Martini Fridays: The Agony + The Ingenuity


Week two is upon Adrienne Martini, as she trains for the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon using the Train Like a Mother: Finish It plan. So are wicked cold winter temperatures, as many of you well know. 

Let’s go from worst to best, shall we?

In all sincerity, I was really, really looking forward to Saturday’s seven-miler. I had a bunch of my favorite podcasts stored up and two hours cleared, which meant that I could foam roll afterwards and take a leisurely shower. The forecast was calling for upper teens and clear skies. Not ideal, but one takes what one can get in January.

My plan was to run up to the local high school, around the track for 6ish miles, then home, which would add up to a little over 7 miles. Ah, plans.

Running up to the high school was cold but manageable. Most folks shoveled their sidewalks so the footing was fine. No one, however, had shoveled the track.

I have zero idea why it didn’t dawn on me that there would be actual snow on an outdoor surface in January, especially since it hasn’t been above freezing here in weeks. Because I hate diverging from any plan, I decided to run around the track anyway. How deep could it be?

There it is. Ow.
There it is. Ow.

The short answer is “just above my ankle.” I made three laps before decided that a) my feet were freezing and b) this was stupid. I didn’t give up, though, and decided to just run around the high school itself. The sidewalks had been shoveled and there was zero traffic.

All went went, well, not well—but OK—until I tried to change podcasts. My iPod, which has a cracked screen courtesy one of my children, must have had sweat or a snowflake fall into one of its many cracks, where it promptly froze when I pulled it out of my pocket.

So. Fine. I can adapt. Everyone talks about the zen of naked runs, I thought. Let’s give this a whirl.

I made it one more lap around the high school before the antsies set in.

And, then, the snow squalls started.

I was three and a half miles in at that point and made the executive decision to bail on laps. A change of scenery would be just what I needed to push through the second half of the run. I sucked down an almost frozen Salted Caramel Gu and picked up my favorite three mile loop, which I documented last week.

At 4.5 miles, in the middle of the 300-foot climb, I had my dark midmorning of the soul. Icy snowflakes pelted me in the face. I was running in a thin, slippery film of slush on the side of the road. I had just been passed by three young college-age women runners who looked fresh as spring daisies. And there was so. much. more up before the blessed down.

Plus, I needed to pee but it was too blessed cold to even think about exposing any more of my flesh to the wind.

I wish I could give you some kind of mantra that got me through. I got nothing.

What I did, really, is not stop. I moved my left foot, then my right foot. Lather, rinse, repeat.

So joyous the run is over and the face is back, it's time for a duckface.
So joyous the run is over and the face is back, it's time for a duckface.

After several years, I got over the hill and down the other side. The remaining miles didn’t exactly fly by but moved quickly enough. I reached the block my house is on and dreamed of hot chocolate. That’s just as good as chocolate milk, right? I looked at Herr Garmin: 6.5 miles.

Reader, I’ll admit that I said some words that would make Martin Scorsese blush. Then I ran around my block a few times, because 6.5 is not the same as 7, and, dang it, the plan said 7.

I still got my foam roll and leisurely shower, even though the run took a good 15 minutes longer than planned. So I’m going to chalk it up as a win.

Yep, a definite W.
Yep, a definite W.

Also in the win column is a solution I finally came up with for indoor track runs.

I’ve tried nearly everything to keep track of laps inside because Herr Garmin can’t get a signal through the cinder block walls. After a few apps (awkward), coupled with moving my water bottle from window to window (complicated), and/or transferring buttons from pocket to pocket (cumbersome), I finally remembered that I have hands.

After the first lap, I touch my right thumb to my right pointer finger and leave it there (loosely) for the rest of the lap. Next lap is thumb to middle finger. Next lap is ring, then pinky. After that lap, I do the same on the left. Each hand is half a mile.

The trick, of course, is to not move your fingers around. Fiddling with music or your phone is tricky. Waving at people you know is a lot like throwing gang signs. Still, it seems to be working.

Anyone else have problems keeping track of laps? Any work arounds you’ve come up with?

49 responses to “Martini Fridays: The Agony + The Ingenuity

  1. Living in Salt Lake City, I often run on the Olympic Oval (speedskating) and its 442 meter track. What works best for those I know who run there is to use the lap button on the Garmin. So you are a. getting splits for each lap and b. counting laps by default. Of course, that requires remembering to PRESS the lap button each time you cross the pretermined line/spot… (yeah, there is usually at least one occurrence of “operator error” per 5 miles)

    I was in PGH on business last August; got to run once. The sea level advantage could not overcome the staggering amount of HILLS, so I salute you and your training with all that crazy up and down!

