Saturday, August 29, 2009

Run For the Rolls Redux

Ah, the Run for the Rolls. I love it so. What could be better than a one-mile sprint through my town with the promise of a bag full of delicious rolls as a prize? I have run this race since its inception in 2007 and last year I won the women's race in a then-personal-record time of 6:48.

I have been struggling since returning from vacation to recapture my running mojo, which seemed to be receding further into the horizon as I ran after it in vain. I forced myself out the door after work Wednesday for a brisk 5K through town which raised my spirits somewhat. Thursday I was the one doing the raising of the spirits as I joined 35 fellow runners on a 10K pub "crawl" run in Royal Oak and Ferndale. 6.2 miles, 6 different venues, and a lot of beer. It was fabulous!

At the Royal Oak Brewery with my Michigan Cherry Ale. The first of many stops...

At Memphis Smoke Blues & BBQ in Royal Oak, our last stop. NO, I am not hanging on to that pole to keep from falling over!

The pub run did much to kick me out of my torpor since my trip. I was doing entirely too much moping and sighing and not running. The realization that the NYC Marathon is nine weeks from tomorrow also sent me into a bit of a panic and I knew the time for wallowing in post-vacation melancholy was over. I had to get my lazy butt back on track.

Thus, this morning I joined my RF501 group for my long run for the first time since July 25. I had 12 miles on tap (ha ha) and I wanted it to be a quality run. I settled into a steady groove and did the first six miles at an 8:55 average pace. After doubling back I decided to step it up, and did the last six miles at an 8:18 pace, including the last two miles at 7:57 and 7:52. I felt fantastic; all the lingering funk was swept away.

I had enough time to come home, have breakfast and coffee, watch some TV, and putter around the house a bit before walking to the start of the Run for the Rolls. Last year I pulled out a great time after running 18 miles in the morning. Today I had only run 12; could I better my time from last year? I wasn't expecting much, however, since my speed work has fallen off a cliff and I haven't done a circuit on the Oval of Doom since July 28. Oh well, just give it my best shot and see what happens. It's only a mile. And then I was off...running hard and fast. I felt okay, though. I was exerting myself, but I settled into a steady beat and pumped my arms and let the slight downhill on Main St. carry me along. Soon enough I made the turn for the homestretch and kicked it into a higher gear. The timing clock was obscured by something as I approached; I could see a "6" and nothing else. When I flashed past I saw it said "6:44." Holy shit! If that was true, I had just set a new mile PR. I knew I hadn't won the women's race because I could see three other women in front of me the whole way. However, I suspected I had a chance at an age group win and those sweet, sweet, delicious rolls. I waited around afterward, chatted with some fellow runners I know, and sure enough, I came away with the win in the 35-39 age group. My official time was indeed 6:44 (which was what Garmy had said, too). I was quite pleased.

I am now off to Ann Arbor for the long-awaited Great Lake Swimmers concert!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Vacation Pictures

These sum up my vacation nicely. Oh, what a vacation it was. Truly one for the ages.





1: At the summit of Black Mountain in the Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve, Los Altos Hills. 8 miles of hard trail to the top, where a gorgeous view and awesome rocks awaited. And then 8 miles back to the parking lot...

2: Deschutes Brewery Mirror Pond Pale Ale.

3: Insalata caprese which I made for the fabulous all-farmers'-market dinner, which also included roasted Brussels sprouts, sauteed green beans and shallots, roasted new potatoes with fresh rosemary, and olive oil-brushed crostini.

4: Me and my friend Mr. E at the Pyramid Alehouse & Brewery in Sacramento on the last day of my trip.

Monday, August 24, 2009


That's all I have to say about my vacation coming to an end.

Regular programming will resume...eventually.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

From the Shore of the Pacific

Hi folks,

I've been off the radar for a while. I'm currently on vacation; in fact, I'm writing this from my perch atop a beach towel on the sand overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Watsonville, California. I have been out here on my nostalgia tour for almost a week. I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and before this trip I had not visited my hometown in eight long years. I spent most of last week in Marin County at the luxurious Tiburon home of an old family friend. Friday I moved south to my childhood stomping grounds, the two towns where I grew up (Sunnyvale and Los Altos).

