Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Small steps towards positive changes

I've mentioned before that I am constantly battling with the office candy jar(s).  They are all located in very conspicuous arterial by-ways which are impossible (IMPOSSIBLE!) to avoid.

When I get frazzled or stressed at work in combination with being hungry, I'll often eat the first convenient food I see.  More often than not, this comes from the candy jar. 
In an attempt to change this, I decided to test the theory that we are creatures of convenience, and if something is easily accessible we are much more likely to partake in it.  That accessibility can be either towards favorable habits (e.g. healthy food) or unfavorable habits (e.g. junk food).

Today I put a bag of baby carrots and a container of hummus on my desk.  The hope was that I would eat what was healthy if it was within easy reach, instead of traveling the arterial roads to the chocolate.  This would be at least one small step towards healthier eating habits!  As a result, I am proud to say that I did bypass the candy jar today and instead plow through the carrots/hummus.  It was more out of pure convenience than anything else, but it worked.

Now on one hand, it was good that I didn't eat the usual chocolate selection.  But on the other hand, I probably consumed more calories from carrots/hummus than I would have from the chocolate, and I never got up from my desk.  In a sense you could probably even describe it as being efficiently lazy!

Unfortunately this also means I am now conducting a side-test of whether or not you can really turn orange from consuming too much beta-carotene.

(By the way, this isn't the first time I have tested the changeability of skin tones based on overconsumption of a certain food.  I've been to two blueberry-producing capitals during their peak growing season - one being Southwest Michigan, the other being Nova Scotia.  In both places I've purchased industrial-sized containers of blueberries and then proceeded to eat the entire contents within obscenely short periods of time.  I thought I was going to turn into a Smurf.)

In any event, there is definitely something to be said for making sure that the things you want to do have as few roadblocks to them as possible.  The carrot method (literally and figuratively) may require some refining in the days to come, as it's certainly unrealistic that I'll never pilfer from the candy jar ever again.  But at least it was a step in the right direction today.

On that note, I had mentioned earlier that I was considering trying to wean myself of listening to music while running, at least on occasion.  I did a 4-miler yesterday successfully without listening to music.  I did wear my headphones but just didn't turn on my MP3 player (though I did have it in my hand ready to flip on at a moment's notice!)
I've heard it said before that if you tone down one of your senses, that your other senses will be heightened. Case in point, I did feel more aware of my surroundings yesterday.  For the first time this year I smelled the flowers from blossoming trees and bushes while running.  I enjoyed hearing snippets of conversations from folks that I ran past.  I also heard the sounds of a afternoon baseball game, which made it feel even more summerlike outside.

It actually wasn't so bad running in silence when I was prepared for it.  I still do think that it will take some time to get used to it on a regular basis.  But at least the first non-music run is done, so that's progress. 

Baby steps, baby steps!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

NYC weekend recap, getting used to silence, and Chicago 13.1 Marathon registration winner

Just got back from NYC.  It was a very fun weekend and the wedding festivities were incredible.  I also got to meet a lot of Adam's old Penn State friends for the first time, as well as catch up with some of his other friends that I'd already met before.  Good people.

We stayed at a very nice hotel right on Wall Street.  The location was fantastic and even with our limited time we were able to see some great sights within walking distance, e.g. the New York Stock Exchange, the Wall Street Bull, Battery Park, and South Street Seaport (where the wedding took place).

South Street Seaport
I am always amazed whenever I see the New York Stock Exchange building.  It looks so serene from the outside, even with all the security detail.  It's hard to comprehend the billions of worldwide dollars that are fought for and traded within its walls every day.

