book report - AT Memoirs, Good & Bad

Sometimes I read a lot.  Sometimes I don’t pick up a book for weeks.  In this new, sporadic series, I’ll give a brief review of whatever I happened to have finished.  In this case, it’s a pair of Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike Memoirs.  It could just as easily have been angst-ridden teenage vampire shenanigans.  Don’t judge!

Awol on the Appalachian Trail by David Miller

This is basically a published mid-life crisis, and I loved it.  At 41 years old, David Miller decided to quit his engineering job and thru hike the AT.  This is probably my favorite AT memoir to date, and all due to the writing.  Maybe because he’s an engineer, or maybe he’s just a better caliber writer than the average self-published hiker, but I couldn’t have asked for a better life to sneak a peak of.  This was a diligent and thorough accounting, and I could have guessed he was an engineer without him ever saying it.  Not to say this was sanitized; he showed the beauty of the trail, made me love his friends, helped me feel his love for his wife and kids, and taught me all the ins and outs of hiking gear.  Evoking an emotionally response is a tall order if I’m your reader, so kudos to this guy.  I felt like I got him.  If we’d met on the trail, we would have been friends.  At no point in his adventure did the quality of the writing change, which has been a big issue I’ve discovered with thru hiking memoirs.  You start out reading about every meal and blister, and by the end you’re covering a hundred miles in a single page.  No so with Awol.  He continued to paint a consistent picture of his adventure.  While it was clear that his feelings were changing throughout the various chapters of his hike, it never felt like a different person was writing.  When he reached Mt Katahdin, I couldn’t have been happier for him, and I immediately spent the next afternoon searching for trails near me so I could experience the great outdoors.  There is no better praise.

Marathon’s Walk in the Woods: An Appalachian Train Thru-hike by Seth Jenny

For every good one, I guess I have to get through a stinker, right?  This hiker got an emotional reaction from me, but not a good one.  His writing style irked me.  I felt like he had taken bullet points for each day, and then, months or years after his hike was finished, he tried to turn those bullet points into a book.  I could learn more about someone from reading their grocery list than I know about Marathon.

I guess that’s not entirely true.  I know some things.  First off, this guy is clearly some kind of snake magnet.  He mentions a snake almost every page!  He throws around the names of his fellow hikers, but rarely shows us who they are.  Then, a few chapters later, he mentioned that he ran into them again, but because I have no connection, I don’t remember the person.  Even his friend from home that he hiked with for a while is left a complete mystery to us.  Imagine my shock in the afterward when he mentions that they got married.  Really?!  He was in love with her, and I had no idea.  He’s also apparently a huge fan of God.  He talks about being religious at the beginning of the memoir, and even briefly takes the trail name Gabriel before settling on Marathon.  There are a few mentions of going to church, but other than that, it was a bit weird how little he talked about God.  Maybe he lost his religion while on the trail?  I’ll never know, because he never really talked about it.  His description of Mt Washington ruffled my feathers, too.  I’m not a hiker, obviously, but I’ve read enough of these memoirs to know that Mt Washington is often one of the scariest parts of the journey.  The weather there is supposed to be insane.  Marathon?  Apparently he had very little issue, and Mt Washington was just another bullet point on his journey.  To pare this whole thing down to a single sentence: If this was the first AT thru hike memoir I had ever read, it would have been my last, and I never EVER would have tried trail running.

week(s) in review: Veteran's Day 5k weeks 4 & 5

I missed getting last week’s review out, so today is a two for one kind of deal.  The week before last was a rough one for me.  Sometimes it seems like at the very time I want to feel strongest is when I feel most vulnerable.  Originally I wasn’t going to record my workouts here, because I’m embarrassed that I wasn’t strong enough to get it done.  Now I realize how silly that is.  So here we go!

My totals for Week 4:

Swim - zero

Bike - nothing

Run - 1:30:30, 7.12 miles

Monday

  • Run - 15:01, 1.2 miles

Yet another gorgeous day. It was kind of amazing to be outside and run, but not be drenched in sweat. Z1/Z2 and the breathing felt easy, but my lower legs felt sore.

  • Functional Strength - 5 minutes
    • Lunge matrix warm-up

Tuesday

  • Functional Strength - 5 minutes
    • Pedestal 2

I snacked on too much junk food at work, and my stomach rebelled pretty strongly.  I wasn’t able to get my run in after work.

