Thursday, January 10, 2013
It's the first quarter of the year, and life gets a little busy for me. This year, there's an early timeline for the annual pointy-haired performance review process. It's my least favorite part of the job, but it has to be done. As is typical, the pointy-haired nonsense lands right when I'd like to use my time and energy for work that will actually make a difference to my employer. But I deal with that.
At the same time, my volunteer job doing tax returns for low income people is starting up. I've spent some time getting up to speed for this year's training, and will spend some more time on that Saturday. Then I'll put 8 hours a week into the volunteer job from January 21 through April 15.
On top of all this, I committed to running a half marathon on April 28. A rational observer might ask, "What on earth is he thinking???"
Good question. I know that my paid job is going to be busy, and I know that I have a time commitment to the volunteer job. But Saturday, when I mentioned the Flower City Challenge to my daughter, she asked if they had a 5K. Yes, they do. Then she said she wouldn't do that one because she won't get her tax refund (i.e., won't have money) until after the price goes up beyond what she's willing to pay. So I opened my mouth and said I'd pay her entry fee if my foot got enough better for me to sign up.
The bad foot didn't complain at all on Sunday, and was good enough to let me run on Monday. I didn't run on Monday for other reasons, but I could have. So the decision was made. Yesterday evening it turned out to be convenient to go pay the entry fee, and now I'm committed. I'm not just committed to myself, I'm committed to giving my daughter a ride to the race venue with me.
So, how am I going to manage this, with a busy work schedule plus a volunteer job? I actually have a plan. The plan is to run 3 days a week, with a long run on the weekend, and gradually stretch the long run till I can cover the distance. I have 15 weeks to get there, and the last week is traditionally a taper.
I might do a little speed work, or I might not. Speed is not the focus. Running the entire course is the focus. The course for this half has a stretch of continual incline starting about at mile 6, and lasting 2 or 2 and a half miles. It starts out gentle and just gets steeper and steeper till it gets into the hilly part of the city and goes up and down quite a bit. So . . . I'll be doing a lot of hill work in training. I have some hills that I can get to from home that I can practice on.
The weekday runs will be time limited because of the work schedule. I can afford 30 to 35 minutes running on a day I work from home, like today. In the winter, I will likely run the route I ran today quite a bit. It has a 65 foot variation in elevation between the highest and lowest point, with two little hills that are fairly steep where I'm going up.
This morning I got up early, though not as early as a week ago. I debated about whether I had enough time before work, and decided to run anyway. It was cloudy, 36° F (2° C), SW wind 7 mph, mostly dry asphalt on the shoulders. Traffic was heavier than a week ago, because I was later into the commuter hour. I covered 4.66 miles in 32:07, for an average pace of 6:54 per mile. Splits were as follows:
I can do this two days a week, weather permitting. After a week of no new snow and some partial melting, I'm feeling better about making it through the winter running this year. It's amazing how even 2 or 3 days of not having to shovel snow improved my outlook on the weather.
The real action will be the long slow run on the weekend. The plan is to run 9 miles or so on Saturday. That means Saturday afternoon this week, because I have more tax training Saturday morning. When I get into the actual tax prep season, it will be running in the morning before volunteer work in the afternoon. I expect to vary the route for the long run, as it gets longer and longer.
The wild card is how well the bad foot tolerates stretching the distance. It's feeling pretty good about things after 4 weeks of the long run being roughly 8 miles; I'll have to see how well it likes 9 miles. But that's something I'll deal with.
If it turns out the bad foot doesn't get enough better to let me run 13 miles by the end of April, I can always back down to the 5K. I'd rather not have to do that; but I think I want to run 3 days a week in May more than I want to complete a half marathon at the end of April.
Oh, well. I can worry about the mileage not stretching out far enough if things play out that way. Right now, I'm happy that the mileage stretched to 4.6 miles being comfortable by the time I needed that distance to be able to run on the plowed shoulders.
And the snow under foot? If it happens, it happens. My new shoes came in, so I can make a pair of screw shoes out of an older pair whenever I need to. I'm leaning toward not making them until they're absolutely necessary. I got through one major snowstorm without them. If it doesn't get any worse than it's been, I might not need them at all.
