Time Management and Axe Sharpening

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree
and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

– Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

Holy smokes am I learning a thing or two about how much (or how little) you can cram into a single day. Now if only I could figure out when to run and when to blog with this new crazy schedule. Hmm…

How Do You Run in the Winter?

Baby, it’s cold outside!

Many people hang up their running shoes for the winter but some of us trudge on. It isn’t very fun (I still don’t think running is actually very fun) but it is very do-able. Of course a nice run on a 60 degree evening is more ideal but I live in Maine and I love it here. Maine isn’t going to change so I have to.

You are going to need the right attitude, a little drive and it is probably a good idea to look into some good cold weather running gear but you CAN run in the winter.

Get the motivation

It is going to be up to you to get out there and run. Not many friends will be dragging you out and a Sunday brunch is going to sound a lot more appealing than a cold run. You need to have the motivation to drag yourself out there.

Think about how much farther ahead in the game you will be when the warmer months roll around. Think about not gaining that 3, 5, 7, 20 pounds you seem to pick up every winter. Take note of your energy levels. I ,for one, always feel tired and more into hibernating than socializing in the winter. When I run, I have a lot more energy and I feel much better.

Get the right equipment

One of the reasons I took up running was that, other than shoes, you didn’t need to invest a lot in clothing or club memberships. My first winter running, I used the clothing I had. Over the last few years I have slowly been adding and acquiring better running clothes and it has made a big difference.

Some of the key pieces I would recommend for making winter runs more bearable would be:

Be flexible

I was supposed to run tonight but it is currently 25 degrees, 20 mile an hour winds and it feels like it is 13 degrees out. Tomorrow though it is supposed to be about 30 degrees and the wind is supposed to die down. I am going to run tomorrow afternoon instead of tonight. Also, the sun will be out so it will be more pleasant. This means I will have to go into work early so I can sneak out for an hour or so but it will be worth it.

For me to run, I need to schedule it. I am not able to run ‘when I have time’ because time will never just present itself. I am too busy. I have to put it in my calendar but when dealing with the weather, you have to be willing to wiggle some things around. I try to run every Wednesday night and I swear Wednesdays are almost guaranteed to be rainy or snowy. Just because the weather doesn’t cooperate doesn’t mean you are off the hook.

Know where you can find a treadmill

I hate the treadmill. It is torture. Sometimes though you just have to admit it is too cold or that you aren’t going to catch a break with Mother Nature. Treadmills are better than curling up on the couch with a pint of ice cream. I cancelled my gym membership but I am lucky enough to have a treadmill in my office building. I also know the day drop in rate for two local gyms between my office and my house. For me, a drop in of $8 here and there is cheaper than a full membership to a gym.

That is some of the ways I can manage to run outside and I hope that helps. How about any of you? Do any of you have any advice on keeping with running during the colder and darker months?

I also just found this neat page on the Runner’s World site where you put in the weather conditions and they recommend what you wear.

Photo credit: pixdaus

Stay warm and happy running!

Happy Boston Marathon Day and How My Race Went in NYC

Happy Patriot’s Day, a special little holiday just for Massachusetts and Maine. The holiday is also most notably, Boston Marathon Day. Some of the best runners in the world drop in to our little section of the planet and run their guts out.

I watched the elite men’s and women’s finishes via the live stream and both were so close. It was emotional watching them push past their bodies and minds, farther than most of us could ever imagine to break personal and world records.

The men’s winner from Kenya finished in 2:03:02, which is technically a world record but the Boston marathon isn’t classified as a ‘flat course’ so it won’t be recognized by the Guinness World Records.

The women’s race was a back and forth battle up to the last second (or two) and the US almost had their first women’s victory since 1985 but Desiree Davila was beat out by two seconds. She did break a record for an American woman on the course though. Also, American runner Kara Goucher came in fifth – she had a baby 7 months ago, ain’t no thing.

Congrats to all who ran, who are still running, who had family and friends in the race or who were there to cheer people on!

More Half Marathon in NYC

Two weeks ago now I ran the MORE/Fitness Half Marathon in NYC and I haven’t gotten to write about it yet. I think with the Boston Marathon still wrapping up, now may be a good time.

Adam and I headed to New York City for my third attempt at this race. I like this race for three big reasons:

  1. It is large – There is something really cool about being part of a huge event. This event reaches capacity earlier and earlier every year. There are 10,000 entrants.
  2. It is all women – I am not usually a huge ‘women only’ event person but there is a unique spirit about this race and I think that it is the thousands of powerful women, cheering each other on while their husbands, boyfriends and family scour the crowds for them.
  3. It is in New York in April – I like New York. We have some great friends in New York. Mostly though, by April, I am pretty ready to get out of Maine. You want it to be Spring so bad and it isn’t. Head a few states south and it is warmer, greener and Spring-ier.

This year’s race

Amanda O'Brien More Fitness Womens Half MarathonThe past two times doing this race I had a posse of women doing it with me. This year I was flying solo but I didn’t feel like backing out just because I had no one to play with, or panic with, or puke on.

