Monday, January 9, 2012

Thesis - Still Not Over

After I finished my thesis presentation and turned in my paper, I knew I wasn't quite supposed to relax yet. I did not allow myself to think that I was done. My committee needed to review the paper and give comments so I could do a final revision. The early feedback was that only minor changes were needed. I allowed myself to relax a little.

However, when I got the comments and started working through them, clearly my committee and I have different ideas of what constitutes "minor." I nearly burnt out making revisions yesterday. I'm still not sure how to get everything done by the end of this week. I have no doubt that it will be accepted in the end, but it is daunting how much I need to get done.

I am so ready for this to be over.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Running State of Mind

I started running in 2001. At first I didn't really enjoy it, but the trainer I was using was also a tri-coach and he insisted that I run. After a few months, I started getting into it and even did a few races here and there.

The Chicago Marathon in 2005 was both the peak of running career and the downfall. Prior to doing that race, I had always assumed that the race was the hard part. Not so. The preparation was grueling. I always felt like I was preparing for my long runs, doing my long runs, or recovering from my long runs. If I was on call on the weekend, I would have to get up at 3am to do my long run so that I wouldn't have to run in the afternoon heat in August. The race went well. I decided to take a few week break, and that stretched into six years. I did try a few times to resume running, but it just never took.

In 2011, I finally resumed. I had lost some weight, so the running wasn't as physically uncomfortable. I made a pledge to myself to run at least three times per week for 4-6 weeks. It was so tough at first. I remembered how running had previously been almost effortless and meditative. When I was starting up again, it was painful and exhausting. The message "I'm going to die" kept cycling through my brain. However, after a few weeks, that message started to subside.

Now, I'm not running quite the marathon prep distances I used to, but I am running however long and far I want. It is not unusual for me to find that I ran far longer than I planned. My mind just drifts.  sometimes I solve the problems of the world; other times my mind is blank. I used to always run with music; now I vary it up. Most importantly, I am feeling much better, both physically and mentally.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Running in Winter

A while back, I discovered the joys of running through the winter. It kept me focused on my identity as a fact, it strengthened it. There are always runners on the Lakefront Trail in Chicago, regardless of season or time of day. However, in the coldest months, it is a dedicated crew that is out there, always sharing a nod or wave for the other members of the fraternity. There are other benefits to running through the winter. My tolerance for cold increases dramatically. Also, when spring comes, I find that my endurance and speed pick up noticeably.

The key to running through the cold is having the right gear. If you are miserable, there is no way to remain consistent. At the request of a few friends, I have compiled my list:

  1. General - It is critical to layer. Air gets trapped between the layers, and that is what will keep you warm without getting too bulky. You need to have technical wicking layers close to the skin to keep the moisture moving away from your body. The innermost wicking layer must fit close to the skin. It doesn't need to be binding, but it should not be baggy. It is also critical to care for you wicking gear properly. Don't wash with bleach or fabric softeners. Absolutely NEVER use dryer sheets....your clothes will lose their wicking properties.
  2. Tops - Depending on the temperature, I will wear 1-3 layers. The innermost layer will be my wicking layer. I have two different weights for this inner layer, one super light and one medium. Sometimes, all I need is that one layer. If needed, I can put on a second layer which is a fleece. I prefer a wicking fleece, but I know some people use a sweatshirt. Finally, if it is windy, I will put on a windbreaker. I typically use a windbreaker vest, but I have one with sleeves for the bitter cold. The windbreaker holds in all the heat and moisture, so it can make it feel like a sauna! I prefer that my fleece and windbreaker have zippers in front so that I can vent it I start to overheat.
  3. Bottoms - Usually, I have fewer layers on the bottoms. I have some great sweats that are wicking (not tights), and if I can get away with it, I prefer just to throw on the sweats over my running shorts. However, sometimes it is too cold for that. I have wicking running tights that are pretty warm; I will throw a pair of gym shorts over them so that I don't gross anyone out. If it is super cold, I will put my sweats on over the tights. One two occasions, I have even had to throw on a pair of windbreaker pants over the other two layers. I probably shouldn't have been running those days.
  4. Feet - Most of the time, I use my usual wicking running socks. I do have a few pair of heavier socks, also with wicking properties. You can get them at running or hiking stores. I base my choice of shoe on the precipitation. If it is dry and there isn't snow or water on the ground, I wear my usual running shoes. If there is snow, I wear my trail running shoes. Remember to get yourself evaluated for your trail shoe just like your running shoe. I do not recommend running if there is ice. No shoe will give you adequate traction for running on ice.
  5. Hands - It is hard to keep your hands warm, as your body is going to shift your circulation to your core. I wear two layers of gloves. My inner layer has wicking properties. The outer layer is usually fleecy or wool. It is ideal if one of the layers has some windbreaking properties (North Face has some good gloves).
  6. Head - I have a few different headbands which wrap around to cover the ears. They are all wicking, though of different weights. I don't like hats because they make me overheat. If you do prefer hats, make sure they wick. Often fall races give out wicking hats as swag.
I couple of general reminders:

  1. If the weather forecast is for extreme cold or windchill, such that they warn against having any skin exposed, it probably is a good reason not to run outside. Even if you bundle up, it can be damaging to the eyes and lungs.
  2. Asthmatics should be careful, as cold and exercise are both fairly common triggers...even more so when combined.
  3. There are fewer people running in the cold, so help may not be as available if you get injured. Make sure someone knows where you are. Make sure you have ID on you with emergency contact information. Don't run too far away from populated areas.
Happy running!