Category Archives: playlist

Wordless(ish) Wednesday: Playlist Redux

After all that buildup, I never actually shared my Miami playlist.

It didn’t exactly turn out to be “Songs for a Sub-2,” but it was “songs for not giving up on an overpass bridge somewhere in Miami and just walking the last four miles because who cares anyway.”

The only disappointment, actually, was the Pop Culture Happy Hour I picked. Man, I love that show, but as it turns out, I don’t want to listen to a segment about favorite Christmas songs when it’s 80 degrees.

Other than that, though, all my old favorites came out to play. “Shoreline” came on somewhere on an overpass, which seemed appropriate. And “Past in Present” and “Shine a Light” were the last two songs I heard as I ran to the finish, and somehow getting my footfalls to match their beat kept me moving forward when I really, really just wanted a nap.

The only downside of making one giant playlist with all my favorite running songs? Now I need some new ones for 2012.


Scenes from the Weekend

  1. Sunday was my last long-ish run of this training cycle, and I decided to treat it as a long tempo of sorts — trying to finish eight miles at under a 9-minute average. Knowing my bobbing/weaving/very-much-not-running-anything-close-to-tangents tendencies, I’m almost certainly going to be adding some distance to the race next week, so I’m going to have to average a little faster than the magic 9:09 if I want a shot at sub-2. The route I picked has a loooooong fast downhill that’s easier than anything I’ll encounter next week — but it ends with 2.5 miles of uphill that’s far harder than Miami’s inclines. I ended up with something like an 8:54 average, but the really thrilling part was that my first mile was the slowest. Plus! This run included a wildly unofficial 10K PR — 54:50-something-or-other. It’s not like I’m expecting to hit Miami dropping 8:30s or anything, but this was a solid run where I found a good pace on the first half and didn’t collapse physically or mentally when I saw the numbers creeping up during the much-tougher second half.
  2. With that, I’ve basically done all the work I plan to do in preparation for this race. I’m planning a three- or four-mile tempo on Tuesday and then a super-short, super-easy jog on Thursday or maybe Friday (depending on when I actually get around to packing for the trip), with some swimming in between. Considering that this (still pretty paltry, I realize) mileage is the highest I’ve run consistently in a long time, I’m feeling good, though my right IT band and weird left toe keep sending out warning signals; I’m glad they’ll have a chance to quiet down this week. I still have leaps and bounds to go in becoming a smarter, better-trained runner, but I think I’ve done as well for myself in this round as I ever have. To the best of my current abilities, I’ve controlled what I can control.
  3. Speaking of what I can control, though …

    Yes, I'm going to talk about the weather now.

    Look. I grew up in a place with real seasons, but I’ve only ever been a runner in San Francisco. And we have it pretty freaking good here. My Sunday run was sunny and 50 degrees. But temperatures above 70 start to make me feel twitchy; I just so rarely run in them, and when I do, it’s with approximately zero percent humidity. I’ve been checking the Miami forecast (daily, on two separate weather websites…) for the past week, and the one above is actually one of the better ones I’ve seen; the worst one was 81 degrees and incredibly humid. I can’t control the weather; I can only do what I can do on the day and blah blah blah, and really, 70s and rainy sounds OK unless it’s so muggy my little Californian lungs can’t deal. But if you’ve got any tips on running in warm weather, send them my way, mmkay?

