Water and Hopscotching


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The holiday weekend culminated in a torrential downpour here. Water rushed through our yard in small rivers and filled our pond to the brim. This is such a contrast from last year in which we endured a severe drought that sucked our pond to a shockingly low level. Oh, the midwest; if it’s not one extreme it’s another.

These are some lovely pictures I took after this weekend’s downpour. During my walk, there was a ridiculous number of worms scattered all over the road. I literally had to step around them. I’m sure it was pretty hilarious to see me hopscotching down the road.

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Why I Decided to Start Running (and what I’ve learned so far)

The Long Intro

I remember it clearly; it was before a party one night when one of my college friends made the remark that she loved to clean. My other friends and I looked at her in astonishment; that is until she gave her reasoning. She clarified by saying that she loved cleaning because she could see her progress immediately and gain a sense of accomplishment from that.

I never thought about it before hearing this, but sometimes it seems like we’re not making progress on anything even if we’re actually working constantly. Usually this is because our work is difficult to measure. As a graphic design student in college things often felt this way for me. My fellow design students and I were constantly working on projects. Even when we weren’t actually working on them, we were thinking about them. So, while all this work was in fact progress, it wasn’t progress that was easily measured. Often, it was frustrating to realize that we had put days of work into a project without having anything tangible to show for it. This, for my friend, was where cleaning came in. It was a release; a way to feel accomplished.

This feeling of not being accomplished despite putting in a lot of hard work didn’t bother me that much in college. It wasn’t until after I graduated that it began to take a toll on me. After graduation it seemed like nothing was happening and I didn’t have the power to make anything happen. To combat this feeling, I wanted to work on something in which I felt in control and could actually track my progress. Long-distance running came to mind as the perfect thing not only because it would be good for my health, but also because it’s always been incredibly challenging for me.

My Surprise

The fact that long distance running is challenging for me originally struck me as surprising. It seemed effortless to me when I was very young; I could run for miles without giving it a second thought. I was active with track, volleyball, and softball through junior high. I continued playing softball until the end of high school. I also loved walking and rollerblading and continued these activities through college.

Why It Shouldn’t Have Been That Much of a Surprise

What I didn’t consider was that all the activities I participated in required short bursts of energy on my part. In track I was a sprinter; my longest event was the 400-meter dash. This was an all-out sprint of one lap around the track. My best event in track was probably the 200-meter dash which, of course, has a length of half of a 400. I also ran the 100-meter dash. In all of these events, I would use up all my energy in a short time to propel myself as quickly as possible down the track. This is basically the opposite of what’s required in long distance running.

The activities required in softball and volleyball were relatively the same. These sports involve a lot of standing at-the-ready. When required to catch a ball, run the bases, or bump the volleyball, it’s a matter of swiftly executing, then it’s back to standing at-the-ready.

Walking and rollerblading are a bit more similar to long distance running. This is because the effort required to accomplish them is spread over longer periods of time, but not nearly as much effort is exerted as in running. Therefore, these activities are easier to undertake.

How I Started Running (Again)

I mentioned before that when I was younger, long distance running seemed effortless for me. Well, when I started running again after college, it was anything but that! Running for even a few minutes left me winded and I caught myself checking my stopwatch every few seconds to see how much longer I had to endure. I knew if I wanted to continue running, this wasn’t going to work. So, I did some research and found the Couch-to-5k podcasts of Robert Ullrey. You can download them here or search for them on iTunes. (They are free!)

Ullrey’s podcasts are interval runs that alternate between walking and running. As the podcasts progress, the running intervals get longer and the walking intervals get shorter. Ullrey narrates the podcasts by telling you exactly when to run and when to walk. This way there’s no temptation to repeatedly check the time. During the podcasts Ullrey offers up some sometimes much needed encouragement. The podcasts also feature some pretty good running music. This is a 9-week program with runs scheduled three times per week.

