The mistakes of a failed North Dallas run

Last Thursday evening’s 12-mile run turned into a 10.73-mile bonk-fest, with my husband picking me up early in the Chip’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers parking lot on Lovers. I partly blame the city of Dallas, but I mostly blame my own amateur-hour mistakes.

I’d love for you to learn from my lack of planning that led up to last week’s super-bad marathon training long run. But first I’m going to rag on North Dallas urban planning first.

Thanks a lot, nice Dallas neighborhood with no sidewalks

Devonshire neighborhood in Dallas

The neighborhood in question.

I previously wrote about how evening runners like myself run into darkness issues as summer gets closer to fall. That happened last Thursday. As I ran through the Devonshire neighborhood off Inwood, I marveled at the beautiful homes and the generally rich milieu. I hadn’t encountered that particular ‘hood before, and I loved it. There was something different about it. I checked my Redfin app to get a gauge on home prices in the area (breaking: they’re slightly out of my price range).

I was enjoying myself. As it grew dark, I was even charmed by how dark as ink everything got. These people don’t believe in street lights. Then, like black magic, sidewalks began to disappear. No light, no sidewalk. Sometimes when it gets dark, I’ll turn my iPhone’s flashlight on to light my way, but I was almost out of battery (I started out with 100%, so battery life is something I need to figure out for the rest of my training).

At least the street was in great condition: level and smooth as butter. I can do this OH MY GOSH WAS THAT A POTHOLE THAT ALMOST SWALLOWED MY ANKLE? 

I approached Northwest Highway and turned east. It was going to be my last stretch. Northwest Highway is a major thoroughfare; since when does Northwest Highway not have sidewalks? If I turned around, I’d have to repeat at least 2 miles, and I was seriously almost out of battery. I had already texted Brian to meet me at a certain spot.

Doctor Who stumbling while running

Me.

While in the dark, jiggity-jogging and high-stepping on the grass and along guardrails, trying not to turn a foot or tear an ACL, that was it: I rammed my foot on a jacked-up bit of concrete sticking out of the ground, and I almost lost my life to eastbound Northwest Highway traffic. I walked until I reached a residential street with a sidewalk, and carefully at that.

Why are there major areas of a large “world class” city that simply don’t accommodate pedestrians? In 2014?

I wasn’t going to make the original destination point at the time I told Brian to pick me up. With the last phone juice I had, I texted him to meet me at Chip’s in 15 minutes. Not only was I in the dark and trying to Lewis-and-Clark my way alongside nighttime traffic, I was seriously, seriously drained.

So besides parts of North Dallas just being a sucky place to run …

My mistakes

Lots:

  • I had spent the night with my parents a couple of days prior. When I get around family, no matter the occasion, I treat it like it’s the holidays and eat like crap. We’re talking Wingstop and ice cream. Bad stuff.
  • I had been good about hydration, which I would name as the No. 1 factor in increased energy for my runs during this bout of training. I have a water “routine” (blog post on that later) that I put on pause last week. I simply didn’t hydrate very well at all. Even though on the run-proper I chugged water, then orange juice, and even though I consumed an adequate amount of energy gel, I could still feel my body not having the deep-down reserve that it needed. Seriously, the closest to hydration I got last week was the water inside the milk inside the ice cream I ate.
  • My husband always reminds me that it’s getting darker sooner. I always say “I know.” But I still started a 12-mile run at 6 p.m., which, for my pace, just isn’t enough time to finish before I’m literally running in pitch.Running adventure
  • I love to run in unfamiliar territory. But that need for adventure during a run can lead to serious inconvenience and, when it’s dark, safety issues. I have to plan the location of my runs better, where I know there will be adequate sidewalks. Soon I’ll have to save the long runs for weekend days, anyway, so that will help.

Keeping yourself safe from both injury and night-cloaked crime is no joke when running the streets as summer gives way to shorter days. Take care out there, and plan well.

Dallas bodies have to re-learn how to run in the heat

Dallas temperature

Dallas’ temperature right now …

I’ve lived in Texas my whole life, except for a four-year span in the Philippines as a small child. So I haven’t run in many other places except Texas. When traveling, I do so much walking and hiking that I always feel fine taking a break from whatever running routine I’m on.

