Welcome to Spring - where a mile is no longer a mile

Is anyone else having issues with the Nike+ App and GPS accuracy?  On the last several runs I've done outside with my phone and Nike+ app, the GPS has been way off my winter running distances.  Today I ran a 4 mile route I run all the time.  It was fascinating.  None of the mile markers were where I thought they belonged.  Mile 2 should be near Lake Nokomis Rec Center at the top of the hill, not down the hill on the other side.  Mile 3 is at the top of a different hill, etc.  When I look at the map with pace breakdowns, it's showing me as stopping for the stop light about half block from where it is in real life. On my short 1 mile runs, suddenly I'm having to run around the block more times than in January just to run the same mile.  Sigh. 

I was positing some hypothesis for this issue with a friend.  It could be I'm actually not running as far because now I can actually run on the sidewalks, sometimes giving me a tighter turn radius, or making the circumference of my route a bit smaller.  I could also be a pain in the butt and blame some software update of either Nike, Apple or T-Mobile.  "Hypothesis" means "a proposed explanation that can be tested".  If you learn nothing else from this post, please, a hypothesis is not just "an educated guess".  Anyways, if anyone actually wants to try a controlled experiment and test one or more of these proposed explantations, let me know.  Otherwise I'm just going to live with it and keep running until my phone tells me I've gone as far as I wanted to go. 

Just for laughs, here's a breakdown of today's run.  I did a 4-miler around Lake Hiawatha. I ran around the block an extra time towards the end of the run, to make sure I'd done at least 4 miles by the time I got home.  I love that every mile split is faster than the previous (I start off really slow, takes me a while to warm up).  Mile 3 involved waiting at a stop light and Mile 4 involved waiting to cross some big streets with no light.  Also hilarious about this run, Nike thinks 10:41 is six seconds faster than 10:48.  I'm counting seven seconds


Hanging Out at Como Park

After this morning's run, the Qat Lady invited me out for lunch.  Outside.  At Punch Pizza.  If you're in St Paul and headed to Punch, go to the one on Grand Ave.  Qat Lady and I spent part of lunch lamenting that the in Highland just isn't the same. 

A strange set of circumstances led to us walking a dog around Como Lake before the Qat Lady headed off to work.  Como definitely had more ice on it than Hiawatha, but even the ice flows were breaking up and melting, and a fair amount of the lake was ice free.

After the walk I was all "I'm over here; I should see the Conservatory because that's a great place and I never really come see it.  So I did.  I was headed in as the hordes of school kids were headed out.  Perfect timing.  I looked at the zoo but none of the outdoor exhibits were opened so I didn't stay long.  The Conservatory built up a new entrance to the Japanese Garden and it's really nice.  Although the garden itself wasn't in bloom yet, it was still pretty peaceful to be out there.  The Sunken Garden is my favorite part of the space, because I imagine it's the room my mom would like most if she were visiting me.  The flowers today did not disappoint.  I'm glad I caught them because I heard the Spring Show ends this weekend.

Friday Long Run - Ft Snelling

This is my last long run before my weekend of racing.  It was not confidence inspiring.  Sigh.

Things that went not so well:
  • My pace: I don't know what I expected, but I was disappointed.  I ran the first couple miles (don't ask how I "ran" a 12:56 mile), then went into running 4:00, walking 1:00.  And I ran the long downhill and steep uphill at Ft Snelling.  Perhaps I shoudl've paused the run when I went to the bathroom in mile 8?  That really effed up my average pace.
  • Trying a long run without Immodium.  No more "I'll probably be fine".  Just take the pill like a good girl.  Good news: I did not poop my pants.
  • That arm strap for my iPhone.  The strap got all sweaty and I hate that my phone is without its case.  If I take it out to snap a photo I have to be super careful.
  • Heat.  Remember, it was 30* last week for the 55* today really freaked my body out.  You'd think my pasty white skin would've reflected all that sunlight but apparently not.

