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Running with kids…or maybe from them September 7, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in family, older son, running, younger son.
Tags: , ,
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Even a couple years ago, it was hard to get a workout in once the younger son was home.  I was lucky in that the older son is a bit of a homebody and could watch his brother if Mike wasn’t around.

Now, however, I have a new dilemma.  The younger son has decided he’s over this “kid’s race” stuff and wants to start doing 5ks.  The older son likes doing 10ks.  I’m currently training for my second half marathon this summer.  How am I supposed to train with my kids??!  They’re not terribly motivated to train on their own, but they like going with me.  I suspect this is because I turn into a zombie when I run so the kids have my undivided attention and I don’t say much.  They can speak unimpeded for a long, LONG time.  On the other hand, they like doing races because of the freebees.  However, training with them on top of my own running is a bit too much, so I started to get creative.

This morning’s training run was 12 miles, so I decided to break it into a loop of three miles.  I did one loop by myself, ran the loop twice after that with the older son (who is starting to have a hard time keeping up with me), and did it one more time with the younger son (who apparently decided after a mile that we needed to walk…and my feet agreed with him).

This worked great because I also found out that this eliminated the need to find gas stations along my running route.  Unfortunately, gatorade bottles don’t sit nicely in my race belt.  Also, my husband wasn’t expecting me to try to give him a sweaty hug until the end (doesn’t everyone do this to their spouse?), and I was able to nab him mid-route.  He still went and got me some post-run celebratory ice cream, so I guess that was okay.

I just imagine that there were some people scratching their head as I walked past for the fourth time this morning…

Never ask a woman her weight…but her kinetic energy is fine August 2, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in math, physics, running, science.
Tags: blerch, , kinetic energy, mass, , , , ,
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Today, I had one of the most awesome runs I’ve ever had.  In particular, I sustained a much faster pace than I have over a 3 mile distance.

I couldn’t help but wonder, however, about the factor weight plays in one’s speed.  As much as I try not to worry about weight and focus on being healthy, there’s this part of me that thinks it would be cool to lose a bit of weight because then I would go SO MUCH FASTER.  Or at least that’s what I tell myself.  However, I wondered if maybe I was exaggerating a bit, so I decided to check it out.

While it’s a bit of an oversimplification (that doesn’t take into account muscle tone, lung capacity, hydration, electrolyte levels, altitude adjustment, and the 18 bazillion other things that can affect a runner, even as stupid as that kink that’s still in your neck from last Thursday’s swim (okay, that only affects the triathletes here)), a quick check is to use the kinetic energy equation.

First, of course, we have to assume a perfectly spherical runner.  Or a Blerch:

The Blerch

The Blerch

(As an aside, if you don’t know what the Blerch is, you must check out the Oatmeal’s wonderful cartoon on running.  We all have a Blerch deep inside of us.)  Either way, perfectly spherical things are happy for physicists because of all the lovely simplifications we can use in learning about them.  So, if you’re a perfectly spherical runner, remember that physicists will love you.

Anyway, our hypothetical runner will have a mass (m), which is, of course, directly proportional to weight.  (Weight, of course, is also referred to as gravitational attraction, so the more you have of it, the more attractive you are, at least from the perspective of the planetary body you’re closest to.  Also, it may start to be more attracted to you if your velocity starts to approach the speed of light.  Maybe this is why many humans also find runners attractive?  Not sure.)  The unit of mass is the kilogram.  The runner will also have to maintain an average speed velocity (v), and of course your pace is inversely proportional to your velocity.  Your velocity is probably measured in miles per hour by your local race, but since we’re being scientific, we could also use SI units of meters/second.  That being said, if you double your speed in one unit, it will also double in the other.  There’s nothing fancy that happens because you’re using one unit or the other.

The kinetic energy of our runner, assuming an average velocity, can be written as

(1) KE=½ mv2

If we have the kinetic energy and mass, but want to find out the velocity, we first divide both sides of the equation by the mass and then take the square root of both sides.  This leaves us with the following result:

(2) v=√(2 KE/m)

Let’s take an example.  If we have a runner who has a velocity of 5 mph (or 2.2352 m/s) and a weight of 140 lbs. (or 63.5 kg).  If we use SI units to compute this runner’s velocity, it turns out her initial kinetic energy (KEi) is 158.63 J.