The New York Stock Exchange building.  If you didn't know what it was,
you could probably walk past it without a second glance.
Unfortunately, there wasn't enough time to go check out any of the Food Network chef's restaurants or even to go to one of the ethnic neighborhoods to eat.  But, Adam and I did stumble upon a location of The Original Soup Man restaurant, which was right by the hotel.  For those of you familiar with Seinfeld, this was the inspiration for many an episode! 
(Only because yours truly liked it so much that I ate all of it already.)
Even if you're not a Seinfeld afficionado, I would definitely recommend checking it out.  Their soup and the selections were outstanding!  I had a lentil soup and it was so good that I'm now going to be spending my nights and weekends trying to reverse-engineer their recipe.

I did get a chance to go for a run over both the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, through a little bit of Brooklyn, and also through some parts of Chinatown.  The bridges were very cool!  They have more of an incline than one might realize from just looking at them.  I rarely do hill workouts since Chicago is so flat, and running the bridge inclines was a challenging, but nice change of pace (i.e., it really slowed my pace down!).

Kim had warned me that the Brooklyn Bridge might be very crowded and indeed, parts of it were packed with camera-wielding tourists.  I felt like an NFL running back trying to weave my way through the masses.

One of my fellow Fighting Illini alums, Rashard Mendenhall, demonstrating how it's done.
Despite the crowds on the bridge, it was awesome getting to run through some areas of New York and seeing a little bit of life as some locals might.  I'm all about trying to get off the beaten path whenever possible, even if just for a short time!

On a related note - I had my headphones on during the run as usual.  But, for the second time in a week, I actually didn't pay much attention to my music because I was so focused on everything going around me.  Plus, there was a lot of ambient noise - traffic, construction, and even trains running past me on the Manhattan Bridge.  It probably wouldn't have made any difference if I didn't have my headphones on at all.

Based on these experiences, I am starting to consider trying to wean myself of having to listen to music while I run. 
This is a very scary consideration for me...
I'm completely unaccustomed to self-induced silence.  However, when I have my music on all the time, it does start losing its effectiveness after awhile.  I've heard some people using their music late in their runs as a booster when the going starts to get rough.  It makes sense to me.  I may give it a go, even though I know that I'll be bored within 10 minutes for at least the first few times that I try it. 

To be continued...

In the meantime, thank you to everyone that entered the Chicago 13.1 Marathon registration giveaway.  The winner is Kelley!  Congratulations!  I'll be emailing you with more details in the next few days!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A New York Minute

I'm heading to NYC this weekend with Adam to attend the wedding of one of his college buddies, Dan.  It's going to be a very quick trip.  But, I always thoroughly savor opportunities to visit New York, no matter how short.

One of the first things I do whenever I go someplace these days is research local races.  It turns out that the 13.1 Marathon Series (the same series that is providing the Chicago 13.1 Marathon race registration giveaway) is hosting a race in Queens this Saturday morning!  I really wanted to run it so I could experience a New York race.  But, I grudgingly admit that schedules are too hectic this weekend.  Also, from a training perspective it might be too much for me given the half marathon I ran last weekend

Thou shalt not overtrain or overrace.

(Even when traveling to New York.)


I am still excited about getting in a training run sometime over the weekend, though!  The wedding takes place in lower Manhattan and I've already researched places to run nearby.  Suggestions include the Brooklyn Bridge/Manhattan Bridge and Battery Park.  I am particularly pumped about the bridges!  Running the New York bridges is something I've always wanted to do as a runner (I just added it to my runner's bucket list today).

On a different note.  When I'm not watching hockey games played by my beloved Blackhawks or Penguins, I am watching the Food Network.  The second thing I think of when going to NYC is the opportunity to check out some of the restaurants by the local Food Network chefs.  Adam and I went to Mesa Grill (Bobby Flay's restaurant) with Dan a few years ago, which was fun.  Other places I'd particularly love to check out are:
  • Babbo or Lupa (Mario Batali's restaurants)
  • Scarpetta (Scott Conant)
  • Morimoto (Masuhara Morimoto)
  • Les Halles (Anthony Bourdain)
  • Centric (Aaron Sanchez)
Although, a good neighborhood Jewish deli will certainly fit the bill, too.

