Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I Feel Like A Rabbit

Over the coming week I have to eat all of this:

This is one week's worth of vegetables from my CSA farm share. It's actually quite fabulous.

In other news, after undergoing the strength drill workout from heck last night as part of marathon training class, my quads and butt are scuh-REAMING in pain today. I thought I was in shape! HA!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Race Report: A Most Excellent Race (No, Really)

As we were visiting my parents in Ohio this weekend, I took a look at the local race offerings for something close by in which I could participate. I found A Most Excellent Race 5K which was being held at Beaumont School in Cleveland Heights about 25 minutes away. This morning I headed out around 7:45, arrived at the race venue, picked up my packet, and did a warm-up jog. The race started just after 9:00 with a decent crowd of runners. I settled into what I felt was a good cruising pace and let the gradual downhill on Fairmount Blvd lead me to a 6:55 first mile. I hit mile 2 at 13:54 (I think...I wish I had been paying closer attention) which would have made it a 6:59 pace and then the third mile turned back onto North Park Blvd and was one long, gradual uphill that totally killed me. I was really struggling, and thought well, there goes my chance at a PR and my stomach was roiling uncomfortably and I was breathing like a steam engine but I passed the mile 3 mark at 20:00 and change and then I brightened up and thought, let's kick this thing, girl. I knew if I really dug in I would be able to set a new PR. Uphill finish? Phooey! I concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other just a little faster. As I approached the finish line I could see the timing clock was still in the 22:00 range. I wrung every last drop of energy I had out of myself even to the point of an involuntary groan of agony and finished in 22:44. I pulled over to the grass and bent over with my hands on my knees, utterly spent. I couldn't even move for about 30 seconds. I turned in my timing chip and got some food and water and did a cool-down jog. At 10:45 the awards ceremony got under way. I decided to hang around because I thought my performance might have netted me an age group award. I was not mistaken; when they announced the 30-34 group I took first place. I won a tote bag!

I hopped online when we got back to Michigan and looked up the race results. I finished first out of 13 in my age group and fifth out of 83 women. And not only that, but I set a new PR by 35 seconds!

This also means I shaved my 5K Stubble Time in the Shave Your 5K Challenge put on by Vanilla from Half-Fast. Edited to add: Well, I just reread the official rules for the challenge and my "smooth time" has to be from a 5K race held during November or December of this year. I guess that means I still have some work to do.

Final stats:
1/13 age group
5/83 women
PR by 35 seconds

Thursday, June 19, 2008

On My Mind

Remember this? I certainly do. I've had the lottery date emblazoned on my brain for the past six months, waiting, impatiently, as the days crawled by. Then today I got this email:
Dear Bridge Run Lottery Registrant-

Thank you for registering for the 2008 Mackinac Bridge Labor Day Run! As you may know, only 300 runners will be selected to participate in what many people have called “an experience of a lifetime.” Those selected for the event will have the opportunity to kick off all Labor Day festivities at the Mackinac Bridge.

Participants are selected through a lottery drawing which will be held on Thursday, June 26. Those selected will receive notification via U.S. mail service. If you do not receive notification by Thursday, July 17, you have unfortunately not been selected for the run this year. We encourage all those who are not selected to apply again the following year. Please call 1-800-434-8642 with any questions regarding the Bridge Run. Thank you for your registration!
Only one week until the drawing!

I would seriously, like, wet myself if I got picked.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Get Ready...And We're Off!

This morning I did the first of many, many, many marathon training runs to come over the next four months.

No turning back now!

I also attended my first Running Fit 501 session last night during which I ran a two-mile time trial. I hammered it and put up two 7:12 miles for a total of 14:24. That was a mite faster than I expected but that performance bolstered my hopes for a new 5K PR (and the shaving of my 5K Stubble Time) at a race I will be doing this coming Sunday in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

Finally, everyone visit Viper my fellow drinker with a running problem and wish him good luck on his Towpath Trail Summer Solstice Challenge, aka the "I think you're nuts but whatever floats your boat" run.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Speaking of Missed Opportunities...

