Thanksgiving Weekend, a Tracked Run, and Grateful Running

I hope everyone a great Thanksgiving holiday. I’m just getting back to Milwaukee and am still in somewhat of a post-vacation funk. We spent the long weekend with my family in my hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa and had a great time.

Pre-Thanksgiving meal

We got to cheer on the Iowa Hawkeyes as they played Nebraska on Friday! We saw the Hawkeyes play Nebraska 2 years ago on the Friday after Thanksgiving, and that game did not go so well. So it was great to see a much better outcome this time 🙂

And it wasn’t FREEZING this time, either!

Kevin and I followed that up with a date night, including hitting up a new brewery in town:

American Gothic beer couple. Variations on the American Gothic couple created by artists and companies are all over town. American Gothic is a big deal around here because Grant Wood, the artist, is from Cedar Rapids

 

I also managed to run 4 times this week! As you know, I have really been struggling to get back into a routine of regular running, so this is a big victory for me and I hope to keep the momentum going into the new year.

2 of my 4 runs were in Iowa. I love running in my hometown – I like the change of scenery and the new routes, I like the challenge of the hills, and I like to explore areas of my city I didn’t grow up familiar with. And I always manage to find a combination of great scenery and some quintessentially Iowan things:

 

On my Wednesday run before we left for Iowa, I decided to fire up the ol’ GPS and record it. I kept the watch under my sleeve and did not look at it again until I stopped it at the end of the run. Like all of my other runs lately, I tried to \tune out and keep the effort truly easy. My legs tend to have a mind of their own when I run, and I’ve found myself having to “check in” every couple minutes to make sure I’m still at a conversational effort level and then slow myself down if I’m not.

I ended up with about 2.55 miles at an average pace of 9:35. I was pleased with this result, as I was bracing myself for something a little closer to or above 10:00 min/mile. I suppose this doesn’t tell me much since I’m only running 2-3 miles at a time right now, but 9:30-9:35 was my easy pace when I was training, so it’s nice to know that my old paces still feel the same. I have a lot of work ahead of me to rebuild a solid aerobic base, and as I’m very gradually adding duration to my runs, it is nice to know that my speed is still mostly there and I haven’t lost as much fitness as I feared – it’s just a matter of getting my consistency and endurance back.

I’m going to keep running GPS-free for the next few months, but I decided that I am going to do another tracked run every 2 weeks to check in. I meant what I said about no time goals and not caring about how fast I can run, and I believe that in order to better develop my aerobic capacity it’s important for me to learn how to truly run by effort. But I think these “check ins” will help me keep my expectations in line. Old habits die hard, and I still sometimes find myself fantasizing about looking down at my watch during my next race and seeing that I’m running like a minute per mile faster than I thought I was. It seems silly, but if I’m being honest it’s hard not to get sucked into thoughts like this when I’m out running and feeling strong again. I don’t want to get obsessed with my speed again but I do think I need these “reality checks” to prevent me from being unpleasantly surprised later on.

It also gives me good feedback about other variables like heart rate. I wear my Fitbit when I run anyway, but this time of year it’s covered by my long sleeves so I can’t easily see my HR any time I want and, long story short, I can get better HR data analysis from a recorded activity. During my timed run, my average HR was 159. This is in my aerobic HR zone, but given the cool weather and the fact that I only ran for 2.5 miles, that means it’s actually a little high. I know that as I acclimate to running my HR will start to get better (as will my resting HR which is also higher than it was 7 weeks ago), but it is a good reminder that I need to work on keeping my effort easier on these runs.

Honestly though, I really am just happy to be running again and actually enjoying it this time. When I come home from my admittedly short runs these days, I have a smile on my face and a pep in my step, I feel great and refreshed, and I’m already looking forward to my next run! I love the kick in the pants it gives me, whether it’s in the morning before I start my day or in the evening after a long sedentary work day. I may not be running as fast or as far as before, and who knows if I’ll get back to my old race paces this year or not. But now running feels good, it feels healthy. Part of me doesn’t want to start running longer again because I’m afraid this feeling will go away.

I’m grateful for the new chapter I’ve been able to open in my running journey, and that running continues to be there for me even after I almost completely trashed our relationship. I’m grateful for a better attitude and a fresh start. And I’m grateful for a chance to rewrite my recipe with running no longer the ingredient that gets added in copious amounts and overwhelms the other flavors of the dish, but rather, the one that adds subtle spice while letting the rest of the flavors sing.

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7 thoughts on “Thanksgiving Weekend, a Tracked Run, and Grateful Running

  1. If running feels good and healthy, then what you’re doing is the right thing for you! I love your attitude toward running now. One of my goals for next year is to listen to my body more and not let my mind force my body into doing things that don’t feel right for me.

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  2. It sounds like you had a lot of fun. I am glad that everything is “clicking” for you right now! I am jealous that you always get to go to the craft breweries…we have a couple around here, but have been too busy. I think when you go home to IA, you should try and take a pic with a different “American Gothic” variation each time…

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  3. Yay! for hometown running. It is nice to have someplace different to run for motivation 🙂
    That is great you are feeling strong and getting back to a routine.
    I am craving a beer now LOL

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  4. Oh hey, it’s me. Sorry I’ve been such a distant blogger friend (I promise to email after we’re settled in after this upcoming weekend’s move.) One note about your HR – yes, it will likely come down when you start running more. However, I have noticed that my heart rate tends to be a little higher when it’s cold out. It seems my sweet spot is in the 40s and when the temps drop into the 30s and below, my HR gets elevated as my body works a little harder to get and keep me warm. So just something to keep in mind as the temps start to drop more as the weeks go on. If it stays a little higher as the weeks go on, it probably has more to do with weather than fitness!

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  5. I have been largely absent from the blogging world the last few weeks and am happy to see that you’re finding your groove again with running. Keep doing what you’re doing, it seems to be working.

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  6. This was a great read today. Great to see you enjoying running again. Old habits def die hard so keep up the effort running. It will be your new routine in no time.

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  7. Isn’t that the best when you check your watch and your pace is better than expected? I run a lot on the treadmill in the early morning and my pace is always slow (not on purpose). But when I get to run outside I’m always faster which is a great surprise! I have not been checking on my watch much lately when I run – because the numbers are too small for me to see clearly without my contacts in! Gotta love poor eyesight. haha!

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