Sunday, January 31, 2016

Goals vs. Priorities:Thoughts that made me go, "Hmmm..."


There have been a lot of things on my mind recently, and a lot of interesting things happening regarding my goals vs. my priorities.

First, we have that impossible-to-predict weather. December was very mild in Iowa (no snow on the ground until Christmas Eve). January has been very cold, but the snow hasn't been too bad. We are expecting a big storm to dump on us starting Monday evening, and it's supposed to last through sometime on Wednesday. My goal is to always run outside, regardless. My priority, though, is to be safe. Ugh. I may be hopping on the 'mill (again) this week.

More snow is on the way....I'm glad none of my winter gear is packed away
Then, there's that little thing going on with my off-season. The off-season that had a record number of streaking miles (This old gal ran 92 miles from Thanksgiving Day through New Years Day). I even ran a last-minute 15K (and a 5K) while on vacation in California at the end of year. All of this happened and I was able to maintain my injury-free status!! My priority has been to remain far, so good!

Another thing that's been a little out-of-the ordinary for me is the fact that (as of yet) I have no big goals for 2016 ....and we're already entertaining February. I have several mid-distance races on the calendar (most of which are bought and paid for), but I'm not feeling the urge to over-extend myself (or impress anyone) with countless events and races. Let's be honest, racing does not come cheap and it's a serious time commitment as well (not just in training, but in travel time). Again, with being injury-free a main priority, I am choosing to cut back on the racing and training.

That said, I am in search of a destination race (or maybe a couple). I had hoped to venture back to Duluth and do Grandma's Marathon (only this time I'd have a better spring training regimen to get me there)....but "procrastination karma" kind of bit my buttocks. The registration for Grandma's sold out a couple months ago, so that won't be happening for me in 2016. I am planning on returning for the Christmas in July Ultra and reuniting with the gals from last summer, but I'd like another big event to do as well. Last year, Grandma's was four weeks prior to the CIJ, and the training/taper worked well for both of these because I ran each race for endurance and not for speed. So, my tentative plan is to find a race within 5-6 weeks (before or after) July 16th (I'd consider that a definite goal). Any suggestions?

While at the Christmas in July Ultra, I felt the need to give Santa a U of I Hawkeye tattoo (someone had to do it)
Also, I have been enjoying the pure bliss of being (mostly) injury-free. Sure, I have had some aches and stiffness, but they have been very minimal in comparison to what my body has become accustomed to dealing with. And I know it's probably because I have been actually following my own advice....listening to my body and not ignoring my gut instinct. My mileage has been consistent, but I have kept it at a minimum. And, I have been doing a lot more yoga and stretching (Mind you, I still need to be more disciplined showing my muscles some love, but I'm doing it more than ever before).

Yoga has played a crucial part in minimizing injury
In years past, I had the mind set to always be in training. Granted, I take my off-season seriously and scale back the mileage.....but come late winter/early spring, I'd jump right back to half marathon mode. Most of the time, my endurance would be able to handle it, but my body would usually rebel a little. This year, I am considering a different approach.....not necessarily starting over, but instead, gradually easing back to the longer distance runs. I know I can run 10 miles without much (additional) effort, why not just take it easy? Even if I have a goal to run 13.1 miles (a tentative half marathon in April), I need to do it wisely. Preferably injury-free.  A priority? I think so.
Something else that caught me off guard this weekend was my online shopping purchase. Now, I am a huge advocate for supporting your local running store, and it's always best to try before you buy (especially when we're talking about shoes that you'll be wearing for 400-500 miles). That said, an ad popped up on my Facebook news feed this weekend, promoting a sale on my current running shoes from the Brooks website. (gulp) I clicked in, and there they Adrenaline GTS-15's. A $42 savings. Free shipping. Free returns.  These weren't the pretty turquoise/purple ones I've had since August, but they were the same model (albeit a different color). Hmmmmm. Having worked in a shoe store (many, many moons ago), I know that not every make and model is an exact duplicate. I'd be taking a chance without trying them on....but since there was a free return policy, I was willing to take a gamble on them. Comfort. Zone. Violation.

