Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Healing Powers of Cleveland

I'm chilling in C-Land this weekend as I spend some quality time with family. We're heading out to dinner at some Mexican place in a few hours. Ay carumba, bring on the margaritas! I am normally not much of a tequila/margarita drinker but given what attempts to pass for "beer" at most Mexican restaurants, I tend to make the occasional exception.

My return to regular running continued this morning as I stepped out in my snazzy new shoes for a planned seven miles. Certain folks cautioned against blazing out at my race pace right from the start given my recent ITBS. I said FINE, I will try to hold myself back.

First mile: 8:47. Oops. Slow down. Mile 2: 9:30. That's better.

I felt my IT band trying to seize up when I hit 1.5 miles. I willed it not to. I just thought, "Not today. I am going to finish this entire run no matter what." It never got bad enough to make me stop and turn back or even limp, but I could feel it threatening to turn on me. I found that the faster I ran, the fewer twinges I felt, so...I ran faster. So much for restraint. Miles 3-7: 8:52, 8:50, 8:56, 8:41, 8:38. I finished the run, 7.02 miles, in 1:02. Average pace 8:53/mile. I was so pleased I was able to do the whole thing with a minimum of pain. I want to get out again tomorrow; I know the scheduled 16 miles is not going to happen but I'd like to do 10. I have a decent 10-mile route I do when I'm here. If I was feeling spry enough (and I hadn't missed the last 3 weeks of training) I would go down to the Towpath Trail's northern end in Valley View and run my 16 miles there. Perhaps I will be able to do that when I return to Ohio a few weeks hence for my nephew's birthday.

Right now, however, I am glad my bout with ITBS is coming to an end. I have sorely missed running regularly.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Best Mile Ever!

Who knew that simply running one mile would be such a triumph? Sure, I've run one mile before and had it turn out really well, but this morning's one mile was a different kind of victory.

I ran the whole mile without feeling any pain whatsoever. It was the first time this has happened in almost three weeks.

Yesterday evening I obtained a new pair of shoes after deciding that my old shoes may be contributing to my ITBS. I'll be sorry to see them go; after all, they were the ones I wore for the Detroit Marathon, but at 450 miles their life cycle was nearing completion. My new Brooks Adrenaline 9s are actually men's shoes. Size 10. I have big feet, OK? The shoe guy felt that I would benefit from even more wiggle room in the toe box, and there were no women's Adrenalines bigger than size 11 (the size I've been wearing) so I've been bumped up to the status of a dude, as far as my feet are concerned. Actually, this opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for shoes. I can go with more "manly" color schemes (case in point: the new shoes) and I'm not limited strictly to the women's offerings. Sometimes it pays to have big boat feet.

I am now in the uncomfortable position of being an experienced runner with a new pair of startlingly white shoes. I can't help feeling sheepish and self-conscious, since my shoes scream "noobzilla!" while my legs scream "I can run 12 miles at once!" Unfortunately, my legs are covered up at this time of year, so I will have to get out there and pound some pavement and dirty the shoes up a little instead.

I decided not to break them in during the group run last night and instead hit the treadmill at the gym this morning for my triumphant one mile. I quit after that sole mile because I felt it was best if I didn't push my luck. Also, that way I could accurately say "I ran one mile without any pain!"

I did my stretches and strengthening exercises like a good little runner; they are becoming less annoying and more habitual. I'd put them on a par with flossing my teeth: I know it's good for me, but it's still a bit of a drag. Just like I doubt I will ever squeal "Oh boy, time to floss my teeth!" I probably won't be excited to do my stretches, either. However, now that I have experienced actual positive results from running through the routine every day, it will be even harder to neglect them because I know what the consequences will be.

I have 7 miles at race pace (8:30/mile) scheduled for tomorrow. I am feeling optimistic about being able to complete the run. I will have the additional benefit of running around my hometown near Cleveland as I am heading down there this afternoon to visit the family. A change of scenery is always welcome.

Starting Monday I will also be taking a weekly yoga class. I have been contemplating this for a long time and I'm glad I am finally going to do it. I think I need something to balance the running. It's all about finding inner peace, you know?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cookie Monster Update

Well, I was going to hold out on the last four cookies in the box of Peanut Butter Patties (aka Tagalongs or Hoedowns for those of you in other parts of the country...is this another pop/soda divide?) until someone urged me to just get it over with and eat them all.

Which I did.1 That certainly didn't require a great deal of arm-twisting, did it? Easily swayed, I am (especially when it comes to one more cookie or one more beer).

