Thoughts on Blogging 30 days in a row

I love Blogger's Schedule to Publish feature.  It was really helpful with some of the posts to get them written and set to go when I had the time, and then they could publish on days I knew I wouldn't be posting otherwise.  When I was in Duluth I had some of the Spotify/Pandora/Workout music stuff set to go, because I knew I wouldn't be blogging up there. 

Everything happened in life about five days before it happened on the blog.  Is this a positive or a negative?  The life events I blogged about like runs and going to Duluth wound up appearing late because I had other posts scheduled to publish. 

More photos wound up on Instagram in real time.  Since blog posts were somewhat delayed, especially Duluth and the one about the storm that took out all the trees, I put a ton more photos on Instagram.

Quantity over Quality.  This shouldn't be a surprise.  I don't necessarily want to write about my life every single day, so I had to come up with some other stuff.  The Internet Searches were hilarious and I hope my blog keeps getting weird hits like that so I can do more of them.  Some of the other posts were a little more "filler". 

Maybe I'd do it again.  We have to go back to October 2007 to find a month with more blog posts than this one. This was a really good exercise in generating content.  Even though I didn't love every single thing I did, it was useful.  It definitely made me sit back and then about what to write, when will I have 3 days in a row to post about music services, need to take more pictures, what else is an interesting topic. 

Awesome Treadmill Workout

I know; I can hardly believe that title either.  I have a hard time with Mondays so I save my workout until the evening.  (I have something in the morning g that I don't look forward to, so nothing gets done before hand.)  I wanted to keep off the track today since I've got something special planned there for tomorrow.  That left the dreadmill as my only option.  It turned out much better than I thought.

Here's what happened:
1 Mile warm up, build to faster than marathon 'slow' pace of a whopping 5.4mph.
400M at 6.7 mph (8:57 miles), 400M at 5.4 mph (11:06)
Repeat X 6 for a total of 4 miles
400M walking cool down.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a workout I liked on the treadmill.  As with all things treadmill, I probably wont try that workout again for a long time.  It was nice because after the warmup mile, 1 lap or 400m was the most I had to pay attention to any one thing.  The last couple 400s got a little challenging.  I tried to focus on relaxing my body and letting my legs be light and fast underneath me.  The treadmill teaches me I can wear my body out running that fast, or I can let my body relax and feel strong and still run that fast.

After the cool down, I did a couple planks (2 at 1:00 each which is a lot for me) and then did a bit of stretching.  The treadmill also teaches me to sweat.  There's no air moving over me so it's the only defense my body has.


Music Streaming Part 4 - Update on Workout Music

A while back I posted on popular streaming music apps Spotify and Pandora and the ever important issue or listening to music during workouts.  I did in fact get curious about using streaming apps during workouts so I decided to try it.  I used Pandora exclusively for the trial because I have the paid version of Pandora and didn't want to hear ads while I was running.

Running - I did a few shorter runs with Pandora as my music of choice.  I had GPS running at the same time.  I didn't notice any errors in GPS or issues with Pandora during the experience.  I also didn't notice any significant battery drain.

Walking - Similar to running, I listened to Pandora while walking around the lake.  In addition to GPS, I took a ton of pictures with the camera.  Again, I didn't notice significant battery drain.

Treadmill - I did one treadmill run with Pandora and had a couple issues.  My phone lost its data signal a couple of times while I was running on the treadmill, otherwise the experience was fine. I've long suspected my gym of having a cell phone blocker in the building.  They are really strict about no cell phones in locker rooms (something about a device that can take pictures in a place where people walk around naked).  My cell signal disappears when I get near the locker room but works fine outside the building. 

Other cardio equipment such as elliptical and bike. I couldn't try Pandora too much on this equipment because of the cell signal issue, but I badly wanted to.  I have a feeling this would be the best use of streaming music at the gym.

Keep In Mind - Station Choice is Critical.  Pandora does offer some stations for workouts.  I found those to be a little too varied and a bit off the mark for what I wanted.  My favorite station is the Pitbull station although that has hilariously little variety, as I've come to expect from Pandora and other-than-English-speaking artists.  For walking, Amanda Marshall station is my favorite.