My first-ever online-purchased running shoes...due to arrive in a couple days
So, there you have it. Goals vs. Priorities. It certainly has had me going, "hmmm..."

I'm linking with Holly from HoHo Runs  and Tricia from MissSippiPiddlin for their Weekly Wrap. It's always a lot of fun reading what they have been up to, as well as all the other fabulous blogs linking up with them. Go ahead, head over and enjoy some reading!

How about YOU? Ever thought about your goals and priorities being in sync? Ever bought running shoes online (with success)? Do you honor an "off-season," or do you train hard-core year-round?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Full disclosure (well, almost...)

Well, not everything is picture perfect.....but the world doesn't necessarily need to know that.

As much as I love social media, it does have a down side. It gives the users not only a veil to hide their imperfections behind, but it also exposes us to the "perfection" of others. Interesting, huh!

It's kind of a paradox how WE compare ourselves to others, and a lot of that is based on what others CHOOSE to show us. In the interest of full disclosure, I'm linking up with Marcia from  Marcia's Healthy Slice  for the Runfessions link-up. I've had a lot of positive comments on some recent photos (which I appreciate) ...but I'm coming clean and 'fessing up, and disclosing the truth behind them. I invite you to head over and check out what else is being Runfessed...

First of all.....Selfies. I must Runfess that I take several pics of the same (or similar) pose before I actually choose one suitable for posting. Sometimes the wind blows my hair goofy. Other times, a car does a drive-by and I glance at it...just as the timer goes off. Quite often, the timer simply fails to function, or I forget to turn it "on"..... and the camera snaps a pic of me "setting" the timer.

#timerfail (Actually, this pic garnered a LOT of positive feedback on Instagram for the spontaneity of the moment)
Secondly, I runfess that it can be a challenge to find that perfect angle. Being the art geek that I am, I take this photography stuff kind of seriously. I like more of a minimalist approach. Instead of elaborate locations, I prefer to do a simple setting but use an interesting camera angle to make the shot interesting. Sometimes I get a great composition, sometimes not....

Ok, this angle of the bow pose seemed like a good idea.....
Thirdly, there's the timing. My phone's camera has the options of three seconds or ten seconds for the timer. Often times, three seconds is just not enough time to get in position, and ten seconds can feel like an eternity if you're trying to hold a difficult yoga pose....or if the sudden urge to sneeze should strike you.

oops! here comes the sneeze
A forth thing to runfess is the setting itself. There's nothing more disappointing than capturing a great pose, with ideal lighting...only to notice a mess in the foreground of that "perfect" picture.

Decent pic of the pose....but would you look at the dust on the floor? #housekeepingfail
And what about our less-than-perfect bodies? All of us have certain features we'd rather not share with the world. But, it's those very features that make us real and they showcase our humanness. But, even though I strongly believe in "keeping it real," I must runfess that I don't always like sharing it.

I like the halo of light behind me...but, ummm, the tummy is kind of sagging over the waistband...
So, what's a runner (who also enjoys striking a yoga pose now and then) supposed to do?  There are a few tricks I have learned to tweak a less-than-perfect picture and make it much better.

For example, I liked how the pic on the left turned out with the light over my shoulder....zooming in for a closer shot and using a filter (sorry, I forget which one!) to further brighten the light gave it a more pleasing composition.

Have you ever attempted to hold a crow pose? It's very difficult, especially for this balance-challenged gal.  I was, however, able to hold it long enough for the split-second capture of the timer on my phone.  The pic on the left was alright, but a filter (again, not sure which one I used) helped to enhance the color.

Why not do a Chaturunga pose in the snow?  Outside, in the bright daylight, though, the khaki pants almost looked like I was not wearing anything from a distance. How about we zoom in for a closer look, and brighten up the colors a bit? Much better!

Remember this pose? A sideways shot better showcased the pose, and changing it to a black & white pic made the background less distracting.