Now I really have to do my four miles at the group run tonight to work off some of the calories I consumed today, ITBS or no ITBS. Afterward, I'm going to eat a handful of baby spinach for dinner.

Also, take a look at this! Talk about crazy psychedelic weather maps!


Despite the hallucination-inducing visual, it's currently 35 degrees and not raining here. Yet. It will probably start just as I'm heading over to the store for the 6:30 run. Good thing I have the Fabulous Jacket of Wonder and Delight!

1: God, they were good. All 15 of them.

The Invasion Has Begun

Six boxes of Girl Scout cookies in a bag under my desk.

One box has already been broken into (Peanut Butter Patties).

Open box (minus a relatively restrained three cookies) has been placed out of sight inside drawer. This is a feeble attempt to resist temptation.

Will the box be cleaned out before the end of the day? Will I refrain from opening a box of Caramel deLites?

Past encounters with Girl Scout cookies would indicate otherwise.

I also have another order, this one for a full case of cookies, coming from a different person.

I have a weakness and it is Girl Scout cookies. Please pass the Thin Mints.

In other news, I am going to retest my knee at tonight's group run. I haven't run since Sunday's pathetic treadmill attempt. I've been very, very good about doing my stretching and strength exercises and using my foam roller. I really hope I've managed to accomplish something beneficial. I can't take much more of this self-imposed exile.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ooh, pretty colors!


I can't help but think this is visually appealing, even though it does not bode well from a weather standpoint.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I have no idea what you're talking about...(shifty eyes)

Seen at Zoomylicious; from Running Times.

What are the possible side effects of RUNNING?

RUNNING may produce side effects in some patients. In clinical studies, the most common side effects with RUNNING included: obsession with shoes; obsession with numbers; waste of brain power on arcane statistics; insensitivity to clothes that smell like ammonia; searing hamstring pain while driving; black toenails; purple toenails; no toenails; prepubescent biceps; loss of lateral movement; severe reduction in vertical leap; crow’s feet; smelly feet; antisociability; confusion about what constitutes an acceptable toilet; feelings of superiority toward people who don’t take RUNNING; confusion about how much others want to hear about RUNNING; potentially embarrassing public displays of appetite; inability to recognize that RUNNING on television is boring; misperception about how much flesh should be shown in public; excessive time spent reading RUNNING message boards; and extreme fatigue when spouse wants help around the house.

Too close to home:
In other news, today is Fat Tuesday and have I ever taken advantage. Someone brought in a metric buttload of pazcki and I have eaten three (two raspberry and one Boston cream).

Truthfully, I feel kind of sick.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Caturday

I ran this morning for the first time in almost a week. For 200 meters my knee/IT band felt fantastic. Normal. I thought, "Maybe it's cured!" Nope. I had not even run a quarter of a mile before I felt it start to tighten and grow painful. Were the tears then streaming from the corners of my eyes from the cold wind in my face or sheer frustration? I was unable to run even a mile without pain; how could I manage a marathon? Stupid old body!

I decided that I would give it two miles and reassess. Today's run was supposed to be a seven-mile pace run. My target pace for Cleveland is 8:30/mile, and I hit mile 1 in 8:31, which was perfect. Apart from my knee, everything else felt really good. (Curious what six days of no running can do for you!) Mile 1 would be the only mile for which I would know my precise pace, however, since Garmy's battery pooped out by the time I reached the stop light less than a quarter-mile later. I reached for the stop button as I came to the intersection and discovered that Garmy had kindly stopped itself for me. There's nothing quite like looking down at Garmy, expecting to see the familiar display full of precious information, and seeing nothing but a blank gray square instead. Super. My first run in six days, I felt great, and NOW I was supposed to do the rest of it...running blind?! Well, there was nothing to do but press onward, and I did. (Viper, aren't you proud? I didn't start crying and cursing the heavens, I just ran without digital aid, and it was strangely freeing. Of course I could have been really geeky and used my iPhone as a timer but I didn't.) Fortunately for me, I have been pounding the pavement in my town for so long I know where the mile markers are on my routes without needing Garmy. I knew exactly where I had to go to get my 7 miles. I kept up what felt like the same 8:30-ish pace and peeled off four more miles, all the while training about half of my brain on every sensation emanating from my right knee. (The other half was listening to what else but Animal Collective.) As I ran farther, the gnawing pain receded until it was barely a whisper. My spirits bolstered by this, I ran even faster. I felt amazing! My running mojo was back with a vengeance. This was what running was supposed to feel like! EXHILARATING! Yes, I was riding the runner's high at 8:30 in the morning. Nothing like starting the day with a bang!

