Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Looking Forward, Looking Back

A year ago I wrote this as my list of goals for 2008. I had an 87.5% success rate, achieving 7 of the 8 goals I set for myself:
  • Run half marathon in under 2 hours (SUCCESS)
  • Run a 7:00 mile (SUCCESS)
  • Run a sub-25:00 5K (SUCCESS)
  • Get a new 5K PR (SUCCESS)
  • Run a 10K race (SUCCESS)
  • Run the Detroit Marathon! (SUCCESS)
  • Reach my Weight Watchers goal weight (FAIL)
  • Run as much as humanly possible without injury (SUCCESS...sort of)
I feel pretty good about all of this (with the exception of not reaching my Weight Watchers goal weight, but at least I can say I weigh the same as I did a year ago. I'm doing a fabulous job of maintaining the weight I don't want!).

What else did I manage to do this year?
  • Ran six 5K races, taking home age group awards in four of them and setting new personal records twice (Shamrocks and Shenanigans in March; A Most Amazing Race in June)
  • Ran two 10K races, setting a PR at the Dexter-Ann Arbor 10K in June
  • Ran the Marine Corps Historic Half with my dad, which was a great experience
  • Took first place female in the Run for the Rolls, which may be the only time that ever happens, and set a new mile PR as well (6:48)
  • Ran 1330.3 total miles, which took 203 hours, 9 minutes, and 36 seconds (average pace: 9:11/mile) and burned 157,983 total calories
  • Met a few of my fellow run-bloggers in real life (I'm still waiting to meet certain of the rest of y'all)
  • Made the great leap into the 35-39 age group (does this mean I'm officially in my mid-thirties? that's only a stone's throw away from...FORTY)
In 2009, I hope to:
  • Qualify for the 2010 Boston Marathon at the Cleveland Marathon in May
  • Run a sub-1:50 half marathon
  • Run a sub-50:00 10K
  • Set another new 5K PR (less than 22:44)
  • OR break 22:00 in a 5K (this would be decidedly the more awesome of the two)
  • Run 1500 miles for the year
  • Run at least one race each month
I turned in just over 5 miles this morning as my last run of the year, a run through freshly-fallen snow and occasional swirling flurries mixed with bright sunshine. Fleet Foxes' "White Winter Hymnal" came on my iPod as I traversed a stretch of sidewalk with my shadow on the snow in front of me. It was a fitting way to wrap up the year.

In 11 days I launch my training for Cleveland. My nearly three months of the Do Whatever I Feel Like "plan" are almost over. It's time to get down to business. The business of BQ.

Happy New Year, everyone!

I shall conclude with my favorite photos of the past year.

During the Meteor 10K (April)

My Dad and I after the Marine Corps Historic Half (May)

Finishing the Dexter-Ann Arbor 10K in 50:00 (new PR) (June)

Hill work in Dexter with the RF501 Gang (July)

With my plaque for winning the women's Run For The Rolls 1-mile (August)

During my first 20-mile run (September)

Finishing the Detroit Marathon in 3:52:01 (October)

In my Obsessed Runner "costume" on Halloween (October)

And one which has not yet been seen: At the Chelsea/Dexter RF501 end-of-season party. I won a six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon (aka "PBR," aka "Pretty Bad Refreshment") in a random drawing. Victor traded me for a bottle of Unibroue Maudite for the remainder of the sixer at the conclusion of the evening. I think I got the better end of that deal.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Happiness Is...

  • Getting out for a nice 6-mile run in agreeable temperatures
  • Going to see a really good movie at my favorite movie theater and being able to order and consume a Magic Hat #9 Not-Quite-Pale-Ale IN THE THEATER
  • Finding a six-pack of Brooklyn Brewing Co. Black Chocolate Stout at the local beverage store which I immediately dug into as soon as I got back to my parents'
  • Knowing that the weather forecast for tomorrow has projected highs in the MID-SIXTIES (hello, long run!)
What's making you happy this week?

Monday, December 22, 2008

First Run of Winter

The view from my front window about 11:00 am today

Even though it didn't really seem like it given the weather for the past month, yesterday was officially the first day of winter. It arrived in style, heralded by the Storm of December '08 on Friday, which deposited about a foot of snow on my fair city.

Seeing that I am on vacation until January 5 (HA HA HA HAAAAAAAAAA), I am taking full advantage of my string of days off by running as much as I can in the mornings. When I got up today (9:00 am, ahhhhhh) it seemed like a perfect morning for a long run.

Yes, it does say "12 degrees." And that was after I came back!

Late last night around bedtime it was zero degrees F and the wind was blowing ferociously. This morning, however, the wind had died down, the temperature had crept up (it was 10 degrees when I headed out) and there were intermittent flurries of big poofy flakes. I put on my best winter running outfit and hit the roads. I went over to the other side of town to part of the 8-mile loop that I ran twice a week during marathon training, a route I had not trod in nearly three months. My favorite port-a-potty was missing from the athletic fields, not that I would have dared expose any extra body parts to the elements even if I had found myself in a dire emergency (fortunately, no issues this time). The snow waxed and waned and I could feel both it and the vapor from my breath collecting and freezing on my face. As soon as I got back I took a picture before the crust melted.

I had icicles in my hair all the way around. Gotta love winter!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My Garmy and Me...

You know you're a runner when...you charge your Garmin Forerunner at work.

Garmy is right here next to me, nestled among the pens, Kleenex, lip balm, pads of paper, and stapler, charging up for my group run this evening.

My Garmy, my Garmy, my Garmy and me!

Math Lesson

You ever have one of those moments where everything aligns just so and you're positive it couldn't just be a coincidence, that something greater is at work? This is one of those moments.

Whilst doing my usual blog reading and coffee-drinking this morning, I came across this statement in yet another one of GQH's seemingly endless posts:
You're not exactly dealing with a chimp here! Because if I were a chimp, I'd've produced a Shakespearean play by now, what with all this random typing I do. And I haven't.
Not five minutes earlier my co-worker had shown me the answer to a statistical mechanics problem we had been discussing earlier this week (yes, we're all a bunch of nerds, you wanna make something of it?).

The statistics problem in question?
Suppose that 10^(10th) monkeys have been seated at typewriters throughout the age of the universe, 10^(18th) seconds. This number of monkeys is about three times greater than the present human population of the earth. We suppose that a monkey can hit 10 typewriter keys per second. A typewriter may have 44 keys; we accept lower case letters in place of capital letters. Assuming that Shakespeare’s Hamlet has 10^(5th) characters, will the monkeys hit upon Hamlet?

a) Show that the probability that any given sequence of 10^(5
th) characters typed at random will come out in the correct sequence of Hamlet is of the order of (1/44) to the power of (10^5) = 10^(-164,345), where log base 10 of 44 =1.64345.

b) Show that the probability that a monkey Hamlet will be typed in the age of the universe is 10^(-164,316). The probability of Hamlet is therefore zero in any operational sense of an event.

Do you see, dear readers, how the heavens (or some approximation thereof) suddenly aligned, and a beam of light shone down and a voice said, You have the answers to all of the statistical mechanics questions in the universe. You have the power to bring this knowledge to the people. Or, one person in particular who thinks that, if he were a chimp, he should have somehow randomly created a work of Shakespeare by now even though he's only been blogging since September of this year.

Overly complicated answers, I has them. Let me show you them.

