Thursday, January 30, 2014

The music I run with

I gave up running with headphones when we were in Sweden maybe 4 years ago and I was running on scary small roads and trails where it really was important that I be able to hear what was going on around me.  After three weeks of that, I kind of got used to things and I haven't really missed it all that much.

Science tells us that there are some good reasons to run with headphones (and Runner's World writes about it frequently).  It can make the miles pass faster, which is especially important on long tedious runs.  It can keep your tempo up as you keep beat with the music, and some studies have shown that people who exercise with music have a higher rate of exertion over time than those who don't (plus, the exertion feels less, so that's a plus, too).  However, the safety concerns are huge, and losing the control of really being able to think about your breath and cadence can be significant, it depends on the kind of runner you are.  Since I went through my Pilates certification a couple of years ago, I've become pretty darn geeky about running and form, so I was glad that I'd already learned to live without the headphones.  When I was transitioning my stride from a heavy heel strike to a midfoot strike, paying attention to what I was doing was hugely important and I think it went as well as it did because I didn't have music to distract me.

So what goes on in my head, then, since I don't have music when I run outside?  I do miss having NPR in my ear during early morning runs - I can vividly remember hearing about the first reports of the Arab Spring when I was running cold and seemingly endless laps around the Highland Park Reservoir - but overall, I like the freedom of not having anything in my pockets, or headphones constantly slipping out of my ears.  I've found that now that I have to create my own music, I spend a lot of time going through my loop of songs in my head.  Some days I'm stuck on Lady Gaga or Madonna, some days it's some horrendous song the kids are singing all the time.  Yesterday it was "December, 1963" by Frankie Vallie, which was featured on Sunday's episode of Sherlock.  When I run hills, it's frequently the theme from Game of Thrones, though lately it's been the "How He Did It" theme from Sherlock (yes, I'm pretty obsessed, I'm not ashamed).  I've taken the time to plot out conversations I need to have, or to think of ideas for books I want to write, or things I want to talk to The Husband about.  It's nice to have the time to just think if I want to, or turn on my mental jukebox and spin to whatever comes up, like a musical free association.

On the treadmill, all bets are off.  Plug me in, I have no shame.  If I have the option to watch a movie or TV, I'm there.  Otherwise, I'll set my phone to random, use the running mix I've made, or use that Audible membership I should make more use of.  I have a very nice pair of Yur Buds that work great for not falling out of my ears, but one of my cats is quite fond of them so I don't use them all that much because I tend to forget about them, leave them out, and then the cat eats them.  It's a bad cycle.

Are you headphone-free or do you love your iPod like no other?  What plays either in your head or on your player when you're running?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Running on the Left Coast

Since my last post in May, lots of stuff has happened.  I *FINALLY* set a new 10k PR (that thing had stood for way too long), which is awesome, and after a few months of single parenthood, we all find ourselves reunited in California for the next few months.

Make no mistake, single parenting sucks.  I stayed behind in Pittsburgh with the kids so that they could do a semester of school at their regular school, we could tie up loose ends, figure out what to do with the house and the cats, etc.  The Husband came out to CA and worked.  I definitely think he got the sweeter end of the deal and think I have some PTSD from my foray into single parenting, but it's all good now.  My hat is off to my friends who are single parents for any reason, there is not a single thing fun about it.  I told The Husband that if anything happened to him I'd probably marry the first guy I could get to ask me just so that I wouldn't have to take care of the kids alone.  I have nothing good to say about it other than thank god it's over.

A side effect to the single parenting is that I didn't get to run a whole lot, or do a whole lot of anything else, so I gained a few pounds and feel like I might have lost some fitness.  But since we've been out here in lovely California, I've had a chance to get back to things, do yoga again, Pilates again, and get in some quality runs. The weather is awesome, especially compared to the polar vortexes (I'm actually not sure if that's the plural of vortex or not!) they're dealing with back in the 'burgh.  Though I am missing out on bragging rights for having survived what sounds like the Winter from Hell, I'm kind of ok with that.  It's dry out here (they're into year three of a drought), and we are in an area where it is pancake flat, to the point that you feel it when there is a very slight change in elevation.  It's both amusing and frustrating.  I've come to love the hills because they give my runs variety, so I am frequently bored to tears while I'm running here.  There is a decent paved trail nearby, but I learned the hard way that it needs to be run strategically, or else I end up with no shade running next to the stinky San Francisco Bay (which is stinky because the water is so low, the salt marshes are just drying out and stinking the place up).  So some adjustment is having to happen.

The Husband and I signed up for the Big Sur Marathon at the end of April, so I've been training for that.  If you know anything about Big Sur, you'll know that it is not pancake flat, so there's problem number one.  I am, at heart, a lazy girl, and I dislike having to drive to run.  I run because I don't want to have to drive somewhere!  Back in Pittsburgh I can run up as many hills as I want within a quarter mile of my house.  So having to budget time to drive somewhere to run, and carry my own water, which makes me feel kind of stabby, is a mental hurdle I have to get over.  My friends out here think I'm a little crazy, and the San Francisco Bay area is not known for being devoid of hills, but I'm not used to having to drive to find them, and believe me, it is FLAT where I am.  Weirdly weirdly flat.  So my goal for this weekend is to find some hills to run on.