Yeah...well, as I headed down the driveway out of the cemetery around mile 5.5, something happened, and it all came to a screeching halt. I don't know what changed from one stride to the next but instantly it felt like my knee exploded and I started limping along, furious and gnashing my teeth. By the time I reached the stone gates at the other end of the drive I knew my seven-mile run was about to become six, and it was all I could do to hobble the rest of the way, dejected. Even so, when I arrived home and deduced that I had completed over six miles in about 53 minutes, which is exactly what I intended to do.

I left early this morning, just after 8:00, because I wanted to do this run before the latest installment of Winter 2009 hit us:

Oh noes! It's a giant blue blob!

I did, in fact, make it home before the snow started. Now I have no reason to leave the house at all for the rest of the day. It's snowing like a mofo now but I'm warm and dry.

Then it was time for stretches and strengthening exercises! I had some help this morning:

Feline Personal Trainer Corps member Darwin, who is doing a good job keeping my quads warm but is making my straight leg raises much more difficult. Actually I think he was cold and just wanted a warm place to sit. Because I'm so hottttt, yo!

Yes, I held the iPhone aloft to take this picture so that is the top of my very messy post-run head. (NO 'fro jokes, please, Certain People.) I have now had both breakfast (Fiber One) and coffee (Ethiopian) so all is well with the world. Tomorrow my New York Times subscription starts so I will have the Sunday crossword to keep me company. Now it's shower time!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Go Blue!

I just found the shirt I'm going to wear in the Cleveland Marathon:

You asked us to expand Wolverines Run and we listened. It is now open to AAUM members running in any marathon. Join Michigan alumni from around the country in Wolverines Run. Alumni Association members who register any marathon can sport their Maize and Blue spirit while running.

Here’s how it works:

Alumni Association members who participate in a marathon are eligible to register for a free Michigan T-shirt (from Cool-Max or similar material) to wear the day of the marathon. T-shirt quantities are limited this year so register now! Submit your order for your Wolverines Run T-shirt two weeks prior to the race date.

Yes, I'm a member of the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan, and when this was included with my weekly e-True Blue newsletter:

Wolverines Run is open to AAUM members running in any marathon. When you register, you'll receive a free Coolmax Michigan T-shirt to wear on race day. Not only will the shirt tell everyone you're a Michigan grad, but other Michigan alumni can easily identify you and cheer you on to the finish line. Register today!
I saw the words "marathon," "free," "Michigan," and "T-shirt" and I was like, I am so all over that.

Yes, I realize this means I will be wearing a University of Michigan shirt in an Ohio race. I like to court danger. And Viper, if you run the half marathon, you will be able to recognize me as I zoom past you.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thursday Thoughts: Writing Frightening Verse

I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour
But heaven knows I'm miserable now...

I spent yesterday jotting down notes for things I wanted to say today. Because yesterday was Wednesday, and today is Thursday, and it's not Thursday Thoughts unless it's Thursday, y'know?
  • During some Internet wandering the other day I found this.

    White people will train for months, telling everyone who will listen about how they get up early in the morning, they run when it rains, how it makes them feels so great and gives them energy.

