Saturday, September 21, 2013

How To Make Runs Harder

Where's the time gone?! The past couple of weeks have been a blur. My program has us do a sort of math refresher before we start the hard stuff, so I've been math camp-ing for the past three weeks. It's been an awesome gradual, watered-down introduction to grad school and has left me with plenty of free time, which I clearly haven't used for blogging. Blogging's great and all, but when your choice is between blogging and, say, buying a mattress or going to the beach, blogging's going to get the shaft.

The beach!

This is what it looked like when we got there. It was a miserable first 3 hours, followed by a glorious 3 hours.

This dog's got nothing on Bailey.

Plus, there's the fact that I'm not training for anything right now. Training provides a very natural story arc, and when it ends it's up to the blogger to "come up with content." This is something I struggle with (any ideas?).

So in the absence of content, I thought I'd tell you the different ways in which I've been challenging myself via running. You mean I've been running? Yes!  This week I should hit 14.5 miles (and a hike! And 2.5-5 miles of walking/biking per day). Right now I'm focusing on running more days of the week as opposed to more miles, so all my runs have been incredibly short.

Anyway, many of my recent runs have been tests of fortitude, physical, mental, and social (I may have just invented "social fortitude" - someone alert the OED!). Let's count the ways, shall we?

1) Running with a running group

Man, guys. I gave the running group thing a sort-of-not-really fair shot and I've bravely decided to never go back, because quitting after one failure is what champions are made of. I went to a Monday night easy run that left from a local running store, and it was so incredibly awkward, the kind of situation I usually avoid at all costs. There were only 10-15 people there, and they all knew each other. That's my absolute worst nightmare. When everyone's already got their friends, what motivation is there to reach out to someone new? And when people are in the middle of an engaging conversation, what's the last thing you should do? Interrupt them to say, "HI I'M JEAN TALK TO ME PLEASE."

I stood around looking weird until we left the store and ran to and around Alton Baker Park. Of course no one was running at my pace so I mostly ran alone. The last mile, I was just about to make a wrong turn when a kind soul yelled that I was going the wrong way. She was nice enough to finish the run with me, but I can't say our conversation was remotely interesting. Aren't runners supposed to instantly connect because of their shared love of the sport?! We very quickly ran out of introduction topics, so I tried to talk about running. That definitely didn't work. My theory is that since I never talk (out loud) about running, I don't even have the vocabulary to do so. 

So, yeah. Running clubs can suck it. Maybe next time (there won't be a next time).

2) Trail runs

I haven't done a ton of trail running, but I've tried to do so once or twice a week. For example, last Saturday I hit up the McKenzie River Trail to see what it's all about. The first mile, I was incredibly disappointed because the trail was right next to the road, but after that it got really exciting. The views weren't anything to write home about,

Except this one

but it was awesome to run on a trail that didn't go straight up or straight down (*cough* Alaska *cough*). There were enough obstacles to keep my brain occupied, but overall it was a pretty flat run. Also, there were moments where you got close to the river and you were hit by the best cool breeze off the water. It took almost an hour to drive here, but I plan to head back when I can.

Another notable trail run was on Eugene's Ridgeline trail system. I was checking out a map and noticed that two points 1.5 miles from each other were the same elevation. That obviously means the bits between are flat, right? No. Wrong. It was more like a 400-foot gain over .75 miles. I was dying. There was a sign at the summit, which made me laugh because it didn't remotely resemble the kinds of summits I'm accustomed to. 

View from the summit. 

This looks more like a summit, but I took it from the trailhead.

3) Running in hot weather

Now, this is bordering on "complaining about weather," which I hate (but of which I am guilty at times), but I don't mean it that way. I just mean that because I haven't been sufficiently motivated to run in the morning, I've been running in 80+ temps, which has challenged me. From what I hear, Oregon's had an unseasonably warm summer, and those temperatures are continuing into fall. Although by the looks of it, rain is on its way! Anyway, running in warmer temps is a good way to make an easy run harder.

4) Running an hour after eating a foot-long Subway sandwich

Granted, this only happened once, but it was no doubt one of the hardest runs I've ever done. So, I'm gross and not at all embarrassed to admit that I've been eating Subway with an alarming frequency, especially when I was in the process of moving and didn't want to be burdened by groceries. Well, a couple of days ago I needed to get my run done and the sun was going down. Since it was just a 3-miler, I figured I'd be fine. WRONG. I never entered sharting territory, but I was so. incredibly. nauseous the entire time. It was scary. Don't do that. Oh, wait, you're too smart to do that to yourself? GOOD FOR YOU.

So there you have it. If you want to make your runs harder, try group running (wait, don't do that), trails, hot weather, and Subway.


I've been the ultimate comment failure these past few weeks. I've managed to stay largely up-to-date with all your running doings, but I don't think I've commented on more than a handful. Will try harder!

  • How do you make YOUR runs harder?
  • What do you want me to write about? Do you even care?


  1. Hey good to hear from you. You are much more brave than me. I keep saying I am going to run with a group that meets 2 times a week. I've been saying that for a year now, and it still has not happened. Yikes!
    Glad that you are starting to find your groove with school and running!

    1. Well, hey, just because THOSE runners weren't that awesome doesn't mean that OTHER runners aren't awesome! See: all the bloggers whose stuff I read. There are definitely good ones out there.

  2. Sorry to hear about the not so social running club! Maybe there is a fun twitter or blogger group of runners? Thats how I met more runners in Chicago!

