Recapping The Month of Fiber & Other Tidbits

We’ve got a multi-part post.

Recapping Month of Fiber

20 for 31 is the final count for my month of fiber, and it was honestly worse than that. A lot of the days where I met my goal, I did so by overeating (though I wasn’t overeating to hit my fiber goal; that was incidental).

If nothing else, I know how to hit 25 grams pretty easily. Actually doing it? Turns out I’m not so good at that.

See what had happened was I would eat well in the morning (some days) by going with steel-cut oats with berries, a bowl of fruit, and two eggs. And then I would have a good dinner planned, like red beans and rice. Then I would let all hell break loose at lunch. One day because Panda Express was out of healthy options, I had fried rice (they had no brown or steamed rice), crab rangoons, veggie spring rolls, and orange chicken (there was no broccoli beef or string bean chicken).

And that’s not my worst story. That happened yesterday.

For breakfast, I had instant oatmeal and two eggs. For lunch, red beans and rice with shrimp. So far, so good. Then I had a pizza as a snack. Then I had a burger and funyuns. AND THEN I had a burger and Doritos. I hit my fiber goal, but I also made myself prediabetic in the process.

I was making a good decision (or planning to make a good decision), and then letting myself run off the rails the rest of the day. Not a good philosophy.

It was an interesting month, and solidified that my diet-based months were bad ideas. I think they caused more harm than good. I’m actually against dieting, so these months went against my preferred decision-making processes, and they promptly bit me in the ass. In the future, I’m going to stick with non-dietary goals (after this year, of course) and just try to make good decisions when I eat instead of limiting myself to one type of good decision for a month at a time.

Post-Massage Bliss

Our next bit of miscellany is the massage I got yesterday. I get one every month or two to help keep my back pain in check.

Yesterday was magic.

Normally, I get the massage, and it keeps the pain in check, but the aches, twinges, etc., never fully go away, even the day of the massage. I’m just dealing with constant aches.

Yesterday, I got my massage, and afterward the MT said the left side of my back was in interesting shape (I forget the exact phrasing), and that I was going to be sore, drink lots of water, etc.

That soreness has never really set in. What did happen was I went ache, twinge, etc. -free for 8-10 hours. That hasn’t happened in an obscene amount of time. I was walking around in this hazy bliss and in a stupidly good mood. It was like being on drugs. I’ve never had that happen post-massage.

And it was the best.

The sad part was when I started wondering if that’s what everyone else felt like all the time. I don’t know what it’s like to be without back pain. Ever since I was 17-18, I’ve dealt with aches and pains, and over the years, it just got more persistent. I’m taking steps to dial the pain back, but it’s still there.

Chronic pain is for real.

I knew it affected my mood. I could see in action. After yesterday, I’m starting to realize it affects my mood even more than I realized. I’m not sure I can convey what it feels like to go pain-free for even a few hours after daily aches and pains for so long.

Again, yesterday was magic.

Upcoming Running Plans

But this is technically a running blog, so I’ll update you on my running plans.

I’m currently trying to get back up to speed. The past couple of months have not been running-friendly. I’ve let my weight start creeping up (bad), and I wasn’t able to run much (badder) because some bodily revolutions (baddest).

Luckily, I got the all-clear last week, and I’m trying to get back on the wagon of running (or am I trying to pull the wagon if I’m running?).

I’ve gone back to my Zombies, Run! 5K app to get my mileage back safely. It’s been a slog, but I’m 4 workouts in (out of about 30).

More importantly, I’ve signed up for my next 5K. I’ll still be in the process of getting my mileage back up, but I needed to set a goal to keep me on track. The next goal after that will be a fall 10K in October or November. I’m not sure yet, but I’ll find something. Probably.

But that’s all for now, sports fans. Tomorrow starts the Super Awesome Month of Meditation, which will be interesting. Maybe I’ll learn to move things with mind. Or maybe I’ll learn to not care that I can’t move things with my mind.


Running on a Plan

I looked forward to my run yesterday. I was downright eager to run.

But why? I chose the name of this blog for a reason and even have a hashtag to go with it (the simple but understated #ihaterunning).

I’m not running faster. I’m actually running slower. I’m not running much farther. And I’m not feeling much better after my runs.

So what’s the deal?

At first I thought it was just me exercising control (Get it? Exercising?). Maybe it was just some existential crisis and this was the one place I could (mostly) have control over what happened.