Perusing the weekend's race results in Michigan (how lame is that?) I discovered a race I didn't even know existed took place on Saturday. There was no way I could have attended (opera performance) but I AM SO THERE NEXT YEAR. A single event that combines two of my favorite things in life? It doesn't get any better than that.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Missed Opportunity

Yesterday morning was the PHP Rose Run in Jackson. I did the 5K race last year, when I was still a running newbie, and finished fifth in my age group with a time of 27:39. At the time this was a huge accomplishment.

PHP Rose Run, June 9, 2007.

Needless to say in the subsequent year I have improved greatly. Why, just a couple of weeks ago I ran a 24:02 5K as a regular morning run. I knew the Rose Run was coming up again, and I mulled over whether or not to enter. Unfortunately a bunch of things converging at once made me realize it was probably not practical, so I stayed home and did a quick run around town instead.

I checked the race results today and discovered that the winning time for my age group was 25:30. DAMN! I totally could have taken first in my age group given my recent speediness.

Oh well...maybe next year. Now I have to leave for my last opera performance *sniff*. That has been so much fun.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Dexter-Ann Arbor Run Pictures

Since my Official Photographer/Gear Wrangler was out of town when I ran the Dexter-Ann Arbor Run two weeks ago, I caved and bought some pictures of myself ($80 for three digital picture files? Highway robbery, I say! But I bought them anyway).

Somewhere around mile 3, I think, on Huron River Drive.

The typical finish pose of many a runner. Make sure to hit that stopwatch as you cross the finish line!

I like this one the best. I look like a Real Runner. Now, if only the time on the clock over my head started with a "4" instead of a "5"...recall, dear readers, that my official finish time was 50:00 on the dot.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Proud Moment

At weigh-in on Tuesday there was a new receptionist. I stepped up to her station and onto the scale. This was a good week; I lost another 3.2 lbs (I blame vegetables) and am finally back to where I was pre-half marathon. She looked at my weigh-in card and said, "Do you have a weight goal yet? You're inside our [Weight Watchers'] weight range for your height."

"Well, I think I want to lose a total of 75 pounds, which would put me at 143. I'm getting really close." (true: only 10 more pounds to go!)

"Wow...I mean, how have you done it? I mean, what's keeping you motivated?"




"I'm a long-distance runner."


Actual Conversation I Had With Myself This Morning While Running

Well, how far are we going to go today?

I thought we decided on the four mile loop.

Yeah, but I could also do the five mile loop.

What time is it? You don't want to get back to the house too late because you still have to get both of your meals ready for today. Remember, you're going straight to the opera after work and you need to eat dinner.

So? I can be a little late, since I'm staying later at work and all.

OK, forget that. What about that groin pain that's been bothering you?

It's manageable.

Consider this, then. You aren't running tomorrow because it's rest day plus you have to be at work at 7:00. It would be better to do the five mile loop today for the extra miles.

Plus I should do the five miles as penance for that beer I had at 10:00 last night.

There you go. Penance. Drinking beer at 10:00 pm, what were you thinking?

I wasn't, I guess...

Decision time. The end of the cemetery drive is coming up. Which will it be? Straight for four miles, turn right for five. It's coming up. No time to dawdle.

OK, shut up already. Status check. Legs: good. Breathing: good. Overall feeling of badassery for running at least four miles at dawn: very good. Potential for even more badassery for running five miles before work: even better. Let's do it. Five miles it is.

Five miles it is. Turn right, please.

Final stats: 5.11 miles, 45:27, 8:53/mile.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Some Running Reading

My most recent issue of The New Yorker includes a piece by the Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami. It is called "The Running Novelist." I saw the title and immediately drew the magazine closer, laying aside my salad fork. Finally, something interesting to read over lunch lettuce. He begins:
A long time has passed since I started running on an everyday basis. Specifically, it was the fall of 1982. I was thirty-three then.
He then goes on at length about his life as a jazz club owner and freshly minted novelist. Finally, he gets back to the running:
Once I had decided to become a professional writer, another problem arose: the question of how to keep physically fit. Running the club had required constant physical labor, but once I was sitting at a desk writing all day I started putting on the pounds. I was also smoking too much--sixty cigarettes a day. My fingers were yellow, and my body reeked of smoke. This couldn't be good for me, I decided. If I wanted to have a long life as a novelist, I needed to find a way to stay in shape.