Tuesday, January 08, 2013
My sister talks about having lines in the sand to defend her physical activity when work gets busy or life otherwise tries to interfere with her efforts to maintain fitness. It's a good concept, but for quite a while I did not have such lines defined.
In the past few days, I've determined where my lines in the sand are.
During tax season, I volunteer with a local VITA organization to prepare tax returns for low income people. This requires training each January, and the training is sedentary. Also, the training that fits with my work schedule runs 5:30 to 9:30 PM. The first of 3 such sessions was last Thursday.
Part of supporting my healthy lifestyle has been getting enough sleep, which means getting to bed early enough to get enough sleep before I need to get up. This has turned me into a synthetic morning person. Translation: I start to fade about 8:30 PM, and learning new things after 8:30 PM is difficult. I managed to get through Thursday, though I didn't get to bed on time.
Line in the sand #1: In bed by 10:30 at least 6 days a week. Getting to bed by 9:30 is better, and 7 days a week is better.
Sessions 2 and 3 of the training are today and tomorrow, with the test tomorrow. But there is an online option to train (just the federal return, but we covered the changes for New York on Thursday). I resolved to try to get the test out of the way with the online Link and Learn program, so I could go to bed on time today and tomorrow.
Saturday was a bust for online work. I did my long run in the morning, and had a nice afternoon with my daughter. Got a little bit of work on taxes done in the evening, but I faded and went to bed.
Sunday I made more progress, but got distracted by the NFL playoffs. That, and I had to break to take a walk. Otherwise, I wouldn't have got my 10K steps in.
Line in the sand #2: 10K steps per day. I might settle for less than 11K, but 10K is mandatory.
Monday was a day off work so I could donate blood. I walked early to ensure the 10K steps. But most of the day was in the computer room, doing either household financial chores or studying taxes and taking tests. I got to bed on time Monday, barely; but I also finished those tests and printed my volunteer agreement with the scores.
I missed lifting weights Sunday and Monday to the sedentary activities. Apparently, strength training is not a line in the sand.
Today is Tuesday, a work at home day. I would traditionally write a blog describing my lunch run. The short version: 37°F, sunny, SSW wind 10-12 mph. 4.65 miles in 37:17, for a 6:44 pace per mile. The shoulders were dry pavement, apart from a few patches of snow that I was able to avoid pretty easily. Being able to run after two days of being mostly sedentary was a good stress reducer.
Running, as much as I enjoy it, is not a line in the sand. I have had an extended period of not being able to run regularly, and I certainly am going to try to keep the regular running up. But it is not realistic to suppose that I will never be injured or sick, and in any event running cannot be an every day activity. I think I might be able to sustain 4 days a week, when the bad foot is 100%; right now I'm happy with 3 days a week and a natural pace over 4 miles that is a hair faster than my first competitive 5K.
To support the run on Thursday, and to support a walk this morning that guaranteed my 10K steps, I ate quick cooking oatmeal at breakfast instead of my preferred steel cut oats. It cooks faster, and the time was more important to me. But even with the quick cooking oatmeal, I found time for three sets of pullups du jour and three sets of pushups interspersed with preparing breakfast.
Line in the sand #3: Exercise during the morning breakfast routine. It's been pullups and pushups for a while. Before that, it was more extensive exercises while I was unable to run. Before that, it was kettlebell Turkish getup/windmill combos and kettlebell snatches. But it's always something, and I got that something in through two very sedentary (for me) days. On good days, I'll get the KB TGU/windmills and snatches in as well as the pullups and pushups; but getting one or the other is a line in the sand.
I don't think I have any other lines in the sand. You might ask, what about eating to plan? That's not a line in the sand, that's written in concrete. Thursday I had two pieces of pizza that were hard to work around, but I got it done. Today I didn't eat any of the free pizza when I went to training to turn in my volunteer agreement and free up the rest of this evening and tomorrow evening for other purposes. That was another thought in my mind while doing the training online; I'm better about declining free pizza than I was a year ago, but it's safer to just avoid it.
Lines in the sand for fitness is a great concept. These are things you will do, regardless of how much life gets in the way. Right now, my lines in the sand are:
1. Exercise in the breakfast routine, currently pullups and pushups.
2. 10K steps per day, even if I have to go out and walk at 8:30 PM to pump the pedometer number.