Wednesday

  • Run - 30.19, 2.31 miles

Long sleeves and capris were actually warranted this morning! I also got to try out my RunLites gloves, which were great.  Going uphill I felt some stiffness in the achilles, but no other calf pain or anything!

  • Functional Strength - 5 minutes
    • Lunge matrix warm-up

Thursday

  • Run - 30:05, 2.42 miles

This was a nice and sunny one. Warm, but not hot.  I felt like I was running a bit faster today (and I was) but, I mean I actually FELT it. Maybe I should have eased back a bit, but it was nice to try to run a bad day at work into the ground.

  • Functional Strength - 4 minutes
    • Lunge matrix warm-up
    • Plus a quick plank during the day

Friday

  • Run - 15:05, 1.19 miles

After a rough day, I needed some outside time to try to brush everything off so I could enjoy the weekend.

Saturday

  • Unscheduled Rest Day

This day featured something of a meltdown, including some super ugly crying.  It also prompted to me to come to terms with the fact that I need to head back to the doctor and wade into the scary pool that is depression meds.

Sunday

  • Unscheduled Rest Day

Spent the afternoon with my dad, brother, and J at the last home game of the regular season for DC United.  I’d never been to a pro soccer game before, and it was such fun!

Highlight of the week, right here

Highlight of the week, right here

 

My totals for Week 5:

Swim - zip

Bike - 24:03, 3.18 miles

Run - 2:50:46, 13.58 miles

Monday

  • Run - 17:04, 1.34 miles

Lots of time in Z1, which, I suppose, is how an easy recovery run should go. Since I missed both my runs over the weekend, it felt like forever out there! It was quite warm....maybe 80? In October?! Ah well, at the leaves and acorns made it feel like fall, even if the temperature didn’t.

  • Functional Strength - 5 minutes
    • Lunge matrix warm-up

Tuesday

  • Run - 34:02, 2.44 miles

Drove to Riverbend and ran the Heritage trail, which I wrote a separate post about.

Views of the potomac

Views of the potomac

  • Functional Strength - 5 minutes
    • Lunge Matrix Warm-up

Wednesday

  • Run - 17:02, 1.39 miles

Just some quick loops around the apt complex after work, but I was full on sweating in that time. 85 degrees?! In late October?!  When I finished this up, my lower legs felt heavy, and a bit sore. Likely from my little trail adventure. I decided to put my feet up for the rest of the night!

  • Functional Strength - 5 minutes
    • Lunge matrix warm-up

Thursday

  • Run - 34:02, 2.81 miles

I drove over to the W&OD after work, and wow, this run felt tough. Maybe it was the warmer weather, but I just had to fight with myself every step of the way to actually keep running and not walk. My HR was high, I was electric pink when I got back to the car, and I just wasn't feeling it.

  • Functional Strength - 3 minutes
    • Lunge matrix warm-up

Friday

  • Rest Day

Saturday

  • Bike - 24:03, 3.18 miles

Bike ride with Dad!  Dad borrowed  a hybrid from some friends, and I drove over for the first time on my road bike since the Reston Tri.  We stuck close to the house, doing a quick loop and exploring a few cul de sacs.  It was so much fun to go out and ride with Dad, and I hope he wants to do a bit more of this while the fall weather is still nice.

A year ago I never would have guessed that I would spend a Saturday afternoon on bikes with Dad

A year ago I never would have guessed that I would spend a Saturday afternoon on bikes with Dad

  • Run - 18:34, 1.42 miles

Took it to the paved paths around my parents’ house after my ride with Dad.  The leaves and pine needles made it a little slippery on the wooden bridges, but it wasn’t too bad.  I love getting the opportunity to run on different surfaces like this!

  • Functional Strength - 3 minutes
    • Lunge matrix warm-up

Sunday

  • Run - 50:02, 4.18 miles

Drove out to the W&OD, only had to wait a little bit for parking, and then headed west from Sandburg St. Mostly false flat downhill on the way out, so obviously it was a false flat climb on the way back. It was nice and cool, but sunny, and aside from a few little tip of toe blisters and a bit of the start of a stitch on the way back, everything felt great. Around the 40 minute mark I actually felt great, which was quite cool.

