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On Running Without Music

March 6, 2012

First off, when I checked the temp on my phone this morning before I went running, it was 25 degrees. So I had to wear tights. Boo. At least it was a lovely run on a beautiful morning.

I don’t run with music. Ever. Well, at least not in the past two years. I used to be a devotee of always running with music. I’d make the best playlists and blast them into my ears to drown out my footsteps and distract me from my run. I love music and listening to my ipod while running was a time for me to enjoy different bands and jam out. I had my ipod on my arm during every single race, every single run, every single track workout. It made me pretty anti-social at all of these, and kept me in my own world during running. I always wanted to become a runner who didn’t run with music, but didn’t think I had the mental power to run without the constant distraction that was my music.

Then, two things happened. First, I did a Ragnar relay in May of 2010 and didn’t feel comfortable running with music. The course was on open roads, and for my own safety I wanted to be as aware as possible of any traffic. Therefore, for my three runs, I ran sans ipod. I was nervous it was going to be difficult completing my runs that way, but it really wasn’t. I got to enjoy the changing scenery and the cheers of my teammates and other runners. I mean, I could actually hear what people were saying to me while I was running! But, my longest run during the relay was about 6.5 miles, and I couldn’t imagine myself running anything longer without music, and I was planning on continuing longer runs with my ipod.

The second thing was the 2010 Brooklyn Half in two weeks later. I had planned on starting the race without music and turning it on after the first mile or so. I had it strapped to my arm with my headphones wrapped around my sports bra strap—a good look for everyone. Shortly after the start, however, Amy came up behind me and started chatting and running with me. She kept with me for the entire race, even though I tried to get her to go ahead. I still feel bad about the slow race I was having that day and the fact that I held her back. But, I was having such a nice time talking with her, that although I kept wanting to, I never did put my headphones in and listened to music. Running that entire 13.1 miles with Amy by my side essentially forced me out of my running-with-music habit, and made me realize I wouldn’t go crazy running with just the thoughts in my head.

And today…I would never go back. Running without music has made me a better runner. I now listen to my breath, which should be hard if I’m doing speedwork, or quiet and slow on a long run. I was running with a coach once last year, and he commented how I was breathing really loudly, and that if I focused on quieting my breath, I would find my running easier, which I did and do. Running with music I would have never been able to hear the audibility of my breath and learn to breathe in a calmer manner. I can listen to my footsteps. I can hear if they’re plodding and heavy or light and peaceful. I can hear how my steps change when I switch from the roads to the trails. Running without music helped me switch from a heel-plant to a midfoot-plant, because I was able to really use my mind to focus on where my foot was hitting the ground. It also made me able to focus on improving my posture while running, standing up straighter and relaxing my shoulders. When running with music, you often become too involved with what you’re listening to, and get distracted from what your body should be doing and can tense up all over. Running without music has improved my ability to keep a steady pace. I can tell when my body is moving fast and when it’s moving slow better, and I am much better at keeping even paces, when I used to fluctuate significantly over a single mile. Running without music is more of a release than it used to be. I use my runs to think through my problems, figure out my schedule, contemplate difficulties that are going in my life, and work out my constant stress.

Most of all, running without music has made me mentally stronger when I run. I don’t have the constant distraction of music, and if I am having a few difficult miles, I have to find an inner source of energy and strength to keep going. I am able to overcome tough spots in races easier than I used to, and I feel good knowing that I did that without the crutch of my ipod.

I don’t want this to be taken jab at everyone who does run with music, because I know it does have it’s benefits, and running with music is so fun. But, for me personally, it has changed my running, totally for the better. So, if you run with music, try a run or two without. It might just help your run.

Ramblings from My Run

March 3, 2012

One nice thing about training for a half instead of a full marathon is that my long runs are never really “long.” I’ll probably peak at 14 or 15 miles for my longest run during this training cycle, which isn’t intimidating like a 22 miler can be, and it doesn’t seem to take over my whole day. I’m kinda into this half marathon training thing.