New York-style carbo-loading at its finest.

I might purposely bring an extra bag just so I can smuggle mass quantities of bagels back home with me.  If anyone questions me, I'll just do my best imitation of this:

The Wall Street Bull.  There was a reason I was a Finance major in college.
Gives a whole new meaning to "running with the bulls," eh?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Giveaway: Chicago 13.1 Marathon Registration

Now that I've had a couple of days to recover from this past weekend's steambath half marathon, I am excited to put my running shoes back on!  (We only remember the good things, right?)

In normal years, the temperatures in Chicago are absolutely glorious in May, June, and September.  These months are among the best times to come visit Chicago and to see all of the vibrant diversity that the city has to offer.  (Did I mention the great deep dish pizza?) 

And... what better way to experience Chicago than to run 13.1 miles in June along its gorgeous lakefront and through some of its most historical neighborhoods?!?

Allstate Life Insurance Chicago 13.1 Marathon is giving away a FREE half marathon registration to one lucky reader!

Date: Saturday, June 9, 2012
Time: 7:13 AM CST
Start and Finish Location: Chicago South Shore Cultural Center (7059 S. Shore Drive)
Course: Download a map here

By the way - the South Shore Cultural Center is where Barack Obama and Michelle Obama held their wedding reception in 1992!  It's also listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is recognized as a Chicago Landmark.

Other course highlights, besides of course the stunning lakefront and skyline views, is that it runs through Jackson Park, home of the 1893 World Columbian Exposition, and passes the Museum of Science & Industry, the only original building remaining from the 1893 Columbian Exposition.  The course is walker-friendly, too, so you don't even have to be a hard-core runner to participate.  The only thing missing is deep dish pizza.

Oh, but wait!  In previous years they even served Lou Malnati's deep dish pizza at the post-race party!  How's that for a great Chicago experience?  Here's hoping (and praying!) that they have pizza again this year!!!

Come see this view of my hometown in person!
If you are interested in winning this awesome opportunity, please leave a comment and tell me either 1) something you've always wanted to see or do in Chicago, and/or 2) something fun you have planned for this summer!

The giveaway is open through Friday, March 23 and all readers are welcome to enter.  I will use to select the winner and I will announce the winner over the weekend!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Chicago Get Lucky Half Marathon Race Recap

Yesterday I ran the inaugural Chicago Get Lucky Half Marathon.  Due to the early onslaught of summertime temperatures in Chicago, it turned out to be much more challenging than expected.

It's been in the 80s here for the last five days in a row, also setting temperature records for five straight days.  Add to this that we've literally skipped spring and went straight from winter to summer.  Ten days ago I think the temps were in the 30s.  It's been like going from the freezer to the oven.

I woke up in the morning around 7:30 AM, ate my usual breakfast of cereal and a banana, and drank a few big glasses of water as early as I could.

Adam very kindly drove me to the starting area, which turned out to be hugely the right move.  I had originally planned to take the CTA green line to the Roosevelt stop, which I thought was just a couple blocks away from the starting line.  The actual starting line was much farther from the train stop than anticipated.  Had I taken the train I would not have allowed myself the time to walk the extra distance, and might have been late to the start.

The race was both a 7K race as well as a half marathon, and the half marathon race population turned out to be very small.  I later found out there were only 360 half marathon finishers (I don't know how many DNFs there were).  I made a quick portapotty stop, then listened to a recorded rendition of the national anthem while waiting for my Garmin to load up.  An air horn sounded and off we went.

There were no timing splits at any of the mile markers, which I've never experienced in a race before.  However, I had read race reviews on this organizer and knew this was a possibility, so I was prepared to hit the "Lap" button on my Garmin at each mile marker.  There was no mile marker at Mile 2, so I thought they were only marking every other mile - but Mile 2 ended up being the only one missing.

