Monday, December 31, 2007

Reflecting on 2007...and Goals for 2008

It's the final day of 2007, a year of great change and upheaval for me. One year ago I was at the the midway point of a great downward spiral which would end only when I had surgery in February. I had lost about 20 pounds on Weight Watchers and was managing to run (when I had the energy) maybe twice a week, one or two miles at a time. More than that and the fatigue brought on by persistent anemia would lash out and strike me down. Most of those final gruesome weeks leading up to surgery it was all I could do to make it through the day, lured by the promise of sweet, sweet rest when I got home. Afternoon naps were my lifeblood, considering that my actual blood was leaking out of me faster than it could be replenished.

That is all behind me now, a horrible phase which has thankfully been relegated to memory only. 2007 was the year I was REBORN!

I ran (as best as I can guesstimate, considering my stats are spread out over three different record-keeping places) about 460 miles since May.

I ran one one-mile, six 5Ks, one four-mile, one 5.25-mile and one 13.1 mile race.

My best mile time was 7:48.

My best 5K time was 25:01.

My best (unofficial) 10K time was 54:45.

My half marathon time was 2:07.

I killed off two pairs of running shoes and am now working on my third.

I acquired the greatest piece of electronic wizardry known to man, the Garmin Forerunner 305. They can have my Garmin when they pry it from my cold dead hands (I say the same thing about TiVo).

I lost a further 40 pounds (slight setback over the past week of holiday feasting but I'm back on track now)

I made some excellent new friends who also love to run.

I have annoyed family and friends with endless blather about running.

I learned to love the quiet predawn hours. I also (sort of) learned to love the biting cold.

I learned how to love life again.

For 2008 I want to:
  • Run my next half marathon in under 2 hours
  • Run a 7:00 mile
  • Run a sub-25:00 5K
  • Get a new 5K PR (will have to be less than 23:21)
  • Run a 10K race
  • Run the Detroit Marathon!
  • Reach my Weight Watchers goal weight
  • Run as much as humanly possible without injury
As for this New Year's Eve, there's a 5K race in downtown Jackson that starts at midnight...

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Holiday Wrap-Up

Apparently this year I was "easy" in the gift department. I got a new iPod Nano and headphones (for running). I got a Velcro wristband for my Garmin (for running). I got a totally rocking three-piece Pearl Izumi outfit (for running). I was very happy.

I went for a couple of long runs while I was in Ohio, an 8-miler and a 10K. The 8-miler was a nice easy lope (9:44/mile) to the dead end of my grandmother's street and back to my parents'. The 10K I did in 54:45 (8:48/mile) including the final mile which was almost all downhill (8:23/mile) and the 0.2 at the very end for which I basically ran as fast as I could just to see how it felt and I ended up running at a 7:14 pace. I was tired but not totally overwhelmed. Breathing fast but not out of control panting.

That 10K was one of my nicest runs ever right up until I turned onto Sherman Rd. from Caves for my final 0.8 mile and in the ditch on the south side of the road was a headless, half-skinned dead deer. It had probably been hit by a car and had probably been a buck with a big rack hence the chopped-off head. It was horrible and disgusting. It was decaying there in the ditch and because the ditch was full of water the stink and contamination were being carried downhill and I was running alongside the ditch with my nose full of dead animal stench. I went faster and faster, trying to outrun the smell. I had to go about 200 meters before I moved out of the stink zone. Part of the reason I ran so fast was because I was so disgusted by the sight of that dead deer and pissed off that someone would just lop off the head and leave the rest to rot. That was probably some perfectly nice venison.

I also installed SportTracks so now I can keep track of everything that ever happens on a run and see my running routes in full color. Thanks to Fritz for the suggestion.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Few, The Proud, The....Totally Nuts?

Anyone who lives in the Midwest or Northeast and has a window knows what the weather has been like for the past day. Why, here in southeast Michigan we got over a foot of snow from this, the Blizzard of December 2007, which is unusual for this area.

When I got up this morning and peeked out the window, I saw a landscape not conducive to anything but donning flannel and sitting on the couch all day preferably with an endless mug of hot Irish whiskey. (See picture at left. That's John trying to clear the driveway.)

Snort. Yeah, if you're TOTALLY WIMPY!

However, if you're TOTALLY HARDCORE, you look at the snowy world and think, "It's a GREAT day for running!" Undeterred from plans made earlier in the week, myself and Tina agreed to give it a go, each of us armed with many layers of clothing and a set of Yaktrax. Never mind that I almost didn't even make it out of Chelsea after getting nearly stuck in the snow at one of the intersections downtown. (Sometimes I miss my Jeep with its four-wheel drive. But then I think, "47 mpg" and all is well.)

We met at Hudson Mills Metropark in Dexter, a little more than a month ago the site of the Ann Arbor Turkey Trot. There were other people at the park, too, including one other runner, so we weren't as insane as I thought. Though, oddly enough, most of the other people I saw were on cross-country skis...hmmm...

We did two loops of the park path for a total of about 5.3 miles, which was probably enough given the conditions. Fortunately the path had been cleared recently so we weren't breaking a trail through over a foot of snow. The Yaktrax worked beautifully and I was warm and dry from head to toe though the occasional cold glob of snow blew into my ear. Sometimes the wind blew fiercely in our faces, other times it was at our backs. After our second circuit of the path we decided to stop because the path was becoming drifted over due to the incessant wind.

A few hours later, the snowstorm ended and this was the view from my front window:

Damn! If only we'd waited until the afternoon to go running! Now it's a beautiful day! Then again, there's something to be said for really braving the worst of the elements, for getting out there when normal people hide indoors, for being not normal enough to think that running during a blizzard is fun, and for finding someone to do it with.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Just One of Those Days

Nothing special...just a nice six-mile run after work yesterday. The weather was an absolute joy, unlike Tuesday. When I set out I didn't really have an idea of how far or where I would go. I headed west on Cavanaugh Lake Rd. to Conway Rd. and turned north. Conway was a bit of a struggle. I ran my first two miles at a steady 9:15 pace and then when I began mile 3 about 100 meters into Conway Rd. my pace dropped to almost 10:00. Conway was an icy, mess not conducive to going very fast. I minced along, dodging potholes and puddles, muddy ruts and icy patches. My sparkling white brand-new shoes managed to avoid becoming dirt-splattered, much to my surprise. Once I turned east on Bush Rd., which is paved, I was able to pick up my pace again. The sun was starting to get very low in the sky and I had to decide whether I wanted to stretch my run to six miles or do a little less. I chose to lengthen it because really, the weather was too good to pass up (for December in Michigan, anyway) and I was feeling perky. Ivey Rd., paved though it was, was an ice-covered nightmare and I went even slower on it than I did on unpaved Conway Rd. When I finally reached the relative ice-free comfort of Werkner Rd., the sun was setting and the western horizon was ablaze with orange. I felt fortunate to be outside, generating my own heat to keep warm, breath billowing in great clouds, churning along, happy and strong. (6 miles, 58 minutes, 9:40 pace.)

Monday, December 10, 2007

New Stuff!

Friday evening John and I went into Ann Arbor to the downtown Running Fit store. They were having a one-day sale, and since I had been unable to get to the big sale the previous weekend, I knew this was my chance to get the new pair of shoes I had been thinking about since before Thanksgiving. And, while I'm at it (and how could I say no to 20% off everything?) how about a new really-bad-weather jacket, a new really-bad-weather pair of pants, some new socks, and new running bras...

One hour and several hundred dollars later I walked out with a big bag full of my new goodies. The next morning I suited up in almost everything I had purchased (forgoing the pants because the weather wasn't bad) and hit the road for a lovely 6-mile run. No hurry, no pressure, just out and about on a crisp, clear Saturday morning.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Mackinac Bridge Run Lottery

Today I entered the lottery for the Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Run. I was able to do so because I participated in three Governor's Council on Physical Fitness-endorsed events this year. I really hope I get picked. I think being able to run the bridge would be a fantastic experience. Only 300 people get selected. I won't know if I won the lottery for another six months.

I also filled out the section on being a Fitness Ambassador and leaned heavily on my 60-pound weight loss as well as the "overcoming adversity" angle in regards to my illness and subsequent surgery. It doesn't improve my chances of being randomly selected in the lottery but if I am chosen maybe it will help me stand out from the crowd.

In other news, I was recently made aware that a new group run is starting up on Wednesday evenings at my favorite place (aside from my couch), the Running Fit store by Jackson Rd. Only 10 minutes from my house! I'm there! Unfortunately I found this out this morning and the first run was yesterday. Oh well, maybe next week.