I headed out bright and early this morning—still riding on this inability-to-really-sleep thing. I had 12 miles on tap, and had originally planned on running up the Hudson, out and back style. But, my Garmin was being a little bitch today and I decided to stick to Central Park because I know the distances really well. The weather called for a full day of rain, which I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to, but when I stepped outside it was just misty and quite foggy. Perfect! And fun! The fog was especially evident when I hit the park; you couldn’t see across the reservoir in the slightest.

Because my Garmin really wasn’t working in the slightest (and it might be dead for good, by the way. RIP. Anyone want to buy me a new one? Because I cannot afford it), I did a route that I had measured before of being a little over 9 miles, which with my run to and from the park, would equal about 12 miles.

A few things of note:

  • There was NO ONE out when I got to the park. Did the rain deter everyone? It’s just a little water, people. For the first hour I probably saw 10 other runners.
  • There was a bike race going on. I knew there were bike races frequently very early on weekends, but had never witnessed one. It was so fun to watch! Those crowds of bikers! Like a mini Tour de France! I would totally cause the most ridiculous bike pileup if I were riding with them. Also…cyclists…hottttttttt. Just saying.
  • I got a stomach cramp around the 5th mile. I haven’t had a stomach cramp in years. I know there are tricks to make them go away, but had no idea what to do. I tried to take really deep breaths and run through it, but I eventually had to stop and take a break for it to go away. Ugh. Annoyed. Hopefully that won’t happen again.
  • I felt really good today. Like, really really really good. Strong, energized, not fatigued. I feel like I’m on a roll with my running right now, and I like it. This hasn’t happened to me for a long time. I’m sure it won’t last forever, but I’m loving this.
  • I saw a girl from my research methods class last semester running with her dog. I wanted to say hi and play with her dog. I didn’t. I regret that.
  • Actually, when you hit Central Park in the early hours, there are LOTS more dogs than normal. I want to stop and play with all of them. Every single one. I want a dog. sigh.
  • I finished my run with a loop around the Reservoir, which was really stupid. Everyone knows that when it rains, the path around the Reservoir is riddled with giant puddles that are basically impossible to avoid. At first I tried to avoid them but it was impossible. I ended up just running through the puddles, which was actually pretty fun. But now my shoes are soaked.

Overall, a really great run (except for that damn cramp). I’m having fun on this training cycle, and it’s basically keeping me from going crazy this semester. Running FTW.

Becoming an Early Morning Runner

March 1, 2012

Still tired. Thought you should know.

A long time ago, when I was just a newbie, I was a regular morning runner. I would set my alarm for 4:30am, hop right out of bed, and head out to get my miles in. In the years since then, that habit died hard, and now I have to set 4 alarms and will eventually get out of bed after snoozes galore. I have been doing morning runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays when I’m not working and have class, but at more like 8am, after wasting a few hours. I really want to, though, become an early morning runner. I’m talking up at 5, on the streets by 5:30 or 6 at the latest. Get the run in when you might normally be sleeping and be able to go on with the rest of your day.

Early morning running would be so beneficial to my schedule. I just need the kick in the pants wake up with the first alarm and just do it

If you had asked me a week ago if I though I could do any early morning runs this week, I would have said no. But as of this morning, I’m three for three!

How did I do it? Become so stressed out that I keep waking up really early and can’t go back to sleep. Try it! It works!

But anyway, it’s been years since I hit the road before 6am, and I’ve done it three times this week, and am pretty much shocked. Tuesday morning, I was wide awake at 5am. I definitely debated just lying there for the next two hours, without sleeping, but I had so much on my mind that I knew running would allow my brain to take a little break. I was out the door by 5:45 and did a solid 7.5 mile run, including my favorite extended bridle path loop. The park was busy but not full, and everyone seemed to be in good spirits. I guess you have to be a certain type of person to be running before 6am. My legs felt pretty beat, and I kept it slow, but it was pretty great to start a run when it was dark and watch the sun rise. The rest of that day was slightly insane, and it felt so good to know that I had already gotten my run in when I would have been asleep. Score!

