The Not-So-Thrilling Grind to a Halt

11-26-12 Doubts and Delusions

I really wanted to quit this morning -- not because running a marathon seemed impossible, but because it seemed so utterly exhausting.  I just didn't know if I wanted to invest all that time and energy training, assuming my aging body would even hold up.  The thought of spending the next eleven months running ever-increasing distances made me want to crawl back into bed and forget the whole thing.

But, since I'd bought all that fancy running gear, I made myself get on the treadmill -- and I RAN TWO MILES.  I don't have a clue how I did it.  I guess I was too busy debating whether it was worth it to notice how far I'd gone!  I suppose this is a sign that I need to forge on...

11-27-12: I am so sore!  If running two miles causes this much pain, I dread finding out what a marathon will do!

Yesterday I drove back to the specialty store and exchanged my new shoes for another pair.  The salesman insisted I stay with the bigger size, though.  Apparently the roomier shoes will help keep my toes from turning black when I run longer distances.  Now there is something to look forward to!

11-28-12: I realized today that I only run one mile an hour faster than I walk.  That's sad.  My new shoes worked fine, though.  I need to tinker with the laces so my feet don't keep going numb, but what's a little numbness compared to all my other aches and pains?

11-29-12 What Not to Wear

Okay, here's the deal. There is no way on earth I'm wearing skimpy running shorts in public.  The world is simply not ready to see that much cellulite.  And the alternative is just as bad -- tight, body hugging Lycra shorts that reveal every sorry bit of sag.

I understand I'm not the target demographic for the manufacturers of running gear.  I'm sure they don't sit around debating which styles would be the most flattering for a middle aged woman who is completely out of shape.  I also understand that runners don't want extra fabric flapping around their thighs.  But seriously, what's with these skin tight Lycra deals or short-shorts that only flatter the very young?  What's wrong with making close fitting (not tight!), Bermuda-length shorts that conceal my flabby bum and thighs?

I thought I'd found two possibilities online, but they didn't work, so I'm still running in my cargo shorts.  I have eleven months until the marathon, but at the rate I'm going, it'll take me that long to find something to wear!

11-30-12 Body Parts Bingo

Major breakthrough.  I RAN THREE MILES!  I can't say it was easy or fun.  Every part of me protested during the workout: right arch, right hamstring, neck, lower back, left arch, right shoulder, and so on.  It became a game to guess which body part would start aching next.  And it was depressing to realize that I used to go five miles in the same time it now takes me to run three.  But since I'll never be that age again, I might as well stop dwelling on the glory years and celebrate my current achievements, no matter how small.  I'm going to backtrack during the next few days, though.  I'll just do long walks and shorter runs until I'm ready to tackle this distance again.  Still, I'm making progress!

12-01-12 The Demise of the Tube Sock

I had no idea I was so behind the times.  Who knew that running socks had become so high tech?  It turns out that socks not only provide warmth and padding these days, but they wick away sweat, hug the foot to prevent blisters, wrap the arch for support and stability -- and more.  After reading a few reviews, I feel ashamed to admit my ignorance -- and that I only own three types.  It seems cotton is out  (causes blisters and retains moisture). I also need different socks for different seasons: lightweight summer socks with a multi-yarn, dual layer construction that provides ventilation, and warmer winter socks, preferably made of something called "Smart Wool." And of course, it's a bonus if they're eco-friendly.  They've even come out with socks that look like gloves for your toes.  And to think we used to run in cheap tube socks!  How did we survive?

12-02-12 Clueless

Can I get any dumber?  Not only is my body going downhill these days, but my mind is even worse.  It turns out that all this time I've been running uphill!  I thought if I pushed the incline lever on my treadmill forward, it would make it slant uphill, but it turns out that I had it reversed.  So for the past month I've been doing my workouts at an incline.  I wouldn't have even noticed if my husband hadn't pointed it out. No wonder I'm so slow!

12-03-12 Taking it Up a Notch

The good news is that I'm more than a month ahead of where I expected to be in my training.  The bad news is that I now have to get serious about building my endurance. 

