Tag Archives: jogging

Running in Kentucky vs. London

11 May

It seems I only ever visit Kentucky when it’s freeze-your-fingers-off or sweat-your-face-off weather. Neither of which is very conducive to running. It’s been certified butt-hot (mid to upper 80s) in Florence, Kentucky, which has forced me to run first thing in the morning instead of my usual 2 to 3 hours after breakfast. I’ve been back in the U.S. almost two weeks now and I’m still riding the jet lag train. If there is such a thing as good jet lag, it’s GMT to EST. I’ve been going to bed early and waking up early, which works well with my parents’ schedules as well as my work and running. The only time it wasn’t so great was this past weekend when I won free tickets to the comedy club that were only valid at the 10:30 pm show. My constant yawning was not a reflection of the comedian’s material.

When I left London, the weather was perfect, the terrain was flat, and I had one of my fastest runs yet:

London fast run
I’m usually happy if I can maintain a 10 min pace or just under, so sub-9 min was amazing for me (though I did pause it at stoplights).

And then I arrived in Kentucky, where there is heat, humidity and hills. This was my run two days after the one above:

Kentucky slow run
Things really went downhill after that first mile (or uphill I should say). Although I compared the elevation maps of my runs in London and Kentucky and couldn’t find much difference… but reading elevation is not my forte.


London run elevationKentucky:

Kentucky run elevationI think I’m going to do a local 5K on Saturday. I really want to get an official sub-30 min 5K time. I’ve done it many times on my London runs, but this time there will be hills and no stoplight pauses. I’m always encouraged by my Facebook friends’ running posts, photos and times. There are even times when I’m lying in bed and most certainly not running that I think maybe I could run a half marathon one day. Maybe that’s something I should put on my bucket list. And then I run the thought by myself again mid-uphill run, sweat dripping from places I didn’t know could sweat, and I think “maybe you should focus on running 3 miles without dying first.” Baby steps.

Cincinnati Thanksgiving Day Race 10K recap

17 Dec

So on Thanksgiving Day (which was somehow almost 3 weeks ago) I ran my second ever 10K race. If you remember from my recent posts, I was really hoping for a sub-hour time. Sadly, that didn’t happen, and I have a whole host of excuses to explain why.

Excuse #1: I got attacked by a dog the day before.

Alright, I’m making it sound worse than it was. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the day after I arrived back in the US, I decided to do a short run around my parents’ neighborhood to make sure my race day kit (American English: outfit) was warm enough (see Excuse #2). I was wearing mountain trekking socks, calf compression sleeves, thermal pants and pug leggings, so my calves were essentially covered in 4 layers. My lungs were burning from the cold (it was about 30 degrees, or -1 C), but my body felt warm enough. As I was running I noticed a man and his boxer puppy jogging toward me. My first thought was “huh, a Steelers sweatshirt, you don’t see too many of those in Bengal territory,” followed shortly by “Ow!” as the puppy playfully jumped up on my leg. The guy kept running, perhaps not even noticing what happened, as did I, as it seemed like a harmless puppy pounce. But as I jogged on I felt a slight pain, and when I finally got home and removed all 4 layers from my leg, I saw a huge (like the size of a grapefruit!) bruise on my calf, along with a cut. I’m still not sure if it was a bite or a scratch — it happened so fast — and I can’t believe either would leave such a big and painful mark. I iced and bandaged it and it felt alright, but I’m still using it as an excuse for my race day performance.

Excuse #2: It was freaking cold.

When I left London at the end of November it was mid-50s (12 C). It was chilly, but not cold. It was actually near-perfect running weather. It wasn’t until the day before I left that I actually wore any of my thermal clothing on a run. The morning of the race it was 30 degrees (-1 C), which is a big difference when you’ve been training in 20 degrees warmer. Even with my thermal layers, gloves, headband and snood, my lungs were frozen.

Excuse #3: London is pancake flat.

I never realized how flat London’s royal parks are until I ran in Cincinnati and Kentucky. The slightest incline kills me. The hills in the race were described as “rolling,” and truly, to anyone experienced in running anywhere besides London, they probably weren’t that bad, but since I did the majority of my training on completely flat roads, I struggled. I even broke my rule and walked up a couple of the bridges.