My Experience with the Podcasts

At first the podcasts were pretty tough for me. I couldn’t wait for the walking intervals and dreaded the running intervals. But, in time, I felt less winded during the running intervals and didn’t dread them so much. I struggled with making the jump to 20-minute runs. I had to repeat this particular podcast a few times until I could finally finish it. Making the jump to 30-minute runs was also kind of difficult. But, again, I repeated the podcast until I got it.

I started the program not being able to run comfortably for 5 minutes straight. At the end of the program, I could run for half an hour! It was such a great feeling! I remember one day looking behind me at the course I had just run feeling so accomplished. My exact thought was, “Wow! I can’t believe I just ran that whole way!”

After the Podcasts

I didn’t want to just stop running after I finished the Couch-to-5k podcasts, so I decided to build on what I had accomplished. I would warm up by walking for 5 minutes, run for 30 minutes, then do a 5 minute walking cool-down. This worked pretty well and kept me feeling accomplished … until winter came.

During the winter I tried to keep myself active by doing workout videos and occasionally running whenever the weather would permit. This spring when I started running again, though, I found that my endurance had decreased quite a bit. I could only run for about 15 minutes at a time. This was a little disappointing to me, but 15 minutes was still better than where I started this little journey. So, I was ok with it.

Then I decided

I decided since I was doing so well with running that I would sign up for this local program that teaches you to run a 10k. It’s a 12-week program with runs scheduled three days per week. On the first day of the program, there was a mile-long run to see which running group each person should be placed  in. Much to my disappointment, I ended up being placed in one of the very slowest running groups. …and here I thought I had been doing so well…

What Was Wrong

After the initial pouting phase, I got over it. I realized that 1) I’m relatively new to long distance running, so being slow is alright …and 2) I may have been focusing on the wrong things while running by myself.

Since I used to be a sprinter, I had major issues with slowing myself down when I first started running longer distances. I would start out way too fast and be out of breath within the first couple minutes. To combat this, I began starting out my runs by running very slow; much slower than my natural pace. This helped me maintain a consistent speed throughout my runs. The only problem with this is that I should have been increasing this speed as my endurance increased. But, I wasn’t.

How I Plan to Get Back on Track

When I’m running on my own I like to use tools that tell me my distance and time. This way I’m not tempted to keep checking my watch; this can be torture if I’m having a particularly tough run. The best tool I’ve found so far is the Nike+ Running App. It’s free through the Apple App Store. You can use it for a timed run or a distance run. It will tell you when you’re halfway through, when you’re almost done, and when you’ve completed your goal. You can also use it along with your favorite music app. I love it so much! I plan on using it to track my progress and try for better times with each new run.

I’m also planning on committing myself to the local running program that I’ve signed up for. It’s nice to have people who actually know a thing or two about running to keep me motivated and moving forward.

An Overview of Stuff I’ve Learned (plus a few more things):

1) The Couch-to-5K podcasts are an excellent way to start running.

2) The Nike+ Running App is amazing.

3) Drink lots of water throughout the day, especially on days that you run.

4) Get good running shoes. You should get new ones every 300 to 400 miles. Although this number does depend on your weight and the type of running shoes you wear. (The Nike+ App will help keep track of this for you!) Also, if one is available in your area, go to a shoe store that specializes in running shoes. They will examine your gait and determine the best type of shoe for you. They’ll even make sure the shoes you pick out fit you well.

5) Don’t think about running while you’re running. Sometimes I find it best to not think about anything in particular. Listening to music or running with someone else helps this.

6) Don’t compare yourself to other runners; only to yourself.

7) Try not to run on back-to-back days. Three days per week (with a day of rest in between) is a good rule of thumb.

More To Come

There will most likely be more posts about my running adventures to come. My hope is that my experiences as a beginner runner will help others out there who are just starting out. …I’ll keep you posted. :)

No Reservations

I recently discovered Spotify (about time, I know) which lead to me rediscover Them Crooked Vultures; a very good rock-and-roll band compiled of artists from other rock superpowers; John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin), Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana), and Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss). After happily listening to their self-titled album on repeat while at work all day, I did a quick Google search of the band and noticed quite a few pictures of Josh Homme with Anthony Bourdain. As described by Wikipedia, Bourdain is an American chef, author, and television personality. His television show, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, happens to be one of my favorite things to watch. So, I did a little more digging and found that Josh Homme was actually featured in one of the show’s episodes! And, through the magic of Youtube, I found the video, watched it, and am now sharing it with you!