Since I can now run two to three miles nonstop (albeit extremely slowly), I've been consulting various training programs to figure out what to do next.  My goal is to add an additional mile to my distance every two weeks.  Most of the programs advise taking a day or two to cross train each week to help prevent injuries.

That presents a dilemma -- how to cross train.  I despise the stationary bicycle.  I really don't want to join a gym or go to a pool (no time, no money, not to mention the whole exercising in public thing).  And forget doing aerobics in front of a TV.   I feel way too silly and self-conscious, even with the curtains closed.

After spending some time researching online, I've decided to do the following. I'll continue with one long walk each weekend.  Right now that's a ten or eleven mile walk at the canal.  Eventually, I'll need to replace that with a long run, but for now it can be my cross-training day.

I also need to get back into my weight routine.  I love lifting weights, and while my equipment isn't sophisticated, I can do it in the privacy of my basement, which is a huge bonus for me.

Stage two of my training begins!

12-04-12 Stuck in Sideways

My ears must be deformed.  The earbuds on my ipod absolutely refuse to stay put while I jog.  I own several styles in different sizes, and none of them work.  They are either too small and keep falling out, or they're too big and I have to wedge them in sideways -- which not only makes me look as if I've got wires growing out of my head, but muffles the sound.  And then they still fall out! So now I'm on a new quest to find earbuds that actually fit.  As if the shorts-hunt weren't impossible enough...

12-05-12 An Exercise in Futility

So let me get this straight.  To lose one pound of fat I must burn off 3,500 calories.  Running a mile burns off about a hundred calories, so that’s 35 miles per pound. Or twelve grueling, three-mile workouts.

But at the same time, running causes me to gain weight.  My body is busy storing glycogen and water in anticipation for my longer runs.  So I'm caught in a vicious, futile circle.  The more I run, the more weight I gain, which means I must run more...  I think it's time to ditch the scale.

12-06-12 The Best Laid Plans

How can something that looks so easy on paper be so hard?  I calculated that if I increase my longest run by just half a mile per week, I can add two miles a month to my distance, which would put me in great shape for the marathon next fall.

So I tried to tack on an extra six minutes this morning...and nearly collapsed.  For once my feet didn’t hurt (the new shoes and high-tech socks must be helping), but my lungs were on fire and it took all my willpower not to stop. 

And whenever I tried to envision myself crossing the Marine Corps Marathon finish line (usually a good source of inspiration), the only image my exhausted mind could conjure up was of a deserted racecourse, the spectators long gone, the pavement littered with trampled water cups -- and me, staggering and gasping toward the finish line, so slow that they’ve already carted away the Port-a-Potties and First Aid tent, trying not to have a heart attack.

Exactly why did I want to do this?

As if I didn't have enough aches and pains, my Achilles tendon has started acting up.  I guess it keeps life interesting wondering which new ache is going to pop up next!

12-09-12  Workout Dread

The problem with running a long distance isn't the searing lungs.  It isn't the pain in my hips and feet, or even the aching back as I toss and turn all night.  It's knowing that I have to get up the next morning and do it again.  Ugghh!

12-10-12 Anything But a Headband
My hair is driving me crazy.  It's too short to braid, too long to wear loose.  It keeps flopping into my eyes as I jog and annoying me to no end.  I hate resorting to a headband (a la Hillary Clinton at her worst!), but maybe that's better than hacking it off.  Maybe.

12-11-12 Good News

My weight miraculously dropped!  It's only a couple of pounds, but I'm thrilled.  It will probably pop right back up tomorrow since today is my rest day, and I won't be burning off any calories.  Still, I appreciate the glimmer of hope!


Whoever advised runners to "listen to their bodies" must have been a couch potato.  If I listened to my body, I'd never run another step.  After taking a day off to celebrate my (short-lived) weight loss, I had the worst workout ever.  I can't even call it a run since I was so slow.  Everything hurt, my legs felt like cement, and I could barely stagger through the thirty-six minute ordeal.  The treadmill display seems to have died for good, which is just as well.  I don't want to know how far I ran (or didn't run).  I'll be lucky if I went two miles.  And to think I'd planned to shoot for four and a half miles this weekend...