That kind of made sense, but it doesn’t seem to fully gel. Kind of like those shoes you try on in the store: They fit ok, but something doesn’t seem quite right.

Maybe it’s because I’m dropping weight. Seeing the scale show a slightly smaller number can work wonders for the ego (and not hearing it scream every time I step on it; someone really should invent a scale that screams if you weigh too much). It’s hard not to see a difference in how I’m feeling when I know that I’m dropping weight with running and (vaguely) good eating habits.

While this all makes me feel good, it doesn’t explain why I would enjoy running (unless I’m finally starting to enjoy the process as opposed to just appreciating it).

Of course, it could be the endorphins. Endorphins are a drug that make you happy after all.

And then it kind of hit. The previous points felt like partial explanations because they were impacted by the real reason, but they’re just outcomes.

I have a goal, which means I have a plan.

That’s the real trick. I was reflecting on my history with 5Ks and such, and I realized that was the real thing that was bringing enjoyment (and nervousness). I’m running a 10K for the first time, so I’m having to do some actually planning.

For my first 5K 2012, I did it on a whim. I had some friends signing up for one that supported Habitat for Humanity, and they asked if I wanted to join. I hadn’t run in months. I had an issue that freaked me out and a useless MD who gave me nothing advice, and I wasn’t good about forcing the issue then.

I went 4 or 5 months with no running, though I lost a lot of weight (relatively speaking. I dropped from about 187 to 172 in that time frame with just light yoga and no other working out.

Told my friend I would think about it, and so I went on a couple of light runs to see if I could hold up ok. I did, so I agreed and started prepping in earnest. I hit my familiar loop and kept trying to push my distance to see if I could run the whole 3.1. Spoiler alert: I couldn’t. But unlike a few years prior when I’d considered a 5K but backed out when I knew I couldn’t run the whole thing, this time I was already committed and just didn’t give a crap about running the whole thing. I prepped as best as I could (I even bought those running shorts with the liner in them that are asking for something embarrassing to happen). I was going to do it.

And I did. I finished slightly above a 10-minute pace with a lot of walking.

After that, there were some folks who wanted to do a mud run for work, so I signed up for my first (and only) mud run at the Rugged Maniac 3-4 months later. While I knew I could cover 3.1 without dying, I didn’t know how I’d fare on obstacles, so I joined some friends who ran stadiums and did other bodyweight exercises. It wasn’t much, but it was enough that I started putting muscle back on.

And once again, I survived.

At this point, running was just something I did to stay in shape, along with stadiums and light yoga at home. I wasn’t making real progress (and I was recovering from my first foot injury), but I was still running. I signed up for another 5K in late 2013 and once again started pushing my running.

The 5K was on my usual loop, so I knew the route and walked off with a sub-28 run. A week later I got sick and then a couple of weeks later I injured cartilage in my chest that would take 2 months to properly diagnose (I’d since started seeing MDs that were contributors to society). In the recuperating process (and the moving process), I fell off the running wagon. I did some light running now and then, but I didn’t have anything I was prepping for.

Essentially, for a year I was not really running, and it was becoming very detrimental. Until I decided to embark on the Super Awesome Year of the 5K.

And this is the first time I had a real plan, not just a goal that forced haphazard planning. I was doing a real couch to 5K training plan. With zombies.


The app did a good job of starting me slow and ramping up the running and total mileage. Slowly but surely, I upped my mileage just in time to be unprepared for my first 5K. My sincerest hope was to break 35 minutes. And then I finished just above 31 and the year was ruined. I would only crack that time a couple of more times, but I was running.

Once the 5K training app for Zombies, Run! was done, I was in a little bit of a mess. I knew I needed a plan, but I wasn’t enthused about a regular training app, and the full Zombies, Run! app cost more money. I opted for the latter and was disappointed to find out there was no real plan. You set the times or distance, and you ran with a story. No more, no less.

And that was a problem. I stopped pushing myself and crested (and possibly regressed). My mileage tanked, and then I got injured again in the fall. Looking at the logs, my total mileage dropped and my mileage per run was dropping. I was wandering aimlessly through the backend of the year.

But I wasn’t done. I’d been mulling a new goal to either go after a sub-25 5K or go after a 10K. I honestly thought the 25-minute goal was more feasible before I learned I can’t run far and fast, just one or the other. 10K it was, but I needed to prep.