Note: I am not solving the problem for the probability that a bunch of chimps (or one chimp) will be able to reproduce Shakespeare. I'm only proving what has already been stated, to wit, the probability of such an event occurring within the time frame of the age of the universe is "therefore zero in any operational sense of an event." (gotta love that math language!) I'm proving that GQH, if he were a chimp, could not possibly be able to reproduce a work of Shakespeare, so he should just stick to continuing to be human(?) and writing excessively long posts with lots of footnotes (and maybe, in a few billion years, he'll get lucky).

Part a): 44^(N) possible typewriter key combinations, a sequence of 10^5 keys pressed at random required to duplicate Hamlet, so N = 10^5 and the total number of possible sequences is 44^(10^5)

One possible correct sequence to recreate Hamlet being typed at random by a chimp:

1/(44^(10^5)) = 10^N = (1/44)^(10^5)

Log base 10^N = log(1/44)^(10^5)

Solve for N:

N = -10^5 log(44)

N= -10^5 * (1.64345)

N = -164345

(1/44)^(10^5) = 10^(-164345) which is the probability that even 10^10 monkeys sitting at typewriters throughout the age of the universe (10^18 seconds) would be able to reproduce Hamlet. In case you're wondering, 10 to the negative anything is a small number. 10 to the negative 164,345 is, like, absolute zero1.

Part b): 10^10 monkeys typing for 10^18 seconds, each hitting 10 keys per second

In 10^18 seconds, 10^29 keys are hit (10^10 + 10^18 + 10^1)

Begin a new sequence each time a key is hit except (10^5)-1

At end of a 10^29 character sequence each 1 character long such that monkeys type 10^29 sequences

Hamlet = 10^5 characters long. Monkeys type (10^29)-(10^5) sequences

Probability of monkey-created Hamlet typed in 10^18 seconds = (10^29) * (10^(-164345)) = 10^(-164316)

(1): Yes, I know absolute zero is a measurement of temperature (-459.67 degrees F, -273.15 deg Celsius, and 0 Kelvin, in case you're wondering). Absolute zero is a state of matter where said matter's molecular energy is minimal; that is, it is characterized by zero entropy and cannot transfer its energy to other systems. What does this have to do with the probability that a chimp will recreate Hamlet? Well, not much, really, (though it might be how y'all are feeling by now after reading this...no energy whatsoever) but I think the concept of absolute zero is fascinating because of what happens to matter when it approaches absolute zero. Y'all ever hear of Bose-Einstein condensates? Superfluidity? NO? OMG, people, Bose-Einstein condensates are SO COOL (literally, HA HA HA...they're cooled to a few billionths of a degree above absolute zero). At that temperature, an entirely new state of matter is created! We're talking quantum mechanics in action, total weirdness! Really awesome, amazing stuff that makes me wish I was a theoretical physicist so I could play with supercooled atoms all day. But I suck at math. :)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Race Report: Holiday Hustle 5K 2008

I am in a race against the clock to finish my tenure in the 30-34 age group on a high note. This means running as hard as I am able in as many races as I can before time expires on my birthday at the end of this month. I have had success in my last two races, taking third in my age group in both the Ann Arbor and the Aurora Turkey Trots. Could I extend my streak to three? And, more importantly, could I cut a few more seconds from my 5K Stubble Time?

Yesterday's Holiday Hustle presented itself as a prime opportunity. Not only was it a mere 15 minutes from my home, but it was one of those rare afternoon races which did not require me to get up at the crack of dawn on a weekend. I drove to Dexter and parked at the place where my RF501 group met for our midweek hill workouts during the summer. I wanted to run the mile to downtown as a warmup. The last time I was on those sidewalks was early October and the footing and climate were much more hospitable. A bitter wind beat against my face and my fingers quickly grew numb as I made my way-- carefully-- toward downtown. A minivan blocked the sidewalk as it waited in a driveway to turn. I went behind it, lost my footing on what turned out to be a solid sheet of ice, and went down hard on my right side. My hip and knee bore the brunt of the impact, and I heard something-- my sleeve? RoadID bracelet? gently skip off the car's bumper. (At least it wasn't my head, eh?) I got up slowly, knee aching, and brushed snow off my tights. The minivan's driver had rolled down her window and asked me if I was all right. I replied that I was, it wasn't that bad, and declined her offer of a ride the rest of the way. (Here's where I should insert one of those "you know you're a runner when..." statements; in this case, "...even after cracking your knee on some ice, you would rather finish your warmup run in sub-freezing temperatures than accept a ride to the start.")

I reached the start area with plenty of time to spare and promptly lost most of the warmth I had generated on my warmup. I saw some of my RF501 peeps (Lorenda, Ted, Lisa, Marie, Erika) and we stood around talking and trying to keep warm until it was time to go. The race wound through the residential side streets of Dexter on an out-and-back route. It started snowing fiercely not long after we started, and my face was peppered with dots of cold as the flakes hit it. Then the wind kicked up and made things even more unpleasant. I hit mile 1 in 7:28. I was going to have to pick it up if I wanted to beat my time from the Ann Arbor Turkey Trot (23:10). Around mile 2 I developed a very annoying and painful cramp in my torso; it felt like a band had tightened around my ribcage and was squeeeezing the air out of me. I chugged onward, trying to take deep belly breaths and expand my ribcage to shake off the cramp. It helped slightly. The final push to the finish was a nice gradual downhill and I increased my pace until I was huffing and puffing and I stopped Garmy at 23:20 when I crossed the line, which turned out to be my chip time as well. I was disappointed that I had not bested my Turkey Trot time nor shaved any more stubble off my 5K; it remained to be seen if I placed in my age group. After standing around in the fading late afternoon light and getting colder and colder the initial results were posted on the side of a nearby building. I muscled my way up to the front of the crowd and saw that I had placed fifth-- good enough for an award-- in my age group. Score! I got a dark red tree ornament for my efforts.

Holiday Hustle 5K Final Stats:
23:20
7:30/mile average
5/63 age group
23/385 women
95/659 overall

Afterward I went to the home of my co-worker, whose house was right on the race route; we ran past it twice. I had some snacks and post-race rehydration (Pilsner Urquell) and then I had to go home and change because I was due in Ann Arbor for the Michigan Lady Food Bloggers Holiday Cookie Exchange Extravaganza. I came home with a huge container full of delicious treats. I spent the morning baking my own contributions (visible in lower right: container with dark and light brown cookies, and pecan snowballs in adjacent container).

I run so I can eat cookies and not feel guilty.

Edited to add: There seems to be some doubt about my claim that I, the consummate potty-mouth, somehow managed to not curse a blue streak when my knee and hip cruelly made acquaintance with the hard, cold ground. Such an occasion should have been the stage on which the most colorful phrases of my life would have made their d├ębut! However, as astounding as it seems, this was not the case. I was, sadly, capable only of the milquetoast utterance "Oh, dear. Ouch." Take that, doubting Glavens.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hockey Night in Michigan

Last night good fortune shone on me. My sister-in-law came into unexpected possession of her company's season tickets to last night's Detroit Red Wings game, and thus I found myself yesterday evening with her and John in seats six feet from the glass in Joe Louis Arena. I confess I know almost nothing about hockey and wouldn't even consider myself a Red Wings fan (though I was the only one of the three of us who wore anything red) but the excitement of being that close to the action on the ice was infectious. Our seats were located by a side face-off circle near one of the goals so we were able to see a great deal of goal-area scuffling. The first time two players hit the boards in front of me I was startled by how loud it was. The floor under my seat shook with the impact. I could barely follow the action; the puck moved too fast and I would often find myself staring at the person whom I thought had the puck only to find a whole different set of people were fighting over it in another area. I gave up trying to follow what was going on strategically and just watched the players move up and down the ice. It was like waves rocking back and forth: a cluster of people swept past, bunched up around one goal, then someone broke away and headed for the other end of the ice and everyone followed only to cluster around the other goal. Back and forth, gliding, ice shaved by skate blades fanning into the air, the frantic clacking of sticks as five guys fought over the puck, resounding thuds as people went into the boards, the earsplitting crack when the puck itself hit the glass, huge pileups in front of the goal as everyone in the arena started screaming, enormous guys turned freakishly nimble on narrow strips of metal.