And this morning…I did it again! I texted Kelly last night to see if she wanted to join me today. I knew she is an early morning runner, and she lives close to me, and thought that having a running buddy and a running date would make me more motivated to get out the door, so as not to leave her hanging. We had a plan to meet at Engineers’ Gate at 6:15, which I made it to by around 6:18. Damn trucks for making it impossible to cross the street, making me late! But, once again I was awake bright and early from stress, and it was no problem getting out the door. Kelly was waiting for me, and we hit the bridle path for two loops that went by in a heartbeat. She and I have a lot in common: we both are in school full time (and the same program at different schools), and we work part time, so we get the slightly psychotic schedules we somehow manage. My legs felt great, though, this morning, and having a running friend made those miles feel like nothing. I skipped out after those two loops because I didn’t want to get too high in mileage, and ended with about 6.3 miles in my legs. I know we’ll do this again in the very near future, though, because she’s out there almost every day, and having a standing running date might help me keep this momentum going, especially once I start sleeping normally again.

And now…I’m back at school. Wearing yoga pants for the day. Overwhelmed, as usual. And I will NOT check my work email today! I will not! No! *goes and checks work email.*

Why finish a paper when I can blog?

February 28, 2012

Best way to procrastinate from finishing a really bad paper? Why, write a blog post, of course.

So, spring semester started, and I’m tired. I feel like all I do is go to work, go to the library, go to class. Take today and tomorrow, for instance. Today I woke up at 5, went to the gym, left for work at 7:30, had one of my best commutes in a long while (and for someone who commutes an hour and a half each way to work, that is huge), worked for a bunch of hours, and am now sitting in the library at school to finish said paper because I know I can’t get any work done at home (and, as shown by the fact that I’m writing a blog post instead of writing the paper, maybe I can’t do work at the library either). And tomorrow? Going to TRY REALLY HARD to get in an early run with Kelly, then I have a 10AM appointment in East Harlem for a school project, then back to the library to write another paper, my least favorite class from 5 to 7, then back to the library to finish paper number 2. There’s not a lot of sleep found in there.

The point of the above paragraph? None. Just to show you that I am justly tired. I mean, I should probably just delete it because I don’t really deserve the empathy.

But…at least I’m hopefully getting a run in! Still doing that, ya know. Although my runs sometimes get knocked off my schedule during really bad weeks (like last week, when I had a very very very scary exam and a horrible project), most weeks, they’re hanging tight and helping me stay sane.

My runs have actually been going pretty well, as a matter of fact. I’m running about three times a week (still keeping the number low to avoid injury from building my miles too quickly) and they’re for the most part awesome. And, I’m slowly adding some speed back into my routine. Not speed work yet (three weeks away, maybe), but I’m running with my Garmin again to keep an eye on my pace, and trying to finish all of my runs with a few miles a bit quicker than the rest of the run. Be that 10k pace, half pace, what have you.

In fact, on my “long” run yesterday, which was 11.5 miles, I finished the run with a loop around the bridle path at 8:05 pace and a loop around the reservoir at 7:35 pace (I did not mean to go that fast on that part). My goal half pace is 7:57, and running 3 miles at that speed-ish on tired legs was hard. Really hard, actually, and I was donzo by the end of that second loop. But, if I want to hit my goal in May, then I need to learn what it feels like to run that pace after running 10 miles. I’ve never trained like this for a longer distance, aiming for a specific pace that is faster than my everyday pace, and I’m realizing that it’s mentally and physically imperative to learn how to run at race pace. And, honestly, it’s pretty fun to really push my body like that. I’m really looking forward to seeing what my leggies can do in the next few months. I mean, as long as my super scary exams are kept to a minimum.