A different angle of the Chaturunga pose, from earlier in the day, inside the house. A little bit of a zoom-in, and some color-brightening helped give this pic a little more pop.

Just finishing a glorious run in very cold temps made me feel ever-so-victorious! But the pic looked a little I brightened the colors and softened the focus, giving it a bit of a dream-like quality.

And most have seen this image of myself and Max, taken on his birthday recently. I was having a difficult time getting a pic of the two of us because he kept trying to kiss me instead of "smiling" for the camera. After several failed attempts, I realized this pic actually was pretty perfect in its own right. By changing it to black and white, the focus was drawn to the actual subjects in the photo...and not the background stuff. Honestly, I think it evokes a lot more emotion, and the details are a lot more pronounced without the distraction of color.

So, there you have it. A few runfessions for now...stay tuned, there will be more to come. Do you have several "failed" attempts at selfies? Do you keep them or delete them? Do you play around with filters and photo editing?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Have you smiled lately? I have!

What's been happening lately?

 Well, I have been smiling a lot (even more than usual) this past week.


For one reason, the weather. Yes, it was frigidly bitter last weekend (temps had a high of -6 ... yes, you read that correctly, BELOW ZERO), but with that cold weather I actually had a couple of decent workouts....inside...on the treadmill (yes, you read that correctly, too. I used the words "decent" and "treadmill" both in the same sentence).

Inside miles....
 Another reason for the plentiful happiness was due to celebrating our dog's birthday. Max's birthday is on January 19th (according to the papers that came with him when we adopted him).  I tried really hard to get that perfect selfie with him, but he kept trying to kiss me, and wouldn't look at the camera. After several "failed" attempts at that perfect picture, it dawned on me that sometimes the "outtakes" actually are quite perfect in their own right.

With the birthday dog...6 years old
 My daily yoga pose challenge (on Instagram, at @runningonthefly) has been going well!  I'm not the most flexible person, but I'm working on that. I've been having pretty good luck with the timer on my phone capturing me at the precise moment...and the filters certainly are a fun way to "artsy-up" the images.

Crow pose....a quick successful hold of this difficult pose
Bow pose...another challenging pose, especially with a stiff, just out-of-bed back

Forward fold...even in my jeans, this always feel oh-so-good
 By Thursday, the temps had reached the mid 20's, which actually felt like a tropical paradise. My friend, Barb, and I went out around 8:15PM (following the Iowa Hawkeye basketball victory!) and enjoyed five miles under the streetlights. The thing I especially love about winter running is that it is so bright outside! Even if the moon is hidden, the snow reflects the light from streetlights, creating a very serene setting. You really don't even need a flash light (or head lamp) to light your way, but you still need to have reflective clothing (or some source of light) so you can be seen by others.

Barb and our Vizi Belts and bright clothing
 With the slowly rising temps comes a bit of a thaw...which then freezes overnight. Thus, the morning brings with it all sorts of beautiful, frosted objects of nature.

Aren't the frosted berries beautiful?
 I'm also smiling because of my weekend running. I got out Saturday morning for a just-for-fun 5K run on a route that goes right by my house. The temps (high 20's) felt amazing, and my body felt even better. I managed  a 26:40 finish time. Not a PR, by any means, but definitely the fastest 5K I've run in awhile.

All smiles after a fun 5K and a successful tripod
I came home from that 5K, and noticed the daily pose challenge called for a headstand. UGH. It's been a few decades since I've even attempted a tripod, say nothing about a fully-extended headstand. Well, the tripod was a no-brainer. I took it inside, though for the headstand. Amazingly, doing it near a doorway (with some assistance from the door itself), I was able to do it. I actually was able to hold it, albeit ever-so-briefly, without assistance.

With Max as my witness, I did it!
 Sunday brought with it decent temps again. Some local people were meeting up for a group run, so I joined them and knocked out another four miles. The streets had some slick spots, but I managed to stay vertical! Typically, I don't do back-to-back runs on consecutive days, but I just couldn't resist the urge to get back out on the streets.