On the other hand, we don’t really need to know how much initial kinetic energy the runner has, in terms of numbers.  We can just define it as the quantity KEi. It turns out that physicists are kind of lazy about using numbers, so we’ll try to go without them because, in my opinion, it sort of confuses things. (You’ll see why later.)

How this this help us?  Well, if you want to take a drastic example, let’s assume a runner loses half of her body weight.

First, let’s establish that her initial kinetic energy is defined also by an initial mass mi and velocity vi.  (These would be the same as the 5 mph and 140 lbs. above.)  This means her initial kinetic energy can be written as

(3) KEi=½ mivi2

and her initial velocity would therefore be

(4) vi=√(2 KEi/mi).

If her weight drops by half, we can write this as her initial weight divided by 2:

(5) m=mi/2

If we put (5) into our velocity equation (2) as our new mass and keep the same initial kinetic energy, we get

(6) vnew=√(2 KEi/m)=√(2 KEi/(mi/2))=√2*(2 KEi/(mi))=√2(2 KEi/(mi))

You can see that the last part in six is basically the square root of two times our initial velocity from (3).  That means that by losing half her weight, our runner would run about 1.4 times as fast, or 40% faster.

Now what if she only loses 10% of her weight?  It turns out that (5) would become

(7) m=mi/1.1

so our new velocity would be the initial velocity times the square root of 1.1, which is about 1.05.  Losing 10% of her weight only makes her 5% faster.

After spending time looking at this, I decided that going on a massive diet definitely isn’t going to help me speed up significantly.  (In fact, if I manage to go from my current weight to my ideal, I would maybe get a gain of a bit over 1/2 mph.)  It’s the fact that the mass doesn’t play as strong a role as velocity does because velocity gets squared and mass doesn’t.  If you want to go faster, you are better off practicing running faster.

So please pass the ice cream!  I need it for my fartlek recovery.

no jinx July 19, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in Fargo, personal, running.
Tags: , half-marathon, redhawks,
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I didn’t want to post about this until I knew it would happen.  I’ve had bad luck with my training in the past: I’ve attempted twice to train for a half-marathon, both times being unsuccessful for health reasons.  (One was directly related, but the other was not.)

Today, however, I have managed to cross that item off my list.


The lovely lady on the left is my friend Becky.  Becky started running shortly after I did, but has gone on to be a much faster runner and has left me behind in terms of distance.  I kept saying that doing a half was still on my bucket list, and so we talked about doing a race together.  Because I’m so slow, a lot of races have cutoff times that were below my estimated finish times.  Also, I would need to find a race that Becky wasn’t planning to try to PR on (like the Fargo marathon, being so wonderfully flat).

We decided to do a small race in a cute little town about an hour east of Fargo called Perham.  The race had a four hour time limit, so I hoped I would be able to handle it.

I was so worried about things getting derailed again.  I ended up learning a few things, like that I did not used to consume sufficient electrolytes when exercising.  I also learned about the joys of sports tape:


See how I taped the foot on the right with less tape than on the left?  I found out at the end of the race that while no tape is best, less tape is really, really bad.  I ended up with blisters on both feet, but the one with less tape ended up with a nasty blister from tape rubbing.

I find it ironic that I use tape and compression sleeves to immobilize my legs…in order to run.

The race itself was very small, very quiet, very uncrowded.  It was great in that there were aid stations and port-a-potties available every 2.5 miles.  The down side is that there was a stretch of gravel that really wreaked havoc with my left knee.  Becky, as I mentioned, was faster than me, but she also has a lot more experience running on gravel, so she was in better shape.  There were also hills.  Not that they were horrible, but coming from Fargo, hills are a thing to be scared of.

Still, I managed to finish and much faster than my anticipated time.  I fully expected to show up at the four hour mark….or maybe a little after.  As it turns out, Becky’s faster pace pushed me during the runs portion of our run-walk intervals, so we made it in just over 3 1/2 hours.  I was dead last – but that’s okay.  Most people think about getting first, second, or third.  However, last place is the one everyone who isn’t a contender for first, second, or third think about.  Therefore, I appreciate being the one to come into the fourth most frequently discussed place.