And from the great digital beyond, Zombies, Run! had put in training plans without me knowing it.

I’ve signed up for the beginner 10K training plan, and I’ve been hoofing it ever since. My previous best in the app for a month was just under 21 miles, and I’m pretty sure that I did that in the 5K app, not the even the full app when I should have been able to log more miles. I’ve got 2 more weeks in the month, and I’m already at my highest total.

Plans win.

Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 6.46.21 PM
This is the total distance by month in Zombies, Run! You can tack on 3.1 each month last year plus some rogue runs on treadmills and a couple in the rain where I didn’t use the app, but this is a pretty good picture of what’s been going on. Either way, barring injury, I’ll crush my monthly best with the addition of this week alone.

I’m doing things the right way, at least. I’m following what the plan says, and I’m slowly upping my mileage. If everything goes as planned, I should finish the training plan a week or two before my planned 10K, and then we’ll see what happens. I’ll either need to go after another 10K or I’ll need to go after that 25-minute 5K after all.

If my feet hold up and I can get all my working shoes back in the mix, I won’t even need new shoes for a long, long time. And that would be magical (especially after buying 3 pairs in 14 months).

But maybe I need a plan for my shoes. Oh well.

My Evolution as a Runner

The journey to now has been a long one. About 30 years, give or take a few weeks. Everyone is a runner. We’re not all born runners. Actually, we’re born kind of useless little leeches. Cute little leeches. But still leeches.

But not long after that we learn to walk. And then we learn to run. And then we’re running. All. The. Time.

Have you ever hung out with little kids? They never seem to stop moving. Makes me tired just thinking about it.

And that’s where the journey really begins (so maybe not quite 30 years in the making after all). Today’s about this journey. I still don’t consider myself a distance runner, but I’m lying when I say I hate running. I actually love it. I just don’t love the variety I do these days. So let’s take a walk through Q’s history of running:

I have no idea why this little adorable tyke is so excited, but I’m sure he ran to whatever it was.

As a kid, I ran. I ran for sports (baseball, well t-ball, and basketball). I ran on the playground to see who was the fastest (it wasn’t me; it was the kid who went on to play pro football; ironically he wasn’t much of a runner by adulthood). And I ran in PE. One year, we were running as far as we could once a week during the PE session (because they made us. Even then, I didn’t run distance for fun). I started slow, but eventually I was hitting two miles nonstop. I didn’t think much of it at the time. It was just something that I did.

There are so many things to say about this, but there’s one thing to remember: I could tie a tie when I was 12. I wouldn’t be able to do that from memory again until my mid-20

Once middle school rolled around, I was done with distance running altogether. The only running I did was for sports: football and basketball. I never had to run more than about 40 yards at any one time. I wasn’t particularly fast, but I knew I wasn’t a distance runner (those were the scrawny runts doing cross country instead of football in the fall). I was a sprinter.

Look at this handsome gent and his parentals

By the time high school rolled around, I had dropped basketball and was concentrating on football (by concentrating, I mean only playing football, not actually trying to do much of use with football. Scrawny kids with limited athleticism have a low ceiling in collision sports). But there was a change coming. To help me in football, I added powerlifting and track. I think you can see where this is going.

I was still a sprinter, but turns out they make you run farther than 40 yards in track. And even if you’re just a sprinter, they still make you log a lot of miles. And just to be cruel, they made me run hurdles. And I mean made. I didn’t choose it, and I tried to get out of it every chance I could. I was a terrible hurdler. I could jump, and I could run. I couldn’t blend them. Hurdling requires fearlessness and rhythm. I had neither.

But I digress.

For all my complaining about hurdling, there was a positive effect. I became a more fluid runner, even more than I would have if they would have let me do plain sprints (I eventually hit a 4.6 40. Am I bragging? You bet your ass I’m bragging). And track forced me to run. Warming up involved laps. I did not appreciate that at all. But it was the closest thing I got to distance running at the time. I still remember when we were doing total mileage for warmups, workouts, and cooldowns, and we were eclipsing 5 miles. I thought that was crazy at the time.

Actually, it still sounds a bit crazy.

But this time further instilled the belief that I was a sprinter, not a distance runner. I couldn’t even maintain stamina past 100 meters. But I was still a runner.