Another great run, with a near-tempo pace...followed by a twisted triangle pose for cool-down
Also, Sunday was our one-year anniversary of adopting Max (our adoption process recap is HERE).We rescued him from a nearby shelter on January 24th of last year. It's really hard to believe we've had him an entire year! We can't imagine life without him.
The bottom pic is from last January, the top left is from the spring, and top right is recent
So, that's a brief wrap-up of what's had me smiling recently. I'm linking up with Holly from HoHo Runs  and Tricia from MissSippiPiddlin for their Weekly Wrap. Head over and check out all the other blogs, featuring the latest and greatest happenings!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Quality Lessons Learned

I have been thinking a lot about the Quality vs. Quantity thing, especially with regards to my running.

It's no secret I'm an advocate for Quality, but there is also a need for Quantity (within reason). I know myself (probably better than most anyone), and I know I tend to get a little "soap-box-preachy" if I'm prompted. So, that being said, I decided to explore the Quality side of the argument....and here are some lessons learned thus far:

1. Neon green is a quality's bright and has a bit of a funky edge. However, it looks like you're not wearing anything in the dark. I have a favorite pair of neon green shorts, and I wear them often in the warmer months, but it's usually during day light hours. I wore them for my Ultra last summer, which was an overnight race. All appeared fine until I made that first lap on the back side of the lake, where the lighting was pretty minimal...and it looked like I was running in the buff from the waist-down. Yep.

There they are...the shorts that magically "disappeared" without going anywhere
2. It is possible to travel to a faraway state (for example, to attend a bowl game), and run into (figuratively and otherwise) several other quality people (loyal fans) from your home state at a race.

A bunch of Iowa Hawkeye fans showed up at a race in Huntington Beach...and I was one of them

3. Running is truly a quality experience, much like childbirth. There are races (and, frequently, training runs) that are so excruciating, you wonder why you chose to do them and swear you'll never do them again......then, you cross the finish line, re-hydrate, and realize it wasn't so bad. And (almost) immediately, you want to do it all over again.

The thrill of another race bib....
4. In the early years of distance running, I found it thrilling to be doing what I was doing and felt the incessant need to tell everyone within ear shot about it. I still find it thrilling to be spending quality time in my running shoes, but I no longer have that need to recap my latest running adventure(s) to (almost) everyone. Most people know I'm a runner, and they know I run long distances. If they want details, I now wait for them to ask.

I don't voluntarily chat about my aches or pains either....most of the time
5. I used to be "just a runner." In other words, running was the only form of  quality exercise my body would consider doing. Once I started doing (and enjoying) other stuff (strength training, stair running, and name a few), my entire world transformed. Running, most definitely, is my main go-to, and my legs look like those of a runner.... but it's nice to have defined muscles elsewhere on my body, too. Of course, with more distance running, my injuries have increased...but I'm much better equipped to deal with them, I recover much quicker, and I have other things to occupy my time if I'm side-lined from my running shoes.

Yoga is one of my cross-training options
6. As much as I enjoy conquering new goals (that were once outside of my comfort zone), I get even more satisfaction in watching others do the same. Even if their goals surpass mine, it's thrilling to witness quality achievements and dole out the high-5's as they happen.

7. It is possible to have a "qualilty race" by focusing on your pace, stride, cadence and splits, but it's possible to have an even better race by just running it for fun, chatting with other runners, and enjoying the crowd along the course. I'm not an elite, nor will I ever be an Olympian.....there's nothing for me to gain by trying to pose as one.

It's OK to smile and act goofy on the race course
8. Kinesiology tape is like a top-quality wonder drug. It not only can be used to keep your aching muscles supported and intact, but in a pinch it can also substitute for a compression sleeve or a "bandage." For example, while on vacation recently, the dry skin on one of my heels "cracked" open. #HolyOuchBatman With no bandages in my travel bag, I cut a small piece of Tape and stuck it to the sore spot....Presto! All was better with the world again!

