Thinking About Thinking

On a Run
On a Run

I’ve always tried to keep my work life and my personal life separate, and I’ve been fairly successful in this. Even in my blog, I rarely mention my work life. I can’t remember if I ever mentioned work in my blog, actually. This separation of work and personal life applied to even simply thinking about work when I was off-the-clock. But lately, work has been on my mind a lot, and my efforts to not think about it have been a little bit draining. Maybe draining is a little too severe a word for it, but it’s in the back of my mind… nagging me. “I should NOT be thinking about work!” It was irritating and didn’t seem right.

But I’ve come to realize that it’s okay for me to think about work on my off-hours, and what was making it irritating was not the fact that I was thinking about work, but that I had a rule that I was NOT supposed to be thinking about work. I was spending time thinking about how I should not be thinking!

So I decided to suspend the rule and see what happened. And the time I spend running is the perfect time to test how it works out. I am happy to say that it’s been going great! When I start thinking about work-related things, I just go with the flow and see where my thoughts go. By not worrying about it, there is no more stress! More often than not, I find myself thinking about other stuff after only a few minutes. This is kind of a relief to me. And surprisingly entertaining as well. Part of my mind sits above the rest, and observes where my thoughts lead. It’s very interesting! The mind is incredible and mysterious, づすね!

Me Time

I went on a chilly, misty run today. It was only 49° F out! For me, that is the coldest I have run in, I think. A PR! But it wasn’t so bad since I had a beanie on and the wind. But besides that, I was thinking that running this past year has become a lot more enjoyable for me. The main reason is that it is purely “Me Time”. Not in the sense that I am run alone, but rather that I don’t listen to music or podcasts any more on my runs. If I listened to the podcasts, it’s not “me time”, it’s “them time”. For this special hour of the day, I don’t want to give it up to someone else (and their opinions) no matter how much I might like them. On a run, I want to let my mind wander by itself, and think about things unguided by others. Is this “mindfulness” in a sense? I don’t know.

But I like the fact that I don’t need to be “entertained” or motivated by listening to music or podcasts on my run.

It’s simple, but I like SIMPLE!

Run as if You are Invisible

Safety-conscious motorcyclists like to use the phrase, “Ride as if you are invisible”. As both a runner and a motorcyclist, I can see that phrase also being “Run as if you are invisible”.

Often in the past, I would approach an intersection at the same time as a car and it seemed like the driver paused to let me cross the street. But when I entered the crosswalk, he/she accelerated and almost ran me over. The problem was that I had mistakenly thought that he/she had seen me, or there is some confusion as to who is yielding to the other person. One thing is certain though, 145 lbs of flesh-and-blood will always lose to 2 tons of metal.

Safe zone

For both runners and motorcyclists the safest thing is to NOT be in a situation where a potential collision can take place. On a motorcycle, you should use your superior acceleration and braking to keep a safe amount of distance from cars. As a runner, you don’t have that advantage, but you can plan your route to be free of conflict.

By planning a route, I mean altering your route on-the-fly by a short amount (say 50 feet) or so at intersections. Since the location of potential conflict is the crosswalk, I just avoid the crosswalk if a car is present. (Keep in mind that my route is along neighborhood streets, with not a ton of traffic.)

The scenario

The common scenario on my run is that of a capital “T”. I am at the top right of the T, running to the left (West). The car is coming from the bottom of the T. I don’t know if he wants to turn left (West) or right (East). If he wants to turn right, he is more often than not looking left as he approaches the intersection, to see if any cars are coming. Often he doesn’t even look to the right, where I would be entering the crosswalk. If he doesn’t see any cars coming from the left, he will make his right turn, cutting me off. This has happened so many times!

My solution

So what do I do? As I approach the intersection, I follow around the corner 90 degrees and run along the street I want to cross (South down the middle of the T). After the car proceeds with whatever it was going to do, I dash across to the other side of the road, run up the T, then continue West at the top of the T.

This procedure totally removes myself from the area of danger. The driver doesn’t even have to wonder if he should let me cross, since I don’t even present that as an option. I am effectively invisible, and using it to my advantage.