The mood when we arrived was subdued because the Wings were down 2-0. At the end of the second period they were still down 2-1. Then the Calgary Flames scored another goal in the third period, putting them up 3-1. However, the Wings scored two more goals, tying the game and sending it into overtime, to the delight of the crowd, which had gotten more vocal and feisty as the game wore on (probably because everyone was on their second or third beer, or, in the case of the obnoxious loudmouth a few rows behind us, fourth or fifth). Overtime ended in sudden death in the Wings' favor when Nicklas Lidstrom sent a huge blast into the goal right in front of us and the place erupted. Detroit 4, Calgary 3.

Beer snob alert: when we arrived, our first stop was at one of the booze-dispensing stations near our section. I scanned the available beer options and decided I would not stoop to the level of Miller Lite or Molson. If those were my only choices, I would rather not have anything at all than force myself to drink that swill. I have standards, darn it! Excessively high standards, some might argue, but my mantra is "Life is too short to drink bad beer." However, later on, I discovered a different place that had Leinenkugel's Sunset Wheat on draft so I had a big cup of that. It wasn't truly ideal but it was better than Miller Lite (shudder).

The only other Red Wings game I have ever been to was also courtesy of my sister-in-law; in that case, we were in a corporate suite up in the rafters of the building where the food was free and all-you-can-eat and the bar was open (and all-you-can-drink...hoo boy) but the view was not so great. I must say I preferred being down on the floor close enough to smell the grime on the players' uniforms, even if it meant paying $8.75 for one beer (that was supposed to be 24 ounces but there was no way that cup was 24 ounces. More like 18. 20, maximum).

We caught glimpses of ourselves on the Jumbotron a couple of times. Mostly, though, the Jumbotron was showing, during non-action moments, what John dubbed "JiggleVision." I'll let you speculate as to why.

Best of all, we got out of the parking garage and were on the Lodge Freeway heading north in less than 10 minutes. It was awesome!

In other news, this weekend I'm running the Holiday Hustle 5K in Dexter. Time is quickly running out on both my tenure in the 30-34 age group as well as opportunities to Shave my 5K Stubble Time more than the nine seconds I already shaved.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Cleveland Rocks!

Here we go, folks. My quest for the 2010 Boston Marathon begins.

Registration Confirmation for:

Dear Sarah,

Congratulations! You are now registered for Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K. Please check the event's official website for updates: http://www.clevelandmarathon.com

Event Name: Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K
Date & Time: May 17, 2009 07:00 AM
Location: St. Clair/E. 13TH St. Near the Galleria Mall (map)

Packet Pickup Information

Location:

Cleveland Convention Center
Hall D
500 Lakeside Ave E.
Cleveland, OH 44114

Dates/Times:
Friday, May 15, 2009 from 11:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Saturday, May 16, 2009 from 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM

NO RACE DAY PACKET PICK UP

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Foreshadowing

When I was at my parents' for Thanksgiving I rummaged around in one of the crawlspaces in their house and unearthed a few boxes of ancient history. I spent a couple of hours flipping through old school papers ("The Story of the Oregon Trail"), old magazines ("1989: The Year in Pictures"), my 4-H rabbit club stuff, and lots of high school cross country memorabilia. I also found, in one of my many sketchbooks (remember, this was back when I thought I was going to be an artist; I spent nearly all of my free time drawing), this pair of sketches.


There you have it, people: my thoughts on running circa 1985, long before running ever became a central part of my life.

In other news, last night John and I had dinner with Big and Lil. They drove down here and met us at the Common Grill where they got to experience first-hand the rolls for which I ran my ass off in the Run for the Rolls. I don't think John was too overwhelmed by all of the running talk. What does one expect when 75% of the people present are runners? LOL. GUys, I hope we see each other again!

I also have to share this awesome picture, taken on the morning of the Detroit Marathon. Thanks Erika!


And this one, which is my favorite picture from the RF501 summer session, and probably one of my favorite running pictures ever. Marie, you rock!


And this is just for my Michigan homies: WHEN IS IT GOING TO STOP SNOWING?

Friday, December 5, 2008

I'm Feeling...Electronic

It was a very good week for my downtempo addiction. My music sites were bursting with electronic grooves of the sort which I don't stumble across very often any more (whither art thou, O Massive Attack?)

Gorilla vs. Bear posted a couple of "best songs of the year" lists today (a few days ago it was "best albums of the year") and the result was a few low-key gems.

Sunset: "Man's Heart Complaint" (INSTANT LOVE)
Invisible Conga People: "Cable Dazed"
Salem: "Sweat"

From I'm Waking Up To... :

School of Seven Bells: "Half Asleep" (my song obsession of the week)
Pallers: "Humdrum"

Indiemuse slipped me a little Caribou: "Sandy"

But it wasn't all digital clicks and pops. Daytrotter was in rare form this week.

Damien Jurado: "Ohio"
Takka Takka: "Everybody Say"
Shelley Short: "Swimming"

And one more, again from Gorilla vs. Bear: Alela Diane, "White as Diamonds." Lovely.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Race Report: Aurora Turkey Trot 2008 (And More!)

Howdy folks. It's been a while, yes? I had myself some top-quality running over the past week.

First, last Wednesday I took the day off and thus I was able to rise at a late hour (8:00 am, oooh) and go for a nice four-mile run before heading to my hometown in Ohio for the holiday. The novel factor here was that I was not running in the predawn darkness. Daylight, how curious! What's that bright disk in the sky?

Second, the Aurora Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day. I did this race last year and because I was going to be in Ohio I decided to have at it again. I looked at my time (33:16) and figured I would aim to beat that, and if I was having a really good day I would strive for a sub-32:00 finish. I wasn't expecting much because I haven't felt especially fleet of foot lately.

Thursday morning dawned clear and bitterly cold, which was a change from last year's horrible wintry mix conditions. The thermometer in the car on the way to Aurora oscillated between 20 and 25 degrees. Luckily (obviously) I had packed a bag of running clothes in every combination imaginable in preparation for any weather eventuality (it was northeast Ohio, after all) and thus I had my favorite cold-weather racing outfit on hand for the conditions.

Due to my inability to remember anything, I had forgotten to let Garmy spend the night nestled in its charging cradle and as such it was completely dead come race morning. I was going to be (gasp) running blind. I was going to be forced to pay attention to the way my body felt and run accordingly. The horror! (Have I...become too dependent on modern technology?!)

Shortly before the race, after my dad and I picked up our race packets (a bag of coupons for the outlet mall, gee, how exciting) I randomly bumped into an old friend of mine from high school. I had not seen her in several years so that was a nice surprise. To my shock and awe she was wearing the marching band-issue sweatpants from our Flag Corps days (yes, folks, I was a "flag girl" in the marching band my junior year, and yes, I was as nerdy as you may imagine, I mean, come on).

This race has the most unattractive starting area of any in which I have participated: the shipping alley behind the Aurora Premium Outlets. Hooray for Dumpsters and loading docks! (and random bits of trash...and empty cardboard boxes...)

