Tag Archives: fitness

Recovering from London Syndrome

15 May

According to a recent AskReddit thread, there’s a term for what I was suffering from before I came back to the states: London Syndrome.

london syndrome.jpg

I think it’s all but cleared up now, thanks to some quality time with friends and family in Milwaukee, Chicago, Cincinnati and Cleveland, plus the vast areas of emptiness that you can only find in rural and suburban America. When I run here, I’m lucky if I run into one other human being (though I am obligated to wave and smile at them, of course). The European stereotype of Americans is that we’re loud, fat and friendly, and I always forget how true that last one is. I was riding the lift (I’m sorry, elevator) in my hotel in Chicago and this guy just started… talking to me. As far as I know he wasn’t trying to pick me up, he was just being friendly. It happens at the grocery store all the time too. My mom and I were at Aldi talking about how much cheaper everything was than at Kroger, and this stranger just joined in the conversation like it was a completely normal thing to do. As an anti-social introvert who has apparently lived abroad for too long, I’m not sure I’ll ever feel comfortable about that aspect of suburban American life, though as far as American stereotypes go, it’s certainly not a bad one.

My running has been suffering since I’ve been back, though if I’m being honest, it’s been suffering since Pokemon Go came out last July. At first it was too rainy, now it’s too hot. My lungs have been suffering when I go more than 2 miles, and I’m not sure why. Am I coming down with something? Am I just choking on that sweet taste of freedom and unpolluted air? I was keen to do a local 5K this weekend, but now I’m thinking I’ll do the one in two weeks instead. When did running 3.1 miles become a struggle for me? And in light of that, why did I think this was a good idea?!:
London marathon.png
(I just entered the lottery. And if my luck is anything like my Royal Parks Half luck, I will not be allotted a spot. Though I have no idea what I will do if I actually am allotted one — could I really run 26.2 miles in April 2018?!)

Why you shouldn’t text and run

18 Jan

I pride myself on my ability to multitask while on the move. Every day I play Songpop while walking around getting Fitbit steps and am constantly flinging Pokeballs while running. But as I was walking around playing Songpop after dinner tonight, I realized my knees were hurting a little. And then I remembered what happened this morning.

Every driver thinks they can text and drive — until they get into an accident. I thought I could text and run. Until today. I was running along the Thames, having just caught a rare Lapras in Victoria Embankment Gardens, and was heading up to Green Park where another Lapras had spawned. I don’t normally run south on Victoria Embankment, though I obviously knew what direction I was going. So when I got a text from Stephen, I didn’t look up before replying — I could sense there were no people in front of me, just a guy running right behind me. However, I could not see that there was a bridge support column right in my path, and so I ran into it. Literally. At 6 miles an hour.
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dog wall.gif

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Luckily I hit the lower part of the column pictured below, so I bent at the waist and only my knees crashed into the concrete.
embankment column.png
The whole experience was so completely disorienting and shocking that all I could do was laugh. I’m dying to know what the guy running right behind me was thinking. Probably “Stupid kids and their phones! I bet she was playing Pokemon!” (For the record I was, but not at that instant.) My knees hurt initially, but not enough to make me call it quits and walk home (I had another Lapras to catch, after all!). I’m really lucky I was not seriously injured. There’s a lesson to be learned here — probably “don’t text or play Pokemon while running and always stay aware of your surroundings,” but I’ll just stick with “only text and play Pokemon while running if you’re absolutely sure there are no obstacles ahead.” (Baby steps!)

Half marathon aftermath

28 Sep

If the shiny new medal and T-shirt didn’t give it away, you could easily tell who just ran the Richmond Marathon or Half by the way they were climbing the Tube stairs. I should have anticipated it, but nobody told me just how much running a half HURTS. Not so much during — I’m actually surprised by my lack of blisters — but after. Oh, after. It didn’t really hit me until after I got home, took a shower, went to Chinatown to stuff my face with dim sum, then came back and took a nap. When I woke up from that nap I couldn’t move. Everything hurt. It hurt to stand up, to walk, to sit on the toilet, to bend my knees, to straighten them.

everything hurts running.gif
“My knees hurt so bad,” I remember some girl saying right after the race. “Oh my god, is this what it feels like to be old?” If that’s true, I am not looking forward to it one bit. Stephen couldn’t help but laugh at the way I was hobbling around.

“I can’t even complain,” I said. “I totally did this to myself.”