1) everyone makes bad decisions in college. Leave my sideburns out of it. 2) I don’t have any workout-related pics from college handy. 

By the time college came around, sprinting was kind of done for me. I strained a muscle in my leg and never let it properly heal in high school. It would be more than half a decade before I truly sprinted (and I don’t think I’ve ever been close to as fast as I was).

I made the shift to distance running. Sort of. I thought it was distance.

It started with a mile on the treadmill before or after lifting my first year of college. I was good with that.

My second year, I had a friend who liked to run outside, so I started joining her. We were actually running most nights for a few weeks. There was a sidewalk that cut through campus and was 0.65 miles. Up and back was 1.3. I was proud when I hit 1.3.

And then we kept pushing it.

Eventually we were getting around 2 miles. And then were hit 2.6. That was rough, but we did it.

This is the first time I considered doing a 5K. We hit 2.6 right before spring break, and there was a 5K (which turned out to be 3.1 miles) just after spring break. I felt like that might be doable.

And then I got back from spring break and my conditioning had gone to crap in the week off. This just gave further evidence that I was not a true distance runner.

I didn’t do the 5K because I didn’t think I could run the whole way. Ten years later and I still haven’t run all of a 5K. That would have been my best chance.

I used neither the shoe nor the athletic supporter.

When I was getting my masters, I started running near the end. I was mostly running on a treadmill, but I got out and about some. I was doing pretty well. I eventually was hitting 2 miles on the treadmill regularly. I wasn’t going quickly, but I was going. Then I graduated and moved on to new places.

Would you believe almost everyone in this picture has a Ph.D. now and work at land-grant universities?

Getting my Ph.D. is when I finally made a more committed effort to running. I was trying to make a commitment to working out in general. I started yoga. I was ok about getting in the weight room. And I was running.

I found a loop I liked, and that was my go-to route for 5 years. I only varied some, and most of that was my last year when I started using a smaller loop that was more convenient for running after work.

The short version of this part would say I finally started running 5Ks. The longer version says that for 3 years, I lugged around that 2.5-mile loop over and over, running as far as I could and then, typically, walking the rest. During the first 3 years, I only hit 2 miles outside twice. It was rough. I got there a few more times on the treadmill. That was not as rough. Turns out air conditioned gyms are better than the humid Florida outdoors.

But the real change was when I started my post-doc life and got convinced to sign up for a 5K. I had actually quit running during the preceding 5 months because of a health issue, but that time allowed me to drop 15 pounds, so it wasn’t a complete loss. Anyway, I did the 5K and was amused with myself. I had used real running gear and what I thought were pretty legit running shoes (I’ve since learned there are nicer models in the world, but I still miss those shoes).

The next year, I would sign up for another 5K and have my still personal best time by more than 2 minutes.

View this post on Instagram

That's 9. #ihaterunning #5k #suckittrebek #beattheblerch 31:45

A post shared by Quisto Settle (@applications_of_randomness) on

And that gets us to the current state of things. I’m more aerodynamic. I’m more consistent. But I’m not faster, and I’m definitely not lighter.

But that doesn’t matter. Last year, I did 12 5Ks. That’s not anything incredible, but it beats the hell out of the alternative of doing nothing.

And now I’ve set my sights on a 10K in early May. My Zombies, Run! app has a 10k training plan that similar(ish) to the Zombies 5K app, so we’ll give that a try. Of course, you could argue I might be better off doing the 5K app again, but we’ll just roll with it. What’s the worst that could happen?

If nothing else, I’ll have some stories to tell you.



Return to the Rain: Going Low-Tech

Now a real post after a non-post yesterday. I’ve been jonesing for a run (like an addict, not like someone who actually enjoys running; there’s a difference), but rain was in the forecast today. But it was light. And you know what that means.

I ditched my phone and I don’t wear my new fitness tracker to run (just want to track daily movements with it; pretty sure when I’m running I’m getting plenty of work in), so I was low-tech for the first time in a long time (probably the last time I ran in the rain, though maybe the first time since 2013 without anything digital on me). It was nice. I got to go completely by effort. No music putting in a false beat to hit. No zombies in my ear. No timer on my wrist telling me how long I was running. Just going on effort.

I’ve been mulling going back to low-tech running for a while now. I’ve wondered if I was doing myself more harm than good with all the gadgetry. I forfeit data this way, but I also feel less likely to overexert myself or convince myself I’m doing bad in the middle of a run when that can clearly wait until after the run.