Note: yes, I did say that my favorite place is my couch. Even though I work out a lot, I still make room for quality couch-sitting time every evening. I watch a lot of TV. A lot of TV. And there's no place better to do so than bundled up in warm clothes and blankets with quality cat, dog, and husbandly companionship. They don't all sit on me at once, though. My lap only has room for two cats at the same time. Or one if he spreads out a lot.

Running is important, but so is loafing around!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Why do I run? That is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune...wait, that's my high school A.P. English extra-credit assignment come back to haunt me (isn't it strange how something I memorized in 1991 can still be lurking in my mind but I can't even remember to bring in a check to pay my co-worker for the Weight Watchers cookbook she found for me at Sam's Club?).

No, the question is: why run when there are so many things that are so much easier to do?

Why do something that pushes my heart rate past 150 bpm when I can sit on the couch watching TV and expend no energy at all? Why be forced to don three or four layers of clothing, hat, and gloves, when I can be inside wearing jeans and a T-shirt? Why go outside on purpose in a frigid Michigan December when my house is warm and climate-controlled (though some might say that 63 degrees is a bit frosty...hey, natural gas is expensive and that's why God (or Malden Mills) invented synthetic fleece). Conversely, why go outside on purpose in a sweltering Michigan July when my house is cool and climate-controlled? Why sweat profusely when I hate being sweaty above all things and once again, sitting on the couch watching TV does not make me sweaty. Why pound away at my joints when I should be mindful of their aging status and how such pounding will affect me 20, 30 years in the future? Why spend oodles of money on attractive, tempting, soft, warm, fancy, 100% necessary-all-the-time running gear when my wallet can't handle the burden of an expensive passion?

Hold it right there, that's the key. Passion. This is my passion. At this point if I had to stop running it would be like asking me to stop breathing. It's that important, that vital. Running makes me feel alive. I can hear my heartbeats, feel cold air in my lungs, taste the sweat on my lips (damn, there's that sweat again...seriously, people, if you could have seen me after one of my summer runs you might have thought I had had a bucket of water dumped over my head). Oh, and then there's spitting, nose-blowing, phlegm-gargling, runner's trots, callouses, funky toenails, chafing, PVCs, tears pulled from my eyes by a biting headwind, chapped lips, side stitches, cold air-induced spastic coughing (does anyone else get that?), aches, pains, exhaustion. Yes, running certainly makes me feel alive!

But seriously.

I took the easy path through life for a long time. At the end of that road I weighed over 220 pounds and couldn't even go up the stairs in my house without getting winded. The couch was much more appealing than the outdoors. I considered the walk from my car to the front door of my workplace my daily exercise. I was alive, but I wasn't really living. I was just sort of...drifting along.

Running changed that. Running changed everything. Running has helped me shed almost 60 pounds of excess weight. Running has driven me to want to achieve things that were unthinkable a year ago, and, even better, actually do those things (half marathon, anyone? Sub-8:00 miles?). Running a half marathon successfully has made me want to do a full marathon. Running a sub-8:00 mile has made me want to run a sub-7:30 mile. Running has tempered my loathing of being outdoors in cold weather, unto itself a nearly unthinkable achievement. Running lets my mind wander freely onto any subject imaginable, for what else am I going to do for an hour when it's just me, the road, and the occasional bird in the bushes? Running begets running, too; the more I run, the more I find I want to run. I want to run farther, faster, stronger.

Yesterday as I neared the conclusion of my afternoon run, I crossed paths with my next-door neighbor who was out walking her dog. I paused to say hello and she commented that it certainly was cold to be out doing what I was doing. I replied that after nearly four miles, it didn't feel cold at all, I was as warm and toasty as could be and I was also wearing four layers of clothing (I really need to get one extremely warm outer layer, oh, would that be more expensive running gear, perhaps?). We parted ways and I continued onward, cold wind beating against my face. It was a beautiful day to be outside. It was a beautiful day to be alive.

Monday, December 3, 2007

How True...

This was Saturday's Frazz comic.


I was recently made aware that registration for the Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon was already closed. Boy, that was fast. I looked at the race's Web site and saw that registration was open for only two weeks! I'm glad I only waited until 12:20 (20 minutes after registration opened at noon on November 1) to register. I am so fantastically excited to be a part of the race.

You know, they sent me my race shirt already. I'm not really sure why. It's actually a pretty cool shirt: navy blue and white, short-sleeve, tech fabric, the word "DETERMINED" on the back. Kind of reminds me of high-school cross-country T-shirts that say things like "pain is temporary" and the like (I still have all of my high school cross-country team what? 1988 wasn't that long ago).

In other news, I had a very enjoyable 8.5-mile run on Saturday on the paved path at Kensington Metropark. At this time of year and with the weather particulars over the weekend in the area, the path was deserted but for a handful of runners and rollerbladers. Bird life was abundant and weirdest of all some kind of fighter jet made a very low banked pass over the lake. Freaky!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Just a Quick 5 Miles

Easy-peasy. What's five miles after work? So nice, that's what. I came home from work at 4:00 and by 4:15 I was into my running clothes and out the door. The sun was shining and everything, though it was quite cold and the headwind was a little harsh. I decided to head into the country on one of my favorite routes, the Conway-Sibley loop. I didn't have to worry about slamming out a run and getting home in time to shower and get to work. It took me about 2 miles to get warmed up and settle into a good rhythm but once I did I felt on top of the world (literally; at one point on the route I can see all of Chelsea spread out in the distance, the skyline dominated, as always, by the Chelsea Milling Company (aka Jiffy Mix) grain elevators).

When I got back into town, instead of veering away from Main St. and taking Buchanan or West North to Middle in order to skirt the downtown proper, I just ran right up the Main St. sidewalk past all the stores and restaurants. There was a time not so long ago that I refused to run through downtown and pass people on the sidewalk because I was still embarrassed by how fat and slow I was. I didn't want people to see me and think, "She's barely moving, and boy, is she overweight."

Not any more. I'm a lean mean running machine. I don't care who sees me. I want people to see me as I run proudly up Main St. Now I hope they see me and think, "She's really moving, and boy, is she in good shape!"

What a difference six months makes!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Rosemary Chicken with Wild Rice

Another one of Weight Watchers' one-dish dinners that I've incorporated into my meal plans. The combination of orange marmalade, rosemary, and Dijon mustard might sound weird but it's really good.

  • 2 smallish-sized boneless/skinless chicken breasts (about 4 ounces each or a total weight of 1/2 pound), cut into 3/4- to 1-inch cubes
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
  • 3 tbsp sugar-free or reduced-sugar orange marmalade
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup wild rice
  • Salt & pepper
Begin cooking the rice; most wild rice takes close to an hour to fully cook so you can use this time to prep the rest of the ingredients and still have time to kick back in front of the TV, read the newspaper, do some laundry, play with the cats...

With about 15 minutes left of rice cooking time, heat the olive oil in a large sauce pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken and carrots and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Add the rosemary and continue cooking for 4 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Add the orange marmalade, mustard, salt, and pepper; stir to combine and cook for 3 minutes. The rice should be done now; drain any excess water and add the rice to the chicken mixture. Stir to combine and serve.

Makes enough for two good-sized portions. According to my Weight Watchers cookbook, a "generous" 1 cup of the stuff is 6 WW Points.

In other news I must be doing something right because the scale this morning said 161.4. That's a full 4-plus pounds less than what it said on Tuesday. I've been very carefully tracking Points and not going over my daily allowance because I am so determined to reach Goal before the end of the year. If my scale is to be trusted I have 6 more pounds to lose.

Watch for a picture post the first day I slip under 160 pounds, territory that hasn't been visited in 11 years.

Defeated by (Almost) December

I just couldn't do it anymore. The mornings are too cold, too dark, too harsh. I've decided to start running in the afternoons. I went out yesterday after work for a "test" run. It was great! I could see where I was going! I wasn't blinded by oncoming headlights! It wasn't so bitterly cold!

Thus, after more than a year of morning runs, I am switching to the afternoons, at least until it gets too hot next spring, by which time it will be light in the mornings again. I'm still getting up at my usual time, but not running before work means I will be able to start work at 7:00, which also means I will be done at 3:30, which means I will be home and ready to roll (run?) at 4:00 or shortly thereafter. Running in the afternoon also means I will be able to go for longer runs in the middle of the week. My pre-work run length was kind of limited to what I could do in about 45 minutes, which meant really nothing longer than 5 miles.

