Lesson 3: Compromise

Hello there, reader! You’ve stumbled on the third installment of what has turned from two rambling, somewhat related posts into some semblance of a series. As I make my slow return to the world of running after having a baby, I’m learning (sometimes the hard way) tips that are making this return easier, bit by bit. So far, I’ve learned:

  1. …that I need to lower my expectations
  2. …that it’s helpful to be prepared

My lesson for this week is: be willing to compromise!

If you’ve visited this blog before, there’s a good chance you’ve read about Tuesday night track workouts with my run club. A Tuesday night speedwork session was my first Shammies experience 3 1/2 years ago, and I’ve loved (and hated) them ever since. Drew knows that I’ve been itching to return, and so for weeks months now, he’s been offering to take over the Bairn’s bedtime so I can get back out there. And yet, each week my excuses pour out: it’s too hot, it’s too humid, I’m too tired, the Bairn is melting down and I feel guilty running away, it’s raining, I’m out of shape and track sessions attract all the fast people, etc.

Last Tuesday, I decided I was going to bite the bullet and go to track. Even if I didn’t do the workout, I could still run-walk around Lane 6 and see my run club peeps. I told Drew I was going for it, he expressed his full support, and I spent the day mentally preparing for Shammie time.

[Note: Here is where I ask for your understanding, dear reader. When I was thinking about this post a few days ago, my point was clear. Now that I’m actually writing, my still-rampant pregnancy brain (apparently it’s here for a while – boo!) has struck and I can’t remember a pretty important detail. Please bear with me as I carry on regardless…]

As track time approached, something [see note above] happened. I can’t remember what now. Either Drew came home from work and had had a bad day, or the Bairn was melting down, or… yeah, it’s gone from my brain. In any case, something occurred that would have made my going to track difficult, for me but mostly for Drew.

Thankfully, this lesson wasn’t learned the hard way. Perhaps because of many of those excuses I listed before (it was hot, track is full of fast people and I’m slow and out of shape and self-conscious, etc.), I wasn’t upset at giving up my Shammie time to help deal with the Bairn.

And, once he was cozy in his crib, I threw on my kit and set out for a run around the neighborhood. It was cooler by this point, I didn’t have to feel self-conscious in front of all the Shammies who regularly place at races, and I knew I wasn’t leaving Drew in the lurch. I set myself some modest goals – run to X then walk to Y, three times with different Xs and Ys – and managed to meet them (huzzah!). Post-run analyzing of my run even showed that my average running pace was 11:- and change, which is an improvement from the 12:-s I’d been running, so that was encouraging too.

I guess this lesson is pretty connected to lowering my expectations… had I been dead set on running a speed workout, I would have been disappointed to miss out. But, honestly, I don’t have many expectations when it comes to running these days, so just getting to run around the block for 20 minutes was pretty exciting. Plus I got to reward myself with freeze pops, a cold can of cider, and an episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Thumbs-up all around!

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What lesson will I learn next? Will there be more, or will my posts devolve once again into even less structured rambling? Stay tuned!

You Take the Good, You Take the Bad…

…and there you have the facts of (running) life. Am I right?

I know I owe a race recap from the Worcester Firefighters 6k (spoiler alert: I PRd by 5:30!!), but this post has been bouncing around my brain since last night’s suboptimal track workout, so it gets to go first.

  
Right. Track workouts. Speedwork. It’s terrible and it’s awesome and and I hate it and I love it all at the same time. Coach Steve is great at putting together tough workouts and people always give him a joking hard time because everyone hates them, but they’re also so good. Even before I was working on changing my gait, the speed workouts I was doing with the Shammies were definitely making me a little faster. 

Anyway. Last week’s workout was one of the “you take the good” kind. It was 12x 200s with 200 recoveries between, and I killed it. It was hot and humid but I was ready and hydrated and I killed those 200s (for me, at least!)! I felt awesome during (I’m running fast! I’m running pain-free! This is awesome!!) and I felt awesome and accomplished after. I couldn’t wait to do it again the following week. 

And then last night’s workout happened. It was rough. It started with a 10-minute tempo run at 10k pace, then went to ladders on the track at mile pace – 3x 200, 2x 300, 1x 400, 2x 300, 3x 200. 