The best way I can describe the pain is jetlag mixed with the flu — the kind of flu where your whole body just aches. I felt tired and exhausted, but not sleepy. I just laid in bed staring into space. I didn’t have the energy to work or even to browse Facebook on my phone. It took everything I had just to put frozen chicken wings into the oven for dinner. And about that — I’m realizing now that I probably should have taken post-run nutrition a little more seriously. I went the “I just burned 1,200 calories and am gonna eat all the bad things!” route instead of “I’m going to fill my body up with goods things to help it heal.” The dim sum, chicken wings, and cake could have been another reason I felt like crap. Eventually I was able to pass out and after 9 hours of sleep I felt much better. I was still sore, but it was a functioning sore. I definitely took the bus to my hair appointment instead of walking 2 miles though.

We went to China a couple days later, because there’s nothing better for sore knees than cramming them in an economy plane seat for 12 hours. Though I was feeling better by then. We were only there for a few days for a friend’s wedding. It’s funny that pre-race me was debating whether I wanted to bring my running gear on the trip. It didn’t even occur to me that I’d be too sore to even think about hopping on a treadmill! Today was my first day back running after 9 days off. I took it slow with lots of walking and Pokemon breaks, but it felt good. Though it’s nice to have a goal you’re training towards, it’s also nice just to run for the sake of running (and hatching Pokemon eggs, of course).

map my run half.png

Richmond Runfest Richmond Half Marathon recap

19 Sep

I stood by the baggage drop van taking last minute puffs of my inhaler.

“Um, are you OK to run 13 miles?” The nice lady manning the van asked me, genuine concern in her voice.

“Yeah, of course,” I replied, much more confidently than I felt. I was about to run the Richmond Half through Kew Gardens — my first half marathon.

During my training runs I questioned why I was doing this, but when my alarm went off at 6:30am, I really started to doubt my silly before-I-turn-30 goal. But I suited up, downed my overnight oats, and hopped on the tube to Richmond. The train was filled with other runners boasting their half or 10K bibs. And like true sheeple, when we got off at the Kew Gardens stop, each of thought “I’ll just follow the other runners, they’ll know where they’re going,” and we all started walking in the complete opposite direction of Kew Gardens, despite the fact that we all had GPS on our phones. After a couple blocks the runner in front pulled out the map and realized we were going the wrong way. Just what I wanted to do before running 13.1 miles — walk an extra mile. It was good warm up I guess. I still arrived with plenty of time to use the loo, and then immediately join the queue for the loo again because there was no way I was stopping along the course to use a porta-potty. I dropped off my bag and made my way to the start just as they were calling for my wave. Could not have timed it better.

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We all started in a giant group, which made it hard to pick up speed or pass anyone. We moved as a giant amoeba through the scenic garden.

kew gardens pagoda.png

Then before I knew it, I was on my own — where had the rest of my amoeba gone?

The thing I love about running is that it can be either a solo or group sport. I was surprised to see more runners running the race by themselves than with groups of friends. Yet there was this subtle “we’re all in this together” spirit in the air as we powered towards the same finish line. At times running can be lonely though. At mile 5 we were back in the woods dodging sticks, rocks and whatever a pothole is called when it’s in the woods. To get the full experience (and because I read they were banned) I ran without headphones, so I only had the jukebox in my head. Which for some inexplicable reason was playing Jim Steinman’s Left in the Dark on repeat. It’s a sad song about an unfaithful lover. It is the furthest thing from a pump up running song. But I went with it. The only thing I had to focus on was not tripping, and even that wasn’t going well — I tried to dodge a rock and almost wiped out, but luckily caught myself without getting injured.

Around mile 5.5 we went through a cheering tunnel, which was encouraging. I felt ready to sprint towards the finish. But then I realized the cheering was meant for those doubling back on mile 11.5. There were people already 6 miles ahead of me. I still had 7.5 miles to go. I ate a Jelly Baby and buckled down for the long haul.

I always assumed I would walk a portion of the race. Besides my 10K race last November, I never run non-stop. There are always stoplights and stop signs along my routes, and even when I’m only doing 4 miles, I often have to take a walking break just to blow my nose and catch my breath (and most recently, catch a Pokemon). So it was just a matter of when my walking break would be. Around mile 7 my knee started to hurt. Just make it to mile 8, I told myself. That’s a respectable, even number. You can say you ran 8 miles non-stop. But then at mile 8 I ate a Jelly Baby and didn’t feel a desire to stop. So I pushed on. Slowly, mind you, but at a pace faster than walking. “You only have 5K left!” I told myself, then quickly realized it was 5 miles, not 5K (3 miles). Bollocks. Cue more Left in the Dark.

At mile 9 something weird came over me. I expected to be feeling like death, alternating a minute of walking with a minute of running. But instead this inner voice piped up: “What if you did it? What if you actually ran this entire half marathon? You only have 4 miles left. That’s a literal walk (run) in the park.” So I ran, getting a little boost each time I passed a runner who had thrown in the towel and started walking.