All in Z1/Z2. I had a pack of Honey Stinger chews about half an hour before I started. I do kind of wonder if the stitch could have been from the chews? Probably not after that much time.

  • Functional Strength - 3 minutes
    • Lunge matrix warm-up

 

Two weeks ago when I did my week in review, I had some goals.  I wanted to make sure I did my core exercises, and wanted to add in swimming and such.  Clearly, none of that happened.  For the upcoming week, I’m not going to make any special goals.  Instead, I just want to carry on, and take each day as it comes.

A Walk in the Woods

Recently I renewed my previous obsession with reading Appalachian Trail thru hiker memoirs.  Inspired, I decided it was time to step way outside of my comfort zone and do a bit of trail running.  Yesterday, after work, I logged just shy of 2.5 miles on the trails.  The terrain was a surprise, my shoes were completely wrong, and I had a great time.

The Potomac River.  These are just the mini falls.  Great Falls is further past where I went

The Potomac River.  These are just the mini falls.  Great Falls is further past where I went

There are several short trails at Riverbend Park, and I decided to try out the Heritage Trail for my first go.  According to the map, it followed the Potomac pretty closely, so I figured it would be fairly flat.  While that turned out to be true, I was totally taken by surprise by the surface I was running on.  I’m a suburban girl, through and through.  My usual bike trail is a paved rail conversion.  One time I thought I saw a snake, but once I got closer it turned out to be a bit of black garden hose.  Imagine my shock when the small rocks and packed dirt I was running on suddenly turned into a narrow passage of tree roots and pointed rocks that came up to my knees.  I slowed to a walk, used my hands at times to get over the largest rocks, and kept my eyes peeled for the next green blaze marking the trail.

This gap is just wide enough for my foot, and then the trail heads sharply down

This gap is just wide enough for my foot, and then the trail heads sharply down

Speaking of those pointed rocks...ouch!  I love my Vivobarefoot Stealth shoes.  They’re soft as slippers and have incredible ground feel, but that also means you can feel everything.  And not in a cool, “wow, I can feel every tree root and adjust my stride accordingly on the fly” way.  More of an “yeouch, that was a super sharp rock and I think my ankle is going to collapse at any moment” kind of way.  In the first few minutes of my run, I considered heading right back to the car, thinking I really didn’t want to deal with being jabbed in the foot every few seconds.  Then the surface suddenly changed into packed dirt, and it was smooth sailing for a bit, and I was starting to have fun.

Such Fun!!

Such Fun!!

I never thought I was going to be a trail fan. Bugs are gross, I’m scared of snakes, and I just didn’t see what the big deal was.  2.5 miles on a flat and easy trail, and I’m ready for more.  I liked running somewhere new.  The trees were so nice, and there was no exhaust or traffic noise.  Best of all, I just ran.  No constant watch checking, too busy with watching my footing to get caught up in the noise of my head, and the scenery was gorgeous.  Just me and nature.  I never would have thought it.  Get me some trail shoes, show me the way to the parks, and let’s get out there and breathe some real fresh air!

week in review: Veteran's Day 5k Week 3

Remember last week, when I said that fall finally arrived?  That’s still true, but I seem to have fallen into that trap where I think that fall is something it isn't.  I say fall to myself, and immediately skip ahead to November.  Hoodies, crunchy leaves, and split pea soup!  So, I get a bit let down by the reality that is October: cooler morning, warmer afternoons, never knowing what to wear, and a feeling of it being “too warm” for said soup.  Workouts happen in any season, though, and this is how last week went down.

Most common sight along the W&OD trail on Sunday.  So pretty!

Most common sight along the W&OD trail on Sunday.  So pretty!

My totals:

Swim - zippo

Bike - nada

Run - 2:23:37, 11.25 miles

 

Monday

  • Run - 14:03, 1.07 miles

Easy peasy, I guess. I mean, it was totally easy, and I made myself run super slow and paid more attention to my breathing. Sure enough, this was almost entirely in Z1, which is where a recovery run should be, right? But at the same time, my ankles and calves felt like they were working really hard. The last couple weeks there have been meetings at work, which means heels. Bane of my existence!