Excuse #4: My pants kept falling down.

Since I started running a year and a half ago, I have worn the same £2 LA Gear shorts. In the winter I wear them over my leggings since I need the pockets for tissues. They have always served me well. Yet on race day they started falling down after mile 1 and I had to continually pull them up. It’s never happened to me before and hasn’t happened since, so it was a total fluke.

Those are my main excuses. You could also add there were a crapload of people walking and running and the coral system isn’t that great, so even if you line up with your estimated mile time, you still end up dodging walkers. I took this shot right after the start.

cincinnati thanksgiving raceI ended up finishing in 1:02, 2 minutes slower than my goal, but 3 minutes faster than last year. And I got to wear my pugtastic outfit:

race edited(This was the only official race photo in which I don’t look like I’m going to die. The one near the finish line was not pretty!)

There’s always next year to reach my goal, or I should try a 10K race in London where it’s flat and warmer!

Running goals and pugwear

13 Nov

How is Thanksgiving only 2 weeks away? Or, perhaps more importantly, how is my second ever 10K race only 2 weeks away?

I decided it was time to up my training. For the past few months I’ve only been running 5K (3 miles) a few times a week, then 4 miles with Stephen on the weekend. The last time I truly ran 10K without counting the walking warm up and cool down may have been last year’s race. So I decided today I was going to do it — I was going to run 10K, to make sure I still can, to test out my new Spotify playlist, and to see if all my sub-30 min 5Ks I’ve been clocking in truly could turn into a sub-hour 10K.

I went into last year’s race with 2 abstract goals: 1. Finish 2. Don’t walk. I managed to do both, albeit slowly. It was my first ever race and I was just excited to be participating. But I’ve been running for a year and a half now, so it’s time I set a real goal — 10K in under an hour.

As I set off to Regents Park this morning I got to thinking about the road trip stages I wrote about 4(?!) years ago. I realized long distance running (shut up, 6 miles is long distance for me!) has similar stages — the initial excitement, followed shortly by Dear God What Am I Doing?! Several times I had to talk myself out of turning around or stopping. In the middle of it time was dragging, and I began questioning why I ever signed up for a 10K and why I would even entertain the thought of a half marathon one day, running more than 5K seemed impossible. And then it started raining, in true London fashion. But I kept going. And going. I got a welcome break at a stoplight, which I almost wish the race would have, but then got going again. I switched my MapMyRun app to kilometers so it would give me updates on pace every kilometer. Of course I started out strong, but then continued to get slower. Once my overall pace slowed to 6:02 per kilometer, sub-60 seemed out of reach. I was down to the last 2 km and stopped at a light. I gave myself a little pep talk, found the perfect song, then gunned it. I could feel a blister forming on my right foot, but I didn’t stop. I was so close. I did the 8th km in 5:41 and the 9th in 5:56. Finishing time? 59:48.

10k sub 60(Can you tell I struggled and walked for a second on km 6?)

I did it. Even if I can’t do it again in 2 weeks, I now know I’m capable of it. And like every race runner and mother who’s given birth, once I finished I completely forgot how miserable the whole experience was, and was looking forward to doing it again. My friend in Cincinnati texted me that it’s 28F today and I should bring warm clothing for the race. It’s been 55 all week in London, so I’ll have to dig up my thermal clothing to pack. Here’s hoping the polar vortex or whatever it is they’re calling the cold front leaves by Thanksgiving. I’d rather not have a repeat of last year’s 25F race. I even bought a new outfit specifically for the race, since it’s custom to dress somewhat crazy. I told my mom she’ll have to wait to see it in person, but I’ll give a hint — it involves pugs. Lots of them.

And on a final note, while I was buying my pugwear I saw these gloves:

pug panda glovesThey were a bit thin and I already have too many gloves, but HOW DID THEY HAVE ALL MY FAVORITE ANIMALS?! I wouldn’t even know which one to get if I did get one.