Things that went well:
  • Bodyglide: I forgot that on my last long run.  I usually only forget it once a year.
  • The arm strap for my iPhone:  I liked that I could feel the phone vibrating when it's strapped to my arm.  I can't feel it in my pocket or in a race belt.  Relevant because I was using the interval timer app like I will on race day and I liked I could feel it without having to have earphones in.
  • The route: In honor of my upcoming races I actually needed to practice running both up and down hill.  And this route is my favorite of all time.
  • Breakfast - I had muselli in almond milk with a banana and chia seeds.  It was like rocket fuel.  I made myself take a gu at mile four but I didn't want to because I was still full.  I had to, there's not another good place for a long time.  I took another Gu at mile nine but it just made me want to pule.  See above about the heat.
  • Running without music - it's my new thing now.  I almost never run with music outside any more.  The track and treadmill other different cases.  Outside I just listen to nature and the sound of my own awesomeness feet.
  • Up big hills - you know I ran all the way up the sucker.  I'm now taking the Running Beth approach read: Mountain Goat of go up as fast as possible to get it over with.

Women - Running on your period

I was reading this blog post which put me in mind of my own experiences in that biological department.  I did not have the same struggles as the writer, my own body subscribing more to this method of handling things but it definitely impacted my running.

At a certain point, my cramps got so bad a friend of mine insisted I make an appointment to see my lady doctor and do something about it.  The lady doctor was actually unperturbed until she found out I missed at least a day of work every month because my body was attacking me.  "Make this so I can at least keep running" was what I said.  Since I've run every day for the last six months it must've worked.

Pain - I usually have pain in my lower back in addition to regular cramps.  Pain is typically worse in the morning and gone by bed time.  Running daily makes the cramps less painful.  It also seems to make the ibuprofen work better.  Does that make sense? When I'm not running, heating pad is my weapon of choice, as well as a nap.

Sports bra - What else hurts the week before my period and the first few days of?  (I'm assuming there's like no guys reading at this point.)  I use Moving Comfort bras, although I recommend buying them for Amazon becuase the prices will be better.  For a more complete review of sports bras, and a good laugh, see here.

Hygiene Products - No runner in their right mind wants to carry a spare tampon on a long run.  Am I right?  I was facing this issue myself during my first marathon and trying to figure out what to do.  How the eff am I going to carry this shit and where, strategically, can I stop to reload?  Many long internet searches later, I came to the Diva Cup.  Best thing ever as a runner and generally as a human being.  It stays in for 12 hours at a time, which is twice as long as I need for a marathon.  As a runner, it really has to be positioned right so it doesn't shift during a high impact activity (read: jam it up in there).  As a woman: changed my life.

Generally - It was helpful to talk with my lady doctor since apparently having my period wasn't supposed to cause me so much pain I had to miss work.   Long term, it's been helpful for me to keep active.  Running helps me control the pain better.  I take less pain medication and the medication works better when I use it.  So I say strap the girls in, jam the cup up, and hit the streets.


Last snow day of the year, Spring starts Saturday

I'm in a grumpy mood because my day started with cleaning heavy, wet, cold, snow off my car.  And the stuff that wasn't snow had turned to ice.  Since it's freaking April 23rd and we're having record amounts of snow and precipitation, I was pretty much over it.  I've been given to believe that it will be in the 60's on Saturday and sunny.  I'm sure everyone on the planet will be on a bike or out for a run.  I can't wait to see them all.

In the middle of the day, the snow was mercifully starting to melt.  Also, I got to play with lenses for my iPhone.  Lenses include a wide angle, macro and fish eye.  I haven't mastered them yet.

By the end of the night, the snow had melted except where it had been plowed into big piles.  The sun was bright, even as it was setting and it made quite a scence.  I'd tell you about my run tonight, but it was only a mile and it's kind of boring.

This is perhaps the most striking before and after, twelve hours apart:

New Running Shoes - I'm cheating on Brooks with Asics

In March, just before Brew to Brew, I bought a new pair of shoes and I've been enjoying myself testing them out. I've taken them on treadmills, track and the road and I'm finally ready to talk about the Asics Gel Lyte 33.  (Asics isn't paying me; I bought these suckers myself.)