Additionally, when I start training for the Marine Corps half marathon in February, I am going to be doing interval and tempo work, for which I would like to use the local high school track, and it's not lighted. I don't relish the thought of running around a track in the dark.

Thus, afternoons it is. And if it's crappy and raining, I can always just go to the gym. I think I'm sufficiently addicted to exercise at this point that I don't have to worry about skipping workouts because I "don't feel like it." I always feel like it these days. Once I had decided, while I was on my way home from work yesterday, to go running when I got home, I could hardly wait. I was so excited to get out there. And it felt so damn good once I did.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


First of all, let me just say thank you to the various folks who emerged from the woodwork and left comments in my previous post! I was very glad to "meet" you!

Second, this dish has become a staple in our house. It's a Weight Watchers recipe, but I've tweaked it slightly to fit my tastes.

  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced
  • 6 scallions, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 14.5-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp Cajun seasoning or 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt
  • 1/2 cup brown rice
  • 1/2 lb cooked shrimp
  • 1 turkey kielbasa link, sliced (I don't know the exact weight but it's one link from a package of two Oscar Mayer brand turkey polska kielbasa)
Get the brown rice going while preparing the rest of the dish. The rice will go into the pot with the rest of the stuff after a while. My brown rice (Lundberg long-grain) takes about 50 minutes to cook fully, so factor the cooking time of your rice into the recipe. I set my timer for the rice cooking time and use that as the basis for the rest of the dish.

Heat the canola oil in a soup pot or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bell pepper, onion, celery, scallion, and garlic and saute for 5 minutes. Add the crushed tomato, chicken broth, spices, and bay leaf. Salt to taste, stir to combine, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for 15 minutes.

When the brown rice has about 20 minutes left to cook, add it to the vegetable mixture and stir to combine. Cover and continue cooking. With about five minutes left on the rice cooking time, add the kielbasa slices and shrimp and simmer uncovered for the remainder of the time.

Makes 4 servings.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Comment, Please

I have this nifty little application installed in the code for this blog. It's called Statcounter and it tells me everything I could ever want to know about anyone who reads this thing. Along with the handful of people I actually know IRL or from other places on the Internet who are semi-loyal readers (I have your static IP addresses labeled so I know it's you) there are a few of y'all who keep coming back...yet I have no idea who you are. Lakewood, Ohio, I'm talking to you. I know you're not my friend Ellen 'cause she moved to North Carolina. And who's that from the U of M Medical Center who keeps coming back? What about you, Jacksonville, Florida? I don't know anyone there. How did you find me? So don't be shy, comment! I love comments! I like knowing who's reading beyond the four to six people I'm absolutely sure about.

In other news: Tomorrow afternoon we have an all-company rah-rah meeting at the Sheraton across the street. Refreshments and snacks are being provided. This would all be well and good except Tuesday is my Weight Watchers weigh-in day and I don't eat anything but breakfast all day to increase my chances of a happy result at weigh-in, and tomorrow has the potential to be really good (55 pounds lost total!) or very irritating (gain for the week including Thanksgiving) cookies. Lots and lots of free cookies. Sigh. What's a girl to do?

Must. Stay. Focused. Maybe I'll have one cookie.

Aurora Turkey Trot and Shocking Development

Thursday morning (Thanksgiving Day) was the Eastside Turkey Trot in Aurora, Ohio, about 30 minutes from my hometown of Chesterland. My dad and I ran the race together. I had registered some weeks before after scouting out potential Thanksgiving holiday races in northeast Ohio. We were coming to the area for the holiday, and these days I like to do a quick online reconnaissance of road races in places I will be visiting. I never know when there might be a 5K I could do.

It was a miserable morning, cold, drizzly, and generally the kind of morning which should be spent indoors drinking hot coffee, bundled in pajamas, and looking out at the world, not spent outdoors bundled in many layers of special fabrics contemplating the fact that one has to run four miles. However, we and several hundred other nutjobs showed up for this race which started and ended at the Aurora Farms Premium Outlets Megaplex and if that's not a statement about the American love of consumerism I don't know what is. Maybe they wanted us to come back on Friday and go shopping?

Besides, I love running in bad weather. The crappier, the better! Frigid? Drizzle? Wind? No problem! All three at once? Awesome!

As far as races go, it was fine. Four miles isn't a distance with which I have much strategic racing experience, my preferred distance being the 5K. In true scatterbrain style I failed to activate the Garmin at the start line so all of my distance and pace data is off. Moron. I still averaged about 8:18/mile, and finished the race in 33:15 or so. Update: official race results were finally posted, although not broken down by age group, and I finished in 33:16, and appear to be fifth in my age group and 122/299 overall.

The race course doubled back on itself so at one point we middle-of-the-packers were passed by the front-runners heading in the opposite direction. I rarely if ever get a chance to see race leaders so it was very interesting. There was one hardcore guy (dressed only in shorts and wispy tank top) who was up with the top male runners who must have been in his mid- to late sixties. I just thought, "Rock on, old dude."

I liked the course; it was broad, gently sloped, well-tended and marked, and not overly difficult. Aurora Police were on hand to halt traffic, which was nice, considering I have run road races where traffic was allowed to continue going past.

I hope the race returns next year. Or whatever year it is that we return to Chesterland for Thanksgiving.

Now, the Shocking Development. Friday I braved the insanity and went to Beachwood Mall with my mom. We ended up at Ann Taylor (again) and I found some cute stuff on sale. To my EXTREME SHOCK (and delight) I am now wearing SIZE SIX pants from Ann Taylor. I know their sizing runs bigger than other stores so I might not necessarily be able to squeeze into a size six from, say, J Crew or whatever. But. The label on my pants, pants I am wearing right now says "6." This is totally unprecedented. I haven't worn a size 6 since I was in high school when I was 15 or 16 years old.

Tomorrow I will see if I suffered any collateral damage from all the feasting last week. I hope my exercise efforts offset the increased consumption. I ran four miles on Thursday, two on Friday (plus weightlifting), and six on Saturday. I am so close to my Weight Watchers goal weight that any setback will make me very disappointed. I really, really want to reach my goal before the end of the year.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Y'all. Listen to this.

I was going to keep quiet about this but I can't help myself any more. This afternoon a photographer from the Ann Arbor News is meeting me in Chelsea to take my picture, dressed in full running gear, for the Thanksgiving edition front page feature story.

So what in the world is going on? Well, on Saturday I saw a tiny little blurb buried at the bottom of the News in Brief page that asked for personal stories from people who are especially grateful for something this Thanksgiving. I thought, man, if there was ever a year for which I am thankful, it has to be this one, and it's all due to the wonderful woman who performed my surgery back in February. I sent an email to the woman who is writing the story, an email which included:
The surgery was a complete success and after my recovery period was over I flung myself with everything I had into my new life, a life I had almost lost sight of before surgery. I lost 30 pounds, started running, and in October I completed the Detroit Half Marathon. I feel more vibrant and energetic than I ever have in my entire life, and next month I will be 34.
She wrote back, we talked about running and such, and lo, this afternoon I will be standing in the cemetery in Chelsea (my favorite place to run) in my running outfit, which includes a free shirt from Running Fit. I went there yesterday ostensibly to pick up a pair of nice warm gloves (check) and nice warm hat (check) but also to casually mention that I was going to be photographed for the paper in my running clothes and I really wanted to wear something from RF with their name on it...since it's my favorite store and publicity...hence, free shirt. Thank you, Victor!

Thursday, Ann Arbor News, front page. Me. Holy crap!

(By the way, my face is in a state of extreme pimpliness the likes of which I haven't seen in years. I don't know what happened but I am leaving work at 3:00 today to go home and plaster on as much foundation as my skin can handle. Stupid zits. You'd think they would go away by the time you hit your thirties. Bah humbug!)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

French Green Lentil Soup

I haven't posted many recipes here which was one of the things I intended to do with this blog so here's one.

(from Bon Appetit magazine, December 2006)

1 1/4 cups French green lentils, rinsed and drained
2 cups diced white onion
1 cup sliced celery stalk
1 cup sliced carrot
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
4 cups vegetable broth
2 tbsp olive oil
Balsamic vinegar (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add the vegetable broth, lentils, and tomatoes. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes or until lentils are tender.

Transfer 2 cups of soup (mostly solids) to a blender and puree until smooth. Return puree to soup pot and stir. Season with salt and pepper and a splash of vinegar (if desired).