I attempted the tempo and made it barely 5 minutes in before I got all kinds of side-stitches. Since I had already warmed up, I cut the tempo short and took a water break while I waited for everyone else to finish. 

Then the 200s. I was so excited for these, after nailing them last week. But, silly me, I wasn’t only doing 200s this time around, so I should have paced myself, right? Heh.

I took off on the 200s (mile pace? pshh) and, once again, killed them. Then I ran the first 300 and promptly died (metaphorically, of course). Seriously though, why do 300s feel so much longer than 200s??

I had a crazy cramp in my side and an attack of shin splints, which I haven’t had in almost 2 years. What the heck? I was miserable and barely made the last 100m. I limped off to my bottle of Nuun and sat out the next 300, then promptly realized there was no way I could do a 400 without something going wrong. 

Maybe I was just being paranoid, but I am so scared of injuring myself now before my horrifying half marathon on Sunday, and so I used that as an excuse and I stopped the workout. I stretched and sipped my Nuun while I watched everyone else zip around the track. And I felt anything but accomplished on my way home, a much different scenario than the previous week when I was practically throwing myself a mental victory parade. 

But that happens, right? How many bad runs have I had over the past few years that I’ve bounced back from? Quite a few. But even knowing that, I really let last night’s run get to me. I felt like a facsimile of a sham of a runner and that was a bit of a bummer. I’ve never had to quit a speed workout that fast before, and I’m still bummed out about it today. 

But, trying to think on the bright side, what better time to learn from a crappy run than now? What went wrong that made the run so crappy? Let’s see…

  1. I probably wasn’t hydrated enough (anyone surprised?). That could explain the side stitches. 
  2. I wore different shoes than I’ve been wearing for track. Maybe this is why my shins freaked out?
  3. I completely ignored any kind of pacing, let alone my goal pace. Steve has a chat that lists goal paces for each distance based on your most recent 5k result. My 200s were way faster than my goal pace, which is probably why I crapped out so quickly. 

So, yeah. I wrote this rambly post mostly to hammer into my brain what can happen when I don’t do anything I’m supposed to do, like drinking water and following Steve’s instructions, and, you know, using proper footwear. You think I’d know these things by now, but… alas. 

I’d say I’m hoping for a better workout next week, but that will be 2 days post-half so I probably won’t be doing any speedwork yet! But hopefully the week after or so will be better. 

When do you stick a fork in a workout that’s not going so well? 

How do you move on after a run or a workout totally bums you out?

Analyzing my Run: The 4-Miler

…or, How I Lost the Mental Bandwidth to Write This Post, and So Turned It Into a Post of Random Thoughts Instead

Right, so. I was planning to ramble on a bit about my 4-mile run that happened last Sunday, kind of like how I rambled for ages about my 3-mile run, but I didn’t really have a lot to say about it. I did 3:1 run-walk intervals:

4miler4milerpace…and felt like my head was going to explode from redness even though it was relatively cool (I realized, when I looked at my phone during during my cool-down walk, that the humidity was at 85% so that might explain it!). That’s really all I remember, so that’s all I’ll say about that. On to the randomness!

1. After my 4-miler, in a fit of nostalgia, I was reading part of an old favorite YA series by Louise Rennison (may she rest in peace). A passage from book 5, Away Laughing on a Fast Camel, spoke to me after my very red run I had just completed, and I thought it would be fun to share.

To set the scene: the main character (Georgia) is going for a run in an effort to impress her Italian crush, Masimo. She doesn’t usually run, and was planning to build up her fitness a bit before “casually” finding out where Masimo runs and “bumping into him” there, but things didn’t really go as planned:

Can heads explode? Because I think mine is going to.
There is some other fool out running. I can hear pounding along behind me but I haven’t got the strength to look round. When I get home I am going to get in the fridge I am so hot and red.
“Ciao, Georgia.”
Ohmygiddygodspajamas, Masimo!!!
Noooooooooooooooo.
He caught up with me and was running alongside me. I just kept running and turned and gave him what I hoped was an attractive smile. Attractive if you like a smiling tomato in a jogging outfit. He looked sooo cool, and not even sweating. Also he seemed to be able to breathe. And talk.
He said, “You know, I didn’t get your phone number. Would it be possible for you to me for to tell?”
I gave him another smile. It might be the last living thing I did. Then I saw the hill path and my brain was so starved of oxygen it had no control over any part of my body. My legs started stumbling down the hill path. They were just merrily careering down the path, carrying my head and body along with them.