Yesterday morning I went out for a very long trail run in Los Altos with my running buddy (and trail ultrarunner extraordinaire) TC. He promised long ago to take me to the top of a mountain to look at the rocks exposed there which are serpentinite, remnants of ancient oceanic crust which have been shoved onto land. The Coast Range is riddled with these fragments. I could not resist the siren call of actual rocks, fantastic rocks, so I put myself through 8 miles of grinding uphill hell to reach the 2200-foot summit and the rock outcrop. TC had a laugh or ten at my expense as I dragged my non-hill-running butt up the terrible final mile of the trail. I found a little in reserve at the end as he taunted me, "You can throttle me if you can catch me!" Somehow I found it in me to get my feet moving again as I ran after him to the top. All was as advertised and made the grueling uphill climb worth it. The view was amazing; the whole of the peninsula and the bay spread out beneath me. To the west lay the Coast Range and beyond that the ocean, invisible. The rocks were there, odd jagged grayish shapes protruding from the ground. I took a sample which is destined for my special collection at home. A few minutes, a few pictures, and then the dash back down the mountain. 16 miles, 3 hours, a run months in the making. Thanks, TC.

Despite some lingering fatigue I was up early again this morning to drive into the Santa Cruz Mountains for the Race Thru the Redwoods 10K. I picked this race out months ago and I wasn't going to miss it, hard trail run the day before or nearby forest fire be damned! I knew this was not a day for any record-breaking efforts. I just wanted to enjoy myself. The race was held at a state park thick with redwood trees (hence the name). It was primarily trail. Beautiful trail. With one crazy awful hill easily comparable to the worst of what I ran yesterday. I had to stop and walk. Once the hill had been crested shortly after mile 3, my legs felt like rubber and I still had half of the race to go. I pressed on, and after mile 4 the course went downhill for almost a mile. I let my legs whip out behind me as I flew down the slope. Flying! I was skimming the ground! Suddenly I felt a needlelike pain stab into the skin on my left tricep. "Ouch!" I cried as I swept my right hand back and across my arm, coming away with a hornet! I cast the offending insect to the ground as fire slowly took hold of my arm. Spurred on by pain and anger, I ran even faster, almost reckless in my dash downhill. A couple of times I felt my knees begin to buckle under the pounding; a failure at that point would have been a disaster. I kept my footing, though, and zoomed past mile 5. One more mile and I was feeling more energetic than I had for the entire race up to that point. I cruised through mile 6 and with only the last 0.2 left I slid into machine mode, that lovely zone where I feel as if I could run forever. Why now, when I only had a tiny slice of race left? Oh well, just go with it. I finished in 57:29, ten minutes off my 10K PR, but I didn't care. I was there for the experience.

After the race I drove down to Santa Cruz and then continued south to one of the state beaches. I have been sitting here listening to the waves and smelling the briny air for a couple of hours, hoping the sun will burn through the fog and I can get some serious sun baking done. I didn't come all this way to hide my hot pink bikini under a t shirt! The sun is out now more than it has been all day; an actual shadow is visible on the sand under my trail dust-encrusted feet. Time to lie back and soak up some rays.

I'm alone but not lonely. I have visited friends, some new and some old; seen family; gone running in exotic, beautiful places; drunk and dined well (but not too well; I have lost 5 pounds!); and generally have been enjoying the heck out of everything. And I still have a week to go!
Mobile Blogging from here.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Homer Hogstravaganza Road Hog 5K: Comeuppance

Yesterday I came home from work, executed a quick change of clothes, and headed out the door to drive 50 miles to run a 5K at 7:00 PM. Why? Because the name of the race promised to deliver one of the best race T-shirts ever and I had nothing better to do on a Friday evening. The T-shirt did not disappoint:

The race was part of the Homer Hogstravaganza, one of those small-town agriculturally-themed festivals which I am familiar with, having grown up in a place which has the Maple Festival every spring. I anticipated a small field with a large contingent of local high schoolers and I was exactly right.

I was out to improve upon my lackluster performance from Sunday's Lyn Yarows 5K. I rested Wednesday, had a good hill workout Thursday with the RF501 gang, and got a good night's sleep. I was ready. It was warmer than my preferred running weather: about 78 degrees. Nothing I could do about that, though. I did a ten-minute warm-up, felt limber and energetic, and wandered over to the start.