Pros - It was nice to hear some new songs on my runs. It was also nice not to have to look for new music or put together one more playlist for a run.  It's more variety than I could've found.

Cons - During a workout it's almost impossible to give the station feedback, like thumbs up or down to a song, or skip a song.  For running and treadmill running, I just listened to bad music rather than stop and walk while dealing with the station.  Now you see why I wanted to try this on some other cardio equipment where balance and falling down aren't such an issue.


Medica Healthy Savings - I'll be watching

I just got this "healthy savings" card in the mail from my insurance company. Apparently, the idea of Healthy Savings is to give discounts on 'healthy foods'.  I'll be interested to see how it works.

Stores - The program only works at certain stores.  Cub Foods and Rainbow Foods are live and Lunds and Byerlys and in a 'coming soon' phase.  For the moment I'm ignoring the fact that subsidizing food of someone who can afford to shop at Byerly's is like giving Bill Gates a discount on his laptop.  It doesn't say if Medica is pursuing contracts with any other stores.  For myself, I'd love to see them add the co-ops (where there's legitimate healthy food).  Because I'm a social worker, I'd love to see them add Target and particularly Wal-Mart because many of the people I serve shop at those stores.

Food - Well, I mean, at least they're trying something.  I was a little disappointed there wasn't any "buy a cantaloupe for 15% off" or "buy one get one free heads of cauliflower" or "bananas 20% off" or something.  It's all food from manufactures that agree to participate in the program, or so it seems.  I was also disappointed there wasn't an emphasis on organic, or for the dairy at least rBST free dairy.  There are some interesting discounts.  Sadly, I don't really buy any of these items so i won't be able to get the benefit of purchasing 3 jars of peanut butter at once (a healthy habit all its own) and saving $1.50

What I'd Like to See Next
Farmer's Market bucks.   Blue Cross Blue Shield does have a program like this for members on certain plans and benefits.  It seems like the framework exists, so it would be nice to open this up to other insurance carriers and to all members, not just certain plans.  It'd be great for the members to get actual fresh food and it's a good way to support the local economy.
Add the Co-ops to the list of stores accepting the healthy savings card  Really, Target and Wal-Mart should be added, just because people buy lots of food there.  Heck, let's go whole hog and add Kowalski's too. Just because.
Start giving discounts on fresh fruits and vegetables.  Even the 'healthy' food I could get a discount on now is kind of weak.  Kefir has 20g of sugar per 1 cup serving.  The OJ served up under 'fruit' has 23g of sugar per 1 cup serving.  The Lean Cuisine on sale has 480mg of sodium, or 20% of the daily allowance.  I feel healthier already.
Discounts at healthy restaurants too  Birchwood Cafe, I'm looking at you.  There's a couple others that come to mind too.  Even Chipotle would be an interesting idea.  


Minneapolis Tree Apocalypse

Here's the situation: Thursday night, June 20 we had some wicked storms roll through.  They knocked out power and downed a bunch of trees.  I was thrilled because it meant my air conditioner was off all night and the next morning I wound up taking a shower at the gym instead of at home.  Friday night, June 21, mother nature threw me a birthday bash.  She had hail, lightning, thunder, the works.  It took out even more power lines and downed about a billion trees.  You think I jest.  It also seems to have overwhelmed the energy company website.

I tried to go to the gym this morning for Zumba.  Somehow, I have power after the second storm but the gym does not.  I hit the Farmer's Market across the street (they have generators) and then tried to come home. There were so many trees down it was really quite difficult.  I ran my mile around the neighborhood and then took a walk and snapped tons of pictures.  It's really quite amazing what mother nature can do.


Just So You Know

Just so you know who is who:

This is for Qat Lady, who would like a robot of her own.  I imagine her cat would sit on it or run from it.  Nothing in the middle.

This is for My Pooky Bear.  She does this but only as a joke.  Still, the likeness is striking.