Also, I got bling:


After getting back, I got to spend the evening at a baseball game.  I’ve determined that baseball games are really great after long runs as I can sit there and eat junk food that I normally wouldn’t eat and also recover.  It’s one of the few times I don’t feel pulled to be doing something work or dissertation related.

Anyway, tonight’s baseball game was a special treat as I got to meet the mascot:


And now, I think I’m going to collapse.


The Fellowship of the Relay May 12, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in Fargo, older son, running.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Those of you who have followed my blog for a while know that I enjoy running.  Or I used to.

I lost my motivation.

Part of that is because the older son got a job with very odd hours.  Because he does not yet have a driver’s license, Mike and I have been taking turns getting up at obnoxiously early hours to take him.  Then I went on a trip to a conference.  Then we all got sick.

The list goes on and on.  The result is that I found it nearly impossible to run except right before bed…and running right before bed has this tendency to keep me awake all. night. long.

However, back in December or January, when I was motivated, a friend and I began talking about doing a relay for the Fargo Marathon.  Then we found out there was a costume contest with the relay.  Well, obviously we had to do it!  If you’d like the full details, you can visit Kari’s blog and check out her post: How to be the biggest geek at the marathon.

We chose Lord of the Rings as our theme, and I got to be a Hobbit.  Except I was a hobbit with calf sleeves.  (Don’t you wonder if Frodo and company would’ve gone faster if they’d had compression sleeves and a great pair of running shoes?  And headphones?  Definitely headphones would’ve helped.)



The beginning, of course, was packed.


This is what it looked like until the 10k turned off from the route, at which point, it became very sparse.  I suspect that’s because I was running in the opposite direction of most of the marathoners, almost all of whom are much faster than I am.  I have to admit that I would like to do the relay again just because I won’t have to dodge around so many people.

Unlike most of my team, I apparently was more confusing than anything in my costume.  No one yelled, “Go Frodo!” or, “Destroy the Ring!”  Perhaps I needed a wig?  Anyway, most people apparently are unfamiliar with hobbits, and the fuzzy feet only added to their confusion.  I did ask someone if they knew where Mt. Doom was, but they just said, “Huh?” and shook their head.

The one person who did recognize me was (Danny) Elvis.  I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of him because I was too busy high-fiving him.  After I ran past, he announced, “Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we have the One Ring right here at the 2014 Fargo Marathon.”  I’m really happy that Elvis is a geek, too.


Once we were together in a group, I became recognizable.  This is a pic of our team at the hand-off between Legolas and Gimli, who was kind enough to take a break from his gig with ZZ Top. (Anyone else have “Cheap Sunglasses” running through their head?  I thought so.)

After Legolas, Gimli, and myself finished our respective relay legs, we went downtown for some free munchies.  Apparently all the marathoners beat us there, too.


Even the street fair isn’t that packed.

While waiting for Gandalf (have you noticed he always shows up at the last minute?), we decided to get out of the heat and took a stop at the Prancing Pony Atomic Coffee.  I’m sure the usual patrons were thinking that the place had gone downhill since they were starting to let dwarves and other unsavory folk in.


Finally, Gandalf came in and we raced to the finish line together to receive our medals…half an hour before they closed the course down.  One thing I learned is that quests can take a long time, and Peter Jackson really glossed over that particular aspect.

Either way, we all had a lot of fun and are already planning for next year’s race.  Better yet, I think I’ve found my motivation again.


If you can call me fat, I can call you stupid October 30, 2013

Posted by mareserinitatis in running, societal commentary.
Tags: diet, fat, fat-shaming, weight

There’s been an article floating around about a local woman named Cheryl who is planning on fat-shaming kids at Halloween by giving them a letter telling their parents that those parents are irresponsible for not watching their kids diets.