I know this post was probably boring for those of you who don’t care about running, so here’s a pug struggling to reach his goal:

struggling pug

Overcoming Jet Lag and Extreme Wipeout: Regent’s Park Edition

6 May

Whenever I arrive back in London, two things always immediately go out the window: my plans for the day, like grocery shopping, unpacking, working and cleaning; and every bit of advice I’ve ever heard about beating jet lag, like stay up until a normal bed time, go out in the sun, exercise and DON’T TAKE A 5-HOUR NAP!

I got in at the crack of dawn on Friday, had to struggle with my suitcases on the Tube because the Heathrow Express and Connect trains were broken, but still managed to catch Stephen before he left for work in the morning. I briefly struggled with the old long-distance travel priority battle — shower, sleep or eat? — before taking a 5-hour nap, the one thing I was not supposed to do. When I woke up I was in no state to do my full weekly Aldi-Iceland-Sainsbury’s-Tesco run; it took everything I had to put on shoes and walk down the street to buy bananas and yogurt. I struggled to stay up until dinner, then afterwards dozed off a couple times with my laptop on my lap while trying to get some work done. That night I got nine hours of sleep and woke up feeling like jet lag, shmetlag, I’m back! …but I forgot that the worst night of recovering from jet lag is not the first, when you’re exhausted from traveling in general and not sleeping a wink on the plane, it’s the second… and third… and DEAR GOD WHAT IF I CAN NEVER GO TO SLEEP AT A REASONABLE HOUR EVER AGAIN?!

If you can’t tell, I’ve had three straight nights of struggling to fall asleep before 3 a.m. Working from home and setting my own hours is a blessing and a curse.

In an effort to battle my jet lag and just enjoy this beautiful if-it-were-anywhere-else-it’d-be-mild, but-since-it’s-the-UK-we-treat-it-like-summer 60-degree weather, Stephen and I went for a run Sunday and Monday morning (since yesterday was a bank holiday and everyone was off). My lungs felt better than when I did the 5K race last weekend and I was trying to push myself a little bit yesterday, thanks to Stephen’s “You can do it!” encouragement, as well as that of a random guy parking his car nearby who heard Stephen shout it and chimed in. I was feeling pretty good as we ran along the path that cuts through the football pitches (soccer fields) in Regent’s Park. One minute we were laughing and quoting lines from “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” the next I was eating pavement, fully sprawled out on my stomach in what had to be one of my most majestic wipeouts yet.

After Stephen made sure I was OK, he burst out laughing. Once I shoved down the “this hurts and I kind of want to cry” feeling, I did too. Because I have no idea how I managed to trip on absolutely nothing or how I ended up landing face-down with my left hip bone taking most of the brunt.

dog running slips

It’s probably because my hands were full with my phone and water bottle so I only half caught myself, skinning my left palm and thumb and right wrist and elbow. Luckily it was not as bloody or painful as my fall last fall — after walking it off I was able to jog back home, mostly because I was anxious to get home to the Neosporin and bandaids which were a mile away. I’m glad I was not hurt too badly and that everyone playing football had a good laugh. It’s also a testament to the iPhone 5s’ and my cheap panda case’s durability — that thing went flying across the pavement and didn’t receive a scratch. I wish I could say the same about myself.

My First 5K Race… 5 Months After My First 10K

28 Apr

I guess there’s never a good time to discover you’re coming down with a chest infection, but I’ll tell you when a particularly bad time is: during a race.

On Saturday I ran my very first 5K race, which I realize is surprising since I started the Couch to 5K program almost a year ago. I conquered the Thanksgiving 10K but never got around to running an official 5K until now. I admit I’ve been slacking on my “training” since doing the 10K, but I thought a 5K would be easy — only half what I ran in the last race! I figured I could easily do it in less than 30 minutes. In fact, I was so cocky about it that I made a music playlist that was only 30 minutes long.

And then I started running. I heard the gun go off but got caught up in the walkers group because I was fumbling with MapMyRun and my watch. Luckily this race was nowhere as crowded as my last one and I was easily able to maneuver around the walkers and catch up to the running pack.