This is sort of the basic recipe; many things can be added to it according to one's individual tastes or desires. For example, last night I browned ~1/2 pound of turkey breakfast sausage links in a separate frying pan, cut them into chunks, and added them into the soup after the pureé step.

I think the next time I make this I want to experiment with some other seasonings. S&P are all well and good but I think it needs something a little more zesty.

And lastly, why French green lentils (specialty) and not just plain old green or brown lentils one can find at any grocery store? It's worth seeking them out because their flavor is more intense and earthy than other lentils. The recipe is timed to accommodate the longer cooking time and more robust structural integrity of French green lentils so I can't vouch for what might happen if one used another kind of lentil. Lentil mush, maybe? I buy my French green lentils in bulk at the Ann Arbor Whole Foods store. However, I see that Bob's Red Mill has packaged French green lentils (I love Bob's Red Mill! I put his ground flaxseed meal into all kinds of things).

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Race Report: Ann Arbor Turkey Trot

This morning was the Tortoise & Hare Ann Arbor Turkey Trot. It was my kind of running weather: cold and dismal. I've always done better in bad weather, reaching all the way back to my freshman year and first season of high school cross country. That year (1988, practically prehistoric times) at our District meet I ran a 24:13 (my PR for the season) in abysmal weather conditions, even worse than today's. My preferences were set for life.

We were issued timing chips, but there was no timing mat at the start of the race, just the finish. I don't know how this could be considered completely accurate. Especially since I was so close to breaking 25:00. I was timed in 25:01. If there had been a timing mat at the start, would my time have been different? Especially since according to my Garmin I finished in 24:52? I guess I will have to look forward to breaking 25:00 in my next 5K , whenever that may be.

I had a good race; my mile splits were 7:48, 8:02, and 8:06. I finished 11/31 in my age group. I averaged 8:03 over the full distance. There was no one at the mile splits announcing times but I glanced at the Garmin. I shouldn't have done so as my immediate reaction to the first-mile 7:48 was to think, "That's much too fast! I can't sustain that pace!" And sure enough, I didn't. I should have just left well enough alone and not peeked at the Garmin. Maybe I could have maintained the faster pace for just a little longer and busted past that 25:00 barrier.

Nevertheless, what a difference a year makes. One year ago I ran this race in 32:58 and my goal was just to manage to get/stagger across the finish line. I had been on Weight Watchers for a little over 2 months and had been running for about a month. This was me then:

And here is me, one year, 35 pounds, and 7:57 less later:

Stand up and stop SLOUCHING!:

Why do I always look like a TOTAL GOOBER? (oh, and get a load of the nice spit trail up and over my right shoulder):

One year ago today is also a Big Deal date for me because it was on this day, after coming home from the race, that I noticed my period had started unexpectedly. I had no way of knowing at the time that it would be my last one ever, and that it would last 83 days, until I had surgery on February 2, 2007, putting a permanent end to that nightmare.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Then vs. Now

In March of 2005, shortly after joining the Wellness Center here in Chelsea, I underwent a baseline fitness evaluation. On Wednesday of this past week I had myself retested out of curiosity about how much I have changed myself since I began losing weight and running. I knew that I had lost a considerable amount of weight, but what about all the other things that aren't as easy for me to measure? Thus my fitness re-assessment.

Thursday I picked up my results:

Parameter March 2005 November 2007
Weight (pounds) 220 166
Body Fat Percent 37.3 24.6
Fat Weight (lbs) 82 41
Lean Weight (lbs) 138 125
BMI 33.4 24.9
Resting Heart Rate (bpm) 72 64
Ebbeling Treadmill VO2 Max (mkm) 42 40.7
Curl-Ups (1 min) 54 62
Push-Ups 13 31
Sit-Reach Hip Flex (inches) 21.25 24.25

Obviously, a huge improvement in many areas, especially my weight (loss of 54 pounds), body fat percentage (change of -12.7%), and body mass index (change of -8.5 from "obese" to "normal").

One of the statistics I found most interesting (and kind of gross) was that of the 54 pounds I have lost, 41 of them were of fat. 41 pounds of fat is a LOT of fat. I tried to picture a big quivering heap of 41 pounds of fat, glistening and sickly yellow, and all I did was make myself queasy.

I'm a bit mystified as to how my estimated VO2 max could have decreased despite my greatly improved physical conditioning. I'm suspicious of that number. Still, a VO2 max of 40.7 for a female my age is considered "superior."

I tried to calm myself enough to get my resting heart rate to go below 60, but it didn't. I've measured my RHR in a state of extreme relaxation as low as 52.

My arms are still like wet noodles, though. I didn't put my submax bench press or leg press results on the chart because the Wellness Center changed the testing method for both and the results don't compare. I could only bench press 10 reps of 53 pounds and that was a gigantic struggle. I'm "well below average" in the arm strength category. I don't really care; I'm not out for the bulging bicep look.

In other news, tomorrow is the Tortoise & Hare Turkey Trot in Dexter. One year ago, I ran that race when I was still in the nascent stages of my weight loss and running efforts. I am totally pumped for the "one year later" version. I went for a short, slow jog this morning to keep myself in prime condition. I want to better my time from the Big House Big Heart race (25:28). If I break 25:00 I would be thrilled.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


All of my teeth-gnashing over the fact that I posted substantial gains two weeks in a row was for naught because I lost 7.2 pounds in one week, which wiped away the 5.4 I gained plus put me down another 1.8 for a grand total of 53 pounds. I'm now at 165.2, which, for my height, puts my BMI at 24.9, which is considered "normal." I'm also just barely above the weight range for my height that Weight Watchers considers "normal."

There are many ways in which I could be considered not normal, but for the first time in 10 years my weight is not one of them.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


If my home scale is to be believed, I weighed 163 pounds this morning. This is important because my highest recorded weight (doctor's office visit, maybe late 2005) was 223. Which means that I have lost 60 pounds. 60 pounds!! Of course, by the end of the day, the scale at Weight Watchers may say something different (it always does). Oh, whatever...I'm back on track again after those two annoying weeks of gains.

I don't even want to start thinking about dropping into the 150s. I haven't been below 160 pounds since...uh...??? I know it was in college sometime, so at least 10 years ago. I don't want to get prematurely worked up about the one-fives (but when I see "159" on the scale for the first time...oh man).

With the time change I actually have a bit of morning light to run by. I know it won't last long so I will try to take advantage of it. This morning, along with the (somewhat gloomy, overcast) sunrise, I also encountered...snow. That's right folks, it be snowin' here in southeast Michigan. Well, not any more, but it was earlier. Now, for those of you who don't know, I absolutely HATE HATE HATE HATE cold and winter. I was born and raised in northern California where if the one inch of water in the birdbath iced over once all winter it was a major event. We moved to Cleveland when I was 13 and despite now having spent well over half my life in the Midwest I still hate winter. I've gotten used to winter, but I don't like it. Not at all.

Therefore, the fact that I went running outside this morning WHILE IT WAS SNOWING is grounds for me to ponder whether or not I've totally gone insane.

Monday, November 5, 2007

A New Challenge: Beat Dad

I wrote to my mom and told her that I had registered for next spring's Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon and that I intended to invade my aunt's (her sister's) house in northern Virginia for the duration of the race weekend. Well, apparently this got my dad all fired up and now he too is registered for the race. I guess it has become a family affair.

My dad will be 63 on race day...can't let him beat me...can't let him beat me...!

My dad ran a bunch of San Francisco Marathons back in the early-to-mid 1980s and at the time he was a decent competitor with a personal best marathon time of 3:20 (or something close to that, I can't remember what he said exactly even though it was just last night...I must be getting forgetful in my old age). He's been running longer than I've been alive. Recently, however, he's gotten more into road biking for its low-impact quality.

I ran a 5.25-mile race with him in May of this year in which I managed to beat him but that was only because he succumbed to muscle cramps. He was well in front of me for most of the race and I only passed him because he had pulled off to the side to stretch. That was a long time and many miles of training ago, however. I have no doubt that I will totally be able to smoke him at the MCHH race. Especially since my goal is to run a sub-2:00 half. He estimated he'd finish in 2:10.

I'm going to train my butt off come February. Can't let the old man show the young whippersnapper how things are done.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

A New Goal!