The race went well. I beat my time at this race last year by over 20 minutes and I beat my Disney Half Marathon time by 10 minutes. My official time was 2:26:06.

The weather was 40s and sunny, which is much better than the two years prior. The first year we did the race it was a freak 93 degree day and last year it was 40s and 50s and down pouring rain the whole time.

The whole race went fine. We had so much snow this winter that training and doing all my long runs was really tough. I don’t think a long run on a treadmill even compares to a long run outside. So I felt like I didn’t train as much as I wanted but I felt stronger than I have the past few years. I also knew I had picked up a little muscle and gotten a little faster from participating in the Nor’Easter Running Group this winter and spring.

It wasn’t fun but I never thought I would walk or that I couldn’t do it. I did have one really low point for the 9th mile. I don’t run with a watch so I depend on the clocks at the event to keep an eye on how I am doing time-wise. I take the time on the clock as I pass it, subtract the minute that was on the clock when I crossed the start and then divide by however many miles I have done at this point. Yes, a watch may be easier but at least this gives me something to think about.

Adam Half Marathon FinishI must have done some very bad math at mile 9 because my calculations told me I was at the same pace as last year but I knew I didn’t have enough gas in the tank to go any faster for the next 4 miles. So I beat myself up pretty good in my head until about mile 10 when I did the math again and realized I was almost 20 minutes ahead of where I thought I was. From there on in it was not quite as sad.

Adam had a good spectating race, for those of you who were worried after the bagel incident of ’09. New York was great to us. We got to see lots of friends and eat some amazing food and I was proud of how my race turned out.


From here I plan on doing some local 5Ks, the Beach to Beacon and ending with the Disney Wine Dine Half Marathon in October. After that? Not sure. I still don’t have an itch to do a full marathon. I think I will just work on strength and time and get batter at these halfs. I like doing two a year, I think it has to keep me in check all year round.

Thanks for all your encouragement and support during my training and my race! The best reward so far hasn’t been weight loss, or strength or some weird love of running but it has been seeing how many of my friends and people I know start taking up running because they said I encouraged them to.

Running Gets My Brain in Shape

I just passed my two year anniversary of being a pretend runner. Since then I have run 3 half marathons, 3 10Ks, a few 5 mile races and quite a few 5Ks. I still stink at running and I still don’t really like it. I have never experienced a “runner’s high”. I have never, ever even come close to winning a race. I haven’t lost a significant amount of weight.

I continue to run and here is why:

Disney Half MarathonRunning has taught me how to set goals and work towards them – I have become huge into setting goals. I’m an only child so if I wanted something, I would want it and either I would get it or I wouldn’t. Now if I want something, I think about why I want it and then I come up with a plan on how I am going to get it. This goes for running a race, becoming a faster runner, work goals, personal goals and just about anything.

When this whole running thing started, Kelly brought it up to run a half marathon in 16 weeks. I went from not running since high school (and lets not kid ourselves, I barely ran in high school), to following a schedule to run 13.1 miles in 16 weeks. It meant running 3 days a week, adding extra miles every week and you just had to do it or you would die trying to run 13.1 miles. We did it. It wasn’t pretty but we did it. That taught me that even the most impossible seeming goal can be broken down bit by bit and you can make it happen, if you want to enough (that whole ‘wanting’ thing is pretty important).

Sometimes turning your brain off is the best resolution to a problem – I have been known to over-think a thing or two. I can get so stuck on a problem, on something someone said, how someone acted, how I am going to do something or just about anything. I run circles around the problem in my head. I think about it from different angles. I get frustrated and stifle any bit of creativity I had for a resolution.

When I run, it stinks. I can hear my breath, that walker looks like they are going to pass me, I have only gone half a mile, why isn’t that person wearing shoes, this song on my iPod blows, I can’t remember if I locked my car, I have only gone three quarters of a mile and it finally has to stop. My brain has to stop. Me and my brain settle in to this activity we need to finish and it shuts off. The strangest part about my brain shutting off is that at the end of the run when I am stretching or climbing into the car, that problem I had at the beginning? I have a resolution. I think of an idea that will help me. It is almost like the problem worked itself out while my brain was on autopilot.

Running has taught me how to push through a problem – I wouldn’t say I was ever much of a quitter but there were lots of situations that instead of trying to get through them, I would step to the side, let them happen and then deal with the aftermath. Some of those problems were big and some of them were small.

As I have said and will continue to say, running is not easy for me, I am not good at it, it is a struggle. Some moments are harder than others. When faced with 90 degree heat on race day, or 50 and pouring, or a giant hill – you can always push past it and it will be better after you have done it. Since this silly running thing has happened, I have gotten much better about pushing through problems. I know if I stick to it and work on it, they will be better.

People pick up running for lots of reasons. The reasons I thought I was picking up running turned out to be less important than the things I have learned about myself along the way. Sure I have gotten in better shape and got to do new things but the biggest thing is how running has helped my brain get in shape, made me a calmer person and taught me how to deal with obstacles along the way. Funny how that happened.