I really, really resent this type of behavior.  I’m going to be blunt: at my heaviest, I had a BMI of 47.  If you don’t know, that’s downright awful.  But you know what?  Nothing I did made a difference,  I was running, I was eating ‘healthy’…but the changes I saw were incremental, at best.  I tried to keep doing those things because I knew they were making me healthy even if they weren’t helping me to lose weight.

Just over a year ago, I was diagnosed with celiac disease, ending what has been a nearly life-long struggle with a multitude of medical issues, including obesity.  Yeah, I was fat as a kid, too.  And now I’ve lost a lot of weight simply because I found out I can’t eat gluten.

And you know what?  It never once helped me when someone reminded me of the fact I was fat, from age 10 on.  The people who like to chide those of us with weight issues probably didn’t realize that I ate pretty close to the same thing as my uber-skinny husband, and more often than not, I have had a more rigorous exercise schedule than he.  (I’m not implying he’s lazy or anything, but even he said after a couple years that it perplexed him how our weights could be so different.)  No one ever made a point to give him diet tips, but I get them all the time.  Once he went to the doctor about a sore back.  The doctor xrayed him and ran some tests before sending him to a physical therapist.  Six months later, I went in with the same complaint…and was sent to a dietician because my sore back was obviously a result of my weight.

You can’t tell why someone is overweight.  You can’t tell by someone’s weight how much exercise they do, how healthy they are, how much body fat they have (surprisingly) and, most importantly, how shitty they may feel about themselves because of the fact that their weight makes them a target for jerks like Cheryl.

People like Cheryl don’t realize that weight doesn’t equal health – there are many studies showing that overweight people who are active (that is, metabolically healthy) are actually at lower risk for many diseases than skinny people who are not.  Focusing on a person’s weight doesn’t improve their health…and likely makes their mental health a lot worse.

Cheryl, I do understand your desire not to hand out candy.  I also understand why you’re confused about how weight and health.  Rather than fat-shame someone, however, just give them an eyeball eraser instead…and maybe read some of the links above to understand why what you’re doing is not only morally repugnant but scientifically invalid, as well.

running update: 23 months September 22, 2013

Posted by mareserinitatis in family, older son, running.
Tags: , , ,

I went for a run today for the first time in a month.  It was nice, particularly since I could actually feel my feet the whole time.

Yeah, that sounds strange, doesn’t it?

I haven’t run the past month because I ended up in the hospital.  Some of you may recall that about a year ago, I had a bad reaction to some medication.  Some of my doctors have been dubious that this was the case, however, given the reaction was extremely rare.  (By extremely rare, I mean I-managed-to-find-a-whole-three-medical-case-studies-on-pubmed rare.)  I was given the medication again, and this time I had a similar reaction, only it didn’t stop when I stopped the meds…and I ended up spending some time in the hospital.  Some of my (two) readers may have noticed I didn’t post much a couple weeks ago.  That’d be why.

As an aside, while the hospital food wasn’t all that bad, I was very ticked that they put me on a ‘heart healthy’ diet despite my complete lack of metabolic disorder.  I suspect I may have gotten some gluten contamination while there, as well.  My husband has been informed that any future trips to the hospital will require him to cook and bring me food, which he thankfully said he’d do…although it may just be a lot of gluten free egg rolls and scrambled eggs.  :-)

The good news is that things are getting better…I can stand long enough to teach my classes without getting dizzy and, as I said, feel my feet again…most of the time.

Needless to say, this is putting a bit of a damper on my race plans.  I had planned to run a 10k next month with the older son, but I’m trying to take it slow.  I’ll probably just try the 5k.  I was initially rather upset that I’ve been running for almost two years now and am having to start over.  However, after my run this morning, I came to an important realization: I ran more than I had planned because it felt good to get out and move.  My body knows what it’s doing now, so I’m really not starting over…just giving myself some space.

Last, but not least… June 29, 2013

Posted by mareserinitatis in running, societal commentary.
Tags: 5k, fitness, last, race, run or dye, triathlon

I had a busy morning.  Today was Fargo’s Run or Dye 5k, and a friend came in from out of town to run with me.  It was a very casual race.  No one was timing it, a lot of people were walking, and it was just a lot of fun.  Well, except for the part where I got some dye in my eye and everything on the left was blue.  When I got home, I realized that I was covered in colors from head:


to toe:


In fact, I remarked to my friend that I looked like a troll with a funny tan line.  I discovered that, aside from giving great impressions of mammograms, sports bras are also the only thing that keep out powdered dye…well, except for the tiny bit of green that crept in from the top.