A quick review of my running shoes will tell you that I pretty much always buy Brooks Running Shoes because brand loyalty or whatever.  They work for me.  Why did I step out on my usual brand? I'm kind off teed off at Brooks right now. Brooks minimalist shoes are projected to last 250-300 miles, tops. No way am I paying $100 for a shoe that only lasts half as long as it should. As in the past, whenever I step out on Brooks, it's always with Asics(It's funny that my two favorite races are sponsored by these brands. Brooks does Twin Cities and Asics does Flying Pig.)

The original Asics - Gel Speedstars.  How I miss you.
In my hour of need, I started poking around for other shoes.  Rules are it has to be a minimalist or transition shoe, made for women, and durable enough to last the 500 miles running shoes should last.  I found a wicked sale on Amazon for the Asics Gel Lyte 33 which met all of my criteria. I read the reviews on the website, and reviews from a couple bloggers. I found this review particularly helpful, even though he's reviewing the men's model.  The shoes on Amazon were wicked on sale, about 50% off (because it's the ugliest color possible), so I decided it was worth a try.  And since I've had Asics before, I knew my size.

First impression: Something is very wrong.  (There is going to lead to a separate post about runners tying their shoes correctly.)  Ultimately the review on the Asics website that said these things bunch where the tongue meets the upper was correct and it was freaking me out.  I was thrilled my toenails weren't black when I got done running.  After re-lacing and re-tying the damn shoes correctly, I took them out for several more runs and things went much better.

Shoe construction: I love in the review I linked above, the guy mentions there's no heel counter.  That means there's nothing in the back of the shoe holding the heel structure up, so you can do what's pictured below.  Whatever, it seems to work for me.  I agree with the reviewer that shoes and super light, and comfortable, once I resolved the bunching up issues.  It also just feels like an Asics shoe.  Much like the pink shoes, I'm not afraid to beat the crap out of it.  Which is what I've been doing the past few days.  I've already got about 45 miles on these guys.

Ride:  It's not the Speedstar (which I still lament almost every day) but it's a close second.  The toe box is much more closed in than I'm used to with Brooks, but it works for these shoes, much like it worked for the Speedstar.  The shoe just doesn't get in the way of the run.

Fit: As mentioned above, if they don't feel right re-lace before complaining.  The other thing I noticed, even compared to other Asics I've worn is the narrow fit.  It's mostly impacting my sock choice, going for the thinnest socks I have.  Once I got that sorted out, they fit fine.  Yes, I do have thin wool socks.

New version: Other than the color, I think my shoes were so cheap because a new version (Gel Lyte 33 2.0) was just around the corner.  I've read some reviews that indicate that whole "shoe bunching at the tongue/upper junction" issue has been resolved for the new model.  And they will have prettier colors than black and white.

The old and the new together.


DIY Photo Light Box - my own adventure

I'd wanted my own light box for a while.  I take way too many pictures for this blog.  No picture taken in my kitchen has ever had proper lighting and it drives me crazy.  I read this great post on how to make a light box for next to nothing so I decided to give it a go.  My first light box involved a box from work that used to hold our copy paper (so you can imagine the exact size) and I used all tissue paper, and nothing for the backdrop.  My second adventure included this large box from Home Depot and a white plastic table cloth (in lieu of white poster board).  That second box worked for a while, and you have seen pictures form it.  But it wasn't quite perfect.  It was attempt number 3 that really seemed to work the best.  Fingers Crossed!
This is the second try light box.  The plastic table cloth just never lay quite right.