During the first mile, we passed a group of people playing a game of touch football. I thought, Look at those nutjobs...who plays football in the snow in 20-degree weather at 8:30 am on Thanksgiving Day? On further reflection, I thought: Well, they're probably thinking the same thing about us: "Who goes and runs a road race in 20-degree weather at 8:30 am on Thanksgiving Day? What a bunch of weirdos."

I revel in my weirdness! (and nerdiness, but y'all knew that already.)

A man at mile 1 called out "7:30" as I passed. This surprised me. I knew my true mile split was probably a few seconds less because it had taken me a while to cross the starting line from my position in the pack. OK, I thought, doing better than expected. Let's go with this, then. Mile 2: 15:00 for another 7:30 mile. Mile 3: a long uphill grind, and at the top it was 22:54 (7:54 split) with one mile to go. I increased my turnover and hit my lactate threshold. It started to burn, but I was almost done. As I approached the finishing chute (yes, a finishing chute, this was a really old-school race, tearing tags off bibs and putting them on a stick and everything) I saw the timing clock in the 29:XX range! I crossed the finish line in 29:40, which blew my prerace expectations away. I waited around the finishing area until my dad was done and then I said I knew we had discussed going straight home but I thought I had a good chance of getting an age group award so could we please stay for the awards ceremony? We did, and I did. Receive an age group award, that is. I finished third in my age group and won a trophy. I had not won a trophy since some cross-country invitational in high school. It was totally awesome.


The world's ugliest race shirt ever. This color (pumpkin? burnt orange? baby poop?) does not look good on me. But the trophy looks great! Note: this shirt was instantly classified as "internal use only" where "internal" means "inside the house; never to be seen outside where its brazen hue could sear the eyeballs of unsuspecting passersby."

Following the receipt of hardware, we returned home where brunch (Dutch baby and bacon, mmmm, bacon) and coffee (lots of coffee) were waiting.

Final race stats:

4 miles
29:40 (7:25/mile)
3/24 age group
12/171 women
62/336 overall

Incidentally, the overall winner finished in 19:28, which is a 4:52 average pace. Yow!

And speaking of fast paces, look at my last mile. I hit the 3rd mile at 22:54. I finished in 29:40. That's a 6:46 mile, which is two seconds faster than my race-winning effort in the Run for the Rolls in August. What the hell, people, what the hell?

Saturday morning I bundled up in my "if you look good you feel good" outfit and headed out for a long run. It was a runner's dream (well, this runner, anyway): about 30 degrees, nice and sunny, no wind, clear pavement. I cranked out ten miles, listening to my iPod the whole way, and finished in just under an hour and a half. It felt so good. I can't wait for my vacation later this month. Oh yeah, did I tell y'all? I GET 17 DAYS OFF IN A ROW, PEOPLE. And I am going to go running EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. In the DAYLIGHT. OMGBBQ!!!!111!!!!

THAT is why I hoard my vacation time like Scrooge all year. So I can blow my vacation wad like John Holmes all at once. Yeah.

Monday, November 24, 2008

If A Garmin Falls In The Forest

...and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Or will it make a sound even if there is someone there who should hear it?

Answer: No.

Don't worry, this story ends well, unlike the sad debacle that was the Michigan-Ohio State game. Or at least the UM-OSU game ended well for some people who will remain nameless THOUGH YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE.

I decided I needed a change of scenery for my long run Saturday so I drove up to the Lakelands Trail State Park in Stockbridge. It was a brilliant, frigid late fall morning; the temperature was around 25 degrees. The trail was covered with snow, but I had a pair of YakTrax so I was not worried about slipping. I wanted to do at least 10 miles if not 12 on this lovely straight, level, out-and-back path. My iPod was freshly charged and beefed up with some new tunes and I set out at a nice casual pace. My fingers promptly froze and then thawed out around mile 2.

Around mile 3 I felt the familiar twinges of the beast in my gut and knew that sooner or later I was going to have to pull over. Fortunately the trail passes through rural farmland and woods so I was assured of privacy (and of course there was no one else out there on the trail with me-- only crazy people go running when it's that cold). I peeked at Garmy at 3.74 miles and just after mile 4 I took my leave to the side of the trail. I battled briefly with some groping thorn bushes that wanted to do away with my earband and sank their teeth into my nice New Balance NBx top-- goddammit let GO, fuckers!-- and took care of Business. I was back on the trail and feeling much better when I looked down at my wrist because something about it felt odd, sort of light and airy, and suddenly my good mood vanished, vaporized like my breath in the cold air, because Garmy was no longer on my arm.

PANIC! DEFCON ONE! TERROR ALERT RED! OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD!

I screeched to a halt and turned around. Wild thoughts blew through my head: It can't be that far away, because I just looked at it at 3.74 miles, and I know that wasn't that far back, I took my pit stop just after mile 4, it has to be close by, OH PLEASE LET IT BE CLOSE BY OH MY GOD! I ran back the way I came, eyes frantically scanning back and forth across the trail. I knew its black band would stand out against the white snow. I thought: I wonder if it fell on the ground when I was going to the bathroom? Those bushes were pretty grabby, maybe one got a hold of it in just the right place and popped it off my wrist. I began looking for the spot where I had stopped. Everything looked the same: tangled bare twigs, lumpy snow. Would I be able to find it? I stopped again. I knew I had gone too far. I turrned around. There. There it was. The place where I had stopped. And LO AND BEHOLD, THERE WAS GARMY LYING IN THE SNOW. I thrashed through the bushes and snatched it up. It was still faithfully whirring along (my pace was now 17:30/mile) and I brushed the clumps of snow from its face and wrapped it around my wrist so tightly it hurt. Oh, Garmy, I almost lost you!

For the remainder of my run (I ended up doing 12 miles-- 12 agonizingly slow, ankle-bending, knee-twisting miles over the very uneven trail, uneven because horse hooves have ripped it to shreds and the cloaking snow cover lay just so in all the cavities) I remained extra-conscious of its presence, sneaking peeks at it constantly, swinging my arm farther out so I could see its red case out of the corner of my eye.

Strange coincidence of the day: as I was listening to the Fleet Foxes' "White Winter Hymnal" I came across a trail of blood spanning the path; I suspected a wounded deer had crossed there. It's firearm deer hunting season in Michigan and I wasn't surprised to find this. The bright red blood stood out alarmingly against the snow. There is a line in "White Winter Hymnal" that says "turn the white snow red as strawberries in summertime." How freakishly weird that just as I heard it, I came across the blood trail, yes, red as strawberries against the white snow.

Speaking of snow, it's snowing here. Again.

Oh, and this is my 200th post. Yippee!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Past Lives

Viper recently re-revealed he used to be a hockey player (and then upbraided his readership by chiding us for not remembering this tidbit of personal information).

Which got me thinking. Many of us have long-buried talents, childhood aspirations, lost dreams. For most of my life I wanted to be an artist. Instead, when I reached college I became a geologist. Art faded into the background. Then, in the summer of 1996, I went to northwest Wyoming for a month to live at a guest ranch and conduct field work for my undergraduate honors thesis as a participant in a Keck Geology Consortium project. That trip changed my life in many ways. To give you all a hint of just how much, when I die, I want my ashes to be thrown from the bridge over the Sunlight Gorge and into the river below. Sunlight Creek merges with the Clarks Fork River and the Clarks Fork empties into the Bighorn Basin. I did field work from one end of the valley to the other.