(This is the point where I’m going to go from a fun, light-hearted post to something more serious.  Sorry about that…but keep reading.)

I was all excited about my experience and was about to post something about it on a fitness board that I frequent.  When I got there, though, I saw that someone else had said something about how they had done a race today, but at least they weren’t last.

Am I the only one who hates that particular comment?  It makes it sound as though the last person in the race is some sort of loser.  I guess I resent it a bit because I WAS the last person in a race the first time I did a triathlon.  Yes, a triathlon!  I finished a 500m swim, 12 mi bike ride, and 3 mi run.  And I was last.  But I finished a damn triathlon folks!  There’s nothing to be ashamed about there!  I worked my ass off (hopefully a bit literally) in order to get through that experience.  As a friend reminded me on the run portion, I was still moving faster than everyone watching back at the finish line.

Last year, I was reading the times for a 10k I participated in and while I wasn’t last, I was pretty stunned when I saw that the person who did finish last was 80 years old.  You know, somehow that seems a lot more impressive than dragging my then 36-year-old butt across the finish line about 15 minutes ahead.

I’d just ask that we not diss the people who are last.  How about, “I wasn’t fast, but I improved on my time.”  Those people in last place may have been working just as hard (or harder!), may be fighting with medical problems, may have hurt themselves, who knows!  It’s a much better idea to celebrate our accomplishments and not compare ourselves to anyone else…especially the person who has to be the last.  The fact that they were last just means they didn’t quit when they could’ve and made someone else be last.

Fargo Marathon – 10k redux May 19, 2013

Posted by mareserinitatis in Fargo, running.
Tags: ,

As several of you know, I had been training to attempt my first half-marathon this spring. Unfortunately, sometime in February, I ended up with some nasty shin splints that took forever to heal. At first, I didn’t think I’d be able to run at all, but things improved enough so that I had enough time to get ready for the 10k. However, I wasn’t expecting much. My legs still hurt off and on after running. I also started a new training program where I use timed walking and running intervals. Supposedly the walking periods help your body rest to improve your endurance. However, my training rates indicated I probably wasn’t going to be much faster than the previous year when I’d run the whole thing. Running the whole thing had improved my time 20 minutes from the previous year when I walked the entire distance.

Saturday morning was the big day, and it was actually a nice morning. It was overcast, cool, and although it was raining when I arrived, it stopped (mostly) shortly after the race began. I have a Garmin Forerunner 110, so I was able to track my progress during the race. I noticed a couple times that my running pace seemed faster than I expected.

When I finished, I was rather shocked. I managed to shave 14 minutes and 13 seconds from last year’s time. My average speed was 4.3 mph, but my peak speed was 6.5 mph. My pace this year was 2 min/mi faster than last year’s pace. So despite my misgivings going in, it’s quite apparent that I’ve improved quite a bit in the past year.

Of course, the adrenaline helps, too.

My big quandry now is to decide whether to try to run the 10k again next year and attempt to further improve my time or to try again at the half marathon. I have a whole year to decide, though. I just I hope I’ll see Elvis again next year.


New year’s…ahem…goals, Pt.1 January 1, 2013

Posted by mareserinitatis in personal, running, younger son.
Tags: , , , ,

It’s very easy at the end of every year to look at the numbers on the scale and feel disappointed that they aren’t smaller.  Or I can take measurements of my body and be upset that my diameter is definitely not where it should be.

It’s frustrating to me because I watch my diet fastidiously and am very physically active (well, when I’m not in front of the computer).  But here I am.

Granted, this year has been been better than most as a result of my celiac diagnosis.  I’ve been on the diet about 4 1/2 months, and it’s unbelievable the amount of positive feedback I’ve gotten about how much better I look.  So obviously things are going well on that front.  However, progress, as always is slow.

