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!