As a form of exercise, running has a lot of advantages. First of all, you don't need someone to help you with it; nor do you need any special equipment. You don't have to go to any particular place to do it. As long as you have a pair of running shoes and a good road you can run to your heart's content.
I might beg to differ about the "no special equipment, " but he's essentially right, and that simplicity is part of the reason I love running so much. You really do only need a good pair of shoes and some kind of surface on which to put your feet. Obviously you also need clothing as well unless you want to be arrested for public nudity.

And this:
So, like eating, sleeping, housework, and writing, running was incorporated into my daily routine. As it became a natural habit, I felt less embarrassed about it. I went to a sports store and purchased some running gear and some decent shoes. I bought a stopwatch, too, and read a book on running.

Looking back now, I think the most fortunate thing is that I was born with a strong, healthy body. This has made it possible for me to run on a daily basis for more than a quarter century now, competing in a number of races along the way. I've never been injured, never been hurt, and haven't once been sick. I'm not a great runner, but I'm a strong runner. That's one of the very few gifts I can be proud of.
I think that most of us, my fellow runners, can identify with "I'm not a great runner, but I'm a strong runner." I probably will never run a 6:00 mile, break 20:00 in a 5K or 1:30 in a half marathon. I probably won't qualify for the Boston Marathon (though, never say never, I guess). I'm certainly never going to win any major races or most likely any small ones. I'm just your average middle-of-the-packer, and I'm happy with that.

I loved this bit:
No matter how much long-distance running might suit me, of course there are days when I feel lethargic and don't want to do it. On days like that, I try to come up with all kinds of plausible excuses not to run. Once, I interviewed the Olympic runner Toshihiko Seko, just after he had retired from running. I asked him, "Does a runner at your level ever feel like you'd rather not run today?" He stared at me and then, in a voice that made it abundantly clear how stupid he thought the question was, replied, "Of course. All the time!"

Now that I look back on it, I can see what a dumb question it was. I guess that even back then I knew how dumb it was, but I wanted to hear the answer directly from someone of Seko's calibre. I wanted to know whether, although we were worlds apart in terms of strength and motivation, we felt the same way when we laced up our running shoes in the morning. Seko's reply came as a great relief. In the final analysis, we're all the same, I thought.
Somehow, it both comforts and pleases me to know that there might be times when Deena Kastor just wants to sit on the couch in her pajamas and eat Ben & Jerry's ice cream right from the container while watching an "I Love The 80s" marathon on VH1 Classic. Not that I've ever done that. Nope.

He ends with this:
At any rate, this how how I started running. Thirty-three--that's how old I was then. Still young enough, though no longer a young man. The age that Jesus Christ died. The age that F. Scott Fitzgerald started to go downhill. It's an age that may be a kind of crossorads in life. It was the age when I began my life as a runner, and it was my belated, but real, starting point as a novelist.
I was 32 (almost 33) when I began my life as a runner. That was also the start of my weight loss journey. For me it wasn't a "kind of crossroads," it was the crossroad.

Now, if y'all will excuse me, I have to go have my face painted white for my stint on stage as a dead spirit apparition haunting Don Giovanni. Tomorrow is opening night of the opera so this is our final dress rehearsal. Fun times!

Since Everybody Else Is Doing It...

It seems like everyone and their brother have posted this over the past few days, and since I clearly have nothing better to do, I decided I'd be a sheep and do it, too.

1. How would you describe your running 10 years ago?

Nonexistent. I didn't run at all. I was 24, in a shiftless, lazy, responsibility-less transition period between my college and graduate school careers, and if we want to get specific, at this exact moment 10 years ago I was in my childhood hometown in California after having driven there from Ohio in my brand-new Jeep Grand Cherokee (awesome road trip).

2. What is your best and worst run/race experience?

This is tricky. I don't know if I can select one specific instance of each. I like random bulleted lists better.

