I think this will be a great way to get involved with the group and start to meet people. Maybe I will find someone who lives close to me in Amherst who might want to do some runs with me. I'm hoping that there are a few people who are slower runners like me.

Friday: I hadn't done any weight training in the few days that I was in Connecticut, so I opted for a half an hour of circuit training followed by a mile run for Friday. I had a cold but fun short run through the snowy woods over at Wentworth Farm. I could have done more, but kept it short because I had already done thirty minutes of exercise and wanted to do a three mile run on Saturday.

Saturday: Today's 5K run around Echo Hill was probably one of the most unsuccessful and unfun runs I can remember. I felt lethargic as I headed out, but was convinced I should do my planned run. The weather was fairly mild at around 34 degrees with no wind.

I started out my run fairly aggressively by running all the way up the hill from my house into upper Echo Hill South. It might have been better to walk this bit because I ended up having some problems with my calf throughout the run. The first mile and a half of the run was uninspired but not terrible.

Things started to unravel right around the two mile mark. My left calf was tight. My right foot ached. I slowed to a walk trying to pull myself together. After a minute, with the utmost stongwill, I started to run again. After a couple of minutes I slowed to a walk to stretch my foot. This continued for around half a mile. Realizing I only had half a mile or so left, I was able to rally and finish my run. Still the results were dismal -- a 5K run that took me 34 minutes. My body was tired. My legs were dead. I felt tired of this streaking business.

I came back and decided I was in need of a treat to get myself back on track. For Christmas, Seth's parents had gotten me the matcha sifter that I had been eyeing. It was time to check it out.

I began heating water and took out the sifter. I measured out a couple teaspoons of matcha and, using the paddle included with the sifter, began to run the paddle over the sifter and remove any clumps.
Success! The matcha tasted way better after going through the sifter. No clumps whatsoever.

I now have a full set of matcha tools: bowl, wisk, and sifter. All these lovely tools let me make matcha whenever I want. A very nice treat!

Back to talking about the running streak. I have now run continuously for 31 days. I have four days left in the streak because I plan to do my last run on January 1, New Year's Day. While running daily has been an interesting experience, I have to say that I'm not sure I would do a running streak again. I don't think that it's in the best interest of my running to run daily for a few reasons:
  • I feel like I ran lots of junk miles. There were many days when I just went out and ran one mile for the streak. While I think it was great to get an extra ten or so minutes of exercise during the holiday season, I think that this wasn't something that improved my running.
  • Running daily doesn't allow the muscles to rest. I know this goes without saying, but at this point I am seeing the impact of not taking a day to rest 100%. My runs over the course of the streak have on average been slower than the speed I normally run at. While weather is a factor, the main piece is that my legs are tired. Running has felt forced some days, and I have had less of a spring in my step.
  • Going for a run every day gets mentally boring. I did mix in other activity in my streak -- hence the large number of days when I ran one mile -- especially strength training. Still knowing that I had to go out every single day gets draining. Sometimes I didn't feel like running, but I felt I had to in order to keep the streak going. I know I will like running better when I go back to doing it around three times a week.

There are definitely a few things I did like about the streak, lots of which I have mentioned before:
  • It was nice to get supplimental exercise.
  • Running daily made me more inventive about my running routes. I got to run some trails I wouldn't have before. It was fun to experiement.
  • Getting outside to run was great. I am a bit of a shut-in during the winter. Having to go outside daily for a run allowed me to get more fresh air than I otherwise would have.

I'm still TBD about what I will do after the streak. I had been considering a 10K for New Year's Day, but I think I'm going to skip that. I'm not in good shape for a hilly 10K and am ready from some rest. My plan at this point is to take a few days off from running after January 1. I will do a run with the SMAC on January 5 at the annual meeting and then decide what's next. I'm considering signing up for the SMAC organized Jones 10-Miler, which takes place in Amherst on the last Sunday in February. The course is supposed to be fairly hilly and my participation is somewhat hinging on how I feel after a few days off after the streak. If the calf is feeling okay, I might go for it, even though spending just under two hours running in the cold February weather sounds somewhat crazy.

No matter what happens, when the streak is over, I will find a new challenge to take on.

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