3. Get to bed on time at least 6 nights a week.
How about you? Do you know where your lines in the sand are?
Saturday, January 05, 2013
I got a break from the bad weather. There was no new snow overnight, and it was a balmy 31° F when I went out for my long slow run this morning. The shoulders looked pretty good on my street, so I decided to run a new route with more little hills, going further from home than I have so far this season. The fact that the bad foot felt as good as it has before a long run in several weeks played into this as well.
The shoulders were mostly clear, with patches of loose packed snow. The sidewalks were mostly uncleared. At the first minute, RunKeeper announced my pace as 8:05 per mile. I thought I'd figured out how to start the app right and got the pace down! This turned out to be an illusion; mile 1 clocked in at 7:47.
Over the course of the run, my average pace got faster. By the time I hit mile 6, I gave up on trying to slow to an 8 minute mile and just ran at whatever was easy and comfortable. Any noticeable slowdowns in the last 2 miles were from snow underfoot; there was more on the side road late in the route.
The RunKeeper chart and splits:
For reference, there is a 109 foot difference in elevation from the low to high points in the run. My big hill didn't feel so big because this route didn't go down as low before the big hill (run the easier direction). The ups and downs from mile 3 to about mile 6 were the new part of the route, and they weren't as challenging as I expected.
The final numbers were 8.29 miles in 1:03:02, for an average pace of 7:36 per mile. Yeah, that's faster than a long slow run should be. Maybe I'll be better at slowing down when I'm able to do longer runs. Or I might just always have trouble running slow on downhill stretches and slowing down enough after the downhill stretches.
The bad foot complained a bit at 59 minutes, but that was so close to home that I just kept going. It doesn't seem to be complaining very loudly now, but tomorrow will be a better indicator of how much progress I've made on that front. If tomorrow is as much improved over last Sunday as today seems to be over last Saturday, next week I'll stretch the long run to 9 miles.
I'm very close to putting money down to enter the Flower City Challenge Half Marathon on April 28. I have two weeks before the entry fee goes from $50 to $55; if the foot improves as much as I hope, I'll put down the cash at the cheaper rate.
Scheduling for training between now and April 28 will be challenging, but sometimes you just have to try to get things done. This might be one of those times.
Thursday, January 03, 2013
It's Thursday, a work at home day. It's also a long day, because I have training for my volunteer job in the evening. The original plan was to squeeze in a run at lunch.
Well, it's winter in Rochester, NY. Yesterday evening I lost my planned weight lifting session to clearing snow from the driveway. The forecast for today was more snow starting about noon. So I planned to forego my steel cut oats this morning in favor of quick cooking oatmeal, and use the time to clear the driveway.
The driveway didn't need clearing in the morning. The temperature was 16°F (-9°C), and the Weather Channel claimed it was calm. But the wind was forecast to increase through the day.
So I went out and ran before working at home. Covered 4.32 miles in 31:20, for an average pace of 7:15 per mile. That's a little slower than a normal run of that distance, but there was snow and slush on the shoulders. It's a good time for the conditions. And there was a bit of a south wind, but all in all it was a pleasant winter morning's run.
Got home, stretched, started working. Broke for lunch, and didn't need the run. So I cleared the driveway (which needed it by then), ate, and started this blog.
My first year of Sparking, I was blessed with a mild winter. That let me learn to run in the cold weather without being distracted by bad footing. This year, we have a more normal winter. The temperature isn't a big deal, because I figured that part out a year ago. Now I'm learning to deal with a normal level of snow for being downwind of Lake Ontario. This can be done.
Now, back to work before the full evening. At least my 10K steps for the day are secure.
Life is good.
Tuesday, January 01, 2013
On December 31, 2011, I went to bed at my normal time. This was a novel thing on New Year's Eve, prompted by an emphasis on getting enough sleep learned from SparkPeople. It worked out well.
On December 31, 2012, I remembered the previous year and chose to go to bed at 9:30. I've been getting enough sleep lately, so I was up at 5 before the alarm on a day when most people sleep late. I was leisurely about my morning routine, and still made it out to run by 7:15.