    Run could be harder if you Vlogged it all!
    I make my run harder by thinking that the internet cares if my time is off by even 2 seconds...nobody actually cares that much

    Please write about Archer on Fx

    1. Ahaha, I DID actually try to "vlog" on the run one time because I was running in a spectacularly scenic spot. It was a complete failure.

      I would totally write about Archer on FX if I could bring myself to watch that terrible animation. Someday. I'm working up to it!

  3. Gorgeous pictures as usual! That sucks about the running group. Boo. The first time I ran with my group I felt like you, but in trying to shove out of my comfort zone, I forced myself to try one more time. That was 2 years ago and since then I have made some amazing friends. But I think our group is unique, of course ;) We ALWAYS make a point of welcoming and chatting it up with newbies. So, if you visit Northern Cali. email me and you can come run with my group! I promise you'll like it :)
    I make my runs harder when I convince myself that the mountain isn't THAT high. Ha!
    Whatever you write about is great. I know, really helpful. You're welcome!

    1. I will absolutely email you if I make it there! I like the sound of a welcoming running group.

      Ahaha, totally helpful. "Whatever I want." I'll remind you of that when my posts devolve into, like, talking about cardboard.

  4. Hahah that runner club story is really my worst nightmare too. It's why I've been telling myself I'll go to the running club nearby but haven't managed to get up and go for 4 months now.

  5. Eh. Running groups are not for everyone. They're not even for me all the time, either. On one hand, my weekly training group is how I've made a huge range of friends from a huge range of backgrounds. On the other hand, I am a diehard introvert and my two-hour weekend runs are MY OWN TIME, thank you very much. I went through several running partners of varying paces and (more importantly and frustratingly) degrees of punctuality before I decided that.(True confession: I also like swimming in a group because you can push each other to go faster on the intervals, but you can't exactly chat it up while underwater. Now you know.)

    But if a formal running group isn't for you, meeting and getting to know the local running community at trail races and things could be. Use your blog. ;)

    How to make your runs harder: Run until you have run out of new places to run; then they will immediately become 10x more boring, and thus more difficult. /sigh

    1. I think a swimming group could potentially be WORSE, largely because swimming with other people in a lane is terrifying.

      If my blog had more than 5 or 10 readers, I would indeed use it ;). Maybe someday.

  6. I'm sorry to hear about how your group run experience went. That situation is my worst nightmare, too. Once I know people I'm relatively talkative and pretty good at cracking jokes. But I'm incredibly awkward with strangers, and extremely so with a group of strangers. For that very reason if I am in a group where we all know each other and a new person joins in I always talk to him/her. Because I know it sucks to be in their shoes. I'm sorry that didn't happen for you at the group. Kind of lame of them.

    Your running trails look promising, though. I made the Subway mistake on Friday, except it was a 6 inch. The mistake was having banana peppers on it and then running about 45 minutes later. I need to leave the banana peppers for rest days.

    I don't care what topic you write about, as long as you keep your sarcastic/dry humor-style of writing. It never fails to make me laugh.

    1. I also always try to talk to the odd-man-out; it's the polite thing to do! I was honestly kind of offended that only one person out of the bunch bothered to say more than two words to me.

      That's funny that banana peppers do damaging things to you-I've never thought of them as being particularly rough on my stomach! A foot-long sub, though, that's another story...

  7. Oh my. The group run sounds like my biggest nightmare. So sorry you had to deal with that! Good call on not going back; you will be too busy soon enough so that you will want to run on your own time, not with a group. 3 mile runs 4-5 x a week is a great way to keep up with running while you are busy in school and until your next training plan starts. I am still waiting to see you crush a 2 hour half! Don't think I have forgotten!!!

    1. No, Amy, no!!! Forget the sub-two half! Or at least, forget it until I crush it a billion years from now, at which point you can praise me for doing something millions of others have done.

  8. Well there goes my plans to try out a running group on Wednesday, ha. That sounds horrible and exactly what I am afraid of.

    Those trails look beautiful.

    We had an intensive math session before my masters was rough. Then again, mine wasn't in economics, so perhaps you enjoyed it more than me, ha.

    1. Yeah, it really wasn't bad! I'm not *that* awesome at math, but it's a subject I really enjoy. Plus, quite a bit of time to do other stuff the past few weeks has been great! Math camp=great success.

  9. There are good groups and bad groups. If you want to write them all off after one bad experience, go ahead. I'm just not sure that's fair. :)

    I can make my runs harder by starting later in the day (duh), when it's like a zilliondy PLUS 10 degrees, instead of just a zilliondy degrees. Also, running the morning after an evening spin class is also a fairly challenging prospect.

    Glad you're settling in, and finding lots of photogenic scenery, too. Given that you are pretty obsessively organized, maybe you should pick a few general topics and assign them to specific days (like a weekly wrap up, a focus on one photo run, ramblings about school, whatever). Then you at least have some direction for a given day. [Hint: RWH is going in that direction soon, as a kick in the pants to encourage the author to diversify content beyond training recaps and race reports...]

    1. I like that idea (pick a few general topics and assign them to specific days)! Although I'm thinking time constraints may prevent it from being very realistic (I'm thinking once-a-week posts are my max). But hey, your general topic ideas are good post topic ideas!

      I'm excited to hear about RWH's upcoming changes!

    2. Oh no, this is a problem. RWH=Run With Holly or Run Write Hike? We may need to battle it out!