Here Comes the Airplane Mode!


To bring or not to bring the phone on your run? One day, I wound up putting it on airplane mode a mile in because the damn thing would not stop buzzing. Texts & app notifications were zooming in one after the other, and after the 5th notification I started getting irritated, so I cut the line. Since that day, I have been putting it on airplane mode before I even start my run, or leaving it home completely when I’m just in my neighborhood.

My current goal is a sub 22 5k, and I’ve structured my fitness training to a few runs a week, so I need to focus on what I’m doing in them. On my current runs, I don’t want my attention to wander too far from my feet. I was recently videotaped running, and my form needs work. That requires concentration. I have a habit of letting my mind wander when workouts get tough, and as a side effect, I slow down. Again, my full attention is needed for the task at hand, which is bringing myself to the pace and form that I want to eventually stick. That’s what training is- it’s practicing until you don’t have to practice anymore. When you get to your goal, you can relax or set a new one. That being said, sometimes I’ll allow, maybe even encourage, my mind to wander while I run, to take a detour wherever it wants. This is usually a part of my trail runs, and honestly not a big part, because when I don’t pay attention, I fall. It happened just today, and I’ll write about it in another piece about my run in Huntsville State Park, TX.

Leaving my phone off or at home allows me the space to meditate, without distractions taking me places I don’t really need to go at the moment. I found I like leaving my phone off so much on my runs, that I’ve started deliberately turning it to airplane mode at home as well. So far there have been no emergencies that called for me to save the day, and I haven’t missed any opportunities from diverting digital signals away from me. I hit the plane, and think, “I’m good, you guys can go on without me, and I’ll catch up to you later”.

Wouldn’t you want to give this your full attention, too?


Of course, I like to have my phone with me to take pictures for this blog and my Instagram account, but it has become a level of obnoxious to bring with me. I have tried various methods:

  • Belkin arm-band (from Target)
    • Pro: it’s a well-made brand that I’ve never had to replace for wear and tear, only phone models, for years
    • Con: the size of my iPhone 7 against the relative thinness of the arm band feels uncomfortable- think “floppy”
  • Nathan water bottle (REI)
    • Pro: I love this product as a water vestibule, but…
    • Con: the phone barely fits, really have to wrestle it in.
  • expandable-mesh waist pouches
    • Con: they don’t rank high for comfort for me, and they can move around a lot.


So my question for anyone reading this is- Being that I still like to have my phone on me for emergencies, does anyone know of arm-band that fits iPhone 7 and sits securely on runs? Or is there some other type of phone carrying device I haven’t thought of or mentioned above? Thanks and

Trail Runs in Houston, TX: Cullinan Park and Brazos Bend State Park

This past week I explored two new places to trail run in the Houston area. The first, Cullinan Park in Sugarland, was recommended to me by a friend, which is great because I was unaware the park existed, and the second, Brazos Bend State Park is very well known, at least in the area.



My sister and I headed out to Cullinan on Sunday. I had looked at park online and from my friend’s report gathered I would probably be running around 3 miles. Arriving there, I realized there was a main trail consisting of a 1.5 mile loop, but there were off-shoot trails and connectors, so the total amount of mileage was a little over 3 miles. One of the trails, the red trail, appears to end on the map, but it actually continues through the woods and around the lake, and I recommend going the whole way, which will bring your right around to the parking lot.


This is a great park for people looking to get some easy, fun, trail running in. It’s in Houston, so its flat. But it offers a variety of scenery; especially considering the small area the park takes up. It’s not far out of the way of anything, being just a few miles from I-69, and parking was free. The only bathroom available was a porto-potty, so if that turns you off, just go before you arrive and you should be fine for such a short run. We went on a Sunday with pretty pleasant weather, and the park was not crowded. Most of the visitors stayed near the parking lot, as there are viewing decks to see wildlife- we saw baby alligators!


As you can see from the map below, these trails have names, but I appreciate the simplicity of their color-coding on the map and will use that for reference. When you get out there, you will find colored bands on trees for the individual trailheads.



From the parking lot, we went to the main trailhead, and took the green route to the first off-shoot of the blue route, and from there took the red route. On the red route we came across a pretty interesting scene, but I wont give away what that was here! As I said, the map shows the red route ending, but we were able to make it around the lake and back to the parking lot, still on trail, where we started at the main (green) trailhead again, this time taking an immediate left to go in the other direction on the green trail. We followed that around to the lavender trail. This was the least interesting trail in the park, to me. If you want to get the mileage, great, but if you’re looking to cut something, it’s just wide and flat, and dead-ends at a canal with a view of the road. We went back towards the green trail on the lavender trail, I took a little side jaunt to check out the turquoise trail, which had a pretty enchanting vibe, before we headed back to the parking lot on the green trail.


It was a fun run. Aside from the lavender trail, you’re looking at mostly single track or close to it. There’s plenty of shade, and for its size and location, I didn’t feel like I was running anywhere near a city (save a few glimpses of neighborhoods on the red route). There were some tricky areas to navigate, If you want to get to the other side of the green trail from the trailhead, take the second or third crossover, the first took us off the path as we had to navigate around some muck and water, but you’ll see that from the main path. The only path we didn’t take was the yellow, and as I ran ahead and doubled back to join up with my sister a few times, I was able to turn 3.3 miles of trail into 4 easily, and it’s worth repeating that the scenery changes often, and it’s all very pretty.



The second trail run of the week took me out to Brazos Bend State Park, southwest of Houston. It’s a very well-known park in the area, the upkeep and amenities are fantastic, and the staff is friendly and helpful. When I arrived, I purchased an annual Texas State Parks pass ($70), and the ranger assisting me was able to recommend trails to run on, as well as which ones to avoid because they were still recovering from heavy rain.