This is me.  Because I just tried to decide what to wear tomorrow to a training where I am the leader.  I couldn't.  But I have outfits chosen for my morning run and for Zumba after work.  Speaking of fabulous 

Minneapolis Bike Trails are Confusing

I've said it before and I'll say again; I love seeing what searches bring people here.  "Minneapolis Bike Trails are Confusing" seemed a great title for a blog post, so I hope this person tries their search once more.  I'm not sure in which way "Minneapolis bike trails are confusing" but a few thoughts came to mind.  On this ride I think I found pretty much every kind of trail, greenway or bike line that we have to offer, and here is a review of some of them.

Pedestrian trails vs bike trails - there's several places where Bike Trails and Pedestrian trails are separate tracks, particularly around the lakes and on Minnehaha Parkway.  I think the original idea was to keep fast moving traffic (bikes) away from slow traffic (people) and make it safer for everyone.  Runners and walkers may use bike trails but it's generally frowned upon as rude.  I've never caught a bike on a pedestrian trail.  Then there's the places where runners and bikers are on the trail together.  Usually there's a pretty clear place for runners and walkers, and then two way traffic for bikes.  Or so we hope. In the winter, the city adds to the fun by ONLY plowing the bike trails and asking all the crazies who are still outside to share.  It usually works fine.

Bike trails vs Bike highways yes, we have those here.  A bike highway is where the inbound and outbound bike traffic are actually on two separate paths.  I'm not sure how many trails we have that fit that bill.  The ones I know the best are Kennilworth Trail and Cedar Lake Trail.

Bike trails that go in five directions at once - which one do I pick? Look at a map.  There's no real answer to this one.  There's some crazy places in the city where bike trails intersect.  Some are super well marked, some less so.  This isn't confusing inherently because it's a bike trail.  A bunch of roads coming together with poor signage would be just as confusing.  If you're riding a new route for the first time, plan ahead and look at the map.  You can identify some land marks leading up to the turnoff, and a landmark to know if you've missed the turnoff. I make this point because sometimes I feel I'm the only person in my entire generation who can actually read a map.  Even with GPS, it's an important skill folks.

Bike lanes in the city - whoa. We have a few variations on bike lanes.  Protected bike lanes have a barrier between bikes and vehicles, and often move the parked cars away from the curb to act as an additional barrier.  Some cyclists love them and some find them to be a hazard since motorists are so confused about having cars parked in the middle of the street.  You think I jest.  Most of our protected cycle tracks are downtown.  Then we have the mondo bike lanes of Portland and Park Aves with their uber wide buffers.  There's also billions of miles of normal six-foot wide bike lines striped down the sides of roads all over.  Bikes are supposed to bike with traffic and obey traffic signals.
That silver car up there, and the red car in front of it: Parked.  (Doesn't it look like they're in the middle of the street?)  This is a protected bike line.

Portland Ave Bike line with an extra wide buffer
Bikeways or Greenways
are a whole other beast.  They are roads originally designed for motor vehicles but changes to favor bikes over motorized traffic.  I live on the bikeway no one has ever heard of.  I also refer to it as "the one they forgot to finish".  Serious.  Two main bike roads in Minneapolis are the River-Lake Greenway (also known as the 40th Street Greenway) and the Bryant Ave greenway.  I hear we're going to (finally) have a north-south route, the 17th Ave Greenway but I'll believe that when I see it.
Bryant Ave Bike Way - extra big sharrows for bikes.  No fun for cars.

On the 40th street bikeway - cars are forced to turn right at this intersection, only cyclists can trigger the light to go straight.


Long Run Friday - Happy Birthday to Me!

Mother nature had a party of her own the night before my birthday, which made everything very interesting.  I woke up in the middle of the night to no power, and woke up again before my alarm went off.  Luckily I had my cell phone alarm set so the power outage didn't prevent me from getting up.  Turns out we need to add a new motivating method for long runs: no power inside is boring.