12-13-12 Say What?

"The first 2 miles are the hardest 2 miles you will ever run. Once you have reached this level of fitness, it's relatively easy to do more."

-Amby Burfoot.  The 8-Week Beginner's Program.  (

Ummm...  This is a joke, right?  He's saying it's easy to do more?  Where did he come up with that idea?  Either he's insane, or I'm doing something terribly wrong!

12-16-12 The Perils of Resting

How can resting for two days make me so sore?  Thanks to a looming deadline, I spent the past two days chained to my computer, and now my hips are sore, my arches hurt, and my calves have knotted up.  Even my toes are stiff!  This is ridiculous.  I eased back into my workout schedule with a long (11 mile) walk at the canal this morning, but it just seemed to make me stiffer.  Time to get out the glass beads and start working the toes again!

12-17-12 Total Humiliation

Talk about a setback...

Today I had my worst workout ever.  Since I'm on grand-dog sitting duty, I decided to combine my workout with his walk and run outdoors for the first time.  I planned to do a four-mile loop through our slightly hilly neighborhood.  The weather was perfect -- cool and cloudy.  The timing couldn't have been better -- everyone was at work or school, so no one was around to watch.  Even the dog was great.  The leash was long enough, and I was slow enough that he had several seconds to stop and sniff every mailbox before I yanked him along.

But I couldn't run!  I was literally back to one minute intervals!!!  It was as if the last month and a half hadn't happened at all.  Nothing hurt, but my lungs were on fire and I was utterly exhausted.  I made it one mile -- mostly walking -- and gave up.  I was so depressed.

The only bright spot was that I spotted a woman who runs even slower than I do.  She was shuffling through the neighborhood in slow motion.  Really slow motion.  The bad news is that she was still running when I quit.  Even she can fun farther than I can.

12-18-12 Reality Check

Since I'm not going to run the Marine Corps Marathon on my treadmill, I must face facts: I'm pretty much back to zip.  The conditioning I've been gaining on the treadmill means nothing outdoors. I can hope that all that gasping and sweating has done some good, but the brutal truth is that I either have to abandon my plan to run the marathon or start over.

And since this idea was insane to begin with, I might as well continue with the lunacy.  I mean, why act practical now?  So I've decided that I'll start running outdoors twice a week.  I'll treat those as my cross-training days since I won't be able to run more than a minute at a time.  Maybe I can start building up some endurance that way.  Ideally, the indoor conditioning will kick in at some point and I'll miraculously regain all that I've lost... Yeah, I know.  Dream on!

12-20-12 A New Low

Just when I think I couldn't possibly feel any worse, I do.

I took yesterday off in preparation for today's outdoor run.  I knew I'd have to exert myself more.  I knew I'd have to drastically slow my already ridiculous pace.  And I knew I'd never make it as far as I could on the treadmill.  I was right.  I trudged around my hilly neighborhood at a glorified walk, heaving for air, my lungs so fiery I couldn't breathe.  I made one painfully slow loop, roughly one excruciating mile, before I collapsed.  Twenty minutes after finishing, I'm coughing like crazy and still haven't caught my breath.  It was agony.  I never want to do that again!!! And now I'm worried that I've got exercise-induced bronchitis.  Even my ear canals burn!

But on a happy note, my weight magically dropped overnight.  I have no idea why, considering I've been baking Christmas cookies all week.  It must be nature's diabolical way of keeping me from giving up this plan.

12-21-12 Should I Surrender?

This entire week has been a low point, and I've never wanted to quit more.  This morning I could only manage forty five minutes on the treadmill before utter exhaustion did me in.  I suppose I could look on the bright side -- that's forty four minutes longer than I could run at the end of October.  But I felt so miserable!  And now that I know it has no correlation to outdoor running, it seemed pointless.

I've read all sorts of opinions about treadmill running.  Some people claim that they've trained exclusively on treadmills, and then completed long road races with no problem.  Others say that you just need to set the treadmill on a slight incline to simulate outdoor conditions.  Yet others say it won't help a bit, that the conditioning you get on the treadmill means squat outdoors.