  • Functional Strength - 15 minutes
    • Lunge matrix warm-up
    • Pedestal 1 x2
    • Myrtle cool-down

Tuesday

  • Run - 28:03, 2.02 miles

Easy. Squarely in Z1/Z2, in fact!  I made it out and back before the sun came up, so I was glad I went with the headlamp and the hi-viz longsleeve. Not that it was really cool enough for the sleeves yet, it was more for the color/reflective bits.  But wow, my calves and ankles were pretty unhappy. I can't brag about how few injuries I have only to start getting pain over the next few days. That's just a big joke from the universe, right? Or the heels. Or...it could be that I wasn't super warmed up? I mean, I did my usual warm up, but maybe because it was fractionally colder, I was just feeling a bit creaky. It was Bambi legs again, where I just felt like I wasn't in control of them.  Still, all that aside, this was a decent run. Slow, yes, and I need to get over that. Say it with me: I am building a strong foundation for the future.

  • Functional Strength - 20 minutes
    • Lunge matrix warm-up
    • Leg Circuit #1 (more lunges, plus single leg squats)
    • Pedestal 2 (this is 40 seconds for each plank, done once.  I thought I was going to collapse on the back plank, but I made it through!)
    • Myrtle cool-down

Wednesday

  • Run - 14:02, 1.12 miles

Quick zoom zoom around the apartment complex. The weather was beautiful, and I got to run by the apartment playground twice. Adorable!

Everything felt nice and easy. I always thought I was a morning runner, but these afternoon runs are starting to grow on me.

  • Functional Strength - 15 minutes
    • Lunge matrix warm-up
    • Pedestal 1 x2
    • Myrtle cool-down

Those back planks are killer, and I really didn't want to do my core work. Then I reminded myself of how weak my core is on the bike, and sucked it up and did it. Mind over matter.

Thursday

  • Run - 28:04, 2.14 miles

Same hi-viz longsleeved shirt and headlamp combo from Tuesday, and I was pretty comfy. I have to say, I definitely should not have tried to get two wearings out of that shirt. Fortunately I was running outside and not in the gym where that would have assaulted someone's nose. Gross!

My calves felt a bit better than they had on Tuesday. With the meetings all virtual for the rest of the week, I’m back in my usual sneakers and happier for it.  I think running on the hills is tough on the calves as well. All summer I would walk up the hills to get my HR back down, so running on them again takes a bit of getting used to.

  • Functional Strength - 3 minutes
    • Lunge matrix warm-up

Boo.  There was no reason to skip the core and cool down work, but I totally talked myself out of it.

Friday

Rest Day - I turned 36 and celebrated with a day off of work, plenty of so-bad-it's-good television, and ate myself sick on milk chocolate salted caramels.  Sometimes the best birthdays are spent alone and in pajamas all day!

Saturday

  • Run - 14:26, 1.18 miles

It was sort of gross and threatening to rain, so I skipped any thoughts of a bike ride and went straight to the scheduled run of the day.  The October weather really seemed to agree with me, and I felt great while staying in Z1/Z2.  Then it was time to clean myself up for birthday lunch with my family!

36 years old and still struggling with the whole "look at the camera' thing...

36 years old and still struggling with the whole "look at the camera' thing...

  • Functional Strength - 3 minutes
    • Lunge Matrix warm-up

No bueno, Laura...skipped the core and cool down again. Perezosa!

Sunday

  • Run - 44:59, 3.72 miles
Early stages of fall on the W&OD trail

Early stages of fall on the W&OD trail

I drove out to the W&OD for this run.  I headed towards Falls Church proper, and made it almost to the Rt 7 overpass before it was time to turn around.  The cool temps and relatively flat terrain made for some speedier miles, particularly the first two, which have a net elevation loss. On the downside, I timed my water intake really poorly.  I chugged a bunch about an hour before setting off, which meant I spent the entire run having to pee.  Whoops!

The wind was really kicking up, especially on my way back to the car. A couple times I almost lost my hat!  In other gear news, I wore my new Lululemon Speed Track Shorts, and they are amazing, so a huge thanks to Stacey for the recommendation.  They have tons of pockets; I carried my phone and keys and they didn’t budge.  Two thumbs up.