I was definitely feeling the temperatures, but a slight breeze off the lake helped a little.  The race's website said that there would be aid stations every 2 to 2.5 miles.  At 1.5 miles I was already starting to feel thirsty, so I was looking forward to the first aid station.  However, the first aid station didn't come up until about 3.2 miles in.
This is what it felt like for a little while.
I had brought three GUs with me and had been planning on taking one about every 3.5 to 4 miles starting around mile 4.  Given how far along the first aid station was, I went ahead and took my first GU there.  I grabbed two cups of water from a volunteer but both were only about a third full.  It wasn't enough water for me with the GU, but the aid station consisted of only about two tables and I didn't feel like backtracking.  I decided to keep going, and was finally able to get enough water at the next aid station a few miles later.  I was careful throughout the rest of the aid stations to get cups that were at least three-quarters full.

Going into the race, I had been worried about my knee issues or hip issues acting up.  I felt intermittant left hip and knee pain here and there, but thankfully nothing that caused real issue.  However, I did get some unexpected skin chafing from my shorts and sports bra.  It was painful and I was regretting not using any Bodyglide.

I had my music on the whole race, but I didn't pay a lot of attention to it.  I was more focused on trying to hug the curves of the path and making any passes on the inside curve.  The course took place almost entirely on the lakefront path, which was still open to the public.  Therefore, I also had to be careful to avoid colliding with any bicyclists, inline skaters, or people with their strollers and dogs, all of which came from both directions.  A few fellow racers had some close calls and got into some angry shouting matches.
Racers versus aerodynamic baby strollers.
My longest training run prior to the race was 11 miles, which I had done two weeks ago with relative ease.  Therefore, I had felt pretty confident going into the race and I was maintaining a comfortable pace amidst the heat.  But then, around mile 9, fatigue starting setting in very quickly.  Mentally, this put quite a damper on since I had really not anticipated being so tired that early.  Those last four miles were tough.  The sun and heat felt relentless.  I was trying to avoid taking any walk breaks for fear that I wouldn't be able to resume running, but my legs felt like they were being weighed down by lead. 
Around mile 12 my sweat started feeling cold, which made me nervous.  I wondered if it was a prelude to throwing up and tried not to think about it.  I cranked up the most energizing music I could find on my MP3 player.  Unfortunately I was so tired that the music didn't really help. 

Around 12.5, I started seeing cheering race marshalls who all yelled, "You're so close!  Keep going!  You're almost there!"  (I didn't really believe them, though, because I think everyone always tells you you're so close even if you're not.)

I saw Adam around mile 13, smiling and waving his Terrible Towel (this was a preset arrangement to help me find him in the crowd).  It was such a welcome sight! 
Adam jumped in and ran with me to the finish line, stepping off to the side at the very end.  It helped to momentarily take my mind off of my overwhelming fatigue.  My official finishing time was 2:34:10.  It was a lot slower than I was targeting, but the heat had a much larger impact than I was expecting.  At that point I was just happy to have finished.

My legs were aching and it hurt to stand without moving, so we kept walking around.  Thankfully I never felt like I was ever truly in danger of throwing up!  After a few minutes with some food and beverage I started to feel human again.

After getting home I took my first-ever ice bath, which I had always been terrified of doing but it felt terrific.  I then showered, foam rolled, stretched, and put on my compression sleeves.  Some quality time with the couch combined with some Bacino's Chicago-style deep dish spinach and mushroom pizza for dinner, and I was almost as good as new.