I know that feeling well – my legs careering along carrying the rest of me with them! Plus the sensational redness and “tomato in a jogging outfit” situation. Oh yes.

2. I joined the Shammies for Tuesday night track again, and this time decided to try a gentle speed workout of my own, using my GRG intervals. Figuring that the 3:1s on Sunday were okay, I thought the prescribed 2:1s would be relatively easy. Nope! I rode the struggle bus pretty hard and couldn’t figure out why shorter intervals were so much harder. Then I realized it was 82* (~28* C) and sunny and humid, whereas Sunday had been upper 50s (~14* C) and cloudy. That’ll do it.

3. Wednesday was National/Global Running Day, and in celebration of the fact that I could actually take part this year, I joined Runners’ World’s World’s Biggest RUNch, for one sunny mile along the river:

IMG_6788The run started out feeling great! Knowing I was just doing a mile, I ran at a comfortable pace without trying to slow down to something more sustainable. For a while, it looked like I might get close to my fastest mile to date – 8:42… except there were streets to cross and tourists to dodge; my fastest mile was run on an empty track.

I started to flag a bit halfway through, and waited longer than I needed to at my final street crossing to have a nice break. I was excited to see what my pace looked like when I got back to my desk and synced Simon, but it turns out Simon had a bit of a problem with my extended wait at the crosswalk… though I had been standing still, he apparently thought I was flying at a 2:11 pace. Yeah… no. Nice try though, Simon.

2114. The last time I was at Target, I splurged on an on-sale espresso machine. There’s a cafe on campus that sells the BEST iced caramel lattes and I’m so addicted. However, they cost almost $5, and my bank account has been hurting a little thanks to my daily caffeine treat. So I figured I’d try making my own iced lattes at home.

A few internet recipes and some improvising of my own later, plus a fun new plastic cup to parade my beverage around in, and I’ve got myself a daily iced vanilla coconut latte. It’s nowhere near as delicious as the one from the campus cafe, but it’s a heck of a lot cheaper! And it’s still got caffeine, so it works.

5. I have MAJOR book ADD right now. I am literally in the middle of 6 books right now, and I can’t seem to really get into any of them. I hate when this happens.

And it doesn’t help that, when Drew and I were killing time between dinner and my haircut appointment Wednesday night, we popped into one of my favorite bookstores and discovered their bargain section. We spent maybe 20 minutes in there, and I walked out with a pile of 5 books. I have a problem.

Yay Friday! Who’s racing this weekend? Any other fun plans afoot?

What are you reading right now? Do you ever get a touch of book ADD?

Tell me something random!

 

A Week of Little Victories

Sometimes when your running has been suboptimal – like when you’re trying really hard to run with proper form but are finding you can’t fun as far as you used to without taking lots of walk breaks – looking for the little victories makes it all feel a bit better. Like Fallon says, look for the shiny!

Well, I managed some shinies last week, which I’ve been trying to focus on instead of the things that make me feel frustrated (like the aforementioned lack of fitness):

1: Completed a set of GRG intervals!

The first time I tried Day 1 of these intervals (10x 1 minute running, 1 minute walking) I could only manage 5 of the 10 sets. On Tuesday, I churned out all 10 and felt pretty chuffed with myself!

I went down to the track to join the Shammies at their weekly speed workout, but knowing that I’d be doing my own thing in Lane 6 instead of going along with their intense, 5ish miles of speedy hell. I managed 5 sets before wanting to quit (including Set #4 which was ridiculously speedy and I’m not sure why), but I didn’t want to let myself quit. I wanted to finish all 10! So I took a water break and got back out there:

*The paces are nice, round numbers because they’re not based on exact-exact science. I basically hovered my cursor over the running bits and tried to figure out as close to an average pace as I could. I should have set Simon to record laps so I could have measured that way but, to be honest, I didn’t know how at the time. So this will have to do!

2: Attended my first run club track workout in what felt like forever AND beat my Blerch!