I waited a full 20 minutes beyond the official opening of registration (noon today) to register for the Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon, taking place in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in May 2008. I've been waiting for this for months. At last I have a new goal. I won't start training for the race right now, obviously, but when the time comes (February) I plan on stepping things up a notch and using Hal Higdon's Intermediate Half training program. Now that I know I can do a half marathon, I want to improve my half marathon. I calculated that in order to run a sub-2:00 half, I need to average 9:09 a mile. I believe that is entirely within my reach. Heck, I averaged 9:09/mile on my ten-mile training run before the Detroit race.

In other news, I was a bit disgruntled this week at Weight Watchers because for the second week in a row I posted a substantial gain. I know I shouldn't dwell on it too much but it's all my fault. I overate, ate poor-quality food, and didn't exercise as much. I hate getting set back because then I have to re-lose weight I already lost. Now I'm back to where I was at the beginning of September. Thus, I've recommitted myself to tracking my points and making Weight Watchers recipes for dinner. Dinner is most often my downfall. I can control what I eat for breakfast and lunch extremely well but dinnertime can be hazardous. Plenty of times we're sitting around watching TV or something and I look at the clock, it's 8:00, and we haven't had dinner, and I say, "I don't want to cook...let's just go out/order pizza."

On a more positive note, I was able to get out this morning for an easy 5K run. I think the days I spent babying my back this week helped and I completed the run without any pain and I feel fine now. I was so antsy from not running for three days. It was driving me crazy. I managed to do some low-impact cardio at the gym, but my body was like, "I NEED TO RUN!" There is something about the act of running, the sensations I experience while running, that just aren't there when I do other forms of cardio. Thus, this morning's run felt so good.

Monday, October 29, 2007


Something has gone awry with my back. I went for a nine-mile run on Sunday and all yesterday afternoon my back was giving me twinges. This morning when I got up it was awful. I almost fell over at the gym when I reached out at an awkward angle. I'm leaning on things to bend over like a broken-down old person. I think one of my leftover giant post-surgery ibuprofen pills and my back bag are in order when I get home. I made it through all those months of training for the half marathon without injury, at least. But after all that running...why am I only now experiencing a problem?

Even if my 9-mile run yesterday blew out one of my discs or caused a stress fracture in one of my was one of the nicest runs I've had in ages. The weather was perfect and the fall scenery could not have been more gorgeous. It was so nice to just get out and run for fun and not because I had to. The only thing that spoiled the run was the rotten little motherfucker of a Jack Russel terrier that charged me and nipped me twice on the ankles. That stupid little shitty dog deserved a sound kick or two but the best I could do was do a couple of lame mule-kicky things with my feet that I think glanced off its snarling, yappy little head. Stupid fucking dog. That late in my run (this was around mile 8) the flood of adrenaline that resulted from basically being attacked made me little light-headed and my heart rate zoomed up. I spent the rest of the run at a faster pace as I thought of creative ways to take revenge on that dog. I'll have to remember the house from whence it came and keep an eye out on subsequent runs.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Detroit Photos

I realize I'm going overboard with the whole half marathon thing but hey, it was my first half marathon. It was very, very exciting for me. So here are some totally unauthorized pictures of me from the Detroit Half Marathon.



The professional photos from the half marathon were posted today so I went to take a look. There are some pictures I would like to have, but I was hoping to get them in file form. I really don't need a huge poster of myself looking like a goober at the finish line. Well, that notion was quickly dispelled when I saw the HIGHWAY ROBBERY PRICES those people are charging for a bunch of bytes. $29.95 for ONE picture! How is that even possible? It's even more egregious when one considers that 8 wallet-sized printed photos are only $18.96 or a huge 11 by 14 printed photo is the same price as one digital file. What a freaking rip-off. I'm so pissed. I wanted some pictures to share with family and friends and to post to the blog but NOT NOW. Sheesh.

In my opinion, those digital picture files should be $0.99 each. Just like a song from iTunes.

What a bunch of crap. Crapity crap CRAP! YOU PEOPLE SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELVES!

Anyway, if anyone's curious, go here, choose "Detroit Free Press/Flagstar 2007" and input "11406" in the bib number field.

Yeah, I look a wee bit like a goober. But a triumphant goober!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Other Stuff about the Detroit Race

Some more impressions of the Detroit race:
  • Did anyone else see that guy who was dribbling three basketballs? I passed him on Michigan Ave soon after the start. Crazy! I heard from someone else that there was another dude who was juggling!
  • I found all of the discarded clothing very amusing. The highest concentration of castoffs was before the bridge though I saw scattered items throughout the race. I guess some folks got warmer than they expected.
  • The brass ensemble playing "Eye of the Tiger" along Riverside Dr in Windsor. Some guys near me started singing along.
  • One of the sound systems along Michigan Ave in the first mile of the race was playing "Running on Empty." Some guy next to me yelled out, "Not yet, man!"
  • Guys taking leaks wherever they felt like it. Do y'all know how lucky you are to be able to do that?!
  • People talking on their cell phones during the race. Good grief, is there nowhere that is a cell phone-free zone anymore?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Detroit Free Press/Flagstar Half Marathon

Yesterday, October 21, was the Detroit Half Marathon. For four months every running step I took and weight I lifted and bead of sweat that ran into my eyes was meant to prepare me for this race, the biggest and longest of my life thus far. There was nothing more I could do; the moment was upon me.

I had not the best night of sleep before the race. I was restless, waking frequently, and when I was asleep I had fitful dreams about everything that could go wrong during the race. I forgot to put my number on my shirt. I forgot to put my timing chip on my shoe so even though I ran the race it wasn't recorded. I got lost on the course. I woke up at 3:30 am (because the dog threw up on the floor) and then laid there for another half hour until the alarm went off at 4:00 and it was officially Time To Get Up. I had all my clothes laid out, the Garmin was charged, and I had already mixed a fresh batch of Gatorade for my CamelBak. At 5:00 we were in Ann Arbor to meet with the rest of the group: Erik, Elizabeth, Greg, and Andrew. By 6:00 we were parked downtown. Already there were throngs of people streaming toward the start area. The Port-A-Potties were alongside the marathon start corrals on the west side of Washington Blvd. I had to leave John behind as we crossed into an area that was marked "runners only." It felt like we were saying goodbye at an airport. I wouldn't see him again for three hours. Elizabeth and I got into line for the toilets. It was already 6:40. I was starting to get butterflies in my stomach. We made our way to the other side of the boulevard to the half marathon start corrals. I was in corral "S," estimated finish time of 2:30.

National anthems were sung, the mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick, said a few words, as did the celebrity guest of the day, new marathon world record holder Haile Gebrselassie. The gun went off for the wheelchair and hand cycle division. The crowd was both restless and excited; our start was less than five minutes away. When the gun went off for the start of the marathon, the crowd pressed forward briefly but was almost immediately stopped. Slowly people started moving, then stopping, then moving again as the ones in front fanned out. Finally, my corralmates approached the official starting line. All I could hear was the earsplitting shriek of the timing chip recording devices being triggered hundreds of times as the crowd surged over the timing mats. We were off!

It was slow going at first down the length of Washington Blvd. There were spectators lining both sides of the road, hollering, waving signs, ringing bells, banging cheer sticks together. I turned onto Michigan Ave and was almost brought to a halt by the crowd slowing down to squeeze around a police car that was parked right in the middle of the road. Um, hello? Was that really necessary? Bad, bad idea!

Finally, I was able to settle back, open up my stride, and start running as the crowd spread out across the entire width of Michigan Ave. Almost immediately I knew I should have placed myself in a faster start corral. I was passing so many people. I just had to find a line through the throng and follow it.

The early miles of the race pre-bridge were the best. We passed old Tiger Stadium at Michigan and Trumbull, possibly the last time that will ever happen as the historic stadium is on the block for demolition in 2008. We turned down Rosa Parks, then west on Bagley, then a goofy detour near Mexicantown because of road construction. Somewhere along this stretch the road had a small incline (it might have been the overpass for I-75) and from my vantage point at the bottom of the hill it was quite a sight-- thousands of people spanning the road as far as I could see. We got back on track on Vernor, and passed through an area redolent of frying tortillas. We turned south on Grand Blvd and headed for the bridge. The sun was starting to rise and as I approached the bridge from the west, I could see the silhouettes of thousands of runners on the bridge span. That image-- of the sun rising behind the field of runners-- is something I will never forget.

Then I was on the long uphill grade of the bridge. At this point, halfway between mile 3 and 4, I was still feeling pretty fresh. It was a good thing, too, because the bridge grade went on for what felt like FOREVER. The border control people were all standing around cheering, and I overheard some guy near me say, "I bet this is something more interesting than usual for those guys."