When Homme talks about his hometown, I can’t help but be reminded of mine. While it wasn’t in the middle of the desert like Homme’s, it was very small and relatively far from many forms of entertainment. As Homme recounts of his hometown, we had to make our own entertainment as well. This probably did wonders for my creativity.

Daily Mementos 05.20.13

Just a few photographic mementos from my daily life… Beautiful blooms on our dogwood tree, Zoe-the-cat hiding so she doesn’t have to go outside, a robin that’s made its nest in the most unusual of places, and a family of geese on our pond.

Virgil

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Alright guys, obviously winter storm Virgil happened a while ago. I originally published this post on March 23, in fact. You guessed it; this post is another one that I’m transitioning from my old blog to this one. …there will only be a couple more of these, I promise :). Ok, now back to the original post:

Today it snowed. …a lot. Like, I’m fairly certain we hit the 10-inch mark, a lot. This is kind of funny because it’s now officially spring. Also because two days ago I was making fun of the name that the National Weather Service has given this winter storm; Virgil. At the time, I thought, “How much havoc can a winter storm with a mild-mannered name like Virgil create?” …well, apparently, a fair amount.

The truth is that I’ve always loved a good snow storm. There’s something about being isolated from the rest of the world by a thick, pure blanket of snow that’s incredibly soothing. It’s as if by sealing off the rest of the world, the snow allows you to forget about the pressures of everyday life for a while and just relax.

It’s also probably because I associate snowstorms with days off from school. One of my favorite winter sounds when I was younger was the familiar scraping of the snowplow’s blade across the road next to our house. This made me think that if the roads were bad enough to call out the snowplows, they might be bad enough to cause school cancellations. Unfortunately, there are no snow days when you’re an adult… Although, there might be one for me if my car is unable to traverse the roads tomorrow morning. I guess we shall see…

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This picture will give you an idea of just how much snow we actually got. I was a little sad to see the snow being plowed from our driveway. It was as if the connection to the outside world was reopening.

Seattle Photo Diary

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The Seattle Great Wheel

I had the chance to go to Seattle on a business trip a while back. It was my first time there so, when I wasn’t at the conference I was sent there to attend, I explored the sights with my coworkers. I rode the Seattle Great Wheel, went to the Seattle Aquarium, gazed at the city from atop the Space Needle, ate at some fantastic restaurants, saw Pike’s Place Fish Market, and made a stop at the world’s first Starbucks. Here are some photo highlights from my trip:

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The ocean next to the Seattle Aquarium

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On the way to the Space Needle. I love the look of that apartment building. The brick combined with the stone architectural elements and the painted signage is just lovely. …none of my apartments ever looked this cool.

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At the Space Needle

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View of a building’s roof (adorned with three-dimensional spiders) from atop the Space Needle

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Yes, that man is climbing around on the outside of the Space Needle’s observation deck!

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View of Pike’s Place fish market

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Neon signage inside Pike’s Place fish market

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Inside of Pike’s Place fish market.

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Admittance stickers to the EMP Museum adorn a post in its entrance.

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At the EMP Museum’s Nirvana exhibit: a paste-up of the graphics for Nirvana’s “Bleach” album.

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At the EMP Museum’s Nirvana exhibit: super-cool signage at the entrance of the exhibit.

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At the EMP Museum’s Nirvana exhibit: well-designed infographics.

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An awesome wood and leather menu at Fado.

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Container cranes and the ocean

Seattle was a lot of fun! I definitely wish I had more time to explore the city, go shopping, and eat at all the amazing restaurants while I was there. Perhaps I’ll make it back someday.