“I am zooming!” I thought. “I’ve totally got this!” According to my phone, I ran the first mile in 8:50, which may be my fastest yet. And then I came upon a hill. During my last race I had one rule for myself — no walking, even on the hilly bridges. And I managed to continually jog/run for 6 miles then. This time I told myself the same rule — no walking, it’s only 3 miles! And then I finished one mile with a little too much exertion and started to feel a tightness in my lungs. I had taken two puffs of my inhaler before I set off, so I couldn’t figure out why this was happening. Was it because I started too quickly? Because I didn’t walk and stretch enough beforehand? Because I woke up too early and ate less than two hours ago? I had to break my rule and walk up a hill. And once I broke the rule once, I seemed to have no problem breaking it again and again. Not to get too graphic, but at times I had to “pull over” and spit up some mucus. I’m sure the other runners enjoyed watching that. My pumping playlist encouraged me to continue, but I couldn’t shake the pain in my chest. On one of my fitness videos Jillian Michaels shouts, “You don’t get to the finish line and slow down!” Except that’s what I did. I knew the finish line was around the corner, I had planned to gun it, but my lungs were burning. I started walking when another runner came up behind me and started shouting encouragement. I couldn’t hear exactly what she was saying because of my headphones, but it was still exactly what I needed.

“I think I’m getting a second wind!” I shouted back at her, then took off. (Thanks to my mom for the great photo!)

renee running 5k

I crossed the finish line a proverbial hot mess — fallen off headband in my hand, one headphone dangling out of my ear, coughing and weezing like I had never ran before. I barely had enough energy to open the cold bottle of water that was thrust at me.

“What is wrong with me?” I kept repeating out loud. “I shouldn’t feel like this, it was only 3 miles!”

Then I met a pug who was breathing the same way I was. That made everything slightly better.

sugar pug
Even in the car ride home I was coughing. It wasn’t until I got home that it finally hit me — I didn’t perform so poorly because I hadn’t trained properly, I was sick. Whatever chest infection my dad has been fighting lately was probably lying dormant in me, and riding around in airplanes and trains in New York two days before the race probably didn’t help either. (Yes, I made a spontaneous trip to NYC last week, more on that later.) I’m still glad I did the race, and 31:52 isn’t a bad time when you’re ill. If anything it’s a time to beat at my next race. I’ll finish in under 30 minutes eventually!

My running goals

18 Oct

I hear it’s important to have goals, especially when you start out running. Signing up for a 5K or a whole marathon keeps you focused. While I’m still intent on running the Thanksgiving 10K, I set another personal goal for myself, one that’s been in the back of my head even before I took up running.

I had to find George Michael’s house.

Let me stop here and tell you that I’m not some crazy stalker. If I came face to face with the man I wouldn’t know what to say. My mom was a big fan of George and Wham! when I was growing up, and she passed the torch to me. I knew he lived near Hampstead Heath since he crashed into the Snappy Snaps there (someone wrote “Wham” on the site of impact, which still makes me laugh!)

snappy snaps george michael wham

Mostly I was just curious. So many celebrities live in London, but I never seem to run into them. I did some Googling and found out that George Michael — along with Jude Law, Sting and Kate Moss — all live in Highgate. Thanks to the Internet, I even found the exact street they all live on. I’ve never been to Highgate, so I made it my goal — I would become fit enough to run the 3 miles there and back (for a total of 6 miles, or 10K).

I pushed this goal to the back of my mind, preoccupied with all that goes into moving (or “moving house” as they say here, which seems redundant) until it dawned on me — when we move in three days, I will be even further than 6 miles away from Highgate. So I had to add one more thing to my Moving To Do List, after packing, cleaning and spackling — run to George Michael’s house.