The view from the crest of the bridge was fantastic. Even better was the fact that it was the apex of the climb and then I had a nice long cruise downgrade to mile 5. We were in Canada! We made our way to Riverside Dr and ran north along the Windsor waterfront for a couple of miles. I still felt good and energetic. I was just cruising along at a nice steady clip. I passed the 7 mile marker and knew I was more than halfway done. I checked the Garmin every so often to see what my heart rate and pace were. I ate a pack of Gu, drank some water, and marveled that I hadn't felt the slightest urge to go to the bathroom. We took a couple of turns and then we were on the approach to the tunnel. I could hear the shouts and whistles echoing backward out of the tunnel as I neared the entrance. I crossed the timing mat at Mile 8 for the Underwater Mile and then I was inside the tunnel. It was wall to wall runners, just a river of people streaming down the grade. People were yelling, hooting, shouting, whistling. The noise was incredible. The air got very hot and stuffy. Somewhere ahead of me was a bunch of military people running in a pack doing army-style marching chants. I reached the bottom of the tunnel grade and started the long climb back to the surface. It was hard going. I bore down and felt my heart rate escalate (indeed, my max heart rate, 163 bpm, happened during this mile). For the first time I really felt stressed. I could feel my face getting hotter and hotter and the sweat started pouring down. When was this going to be over? Finally I saw the gleam of sunlight off the tunnel tiles up ahead. When I heard the shriek of the chip timing devices at Mile 9 I knew I was almost there. (My Underwater Mile time was 8:53.) The cool breeze that hit me as I exited the tunnel was the best feeling ever. All around me people were expressing their relief at getting out of the tunnel. I heard a chorus of "Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhs!"

The race was drawing to a close. We wound around past the Cobo Center and Joe Louis Arena, then onto West Lafayette and back onto Rosa Parks. This was at mile 11 and I was starting to hurt. I never felt like "I can't take another step," it was more like, "okay, I'm ready for this to be over now." I still had a bit left in the old energy tank but my reserves were draining fast. I forced myself to eat a final pack of Gu somewhere around mile 10 and I think that helped me a little. We turned back onto Michigan Ave heading east and I knew the end was near. I passed the Mile 12 sign. Only one more mile. Just put the feet one in front of the other. A race worker separated the field into half marathoners and marathoners as the field neared the race split. I thought, "I can't even imagine having to run twice as far." I turned north onto Washington Blvd. "Oh," I thought, "here's the starting line! I was here, like, two hours ago!"

So close. So close to the finish. People on the sidewalk were yelling, "It's just around the corner! Go! Go!" I made the turn south onto Woodward and saw the finish line banner in the distance. Oh shit I'm almost there jesus my hips hurt I can't even feel my legs any more just run run run run my god listen to all the screaming where's John is he here somewhere faster faster just pick your feet up and run run run you're almost there almost almost ALMOST....AAAAH!

I couldn't help it; as I crossed the finish line I lifted my arms into the air and threw my head back. It was over. I stabbed at the Garmin to stop it but didn't even look at it. I was too wasted at the moment to think about anything but staying upright and moving forward. I took a finisher's medal from a race worker and dropped it around my neck. I had done it-- finished a half marathon. 13.1 miles. I had just run 13.1 miles. I stumbled onward, taking the timing chip off my shoe, getting a bag with some food in it, making my way over to the family reunion area where I found John.

Somewhere along the way I finally looked at the Garmin. I had completed the race in 2:07:40 (official chip time: 2:07:39) with an average pace of 9:44/mile (official chip-timed average pace: 9:45/mile). I had hoped to average 10:00/mile and finish in 2:10, so I was right on target. I finished 124th out of 408 in my age group and 2,080th overall out of 4,721 half marathon runners.

Before the race, making final preparations and clothing choices:

Post-race, very rumpled, sweaty, tired, and sitting in Cadillac Square Park and attempting to peel an orange:

The triumphant finishers of the 2007 Detroit Half Marathon, Greg, Andrew, Erik, Elizabeth, and myself:

As soon as I had recovered, the first thing I thought was "I can't wait to do this again next year!"

Friday, October 19, 2007

Is this Bad or Good?

I now have dreams about running. In last night's episode I dreamed I was in a race taking place inside various buildings on the University of Michigan campus. The race was being held on the same day as a football game and of the hallways were crowded with drunk, hollering frat boys. In fact, now that I think about it, it was less a race than a bizarre obstacle course. Then I got lost inside West Engineering. I don't think I ever crossed the finish line.

It was very strange.

I think I've officially become obsessed with running.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

One More Week

One week from today is the half marathon. One more week and all the training and sweat and aches and sore muscles and banged-up toes and hills and pavement traveled that I've foisted on my body for the past four months will come to a head and I'll learn once and for all just what kind of stuff I'm made of.

If yesterday's big run is any indication, I'm made of some tough stuff indeed. Yesterday was my ten-mile run, the last long run before the race, the last time I could really put myself to the test and gauge my endurance and fitness. I paid another visit to Running Fit (sigh) and bought a CamelBak FlashFlo waist-mounted hydration pack (in screamin' high-vis yellow) because I was so DONE with the carrying of the used soda bottle thing. (I have to give a shout-out to my friend and fellow Detroit halfer-to-be Elizabeth for raving about her waist-mount CamelBak; I totally copied her.) I also got some Body Glide for my chafing issues. And another Nike Dry-Fit shirt. In pink. (I'm lucky I stopped there.)

Yesterday morning I set out, completely bedecked in ridiculously overpriced (but totally necessary, all of it, I swear) running gear from head to toe, but with energy to spare despite the wee headache I had (I really shouldn't have had wine with dinner Friday night). The Garmin was rockin' and I was rollin'. The weather was absolutely perfect for my taste (about 40 degrees). I finally had my heart rate monitor strapped to my chest.

I mapped out a new route that took me well into the country north and east of town. McKinley and Waterloo Rds. have some of the nicest scenery around. I only had three or four cars pass me the whole time I was on those two roads (Werkner Rd. was another story). Almost before I knew it I was at the corner of Werkner Rd. and M-52 with only a mile and a quarter left to go. I hardly felt tired at all. What a difference from last week! I put the hammer down for the last mile and did it in 8:48.

The whole run took 1:31 (incidentally, a minute faster than I ran nine miles last week) and I averaged 9:09 over the full distance. When I got done I thought, "Well, only three more miles and that's the race." I am so so so so ready!

When I registered for the half marathon I estimated I would finish in 2:30. That was for a 10:00 pace with various breaks (water, bathroom, whatever). Now I'm thinking I overestimated that time. If my pace for my ten-mile run is anything to go by, I will finish the half marathon well under 2:30. I would guess that come race day I'm also going experience an adrenaline rush from the excitement which will spur me on. I can't let that push me into a faster pace than I can sustain, however! It won't do me any good to rush out at an 8:15 pace because I know I cannot sustain that. 9:00/mile, however...we'll see.

For the record, my red wine headache was long gone by the time I finished.

One more week.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

When You Wish Upon A Star...

Monday morning while I was out for my run I saw a spectacular meteor blazing across the sky north to south. It was so incredibly awesome and totally made my day. I felt very lucky to have seen it. How many other people are in a position-- namely, being outdoors at 6:30 in the morning looking at the sky-- to see something like that?

Stats for Monday's 5-miler:

Total time: 48:23
Mile 1: 9:43
Mile 2: 9:34
Mile 3: 9:54
Mile 4: 9:36
Mile 5: 9:33

Stats for Wednesday's 5-miler:
Total time: 48:57
Mile 1: 9:46
Mile 2: 9:41
Mile 3: 9:40
Mile 4: 9:45
Mile 5: 10:02

I think...I will be able to do the half marathon at a pace of 10:00/mile or even less. That seems to be my groove and it's one I'm comfortable with at this point.

Run Report: Nine Miles in the Country

Friday night we met my brother and his wife for camping at Lake Hudson Rec Area in Clayton. Keeping in mind that I had to run nine miles the next morning, I declined any beer and went to bed soon after we arrived. Talk about willpower. Forgoing beer while camping? Who am I? (Never fear: I made up for it Saturday afternoon while listening to the Michigan football game on the radio.)

Early the next morning I arose, fired up the Garmin, and headed out. I had only the vaguest idea about where I was going, having only briefly looked up a map of the area surrounding the park. Never fear, my trusty Garmin is here!