The Clarks Fork River valley, my most treasured place in this world. The Clarks Fork River runs through the deep gorge in the right-hand side of the picture; Sunlight Creek runs through the cut visible in the foreground (if you enlarge the picture you can just barely make out the bridge over the gorge on the left. Follow the highway and you'll see it.) They join just out of sight on the other side of that hill.

Towards the end of the project, after I had collected my samples, I accompanied some of my project-mates to their field area as a fun, leisurely activity. With nothing better to do, I found myself drawing in my field notebook. Soon enough my simple sketches had blossomed into art like I hadn't made in years. My field notebook became the one place where my artistic talent, long-unused, could flourish.

The mouth of the Clarks Fork River, Wyoming. A spectacular exposed tilted sequence of Paleozoic strata is visible. That sort of thing is enough to make a geologist squeal with delight.

The same section, viewed from the ground. This picture was aken by John in 1994 during the University of Michigan's summer geology field camp, two years before I made my drawing.

Clarks Fork Canyon, Wyoming, slightly upstream from the previous picture.

The Clarks Fork canyon. I took this picture the day I made my sketch.

I went to western Ireland after graduation in 1997 for five weeks for my geology field camp experience. There were 25 of us living at a educational center in the small village of Clonbur. I learned to drink beer at the pubs in the village, where we would go in the evenings after dinner and homework were complete. Lush Ireland, as far as drawing went, was the opposite of dry, brown, rocky Wyoming. My sketches, though predominantly different shades of green, still brought me pleasure in their creation.

Finny, County Mayo, Ireland.

Lough Corrib, near Clonbur, County Galway, Ireland.

Once my learnin' days were over (I finished my MS in 2000), my drawin' days were too. The last entry in my field book is from May 12, 2000, ending the renaissance of drawing in my life.

Sometimes I think I should have continued with drawing, somehow combining my love of rocks with my love of art. How could I fit opera singing and running in there, too? That would be one wacky career.

(P.S. Ohio State 42, Michigan 7. I knew it was a very, very long shot to hope for a big win to put a shine on this awful season, but it was not meant to be. I will, however, continue in the grand tradition of Clevelanders by saying, "Wait until next year!" Your team won this round, sir...but watch out.)

(P.P.S. For those truly gluttonous for punishment, here's my thesis research from the 1997 Keck Symposium conference volume. Yeah, I was-- and still am-- a total nerd.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

White Winter Hymnal

(With apologies to Fleet Foxes.)

The snow fell on Sunday, huge lazy drifting flakes that gently covered the last remains of fall's scattered leaves. The bird feeders grew puffy helmets; a male cardinal paused for some sunflower seeds, bright red against the white. I, in my Sunday not-so-best (comfy pants and fleece), spent the day ensconced in warmth, feet tucked into wool clogs, nestled in a blanket on the sofa with the two tabbies by my side. Guilt at not going out for a long run nagged at me only slightly. I was having a difficult time coming to grips with the sudden change of seasons. I knew that the surprise Indian summer weather of two weeks ago would never last; however, I just wasn't prepared to have winter shoved in my face so soon.

Monday morning when I released the hound into the backyard at 5:45 the frigid air reached in through the open door and slapped me in the face. A few flakes were still spiraling out of the sky and my motivation to go out withered, black and dead as the leaves on my basil plant after the first frost. I fled for the warmth and safety of the gym where I did three insufferable miles on the treadmill and then caught up on my celebrity gossip with Us Magazine while pedaling on the recumbent bike.

This morning I steeled myself. No more of this lackadaisical foolishness. The cold weather is here to stay and I need to accept that it will be around for five more months. I cannot run on the treadmill all winter.

I strapped myself into my cold-weather best (Asics Thermopolis pants, Pearl Izumi thick base layer, Asics Storm Shelter jacket, Sugoi neck tube, hat, gloves) and stepped onto the crackling snow on my doorstep. It was 19 degrees F. The sky was clear, the stars brilliant. The nearly full moon hung low in the sky, its still-bright light making the fresh snow glow. My breath plumed in the cold as I crunched down my driveway. I set off and the cold air burned into my lungs, brought a flood of tears to my eyes. My fingers and nose grew numb and protested this cruel treatment.

By mile 1 I was warm inside my clothes, the first beads of sweat moistening the band of my hat. By mile 2 the first hint of light appeared on the eastern horizon, the coming sunrise ready to do battle with the moonlight casting my shadow ahead of me, blue on the snow. The streets of my town were deserted; only the truly brave, hardcore, or insane would venture out on foot at this hour, in this cold. By mile 3 I thought: Why did I wait this long? Why did I fight so hard? This is delicious and refreshing! By mile 4 I felt like I could have run 4 more, but alas, duty called and I crunched up the driveway in the opposite direction.

I am now ready to take on the worst a Michigan winter has to offer. Bring it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Day After Thursday Thoughts

I didn't have enough material yesterday for a full-fledged post; therefore, you all had to content yourselves with my rather light-on-the-substance post about being mentioned on the Ann Arbor Chronicle blog.

But not today!
  • I have had two helpings of coffee today so my brain is going in fifty different directions. Start with a travel mug of home-brewed (aka insanely strong) Roos Roast and then add some work coffee (Starbucks!) on top of that and I feel like I could run 10 miles! Or solve Fermat's Last Theorem! Or figure out cold fusion! OMGBBQ!!11!!!!
  • Last night's RF group run was a good one: five miles.
  • But not as good as what happened immediately afterward: beer! John and I went directly to Ashley's in Ann Arbor for the night of Lagunitas on tap. Hop Stoopid, Cappucino Stout, Imperial Red, Maximus Cask-Conditioned IPA, Lumpy Gravy, Gnarley Wine, and regular IPA. We sampled everything (except the regular IPA, which is a staple in our Beer Fridge) and I ended up getting a pint of Maximus IPA. Then I got a glass of Goose Island Matilda. Hello, yummy! I finished the evening with a wee glass of one of my favorite beers of all time: Lindemans Framboise. People, it is the SHIZ-nit.
  • I was disappointed with the free swag, however; for our patronage all we got were a couple of beer bottle cap magnets from the Lagunitas rep. After hearing about all the cool free stuff Viper got at his recent beer tasting, I was hoping for something more.
  • This is a holiday weekend in Michigan. If you're not from around here, you just wouldn't understand.
  • Today's high: 57 degrees. Tomorrow: up to two inches of snow. Welcome to fucking Michigan! (thanks to Zoomylicious for the awesome illustration.)
  • Further inflaming my ire, an email I sent to the organizers of the Turkey Trot I ran last Sunday regarding collecting my age-group award was rejected for delivery because the email address didn't exist. Or something. People! If you are going to include contact information on your own web site about your own event, MAKE SURE IT'S CORRECT! Sheesh.
  • The University of Michigan is playing Northwestern in Ann Arbor tomorrow. We are attending a Craft Beer in Michigan (aka CBiM) party at the same time. I will probably end up crying into my beer as my beloved Wolverines lose yet another game. *SOB* (first losing season since 1967 WHATTHEFUCK.)
  • Someone did a thesis on the correlation between a full moon and emergency room visits. Conclusion: no statistical significance was found. There are no more ER visits around the time of a full moon than there are at any other time. Myth: BUSTED.
This was a good week for tunes. My latest music obsessions:I gave up on "popular" music about 10 years ago, let my subscription to Rolling Stone lapse in 2005 (don't miss it one bit) and these days the Billboard Top 20 list in the Sunday paper elicits nothing but a quizzical head-cock and thoughts of "Who are these people?"