That means I really only know what it’s like to take a summer run while having to take purposeful precautions and dialing down performance expectations. That’s just the way it is here.

But Dallas isn’t hot year-round, so our bodies have to reacclimatize each summer. After so many years of having to do so, we Dallas runners know what we have to do, even if our bodies have forgotten and need time to catch up.

The accessories of a summer run

San Francisco temperature

… compared with San Fransisco’s temperature …

Unless you’re running where you know there will be water fountains and, if you’re lucky, water misters, you have to carry hydration. Maybe not for a run of, say, 2 miles or less. But even if you run in the early morning or late-at-night hours, and especially if you run in the middle of the day, you’re suicidal if you don’t haul water.

My current water bottle is the Nathan QuickDraw Plus Insulated hydrator. It keeps fluid colder longer, and it’s the best handheld I’ve ever had. The attached zippered pocket is roomy, too; enough room for a house key, credit card, energy gel and, if you don’t like carrying your phone, an iPhone (take off the bulky OtterBox, though). I fill up that bad boy with ice and water for sipping and — this is important — drizzling over my head and face along the way.

If I’m doing a longer run in the heat — for me, “longer” means anything over 5ish miles — my hydration plan needs either a Plan B or Part B, because I’m going to run out of water before the run is done.

New York City temperature

… compared with New York City’s …

Part B is:
• pausing my RunKeeper
• popping into a gas station
• filling up my handheld with ice at the fountain drink station
• stinking up the place as I wait in line to pay for a Gatorade G2, Vitaminwater Zero or a plain bottle of water
• standing outside next to the trashcan as I pour what will fit into my handheld and quickly drink the rest
• endure stares from gas-pumpers who apparently have never seen a sweaty runner at a gas station before
• restart my RunKeeper and start back out on my run.

It’s a huge break from running that my body isn’t supposed to get, but what do you do.

Plan B is to strap on my Camelbak instead of taking my handheld. It’s the same Camelbak I’ve had for years and works great. It holds lots and lots of fluid. But hauling that much weight is a commitment and a total bog-down. And if the run is going to be especially long and it’s going to be especially hot out, I’ll want the ability to drizzle water over my head. Can’t do that with the Camelback. So I end up taking the Camelbak and the handheld. Plan B is cumbersome, but it’s the best option if I think my route won’t produce a gas station at a point when I’d need it.

The “when” dilemma

Salt Lake City, Utah temperature

… compared with Salt Lake City’s …

Most Dallas runners I know do their summer runs (most of their runs, actually) in the early morning, before work and sometimes even before that mean ol’ sun comes up. So for perky, motivated types, “when” isn’t a dilemma.

I’m not one of those types, and from the number of runners I see out in the evenings, maybe plenty of other Dallasites aren’t, either. We would rather endure a day that’s been baking for six hours and catch the sun as it’s going down. But on long-run days that collide with busy work days, this can pose a problem.

I’ll tell myself, Hey Christy; you have an 8-miler this evening. Make sure you get off of work in time so you’re not running in the dark. But then my workday LOLs at me and I get off at 7, still need to drive back home to change, then try to outrun the sun.

If it’s on an evening when my husband is at work, I’ll run to his workplace (6.5 miles away, but I can stretch out the mileage by curving my route outward however far I need) and catch a ride back.

The other evening when I ran to Brian’s work, I was hit with all the factors of my typical summer-running “when” dilemma. I got such a late start on my 8-mile run, and I knew he got off work at 9:15 p.m. So not only was I trying not to run in sketchy areas at pitch-night, I was trying to make sure he didn’t have to wait on me in his workplace parking lot any later than he had to.

Birmingham, Alabama temperature

… compared with Birmingham, Alabama’s …

I was feeling guilty (even though my husband always really supportive), so I ran way faster than I normally would for that distance and it was hotter and more humid than a son of a gun and I was hyper-focusing on what streets I was turning on after the sun went down.