  4. I’ve now ridden my bike to the ocean and back twice. It, and I, have stayed upright, even though last week’s ride involved enough drizzle to make things dicey and this week’s easily tripled my first ride’s volume of cars, other cyclists, dogs, skateboards, and general mayhem. I’m getting more comfortable stopping, starting, and shifting; I even rode on real streets with real traffic for about three blocks on my most recent ride, until a car made a left turn in front of me and I immediately freaked out and hopped off. The one thing I cannot do on a bike, for even one second, is zone out. It feels like the first few times I drove a car, when I couldn’t imagine my field of vision would ever be wide enough to let me see all the things I needed to see. On a bike, I feel like I have to identify every obstacle, and guess what each of them might do next, and after that, and after that; it’s not riding so much as scenario-planning. And it’s exhausting. I think I just have to accept that riding won’t be OMG The Most Fun EVAR!!! for a while and keep chipping away.
  5. On Saturday, I volunteered as a running buddy with Girls on the Run at the Lollipop 5K. The race (and the running buddy practice I attended a couple of weeks back) felt chaotic, but I imagine that getting hundreds of girls and coaches and buddies and families to be on the same page about anything is no easy task, so I’m trying to keep that chaos in perspective. The girl I ran with at practice didn’t come to the race, so I found myself wandering around the start area hoping a coach would need a spare running buddy, and eventually one did; I ended up partnering with a chatty 8-year-old who wanted to run from big tree to big tree, walk from little tree to little tree, and do something with rocks that involved bouts of skipping. She also wanted to tell scary stories. She was cute, but wow, I am glad I’m not an 8-year-old girl. The most striking thing about both girls I buddied is how casually and constantly they threw around the word “fat.” (“I don’t like running because I’m fat.” “Oh, there’s my mom. She’s fat.”) Running has made me much more comfortable in my own skin and with the things my body can do, and while I’m far from the slimmest runner, I hope that my presence provided a little bit of “anybody/any body can be a runner” inspiration…but in reality, I was probably the “fat running buddy.” Girls, man. What a rough age.
  6. Finally … I was supposed to run with a friend on Sunday, but ankle issues forced her out last-minute. Luckily, I always have a backup playlist, and this one was decent.

    “Are You Out There” reeks of high school (in a good way) and turns out to be an amazing running song, because I end up replaying funny stories from my teenage years instead of stressing out about the hills I’m facing down. I lucked out situationally with the Best Coast and Camera Obscura songs giving me some sweet, lady-sung pop as I ran along the ocean. And man, that Alaska song? That’s a serious college DJ throwback, and it’s been playing on a loop in my head for hours. Not bad for a thrown-together set. Next stop: race playlist.

A PDR, a Mini Breakdown, and a Runday Playlist

On Sunday, I ran 14 miles. It’s the longest distance I’ve ever run, and through a good part of it, I was imagining the triumphant blog post I was going to write after I finished. “I ran the longest I ever had, and I hit all my time goals, and it felt easy, and going to take Miami by storm. Taperrrr!”

I can almost do that.

Sunday was my first time running at Sawyer Camp. I love Golden Gate Park, but I know all my regular double-digit loops a little too well, and I figured a change would do me good. My goal was an easy first 10 miles, then a fast final four. I wanted to know what I could get out of myself when I was tired. I wanted to have something to draw on for a final push to the finish in Florida.

The Sawyer Camp path is a six-mile out-and-back, and for the first four miles, it’s winding turns (tangent practice? my Nike+ had me dead-on with the mile markers the whole run, so maybe) and a slight uphill, but nothing too dramatic. The fifth mile is hell. OK, it’s not that bad, looking at the elevation chart; it’s something like 300 feet of gain in a little more than a mile. In the moment, though, my brain was yelling things like, “I wanted this run to feel easy, and now I’m dying over a 10-minute mile, and dear god why are we still going up?” And by my brain, I mean my mouth, because I was yelling all of these things and more at Pete, who didn’t seem quite as gassed as I was by the stupid hill and was valiantly trying to keep me on track.

I didn't have my camera, but Google Earth thinks it looked like this.

Somehow, that’s not where I quit (spoiler alert). We got to the top, and we I got my head back on straight about how that was no joke of a hill and it’s not like I’m going to stumble over one of those in Florida. Probably I even got a little cocky, all “psychological crisis averted!” By the time we turned to loop one of the middle miles so we could make a 12-mile path give us 14, I’d gotten my second wind. We finished the first 10 around 1:33.

Then it was time for the fast four. We took a little break and goofed off and reset our music and got ready and then boom! We were off. I could see Pete ahead, and I knew I couldn’t stay with him and wasn’t really trying to, but I figured I’d keep him in my sights for as long as I could, and the first half-mile flew by. I was seeing numbers in the low 8s on my watch and couldn’t believe I could still move that fast.