I also do this if a car is coming in the same direction as I am (from the top-right of the T, heading West). I don’t know if he is going to turn left and down the T (South). So, I make my turn and run down the T, and when the coast is clear, I cross the street. That 50 foot buffer gives me a good view of any other cars that may be coming. Come to think of it, I also do this if a car is coming the other way. So basically in all situations.

That extra 50 (x2) feet I run adds on to my mileage, which is a nice bonus, so I am happy to do it. It’s not like I am racing the clock or anything. I’ll gladly burn those couple extra calories.

And I have the satisfaction of knowing that I am going to live to run another day. 🙂

Stay safe out there!

Follow me on Strava or Runkeeper.

My Half-Marathon

A Distant Goal

One of my short-term goals is to run a half-marathon (and someday a full marathon), probably at the Austin Marathon in 2015. My sketchy plan was to build up my miles in preparation for that race, maybe running 3-5 miles Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, a rest day Saturday. On Sunday I’d do a long run of about 10 miles followed by a rest day on Monday. I felt this would be a nice, do-able routine.

But, when I injured my knee in October, I had to suspend my running for a few weeks to let it heal up. So, the routine got messed up. In November I slowly started running again and finally got back up to running my normal distance of about 5 miles, but taking at least one rest day between runs.

Weekend Run

Sunday morning, I began my normal run around the neighborhood.

It started out on a good note with the weather just about perfect. There were plenty of clouds to block the sun and keep the sky beautiful, a nice breeze, and mild temperatures. About a mile into the run I saw a turtle sunning itself in the middle of the boulevard, so I picked it up and put him by the nearby pond (where I assumed he came from). That immediately put me into an even better mood and I continued the run with a smile on my face.

Can I Run All the Way?

At this point the thought of running 13.1 miles crept into my head.  “Can I run all the way? Does it matter that my half-marathon is not at an official event?” These questions were floating around in my head while I started to calculate how many laps around my usual route I would need to make. I figured I would aim for three laps, but I had my phone with me telling me how long and far I have run every 10 minutes. I didn’t have to worry about getting the course perfect. With that in mind, I just kept running.

Lap 2 was uneventful but towards the end my legs started getting fatigued. I also started thinking that I didn’t really fuel up before the run since I didn’t think I would go for long. In fact, my breakfast consisted of two cups of coffee, a single glass of water, and about five macadamia nuts – not the best pre-race meal!

What’s Important about 13.1

I was also pondering why running a half-marathon was important to me, or rather, why it was a goal of mine. I guess it’s all about completing the distance, and not actually competing in an official event. I’ve run 5k and 10k races before and although they took place at nice locations and were fun, they don’t seem to have the appeal to me that they do to other people. I guess I am kind of a solo runner (and motorcyclist too). I really look forward to running alone. So the answer to my second question above – “Does it matter that my half-marathon is not an official event” – was “No”. I’m doing the distance, albeit at a slow pace. But 13.1 is 13.1, isn’t it?

Back to the run. Halfway through lap 3 (at around the 10 mile mark) I started to get really thirsty. My mouth was getting dry and my lips felt chapped. I also started to feel a little bit of pain in my right calf muscle, as if it were cramping up a bit. I was so close to my goal! Of course I didn’t want to risk my health or suffer dehydration, but I could taste the “finish line”. After a quick check of the rest of my body’s condition, I came to the conclusion that I could go on. I was pretty much in the home-stretch, heading back towards the house.


Continuing to watch my body condition closely, I kept chugging along and before long, I had passed the 13.1 mile mark! It kind of felt like when I passed the 1,000 mile mark on my Saddlesore 1,000 motorcycle ride. I knew I had achieved my goal, and any extra distance I ran was just the icing on the cake!

When I reached home, the total distance was 13.9 miles and it took me about 2 hours and 15 minutes. Now that I have completed my goal, I am looking forward to upping the distance and have learned a few things. Most important is that I need to fuel up properly, and even maybe plan a water stop at my house. Also, I learned that I need to allot about 50+ minutes per “lap” and I should be good!

I’m so happy to be running again!

Follow me on Strava or Runkeeper.