Takeaways and Lessons Learned:
  • BodyGlide, BodyGlide, BodyGlide (or some other preventitive measure against skin chafes - yikes!)  Use it even if you don't think you need it.
  • I never thought I would curse the day when the temperatures were in the low 80s and sunny in Chicago.  But, I guess everything has its time and place.  I knew that the temps would negatively impact me, but I really had no idea the magnitude that it could have over an extended distance.  Wow.
  • The challenges of this race brought me back down to earth on wanting to run as many races as I can.  Now I am glad that I didn't sign up for more races than I have (a 10-miler next month, another half marathon in July, then the full marathon in October).
  • I have a LOT of training to do over the next several months to prepare for the full marathon.  A LOT.
  • Ice baths are a really, really good thing for post-run muscle recovery.  Now I understand why people go through them.  They are going to become a common ritual for me now.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Getting my Irish on

In Chicago, St. Patrick's Day is an enormously festive celebration.  The city goes ALL OUT for it.

The Chicago River dyed green, a long-time annual tradition.
This photo has NOT been digitally altered in any way. 
Do NOT adjust your computer monitor.

Happy humans reveling in one of many St. Patrick's Day Parades.

Even non-humans partake in the celebration.
I wonder how the dog REALLY feels about this? 
(I hope that coloring is non-toxic, non-permanent, and water-soluble.)

We've had an abnormally mild winter and very early spring/summer this year, but in typical years St. Patrick's Day also signals the unofficial end of Chicago winter to me.  That, and the start of Daylight Savings Time (as painful as it was for me this past Monday morning.  Z-O-M-B-I-E.)

I will officially be getting my Irish on by running the inaugural Chicago Get Lucky Half Marathon this weekend.  This race is also the kickoff of my 2012 racing season.

The weather on race morning (Sunday) is supposed to be gorgeous, if a bit on the warm side for a race (upper 60s/low 70s).  I have one green technical shirt that I had originally been planning to wear for the occasion.  Unfortunately, the shirt is long-sleeved so now it'll be too warm to wear.  Change of plan.  I do like to be unique in my own way, and everyone wears green for St. Patrick's Day.  Therefore, I am instead going to honor the other, FORGOTTEN color of the Irish flag.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I will be wearing a white shirt.

Kidding, kidding.  I have an orange technical shirt with a nice zippered side pocket that I'll be wearing.  It looks kind of like this:

Maybe the orange will help me stand out a bit from the crowd?  (Actually, that can be both a good thing and a bad thing...)

I might really go all out and curl my hair like this:

OK, maybe not.

One of the biggest selling points for me on the Chicago Get Lucky Half Marathon was that it has a 9:00 AM start time.  That is MUCH more palatable than the more typical 7:00 AM or earlier start times.  I am sure the race organizers planned the start time knowing that pretty much the entire city of Chicago (except me) will be out late the night before drinking green beer.  Hey, it still works for me.
Sorry, folks, I'm not a beer drinker and this doesn't look very appetizing to me.

Speaking of beverages, I am planning to focus on pre-race hydration starting today.  As many of you know, I am a HUGE drinker of (diluted) orange juice - it's my remedy for everything.  Watch out Tropicana and Dole distributors, I will be hydrating something crazy for the next 48 hours.  (An added benefit to wearing an orange shirt on race day is that any orange juice stains sustained the morning-of won't be noticeable.)

No specific tie-in to my subject matter other than the
St. Patrick's Day theme and because it just makes me smile.

My plan for this race on Sunday is to just have a good time and to enjoy the festiveness and beautiful weather.  I am going to try not to focus too much on time goals, though I obviously want to do well.  Instead, I'm hoping to use this race as a barometer from which to assess my overall progress.  E.g. my comfort and mentality in handling this distance, not just my finishing time.  Here's also hoping and praying that my knees and hips hold up!

Good luck to all that are running St. Patrick's Day races this weekend!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Scout Running Club - my inaugural run

I have trained alone my entire running career because I enjoy the personal time.  However, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I had heard countless testimonials on how fun it was to run with a group.  After hearing about The Scout Running Club with its free Tuesday night 5K runs, free food, and giveaways, I gave it a go this evening. 