The field of 100 took off and I settled into what I felt to be a moderately fast yet not taxing pace. I refused to look at Garmy until mile 1, and when it beeped, I looked down and saw "7:19" which was a complete surprise. Last Sunday I felt like I was killing myself to run 7:45 for my first mile, and here I was strolling through a 7:19 mile. This was going to be a great race! I might even squeeze out a sub-24:00 time! I told myself to stay relaxed, even slow down a little, there was no need to overdo it, to hurt myself...

Um, yeah.

The trouble started not long after mile 1. I'd say about 1.25. It began as a whisper at the back of my knee, a strange tightness that quickly grew to a roar and then ripped up through my hamstring with a scream. Suddenly I was limping, favoring my leg, the pain with each step a knife stab through my muscle. I thought, what the hell is going on here? Not this again! It hasn't bothered me since Cleveland! And even then it wasn't this bad! I ran all those brutal intervals and tempo runs and hills last night and there was nothing, no twinge, no pain, nothing, what the hell?! I could do nothing but slow down, helpless, furious. For the first time ever in a race I debated stopping and walking. I knew that every step was doing damage, and the pain was unbelievable, but I'm not like that. For better, or frequently for worse, I'm too stubborn (colossally hard-headed) and determined to accept what is happening and do what is best for my body. I was going to fight with clenched teeth through this and finish the damn race without walking. My pace for mile 2 fell by a minute to 8:20, and the searing pain subsided to the point where I was able to speed up slightly. I found that if I ran faster, it hurt less, so I ran faster. I was somewhat cheered by the fact that I still had a lot of fuel left in the tank; my energy level was very high. If it wasn't for my goddamn leg...Soon enough, the finish was just ahead and I finished strong even though I was "duded" right at the line (but I chicked a couple of guys in the final tenth, so it all evens out).

I hobbled around, unable to make my leg do much of anything, grabbed a granola bar, and sank onto the grass with my legs splayed out in front of me. Ants crawled on me and something irritating and scratchy poked the backs of my legs but I didn't care. I just wanted the hurt to go away. I sat there as sweat ran from under the bottom of my Bondi Band into my lap and I chewed my granola bar and wondered for the tenth time what the hell was going on. I scrolled through the info on Garmy, noting that my average heart rate during mile 1 was only 155, a good sign that I was not overexerting myself even though my pace was substantially faster than anything I've done recently. I had done mile 3 in 8:06, which was pleasing. Final time was 24:45 according to the official results. I picked up another sweet age group win as well. Apart from the hamstring meltdown, it was an excellent evening.

Driving home was somewhat agonizing, because I had to use my left leg to work the clutch. Every lift of my leg and press of the pedal wrung a groan from my lips. I got home and fixed an ice pack and sat on the couch watching TV.

RICE without the C and E. But with TV and B1.

I knew my long run this morning was out of the question. FK, TC, and JF all told me I better just chill and not do much of anything. TC scolded me the most: " NEVER LISTEN! I TOLD you, you were overtraining and needed to rest! I told you so. What are the three things you need to get to the starting line of a marathon? Guts, training, and HEALTH." And so on. I got a 20-minute earful.

I know, I know. I was asking for it. I demanded too much of myself and I didn't give my muscles the rest they were clearly crying out for. And now look. Laid up on the couch with an ice pack. I was eating a cookie last night and it broke and scattered onto the kitchen floor and I just left the pieces there because I couldn't bear the thought of trying to bend or squat to clean them up. I can't even bend over to pick up a cat toy off the ground.

I hate being injured. I chafe and seethe at even one day of unscheduled inactivity. I feel like a complete failure, a slacker, shirking duty, I'm going to fall behind in my training, IT'S ALL OVER. Perhaps I exaggerate. NYC is exactly three months away, which is plenty of time to recuperate. I lost three full weeks of training for Cleveland because of ITBS and it wasn't the end of the world, obviously, since I rocked the marathon and qualified for Boston. My goal for NYC (just have fun!) isn't nearly that lofty, so being a slave to the schedule isn't as important this time. I have the mental fortitude to run a marathon, I can do the required training, but yes, TC, you're right, if I don't have my health it's all for naught.

On the other hand, sleeping in this morning instead of meeting the RF501 gang for the long run was ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC.

1: One guess what "B" stands for.