The forecast had called for light snow showers, slowly falling temperatures, and slowly increasing wind. When I went out, it was 28°F (-2°C) and cloudy with WNW wind at 11 mph. The predicted snow showers were not in evidence. Because it was not yet full daylight, I wore my headlight and taillight; but traffic was light. This was an anticipated benefit of running early on New Year's Day.
Had a pleasant 4.64 mile run, finishing at 32:32 for a 7:01 average pace per mile. I felt really good, and it was tempting to keep running for another two and a half minutes to get that next Spark Point. But I held to the planned route. My bad foot handled this distance well on Christmas Day, and reacted well to a reduced distance last Thursday; I want to give it a chance to react well and still be able to run 8 miles on Saturday.
Late in the run I thought I was getting a feel for what negative splits are like, but after looking at the splits I think I just used the first quarter or half mile as a warmup:
Later that morning, I did my normal budgeting for January. I use a program/method called YNAB, which is a zero-based budgeting system with a delay. What that means is, I budget for January with income I receive in December, and for February with income I receive in January. January's budget was routine, but I should have lower net pay in January due to the expiration of the temporary Social Security tax reduction. So I did an estimate of what that would do to my net pay, and trimmed 3.7% out of my par budget for February to put it where I can easily adjust it for actual January income.
Knocking 3.7% out of the par budget made me think about choices. As I was contemplating that, it struck me that this is similar to adjusting the daily calorie range for the nutrition tracker. At least, it's similar the way I do it where I track everything and eat to the ranges.
I have participated in many internet discussions on budgeting, sometimes with people who make over twice what I do but have trouble making ends meet. It's easy to say that they ought to have it very easy, and to a certain extent they do. Once they realize they can't spend more than their income, they have a lot of places where they can cut spending to fit income. But the cutting is painful for them, even though they're cutting stuff I never added into my budget in the first place.
I was reminded of this by my sister's blog from yesterday, The Facts of Life: www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
In that blog, she discusses how some people (males, with me as the prime example) get way more calories than other people (women, particularly petite women like her) and how she needs to suck it up and deal with it even though it isn't fair. She concludes that she can appreciate that her life is good even if she can't live on my daily maintenance range, which she described as being a binge day for her. How she emotionally feels about my issues of dealing with the changing maintenance range must be much like I feel about people with two or three times my income having trouble making ends meet. There will be intellectual understanding, but perhaps not much emotional sympathy.
But here's the deal in maintenance: From time to time, I need to adjust my calorie range up or down, in response to what is going on in my life and how the scale is reacting to my life. I don't want to outgrow my clothes, and it's dangerous to my health to lose too much weight. Those incremental calorie changes are like incremental budget changes. They require choices. In the case of calorie reductions, it means giving up food I've become accustomed to eating. I got some practice with that in 2012, as I had to reduce the calories I ate by as much as 25% in response to injury making me unable to be as active as I had been. That was an adjustment, much like cutting the budget. I had to find enough calories of food that I was willing to give up, while preserving the appropriate minimum amount of protein. (Minimum amount of fat is rarely an issue, and minimum amount of carbs is never an issue for me.)
In the case of an increase in the calorie range, it's not just making the numbers go up. I have to find something to eat to stay above that minimum number, on a consistent basis. That turns out to be trickier than budgeting an increased income, where the increase can always go into retirement savings or some other form of deferred spending. I can't defer eating calories I need this week. Finding a way to eat another 100 or 200 calories per day, and spreading them around so they don't all pile up in the evening, requires thoughtful decisions.
Actually, it's not the single increment of 100 calories; it's the cumulative effect of reversing that 25% reduction, plus adding a bit more to it, 100 and 200 calories at a time. One step is easy to sneak into the evening; but at some point, I need to eat more at breakfast, more at lunch, and more during the day so I'm not at the crash and burn point before I get to evening.
It's a good problem to have. I also have to remember that life is not constant. At some future point, I will be less active than I am now and need to trim those calories out of my nutrition plan. That's easier than adding, because trimming the calories will mean getting back to a way I ate somewhere on the trip of adding calories. The memory of how I did it before will make the decisions easier. But either way, adding calories to the plan or cutting them, is okay. It's just something that I need to do to successfully maintain my weight.
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