Was the above pointless? Yes. But, isn’t that the point of procrastination? Yes.

And finally, happy birthday to one of my favorite people in the entire world, Molly! I love you, bestie. 🙂

Race Report: Brrrrooklyn Hot Chocolate 10k

January 30, 2012

This race report might be low on enthusiasm. I’ve been listening to a lecture on Thiamine all day, and my brain is fried. But, this was my reward for finished the entire lecture. Yay?

I ran a race yesterday! And RACED a race! This first race I’ve “raced” since the Mini 10k, all the way back in June. I’ve run my fair share of races, but most just to get my 9 in to run NYCM this year.

I found the Brrrrooklyn Hot Chocolate 10k about a month ago, and emailed it to Susan, with the message “Run? Yes?,” which is all it took for both of us to register.

Since I started running regularly again in the beginning of the year, every single one of my runs has been an “easy” run. No garmin. No speed. Go where my legs like, not where my training plan says. I had no idea where my pace was, and I was honestly feeling pretty slow. Therefore, I was nervous going into an actual race, and not knowing what I could push myself to.

I met Susan super bright and early at our corner. It was 6:15 and still really dark and eerie out. It felt exactly like marathon morning. Dark, chilly, absolutely no one on the street. When I saw Susan, I told her, and she said she was feeling the exactly same way. But we were about to run 20 miles less than a marathon.

We hopped on the subway and took the long ride to Prospect Park, getting out at Grand Army Plaza, and walked the approximately ¾ mile to the bib pick-up. The park was still empty, and it was a beautiful morning. High 30s. A few clouds. No wind. The perfect day for a run.

This race was being organized by NYCRuns, a much smaller race organization that NYRR, so the pick-up was less hectic and crowded than most NYC races. It almost seemed like a big group of friends getting ready to run together, which was such a nice, stress-free feeling to start a race. We found Jocelyn, Laura, Laura and Eissa, and I also ran into a girl I went to high school with, a girl I went to college with, and my super-fast grad school friend Katie, who’s marathon PR is 2:58.

Susan and I were running a bit behind everyone (hi porta-potties!) and had to jog the half mile to the start, which was a nice little warm-up. We missed the announcement that the timing system wasn’t working, and the race had been turned into a fun run. I found out when I crossed the finish line, and honestly didn’t really care.

The race horn went off and up up up we went. Literally. The race started on that neverending hill in the park, and kept going for two loops counter-clockwise around the park’s perimeter. I had my regular watch on, not my garmin, so I couldn’t tell my exact pace, and just tried to keep a steady speed, without pushing too hard, considering the length of the pace (because everyone knows 10k’s suck).

I hit mile 1 in 8:11, which was a little slower than I wanted, but I had to weave a lot to get a good clear path in front of me, and ya know, starting on that hill. Mile 2 was where I really hit my stride, and realized that I had both some speed in me and felt pretty fantastic. I pushed myself and hit mile 2 in 7:34. That mile included a lot of downhill, so that time seemed about right. In every 10k the 3rd and 4th miles seem to be the roughest, so I wasn’t looking forward to them, especially because 4 contained that big ‘ol hill again. But, I kept pushing hard, and hit 3 in 7:53 and 4 in 8:14. Yikes! That number was a little jolting, and I sure wished it was lower, but I kept going.

Laura passed me right at the mile 3 marker, and my goal was to keep her in sight and push through to the end. I did, and finished feeling fantastic. Mile 5 in 7:42; 6 in 7:34; 6.2 in 1:40, for a final time of 48:53. My PR, from the Mini last June was 48:49! I was only off my PR by 3 seconds! The fact that I almost PR’d on zero speed work, two months off from running, and minimal running in the past month makes me think that my fitness I thought I had lost during my break is intact and better than ever. I’m pretty sure once I amp up the speedwork, I’ll be able to up my pace easily, and find a way to hit my goal time of sub 1:45 at the Brooklyn Half in May.