I was looking forward to meeting other runners, and I was definitely ready for a change of scenery from my usual routes spanning the West Loop.  The route that the group run takes affords spectacular views of the Chicago city skyline.  The weather was beautiful, too - temps in the upper 50s, no wind.  Perfect night for a run.
Things went downhill from that point.  When I arrived at the meeting place (a bar/restaurant), it was mobbed with runners standing around in tight groups talking.  However, there were no signs directing where to register or anything.  I tried to work my way through the crowd to see if there was a line of people anywhere, or if there was a registration table.  Nothing.  Finally, after a few minutes of looking around, someone asked me if I needed to register and pointed me to a table with a sign-in sheet.  I asked if there was a place to store gear, and he pointed me to a back room.  I signed in as quickly as I could, frantically pushed through the crowd to drop off my gear, then searched for a bathroom.

I had arrived at about 6:20, with the group run departing at 6:30.  But since it took me so long to figure out where to sign in, I missed some leader announcements while I was in the bathroom.  I came out and saw the same scene of people standing around in groups, so I thought perhaps the group run hadn't left yet.  It seemed like everyone already knew each other and that all were engrossed in conversation.  I figured we'd be leaving momentarily so I waited awkwardly off to the side.  I eventually asked someone what the announcement was that I missed.  Turns out they had announced that the slower pace groups were getting started, and the faster pace groups would start in subsequent waves.

The pace group I wanted to run with was long gone by then, so I went with the next departing group.  Unfortunately it was a pace group that was a good 2 minutes per mile faster than me, but I didn't have much choice at that point.  Sadly, this was pretty much my worst case scenario.  Since I'm a pretty slow runner, my biggest concern with group runs is that I will get left behind.  Sure enough, as soon as the group started, I fell behind in a cloud of dust.
I tried my best to keep the group within sight, but by my standards they were motoring.  Soon I was running completely by myself.  Thankfully, I know the path very well so at least I didn't have to worry about getting lost.  I always listen to music when I run, but since I thought I would be running with a group I had left my MP3 player behind.  The silence was deafening and I was wishing that I had my headphones to keep me entertained.
The faster pace groups that had departed after me started catching up to me.  Runners began effortlessly passing me left and right.  It was discouraging.  Some of them shouted, "Good job, keep it up!" to me as they whizzed past me.  It was very nice of them to cheer me on, but it is still disheartening to get passed by entire crowds of runners.

I ended up running almost the entire 5K by myself.  After finishing, I went back to the bar/restaurant where they had salad, pasta, and water for us.  After waiting in a long line to get food, I came back out to find that every single table was completely full and there was no place to sit.  Again it seemed like every table was jammed with people that already knew each other.  I made a few circles looking for a place to sit or a table to join, but there was literally nothing.  Again feeling awkward, I found a few square feet of empty space and ate standing up.  I wasn't in the mood to try to break into one of the tables of people to try to introduce myself and make conversation.  Certainly nobody seemed interested in trying to draw me into any of their conversations, either.  At that point, I decided to leave.
I realize that I might have had a better experience had I been able to run with an appropriate pace group.  However, in general, I did not find the crowd to be very welcoming to new folks.  It didn't seem like anyone was really interested in meeting new people - it seemed like most people were there to hang out with a group of existing friends.  The awkwardness factor was obviously upped by the fact that I was there by myself.  Maybe if I went with a friend it would have helped.

Additionally, I didn't like how the slower pace groups started first.  In races, the faster pace groups always go first so that there isn't congestion on the course or at the post-race food lines.  Having the faster pace groups start last resulted in lots of passing and a long line for food.  Admittedly, there probably would have been a long line regardless, since there were so many people there.  Either way, though, it wasn't fun when there wasn't even enough room for me to find a place to sit, let alone the dozens of people that had been standing in line behind me.
In summary, while I did not have the best experience tonight, I am still glad that I pushed myself to try this running club.  It was neat to be surrounded by so many runners in a training setting, versus a race setting.  It was also enjoyable to be able to run such a scenic route along the lakefront path.  However, since I didn't find the crowd to be very open for newcomers and I didn't enjoy the post-run gathering, I am not very enthused about participating again.  At this point I don't intend to go back.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The devil is in the details

I am usually a fairly detail-oriented person.  But there are several things in which I really cannot tell the difference or in which seemingly undetectable details end up having remarkably large impacts. 