  • The sad part is that it's so true. And we all know it.
  • I have something to do on Sunday afternoons again because the 2009 NASCAR season kicked off last Sunday with the Daytona 500. Let's go racing!
  • I am trying, oh yes, trying very hard to break my department candy jar addiction. It's become like crack. My cubicle wastebasket is littered with candy wrappers by the end of the day. This habit is not good for my blood sugar nor my overall diet. I have decided I must wean myself off the chocolate teat. However, it is proving extremely difficult because the selection this week includes Twix and Heath bars, which are two of my favorites. Must. Stay. Strong. Resist the fun size candy1!
  • The New York Times is finally available for home delivery in my town. Many years ago when I lived in Ann Arbor I got the Times at my apartment. When I moved out to the sticks, that stopped, and for the last 8 years I have been waiting for the day when I could once again receive the Gray Lady on my doorstep. Apparently my town is no longer considered irretrievably rural, because as of yesterday I will be getting the Sunday Times delivered to my house. Oh, Sunday crossword, how I've missed thee! (I do it in pen, in case you were wondering.)
  • I don't know why I waited so long to try it, but this morning I sang a little bit of opera (very pianissimo, mind you) in the shower at the gym. My gym has two very nice private shower rooms (they're nicer than my bathroom at home) so I wasn't serenading an entire locker room's worth of ladies with my rendition of "Deh vieni, non tardar" (Mozart, Le Nozze di Figaro). The acoustics proved to be scintillating as only a small tiled-lined box can be. I think I will do it more often. Maybe I can garner myself a reputation as "that chick who sings in the shower" at the gym.
  • Speaking of music, I pulled Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion and Deerhunter's Microcastle off iTunes last week and MPP has been on near-constant repeat everywhere (office, car, gym) ever since. The teasing I got from "My Girls," "Brothersport," and "Summertime Clothes" was only the beginning. I haven't loved an album this much and so fast since Neko Case's Fox Confessor Brings the Flood three years ago. Additionally, I bought a ticket to see Animal Collective IN CONCERT in May (yes, the concert the day after the Cleveland Marathon; I hope my legs hold up). I am very excited as I have not been to a rock concert for a long time (incidentally, it was Neko Case at the Temple Club in Lansing in 2006 on her tour to support Fox Confessor). But first, even before AC, I am going to see the incomparable Andrew Bird at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor in early April. If there's one song of his that you must investigate, it's "Scythian Empires." Gorgeous. His new album, Noble Beast, came out January 20 and now that I think about it, WTF am I waiting for? I have to buy it...
  • This week has been the Week of Non-Running, aka I'm Nearly Losing My Mind. After Sunday's near-disastrous and very painful long run (thanks to my running partner Fritz for putting up with my slow, gimpy ass and inability to complete the intended mileage), I decided to do the hard thing and not run this week, giving my IT band a chance to recover. It's now day four and I'M GOING FUCKING INSANE HERE, PEOPLE. I have been doing alternative forms of cardio at the gym but I crave the running, I need the running. Along with the elliptical, rowing machine, and stationary bike, I have been diligently doing my ITB exercises which I got from the doctor last week. My knee feels ever so much better, but then again I have not pounded on it since Sunday.
  • FOAM ROLLER. I get it, OK? I'm going to buy one of my very own today. Then I can roll on my carpet at home while watching yet another rerun of "100 Greatest Songs of the 80s" on VH1 Classic.
  • Along with the IT band meltdown on Sunday, I managed to break my just-over-a-month-old YakTrax:
Tragedy!
I was emboldened by Steve's post about his busted YakTrax to post my own sad story in the hopes that the kind folks at YakTrax will send me a replacement pair. I should confess, however, that the destruction was entirely my fault. I beat my feet against the pavement to bust off a wad of ice and snow which was interfering with my gait (which was fucked up enough already), and I guess the impact was too much for the wires to bear. Sproing! This event could not have come at a worse time since we are projected to receive three to five inches of snow on Saturday, and I was hoping to do a little (I said a little) running this weekend. I might be sentenced to dreadmill hell instead. That might not be a bad idea anyway, since if I feel my ITB start to quiver I can bail on the treadmill for the elliptical machine.

Yeah. Um...

I don't Twitter (I already have two blogs of my own and contribute to a third and I'm on Facebook2 and that is quite enough, thank you) but this, from the comments, makes me squirm uncomfortably:

Do you have cravings to blog first thing in the morning?

Do you often think about how or when you will next be able to blog?

Has your blogging ever interfered with your personal life?

Has your blogging interfered with your health (loss of sleep, carpal tunnel syndrome, etc.)?

Is there any recurring time during the day when you find yourself thinking of blogging?

Do you try to overcome shyness or become more confident by blogging?

Do you find yourself pressuring other people to blog?

Have you gained a reputation as a blogger?

Has blogging increasingly become the central focus of your life?

Great. Not only do I need that iPhoneaholics Anonymous group, now I need Bloggers Anonymous as well?

We admitted we were powerless over blogging—that our lives had become unmanageable...

UPDATE: 1:45 pm. I managed to eat only half as many pieces of candy as I usually do with lunch. Two Milky Way Darks, one Heath, one Snickers, and one Kit Kat.

1: It's after 10:30 and I haven't had one piece of chocolate yet today. This is a small but important victory.

2: If you can find me there, I'll friend you. Unless you're one of those weirdos whom I know is resisting the siren call of Facebook. And you know who you are. But I love ya anyway. ;)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Snowy Saturday Run

Stopping by woods on a snowy morning...