(See Shiny #1.) I really didn’t want to go out and run when I got home from work on Tuesday (cue the Blerch beckoning to me from the couch with a can of cider), but let Drew be the voice of reason; he kept saying “It’ll be good to see everyone, just go and you’ll feel so much better.” And he was right! I missed my peeps, and running alongside them is a great motivator. Take that, Blerch!

3: Ran 2 complete miles using proper form!

Remember the suboptimal thing I mentioned in the first paragraph? So, while my “proper form” running does make me go faster than my old, flingy-shins way of running, I don’t have the fitness level yet to keep that momentum going for long. Previous running style let me go 6+ miles without needing a walk break (if I went slow enough, that is), so the fact that I could just barely make a mile without needing a break was getting me down a bit.

On Thursday I set out for an easy 2-mile jaunt, without really any goals in mind – I just wanted to run. As usual, I started out a bit too quickly and was trying to slow myself down while holding the proper form. At maybe 4/10 of a mile in, I realized that I was running nicely, but holding an incredibly comfortable pace. I wondered if I could hold that pace for the full 2 miles and – not counting stopping at crosswalks and such – I could!

thurs2miler

Look at that (mostly) steady pace line! That run gave me such a mental boost… finally I found that I can run properly without having to speed away like a bat out of hell. That speediness would be nice to maintain to be sure, but it’s something that will come with time and training. AND, my slow-and-steady(ish) pace with the new form is more than a minute faster than my shin-flingy form, so that’s definitely a shiny!

(Not so shiny? My knees felt a bit dodgy after the run. I stretched when I got home, then popped some ice packs on just in case… while I chowed down on my PB + banana sandwich:)

(Shiny footnote: the knees seem to be behaving themselves now… fingers crossed it stays that way!)

4: Did a core/arms workout!

I’m terrible at cross-training consistently, so anytime I manage a non-running workout I’m pretty pleased. Drew and I were going to go to the gym on Friday after work, but forgot that they were closing early for the long weekend. Instead, I busted out some push-ups, planks, a quick bit of weight-lifting, and even some of the exercises GRG had given me re: my breathing and lazy glutes. (My glutes were a bit angry with me later in the day, but they got over it.)

5: Completed a long run!

I’ll do another silly “analyzing my run” post about this, but I banged out 4 miles on Sunday, bringing my weekly mileage up to a dizzying 8. After all my 10%-rule talk in my last post, apparently that is now out the window, as I jumped from 5 to 8 weekly miles in one go. C’est la vie d’une coureuse, oui?

What’s been shiny for you recently?

The Needle Returns to the Start of the Song

…and we all sing along like before. (Any Del Amitri fans out there?)

What the musically inspired title of this post refers to is my glorious(ish) return to running… for the umpteenth time.

In my last post, I mentioned that the wheels had pretty much fallen off my running wagon yet again, but that I was hoping to take inspiration from yesterday’s Boston Marathon and haul my buns outside and get them moving. Did I manage?

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Heck yes, I did!

It wasn’t pretty, by any means, and I didn’t get in my full intended workout but, by golly, I ran!

Sunday was an absolutely gorgeous day, sunny and low-60s at the time I laced up and ventured out. I wanted to head down to the pond, which I knew would be picturesque as well as partly shaded, but I also knew that everyone in town and their dogs would also be at the pond, and I just couldn’t deal with that. So I walked to the track as my warmup.

As I alluded a few posts back, my gait retraining coach had given me an intervals-based running plan that’s supposedly a bit easier to tackle than C25K. (I’ve found the jumps in running time a bit difficult to manage when trying to keep up my proper form.) Day 1 involved 5 minutes of walking for warmup and cool-down, and 10x 1 minute of running, 1 minute of walking in the middle.

The first running interval, as is usually the case, was awesome. I flew around the track, feeling strong and fast and quite proud of my form. But, as is usually the case, that fell apart soon afterwards. I probably started too fast, but I’m still struggling to balance my prescribed form with a pace I can manage; the proper form causes me to run faster, and I don’t quite have the fitness to maintain that pace. Which probably all points back to my inefficient breathing, which I’m also working on. Basically, I am a massive work in progress right now.