I tried not to think too much about the fact that nine miles of road lay ahead of me. I was just out for a run, enjoying the (jesus h christ it's fucking hot as hell out here) fall weather. I had new roads to travel, different things to see. I was in unfamiliar territory, and for some reason that always makes my runs go by faster.

The terrain in that area of Michigan is extremely flat. From that standpoint, this was not a challenging run. For the first 6 miles of my run, I never ascended more than 79 feet per mile. Yep, it's flat as a board down there, folks. Thus unencumbered by hills, I concentrated on maintaining a steady pace and enjoying the scenery.

I was on farm roads most of the way, five miles of narrow one-lane, badly-paved or gravel roads lined by corn stubble and not-yet-harvested soybeans. An enormous tractor hauling some kind of tank and sprayers passed me, enveloping me in a cloud of earthy stink. The air was a pungent cocktail of livestock, damp soil, and late-season vegetation.

Before I forget: you know you're running in the country when you pass piles of horse manure smack dab in the middle of the road. Also, when tractors drive past you.

I paused during mile 4 to gulp down a Gu and take in some Gatorade. Those of my readers (all, like, five of you) who live in Michigan know what the weather was like this past weekend. I was having déja vu of running in Cape Cod back in July. Needless to say my long-sleeved shirt and vest were on the...heavy side. I was sweatin' buckets, people. Even my headband couldn't contain the streams coursing off my forehead. I feel so sorry for those poor people who ran the Chicago Marathon on Sunday.

I spent the first three miles under 10:00/mile but I couldn't keep it up. I was so damn hot and uncomfortable. Plus I had slept like shit the night before; lying on the ground in a tent just doesn't compare to one's own bed at home. I knew I was slowing down drastically. I didn't need Garmin to tell me that. I decided that I was just going to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other to get the miles in. Not every run has to be a personal best. Keep moving, focus on something on the horizon, and watch it slowly get closer. I reached my nadir between miles 5 and 6. I did that mile in 10:34. After that, however, I sped up slightly (it might have had something to do with the fact that I turned my back to the sun and no longer had it glaring me full force in the face) and completed the last 3 miles at or under 10:30/mile.

I was watching Garmin like a hawk during my last mile...all I could think about was being able to finally stop. When the distance clicked over to 9.00 miles I hit that stop button so hard! At last, I could rest.

Four more miles on top of that and that's the half marathon. Totally doable.

Total time: 1:32.16
Mile 1: 9:39
Mile 2: 9:49
Mile 3: 9:56
Mile 4: 10:01
Mile 5: 11:04 (this is when I stopped for Gu and water)
Mile 6: 10:34
Mile 7: 10:32
Mile 8: 10:17
Mile 9: 10:22

Friday, October 5, 2007

A Seismic Shift

(I couldn't resist paying tribute to my geologist past by using the word "seismic" in the post title.)

Notice the time at which this is posted. Ridiculously early, right? I know. There was a time when it was inconceivable that I would ever be awake at a time with only one hour digit. Now I happily bounce out of bed at 6:00 in the morning and strap on my running shoes for a leisurely five-mile run before work. By 7:30 I'm finished, showered, dressed, lunch packed, and on my way to work.

It occurred to me as I was heading into Ann Arbor (earlier than usual; today is Rest Day and I was on the road by 6:35) that I have become...


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Fifty Pounds!

I have now lost 50 pounds. I reached this milestone at weigh-in last night. Last week I was 0.4 lbs shy of 50; I shed that and finally reached the big 5-0. At the end of the meeting I received a little medallion to put on my 10% key chain (which I received when I lost 10% of my starting weight, which was 21.8 pounds). Everyone clapped and I felt so good. Fifty pounds of me, gone. Fifty pounds of fat burned up or exchanged for muscle. I'd like to know where it all went. Did I just metabolize it out of my system? It's not like there's fifty pounds of me in a box in the closet that I can look at and say, "I used to have that hanging on me all the time!"

I can get a sense of just how much 50 pounds is when I haul around big boxes of cat litter. The big 25-lb ones. With one in each hand, I can feel exactly how heavy 50 pounds is and think, "How did I ever manage to do anything with all this extra weight?" No wonder I feel so much lighter!

I decided to switch to the WW Core plan, which allows me to eat larger quantities of certain foods rather than limited amounts of anything I want (the Flex Points Plan). I think the fuel requirements my body needs these days because of running are more than I could get from the Points Plan. I need FUEL, people! Running 5 miles before work takes a lot out of a person! And when the week before the half marathon rolls around I am going to need to ingest all the fuel I can handle to get me through the race. 22 Points allowed a day is not going to be enough.

After losing 50 pounds, what's next? I'm on the home stretch towards Goal. 13.2 more pounds. So close. So very, very close!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Race Report: Big House Big Heart 5K

I had waited so long for this day. The Big House Big Heart 5K. Finish on the 50 yard line inside Michigan Stadium! From the moment I saw the article in the Ann Arbor News back in June, I was so there for this race. I'm a Michigan grad and football fan, so I could simply not pass up the opportunity to set foot on the hallowed ground inside the Big House.

I had a specific goal in mind: to finish under 26:00. Otherwise I just wanted to have fun. And fun was had! It was a beautiful day for running. Cool, dry, and still. I had on the Garmin, ready to put it to the test for the first time. I took Fritz's advice and set it to "Auto Lap" in one-mile increments so it would keep track of my pace per mile. It worked beautifully. Thanks for the hint!! It would have worked more beautifully if I hadn't accidentally fumbled at the finish line and double-hit the start/stop button without realizing it, so I stopped and then restarted the timer...I noticed I had done so after about 2 minutes had passed. That made for an interesting pace graph when I downloaded the race info into the Garmin Trainer program at home later. Oh well...learning experience!

I reached my goal of finishing under 26:00. I finished in 25:28, better than I had anticipated, and finished 28th out of 196 in my age group. 8:11/mile average pace! According to my Garmin I ran mile splits of 8:10, 8:04, and 8:14. I didn't really feel like I was overly stressing myself. It was a good hard workout but I wasn't left utterly drained and dazed at the end.

First Look: Big House Big Heart 5K

I'll write a full race report once the results are in, but for now, here's a picture of myself and John standing midfield in the Big House. This was a great, great day.

(Looking at this picture I still can't believe it. I was on the field in Michigan Stadium!!)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Shiny New Toy!

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! I own a Garmin Forerunner 305! EEEEEEEEEEEEE!!

The deal was John got to purchase a bass guitar and I got to purchase a Garmin. We all need our shiny new toys! He got the bass Wednesday and yesterday after work I came home, said, "Let's go out to dinner and then to Running Fit so I can get my Garmin!" And we did, and I did!

As soon as we got home I plugged it in to charge it and it's still sitting there, waiting for me to get home from work today so I can play with it. I might even have to go for a short run around town to road-test it before the race on Sunday.

Running Fit got in their first shipment of new winter running clothes and I was drawn to the shiny display like a moth to a flame...I got a Nike Dri-Fit long-sleeved shirt and a Brooks vest. I really, really needed a long-sleeved tech shirt and a new, high-visibility vest, of course! Oh, and I also got a whole box of Chocolate Outrage Gu.

My friend Elizabeth once said something to me about once upon a time she thought all one needed for running was a good pair of sport, right?

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HAAAAAAAAAAAA! Oh...(wipes eyes)...sigh.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Just in Time

This morning I ran five miles. When I left the house at 6:15, it was sprinkling lightly but had stopped before I had even run a half-mile. Upon returning home I went to the sink and splashed a few handfuls of water on my face, then filled my water cup. Suddenly:

WHOOOOOOSH! It started pouring rain. Oh-my-God-the-world-is-ending kind of rain. It was so loud it sounded like someone was aiming a fire hose at the side of the house. I quickly ran around and shut the windows.

If I had been out for my run just a bit longer, I would have been completely soaked (well, more soaked than I already was with sweat) even if I had been within 100 meters of my house. It was raining that hard. I think my timing was excellent!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A Little Tuneup

This morning's run was my "short" run of the week: 3 miles. I do this one on the treadmill at the gym and then hit the weight machines afterward. My SOP is to set the treadmill for a more demanding pace than I would normally do outside. I like to see how my strength and speed improves over time. When I resumed running almost a year ago my first treadmill runs were done at a 12:00/mile pace (5 MPH). I like the treadmill because there's absolutely no slacking off the pace I set for myself. I have to keep up or else I'll be crashing off the back of the machine.