After a too-brief respite from the unrelenting misery of a Michigan winter (I wore shorts on Tuesday to stairclimb practice; it was 60 degrees) it was back to normal today as a few inches of the white stuff fell overnight. The prospect of a seven-mile jaunt through the snow would otherwise be cause for me to grump and whine, but I was actually looking forward to it because it would be my first chance to test-run my latest acquisition:

Behold the Sugoi Firewall 220 Zip! Now with Brown Tabby Stamp of Approval.

I had been saving a gift certificate from Running Fit for just the right occasion. I bided my time, waiting...waiting...until it went on sale. This was a $180 piece of apparel. I got it for considerably less. Zero, in fact, since I was able to use my gift certificate for the entire purchase. I even had a little left over so I grabbed a couple of boxes of Mint Chocolate Gu (limited availability).

I am normally a fairly frugal person when it comes to clothes, especially since I lost weight and had to overturn my entire wardrobe three times. Replacing all those clothes became prohibitively expensive and so I started shopping at a local consignment store. Now I refuse to pay more than $15 for blue jeans and a $3 shirt is like the best thing ever. (I once found a brand-new pair of black wool Calvin Klein dress slacks at this store for $14! Score!)

But when it comes to running gear...well, my frugality falls apart. I am aware there are differing opinions on the benefits, both positive and negative, of fancy running gear. I think we can all agree that moisture-wicking fabrics are a must, and that one should avoid cotton in the winter. Beyond that, however...it's all a matter of personal preference. My personal preference (read: weakness, obsession, addiction, craving, LUST) is for lovely, soft, attractive things, which more often than not are overly expensive. Most of you have seen this post (one of my favorites) about all of my running gear. Then there's my "if you look good you feel good" outfit, and my all-black Stealth Bomber outfit. And of course let's not forget my massive Bondi Band collection, one of which I can coordinate with anything in my inventory. Actually, I believe that I can apply the "if you look good, you feel good" maxim to any outfit I wear. I take it one step further, however, and include "if you feel good, you run faster." Therefore, my gear purchases have a clear purpose: to make me run faster, obviously. It's simple logic, really.

Yeah, when it comes to running, I'm a total clothes horse. (Clothes whore?) Now, back to that gorgeous jacket. I finally got it yesterday and just hung it up in my closet to admire it. I stroked it. It's so soft, you have no idea. It's also a much livelier red than the little camera in my iPhone (aka the Eighth Wonder of the World) can convey. I couldn't believe it was mine! No, I didn't sleep holding it next to my cheek. Sheesh, what kind of weirdo do you think I am? But it was there to greet me when I got up this morning for my run in the freshly fallen snow.

Break out the YakTrax again! (My thighs look enormous in this picture; it must be the weird angle.)

A dreaded snowy day, so I'll meet you at the cemetery gates...The Oak Grove cemetery driveway and entrance gates. This is my favorite bit of road on all the routes I run. It is beautiful in any season.

So we go inside and we gravely read the stones/All those people, all those lives/Where are they now? Looking back the way I just came, up the drive toward the cemetery. I wasn't the only one to pass this way this morning.

My IT band was quiescent until I reached mile four-ish and then the pain flared up again. By the time I was inside the cemetery I was hobbling, and stopping to take pictures didn't help. I doggedly continued onward and finished the seven miles though I was in serious agony by the end. Stupid knee. Once home, I did the stretching and strengthening exercises I got from the doctor the other day. One of them is the classic "cross one leg over the other and touch your toes" stretch, except in my house, I perform a variation on that theme:

Bend down and touch your tabby.

They were both helping out this morning. Brown Tabby (Bouhaki) on the left, Big Orange Tabby (Darwin) on the right. They were facing that way because I was facing that way, so obviously there was something worth looking at over there.

The state of my knee at the moment does not bode well for my planned 14-miler tomorrow. It hurts like hell. I'm not happy about that, not happy at all. It was a difficult run today. The footing was questionable even with the aid of YakTrax. My feet were constantly slipping backward with every strike, which irritates my knees on a good day. This was not a good day. Except for my fab new jacket, midrun iPhone deployment, and the Feline Personal Trainer Corps.