After the race I was pretty much on cloud nine. I was so happy with my performance, and even felt I could have pushed further. I went into the race thinking I was going to run a personal worst, but ended up almost killing my PR. I was raving about the race to Susan all morning, and besides the timing snafu, I think it really was a great little race. And we got hot chocolate and souvenir mugs to top it all off. Thanks, NYCRuns!

I think this race showed me that I am ready to tackle speed, and attack every shorter race that I approach this spring. I have the speed somewhere in me; give me a little hard training, and I know I will demolish that half. It’s all about confidence, right?

Susan, Jocelyn, Me, Laura, Laura

A Special Snowy Run

January 21, 2012

This morning I might have just run the most fun run ever.

Okay, that New Years Eve run this year was a blast, and every run at Ragnar was exciting, and those perfect runs in the middle of the summer are awesome, but this one was an experience.

With my current maintenance-mode training, I’m doing one longer run per week, at around 10 miles, but absolutely no more (keeping it slow and steady for now). I emailed Jess to see if she wanted to join me for all or some of my Saturday longer run, and she said yes! Huzzah!

Friday night, I went to bed with a forecast of snow that was supposed to start sometime over night, and hoped to wake up with some flakes on the ground. Growing up in the Snowbelt has made me a lover of snow, so this winter has been particularly disappointing. Some people are afraid of snow and of what happens when a storm hits, but I get excited and embrace it! At least until it melts and turns New York into a brown slushy mess…

I woke up and saw both lots of snow on the ground and lots still falling! Hooray! I was so excited, threw my running clothes on, contemplated for a minute whether I wanted a neck gator or not, and ran out the door. The second I hit the street, I wish I had gotten that neck gator and had pulled out a pair of ski goggles. It was snowing harder than I had thought, and was blowing around, stinging my eyes and face. I could have turned around and gotten the gator, but just decided to suck it up and head to the park to find Jess.

Normally it takes me about 11-12 minutes to run from my apartment to Engineer’s Gate, but this morning it took me 18. I had to slow down significantly to keep from slipping, and had to dodge everyone else walking precariously on the sidewalk. I felt pretty badass, though, seeing everyone out getting their morning coffees, and I was headed to CP to run 10 miles in the snow.

Edited to add: Jess took a photo! So you can see exactly what the conditions were like. Quite a bit of snow out there.

I found Jess and we were both kind of stunned that the snow was as intense as it was, but were both totally game and really excited to get running. The Manhattan Half was “happening” (meaning it had been turned into a fun run because of the weather), so the roadway was pretty packed, considering the weather. We decided to hit the road clockwise, opposite of what the racers were doing, to run the inner 4-mile loop. Because it was still early, the road hadn’t been plowed, so the snow was still thick and uneven. It was hard to find a steady stride, but, my god, it was so fun. It was hard at some points because we were working harder to stay balanced, but never seemed too hard because of the environment, and because it was so different than regular running. I haven’t had a real true snow run in over a year, and I forgot much it takes so much mental power and uses different muscles to keep going. Yet, it didn’t seem harder at the time, just different, and so much fun.

There were a few times when the wind would pick up and would blow right into our eyes, or we would head up a hill and it would be especially slippery, and were using every muscle in our bodies to get to the top, but overall it was one of those rare runs that you never want to end. Given the correct attire, I literally could have stayed out there all day. I was totally in my element, doing what I love to do, with a friend, among like-minded people, having the time of my life. Towards the end of the run, we hit the 103rd st transverse, which the racers were not running, so it had been barely touched. When we turned off the main road onto the transverse, we both remarked by how incredibly beautiful it was. We were basically alone, and just took in the moment. Untouched white snow below us; snow still falling furiously from the sky.