Anyway, I only managed 5 of the 10 intervals. I seriously considered pushing myself to do at least a few more, but…

  1. I hadn’t hydrated enough (anyone surprised?) and the shadeless track was starting to feel like a desert,
  2. I had forgotten my patella strap and was starting to feel ghost twinges in my right knee,
  3. I thought half a workout is better than no workout, especially as the goal of this whole thing is to NOT get injured.

So, yeah. Half of an introductory workout, which brought my total running distance to about a mile. Part of me was disappointed in myself, but I tried to think of the positives:

  1. I ran! Any running is better than no running.
  2. The workout felt a lot like one of the Shammies’ speed workouts, and I did decently, even if it was only half the workout.
  3. The weather was glorious and I was getting to be outside enjoying it.
  4. Related, it felt awesome to wear shorts/running kit again!
  5. I ran!!

It was a baby step, but a step in the right direction, and I’ll take that. And, my body felt fine afterwards – no niggles at all – and still feels fine two days later! It’s an odd feeling, and I love it 🙂 Here’s hoping this fresh start continues on the same trend!

tobias

How is your training going?

Have you ever had to restart your training from the beginning? Multiple times? How do you keep from getting frustrated?

Reverse Speed Workout

Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for a while may remember my Tuesday night track workouts with my beloved Shammies. They’ve been workouts of joy, pain, bonding, frustration, and pretty much everything in between.

Before my knee started being a jerk, I was really starting to see results from attending these speed workouts. Last year, Coach Steve set my goal 5K pace at 10:47, so that I could get used to hitting my average pace (based on recent race times) before working on getting faster. By the time I started attending the workouts this spring, I had surprised myself with a super-fast-for-me mile PR (8:42), and Steve had me ramp up my pace during workouts to a 9:30 – 9:45 range. And I was actually pulling it off, pretty consistently! I was beyond chuffed that I was getting faster, and was super giddy after each workout.

photo(9)Then my knee started being a jerk. The only Shammies events I was attending were book club meetings (with all the other injured runners) and occasional board meetings. I missed my peeps, I missed running, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how my faster pace was probably slipping away with every week I was sat on the couch with ice on my knee.

Anyway, this past Tuesday was the third week in a row that I made it back to Tuesday night track workouts. (I talked about my 2-mile gentle run at the end of my last post.) As I jogged slowly around Lane 6 while the rest of my club sped through intervals past me, I started thinking about how I was basically doing the opposite of their speed workout… a reverse speed workout, if you will.

This is what the Shammies’ workout looked like this week:
-8 x 400 @ 5K pace, 200m jog between, 60 second rest after set
-4 x 100 @ sprint, 100m jog between, 60 second rest after set
-6 x 200 @ sprint, 200m jog between

And this is what my workout looked like:
-8 x 400m @ 11:00 pace or slower, 200m walk between, stop for water after each 800:

trackIt is SO difficult to keep my pace below a certain mark when everyone else is speeding by me! Especially the 4 x 100s… I wanted to do those so badly… short sprints are when I actually feel fast around those speedsters! But I was good and kept an eye on Simon, making sure to slow it down if I saw myself dropping into the 10:00s. Even when I was into my last 800 and was feeling really good, when the devil on my shoulder said “Speed these intervals up a little, it’ll be fun!” I only listened to him for a few seconds before dropping my speed again, so as not to overtax my still-dodgy knee.

It seemed so weird to be fighting to keep my pace under a certain mark, while everyone else was pushing themselves to run at their fastest speeds. A “reverse” speed workout for sure!

photo(10)Apart from a few twinges in the knee during my first few reps, my knee behaved itself. I was so tempted to push the pace at the end because the second half of my workout was totally pain-free! Maybe pushing the pace slightly wouldn’t have hurt, who knows… I just didn’t want to risk it.

Another reason to not push it? It was frikkin’ hot. It had reached the mid-90s (around 34 Celsius) during the day, and was still in the mid-80s (~29 C) by 7pm, halfway through our workout. Plus the sun was setting directly into our faces for half the track. I’ve never seen so much sweat at a track workout, and they’re usually sweaty affairs! I was totally soaked, and I wasn’t even expending half the energy everyone else was. Pushing the pace at that point might have just done me in.