7.13 miles/1:11:53/10:05 pace/annoyance level: high

All photos taken with the magical wondrous iPhone. Post composed in the normal manner, i.e. at my computer. Just to show certain people that I am capable of putting it down for...uh...how long has it been now? Hold on, I have to touch it again...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Much Ado About Nothing

Well, almost. My visit to the doctor this afternoon yielded a diagnosis of IT band syndrome. Oh, is that all? My knee joint is not on the verge of a massive meltdown? Well, that's good news.

On the other hand, this means I will have to become much more diligent about stretching, an activity I frequently neglect.

Obviously.

In other news, my sinking deeper into the time-sucking morass that is my iPhone (my preciousssssss) just got even more enveloping because I downloaded an application that will allow me to update my blog anywhere, anytime.

Aren't you all the lucky ones.

iRun, iBlog, iDrink, iNeedHelp.

Monday, February 9, 2009

About Face

Saturday: I rocked my 6 mile pace run. The weather was perfect (if a bit breezy), the country roads mostly ice- and snow-free, the iPod was turned up loud and I listened to my Animal Collective playlist twice over. Following my successful pace run I spent three and a half hours listening to Anna Netrebko belt out high E flats (or at least she tried to belt out high E flats; she totally biffed it a couple of times but managed to pull one out at the very end of "Spargi d'amaro pianto"1) in another live broadcast of the Met in HD (Lucia di Lammermoor) at a local movie theater. I went home, whipped up a quick dinner of green lentil soup, slammed a beer, and headed back to Ann Arbor to hear yet another vocal performance, this one by tenor Lawrence Brownlee. He totally rocked his rendition of "Ah! mes amis"2 from Donizetti's La Fille du RĂ©giment with its monumental nine high Cs (and then he did the cabaletta again as an encore). Thus, my Saturday was a perfect day, encompassing the four things I love most, as it says in my profile: running, opera, cats (because any time I sit down on my sofa, a cat jumps on my lap, and I was watching TV while I ate my soup), and cooking.

Sunday: I set out around 10:00 am for my 13-mile long run on my favorite country road loop. I intended to maintain an easy, relaxing pace of about 9:15 per mile and for the first 8 miles I did so successfully. I had my CamelBak on for hydration and Gu for refueling. 50 minutes in I stopped for my first Gu ingestion and when I began running again I felt...a strange twinge in my right knee. Ignoring it, I pressed on, and it faded. I had been farmer-blowing constantly throughout the run (that darn cold just won't go away) and somewhere around mile 7 I executed a full-body farmer blow (I felt like I lost half my brains) which caused a chain reaction of muscle contractions that resulted in my entire torso becoming a giant mass of knots and spasms. I tried every deep-breathing singing trick in my repertoire to ease the iron band around my ribcage but nothing worked. It felt like a fist twisting in my chest. I was well past the halfway point and was determined to finish though my pace was starting to fall off, drifting past 9:30. Then like an electric shock my knee just gave out, pain like a knife slice shooting up my leg, and I screeched to a halt, hopping on my left leg, hollering, "God damn what the hell!" I walked for a little bit and then started running/limping again. I had an opportunity to cut my run short and finish with 9 miles but I thought, "NO! You're almost done, just finish the damn miles!" (I am a slave to my training schedule.)

I plodded onward, intercostal muscles and diaphragm clenching, barely able to draw a breath, knee aching, grinding my teeth together. Miles 9, 10, 11 and 12 slid past as my pace continued slipping, 10:00, 10:15, 10:30...I was finally back in town with one mile to go and I was furious. I was mad because my iPod chose to play a song I didn't particularly like and I wasn't in a position to skip it, I was mad because my face was covered with errant snot-rocket residue, I was mad because I am not used to running that slowly and I could. not. make. myself. run. faster, I was mad because only the day before I had a really great run and now I was having the suckiest run of all time, and I was mad because my damn knee was in pain and I didn't know why. I was HOT, TIRED, and IRRITATED and I just wanted the whole stupid thing to be OVER ALREADY. The instant Garmy turned over to 13.00 miles I slammed the stop button and walked the rest of the way home. Actually, "shuffled" is a more apt description of what I did.

When I finally oozed in the door the only thing I could do was rip Garmy off my wrist, the headphones out of my ears, the CamelBak from around my waist, and lean wearily against the counter. The backs of my pant legs were splattered with mud from the glop on the roads, which I hadn't noticed until then. I felt like pond scuzz. Walking was difficult; my knee was singing in pain like Netrebko's high notes from the day before. When I finally made it upstairs to take a shower, I bent over to take my socks off and something in my knee went rrrrrrrrrrrip! and crunch! and I just thought, "Oh, NO." Hearing something like Rice Krispies emanating from one's body is never a good sign.