The website claims 37 miles of hiking trails in the park, which I believe includes the paved areas as well, and I covered around 6 or so. I’ll share what I did that day and update the blog once I explore and find out more. I’m including an image of the map the ranger gave me, with his recommendations highlighted in yellow, and what I actually ran in blue marker. (I ran out a bit on some other trails to get a look around, which is how I covered 6 miles). The black “X” marks trails I was to avoid.



I parked behind Elm Lake, right at the turn-around, and took the Elm Lake Loop Trail to the Spillway Trail. If you didn’t know, Brazos Bend is known for its wild alligator population, and I was not disappointed. Not one mile into my run, I saw two from a bridge on the Spillway Trail, then came across one right on the path. I wasn’t sure what to do, as cautionary signage insisted on giving the animals a birth of 30 feet, which was impossible with water on both sides of the trail. I don’t know how fast alligators are, but I remembered a friend saying he just ran by them in the park all the time. I started to approach, and at that moment the formerly still reptile started moving its legs and opening its mouth at me, and I was done. I had planned to take the Spillway Trail around 40 Acre Lake, but I turned back and made my way back to the Elm Lake Trail.


When I came to the Pliant Slough trail, I took that. The ranger hadn’t mentioned it as good or something to avoid, and I’m glad I ran it. The ground was super springy, and I was reminded how much better it feels to be off of concrete. The trail was only a mile long, and I was loving the stretch so much that I was tempted to run it twice, but instead took the trail back around to the observatory, where I made my way back around Elm Lake once again. When I got near my car, I ran past to the Horseshoe Lake Loop, trying to get to at least 6 miles.


I didn’t even cover a third of the mileage in the park, but of what I did see, none of it was single track, and it was all very flat. Still, it’s a great place to get in long runs off of the concrete, if the pretty scenery doesn’t interest you, watching for alligators will keep you from getting bored!

On Training, Off Track

For a few months, I’ve been mostly flying by the seat of my pants when scheduling a running workout, deciding at most two days out what I was going to do and where I was going to do it. Even though I knew I wanted to institute a consistent training schedule, I found I was missing good opportunities to do certain kinds of workouts, or I’d do something else entirely (read: nothing) when I had sorta-kinda considered getting in a quality run that day. Now I find myself eager for varied workouts that address specific aspects of running hard and fast. I know I need to be keeping track of what my workout paces are , because I have only a vague idea of where my pace should be for a 5k, which is the distance I’m focusing on right now. The one 5k I competed in recently gave no indication of how fast I can run, as it was on trail and had ridiculous conditions (see previous post).

So, last week I sat down and created a training schedule. I plugged in my races on a year-at-a-glance calendar, and then took a monthly format and put my one race so far for February in- a 5k this weekend. Then I took a look at weekly obligations, and decided my best bet for speed work would be Tuesdays and Thursdays. Going further, I looked at what I wanted to focus on each training day, and even if I didn’t have a specific workout in mind yet, I at least typed in what kind of workout I would be doing, such as tempo, repeats or sprint intervals. One of the limiting factors for my workouts is that there is a dearth of 400 meter tracks in my vicinity that are decent and open to the public. There are tracks open outside of school hours that I could drive to, but the times I could access them- in the morning and evening, happens to coincide with the always spectacular Houston traffic.

I’ve been going to Memorial Park, a just-shy-of-three mile dirt loop, to do my interval workouts, even the sprints. I set my Garmin 620 to tick off distances and times for running and recovery bouts. It’s working well so far, and I’m not wasting time while I search for other options. Plus, I figure I’m not running any races this year around a track anyways, and being able to judge my pace without the markers isn’t going to hurt. The first two workouts I did this month, one of 400 meter repeats then another of 200 meter repeats, at least gave me an idea of what I should work on before I get better clued-in at my race this weekend. (Hint- its not speed I need).

For the 400 meter workout, I ran twelve repeats with 90 second recoveries. The recoveries felt a tad too long, but what I was really noticing was my complete inability to hold focus on what I was doing. Thirty seconds into the running interval, I would realize I was thinking about dinner, or some unfinished project, and glancing at my stopwatch I would realize I was completely off the mark- running too fast or too slow to hit the times I was aiming for. As a result, my times varied by about 15 seconds from fastest to slowest, which is pretty terrible when you are trying to hit the same mark every lap. A fifteen second spread isn’t even desirable for mile repeats. I need to work on holding my focus to my run.

The 200 meter repeat workout didn’t add much value to my training. I ran twenty of them a little faster than mile pace, and it was barely taxing even though I jogged the recovery bouts as well. After the eighth one I decided to use the running to focus on form, and, of course, focus on focusing. I love running fast, and I’ll probably throw in sprints every now and then just for fun, but really what I need to do are 500 meter and longer intervals.

Last year, I downloaded the Calm App, and the first set of meditations I did was on keeping focus. I’ve always gravitated towards multi-tasking, until I finally realized that trying to do even two things at once often leads to sub-par results for both tasks. I didn’t have running in mind when I decided my ability to focus could use a tune-up, I was actually aiming to be better at writing this blog and reading for longer intervals. I did pick up some good practices, though, I think I could use those same tactics to keep my mind on my running when I’m doing it. For example, I’ve worked on holding my attention to the same task without getting distracted by anything, for twenty five minutes at a time. As my fastest 5k is 22:56, theoretically I can keep my mind on my pace for the length of the race. Theoretically.

If anyone has any experience with keeping their mind from wandering, or useful mindfulness practices when it comes to running, I’d love to hear it!