So to recap this week:

Monday - horrible, one mile jog/walk outdoors.
Tuesday - two slow miles on the treadmill, followed by various sprints.
Wednesday - day off.
Thursday - one mile outdoors, total misery
Friday - forty five ultra slow minutes on the treadmill (three miles?), culminating in exhaustion.

All my energy and excitement is gone.  I seem to be getting in worse shape as the days go by, not better.  I don't know what's wrong with me, but I need a pep talk fast!!!

12-26-12 Sugar Works

After a week slacking off and gorging on Christmas cookies, cake, and other sugary foods, I discovered that carbo loading really works.  It doesn't matter how little I sleep or how exhausted I feel, if I consume enough sugar and caffeine, I can increase my distance.  Today I made it two and a half miles outdoors in our hilly neighborhood.  Granted, my pace was so slow that I was barely moving, and I was heaving for breath the entire way, but I made it. 

The only real issue, aside from the fact that training outdoors has blown my schedule to shreds, is that running on the roads has reactivated my old hamstring injury -- the one that caused me to stop running in the first place.  It is going to be a challenge to try to train without re-crippling myself.  I'll have to alternate outdoor running with the treadmill in the hopes that I can keep it under control.

1-03-13 Guilty

After slacking off for two weeks during the holidays, I finally decided to get serious about my workout schedule again.  So today I headed back down to the treadmill for a slow two and a quarter mile jog.  But instead of feeling proud that I'd climbed back on the wagon, I spent the entire workout feeling guilty for not taking the dog on a walk (I'm on grand-dog sitting duty).  It didn't help that he stared at me the entire time with a woeful look on his face.  Talk about guilt!  But it's 20 degrees outside!  Still, I feel so bad...

1-08-13 Do or Die

This is my do or die month.  Either I get serious and start making some real progress toward adding distance to my outdoor workouts, or I will  have to give up.  Last week I managed to drag myself through three hilly miles in my neighborhood, but I gasped every step of the way.  Tomorrow I'm going to try again.  I hope I can do it.  Three miles would be bad enough as a starting point.  If it's less than that, I am going to be really depressed.

In order to be in shape for the marathon next October, I need to be able to run four miles by the end of January at a minimum (preferably five!), and then add nearly three miles each month after that.  This sounds impossible to me.  I've never been the type of person who can just tack on a few extra miles on a whim, and I've become weaker with age. I don't have any reserve strength.  How am I going to run an extra mile each week?

1-09-13 The Agony of Defeat

Total depression. One and a half miles outdoors -- and I had to stop and walk after a mile until I'd caught my breath.  Of course the route is hilly, and it was below freezing, making it hard to breathe.  But I must face facts.  Barring a miracle, there is no way I can add enough distance in the next year to run a marathon.  Two years, maybe.  But do I really want to train that long?

The thing is, I feel dreadful while running.  Seriously awful.  This isn't the usual exercise fatigue.  I have leaden legs, burning lungs, and absolutely no energy -- right from the start of the run. Within yards I'm heaving for air and ready to stop.  I remember feeling reluctance back in my running days, the usual "do I really want to do this" doubts, along with the effort it took to get moving.  And there was always fatigue at the end of a run.  But it was a good sort of tiredness, the kind that comes after exertion.

This is different.  It makes me think there is something seriously wrong with me. It's scary, truthfully.  But I just had a physical.  Aside from my hammer toes, everything is fine.

Anyhow, I will continue to plod along, but I am totally disheartened.  I don't know what to do...

1-17-13 The Treadmill Queen

Today I jogged for 48 minutes on the treadmill.  Assuming a twelve minute mile pace, which may be wildly optimistic, that's four miles.  Even if I only ran three miles, I'm still pleased.  The first half of the workout felt fine.  I grew more tired as the time wore on, and the last twelve minutes were grueling, but at least this felt normal -- rested at the start, exhausted at the end.