Using Mapmyrun, I found afterward I went 2.8, so it was about the same distance I’ve been covering with technology, but I feel like I got more of it in running. And of course, it’s nice to run in a light rain. It’s a cleansing experience. I recommend it for anyone if the conditions aren’t dangerous. In my bright yellow shirt in 60-degree weather, this was about as good as it gets.

But there is a downside. I ran in my old Brooks so I wouldn’t have to waterlog my new shoes. I don’t regret that, but I’m definitely feeling these shoes more than I should and have been for a few months (hence trying to replace them in October). And sure enough, after the run, my right foot (re: the foot that HAS NOT been causing me problems the past few months) started hurting. I’m retiring the Glycerins now. I may give the Adidas another go, but I don’t have high hopes (and I don’t want another setback). I’m back to just one pair it looks like (Brooks Ghosts, for the record), but I knew I was in the market for another fitting (see yesterday’s non-post).

Hopefully I can find something I like. When I went on the Runner’s World shoe finder (shoutout to Teresa for pointing that way), I found something that at least sounds like something I would like: the Saucony Kinvara line. I plugged in what I was looking for instead of using the shoe advisor. They’re soft and they’re flexible. When I think of a good running shoe, that’s what comes to mind for me, but they tend to send me out the door with relatively bulkier shoes. I don’t know that my next pair will be these, but I really want to get back to light, cushy shoes. So maybe I can at least convince the clerks to let me try a pair. My Glyercins had a good life, but they were never 100% where I wanted to go.

But that’s a post for another day.


PS, I had a soda today. That’s 3 days I’ve fallen off the wagon out of 7. After strolling through the first two weeks, I’ve hit a wall. A tired, decaffeinated wall that needed a fix. Oh well, what’s tomorrow for if not atoning for today’s mistakes?

Reflecting on Life Without Sodas: The Caffeine-free Purgatory

Now seems as good as any to reflect on the February goal of no sodas.

This is a very different goal than January’s 10K steps (and stupid Buzzfeed stealing from me; ok, maybe not, but I did it first). Where last month was an extra action I was taking, this goal is a non-action. In some ways this is easier, but I’m not sure if it’s actually better (it’s health, but I don’t know if it’s a better TYPE of goal).

I don’t have to constantly check in throughout the day to ensure I’m making progress. I don’t have to take any extra actions. I just do nothing. I could literally do nothing and achieve my goal. So it’s a bit weird.

And that makes me wonder if it’s not quite as good of a goal to have set. For the most part, all of my other goals require me to actively do something. This goal might be as important for my health (or even more so) than others, but this one doesn’t require the same amount of mental energy. Once I got past the caffeine withdrawal, this is a pretty well-oiled machine. I still look longingly at Cokes.

But I don’t need to take any real actions. It’s just getting through my day and not actively making a bad decision. The rest of this year will be spent trying to actively make good decisions.

Enough of that, though. Let’s talk about purgatory.

This is the one downside for me beyond missing the oh-so-tasty sodas.

I go through this haze of a day because I’m used to the accompanying spikes in energy and concentration from my Coke habit (which still isn’t as bad as a coke habit), and then dealing with the following lull.

Now there’s none of that. I just pass through my day like a zombie. Much like R, I’m aware of the world around me, but I’m not all that actively engaged in it.

But hey, we’re at day 10, and I haven’t touched a drop. I haven’t even picking up things like lemonade as a substitute. This is how we do.



Ugh. That’s 12 and a Wrap on the Super Awesome Year of the 5K

I set one goal: complete a 5K every month this year.

And it’s done. It’s so frickin’ done.

32:14 officially.

In an ideal world, I would have had more ambitious goals. In the real world, those became things I would have liked to have completed. I had vague ideas of running an entire 5K, of posting sub-30 times after a couple of months, of honestly getting close to if not under the 25-minute mark by the end.

None of that happened.

Fortunately, those weren’t my goals. My goal was to complete a 5K, not be super awesome, just finish. And I finished.

I’m exhausted.

Before we go any further, today was a first for a race. I won my age group.

Ok, so that’s really not that impressive when you actually look at the full picture, but at least I was running.

I didn’t stick around for the awards though. They were about an hour after I finished, and I didn’t feel like waiting (though I didn’t know at the time I would have won something with my paltry time.