  • Functional Strength - 3 minutes
    • Lunge matrix warm-up


Next week is going to be a repeat of this week, volume-wise.  I don’t necessarily feel like I need to repeat, but since this is an 8 week build to race day, I just feel like it's the right thing to do.  That being said, I would like to make some goals for myself heading into next week.  Firstly, I need to hit all of my core/cool down exercises.  No excuses!  And second, now that my running 6 days a week is a pretty set new habit, I’m going to start adding in swimming and city biking.  For the last three weeks, any non-running workouts were more “when I feel like it.”  Starting next week I want to start scheduling them back in.  Just to make sure things to slip too far back!  At least one of each for next week.  Here we go!

What's Next - Fall 2016

I’m starting to get a bit of a pet peeve when people say “just” a 5k.  Or “just” anything, for that matter.  If you’re heading into a race saying “just” then you’re either not pushing hard enough, or selling yourself incredibly short.  Either way, that’s something people need to get out of the habit of.  I’m including myself in people, by the way.  I’m equal parts excited, scared, and embarrassed by my chosen end of season race.

All the running means all the shoes in rotation.  Clearly I'm a vivobarefoot girl

All the running means all the shoes in rotation.  Clearly I'm a vivobarefoot girl

Excited

I’ve been looking forward to ending my season with this 5k for over seven months now.  I’ve raced on this exact course twice already this season, and my goal at the Veteran’s Day 5k is to get a new PR.  I’m running more than ever before, and feeling physically really good while I’m at it.  The BarryP plan is where its at!  If you aren’t familiar with the plan, click the link to get the full read.  In a nutshell, the plan has you running nice and easy 6 days a week.  In the beginning, you don’t increase your total volume at all, only your frequency, so for me that meant spreading 10 miles a week out over 6 days instead of 3.  You run easy, and you increase volume modestly.  Anecdotally, it seems that once your volume builds to a certain level, your paces start to come down.  Granted, I likely won’t see those paces change too much before race day, but I’m still excited to see what kind of benefits I’ll see from these eight weeks of running more.

Scared

Stepping outside of the comfort zone is always a bit scary, right?  Add to that the fact that my training times seem somehow slower than ever before (???) and I’m anxious that I won’t be able to meet my goals for this race.  I could get out there on race day and not be able to pace myself properly.  Or maybe I peaked earlier this summer, and the speed isn’t there anymore.  This is the first time that I’ve actually put time based pressure on myself.  Its an interesting experience in and of itself.  Setting goals based on feelings or actions is a very different game.  You can remind yourself during the race and change accordingly.  Had a goal to smile?  Smile!  No walking during the run leg of a sprint?  Just keep running!  But running at a particular pace?  Ooooh, now that’s scary.  Kind of a good scary, though.

Embarrassed

Just a 5k.  Sigh.  I’m quick to correct anyone who says that to me, but I still do it to myself.  Sometimes I’m clicking through my feedly, and it seems like everyone is prepping for more traditionally impressive fall races.  Even harder this week, since its Kona week!  On the local scene, there’s Marine Corps, Philly, Richmond, and all the big fall half and full marathons.  There seems to be more glory in long course racing.  Or, perhaps that just me hearing the siren call of endurance?  At any rate, I’m struggling a bit with feeling proud and confident about my goal race.  This is compounded by my paces, which feel “too slow.”  Slow and fast are such relative terms.  I’m sure there are people who would be over the moon to have a 5k PR of 30 minutes, and others who would be mortified with anything over 20.  In addition to being irritated when people say “just” a 5k, another pet peeve is when people, especially women, apologize for their speed.  Fast, slow, it seems like women can’t start apologizing for their paces fast enough.  If you’re slow like me, there’s the “Sorry, I know X:XX doesn’t sound fast, but for me it is” rhetoric.  For the speedsters, there’s plenty of “I was practically crawling at X:XX (sorry if that offends anyone).”  Can we all please agree to stop apologizing for our performance?

So that’s what’s on the horizon.  I’m running more frequently than I ever have before, and really enjoying doing lots of little miles.  There are some brewing nerves about whether or not I’ll be able to reach the goals that I’m setting for myself, but I’m going to embrace the anxiety and use it as fuel for the fire.  And most important of all, I’m racing a 5k, and I’m proud of it.  No apologies!