Running on Vacation

I recently returned from a vacation to Japan and Hawaii to visit family. I almost didn’t bring my running shoes, but at the last minute decided to throw them in the suitcase (along with socks, shorts, and a shirt). I didn’t know if I would have a chance to do any running on vacation but I really wanted to try, plus my running gear is so light and takes up hardly any space, so I didn’t have much of an excuse not to bring it. Honestly, my primary motivation for bringing my gear was that I thought it would be cool to add some new data to my Runkeeper and Strava profile (gotta expand my running outside of Texas!), but it turned out to be so much more rewarding than just recording the data!

Osaka Castle Manhole Cover
Osaka Castle Manhole Cover

When I arrived in Japan, I suffered from a bit of jet lag and woke up at about 4:30am – an hour earlier than usual. The sun rises pretty early in Japan as compared to Texas so I was able to get out the door and start running around 5am, but I usually decided to wait until around 6 to hit the streets. I didn’t do any research as to what route I would take on that first day but I just wandered around the neighborhood and let the route decide itself. Surprisingly, I saw a few runners out there on the city streets with me! I noticed however that my neon green tank top was really different from the more conservative running t-shirts that everyone else was wearing. I was a little embarrassed, but whatever – I was on vacation! 🙂 I ended up running over 3 miles that day, and when I returned home everyone was still sleeping so I could enjoy a nice long shower and then relax on the balcony.

Yodogawa River
Yodogawa River

I told Mariko about where I ran, and she suggested I run along the Yodogawa River and that I should be able to make it to the sea if I kept running that way. So for my next outing I traveled along the river and had a nice 2-mile run along the water. The path is popular with other runners, walkers, bicyclists, and people walking their dogs so it was always interesting looking at others (and their dogs). A lot of elderly people walk on that route too and they are usually very friendly offering a “Ohayogozaimasu” (good morning) as I pass by. This route would be my regular morning run while in Japan, and I eventually extended it to an 8.7 mile run to the sea! Actually, it didn’t really look like the sea because it is very industrialized, but still, I went just about as far as I could.

I modified my route a little bit to bypass one large intersection where I got delayed by a passing train that first day, and this alternate route was so cool because I got to see a sports field where people were playing gate ball, got to run through a tiny tunnel, ran on top of a wall right next to trees filled with cicadas (I had to cover my ears it was so loud!), and saw a bunch of cool scooters and motorbikes. That’s one fun thing about running – it’s easy to explore new places and see new things.

Every time I returned home from my morning run I felt so good and energized and ready for the day’s activities which included a lot of sightseeing and plenty of good food. The morning exercise really kept me going!

The next leg of our trip was in Hawaii where we stayed with my brother on the island of Oahu. His house is on the side of a steep hill which made the morning run very interesting. I actually only ran twice, but the first run was so memorable and one of the highlights of my trip. The first day in Hawaii, we went to the farmers market at Kapiolani Community College and picked up some fruit and had lunch. I saw a bunch of runners and my cousin Taylor said that many people run around Diamond Head and that it was probably the most popular run on the island. Well, that piqued my interest! So right then I decided I wanted to do that run, but I didn’t know if I needed to drive and park somewhere near the beginning of the run.

Diamond Head Crater Sign
Diamond Head Crater Sign

A couple of days later, though, I woke up before everyone else and went for a run down the hill and headed towards Diamond Head. Before long, I was at the community college we visited before, so I decided to try to run around Diamond Head. I stopped a few times to check Google maps to make sure I was going the right way but eventually I found myself running along with several others going east on Diamond Head road and completing the loop around the crater, then I headed back towards the house. I was on cloud nine! When I reached the steep hill I had to walk up it, but was still in a really happy state and that set the mood for the rest of the day, if not the rest of the trip!

If you like to exercise and like to travel, I highly recommend taking along some gear on your next vacation. Running gear is usually pretty light so it’s easy to pack, and running in a new environment is super fun and interesting. You’ll also have plenty of energy because the newness of the environment is so invigorating!

By the way, I ended up buying a more conservative short-sleeve running shirt while in Japan, so I didn’t have to wear my neon green tank!