I subscribe to a bunch of different music Web sites: Pitchfork, Daytrotter, Gorilla vs. Bear, 3Hive, and I'm Waking Up To. And there's always Paste Magazine and All Songs Considered. Between Google Reader and podcasts, I'm always finding something new and cool to listen to. Oh yeah, I also have to give a shout-out to my friend Mr. E (yo, E!) whose musical tastes are almost exactly parallel to mine and with whom I have exchanged scores of songs over the years (remember the Great Mix CD Swap of 2005?). He introduced me to Neko Case, Yo La Tengo, the Postal Service, Bright Eyes, Jenny Lewis/Rilo Kiley, Great Lake Swimmers, Sufjan Stevens, the New Pornographers, and Andrew Bird, without all of whom life would be less bright and shiny. A world in which I do not know and love "Moving Pictures, Silent Films" (Great Lake Swimmers), "Porchlight" (Neko Case) or "Scythian Empires" (Andrew Bird) is a world I don't wish to consider!

Hope everyone has a great weekend.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Spreading Far and Wide

My little blog is turning up in unexpected places these days!

When I started this blog almost a year and a half ago I did not anticipate that more than a handful of people, mainly close friends and family, would ever bother reading it. Who would want to listen to me complain about weight loss and running road races, of all things? Why would anyone be the least bit interested in what kind of shoes I wear or the things I eat? (speaking of that green lentil soup, I made it for dinner the other night and it was, as always, fabulous.)

Now I have y'all, my fellow running bloggers (or would that be blogging runners?)-- close by, far away, some I've met in person, others I hope to someday (soon!), fellow foodies, boozers, beer lovers (those last two might be interchangable, actually), the similarly tabby-obsessed, the inspirational, the hilarious, and everything in between. I'm continually flattered and pleased that you take the time to stop by this sweaty, smelly corner of the blogosphere.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Font of All Useless Knowledge

Scene: the gym, about 6:30 am this morning. I am rifling through the piles of magazines for some reading material for my elliptical session. I find the latest issue of Us Magazine (OMG Jessica Alba's post-baby diet! style tips from Lauren Conrad!) and then unearth the holy grail of gym magazines: Runner's World! I pull it out and then look quizzically at the cover. "London Marathon! Khalid Khannouch breaks his world record and sets new world record of 2:05:38!"

Wait a minute...I think. Exactly how OLD is this magazine? Haile Gebrselassie just set the world record of 2:03:59 in Berlin at the end of September and he broke the world record he set in Berlin last year!

I flip rapidly through the interior of the magazine and discover it's from July 2002. (Why a six-year-old magazine is at my gym, I have no idea.) This magazine is so old Deena Kastor is still shown as Deena Drossin!

Then I think, Oh my god...I have achieved a new level of dorkdom. Not only did I instantly know this magazine had to be hopelessly out of date because of the obsolete marathon world record on the cover, I knew the name of the current record holder, his world record time, and the race at which he ran it.

I am not sure whether to be proud of or kind of scared of the fact that I know these things.

Edited to add: ALL RIGHT I CONFESS, I LOVE CELEBRITY GOSSIP. OKAY? I'm sorry to burst y'all's bubble, but I am NOT the intellectual and cultural snob you think I am. I read Us Magazine (and OK! and In Touch when I find them) at the gym and every single day I visit my favorite celeb gossip Web site: The Superficial. I have to stay abreast of all celebrity news.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Race Report: Ann Arbor Turkey Trot 5K (2008 Version)

37 degrees and spitting rain.

In other words, a fantastic day for racing!

This was the third year in a row that I ran the Tortoise and Hare Ann Arbor Turkey Trot. It was at this race in 2006 that I commenced Phase II of my running life by finishing-- without walking!-- in a time of 32:58. Last year, with substantially more running under my belt, I finished in 25:01. This year, having already broken my 5K PR twice, run another half marathon and my first marathon, I didn't really know what to expect. I haven't run a 5K race since June. I've backed off from the high mileage weeks I was putting in before the marathon (though I ran 28 miles last week, which isn't exactly skimping on the miles) and I haven't been concentrating on speed work (my warm afternoon of 800s notwithstanding). I just wanted to get out and have a good time and whatever happened, happened.

The first thing that happened is I saw one of my RF501 training group partners, Ted of the Blue Shirt. I miss seeing everyone from the group every week now that the training season is over so that was a nice surprise.

The local high school cross country teams were out in full force, as they always seem to be for this particular race. Indeed, one of the standouts from Saline High School won the women's race with a time of 18:21.

I inserted myself into the pack close to the front because this was one of those races with a chip mat only at the end so the closer I was to the starting line, the more accurate my time would be. It was astoundingly cold so I bounced up and down in place to keep limber.

I did the first mile in 7:30 and held that pace or even slightly better for the rest of the race. This was a novel development, as I am overly prone to going out too fast and then fading with each successive mile. I didn't feel that drain this morning. I felt strong for the duration and cruised to a time of 23:10 (Garmy said 23:04, but whatever) which was good enough for third in my age group. Immediately after the race I saw Kara, another one of my RF501 comrades, who totally rocked her 5K (you go girl!).

I improved my time over last year's by 1:51 and ran my second-fastest 5K ever. Not bad for a Sunday stroll in the park. I also shaved my Shave Your 5K Challenge Stubble Time (23:19) by nine seconds, which was, let's be honest, my primary goal today. Even if I fail to reduce the stubble any more for the rest of the year, I can say I pared 9 seconds off my stubble time.

Final stats:

23:10 (7:28/mile average)
3/33 age group, award-worthy, though I don't know what I won since I didn't want to stand around freezing my ass off waiting for the 10K to finish
86/376 overall (I don't know about my place among the women)
Second-fastest 5K time ever!
2 friends/fellow runners encountered
ZERO: Race T-shirt, as I was not one of the first 600 participants because I uncharacteristically did not preregister (adopting a "wait and see approach" to the weather situation) and therefore, doing race day registration and becoming participant #662, I did not receive a race shirt, which really irked me for two reasons: one, because THERE WERE BOXES OF THEM STILL LYING AROUND AFTER THE RACE, and, two, because this year's shirt was a technical tee in a choice of colors, which was a vast improvement over last year's lackluster heather-grey cotton tee which is the most boring race shirt I have in my collection.

Additionally, I think that as an age-group award winner I should get a goddamn race shirt on principle.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Get The Lead Out

I received an unexpected gift yesterday afternoon: a couple of free hours courtesy of my employer, who kindly saw fit to release everyone early in order to vote. I had my bag o' athletic equipment in my car because I went to the gym early Tuesday morning, so once I had finished voting, I changed inside the community center and headed out to the track for a good hard run.

The weather up here this week has been unbelievable, people. It's NOVEMBER, and it has been 70 degrees. I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt and the warm sun and gentle breeze felt like summer. I did a couple of warmup miles (8:30, 8:31) and then got down to business. I decided to bust out a few 800s, shake the dust off my legs that's been accumulating since the marathon and remind them that yes, they can go fast.

3:34, 3:32, 3:32, and 3:32. I don't know how I did it. Consistency is not my middle name.

But damn it felt good. There's nothing like a really hard run to make you feel alive! Or alive once you straighten up from gasping with your hands on your knees.

I wrapped up my 2-mile cooldown and went inside to my Weight Watchers meeting and I lost another 1.6 lbs. I'm back over the 60-pound hump. Next stop: 65 lbs. I reached that point way back in May and then got derailed. I've been fighting over the same 5-8 lbs since then and I'm determined to pass 65 and head for 70 which would put me at 148 lbs. I'm going to get there, by golly!

