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End of the season  November 12, 2015

Posted by mareserinitatis in running, Uncategorized.
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I had plans to do 7 half marathons this year.  Unfortunately, I had to scrap 3.  I injured myself and couldn’t do one of them, the second revised its time limits to significantly below my estimated finish time, and the last ended up being financially problematic after our old car kicked the bucket.

But it is two more halfs than last year and four more than any year before that.  I still often wonder how I ended up becoming a runner.  The medals are a nice reminder of that huge change.

One down, seven to go April 25, 2015

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Today, I officially began my running season.  I am hoping to finish 8 half marathons this year, and the first one was today.  Fortunately, it’s in the bag.



New Year’s Goals: The 2015 FCIWYPSC edition January 1, 2015

Posted by mareserinitatis in career, family, grad school, personal, religion, research, running, work, writing.
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I’m not doing resolutions and haven’t done them for a while.  Goals, however, are another story, particularly when they’re of the quantifiable type.  While some of these are large goals (like with running), I break them down to weekly and daily goals, as well.

Writing this out is helpful because not only does it provide me with some accountability, it helped me realize I was bogging myself down with too much.  I had to cut a few items.

These are the things I think I can manage with some consistency:

  • Career/Work: Publish at least one paper and attend at least one conference.
  • Career/Dissertation: Set a minimum amount of time to work on my thesis each week, though the weekly total will vary if there’s a holiday involved.  (I do some version of this, but I think I need to make my planning a bit more specific.) Also, attend one conference this year.
  • Family time: Family play day once per month.
  • Marriage: Keep up with the weekly date with the spousal unit.
  • Self-care/Religious: Center down (or if you prefer, meditate or pray) for at least ten minutes a day, not necessarily all at once.
  • Self-care/Sleep: Stick to a consistent (and early) bed-time at least 4 days per week.
  • Self-care/Physical activity: Run or walk 500 miles by the end of October.  I did about 200 outdoor miles this year but didn’t keep track of treadmill time at all, so I think this is doable, especially in light of my next goal.  I’ve also learned I like to ramp down the activity around the holidays (too much to do), so that amounts to about 11.5 miles per week.
  • Fun goal: Do half-marathons in two new states this year.  Two down, 48 to go. I’m hoping to cross Wisconsin and Michigan off the list this year.  (And I’ve already registered for one of them.)
  • Misc/Blog: Post on the blog at least twice per week.  (I do that on average, but sometimes there are long gaps in between.)
  • Misc/Email: I will keep my main mailbox below 3000 messages.  That may sound horrible, but this is 1/5 of what it was just last week.  I need to either delete those messages, read them, or unsubscribe from all the spam I’m getting…probably mostly the latter.  Lots of unread email makes me overwhelmed.

So do you have any goals for the year?

The runner’s physique November 25, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in running.
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I have been running just over three years.  It’s been a struggle because I’ve had problems here and there, but I’ve kept it up.  In the past year, I ran a marathon relay, two half marathons, and the run leg of a sprint triathlon.  I occasionally do 5ks, as well.  I think this means I am officially a runner.

The problem I’ve run into a couple times, however, is that people simply can’t believe I run because I don’t have the “runner’s physique.”  Yes, not all runners are skinny and fast and muscular…not even ones who’ve been doing it for years, who watch what they eat, who train religiously.

A runner can and does have myriad body shapes and fitness abilities.  If you’ve ever participated is a really big race, you can see the whole spectrum of runners from the ultra-skinny to the ultra-heavy.  In fact, a good way to tell if someone runs in actual races is whether or not they are cognizant of this fact.  Running is not a slam dunk, and once you begin doing it, there is no guarantee that you’ll lose weight.  In fact, in talking to several runners I know, many of them find that they gain weight when training for longer distance races.  I’ve seen people who are larger than I am but have done dozens of marathons.

That isn’t to say it can’t be done, but I guess the frustration that someone who is active and health conscious will be skinny is very simplistic.  It certainly doesn’t take into account a lot of other things, the major one being life.  That’s right: life is stressful and you don’t get enough sleep and you have kids to chase around and you can’t always eat as well as you’d like or you do and you’re ill or what have you.  Life gets in the way, and I think it’s awesome to see anyone of any size, shape, and physical level get out there and move…slow or fast.

The experience I had most recently in this regard was one I’ve run into a lot: doctors who jump to the conclusion that you’re not very active because of your size.  It’s noticeable in the types of treatments they recommend for problems, and in my experience, can seriously inhibit the process of getting a good diagnosis for just about any type of problem.

I encountered a new internist recently who was involved in a conversation with myself and another person.  This other person and I started discussing a race we’d both been to before he had to excuse himself.  The internist and I chatted a bit, and she exclaimed she was really surprised I’d done a half marathon.  Unfortunately, I was not surprised by her surprise because this is a reaction I get all the time.  All I can hope, however, is that she will take this back to her practice and not make the assumption that people who aren’t skinny are also not physically active.