I fueled up before the run with the Chocolate Babka that my boss got me for my birthday. Turns out, it's excellent running food.  I filled up my Camelbak and grabbed some food for the road and headed out the door.

Two things about this run:
One - It was really slow.  Even the miles I tried to make fast were pretty slow.  I've read that heat and humidity can slow runners down, so I decided not to panic.  To me, it was a minor miracle I got out the door at all.

Two - there were trees down everywhere.  This turned out to be relevant later when we had a second storm that took down even more trees.  I had to climb over/under two trees at the top of the Ft Snelling path.  I thought for sure I'd find more and more down along the way, but that was it.  There were also two separate trees blocking the path near the falls and billions of sticks, twigs, branches and other tripping hazards.  I did not fall down.


Long Runs - Get out the door!

Ever felt like you just can't get out the door for a long run?  Think about the workout the night before and you can't sleep?  I have.  I was looking for company to make sure I'm not alone.  For example, this is happening tomorrow and I'm very aware of it.  That's going to make for one HOT long run.

For myself, I've found that if I actually get out of bed then the long run will get done.  The problem is that I set my alarm for very early (because it's hot) and then just turn off the alarm and go back to bed instead of, you know, doing any work.  This has been a particularly rough stretch because I used to do long runs on Monday mornings, then stay at work late becuase it's the one night of the week the office is open late.  I can no longer employ this strategy because I have a 9am meeting on Mondays now.  (My attitude about this meeting doesn't help one bit.)

The plan for tomorrow morning is that I'm just getting up at 7am and seeing what happens.  Helpfully I have to meet a friend at 11:30 for lunch (Happy Birthday to me!) so the morning is pretty much the only chunk of time I have for this.  If I wimp out from the heat, I will go to the gym and do a long workout. 

Strategies I've found to (sometimes) be helpful for actually getting long runs done:
  • Have a backup plan like a long indoor track workout.  Sometimes it rains.
  • Do it on a weekday before work - this seems to be the only way I can reliably drag my ass out of bed at 5am.
  • Do it with friends.  Most of my friends are faster than me.  Most everyone is faster than me.  Sometimes I can convince Running Beth that a slower long run would be fun.
  • Rewards - Tomorrow my reward will be lunch with Qat Lady.


One more internet search result

To the person who searched "Imodium or Pepto before a marathon": I feel your pain.  The answer to your question is Imodium.   As a clarification Imodium relieves the "I have to go NOW" feeling.  Depending on the intensity of your symptoms, Imodium can turn down the level to an "I'll have to go soon" feeling, or it can make it disappear completely.

You may notice changes in the way your body hydrates on your run after you take Imodium or Pepto.  Side effects include dry mouth and increased sweating.  Awesome.  If you're planning on this intervention on Marathon Sunday, consider testing it out on your long runs as well.  That will give you time to play with questions like "one pill or two?" "how long before the run starts should I take this?" and "how thirsty will I be?". 

You can find additional information here on the blog,  or you can ask some other bloggers, or get some information from an actual adult over here.  Whatever you do, don't read the story from Steve in a Speedo.  You don't want to know.  (That's the link everyone will click isn't it?)


Hanging in Duluth

I was up in Duluth on Monday and Tuesday for the Minnesota Aging and Disability Odyssey which is a big day of training.  Some of it is new concepts or techniques and some is Minnesota specific updates to laws and procedures for our programs here.  It was actually a really good training.

Monday night another girl and I drove up the shore a bit for a picnic.  There's no Kosher restaurants in Duluth apparently, so she brought her own food.  I stopped for Thai carryout and away we went.  It was a windy night.  We wound up coming back and hanging out in the bar for a little while before going to bed.  And yes, that is my room number.

Tuesday I got up and ran along the lake shore with a different girl. The wind had finally stopped and the views were fantastic.  I also learned that the shoreline along Lake Superior is not flat like the shoreline of our measly city lakes.  It's up and down and hills and rollers and all kinds of goodness.   It wasn't a super fast run, but I can say that I did not poop my pants and I did not fall down.  Given my year so far, those are both accomplishments.