  2. I just figure out how long it should take me to run and then run that many minutes. Maybe not exact but I’ve never had to do more than 3-4 miles on a track so it has been fine.

  3. I have Garmin, too. Had it for about 4 years. I also run on an indoor track when necessary: 11 laps to a mile. this year, I ordered a foot pod from Garmin (roughly $60), and it pairs with the Garmin I already own. It’s awesome! No more counting laps! My Garmin works just like it would outdoors! Kudos to you for making it through that 7 miler!

  4. I use the stopwatch on my iPhone, it has a few pluses in that it has a lap button, and I can clearly see when I’ve gotten distracted a forget to press the lap button as the time is doubled, so easy.

  5. This was a great post! Thanks for writing it! I like when runners don’t take themselves too seriously (I tend to fall into this category)(and I do mean “fall”).

    Here’s to hoping you figure out how to make Herr Garmin work for you! It should be able to count laps (I just got one for Christmas and since I don’t have a foot pod and the weather has been, well, typical for January, I’ve only used it once. Let us know how to do it!).

  6. Nice work. I was stuck in a white out last week too, but not for nearly as long as I was only doing 3.5 miles. My friends count on the track with a hair tie–or rubber band. Start on pinky on the left hand and move over each lap, switch hands at 5.

  7. I bought one of those clicker counters at Office Max, the kind that they use to count people at events. The only free indoor track near me is 14 laps to the mile so I was running out of fingers when I used your method! Now I use the Nike+ with the shoe sensor.

  8. I have a lap/split button on my garmin thay I can hit every lap. You always know if you miss one because your time is about doubled. I recently got a garmin foot pod and love it, no more counting!

  9. I have an ironman watch (from target – reasonably priced) and I put it in ‘chrono’ mode, which is like a stopwatch. It keeps time and you can hit ‘split’ every time you want to count a lap, or mile, or whatever, and the number of laps or splits is on the watch.

  10. First, Congratulations on your attitude and tenacity! I would have surely given up. But now you’ve inspired me. I am going out this weekend, NO MATTER WHAT! Even if it’s during Super Bowl kick off (I live in NJ!)

    On the lap issue, take some pennies. Not a lot since you don’t want too much jingling around and toss them on the ground every time you finish a lap. No one would be interested in picking up pennies, especially if anyone sees what you are doing. This way you can keep track of how many laps. Save your pennies in a jar and the reward yourself with a nice Latte! :o)

    All the Best!

  11. You guys are great. Thanks for all of the kudos.

    On the lap thing – it dawned on me the day after I wrote this that there has to be a way to track laps on Herr Garmin without using the GPS. I’m going to sit down with YouTube and my watch and figure this out. It’s going to have to be later, though. I forgot to plug it in after Sunday’s run. Oooops.

  12. Congrats on braving the weather and making it through all 7 miles! I keep track of laps by changing lanes on the track. Starting in lane 1, each lap I’ll move over to the next lane. Then if I still have more to run, I’ll work my way back over to lane 1. If 4 laps = 1 mile, you could just use lanes 1-4 for each mile. Good luck w/your training, the Pgh half is really fun!

  13. Loving Martini Fridays! Thanks for the laughs and congrats on the win! I forget just how easy we have it here in Portland. Phew.

  14. I have had my share of runs where, when nothing is going right, at the end about all I can say is, “well, I didn’t stop.”

    Congrats on finishing! And thanks for the inspiration. 🙂

  15. Love your writing! I use my fingers to count laps @ the track too, then check mileage on my fitbit. I am 53 yrs old, slow & steady & often passed by “youngsters”, so your story made me smile. I tried running w/out tunes & every mile seemed like 2. I admire people who can do that! Training for my 3rd half marathon, but I run in snow free CA….you deserve double kudos for your winter training! Keep on writing, love it!

  16. Our indoor track has a railing with shower curtain rings on it. I slide a ring for each lap (14 laps to a mile). You just hope a little kids doesn’t with a parent and play with them. My nike app also counts the laps for me. You could also just run for time

  17. I have always wondered how to keep track of laps indoors as my mind tends to wander to different things and then I totally forget what lap I was on – even if trying to count with some finger method! I was wondering if the simple clicker that baseball umps use to keep track of runs, balls, strikes, outs would work? Just carry that little clicker and click away! It works in my mind anyway.

  18. I use my daughters ponytail holder (a small one) and roll it from finger to finger. Then I can make adjustments to my music, wave, blow my nose without losing count of where I am. Good luck!

  19. I use my rings to count laps on my fingers! One to count tens and the other for ones. If it’s below zero out and I feel like I’ll poke my eye out if I have to run on the treadmill, my local YMCA has an indoor track which is 17.5 laps per mile… Not pretty but sometimes worth it.