In fact, it’s an assumption I wish we could get rid of.  All of those concern trolls who claim to worry about people because of their weight need to be more concerned about their own ignorance regarding the spectrum of body types.  We all need to remember that you can’t tell much about a person just by looking at them.

Not every race can be a good race October 14, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in Fargo, running.
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Earlier this year, I had this crazy idea that I should participate in a race every month during the second half of the year.  I came up with this idea before I realized that August and September are usually pretty bad months for me due to asthma.  Nevertheless, I’ve been sticking it out, and I ran a 10K this past weekend as part of that self-challenge.

It was a lovely morning, though rather cool.  The sun was shining, there was no wind.  I had my hat/balaclava thing to keep my face covered.  I feel like Sub Zero or Kitana from Mortal Combat when I’m wearing that.  There are other better masks out there…but those make the wearer look like Bane.  Either way, you can’t win, but at least I was prepared.

It was grueling.  The run took place along some of Fargo’s most lovely trails, but I was still having difficulty with my asthma.  The problem when you’re having a tough time breathing is that it’s awfully hard to concentrate on the scenery, but I did as well as I could.  I also was feeling sluggish, which I attribute to lack of pre-race banana.  Still, I made it through.  While I was hoping to cut about 4 min. from my previous 10k time, it was only about a third of that.  Still, I got done and actually felt really good the rest of the day and suffered none of the ‘racer mortis’ that plagues me after a 10+ mile run.  Despite the fact that it was a hard run, I did show signs of improvement and I didn’t feel awful the rest of the weekend.

The truly disappointing thing about this race, though, was that there was almost nothing I could eat at the end.  The available food included biscuits, cookie dough, chicken noodle soup, and chocolate milk.  Wheat and dairy.  No bananas!

I’d never been at a race before without bananas.  It broke my heart.  I looked like the purple guy here:

I also don’t handle milk very well but chanced it by taking a couple swallows before throwing out the remainder of the carton.  (And yes, it was the best chocolate milk I’ve ever had.  Anything you have after a race is always the best you’ve ever had.)

I was incredibly disappointed that I couldn’t eat the cookie dough.  I’ve never wanted cookie dough that badly.  I’ve decided for future races that I’m going to try to make my own and bring it along.  That way, if there are no bananas, I’ll have something to eat.  And if there’s no cookie dough, then everyone else will be purple with envy.

Confessions of a really slow and often achy runner October 2, 2014

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This month marks three years since I started running.  In May of 2011, I walked a 10k with older son with very little training, and we had great fun doing it.  This was already a big step for me because when I had moved back from Minneapolis the previous year, I’d been having so many problems with asthma and my health in general that I was walking about 2 miles per hour.  That’s all the faster I could go.  After a year of training, I was up to 3 miles per hour.  While that’s a huge improvement, I wanted to be able to go faster, so I started looking on the internet for training plans.

There was a couch-to-5k app, so I figured I could be done with that by Christmas and then start on the 5k to 10k bridge app and be ready to go for next year.  Three weeks into the couch-to-5k app, I started having awful knee pain.  I went into the doctor, and it was basically tendonitis.  They suggested that I not run, just walk.  I was angry when I left.

I didn’t know what to do, so I sat around for a week.  Then I decided to try again and found my knees didn’t hurt.  So early on in this process, my body and I had a talk: we agreed that my body does pretty much what I want it to, and I don’t push it very hard and give lots of rest time.  So when I started having aches and pains after another two weeks in the couch-to-5k, I took another week off.  All told, it took me twelve weeks to do a 9 week program.  I later heard of people who do every week twice.

I realized very early on that most training plans are not going to work for me and that my body needs a lot more rest than most people.  Even when training to do half marathons, I do not run more than three times per week and very often I will only run twice per week.  I always give myself two days of rest after any run that is longer than six miles.  I also give myself two weeks between runs that are longer than eight miles.  In the winter, I don’t run outside if it’s below 20 degrees: I can’t warm myself up enough to make running comfortable, and my asthma acts up.  I use the treadmill for short runs and run at an indoor track for long runs.  (Fortunately, the local high schools have tracks that are open to the public during the winter.)  I’ve found that I don’t really progress well on the treadmill, but it at least keeps my cardio stable.

I know that a lot of people would look at that and scratch their heads, probably saying they’d never progress on a schedule like that.  Maybe not, but I guess I would amend that to say that they would not progress very quickly.  A year after I walked the 10k, I did it again and ran the whole thing.  My pace was 16.5 min/mile and I cut 20 minutes off my time.  I also developed tendonitis in my ankle and had to get custom orthotics.