Who needs a compression sleeve when there's pink tape available?
9. If I can't smile while I'm running or racing, then maybe I shouldn't be lacing up in the first place. Yes, there are times when I'm in pain, or I'm tired, or my head is pounding harder than my feet on the pavement. There are times when I'm just not "feeling" the run.... that's normal and is to be expected. But if I can't find something to smile about while out there, then my attitude needs a time-out. I believe there's something good to come out of every bad experience, otherwise most of us would never reach any of our goals or cross any of those finish lines. If there's something to be learned, then it's quality time well spent.

10. There is no such thing as too many runner friends. Just when I think my running circle is complete...a new quality friend enters the scene, and it's usually someone I couldn't imagine not ever knowing.
Are there any lessons you have learned in our running journey? Are you a quality or quantity kind of person?

I'm linking up with Deb from Deb Runs for the Wednesday Word...which, in case you haven't surmised, is Quality. Head over and checkout her blog, as well as all the other linked blogs.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Baby, it's C.O.L.D. outside....

I'm a Midwest gal, born and raised, but these winters kind of bite.

A pic of the Sundogs from last Sunday...aren't they beautiful?
Granted, I do love the change of seasons. If I had the exact same weather year-round, I would not appreciate the weather from each season for their individual nuances. But, hands-down, winter is the most difficult to tolerate.

The weather this past week, in Iowa, has given us some extreme conditions.

It's been so cold, even Max has been bundled up for his walks
We had frigid temps the weekend prior, temps so cold that we had sub-ZERO temps with wind-chill. But, those frigid temps rewarded us with blindingly bright sunshine.

The mid-week temps were nice...and the sunshine made it fun to be outside
The temps were moderate most of this past week, and by Wednesday we were enjoying above-freezing conditions. You know it's been cold when 40-degrees feels like a heat wave.

By Thursday, the temps approached the 50's! How about a "gloves optional" run on my lunch break? I'm there!

Something I did in 2015, and am doing it again in 2016, is (1) not going more than two days without running and (2) never missing a Monday. The Monday thing has been going well, but it's been a little tricky planning out the weekly runs and avoiding the less-than-desirable weather. The temps were forecasted to plummet by Friday, and continue to fall over the weekend. And that they did.

Having run on Thursday, I wouldn't necessarily "need" to run until Sunday...but Sunday was supposed to be the coldest day yet (a predicted "high" of -6 degrees), so I went out on Saturday morning for a quick mile. That quick mile actually felt pretty good considering the single-digit temps Momma N had thrown at me.

Brrrr! A quick run, followed by a Warrior-3 pose (in victory of getting outside)
Sunday rolled around, and the temps were just as predicted. I still wanted to do some mileage, though, so I took it to the 'mill and did an interval workout, incorporating 1/4 mile segments with sets of (10) stair-climbs in between. Typically, I'm not a happy 'mill runner, but I don't mind doing intervals. Breaking up two miles into eight smaller increments really makes it go quick!

Doing intervals (treadmill and stairs) took me less than 40 minutes, and felt great!
I have also been doing a yoga challenge via Instagram (are you following me there? I'm @runningonthefly). I even had one of my pics re-posted and shared (courtesy of the host of the challenge,@fitapproach) !

Dolphin pose!

Another pic that got a lot of attention was the one of me in Frog Position
While hibernating inside, I spent a few hours tending to some blogging-catch-up (that nine-day family vacay really hammered into my reading and writing). I also played around and modified my blog's layout and added a new header and tweaked the side bar (a major accomplishment for this tech moron).

So, that's a quick synopsis of the latest and (not so) greatest weather in Iowa. What do you do to cope with frigidly cold temps? Do you suck it up and get outside (like me, most days), or do you find other things to do inside?

I'm linking up with Holly at HoHo Runs and Tricia at  MissSippiPiddlin for their Weekly Wrap. Lots of great reading, head over and check out all the other blog posts!