All in all, the run kind of sucked. I didn’t go in with ideal circumstances, and the race wasn’t ideal even had I walked in with ideal circumstances.

We’ll start with a recap my less than stellar past few months.

It started with a nagging knee issue in late summer. I was able to keep running, but day-to-day pain isn’t a fun way to go about business. And then I hurt my foot in early October. After 6 weeks I finally saw a specialist. Literally that morning before the appointment, the pain was gone. They ended up saying it was probably a bone bruise. I still feel twinges every now and then, but all in all it was healing. I ran once. Then Thanksgiving happened, and I got sick.

If you’re keeping score at home, I got injured early October and sick in later November. Here’s how running went from that point on. No running before the October race. The November race was a week later, so no running to avoid exacerbating the pain. The pain is gone. I ran once. Went on holiday and then was sick for a week. Then had a week to recuperate for the 5K. That’s right. 3 runs in a bit more than 2 months before I ran this 5K.

And I still ran a comparable time to my earlier races.

Of course, that’s not the full picture. The November and December runs were actually relatively easy courses (especially compared to the monstrosity in May). My times were OK these past two races because the courses weren’t bad.

Well, sort of.

Today’s wasn’t a fun course for me to run. Without further ado, we’ll talk about today.

I actually had to trek out 140 miles for a 5K this month. There weren’t any nearer to me that I could make it to, so I actually ended up within a couple of miles of my August race. Luckily, this course wasn’t as brutal (and there was no dog crap on the course).

For the 5th time this year, I was in a hotel the night before my race. That always messes with things a bit. The beds are comfy, but they’re not my bed. I always sleep a bit fitfully because of that (though, oddly enough, I sleep great in hotels at all other times).

When I got to the event, it wasn’t marked great, but it did have markers. I stepped out of the car, and it smelled like cow crap. I never saw them, just smelled them.  That was a first for a race (and keep in mind, in May we were on an actual farm, and I drove past cattle).

The pre-race stuff was the usual. Someone on the mic said a few words. They had a group stretch. I refused to stretch (because, you know, static stretching before you run is actually a bad thing; call me when you want to stretch as a group AFTER the race).

A Santa started off the race with a ho, ho, ho (I’m really not kidding). It was a themed race, so people were in all sorts of odd getups. There were a few people dressed as Christmas presents. Lots of folks in odd hats (including what I believe may have been a Rastafarian Santa hat). Some were dressed up in Nutcracker-type tutus.

But they were all losers because there could only be one winner: the dude dressed as cousin Eddie from Christmas Vacation.

Dude had the robe, the hate, the can, and the cigar. That’s commitment.

Once the race got going, it was sort of the same old same old, and sort of not.

It was typical from the standpoint of I jogged as much as I could but interspersed with walking (and the accompanying yo-yoing with other people).

It was not typical from one particular standpoint I hated: we looped.

Screen Shot 2015-12-12 at 9.23.30 PM

I hate loops. I wasn’t told about the loop (or I wasn’t paying attention when they did).

See, what happens is I make this loop not knowing I’m making the loop twice (hence I hate loops, not loop). All of a sudden, I’m seeing a very familiar route, and there are no markers talking about running the stupid thing twice. It’s possible the volunteers were saying what was going on. I was listening to music and my Zombies, Run! app, so I can’t verify this.

All I know is I’m taking the loop again with slight variations. Where we randomly ran an arc through some grass, we didn’t this time (hiding behind the 1KM in the pic is that arc). And then as I closed the loop again, we took a left instead of going straight.

Now keep in mind, I didn’t know what was happening the first time. The second time, I’m thinking we may have missed a turn.

And then I noticed some things.

The sign that had the random arc was gone the second go round. Then at closing the loop, there were signs marking laps (including one that mentioned a lap 3 that we didn’t take).

If you’re keeping score at home, this is what we call poor planning. They were making and moving signs in the middle of the race. Had there been a really fast runner, he would have messed up their whole system.

What made this loop nonsense worse is that I get a decent headache in the middle of the run. Getting a headache and doing a second loop (that you weren’t entirely sure was supposed to happen at the time) made for an angry Runner 5.  I still don’t know what triggered it. I can’t remember getting a headache during a run (but I have gotten them later in the day on a regular basis). My initial thought was that it was a lack of caffeine. I’ve been backing off of sodas, so I’ve been playing the caffeine game as my only source was disappearing. It may have also been dehydration though. As I was running, I was already planning on taking an ibuprofen and drinking a Coke. And then I finished and the headache went away before I could really treat it with anything other than a Powerade and a banana. One the way to hotel, I got gas and a Coke, so I treated the headache lots of ways except the ibuprofen.