The second mile, reality crashed down hard. I saw the average pace start creeping up. My thoughts were alternating between “Three miles! Less than 30 minutes! What can’t you do for 30 minutes?” and “This. I can’t do this for 30 minutes. I want water. I want to walk. And I have to do thirteen miles at this pace in two weeks, not four, so what’s the point anyway?”

And then I hit mile three. And the road was rutted and slope-y and the footing was tough and there was nobody around me, nobody to chase down or pace off or even watch, and those are all just stupid excuses for what happened, which was me totally losing my shit. No matter how many “trust yourself”s and “it’s not supposed to be easy”s and “just fight through it”s I tried — or how many “is this really what you want to be thinking about in Florida”s — I just. gave. up.

I paused my watch and pulled off to the side of the path. I probably yelled something inappropriate. I don’t honestly remember. What I do remember is feeling angry.

I also knew I had to finish the run. So after maybe 30 seconds of stomping around in the dirt, I got back on the road. The first half-mile after I restarted was still really hard, but I stayed steady in the final mile and didn’t lose any more time. I finished those four under 36 minutes (tantrum excluded), which is where I wanted to be. I probably even had enough of a time cushion to keep my watch running during the tantrum and still make my goal, which I obviously didn’t know at the time or I wouldn’t have been throwing a tantrum.

With a day’s distance behind it, I’m happy I was able to pull myself together and finish. But I’m bothered by how easily I gave in. Maybe it was too much pressure for a training run — but I’ve been trying to get myself used to pressure and to train my mind to fight. I wanted that one good “man, I was so tired and ready to quit, but I didn’t” experience to draw on when the going gets tough in Miami, and in the moment — even reminding myself, constantly, that that was the story I wanted to tell — I still quit, albeit momentarily.

Had it been mile 12.5 of 13.1, not mile 12.5 of 14, I wouldn’t have quit. I can tell myself that story. And I can tell myself that I still ran 14 miles in the time it took me to run 13.1 not long ago, and I can tell myself that I can hold back early in a run and speed up later, because no matter what else happened, I did manage that.

I’m still annoyed, though. And I’m annoyed that I’m annoyed, and have now spent this many words writing about how annoyed I am, because in the grand scheme of things — and even in the small scope of things that is my running life — this is Not A Big Deal. It was a training run. I still hit the times I wanted, overall. I felt good on 85% of the run, and I’m not even particularly sore from my longest run ever. I just wish I’d surprised myself with mental strength I didn’t know I had, rather than displaying exactly the kind of psychological assholery that I’ve been expecting. Better now than December 11.

At least I had a fabulous playlist to get me through.

“Tongue Tied” was the winner of this playlist. I first heard it back before Outside Lands in August, but when we saw Grouplove play there, I was underwhelmed and promptly forgot I loved this song. The new iPod Touch commercial reminded me of it over the weekend, and it’ll be making an appearance in Miami. The cheesy pop song batch (“When You Were Young” to “Since U Been Gone” to “Love is a Battlefield”) came right at the end of the first 10 miles and the start of the fast four, which was accidental but perfect. I hope the college friends who recorded “Searching High” would be touched (as opposed to embarrassed or appalled) by how frequently I run to that song. There were some losers (not the best Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Magnetic Fields picks, and Tilly and the Wall isn’t quite loud enough to get me pumped up), but a few of these will be rolling over to the big playlist that I hope I can call Songs for a Sub-2.

What are your best tips for getting through rough patches in big runs?

Runday Playlist and a 2:00 Experiment

When I wrote about being intimidated by my own goals the other day, I was mostly thinking about this week’s long run. When I made my training plan for Miami, I decided I’d run by time instead of distance; I ran a half in August and another in October and the idea of looking at one more training calendar of 6-8-10-12-8-race made me sad. I also wanted to just get used to spending more time on my feet; I maxed out at 12 before the Giant Race (but that’s also when my IT band problems started) and at 10 before Nike (and really felt that in the last 1.5 miles of the race), and I wanted to see how I’d respond to a different approach.

So I set up my calendar starting at an hour the week after Nike, then added 15 minutes to every week’s long run, with a max (which I’m set to hit next week) of around 2:15. For the first few weeks, I loved this. I routinely exceeded my expectations for distance and pace, and running felt awesome again.

