Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What Runners Think About While Running

I get asked a lot what I think about while I am on a long run. When I am out on the road alone for a hour or more, what do I do to keep myself occupied? Sometimes I take my iPod. Sometimes I just completely zone out. And sometimes I see something which I seize upon and which keeps my mind busy for a little while. Such was the case with my 11-miler on Sunday. In the yard of a home outside of town, I saw a very large statue of the Virgin Mary perched at the edge of a pond. Immediately my mind threw out "Our Lady of the Pond."I found this highly amusing. I repeated it to myself over and over while I was running. I thought about the ways in which Our Lady of the Pond could watch over the waters, protecting the ducks and fish alike. Our Lady of the Pond.

This ends the totally scary glimpse into the head of a distance runner.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

One More Thing

I forgot to add something to my list of reasons why I am finding myself nostalgic for winter running:


There is nothing like inhaling a stray insect or running through a cloud of gnats!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For...You Just Might Get It

It seems that spring has, at last, finally sprung in Michigan.

Of course now I all but guaranteed we will have one more blast of winter weather by saying that, didn't it?

I have whined and complained and bitched about the way winter seemed to be dragging on...and on...and on...around here. I yearned for longer days, warmer temperatures, sidewalks that were free of snow.

Now I have all three of those things, except they aren't turning out to be as all-encompassingly fantastic as I thought they would be. OK, the longer days thing pretty much rocks. I can go out for a run at 6:30 pm, finish at 8:00 pm, and it's still light out. Furthermore, I am about to flip my schedule and start running in the early mornings again now that it's semi-light at 6:00 am.

However. Warmer temperatures means I am sweating more. And for me, "more" means "getting drenched." I sweat a lot. That old trying-to-be-funny saying about how "women don't sweat, they glow" does not apply to me. I don't glow. Or glisten. I look like someone threw a bucket of water on me. It was so nice over the winter when I didn't come back with my hair all matted down, huge sweat bibs on the fronts and backs of my shirts, and eyes red and stinging from sweat trickling into them.

I am enjoying the fact that all I need to go running now is a pair of shorts and a tank top instead of ten layers and multiple accessories, though. And whoa, folks, let me just say that proper running shorts and short-sleeved and tank tops are so much nicer to run in than cotton T-shirts and my old gym shorts. I feel so sleek and speedy in my new gear. Additionally, I can coordinate my outfits with one of my thirteen Bondi Band headbands. I am ready for any fashion situation! When you look good, you feel good, you know.

But. Warmer weather also means that the snow cover is gone and the temperature is above freezing most of the time. Thus, all of the roadkill that was sacrificed to the car gods over the winter and mercifully lay frozen for months has now thawed. I like to run in the country as much as possible. The country contains many ditches and such where roadkill landed. Said roadkill is now becoming...awfully fragrant. Nothing like the smell of dead deer in the morning! I can only hope that our local crows, vultures, ants and flies do their jobs as Nature's Garbagemen and take care of this problem.

Now, on to our sidewalks. For months I ran in the streets because the sidewalks were a half-shoveled or not-shoveled-at-all nightmare. Now that the sidewalks are clear, I can run freely on them. Except...often I find myself back in the street anyway. Why? Because the sidewalks of my lovely little city are so uneven as to guarantee a faceplant or skinned knees at some point in my future. I have to stare at a spot a few strides ahead of me at all times in order to stay alert for changing topography. This prevents me from taking pleasure in anything else. I love being able to look around at the world while I am out running. However, my world shrinks down to the few feet of sidewalk a short distance in front of me these days. Thus, I often veer into the street to get some relief from staring at the same spot on the sidewalk and to not worry about tripping and crashing to the ground.

Finally, the combination of warm temperatures + clear sidewalks = PEOPLE, PEOPLE EVERYWHERE. I got used to being the only one out and about during the winter (except for fellow obsessed runners; we would always exchange "the nod" if we passed each other while out for a run on a frigid January afternoon). Sometimes I felt as if I was the only one alive in town. The peace and solitude were lovely. Now I have to dodge ambling teenagers, people with dogs, little kids on bikes, enormous sidewalk-gobbling megastrollers, old folks going slowly, and people who walk three abreast and don't even attempt to move when they see me coming.

I wanted spring to come so badly, and now that it's here, I find myself waxing nostalgic for winter. I'm never satisfied, am I?

Thursday, April 10, 2008


I had a long (2-hour) meeting at work this morning. I was sitting in the conference room waiting for it to start and looking out the windows. I saw some guy out for a run on a sidewalk about 300 meters away. I watched him until he passed out of sight and the whole time I was thinking, "I wish I could be out there right now."

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Aw Yeah

After my Weight Watchers meeting yesterday I headed out to the track for my speed workout. I was feeling slightly peevish because I had posted yet another middling one-pound gain at weigh-in. I'm on a plateau so huge it feels like Tibet. I just cannot get away from the 159-161 pounds range. Sigh.

Anyway, I bopped on down to the track for some 800-meter intervals. At least the weather was pleasant, unlike one week ago when I battled that 30-mph wind and 35-degree temperature before screaming "F@RK THIS!" and bagging it halfway through the workout. I started with a mile warmup and then launched into my first 800. As I was pounding along, a huge gaggle of girls appeared on the grassy slope leading down to the track. It was some local soccer team there for practice. I passed by them on the curve heading into the homestretch in front of the grandstands.