As for the path itself, it was a Jekyll and Hyde situation. Part of the race was on a paved path. A+. Can’t ask for better than that. Part of it was just through random parts of grass that weren’t clearly marked and had minimum signage. C-. And part of it was an actual trail (I think) that was covered in leaves, which were covering some gnarly roots. C.

The really fun part about the roots and leaves was that the roots had actually been sprayed so they could be seen more easily (a similar tactic was used in the gnarly May race). But here’s the kicker. You couldn’t see the roots at all, with or without the paint, on much of the run because of the leaves. The leaves were supper dense and actually constituted a hazard in an early downhill portion.

I will say this for the second loop: It wasn’t as bad as the first in terms of finding footing. You learn to watch the people in front of you and just take their path if it worked out. You also knew where the major tricks were, so you could take what you did before or take an alternate if the first didn’t work. The second loop was also better because of the foot traffic. By then, a huge chunk of people would have already gone through twice, so the leaves were getting trampled and kicked out of the way.

I finished, and I was exhausted. Some lady basically came running out to me with a Powerade, which was pretty cool. Usually they’re pretty passive, but she was on her game.

As I said earlier, I didn’t stick around for awards. I headed on back to the hotel to get showered and changed so I could hit the road.

But not before I got all artsy for a pic:

I was Runner 5 today, so today’s actually the first race where I listened to my Zombies, Run! app. It wasn’t much different than a typical race except the music was my usually run music, whereas my race music is usually something I don’t listen to as often to keep me mentally engaged during the race.

And that’s a wrap on the Super Awesome Year of the 5K.

View this post on Instagram

And now it's official #5k #raceshirt

A post shared by Quisto Settle (@applications_of_randomness) on

It was 37.2 miles of slow running and walking, but it was 37.2 miles, plus however many more I ran to prep for the races. I think the main thing is that I was paying more attention to my body than I was the year before. I didn’t lose weight, I didn’t get a six pack (though I drank a few), and I didn’t become some health nut, but I’m paying attention.

It wasn’t an ideal year by any means, but I still accomplished something. And if nothing else, it’s inspired me to keep setting goals (and I have an abundance of superhero workout shirts if I’m ever in a pinch).

Next year, I’m really going to torture myself, but it won’t be with running. I’ll be setting monthly sets of daily goals, none of which will involve running goals. I’d still like to take a shot at a 10K, and I have one 5K already on the books (and another one or two I’d like to run), but we’re going to shift direction. I’ll keep the blog going as I track the Super Awesome Year of the Quisto, but we’re going to take a bigger picture view of health and well-being. There weren’t be any race shirts, but there will be plenty of my trademark snark.




My Torrid Affair with Data

I love data.

There. I said it.

It’s taken me years to acknowledge this relationship. And it’s a difficult relationship. There are those out there who don’t approve of a relationship with data. They say people and data shouldn’t mix. They say you should run by feel. Eat ’til you’re full. Judge your shape by the fit of your clothes.

But that’s just not good enough for me.

I want data. Pure unadulterated data. I want to see those data points. I want to see those means in their uncovered glory. I want to see those graphs lying there in front of me.

I need data because without data I have a habit of failing.

Let’s look at the most sadistic thing I do first. I weigh myself daily. At the end of the day.

I once told someone I weighed myself every day and they kind of flinched. Then I said I did it at the end of the day, and they thought I sprouted a second head. The reason I do it is the same reason other people won’t. It’s punishment if you have a bad day.

Every single day, that scale is weighting (get it?) for me. I can’t go off the rails with my food because I know I can ingest a lot of food, enough that it will make a measurable difference. Just today I ate a pizza for lunch. Not pizza. A pizza. As in a pizza that should serve multiple people. I didn’t need that, but I did it anyway.

I also know when I don’t log daily, my weight can creep up on my without me realizing it. I gained 15 pounds in 6 weeks once without even realizing it. I had stopped weighing myself. To go back to the feeling thing, I felt the same, but I clearly wasn’t. I didn’t put on 15 pounds of muscle in six weeks.