Speaking of other things that are making me happy today, for the first time ever, the Presidential candidate for whom I voted WON. It is a wonderful feeling.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Least Creative Costume Ever

You know you're a runner when...

...you dress up as one for Halloween. Or would that be you dress up as yourself?

My shirt and headband say it all, I think.

Last night John and I went to a Halloween party at a local brewpub. I wanted to fully participate in the spirit of the evening; however, lacking in both creativity and advance planning skills, I decided to dress up as the runner me. A pair of tights, "Obsessed Runner" shirt, a bunch of old race bibs, and my marathon jacket later, I was all set.

Enjoying some Espresso Love. My eyes are closed because it's that good.

Don't mind John. He just got out of prison. (Grand theft auto, if you must know. Prisoner number 8675309.)

With my Brasserie Blonde. Or maybe it was the Sacred Cow IPA at this point...I don't really know...

Me and my fellow beer-a-holic friend Patti (dressed up as Britney Spears) who can also be seen here.

And no, I did not bounce out of bed this morning and go for a long run like I had intended. Why do you ask?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thursday Thoughts: Adrift

  • I think I have that post-marathon funk I've heard about. All that training and planning and working for four months, and now it's...just...over. What the hell do I do now? I'm totally unstructured. I can do whatever I want, and that kind of scares me, because I thrived on my schedule. There was no question about what I was going to do each day. Now everything is a big random mish-mash. I need to come up with some kind of routine.
  • But on the other hand, my ankle/fibula region feels fantastic!
  • I picked up my last share of vegetables from my CSA farm yesterday. Five months of delicious fresh organic veggies is over. I have enough of some things (potatoes, squash) to last for a while but I will have to cook and freeze some of the more perishable stuff for use during the winter. I'm cringing at the thought of buying produce from the grocery store.
  • My new song obsession of the moment: Rogue Wave, "Lake Michigan." (Except the video was shot in California. I can spot those bleached blonde hills and live oaks from 2,500 miles away. O land of my childhood, I miss thee!) I heard it on the radio (not "regular" radio-- yeah right-- but Sirius' "Left of Center" station) a couple of days ago and instantly fell in love.
  • This is closely followed by the Olympic Symphonium's "Intentions Alone."
  • We had a fitness fair at work the other day and I had my body composition measured with one of those electrical current impedance devices. It said I have 26% body fat. I was kind of like, "WTF?" because at 157-ish pounds and just having run a marathon I really thought I would have less body fat than that. It's within the "average" range for a woman but I don't wanna be "average," I wanna be in the "athletic" category!
  • On the other hand, I dropped 1.4 lbs at my weigh-in so I shouldn't complain too much. My final goal weight is out there, waiting. I'm going to get there this time.
  • I'm giving blood this morning. I have been donating blood since I was in high school. I've donated so much I've lost count of how many gallons it is. I donate every time I'm eligible which works out to about four times per year. I'm the least philanthropic person this side of Sccrooge so this is my only act of kindness toward my fellow man.*UPDATE*: I was DENIED! The iron count (hemoglobin) in my blood was too low. It was only 12.1 g/dL and they want it to be at least 12.5 g/dL. I haven't been deferred for low iron in years. It's odd, considering the vast quantities of dark green leafy vegetables I eat. Speaking of which, last night I whirled up another enormous batch (at least a gallon) of the famous kale-banana smoothie. This time I threw in more blueberries, strawberries, and an entire quart of nonfat yogurt. I LOVE the K-B-B-S-Y smoothie (aka "green slime" to the more squeamish members of the household).
  • Cat + marathon = awesome.
  • Good luck to my fellow run-bloggers TK of Pigtails Flying and the Running Laminator as they tackle the mighty New York Marathon on Sunday!
  • And, finally, cats on a treadmill. I laughed so hard I cried.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Special Thanks Goes To

I can't believe I didn't include this in my race report. I want to give a special shout-out to my RF501 teammates Ted, Kara, Trevor (who all ran Detroit with me), and Lorenda, who ran the Grand Rapids Marathon on the same day. I am so glad I spent the summer running with you guys. YOU ALL ROCK!!!

And I can't forget my fellow Michigan running bloggers Chiarunner (Grand Rapids Marathon), Nitmos and Lisa (Detroit), DirtDawg50K (Columbus Marathon), and Big (Chicago Marathon). So when are we all going to get together for a beer? :)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Race Report: Detroit Free Press/Flagstar Marathon

Where the journey begins.
My first marathon.

I haven't had a "first" quite like this for a long time. I thought all my "firsts" were over and done with. First word, first step, first lost tooth, first car, first day of college, first kiss, first...well, you know, first hangover, first job, first house. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would add "first marathon" to the list.

In the predawn chilly chaos before I went to the starting corral area

Saturday we went out to dinner and I said "no" to the wine and "yes" to five rolls, the same rolls of which I won a dozen in the Run for the Rolls. I chowed down on chicken pasta (carbs and protein!) and went to bed around 9:30. I had a decent night's sleep and bounced out of bed when the alarm went off at 4:30. We were on the road just after 5:00 and parked in downtown Detroit about an hour later. I found the bar that Running Fit had rented for the RF501 team and made some final prerace preparations: strap on the heart rate monitor, pin my Gu packets into my shorts, put on my new headband, don the throwaway sweatshirt which John sacrificed to the cause of keeping me warm while waiting for the start.

Standing in the corral immediately before the start, I was overcome with emotion and had to scrub briskly at my face to dispel what might have turned into tears. I just couldn't believe I was about to embark on this crazy adventure. I thought, I'm going to run a MARATHON. It was totally dark, freezing cold, and I was about to take the first step of thousands on my 26.2-mile journey. I folded my hands and tucked them under my chin to keep them warm. This was not the time for weepy introspection.

And then we were off.
I'm in this teeming mob somewhere.
In the Beginning

I ditched the sweatshirt around mile 1. I wasn't cold anymore. I felt great. I breathed deep, slow and even and let the excitement of the day sweep me along. I passed the lonely monolith of the one remaining side of old Tiger Stadium, fallen victim to progress and the wrecking ball. As we neared the bridge around mile 3 the sun was just beginning to rise. A long line of runners, silhouetted black against the sun, stretched across the span of the bridge. There were just enough clouds to turn the sky pink and orange (just like my headband!) and I thought it was beautiful. My friend and fellow RF501er Erika caught up to me on the bridge ascent and we started running together at a good pace. We came down off the bridge and then we were in Canada. From the other side of the river, Detroit didn't look so bad, the glass of its buildings shining in the morning light. After three or so miles of Windsor we looped around and headed for the Detroit-Windsor tunnel. Last year this was my least favorite part of the race: hot, loud, crowded, and stuffy. This year it was less loud, less hot, less stuffy, but still really crowded. We were spat out of the tunnel at mile 9 and the crowd support there was awesome. After a cruise through Corktown (where we saw a woman running totally barefoot) I was almost at the halfway point and feeling great.