Now the question is why I can't do this outdoors.  I haven't tried running outside since I got my inhaler earlier this week.  It has been too cold with freezing rain.  I need to try it this weekend, though, to see if the inhaler helps or not.  Stay posted!

1-20-13 Stuck in Place

I seem to be stuck in one spot.  I can run three to four miles on the treadmill, but only one mile outdoors.  I don't know if the inhaler helps or not...  It definitely doesn't make a dramatic difference, but I guess time will tell.  I haven't been able to add any distance to my workouts in weeks.

In the meantime, I have reactivated the old injuries that sidelined me years ago.  I have a physical therapy appointment this week, so I'm hoping that will get me back on track.  If not, I will have to limit my runs to the treadmill since that doesn't hurt as much.

The only good news is that my weight is back to normal.  I have no idea why or how that happened, but I'm not going to complain!  At this point I need all the good news I can get.

1-22-13 Tart Cherries to the Rescue?

Can cherries heal my running injuries?  After reading that tart cherry juice can do everything from reducing inflammation and insomnia to helping marathon runners recover faster after a race, I figured it was worth a try.  So today I downed my first glass.  And despite the word "tart," it was actually pretty good, even unsweetened.

To be on the safe side, I also had my first physical therapy session today to learn some stretching exercises.  I asked about my hammer toes and got exercises for those as well.  I've got yoga tomorrow night.  Now to see if any of these things work....

1-23-13 The Hidden Dangers of Physical Therapy

Physical therapy wrecked my knee!  Seriously, this is ridiculous. After going to PT yesterday to find a way to improve my hamstring injury, I now have a stiff right knee.

I can't believe I used to just put on my shoes, go out the door, and run.  Now I've got an inhaler for my exercise-induced asthma, special stretching exercises for my hamstring injury, hammer toe exercises, roomy shoes designed for my gait, tart cherry juice to reduce inflammation, a strength-training regimen to follow, yoga classes to limber me up, compression socks, moisture-wicking shirts and bra -- and the problems keep getting worse!

1-26-13 TMI?

As if I needed something else to worry about, I discovered today that I need to increase my cadence.  According to the Garmin watch I wore during my workout on the treadmill, my running cadence is 77 steps per minute.  Since I had no idea what that meant, I looked it up.  It turns out that I should be taking more steps.
Elite runners take over 180 steps per minute! A slow cadence uses more energy than a fast one and might increase the risk of injury.

So now what do I do?  Frankly, I've been too busy just gasping for breath during my runs to worry about how many times per minute my feet strike the ground. Maybe ignorance really is bliss.

1-28-13 The Woes of a Slow Learner

I need remedial running lessons.  How on earth am I supposed to increase my cadence and not my speed?  I tried taking shorter strides so that my feet would hit the treadmill more often, but that just made me speed up and get more winded.  Even trying to land on the balls of my feet didn't work.  Clearly I'm doing this wrong.  It is frustrating to be so incompetent!!!

2-21-13 Resting Woes

Who knew that resting could be dangerous? I took a week off, and it caused my hips to hurt. Seriously, once I stopped running they began aching with a vengeance.  How could NOT exercising do that? Regardless, I'm taking this as a sign that I'd better keep moving!

Unfortunately, I'm in a holding pattern these days. I'm still jogging a slow three miles on the treadmill, but the old hamstring injuries have flared up to the point where I need to deal with them before I can move forward. So next week I'm having an MRI to see if we can assess the damage. Next comes pinpointing the cause, and then figuring out a treatment, assuming there is one.  I'm hoping that I can overcome this and run again.  I'd better be able to! I don't even want to imagine how badly I'll start to ache if I have to stop.

2-27-13 Waiting for the Verdict

The MRI was fun: thirty minutes of listening to new age flutes and whistles through my headphones while a jackhammer pounded in the background, punctuated by screeches and clanks.  One good thing about running, though.  I've gotten good at ignoring discomfort, including alarming sounds.  In fact, the so-called "spa" music got on my nerves more than the construction noise.