  20. I loved this update, and you totally rock. My winter running has NOT been going well so your update really inspired me. As for laps, doesn’t anyone use the lap counter on their sports watches? I do for swimming. I like Liz’s (above) rock throwing technique… what about moving small items from one hand to the other and then back? Warm thoughts to all. 🙂

  21. You can use your Garmin indoors to count laps – turn off the GPS signal so it doesn’t get all whacky – and then make sure that your autolap feature is off and simply hit the lap button after each spin around the track 🙂 You can also pair up with a foot pod and then you don’t necessarily have to do the laps, but I think they are around $40 and since you have a track and the distance is known, I would simply do the lap feature and then you have the timing as well if you track that in your log at all. Either way,I’ve found that once I adapted to the indoor workout, I never run without my Garmin – it keeps life super easy as long as I remember to charge it 🙂

  22. I do the same for counting laps..using my fingers. Kudos for the outdoor run, I can’t believe you did that. I would like to say I would never do the same, but if I was training I know I would have been just like you…keep going til you hit the magic number! Brr!

  23. OK this weekend was not for the faint of heart if you were running outside. After conquering the snow, ice and below 0 windchill on the weekend, I took to the indoors. I ran around a quansat hut at a school. 14 times around, a mile. I had to use my fingers to count because I was into my AMR podcast. So happy I opted to take it inside but running corners during speedwork was not the brightest move. But it’s a W. in my book.

  24. I love this post!! I have no suggestions on counting indoor laps. I used to count outdoor laps by gathering small rocks in my hand and then trying to hit a sign with one each time I passed it. Rocks gone = run finished. I realize that this would probably be frowned upon indoors. 😉

  25. Love your writing and humor! I look forward to hearing more next week…it’s like a good book- what’s going to happen next?!? Hopefully not gang violence at the indoor track. Keep up the good work!

  26. I loved this post! LOL! Love your sense of humor and tenacity. No, 6.5 is not 7, but you got your 7. You go girl! Cheeers from Illinois 🙂

  27. I’m loving Martini Fridays, stomping through snow on the way to work this morning the thought of today’s post put me in a better mood. Sorry no suggestions, only memories of days gone by running at the local outdoor track with my Walkman and cassettes in one hand and trying to keep up lap numbers with my fingers. Love the wave/gang sign reference 🙂

  28. Adrienne, you are a knitter, right? My favorite pair of running shorts has a pocket, so I use one of my row counters and just click it after each lap.

  29. Definitely recommend using the lap feature on your watch. Normally Garmin posts lots of you tube videos as tutorials for each model. I learned A LOT more about using my watch from you tube, than from the instruction manual.
    An added bonus: you could set up a workout in Garmin Connect, and when you’ve finished your total number of laps, your watch (is it a 405? Looks like it may be) plays a little song… Not ashamed to admit that I love that.

  30. I seldom run laps so not sure but I do lose count frequently in the pool. If it didn’t mean stopping to flip a number, I would ask the pool manager for those boards they use to count the 500 in high school swim meets.

  31. You should be able to turn off the GPS function of Herr Garmin and hit the lap button. At least that works for my very old 205. Yes, it is as big as a house on my slender wrist but I really think it just adds to my self sweaty runner look.

  32. That sounds like a hell of a run. Congrats for the W!! I couldn’t do the finger counting. No way would I remember to hold my fingers in the same position for a lap.

  33. I’m loving Martini Fridays! I loved her book, Sweater Quest and her dry sense of humor. Can we keep Adrienne, can we , can we?

  34. You can buy a counter at a place like Office Depot and just count the laps with it or if you have a simple Timex watch it will record 50 or 100 laps depending on the model as long as you hit the button. I actually have a foot pod that mounts on my shoe that is read by Herr Garmin so I’m all set. I’ve had it since I had a 305 a few yrs back and it still works with my new model, so it was well worth the investment.

  35. Keeping it real. Keeping it funny. I love this weekly column! Great job on persevering and getting the long run
    D-O-N-E! I would have bailed at frozen feet from ankle deep snow!

  36. A 3 inch gel pen/ marker and my skin are what I’ve started using to mark off laps and intervals on a track or treadmill. Intervals are hard enough without worrying about what set I am on. Seeing my accomplishment on “paper” afterwards is a bonus.

  37. I had the same problem and I found out that my Garmin actually has a timer mode (Start Run -> “Next” button -> Use GPS? No.) So now I just start new lap every… well, lap : ) Also it tracks my lap time, so I can see if I skipped a lap or something.

    (Sorry my English is not that good :P).

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