Even though I didn’t get to experience the “I’m getting faster, this is awesome!!” runner’s high after Tuesday’s workout, I got to have the “I’m running and not really hurting anymore!!” injured runner’s high, and that works for me!

photo(11)

Have you ever purposely tried to keep your pace under a certain mark during a run?

How’s the weather where you are? Hot and humid like it’s been here?

Do you do speed work? What kinds of workouts do you do for it?

Happiness is a Warm Run

When Drew picked me up at the bus stop after work last night and asked “Gym?” I said yes immediately. This has been a stressful week at work, and the thought of exercising my stress away appealed to me greatly.

We got home and started getting changed, and as I picked through my shirts to find something tiny and light enough to prevent overheating while treadmilling away in the sweltering sauna of a gym, it suddenly dawned on me – it was absolutely GORGEOUS outside, the perfect evening for a run, and here I was steeling myself for a gym workout. Why?!?

The conditions outside yesterday when I got home from work. SO NICE!

The conditions outside yesterday when I got home from work. SO NICE!

So I giddily swapped my tank top for a long-sleeve tee, put on my Garmin and my RoadID, and we hit the road to the gym. Drew went inside to do his thing, and I cut through the parking lot and crossed the street to the path I knew would bring me to the pond. I ran this path a bunch of times last summer (seen here in one of my scavenger hunt posts!) but as I turned into the woods yesterday it was like running into Narnia in the midst of its always-winter-never-Christmas era.

I can’t even express how bizarre it felt to be wearing shorts and feeling nice and warm while also running on snow and ice! It was so weird, in fact, that I couldn’t stop taking pictures (below), and I also got disoriented a few times because I wasn’t used to these trails being covered in snow and so went the wrong way a few times. (My legs weren’t used to running on snow- and ice-covered trails either… it took me forever to get out of the woods and my first mile clocked in at over 16:00!)

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Most of the trails were like this... you could either splash through the mud or pick your way along the ice.

Most of the trails were like this… you could either splash through the mud or pick your way along the ice.

...or, some were just completely snow-covered.

…or, some were just completely snow-covered.

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I was so proud of my "cross-country legs" even though they were barely muddy!

I was so proud of my “cross-country legs” even though they were barely muddy!

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Look how stoked I am to be running outside without layers upon layers of thermal gear!!

Look how stoked I am to be running outside without layers upon layers of thermal gear!! (Also, wow, I look tired.)

Once I finally completed my cross-country trek (without falling, I might add, despite slipping on ice several times!) and made it to the paved path around the pond, I took off at a giddy trot. I couldn’t stop grinning like a fool; I was SO happy to be running around the pond again! I think the last time I ran the pond was October. I missed it.

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“You know you cast a long shadow on the ground…”

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The pond was super busy, as everyone seemed to be taking advantage of the first warm evening to go on nice, leisurely walks. Everyone looked to be in a good mood, and all the runners I passed shared a knowing smile with me. Spring at last!

I must have had a lot of pent-up energy from not running a lot lately – not to mention all the work stress I was blowing off – because my giddy trot was quite the trot indeed. Simon was telling me that I was pacing between 9:20 and 10:00 for my first non-trail mile, and it felt really good considering that that’s super speedy for me*! What didn’t feel so good was my final mile, when all that speed caught up to me and my legs promptly turned to lead. I had to walk back to the gym, even though I had intended to run all the way back. I made it 3.5 miles though… not too shabby!

*Speaking of super speedy… in lieu of my final Couch to 5 Miler class last Wednesday, which I missed due to miscommunication, I took to the campus track for what was supposed to be an easy mile to gauge the status of my ribs and legs before Sunday’s race. I set off at a good clip for the first 400m – again, I’m guessing due to pent-up energy from having been sidelined for so long – and as I completed the lap I looked at Simon and saw that, if I could keep up that pace, I would totally blow my current mile PR of 9:26 away. So I went for it. And this happened:

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Say whaaaa?!

Boo yeah! Maybe taking several weeks off is good for me?!

Anyway, the moral of this post is – I am so incredibly stoked that it’s finally spring, and that the snow is melting (kind of…) and that I can run outside again without needing allll the thermal kit. Yay!

How’s the weather where you are?

What’s been making you happy this week?

Who’s racing this weekend?