  • Medium Cardboard Box or one of a similar size.  The boxes that hold copy paper are, in fact, too small.  Sorry.
  • Tissue paper for the sides and top of the box
  • Freezer paper - it seems to be easier to find in large rolls than poster board
  • That cheap white table cloth.
  • Duct tape. No project is complete without duct tape.
  • Sharpie markers or similar, for writing on the cardboard box and for marking the tablecloth to cut
  • A knife that can cut cardboard. Kitchen knives work surprisingly well.
  • Scissors for cutting tissue paper and tablecloth
  • Clear tape, because duct tape isn't perfect for everything

Procedure: (Taking a moment to thank my 6th grade teacher for drilling into me how to write up an experiment.)
  • Put the box together. It's okay to leave one end open.
  • Label the all the sides of the box.  The back and the bottom don't get cut out but the top and the sides do.  The front should already be open.
  • Cut the cardboard away from the top and both sides of the box, leaving about an inch framework.
  • Measure the freezer paper and cut it so that it covers the back and bottom of the box with no crease.
  • Wrap the cheap plastic table cloth around the freezer paper.  (You can't believe the crap I put in this box, I need a surface I can wipe off.)
  • Attach the freezer paper/plastic to the top of the box, so that it drapes down the back and the bottom.  I used duct tape for this operation.
  • Attach tissue paper to the sides and top of the box.  Make your own decision about attaching the tissue paper first versus attaching the backdrop first.  I did it both ways in my various attempts.
  • Use a window or lots of lamps or another light source and take lots and lots and lots of pictures!


Long run Saturday: Slow confidence building miles

I finally got out for a long run today.  The last outdoor long run I had was the one where I flipped head over heels.  I've been going a bit nutty with all the snow we've been having.  It's really put a damper on my long runs.  This weekend of racing coming up in May is going to be hilarious.

I originally had these grand plans of getting up at 6:30am, doing a 10 mile run and then heading to the gym for a 9:45am Zumba class.  I didn't do either.  Oops.  Instead I got out of bed at 11:15am, had breakfast, lay on the couch for a while, had a shake for lunch, and then went for a run around 2pm.  The weather said it was in the high 30's but I was overdressed in my pants and two shirts.  Hello Sunshine!  Part of the reason I did not go at 6:30am was the record low temperatures we were having.  18*.  Oy.

I did a Minnehaha Creek and Mississippi River out and back route.  My goal was to go slow (mission accomplished) and to run the whole time.  I basically ran the whole time.  There was a bit of a walk to have Gu at the midpoint of the run, and a couple walk breaks for photo ops.  I actually met my goal pace for the run, and then did a run/walk/stretch cool down mile so Nike thinks my average pace is way slower than I actually was.
I wore my new Asics (apprently I haven't finished the shoe review post) for this run.  What shoes to wear on long runs is always such a decision.  I'm sure I'll go into more detail later, but these shoes are going to involve a whole different kind of sock, much thinner than what I'm used to.  But I basically love them.  If they last longer than my last pair of Brooks I may just switch brand allegiance totally.  Apparently, I could've also worn cross country skis.

There was a moment in time where I thought I was going to listen to music on this run, but wound up going to the soundtrack of my own awesomeness and was happy I did.  Minneapolis Park Board only plows one trail in the winter and asks bikers and runners to share it (usually we're on separate tracks).  There were crazy amounts of both bikers and runners out today, and I needed all my senses to stay safe and out of the way.  I saw these guys at the start and finish of their ride.  They were a big group.

The run was great for a bunch of reasons.   I accidentally on purpose wore Boston Colors, and saw quite a few other runners sporting the same gear, and one in a Boston shirt.  The entire Boston thing makes me sad.  I'm sad for the runners.  I'm sad for the victims.  I'm also really sad for this 19 year old kid. It was nice to get out there and be with people where there's this feeling of solidarity.  Second reason this run was great is all the photos I snapped.  But mostly, I was flipping out about trying to run so many miles in one weekend with so few long runs under my belt and this was an excellent confidence booster in that department.  I felt good and strong the whole run.  I didn't necessarily feel like I could've done much more, but I felt like if I'd planned my nutrition and hydration differently I definitely could've done several more miles.  (I had one gu and about 6oz of water for the run.)  Enjoy the pics from the run.