I also am not one to make resolutions as they can be easily dropped.  So instead I set goals.

I never try to set the goal of reaching a certain weight or size.  It turns out that since I started the celiacs diet, I haven’t really lost more than about 5 pounds.  However, people tell me constantly that I look it.  And, from what they’ve said, they think I’m lighter than I am.  Mike has made the observation that I appear to be denser.  However, after that comment almost resulted in physical violence, he amended it to “more compact”, which was, in my opinion, a more agreeable euphemism.

My goal, therefore, is to continue to improve my health by watching my diet and running.  (In fact, I have already signed up for a half-marathon in May.)  I am hoping that my efforts toward these goals will result in weight loss, but I will try not to shoot for a particular number.

There is one thing that makes me sad about my becoming “more compact”.  When the younger boy was about 4, I remember him wanting to cuddle on someone’s lap.  He decided to try dad’s lap as it had the closest availability.  He went and sat down on Mike’s lap…and proceeded to wiggle around for five or ten minutes, obviously unsettled.  He got off Mike’s lap, looking disappointed.  Then he came and sat on my lap.  With just a few minor adjustments, he ended up completely still with a contented sigh.

“Mom, you’re soft.”

I want to be healthy and will work toward that, but I want to be soft enough for little boys to want snuggle on my lap.

To run or to run/walk…that is the question December 2, 2012

Posted by mareserinitatis in math, physics, running.
Tags: , , , , ,
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Yesterday was the Jingle Bell Run.  It’s a 5k that doubles as a fundraiser for the Arthritis Foundation.  My team did fairly well for fundraising, coming in 6th place overall.  This is rather impressive because our team had 3 people, and all the groups ahead of us had at least ten.  If they had averaged it out per person, we definitely had the highest donations per teammate.  One of my teammates was the second highest fundraiser overall…and got a certificate for an hour massage.

We got to wear elf costumage while running.  How cool is that?  (And no, Gigadog didn’t run.  I attempted to a couple times, but after almost faceplanting when the leash got tangled around my legs, I didn’t feel like I could keep training with her.)


Actually, we were worried that we were going to be overdressed, but it turned out that people go all out for the race.  There were elves galore and many wearing santa hats.  There were also people dressed in costumes – angels, reindeer, christmas trees, and even full-blown nativity scenes complete with puppy dogs dressed in lamb’s clothing.  (The owners were dressed as shepherds.)

All in all, a good time.

An interesting conversation occurred later, however, when we talked about running versus running/walking.  Last year, when I started running, my goal was to run a 10k straight through.  I managed to do that, but I noticed my progress was rather slow.  This year, I’ve started using a program where I do running and walking intervals, and I’m noticing a huge difference: my rate of improvement has really increased from month to month.  The topic came up with a friend’s husband, who said it just makes more sense to run straight through.  He had a hard time believing me when I said I could actually go faster with walking breaks.

An easy way to see this is with a graph:


Unfortunately, my legend got scrubbed, but what we have are actual speeds from different exercise sessions I’ve done.  (Yes, I know I’m slow…but I needed data.)  The blue comes from near the end of the race yesterday, while the green is from a timing run I did (no walking) a couple weeks ago.

If you’ve taken basic physics, you know that the integral of the velocity over time gives you the distance.  For those who don’t know calculus (or integrals), and easy way to see this is to look at the area of the bars.  You can see that the area of the two blue bars together is greater than the area of the two green bars together.

Another way we can think about it is to calculate distance over an hour.  The speed shown by the green bars is 4 mph.  In one hour, assuming I can maintain this pace, I will travel 4 miles in that hour.  However, if I run half an hour at 5.5 mph and walk the other half at 3.5 mph, those distances will be 2.75 miles and 1.75 miles and will sum to 4.5 miles.  While this isn’t a lot faster, it’s a noticeable difference.

Apparently running faster for half the time does more to improve my speed than running the same time interval with a slower pace.

I’m sure hoping so, anyway.  I signed up to do a half marathon next spring, and I’ve gone from hoping I can finish in less than four hours to wondering if I’ll be able to make it in three.  Keep your fingers crossed for me.



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