At mile 10 I decided to reward myself. Since I had made it 10 whole miles without a walking break, I opened up Pokemon Go and hatched my 10K egg (which was at 9.1K so I only had to run 0.9K). (I got a Pinsir in case you were wondering. I did not have him. It made me momentarily happy, which is what I hoped it would do). At mile 11.5 I ran through the cheering tunnel again and got a boost from all the charity volunteers. I was actually doing this! I was running — RUNNING — a half marathon! And I only had 2 miles left! At mile 12 volunteers rang bells and cheered us on. “One more mile!” They shouted. I spotted a photographer and gave him a thumbs up — thumbs up at mile 12. Who am I?

And then I remembered what I overheard a runner say around mile 10: “I hate the finish line of this race. You get into the park and everyone’s cheering and then you think you’re done, but they make you weave around.”

She was right. I was hurting, sure, but I had this fire inside me and was ready to finish. I ran into the park, high-fiving the crowds of supporters. I was on cloud nine! I could see the finish line! I looked at MapMyRun and saw my time — 2 hours and 10 minutes. I said I didn’t have a goal for this half aside from finishing, but my farfetched goal was 2:15. I couldn’t believe there was a chance I could attain that. I just had to go 100m, turn right, and sprint towards the finish. …but then I realized there was a sign after that 100m. “Half Marathon turn left, 10K turn right.” Turning right took you right to the finish. Turning left took you alllll around the park. I wanted to cry. I suddenly was emotionally and physically drained. It was the longest half mile of my life. Every runner around me was either walking or making “I want to die” huffing noises. There were no supporters around us — just grass, barriers and runners running out of gas.

I want to say I powered through, dug deep, gave an inspirational speech to those around me, and shot towards the finish. But I feel like I need to be honest with you, dear readers. I walked. Only for about 10 seconds, just to blow my nose, but at mile 12.8 of my first half marathon I took my first walking break. “You don’t get near the finish line and stop!” Jillian Michaels used to scream at me while I did her exercise DVDs. Well, apparently I do.

But this part happened for real — when I rounded the bend and saw the finish line straight ahead, I dug deep. I sprinted like it was a 200m race. I like to think the other runners plodding along gazed on in amazement as I shot past them. And then, like a scene from a cheesy movie, I actually threw my arms up in the air and crossed the finish line in that pose, victorious. (I can’t wait to see the photo, though I doubt it’s as magnificent as it is in my head). A volunteer handed me a medal, I put it on and held it up proudly for the photographer, and then my eyes started to water as the mental and physical exhaustion started to hit me. I ran a half marathon. And I actually RAN it, aside from that tiny infraction close to the finish line that we won’t talk about. My time ended up being 2:16 — 1 minute from my goal. By no means fast, but a solid first effort.

When I texted my runner friend the news she asked me if I was ready for a full now. As I write this Jim Steinman’s What Part of My Body Hurts the Most is playing in my head, so the thought of putting my body through 26.2 miles seems insane. I think I’d rather focus on improving my 5K, 10K and (maybe) half times. But then again, when I finished my first 10K race I thought there was no way I could run twice that distance, so in the words of (ugh) Justin Bieber — never say never.

Walking, running and catching Pidgeys in the park

11 Sep

I think I’ve been walking too much lately. And that’s really saying something because I walk a lot on a regular basis. I made it my goal this year to walk at least 10,000 steps a day. So far the only 2 days I haven’t met that goal were the days I lost while traveling to China, which involved waking up at 5am, sitting on a plane for 14 hours, then all of a sudden realizing it’s dinner time the next day and almost two entire days of my life were gone. Shower thought I had while jetlagged last month: if you moved to China from the U.S. and for whatever reason never went back to the U.S. to visit, you would lose 12 hours of your life (from the time change, not the plane ride. Though the plane ride could be seen as a waste of life too). Although on the flip side, if a Chinese person moved to America they’d be adding 12 hours to their life (13 if it wasn’t daylight savings time).

I was talking about walking, wasn’t I? Earlier this year I was averaging about 15,000 steps a day, but lately I’ve been doing 19,000 or 20,000. It’s a combination of half marathon training, Pokemon Go hunting, and just general weekend nice weather post-lunch strolling. I keep telling myself to take it easy so I can be at my best for my long runs, but there are a plethora of Pidgeys to be caught! (Another side note: I often find myself singing “Catching Pidgeys, catching Pidgeys in the park” to the tune of Spunge’s song Kicking Pigeons.¬† If I were better at singing, songwriting and Youtubing I could probably be making bank off this spoof song)

This half marathon has really snuck up on me! It hasn’t fully hit me that it’s a week from now. I did a 9-mile long run last week, my longest run to date, which was filled with excitement when I hit Constitution Hill and was told by a police officer to run through Green Park because there was an active crime scene ahead. When I came upon Buckingham Palace I saw an air ambulance helicopter!