(Miles 1-12: 8:34, 8:27, 8:30, 8:46, 8:21, 8:33, 8:23, 8:40, 8:58, 8:07 (yikes!), 8:28, 8:15)

The Pivotal Moment

Somewhere during mile 13 I said to Erika, "I have to stop. I have to go to the bathroom." We had been hanging just behind the 3:45 pace group for miles and I thought I had a good shot at meeting my top goal of a BQ time. I had been feeling twinges of unrest for a few miles and knew the beast in my GI tract wouldn't stay under control for much longer. I pulled over at a Porta-Potty stop; unfortunately I chose one with a line and SOME SLOW-ASS PEOPLE DOING WHO KNOWS WHAT IN THERE FOR WHAT FELT LIKE FREAKING 15 MINUTES. I stood there getting colder and colder, feeling my muscles start to chill and stiffen, as my Garmin whirred on and about a bazillion people passed by. FINALLY it was my turn and I wrestled my shorts and underwear off (they were recalcitrant and glued to me with sweat), took care of business (AAAAAAHHHHHH) and wrestled my clothes back on, popping a pin in the process, sending a Gu packet to the ground, where I snatched it back up after an instant's pause (ohmygod it fell on the floor in a PORTA-POTTY...oh, what the hell, I can't leave it there) and burst out of the john with my shorts all bunched up and askew, underwear half hanging out, and my rear on display because the hem of my shorts had gotten tucked inside the liner. I saw that the 3:50 pace group had just gone past, and I bolted after them, rearranging my shorts as I went. I turned it on hard because I wanted to catch back up with the 3:45 group so badly. I passed the 3:50-ers and by the halfway point I was somewhere in between the two groups and feeling the first pangs of something deep in my quads.

(Mile 13, the Porta-Potty Stop Mile: 10:02)

Approaching my family at the halfway point. I'm the crazy person waving my arms.

Things Get Ugly

I saw my assembled family right at the halfway mark and I ran exuberantly over to the side and gave John a big high five. My time at the half was 1:54:44, an 8:45 pace, and faster than my official half marathon race PR I set in May. I was now on a course out of the city that would lead me to Belle Isle. I had heard unpleasant things about the Belle Isle portion of the course (miles 17-20): windy, dismal, boring, no crowd support. Shortly after mile 17, I had to make a quick stop at a Porta-Potty again. I just groaned when I realized I needed to stop again. My quads were now officially singing an aria of pain the composer of which I did not know. This level of pain and interference with my performance was new to me. Never before had my muscles rebelled so thoroughly against what I was asking of them. I had smoothly run 16, 18, even 20 miles before without experiencing this mind-boggling ache. When I left the Porta-Potty the 3:50 pace group had just gone past and I staggered after them. Try as I might I would never pass them again. I slogged onward. I found the Belle Isle miles rather pleasant from a scenic perspective. The 20-mile mark was right after I crossed the Belle Isle bridge back to Detroit.

(Miles 14-20: 7:47 (still playing catchup), 8:13, 8:37, 8:33, 9:53 (Porta-Potty stop #2), 8:36, 8:41)
Closer, but more blurry. I still look happy!

On my way out of the city toward Belle Isle. A long 13.1 miles still lie ahead.

Running along the Detroit River Walk around mile 16.

On the way to Belle Isle.
The Long Run Home

I was now in uncharted territory: over 20 miles. As I came off the bridge I thought, Only a 10K to go. What's a 10K? I can do this. I came up behind a familiar blue shirt: it was my RF501 teammate Ted. He looked less than his usual self. I asked him how he was doing and he replied he had been in pain since mile 5. We hung together for a long time, trading places back and forth as the course wound through the Indian Village neighborhood. Around mile 21 things really started to disintegrate. I could feel myself falling farther and farther off my intended pace as the pain in my quads reached a crescendo. I zeroed in on a spot on the pavement about 20 feet in front of me and stared at it grimly as the street slipped by under my feet. I didn't even look around at the beautiful old homes which normally I would squeal over. I even passed up a table full of shots of beer (sorry, Viper). I just wanted it to be over. The course made one final turn onto Lafayette around 22.5 miles and then it was just one long-ass straight stretch (death march) all the way back into downtown and the finish. As I swung onto Lafayette and saw the Renaissance Center miles away in the hazy distance, I cried inside, knowing I had to run all the way there. How was I ever going to be able to do it?

One foot in front of the other. Just keep moving. I couldn't even see the 3:50 pace group any more. The 3:55 group hadn't passed me yet, and I decided that if I couldn't meet my A Goal of a Boston qualifying time, I was going to move mountains to finish in under four hours and meet my B Goal. I gritted my teeth and pressed on. At a water stop at mile 24.5 I was walking (well, lurching would be more accurate) with my cup when my friend and fellow runner Fritz, who was spectating and helping cheer on the RF501ers, came across the road to me. I rolled my eyes and gasped, "I'm in so much pain." "You're almost there, just keep going," he said. I staggered off, legs clamoring in protest as they were forced to start moving again. Not long after, shortly after mile 25, I passed another table full of little cups and a sign that said, "BEER." I thought, Oh, why the hell not, and swung over to the side to grab a cup. The guy handing out cups yelled, "ALL RIIIIIIGHT!" as I tossed back a shot of warm, nasty, light beer. Why couldn't it have been something really awesome, like Motor City Nut Brown Ale or Atwater Brewing Vanilla Java Porter? I thought, Well, if this makes me feel gross, at least I'm almost done.

At long, long last I was back downtown. The course made a 90-degree turn to the north, a little curve to the west, and then plunged south down Woodward Avenue to the finish. When I rounded that final turn and saw the finish line in the distance I reached down and scraped up everything I had left to make a strong run to the end.

This is the face of suffering at Mile 26.

All of the spectators were screaming and rattling cowbells and the banner over the finish drew closer and closer. I saw the clock reading "3:53:XX" and I rejoiced because I knew I was going to come in under four hours. I reached my arms up and crossed over, mashing the stop button on Garmy, and finally, finally, it was OVER. I looked once, tiredly, at Garmy and it said 3:52:00. I then lapsed back into a daze, repeating to myself, I ran a marathon. I ran a marathon!

Can you feel the power of the moment?!

Don't forget to stop Garmy!

(Miles 21-26: 8:59, 8:47, 9:18, 9:11, 9:33, 8:54, and the final 0.2 at an 8:13 pace for my official chip time of 3:52:01, an 8:52/mile average)

Aftermath

A finisher's medal which weighed approximately 50 pounds was slung around my neck, a Mylar wrap found its way around my sweaty body and promptly sealed itself to me, a bag of food was pressed into my hand, and I ambled out into the bright sunshine of a gorgeous October morning to find my family.
My mom and I

John and I

One newly minted marathon runner.

After a rambunctious reunion we made our way back to the RF501 HQ where I changed clothes and gathered my things. A mere 45 minutes later we were tucked into a booth at Zingerman's Roadhouse in Ann Arbor where I enjoyed my first beer in five days, a delicious Stoudt's Pale Ale. I inhaled both the beer and my lunch of the best macaroni and cheese (smoked chicken & Monterey Jack) known to mankind.

I know you've seen this one already but I like it so much I had to post it again.

What you haven't seen: what happened after I finished my beer!

I stayed conscious enough to take a shower and put on clean clothes once I got home but then I crawled into bed and took a long nap. I got up around 5:30, hung out downstairs for a couple of hours, and was back in bed around 7:30 (reading) with lights out at 8:30.

I was exhausted, sore, but triumphant.

What Next?

For the first time in four months I do not have to get up and go running each morning. This is not to say I don't want to, because I do. I'm just a wee bit sore. However, I believe the mornings of 8-mile runs before work are over for the time being. I have a few months to relax and just enjoy my running before I start training for the Cleveland Marathon. Oh, wait, did I just say that? Yes, folks, I already have my next marathon picked out. I ran my first in my adopted big city hometown of Detroit. Now I shall return to my roots and run my second marathon in my real big city hometown of Cleveland. And this time I'm going to qualify for Boston.

I AM A MARATHONER!