And on the plus side, I lose weight better that way. I was able to drop 15 pounds over the span of about 2-3 months in part because I was meticulously weighing myself.

That gets us to the second thing I do. I count calories. Usually.

Unfortunately, this is the easiest to slack off on because it takes the most work (though it’s probably the most beneficial). I use MyFitnessPal to track my meals when I’m behaving.

It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty good. I can save meals. I can search restaurant items. And it factors in activity level, which is linked to my Fitbit.

What’s great is that it tracks nutrients. It’s a lot harder to ignore sodium when you more than double your daily allotment. It’s also great about letting me know I don’t get as much fiber as I think I do.

Again, it’s not perfect. It’s prone to user error. This is where I do a second sadistic thing. I overestimate the calories I eat when I’m not sure. I always figured it was better to be wrong and have a happy surprise in weight loss than to be wrong and have the opposite. It’s not fun, but it works. When I actually log meals.

That’s the other big issue. I’m a slacker. I haven’t logged a meal in weeks. Partly it’s because I’ve been cooking new things. This is going to sound stupid, but sometimes I’m too tired from cooking to log meals. I just want to eat my food and be done with it.

I can’t go without the tracker, though. The problem is I don’t know what I’m eating. I can’t go by feel. I shoot for about 2,000 calories a day. When I think I’m eating carefully, I naturally hit about 2,500. When I’m eating to satiation, I clear 3,000, easily. I ate 2,500 calories in one sitting without even realizing it (and I know I’ve eaten more before in a single meal). I like to eat crappy food, so if I don’t track, I think I’m splurging a little and I end up eating more food in a sitting than most people on the planet get in a day.

And the third thing I do is track my exercise and activity.

I do this a couple of different ways. First and foremost is the Fitbit (a.k.a., the slacker tracker). This has been a fantastic device when I haven’t been breaking them (and I’m learning other people don’t have the issues I have with breaking them, so there’s that).

The steps are the main concern. They’re a great overall indicator. It’s hard to pretend you were active when you only hit 5,000 steps.

The one I wasn’t expecting to have a big effect was the sleep tracker, but that might be the one that’s had the biggest impact. I could guess at my steps in a day, but I was never tracking sleep. Big mistake. When I’m dragging, I can usually see it on the sleep tracker. Tracking my sleep has been great for ensuring I stay a functioning human being.

And it integrates with MyFitnessPal. It’s not a perfect system. But it’s an indicator. I care less about the exact numbers than just having a gauge to see if I’ve been moving around much.

The other aspect of activity tracking is tracking my workouts. Once I started using MyFitnessPal, I was able to take guesses, so it was alright. Throwing the Fitbit in allowed me to see specific steps and flights of stairs (though it severely underestimates distance). But it was a consistent means of measuring.

But now I can actually track my runs through Zombies, Run! The GPS on that allows me to see my runs, including pace and elevation. I don’t integrate this information into MyFitnessPal, but it lets me see my runs over a long period of time. And it also shows that my mileage took a severe dip once I switched away from the 5K training app. Turns out I was better off with the small version of the app than the full version (or I just need to extend the time I’m out and about).

And I say all of this to say another thing: I need the data because I use the data. I don’t just collect data and do nothing with it.

I see what I’m eating and what’s eating up calories, so I make a tweak. I see that I’m sleeping 7 hours when I think I’m sleeping 8, so I adjust my bedtime. I see that my 5K times aren’t getting better (and are possibly getting worse), so I have the opportunity to extend my workouts based on long-term trends.

This is what data can do for you. You don’t have to be afraid to measure. You don’t have to get fanatical. You don’t have to measure every single time (and honestly, sometimes it’s nice to take a run unplugged). But you have to measure consistently. There are going to be fluctuations, and if you only measure sporadically, the fluctuations can make things look a lot better or worse than they really are.

I weigh myself every day because I’ve seen 5-pound swings between days. If I only weighed myself once a week, I could ruin my week (or get an invalid boost) based off of a rogue day. That same day when I’m weighing daily is an outlier, and I know it, but I also can see why it was an outlier. I can identify what I did or didn’t do and make corrections.

So don’t be afraid of data. You don’t have to obsess over it or write it love letters, but you also don’t have to give it the cold shoulder. You can experiment with data; it’s not just college students who do that.