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I can’t imagine the tourist hubbub when that landed. People were speculating about the health of the royals (obviously not remembering that the queen isn’t there in the summer, which is why the state rooms are open to tourists). It turns out there was a collision between a taxi and cyclist on Constitution Hill and the cyclist was being treated for life-threatening injuries. I don’t think they took him away in the helicopter though because it was still there when I circled back 30 minutes later. My 9 miles were relatively slow thanks to the hubbub and resulting “buckingham palace helicopter” googling (and OK, I may have also played a bit of Pokemon), but I did it! And I wasn’t too sore the next day either — I think I walked 18,000 steps. Today was supposed to be my last long run before the race, but I’m probably one of the few runners who doesn’t do her long runs on the weekend, so it’s 10 miles tomorrow. Then it’s grocery shopping and complaining about the heat on Tuesday (seriously, how is the high for Tuesday 88 F/ 31 C, it’s September, London!) and generally taking it easy until Sunday, September 18 (which in all likelihood means walking too much trying to hatch Pokemon eggs). Wish me luck!

Summer is the worst

7 Jun

Have I mentioned that I hate summer? Specifically running in the summer? I found this handy chart that explains how heat affects your running goals:

running temperatures.png

When I set out today at 1pm it was 79 degrees (26C), which according to the chart is “extremely oppressive” and I probably should have skipped the run. But instead I decided to just lower my mileage. Instead of my normal Tuesday long run, I’d do a “short” long run of 6 miles. I stopped in my usual spot to stretch and get my audio book started before I set off. I’ve been listening to audio books on my long runs to help me pass the time and power through. Right now I’m listening to Game Change, which is all about the 2008 US presidential election. I was looking forward to today’s listen because I had finally gotten to the Palin chapters. But when I opened up iBooks, Game Change was gone. So were all my other audio books. I hadn’t updated my operating system or synced my phone, so I couldn’t figure out why they disappeared when they were there yesterday. I clicked on a bunch of tabs and finally opened up the music app, thinking maybe they somehow got moved. That’s when I realized all my music was missing too! Apparently all my audio files on my phone can just magically disappear without touching anything.
not even mad amazingSo it was not a good start to my run. Luckily I had just reactivated my Spotify Premium subscription this morning, so I listened to Tegan and Sara’s new album as I plodded along. The heat and humidity were oppressive though, and my “I’ll just do 6 miles” turned into “I will be lucky it I can do 4 and not die.” 4 is still better than none though!

And I know what you’re thinking — why don’t you just run earlier? That’s the obvious solution. Except it’s not easy. I like running, but I like sleeping even more, and I’m pretty sure getting a good night’s sleep is the healthiest thing you can do for your body. I could run first thing after I wake up like a lot of people do, but I don’t like running on an empty stomach. I’ve got a good system going that involves waking up, eating my overnight oats, working for a few hours, and then running. Why you gotta try to mess it all up, summer weather?

I’m experimenting with my summer running kit and added two new items: a visor and wrist bands. I picked them both up in the golf section of Sports Direct. I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but I never understood the purpose of wrist bands until about two weeks ago. Sweat bands I get — they keep the sweat off your face, but wrist bands? Do they keep the sweat off your hands? Who gets sweaty wrists? But then I saw someone using them in a workout video and realized you use them to wipe away and absorb sweat from your face. Seems like a better idea than just using a tissue like I’ve been doing. I got the visor to protect my face from the sun. I always wear sunglasses and sunscreen, but lately I’ve been noticing more freckles and wrinkles on my face than I’d like and was hoping the visor would help. The jury is still out on the effectiveness of both my new kit items. The visor helps a little, but it also adds an additional layer to my already overheated head. The wrist bands work OK, but not with the visor as the brim prevents my wrist from reaching my sweaty forehead. They also got a little wonky when I put them in the washing machine even though I let them air dry. Alas.

pug exercise

(When I got home I synced my phone with my computer and all my audio files came back, which is good, but I’m still curious how it happened in the first place and worried that it could happen again. I’m also mad I lost my place in Game Change. I am blaming summer for all of this.)

The Great Walk of London 2016

19 May

Stephen Facetimed me this evening as I was walking in Hyde Park.

“Are you running?” he asked.

“No,” I replied. “I’m walking. I’ve been walking for six hours now.”

And because he knows me, his first question was not “Why?!” but, “Where have you been going to the bathroom?”

The Great Walk of London 2016 happened, my friends. And it was glorious.

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