Take wine, for example.  I know very little about wine.  Call me unsophisticated, but most wines taste pretty much the same to me.  However, small differences can apparently make an enormous difference in price and cache. 

SIDE NOTE: In a horrifying example of things that people cannot tell apart, I read about a study done to see if people could tell pate or Spam apart from dog food.  Volunteers were given five unlabeled samples of meat products, one of which was Newman's Own Dog food prepared to look like liver mousse.

The results indicated that most people couldn't tell the meat products apart from each other.  Yikes!  So much for discerning palates.
Dog food or pate? You be the judge.  Really.
Moving off the topic of mystery meats, I've experienced a lot of the same issues in running where the devil was in the details, too.  For example:

Running Shoes
My new Brooks Glycerin 8 shoes arrived this past weekend!  I had read about all the technology in the Glycerin shoes and had heard rave reviews about these shoes, so admittedly my expectations were high.  Not to mention that I think these shoes are gorgeous.
I took them for an 8-mile inaugural run on Sunday morning and they were very lightweight and comfortable.  However, to be honest, the Glycerins didn't feel very different from any of my existing pairs of running shoes, which have all been good.  My Mizuno Wave Rider 15 shoes are the only running shoes in which I've felt any real difference - I find they have a smoother toe-off than all my other shoes.  Other than that, all of my running shoes feel pretty much the same. 

I would never guess this was possible based on seeing some very detailed shoe critiques that make some of these shoes sound like night and day.  But the differences are really not that apparent to me.

I'm not sure if it's because I am not experienced enough to be able to distinguish the differences?  Optimistically, maybe I'm only picking appropriate shoes now after getting professionally fitted last fall for the first time?  Or maybe I'm just not very discerning?

Regardless of the reason, I realize that I may have just lost my women's shoe license.

When I'm on the treadmill (which is not very often, since I much prefer running outdoors), I will play with the programmed speed.  I find it surprising how nearly undetectable increases in pace can make such a difference in time per mile.  I guess over the course of an extended distance, it really adds up.  I never ran track or cross country when I was growing up, but I remember reading once that the difference between first place and, say, 20th place, could be all of two seconds!
Speaking of small differences in pace making a big difference, I picked up the pace just a bit on my Sunday morning run since I only did 8 miles.  I went about 30 seconds per mile faster than my normal long run pace.  Completely contrary to my experience with the treadmill, wow - did I ever feel the impact afterwards! 

I relegated myself to the couch all afternoon and even ended up nodding off for awhile (flashback to boring college lectures on topics like random matrix theory).  I felt much less tired after last week's 11-miler done at my normal pace than I did after the 8-miles run at a slightly faster pace. 

Who knew that such a small increase in pace could wipe you out so much? 

Physical Therapy
When I went through physical therapy last year, I was given a list of over 15 exercises that I am supposed to try to do every day, or as often as possible.  Unfortunately, the complete set of exercises takes me over an hour and 15 minutes.  I don't have that kind of time on a daily basis.  Therefore, I will usually only do about 10 of the PT exercises on any given day.  Recently I've been focusing only on the ones that directly alleviate my knee pain (like foam rolling my IT band), and I gloss over the others that seem to have only peripheral impact (like doing planks).

Over the past week or so, I've started experiencing some left hip pain, which I have had in the past on a small extent.  Some research on suggested remedies pointed to some of the exact PT exercises that I'd been skipping recently. 

Apparently there is much more of a method to the madness than I realized on my seemingly endless list of assigned exercises.  I guess there are no shortcuts in doing physical therapy.  Who knew?