This week, though, was the 2:00 week. And running for 2:00 at something less than goal pace when I’m training to run a sub-2:00 half-marathon and have no mental game in the first place? Yup, that could cause some problems.

I debated changing the time, stopping at 1:55 or going to 2:05; I thought maybe I’d just run 12 miles like every other training cycle; I thought of forcing myself to run as slow as possible so I’d know I had a large margin to improve before race day. And ultimately, none of that sounded like it would solve the problem; it’s not like I wouldn’t just do the math and do a lot of “well YEAH, but if I ran another .5 miles, my time would be ___.” I decided to just go get it done.

Long-running on Saturday is unusual for me, but I was supposed to take an intro to road biking class on Sunday (since called off because of rain), so I watched the early football games (go U Northwestern!) and then headed out. A bar breakfast sandwich and a diet coke isn’t my usual pre-run fuel, but I still felt great at the start. My original plan was to stick close to 9:30 miles, but somewhere in the second mile, I decided that I’d run any pace that felt comfortable, as long as I never came close to feeling I was maxing out and always had room to speed up.

I ran my usual lap through the park, hit the ocean, and turned north toward the zoo. I ran smack into a headwind going out to the zoo, and I didn’t get as much of a boost as I expected from the tailwind on the way back, but I kept feeling good until I hit the uphill back through the park. I’m used to that now, though, and I just turned my watch to show average pace and made sure it didn’t drop too far.

With 10 minutes to go, I was back on flat ground and realizing I had a Jamba Juice in my sights if I played the end right. With 2 minutes left, I tried telling myself, “sprint to the finish!” and found that my legs actually could keep turning over.

The results: 2:00 (not including one bathroom stop and one stupidly long wait at a stoplight), 12.9 miles covered. And I felt great, confidence-wise. If I could do this at the end of my highest-mileage week ever (long run on Sunday last week, then on Saturday this week, put me over 35 mpw, still a huge number for me), maybe I can do even more in Miami.

And maybe I do have a little mental game after all.

So let’s talk playlist.

run playlist

I was so excited to run to this RadioLab, but the actual Patient Zero storyline was a little too much for my run-addled brain to follow as closely as it deserved. The segment on the original high five, though, was awesome.

Music-wise, “Regret” is a contender for my Miami playlist; it reminds me of listening to Open House Party (which still exists?!) in junior high. “So Alive” has been stuck in my head for about three hours now, and “This Heart’s On Fire” was a forgotten gem from an old playlist. Best boost on this run? “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song,” which is so abjectly obnoxious that I can’t not smile when it comes on.

Runday Playlist

One of my favorite parts of my week is making my long run playlist.* I used to DJ in college, and while I’m nowhere as cool as I once was, I still love digging out songs that will be the perfect mix of energizing and distracting. I also love seeing what other people listen to while they run, so in case I’m not the only one who likes creeping on people’s running music, I’m going to post my weekly playlists here.

Here’s today’s:

I love starting with a podcast, and Pop Culture Happy Hour is one of my favorites because it makes me laugh and because it lets me bring my old TV-writer persona out to play. Today, though, there was a long segment about TV music that focused on Friday Night Lights, and between “Devil Town” and the song that played over the final football game in the final episode, it’s possible I pulled over and ugly-cried somewhere between 30th and 41st in Golden Gate Park.

The standout of this particular playlist turned out to be “Stadium Love,” a song I’d kind of forgotten about until all of a sudden I was powering up my nemesis hill in the park wailing “no! one’s! get-ting out!” I only got about 15 minutes into the This American Life episode at the end, but it was perfect for the last couple of miles when I didn’t want to think about how close, and yet still far, from home I was.

* I listen to music or podcasts of some sort on probably 80% of my runs. I can run without, but in general — and especially on longer runs — I like having something to stop me from overanalyzing every bit of how I’m feeling. I also, frankly, just enjoy listening to music and podcasts, and I don’t tend to make enough time for that in other parts of my life, so it’s one more thing that gets me out the door and makes run-time feel special.

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