I committed the act of texting-while-running to let him know I’d be a bit late. I gunned it. Experience had taught me better than hauling rear in the heat, but I told myself that approaching darkness is always good on a run. Running faster is good, right? Plus, I had cut short other longish runs in the past few weeks because of one excuse or another, and I wasn’t going to do that this time.

I made it in decent time, Brian drove me home, I showered, and we cooked spelt spaghetti.

While we finished cooking, a wave of weakness and sickness struck me in the kitchen. I felt nauseated. A little confused.

Carson City, Nevada, temperature

… even compared with Carson City, Nevada’s. See? It’s hot here.

I shoved some spelt pretzels in my mouth (it was a spelt kind of night), thinking that my body just needed something now. It helped, but the weakness and wooziness didn’t subside for hours.

I knew I had done my day all wrong: a) long run b) on a hot night c) while trying to gun it faster than was smart d) after a day of not eating very smartly. For the rest of the evening I dealt with what I’m pretty sure was some sort of delayed onset heat exhaustion.

The morning hours are more forgiving. But I hate mornings. So I run in the hotter evenings. But that leaves me with smaller margins of error on safety and health.

These summer-in-Dallas curveballs are not a surprise every year. But Dallas is where I live, so I just try to catch those hot pitches the best I can.

Running fuel: Almond flour cacao-chip cookie recipe

Ingredients for almond flour cacao cookies

All the ingredients you’ll need.

Whole Pantry iPhone app

A glimpse of the Whole pantry app

I got on a healthy-eating kick for New Year’s. Many people do, but it was the first time for me. Two of the best things I discovered in the process were almond flour and coconut oil.

I download a few healthy-eating recipe apps (especially Whole Pantry) and conditioned my tastebuds to find unsugared foods (that are usually made with sugar) delicious. I’m not on that level of kick any more, but I did lose 8 pounds tracking my calories with MyFitnessPal and righted my consumption perspective by trying new, healthier cooking and baking methods.

My favorite recipe out of the experiment is a wonderfully natural cookie made from almond meal, coconut oil and cacao chips. Basically, a chocolate chip cookie for people who don’t want to die from Bad Eating.

I bake them, keep them in storage bowl on the counter, and eat as a night snack or on-the-go breakfast, or I take a couple to work for fuel before a run. They’re soft, delicious,  just a hint sweet and filled with satiating, healthy fat.

Unbaked almond flour cacao-chip cookies

Combine, roll, flatten, put on a baking pan.

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cup almond meal
  • 2-1/2 Tbsp. melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup cacao nibs (or flaxseed or crushed nuts)
  • 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • (Optional) 1 Tbsp. cacao powder (or cocoa)

Make them

  • Preheat oven to 340 degrees F., then combine all ingredients in a bowl.
  • Roll into balls and place evenly around a cookie sheet. Slightly flatten each ball with the palm of your hand.
  • Bake anywhere between 12 and 15 minutes, depending on how soft or crispy you like your cookies.
Almond flour cacao-chip cookies

I accidentally let this batch bake for a couple of minutes longer than I usually like. But know what? They STILL ended up delicious.

Details

  • Originally found on the Whole Pantry app (iPhone and iPad, $2.99)
  • Recipe calls for melted coconut oil. I made it this time with virgin coconut oil, but I recommend extra virgin, which has a more neutral taste.
  • Recipe calls for maple syrup; I use Log Cabin Lite.
  • Recipe calls for cacao nibs. I’ve incorporated that before; they’re healthy, nutty and taste like raw, dark chocolate. I left them out this time and used organic raw flaxseed, and I’ve also substituted pecan chips or crushed walnuts. All are yummy and nutritious. Note: I’ve tried regular chocolate chips, like Nestle. Regular chocolate chips, almond flour and coconut oil together as a cookie is so rich that it’s unpleasant.
  • Calls for (optional) cacao powder to make them extra cocoa-y, but I used good old-fashioned Hershey’s cocoa powder.
  • Gluten-free, egg-free, vegan, paleo.

Nutrition

I did the math myself, but warning: I’m a journalist. I think 1 cookie equals:

  • 80 calories
  • 7 grams fat
  • 1 gram fiber
  • 2 grams protein