This morning I cruised along for 2.5 miles at an 8:27/mile pace (7.1 MPH), then sped up to 8:00/mile (7.5 MPH) for the last 0.6 miles. Yeah, I decided at the last minute to take it to 3.1 miles because I'm running in the Big House Big Heart 5K in Ann Arbor on Sunday (and can I just add HOW FREAKING EXCITED I AM ABOUT THAT???!!!) and I really, really want to at least do it in the low 26:00 range if not sub-26:00. I treated today's workout as a preamble to the race on Sunday to gauge my preparedness. Not bad-- I finished my treadmill 5K in 26:08. I hope on Sunday my excitement will boost me to an even faster time.

Why am I so excited about the BHBH 5K? Why, the race ends ON THE FIELD IN THE BIG HOUSE (aka Michigan Stadium), of course! I get to step foot on sacred ground! I wish it was still natural grass because I would totally have taken a pinch of grass blades and sod to preserve and cherish for all time, much like some kind of religious relic enshrined in a gilded reliquary.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Home Stretch

Four weeks from today is the Detroit Half Marathon. I have four full weeks of training left. Starting tomorrow, all of my regular weekday runs will be five miles in length. I will be getting up and running five miles before going to work. Holy crap.

Yesterday I ran another eight miles. Even though during the run I felt like I was moving slowly, I finished it in the same amount of time I did last week: 1:17. I ate another two packets of Gu, but this time I had Espresso Love (yummy) and Chocolate Outrage (YUMMY!!). This time the Gu did not sit so easily. I felt like I had a lead ball in my stomach and I had an annoying side stitch from about mile 1.5 on, which I never get. I deployed some breathing tricks I've learned from my vocal training to stretch my intercostal muscles and diaphragm, which alleviated the pain somewhat. I was very irritated because I have had very good luck in keeping side stitches at bay. In fact, I never even had to consciously think about avoiding them because I simply just didn't get them. However, yesterday I did. That, plus my general feeling of stomach heaviness, had me convinced I was going to be slower for this 8-mile run than I was last week. That turned out to not be the case.

Interesting. I felt like I was going more slowly...but I maintained the same 9:37/mile pace I did last week. So...could I have run even faster and not had it bother me? Is this what (gasp) training is supposed to do for one's strength and stamina? You's actually working? Well, who would have thought.

It's becoming exponentially darker each successive morning. I spend most of my pre-work runs in total darkness. My five-mile loop includes a section (from about mile 1.5 to mile 2, along Dexter-Chelsea Rd.) where I have to run directly on a road (there is no sidewalk). I'm kind of nervous about this as people don't always pay attention. I have my reflective vest, and I hope it will keep me safe. I'll hug the berm as close as I can but past that I'd be running in the ditch. And past that are the railroad tracks and that's so not even an option. It's only for a half-mile, which taken out of five isn't that bad, but a lot can happen in even half a mile. I just have to trust that the good Chelsea folk heading to work aren't yammering on their cell phones and not paying attention to the road that early in the morning.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Run Report: Eight Miles! EIGHT!

Saturday morning's long run was a milestone. Eight miles is the longest continuous distance I have ever run. And I totally rocked it!

I set out at 8:10 am. The weather was perfect, about 40 degrees. I had my super sleek new pants, new fab cushy socks, new stylin' headband, new packet of Gu, and a new flavor of Gatorade ("FLAVOR BURST BLAST-O-RAMA TIDAL MEGAWAVE OF FROST" or some dumb was the only variety of mix-it-yourself powder at the grocery store). I had a new route mapped out, a perfect 8-mile loop. I felt well-rested, fresh, ready to rock and roll.

On all of my previous long runs I started out at a slow pace because I had this mental thing about "I have to run X number of miles...better not go out too fast! Don't want to get tired!" However, after the string of really awesome 4.5-mile runs I put together on recent weekdays, runs that I did at a 9:19/mile pace in some cases, I decided that I wasn't going to hold back on my long run. I thought of it as "I'm going to run 4.5 miles! And then, I'll run another 3.5 after that." So off I went at my regular run pace. I felt really good. My hands were cold, though. All that new gear, and I didn't bother to spring for a pair of gloves?

The sun rose higher and the air warmed and by the time I reached mile 5 I was ready to get rid of my jacket. My hands weren't cold any more, either. I stopped in a convenient place and ate my reserve packet of Gu. Then I took my jacket off. It was about 50-52 degrees by that time and the cool air felt wonderful. I was sweating heavily per usual but my totally superb new headband kept all of it away from my eyes. Around mile 6.5 I passed a little woolly bear caterpillar on the road and I picked it up and brought it over to a rock under a tree on the side of the road. I didn't want the little guy to get squished!

I finished my run in 1 hour and 17 minutes. 9:37/mile pace. My little mental exercise worked. This was by far the best long run I've done. I proved to myself that I don't have to be pokey in the name of "conserving energy," that I do have the endurance and strength to maintain a faster pace over longer distances. Otherwise, what the hell have I been doing for the past 3 months? I certainly haven't been sitting around with my thumb up my butt...what has all this insane training been for if I don't have something to show for it by now? This bodes extremely well for the half marathon. I am feeling more confident than ever. Eight miles is well over half the race distance. Plop another 5 miles on top of that eight and...that's it! The whole nine yards! Or should I say thirteen miles. It really doesn't seem that daunting any more. Not now that I've done 8 miles and at the end I felt like I still could have kept going!

Emboldened by my success on Saturday, I went out at an even faster pace for my 4.5-miler this morning. I mean, I really hoofed it. And what do you know, I finished in 40 minutes. 40! That's an 8:53/mile pace! Holy moley!

I am SO going to kick ass at the Big House Big Heart 5K on September 30. Definitely under 26:00, but might I also break 25:00? I would so love that...

And by the way, I'm now at 48.6 pounds lost total! This could be the week I hit FIFTY POUNDS. I'll let you all know after my weigh-in tomorrow.

Also, I redeemed my certificate for my free half-dozen rolls that I won from the Run for the Rolls last month. We ate them with dinner on Saturday (dry-rubbed, New York strip steak, oven-grilled asparagus, and roasted potatoes with fresh rosemary and garlic. Yum!). Victory never tasted and yeasty!

And finally, my distant partner-in-running crime who will be doing the Detroit race with me next month was having a wee crisis of confidence which she expressed on her blog. I commented:
Remember we're in this together. This crazy-ass endeavor. I decided to
do it because YOU inspired me to do it. And remember this, too: WE are
going to be doing the race while everyone else is going to be standing
around watching us. WE are putting our feet into our shoes and hitting
the pavement. There's no way we can fail. The only way we'd fail is if
we never even tried. Remember that!!
Semi-dorky, but it's totally true. I might not be the fastest runner out there, but at least I'm out there. Hurting, sweating, and still getting up every morning to do it all over again. There's no fail. Fail would be never even trying at all.

Monday, September 10, 2007

I Must Take Umbrage...

I don't care what my Athlinks profile says, I won my age group in the Run for the Rolls. I have the certificate to prove it. I guess it came out that way because the overall female winner was in my age group, but she got a certificate for rolls and a snazzy clay tile.

I also don't care if my results say my mile time was 7:58. I crossed that line at 7:52, dammit! I saw it with my own eyes! There weren't so many people in the field that it took me six seconds to pass the starting line.

When You Gotta Go...

This morning I set out for my 4.5-mile run without first "taking care of business," which I try to do every time I go for a run outdoors. Most of the time I am successful and therefore avoid issues while on the road.

Not so today. I was in the cemetery just past mile 3 when The Urge hit and hit hard. With over a mile left to go and feeling extremely uncomfortable I knew I was going to have to take an unscheduled pit stop. Luckily I knew there was a Porta-Potty by the cemetery groundskeepers' shed on the edge of the property and I made a beeline for it. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

I felt much better and finished my run in 42 minutes (45 if you count my little detour, which I'm not). That's 9:19/mile pace!

I don't remember ever having to "go" during a run when I was in high school. Now it's essential that I make an effort to clear the system before I run or I always end up scrambling desperately for the bathroom when I get home. I haven't yet been forced to hide behind a bush by the side of the road but I've got some really long runs coming up and sometimes even with my pre-run ritual I'm struck by The Urge while out for longer runs (like Saturday's 7.5-miler, but I was able to stick it out until I got home).

I just hope they have Porta-Potties on the half marathon route!