Those four miles with Jess were over in a heartbeat (we were chatting up a storm the whole time), even though we took our sweet time, and I just wasn’t ready to leave. Jess headed home, and I hit the bridle path for a few more miles. This time, there was no slipperiness, but the path was thick with snow, and sometimes I would misjudge where I was planting my foot, and end up in 4 inches of powder. It’s a good thing I had my smartwools on! I slowed down even more for these miles, but just loved the quiet—there was barely anyone on the path except for a few people and their dogs, and I could hear every step and breath I was taking. Being there really did feel special, and it was one of those times when I was just totally head-over-heels in love with running.

Finally after two hours—that passed by quicker than any run I’ve taken ever—I realized that my legs were really tired, and headed home. I walked into my apartment soaking wet, and with glowing red cheeks, but with a giant smile, so happy that I had been able to experience that amazing run.

And the moral of the story: even if everyone is saying the weather is too iffy to go run, go do it. It will probably be one of your most favorite runs ever.

What’s on Tap for Spring

January 18, 2012

Well, more like “what’s on tap for the first half of 2012.”

I pretty much have a plan for what races I want to do this fall (but am keeping that on the hush hush for now), but have been trying to figure out what I want to do before fall training starts. It seems like everyone around me is planning on doing spring marathons, and gosh darn, I want to jump on that bandwagon too! Training is fun! Racing is fun! But, I have two obstacles.

The first is grad school. I’m a full-time grad student for at least the next year and a half, and I work part-time. I’m a busy girl, to say the least. And on top of that, my funds are as low as they can go. Therefore, travelling for something like a marathon isn’t really on my priority list, like rent, or food, or Con-Ed bills or coffee. Which means, as much was I really really really want to run the Eugene or Big Sur Marathons this spring, they’re just going to have to wait until I’m out of school and have a real job again.

There is a loophole to my personal out-of-state-racing-while-in-grad-school rule, though. The Cleveland Marathon is in the end of May, in my good ‘ol hometown. I could easily plan a spring trip home that coincides with the marathon, and I’m sure my parents would love to have me home, and be able to easily use their expert cheering skills again. (By the way, I would like to call everyone’s attention to this old post, with a picture of my dad from the late 70s running the Cleveland Marathon, where he is pretty much Steve Prefontaine’s doppelganger.) But, that brings me to my second obstacle of spring marathon-ing.

Remember when I got injured this fall? Oh, right. And remember when I said I was valuing rest? Oh, right. And if I want to run (and run smart and well) a fall marathon, I want to stay healthy and uninjured this spring. I need to very slowly build my endurance back up, and I think running any spring marathon would be pushing myself just too much. Therefore, I officially decided that there will be no spring marathon for me. Maybe if I stay injury-free this year, I’ll be able to do one next year (helloooo Cleveland!), but definitely not this year.

But I want to train too! Hearing about everyone’s training plans still makes me want to have a goal race to train for. But, Betsy…there are other races besides marathons to train for. Oh, right. It’s amazing how sometimes it seems like marathons are the only races there are…

So, I’ve decided to focus this spring season more on shorter races, work on speed, and have my “A” race be the Brooklyn Half Marathon in late May. My half PR is from that race when I ran it in 2009, when I ran 1:50:35. I have not run a half competitively since 2010, and know I have more speed in me. I have PR’d since then in every other race distance, and by significant amounts. I know I can slaughter that time, and I think if I train really smart and focus on speedwork, I can run a sub-1:45:00. And…oooo…I’m so excited.
I’m going to use the next two months or so to continue to build my base, and get and stay healthy. I’m going to slowly (very very slowly) work on my speed and endurance, and get my body back into fantastic shape. And then, two months before race day, really amp up the training, and really focus on speed and endurance, making my legs ready to kill that course come race day.

I’ve never really trained seriously for a half (except for my first half), especially focusing specifically on speed, so I’m really looking forward to this training season. And until next fall, I can just want my friends do awesome on their spring marathons. Who’s going to Boston this year to watch friends run? Me! Me! Me!

I’m coming for you, Prospect Park & Ocean Parkway & Coney Island…