Good experiences:
  • Running a 6:59 mile in the Presidential Fitness Test my sophomore year in high school and kicking everyone's asses save one boy who was on the soccer team (still my best mile time ever)
  • Running through the beautiful woods near Melvin Village, Lake Winnepesaukee, New Hampshire on several family vacations while I was in college (the only time I ever ran all year)
  • Breaking my 16-year-old 5K personal record at the Shamrocks and Shenanigans in March of this year
  • Completing the Detroit Half Marathon in October 2007, my first half marathon, after a little more than a year on Weight Watchers and losing 50 pounds
  • Finishing on the field inside Michigan Stadium at the Big House Big Heart 5K in September 2007
  • Achieving my goal of a sub-2 hour half marathon with my 1:56:45 in the Marine Corps Historic Half in May 2008
Bad experiences:
  • Getting totally lost on one of my runs in New Hampshire and being forced to meekly knock on a random stranger's door to ask for help. Luckily the woman there was a regular at the little beach park our rental cottage was next to, and knew the people from whom we were renting, and even knew that we were there from Ohio. A phone call and a few minutes later my dad arrived to pick me up. I was very embarrassed and everyone at the beach knew about it the next day.
  • Finishing DFL in the 1989 Ohio High School Athletic Association Northeast Regional race, a race for which we had qualified as a team by winning our district championship for the first time. Unfortunately that day in very late October was freakishly (as in 85 degrees) hot and I, despite running consistent sub-25:00 5K times and setting a new PR of 23:54 that season, was totally wiped out by the heat. Destroyed. I even ended up walking during the race and when I did run I was barely moving. It was awful and very embarrassing (as everything is when you're 15). Even worse, our team didn't advance to the state championships. It was very disappointing after all our hard work during the regular season (clearly this is something I haven't yet gotten over since it was 18 years ago and I still remember it as if it happened yesterday).
  • My first 5K after beginning to run again, the Ann Arbor Turkey Trot, November 2006. At the time I felt like I just wanted to curl up and die. It was so, so, so hard and I posted my second-worst 5K time of my entire life. But, this has a silver lining, because not only did I finish the race without stopping, but I've gone on to much greater things, including returning to the same race a year later and totally kicking ass.
3. What is the best or worst piece of advice you've been given about running?

I'm going with "best advice" (hey, it does say "best or worst" and because I really can't think of any bad advice I've been given): Know when to replace your shoes. Very, very important.

Also, "cotton is rotten." Once I dumped the baggy T-shirts and got me some wicking wear, I think my running went to a whole new level. It's all about the outfits, yo. Unless that's all psychological mind games and it was just a clever ploy by a certain person from the Running Fit store to entice me into buying lots and lots of beautiful (read: expensive) running clothes.

4. Tell us something surprising about yourself that not many people would know.
  • I'm a classically-trained operatic soprano (currently performing in Mozart's Don Giovanni).
  • I had my tonsils removed when I was 24 which was the worst medical experience of my life. Horrible, horrible, horrible. Avoid this operation at all costs if you are an adult.
  • I thought rivers could only flow south (to follow the curve of the earth, of course) until I was in college. And to think I went on to become a geologist!
  • I have memorized the film Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.
  • I have visited 45 of the 50 states (I am missing Washington, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and South Carolina).

Monday, June 9, 2008

I Have Become That Which I Mocked

Let's go back in time. Many years ago (OK, it was the early 1990s) I used to shop at Abercrombie and Fitch. I really liked their clothing. It was sensible even though it was a little pricey. Then something happened (popularity) and the prices started going up and the clothing started shrinking. $60 for a T-shirt? I don't think so. Teeny tiny shorts that only a five-foot-two 90-pound teenager could wear? Yeah, right. The last thing I bought at A&F was a long-sleeved (men's) shirt in about 1998, a shirt which I have since bequeathed to John. Hey, it's still pretty stylish.

I'd walk past their store at the mall and while being aurally and olfactorally assaulted by the twin devils of too much cologne and really loud music, would cock an eye at the mannequins in the windows bedecked in the tiniest clothing and scoff, "Who the hell can wear that stuff?"