Shortly after that, I found out about the Jeff Galloway run/walk method.  The following year, I used the run/walk method with a 1:1 ratio of running to walking.  I cut another 15 minutes off my time and dropped my pace to 14 min/mile.

After that, I decided to try doing a half marathon.  That was incredibly trying.  First, I made the mistake of using Jeff Galloway’s ‘magic mile’ in the middle of my training.  I discovered my pace had improved enough to go to a 2:1 running/walking split.  Between that and buying a completely different brand of shoe, I gave myself shin splints.  I have discovered that changing time splits, at least for me, should be done very gradually.  I also discovered that I was better off doing very different splits for my long runs versus my short runs.  When I did my first half marathon this summer, I walked 1:30 for every minute I ran.  I gradually shortened that up for the second half marathon so that I walked 1:15 for every minute run.  I am currently in the process of dropping that ratio by 5 seconds per month on the walking side.  By next spring, I will be at the same ratio for my short runs: walk 30 seconds for every minute run.

During this process, I found out that I have to pay attention to fueling.  If you run as slow as I do, it takes a LONG time to finish a half marathon, and I discovered what bonking was.  I also found out that I needed more rugged orthotics to handle the longer runs.  Finally, I found out that I need a month between races.  I considered doing another half marathon next weekend, but I realized this week that I’m not fully recovered from my previous half marathon.  When I run, I run at whatever pace is comfortable.  I find that when I’m feeling well, I run faster.  When I’m not, such as this week because I’m still recovering from the half marathon I ran a week and a half ago, my pace just naturally drops.  I actually ran a 5k at a slower pace yesterday than I ran a half-marathon a week and a half before, and that was after a week of just walking to help myself recover.

I promised not to push myself too hard, and pace and achiness are both really good ways to tell how I’m doing.

Admittedly, a lot of my progression is probably due to discovering that I have celiac disease and going on a gluten-free diet two years ago.  However, I went from a pace of 30 minutes per mile four years ago to under 13 minutes/mile now.  I also managed to drop by resting heart rate by nearly 20 bpm, which is a good indicator of how much better I’m doing.

It’s agonizingly slow…probably too slow for most people to do keep it up.  The running improvements are like a house remodel: they take a while and involve at least a little planning.  :)  The time improvements are just a benefit, though.  I found that I really enjoy running, particularly as a form of stress relief.  I used to try to convince myself to run because I wanted to be healthy.  After a couple weeks, though, I found that I didn’t have to convince myself because I really enjoyed having time to myself and, more importantly, I noticed how much calmer I felt when doing it.  I am not running to get faster: I’m running to feel better, and when you do something because it feels good, it’s easy to want to keep doing it.  That’s probably the only reason I’ve managed to keep it up over three years, even with a lot of achy, sore days.

I half done it again September 22, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in bismarck, bismarck marathon, running.
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The Missouri River, facing south from the Expressway Bridge.

The Missouri River, facing south from the Expressway Bridge.

I’m ashamed that the picture above didn’t come out better.  My focus was way too close (on the fence in front of me).

That picture really doesn’t do the scene justice, but that’s all I have.

I spent the weekend in Bismarck running my second half-marathon…despite the fact that I have been fighting asthma and allergy problems over the past couple weeks.  I’m so very glad I went, though, because it was a beautiful course.

If you want the low-down on the race, it’s a nice size.  Much smaller than Fargo but bigger than some of the local races.  There were about 500 people in the half.  There are also full-marathon, 10k, and 5k distances.  (The kids opted to do the 5k with a friend.)  The course is absolutely beautiful as it mostly consists of paved trails through parks.  Because it happens late in September, you get a lot of fall colors.  It also takes you across two of the three bridges that cross the Missouri River, and the views really are incredible.  There were volunteers everywhere, frequent water stops (and port-o-potties!), and it was really a great race.  I’m trying to decide if I should wait or just sign up for next year already.

Personally, I was a miserable puppy going into it.  I had a headache (lack of sleep and an overabundance of caffeine, likely) and seriously abused my inhaler just so I could breathe.  Despite my reluctance, I had to take some ibuprofen to keep going, but it was worth it.  I definitely felt better as the race went on.  It’s really amazing what a beautiful run can do for you, though, and as I felt better, I really enjoyed the course a lot more.  It was really nostalgic to run through parks where I’d spent a lot of time as a teenager.  I wished I’d had the kids with me so I could’ve pointed out some of my favorite places.

Even though my first half was just a couple months ago, I improved my time by quite a bit and now have affirmed that I enjoy running this distance.  Even though it may not be until next spring, I am already looking forward to my next half-marathon.  I just hope I can find more races as gorgeous as this one.

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

Posted by mareserinitatis in family, older son, running, younger son.
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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.
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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.
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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.


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