I crawled into bed and pulled the covers over my head and just laid there for a couple of hours, feeling beat up and bone-tired. When I got up my hair was a crazy nest because I had laid down while it was still wet from my shower. My torso still ached and the first couple steps I took almost brought me down as my knee sagged underneath me. Going downstairs was agony (I started hyperventilating from the pain) and I realized that I was probably going to have to...

...GO TO THE DOCTOR.

Which I will be doing on Thursday. I haven't been to the doctor for any reason since March 2008, and that was for a sinus infection. My preferred method of dealing with the various aches and pain I suffer as a runner is to ignore them. I figure they come with the territory. This is different. This isn't a black toenail (I've got one of those, too) or DOMS or frozen fingers. I've never had any knee problems. I do not need to tell y'all that I am terrified I will hear bad news. Like, "You have a partial tear of your lateral collateral ligament and you can't run for six to eight weeks" kind of news. Which would effectively kill my plans to attempt to BQ at Cleveland. I might still be able to run Cleveland, but that's all.

Dear god.

One day is wonderful, the next not so much.

Oh yeah, I found a wool Michigan hat lying in the road, amazingly free of dirt and mud, and I picked it up and brought it home and washed it. John thinks this is very strange and gross. I was like, "OMG free [awesome] hat!!" As long as I washed and dried it, what's the big deal? Thoughts? Have any of you ever found something on a run that you've brought home?

1: The aria in the clip is Natalie Dessay singing, not Netrebko. On a really good day when I'm fully warmed up I can nail the high E flat at the end. It's such a fun aria to sing even without the big glory note at the end.

2: That's Juan Diego Flores, whom I saw in that production in another Met in HD broadcast last April with the aforementioned Natalie Dessay. I know the subtitles are in German, but the text isn't the point. Just listen to the man (and look at him ;) ). My god!

Friday, February 6, 2009

It's February Outside...But August in my Ears

I can't seem to gush enough about Animal Collective. First I proclaimed "My Girls" to be the supreme song to run to, and now I have shifted my attention to their ode to hot weather, "Summertime Clothes." I was listening to this one over and over yesterday, wondering how it had slipped below my radar despite being in my iTunes library for a couple of weeks. Well, it is below my radar no longer. I am weary of being cold, and just listening to it...oh, I can feel the oppressive humidity of a midsummer night, where even the AC can't beat it out of the air and I lie there, hot and scratchy and irritated...

This one is going on the iPod right next to "My Girls." I will groove along to them on my runs this weekend. May I be fleeter of foot and more cheerful of demeanor for it. (The fact that projected temperatures are supposed to reach the upper 40s tomorrow might also help.)

Oh, and, Animal Collective is coming to Detroit for a show...the day after the Cleveland Marathon. I'm wondering if my legs would have enough strength to hold me upright for a few hours in order to soak up the awesomeness.

Summertime Clothes at indiemuse.com (scroll down page for playable/downloadable mp3s of both "My Girls" and "Summertime Clothes"!)

Sweet summer night and I'm stripped to my sheets
Forehead is leaking my AC squeaks
And a voice from the clock says "You're not gonna get tired"
My bed is a pool and the wall's on fire
Soak my head in the sink for a while
It chills my neck and it makes me smile
But my bones have to move and my skin's gotta breathe
You pick up the phone and I'm so relieved

You slide down the stairs to the eager street
And the sun is left with slippery feet
And I want to walk around with you
And I want to walk around with you
And be here with you

It doesn't really matter, I'll go where you feel
Home for the breeze, get a midnight meal
I'll point in the windows, you point out the parks
Rip off your sleeves and I'll ditch my socks
Dance to the songs from the cars as they pass
Weave through the cardboard, smell that trash
Walking around in our summertime clothes
Know where to go where our bodies go

And we'll breath the dawn in its morning blues
With purple yawns, you'll be sleeping soon
And I want to walk around with you
And I want to walk around with you

When the sun goes down we'll go out again!
Don't cool off, I like your warmth

Let's leave the sound of the heat for the sound of the rain
It's easy to sleep when it wets my brain
It covers my rest with a saccharine sheen
Kissing the wind through my window screen
But restless is causeless and I cannot hide
So much of my mind that it spills outside
Do you wanna go stroll down a financial street?
Our clothes might get soaked
But the buildings sleep

And there's no one pushing for a place
As we amble at an easy pace
And I want to walk around with you
And I want to walk around with you
I want to walk around with you

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Nike Fit Dry: Not Just for Special Occasions!