Fast-forward to Saturday afternoon. My favorite resale shop. I was on a mission. New shorts were desperately needed. I had been wearing the same pair of size 12 shorts for weeks. A belt was now required to keep them up. I grabbed everything that looked like it might fit me and headed to the dressing room.

A few minutes later I was staring at myself in the mirror, shocked, because I had just put on a pair of

size 4 (gasp)

Abercrombie and Fitch (GASP)


And they looked really, really good. OK, so the inseam is about an inch long but you know what? I've worked SO hard for these legs, so why not show them off? How many hundreds of miles have I run? I deserve those tiny shorts!

I bought them and three other pairs including size 4 shorts from the Gap. I also got some new jean shorts, aka "NASCAR shorts," whose sole purpose is to wear to a NASCAR race. It's like the required uniform. Daisy Dukes + bikini top = NASCAR fun!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Well, I Guess I Won't Be Doing a Marathon After All

Dang-nabbit. All my careful plans foiled!

I guess my weeklong beach vacation to Cape Cod next month (feel free to be jealous) is out of the question, too. And I was so looking forward to working on my tan!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Testing the Waters

Emboldened by my performance in Sunday's Dexter-Ann Arbor Run, I decided to do this morning's run at a faster-than-usual pace. I wanted to see if the speed I unearthed the other day was a fluke or something I should be gently nurturing towards its full potential.

I set out at what I felt was a comfortable pace. I didn't peek at Garmin because I wanted to let my body guide itself and remain unfettered by digital constraints. I just let myself flow along the sidewalk (said flowing was greatly enhanced by my totally awesome new shoes). When I reached the end of my first mile and Garmin chirped, I looked and saw I had done it in 7:55. I continued on. Second mile: 7:41. Third mile: also 7:41. I did a full 5K and finished in 24:02 (7:45/mile avg).

Well, well, well. I was very heartened by this outcome. I am going to make an effort to run faster all the time. It felt really good to go fast. Even better, I was home in 24 minutes instead of 30 which allowed me some extra kitty-rumpling time.

In other news, my weekly farm shares have begun coming in, and I am eating so many leafy vegetables there is a distinct possibility I may turn green. Yesterday's dinner featured three vegetable side dishes (in John's case, only two, since he continues to classify the taste of asparagus as "ass") plus vegetables between the multigrain buns used for the meatloaf sandwiches I made. I picked up a further four bundles of spinach in my share box yesterday, plus a bundle of broccoli raab (rapini) which I am going to use in the pasta I plan on making for dinner tonight. Additionally, I got another bundle of radishes, 2 heads of lettuce, some green onions, garlic scapes, and fresh thyme.

All of this vegetable-eating has been marvelously effective at promoting weight loss (huh! who knew!) and I am back down to 155 lbs as of this morning. After the half marathon I shot up to 163 lbs, about which I was not happy. Progress is now being made in the right direction. The dream of 75 (total weight loss) is still alive.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Race Report: Dexter-Ann Arbor Run 10K

I registered for the Dexter-Ann Arbor Run a little over a week ago in a "why the hell not?" kind of way. I'm in between training regimens so these days I have an "anything goes" philosophy toward my running. I didn't really have any aim or goal for this race. Sure, it would be great if I set a new 10K PR, which I thought might be doable considering I've only done one previous 10K. Even greater would be to break 50:00, but I wasn't counting on it. I haven't been pushing myself in the speed department lately and my runs since the half marathon have been rather leisurely. I mainly just wanted to have fun, because that's what it's all about in the end, right? RIGHT? FUN, DAMMIT!

I was determined yesterday to forgo any consumption of booze to see how and if it would affect my performance today, but after I picked up my race packet at Ypsilanti High School and was waiting at the stop sign to get out of the parking lot onto Packard Rd...turn left, go home. Turn right, and a mere 2 miles away was the Corner Brewery, having a second anniversary bash with $2.00 pints of some of the best damn beer around.


Well, which do you think I ended up doing?


Anyway, unsurprisingly, several hours and beers later I got home. I did go to bed at a sensible hour because I was going to get up at 6:00 am, which I did. I was on the road around 6:50 and pulled into a conveniently located parking spot in the residential area near the races' base of operations at shortly after 7:00. I saw Tina while I was wandering around and we did a few warm-up laps on the as-yet-unfinished track at the new high school. Pretty soon it was time to head to the starting line, and the race was underway at 8:00.