I tried to talk myself out of it. I was set to go on Tuesday, but then I decided to go grocery shopping instead. Then Wednesday it rained all day. When Thursday came and the sun was finally shining, I knew it was now or never. I plotted the route on Google maps, emailed the screenshots to my iTouch and set off. I ran up and down Primrose Hill (not the wisest decision, but I never get tired of the view), up across the greens of Hampstead Heath, then up to Highgate West Hill. They aren’t kidding with that street name — it was quite a hill! Having only run in the pancake-flat Regent’s Park, I was struggling and eventually had to walk. It was exciting though — running somewhere new and with a goal in mind. I passed private gated street after private gated street, no doubt home to other big names, until I finally reached The Street. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a bit of a letdown — it was an average street full of average-looking houses (though allegedly with impressive backyards that aren’t accessible from the street). But that’s the thing about London — some of the most expensive, decked out places look like rubbish on the outside (aside from the ridiculous mansions on Avenue Road). I slowed to a light jog to savor the moment — I did it! I ran three miles to Highgate to see George Michael’s house! I wasn’t a big enough stalker to get a house number, so I made a lap around the street. Unfortunately, he was not out walking his dog, nor were Jude Law or Sting sitting on their front stoops. I still felt victorious, until I remembered I was only halfway done — I had to run 3 miles back. Luckily most of it was downhill and I was on a runner’s/goal achiever’s high. I accomplished my main running goal, and now I know I am actually capable of running 10K and am ready to take on the Thanksgiving 10K (as long as there aren’t any massive hills).


Apple Geniuses and I really hate hot weather

1 Aug

There’s a stereotype that Brits like to complain about the weather no matter what. I was queuing at the till at Sainsbury’s on Monday (let me Americanize that — “standing in line at the grocery store”) and overheard the cashier talking to a customer. They both said this heat is dreadful and just wish it would rain. Then it poured almost the entire day Tuesday and I’m sure they complained about that too. I think I fit in here in that respect — is it too much to ask for it to be 68 and sunny everyday? Why only oppressive heat or rain?

I had to venture out in the rain Tuesday because I had an appointment at the Apple Store Genius Bar. I’ve been having a hard time clicking on my Macbook Air’s trackpad and it’s been driving me nuts, so I figured I’d have it checked out. It was my first time at the Genius Bar and it felt exactly like the South Park episode:

south park genius bar

The genius helping the guy next to me looked exactly like the bearded guy with the dark hair. My genius took my computer into the back room to perform surgery. In the meantime I just sat there taking the whole place in — I couldn’t believe how many geniuses and customers there were. I don’t know what that says about Apple — so many people seem to have problems with their products, yet they also seem to take care of the problems effectively. My genius brought my laptop back and said she tightened a screw. She also informed me that the trackpad is built like a mouse and technically you’re only supposed to click on the left and right, not in the middle. Apparently I’ve been using the trackpad wrong and now I need to retrain myself. Whoops.

When it comes to running, I think I prefer a torrential downpour to oppressive heat. When we were in Greece Stephen and I decided to run outside when it was 90 degrees. The scenery was beautiful and the sea offered a nice breeze, but I still felt like I was going to die, especially going up the last hill. The next day it was back to the treadmill in the AC. Today in London it’s hot again –87 degrees (30 C). I always tell myself I’m going to wake up early to run to avoid the heat. But I don’t like to run before eating, and by the time I make my oatmeal, eat it, do some work, then download a new running playlist it’s almost noon. This week’s C210K session is three 15-minute runs with 1-minute breaks in between. I tried to pump myself up with new music, but eight minutes into the first 15 the sweat started pouring down, and it didn’t stop. I felt like I was running through a cloud of humidity, which depending on my proximity to the pond or boating lake, smelled faintly of duck and swan poo. It took everything I had to start that second 15 minutes. An older woman ran by me, which normally would motivate me to speed up, but this time I just thought “good for her” and slowed to a walk to wipe the sweat out of my eyes. I plodded along at the slowest speed that can still be considered a jog. When I started the final 15 minutes I put on DaRude’s “Sandstorm” (that one techno song that you’ve heard a bunch but don’t know the name of). Even with sweat dripping down every inch of your body, you can’t not run to that beat. I got my second (or at this point probably sixth) wind and took off.

“Yeah!” I thought. “I can do this!”

And then I started getting chills — while running.

“Woohoo!” I thought. “I’m not even hot anymore! I can keep going!”


“This is probably not good and I may be dying.”

It turns out chills is a symptom of heat exhaustion. I always thought I’d be OK since I bring water with me, but I was definitely sweating more than I was drinking and pushed myself a little too hard. I skipped my usual sprinting exercises and walked the rest of the way home, looking and feeling like this:

anchorman hot

No more running in the heat for me. Autumn can’t come soon enough.