I zoomed past, and then I heard one of the girls say, "Oh my God...look at her muscles." I was wearing my spiffy new Asics shorts (third day in a row!) so my gleaming white (love those Midwest winters...nary a photon of sunlight has hit my skin in six months) legs were out there in all their apparently rippling-muscled glory.

I hereby confess that upon overhearing that comment I kicked extra-hard to finish my interval. All remaining irritable thoughts of my stalled progress at Weight Watchers were swept away. So what if I can't seem to lose any weight? I've worked so hard for these strong legs, these muscles that are now drawing comments from strangers. These legs have carried me almost 300 miles this year, will carry me 13.1 miles in a mere five weeks, and hopefully hundreds more (and a marathon distance) by the end of the year.

Sometimes positive change isn't always about the number on the scale.

Also: Adolescent girls? Squeal a lot.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Race Report: Meteor 10K

Ah, sunrise. Heralding a new day full of fresh possibilities. In this case, my first 10K race. At 7:15 am we were driving east into the blinding sunrise, heading for the campus of the University of Michigan-Dearborn and the Meteor 10K.

We arrived with plenty of time to spare; I picked up my race number amidst the total chaos of the expo hall and then we strolled down to the start/finish line. I did a brief warmup, some stretches, and then joined the participant crowd.

Final adjustments

I was very pleased to see that the race was using start and finish timing mats for this chip-timed event, unlike several previous events I have participated in. This ensured that my time would be extremely accurate. When the DJ booth started blaring the Rocky theme I knew the big moment was at hand. I also knew I could not bolt out too fast at the start which would guarantee a quick fade later in the race. I decided to start with a slowish warmup first mile and then settle into a faster pace. The race started, everyone surged forward, and I was off!

Around mile 1 (photo from Run Michigan image gallery)

I did exactly what I had planned for the first mile: 8:41. OK. Feeling good. Breathing under control-- nice slow, deep breaths. Legs feel fresh. Stomach rock solid. Let's open things up a little.

Somewhere around mile 1.5, passing the start/finish line crowd again. Looking good!

I settled back into a nice groove and slowly upped my speed. The miles just seemed to fly by. I felt great, the best I've felt since I got sick two weeks ago. I had struggled somewhat with training this past week; I just felt like something was "off." I felt like I had lost my "running mojo." It came roaring back during this race. I was passing people right and left. I felt like I had wings on my feet! I passed the 5K mark just before 27:00. As we started up Hines Dr., (holy potholes, Batman!) which was a long out-and-back, the front of the field passed me on the opposite side. I love these races that double back on themselves, giving us middle-of-the-packers a chance to see elite runners in action. The turnaround point on Hines Dr. was shortly after the 4-mile mark. I decided to bear down and pick up my pace a little for the final two miles. I didn't really have any time goal for this race. I told John before the start I would finish in 55 minutes if I took things nice and easy and 50:00 if I worked for it. Soon enough mile 5 was behind me and I could hear the noise from the finish line area. I was undeniably tired and working harder than ever. Just a little bit more! After an unscheduled "water jump" (partially flooded driveway) right at mile 6 the path jogged a little to the right and then it was just one long straightaway to the finish. I pushed hard all the way to the line and finished in 51:22.

Immediately after the finish, still breathless, watching a race volunteer remove my timing chip from my shoe.

My splits were 8:41, 8:24, 8:13, 8:10, 8:04, 8:11, and the final 0.2 at a 7:20 pace for an average of 8:16. I finished 17/124 in my age group (30-39) and 181/617 overall. It was a great race; the weather was perfect (sunny, about 45 degrees at the start, no wind). I also got a bunch of stuff on sale at the race expo afterwards, and any time I can get an awesome blue Asics shirt for 50% off is a good day.

Talking with Erika and Victor after the race.

Friday, April 4, 2008

True Grit

Yesterday during some random running blog meanderings I stumbled across YARB (yet another running blog), this one entitled Frayed Laces.

This woman experienced an injury so ghastly, so horrible, so unbelievable, I would never wish it even on someone in my age group who is about to finish one second in front of me to win our age group in any race. I wouldn't wish this injury on anyone, ever, under any circumstances.

Her pelvis broke due to a stress fracture DURING A MARATHON and she kept going and finished the race.

I can't even put into words how in awe of her I am. I probably would have collapsed in a heap.

My confession? I'm absolutely terrified of getting a stress fracture. It's my worst nightmare. I think every little twinge is an incipient stress fracture. I'm currently obsessing over the state of my right shin. It doesn't hurt...there's just...a weird little feeling there. It does not hurt or bother me during my runs, however. I've done enough research to know I should be feeling some degree of pain during a run if I was developing a stress fracture.

In other news, tomorrow morning is the Meteor 10K in Dearborn, Michigan, a race in which I will be running. My very first 10K race! I'm 100% guaranteed to get a PR!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


...just registered for the 2008 Detroit Marathon.

Oh my God. I'm really going to do this.

My very first marathon.