There had been talk of some monster hill on Maple Rd. as part of this new course, and the bulk of the first mile of the race was all downhill on this hill. I was going to have to run this thing from mile 5 to 6. Oh, great. Well, we'll endure it when we get there, I told myself as I came off the final, steepest part onto the flatness of Huron River Drive.

I felt decent, and I wasn't looking at my Garmin because doing so always gives me an oh my gosh I'm going too fast I can't sustain this I have to slow down complex. The timer at the first mile read 8:30 as I passed and I thought, Well, that sounds about right, that's a good pace. I didn't take into account the time it had taken me to cross the starting line after the gun. It turns out I had just run a 7:59 mile though I didn't know it at the time.

I knew something was up when I ran the second mile in 7:51 and the third in 7:44 and I wasn't feeling overly stressed. I was managing to keep my breathing deep and even, resisting the impulse to pant uncontrollably. Arms were relaxed and doing their job, legs felt good and quick, and heart rate wasn't disturbingly high. Mile 4 passed in 8:01 and mile 5 in 8:05...and then the monster hill hit. It was killer. I don't know how to run hills so I just try to grind along as best I can without any strategy whatsoever. I had been trailing this older woman for a long time, determined not to lose her, but when we got to the hill she just took off and left me in the dust. I plodded along and finally gave in to the temptation to pant and it felt really good. Interestingly, my heart rate only reached 167 during this ascent, which was only 2 bpm faster than my max HR for the previous 2 miles. I don't know what this means in terms of my physiology but I find it curious. I felt like I was working really hard, almost at the limit of my capability, but my HR says otherwise.

Once I reached mile 6 I knew it was almost over; a mere 0.2 to go. I checked my Garmin: 48:32! I had a chance to break 50:00! Could I do it? I threw everything I had left into the last 0.2. I stopped my watch at 49:58. I was filled with unease. I knew I was going to be right on the edge between 50:00 and 49:50-something according to my chip time. The fact that I had just PRed by over a minute suddenly became less important. Oh please please please let me break 50:00!

Well, people my official time was:


OK, let me tell ya'll that YES I was frustrated, because if I had run ONE SECOND FASTER at any point on the course I would have broken 50:00. I'm not going to dwell on it too much (any more than I already have, anyway) because those are the thoughts that will drive a person crazy.


There is a bright side to this story, which is that I hung around the finish area with Tina for a while and scored two pieces of Zingerman's Bakehouse Chocolate Cherry bread, which is like crack in the shape of a loaf of bread. Seriously.

Eventually, though, I needed to get going because opera rehearsal started at 1:00 and I really had to go home and shower off the crusties. But first, my other vital task of the weekend was to procure a new pair of running shoes because my Saucony Omni 6es have run their last mile *sniff*. I not only scored a new pair of Brooks Adrenaline shoes on sale but also some more summer clothing including two tank tops for 50% off due to some makeup smudges but I didn't care; hey, I'm not fussy and that's what washing machines are for. Someone's foundation and mascara rubbed off on these things when they were tried on and as a result I got 50% off! I used the rest of my anniversary bonus money from work and came away with a big heavy bag of goodies. Thanks, Place of Employment, for subsidizing my obsession!

Final stats:
Mile 1: 7:59
Mile 2: 7:51
Mile 3: 7:44
Mile 4: 8:01
Mile 5: 8:05
Mile 6: 8:53
0.2: 7:06

8:03 avg pace

Time: 50:00 (ARRRRRGH...OK I'll stop now), a new PR by 1:22!
9/125 W 30-34
49/764 women
214/1391 overall

Post-race rehydration: Magic Hat No. 9 "Not Quite Pale" Ale and Flying Dog Woody Creek White Belgian-Style Ale. And water, too, of course. I'm not a complete idiot/lush!

For a race that was a "I don't have anything better to do today" thing, I think it turned out all right. At least now I have a goal for my next 10K, which is to break 50:00.