Of course, as soon as I got home I couldn't resist putting the CD they gave me in my computer and checking out the results.  After spending half an hour scrutinizing the blobs and blurs, I decided that either half of my left hip is missing or I have no idea what I'm looking at.  Hopefully the doctor can figure it out.

So now I wait for the verdict.  Is there a marathon in my future?  Or am I destined to spend my old age plodding along on the treadmill, mentally reliving my glory years?  Stay tuned to find out...

3-04-13 And the Verdict Is...

The verdict is in. My upper hamstring muscles are torn.  That explains the constant pain.  The good news is that I should be able to run again, assuming I can heal properly and keep from chronically re-tearing them.  The doctor has recommended stretching.  So more physical therapy and yoga, I guess.

He also recommends going slower -- as in not trying to do so much so fast.  I didn't have the heart to tell him I could barely run a mile outdoors after four months of training, and had to work up to even that sorry distance in one minute increments.  I'm not sure how much slower I can go!

There's an upside to this, though.  At this rate, by the time I can complete a marathon I'll probably be in the over 90 age group and might have a shot at winning!  Something to look forward to, I guess.

Anyhow... My training will continue.  Slowly. Painfully.  But the dream remains alive!

3-26-13 Chi Running...An Exercise in Futility?

Chi running...  An exercise in futility or the solution to my problems at last?  Two physical therapists, an MRI, yoga classes, and a month of inactivity later, I am turning to chi running with the hopes that I might finally conquer my hamstring problems.  Nothing else has worked.

The philosophy behind it makes sense.  I used to get shin splints in the pre-padded running shoes era, and have been tearing my upper hamstrings ever since.  Could changing the way I stride be the key?  The people in the you-tube tutorials certainly seem to be gliding along nicely.  When I try it, though, I feel extremely awkward.  How can I lean forward like that?  And I have no idea where my feet are landing.  I think I'm landing in the mid-foot area, but are my feet under my shoulders or out in front?  Maybe my husband can take a video, and I can figure it out.   I think I need expert analysis.  More googling and research ahead....

4-10-13 Standing on One Leg

So today I am practicing how to stand on one leg.  I've started reading the Chi Running book, and am trying to learn the correct posture for this new technique.  I'm also downloading songs with the target cadence onto my ipod.

Not that I'm doing any running at the moment.  My hamstrings are just now healing again, so I am taking this very slowly.  I'm walking around barefoot in the house, and plan to buy some minimalist shoes this weekend for short walks.  Apparently I have to build up to running in them.

In any case, I sure hope this works!  It certainly makes sense, and explains my chronic injuries -- something no doctor has been able to do for the past thirty years!  And I simply refuse to give up yet.  I am determined to conquer this problem once and for good!

4-13-13 Mambo Jumbo
This cadence thing is fun. It's a lot easier -- and far more entertaining -- to hop around the house to Mambo Number Five than it is to go outside and run!  But sometime soon I'll have to make the transition.  Right now I am still trying to learn the correct moves.  The last thing I want to do is reinjure myself by running wrong.

Tomorrow will be exciting.  I'm going to buy my first-ever pair of minimalist shoes.  Well, that's not exactly true.  Back in the old days, all our tennis shoes were minimalist.  That's all there was.  But now we get to pay a lot of money for high-tech shoes that simulate how our feet would feel if we went barefoot for free.  Progress!

4-14-13 The Runner’s High (Price)

I just spent the most I've ever spent on a pair of running shoes, a personal high. My husband still can't breathe.  These are transitional shoes to ease me into the barefoot phase.  I'm hoping this phase passes quickly so I can make progress.  My husband, on the other hand, doesn't look nearly as excited about having to eventually buy more shoes.

Note: My hamstring tears caused me so much pain during this three month gap that I had to stop running altogether in order to let them heal.

7-23-13 Nearly there!

After taking three months off, my right hamstring has finally healed.  The left one is taking longer, so I haven't tried to run yet.  In the meantime, I took a Chi Running class and learned the basics.  I'm easing into minimalist shoes, transitioning toward a lower profile, and am hoping to resume running soon. I'll be back to zero, but I haven't given up on my goal.

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