You know you're a runner when your running wardrobe starts bleeding into your "regular" wardrobe, to wit:

Today I am wearing one of my beloved Nike Fit Dry base layer shirts under a scratchy wool sweater. I needed something long-sleeved, close-fitting, and not too heavy since it is, after all, a wool sweater. The Fit Dry shirt was perfect in every way.

Next thing you know I'll be wearing Smartwool socks with my Dansko clogs.

I don't think my workplace is ready for the stealth bomber outfit, however.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I've Got 1, 2, 3, 4, 5...Senses Working Overtime

(credit goes to XTC for this post title.)

Touch:

When I left the house this morning for my scheduled 6-miler, my first thought upon breathing in the crispness of a typical February morning was "Well, it's really not that bad out here!" The cold air against my face was nothing out of the ordinary.

Smell:

I can tell what people are up to in the wee hours of the morning by the smells surrounding their houses. Drying a load of laundry. Burning toast. Frying bacon. Warming up a car. Stoking a wood stove. And then there's a house around the corner from my own that just smells...peculiar. Kind of sour and bitter and chemical-ish. My personal and totally unfounded theory is that someone is operating a meth lab in there.

Hearing:

My shoes on the thin skim of new snow: squeak squeak squeak. A city fire truck, sailing down Main Street: Sirens wailing! The wind through dead oak leaves still hanging high in the branches: Rustle, rustle. Someone doing some woefully overdue sidewalk shoveling: Scrape, scrape. An idiot going 40 mph in the 25 mph zone inside the subdivision: VROOOOM! Me, in response to said speeding idiot: Slow down, asshole!

Sight:

The new snow is so pretty under the street lights! Look how it sparkles and glitters! The song "White as Diamonds" by Alela Diane was created just for this moment. "I’ve known mornings/white as diamonds/silent from a night so cold..."

Is that...light I see in the eastern sky? Oh happy day! I have been running in the dark for so long. Bring on the dawn! In another month, it might be light when I leave the house.

Taste:

When a thin line of snot trickles out of your nose and it's not enough to farmer blow onto the ground, what do you do? Oh yeah, you know what I'm talking about. How else do you think I know snot is salty?

That is my impression of my run this morning, brought to you by the five traditional senses. We do have other senses, however. I'd like to discuss one in particular.

Nociception, aka PAIN:

First, let's go back to what I said at the beginning: "Well, it's really not that bad out here!"

It was zero degrees. With a breeze. As I later learned from the helpful folks at WEMU on my way to work, that's a wind chill factor of minus 16 degrees. There's a wind chill advisory in our area until tomorrow, you know.

No. I didn't know. My hands did, however. Around mile 4 as I ran into the headwind coming from the north, my hands started to chill. I curled my fingers tighter against my palms to no avail. By mile 5 I knew I was in serious trouble. My hands were now stiff, frozen claws that felt like hunks of ice. Like an idiot, I pushed on for the full six miles even though I had a chance to cut it short. When finally I got to my back porch I had to fumble in my pocket for my door key. My fingers literally would not work; I could not uncurl them and grasp my keys. I couldn't feel the key in my hand. I managed to open the door. I was already groaning in pain. I pulled my gloves off. My hands were a weird shade of white with some red splotches. I turned on my kitchen faucet and put my hands under the lukewarm water. Almost immediately they started throbbing and tingling. The pain was...intense, surreal, supernatural. It hurt so much the only thing I could do was lay my head against the edge of the sink and moan and try not to throw up because the pain was so bad it was making me nauseous. I was crying without tears. The only sound I could make was a low "Uhh...uhh...uhhh.." I looked at my hands again. The backs and palms were an angry red, my fingers sickly white. I had to stop the running water treatment, however, since the bathroom break I had preempted for my hand-thawing abruptly became priority number one. My hands were flexible enough that I was able to take care of Business, though I still could barely feel anything I touched. Once I was in the shower, I held my hands under the warm water (which felt alternately searing hot and icy cold depending on which part of my hands it touched) and let them thaw the rest of the way. I noticed some dark, purplish patches appearing on the pads of my fingertips. I thought, "Well, at least my hands don't look like Beck Weathers's."

All of this was earlier this morning. My fingertips still hurt. A lot. They're tender, sore, and tingly. I think I had a bit of a brush with frostbite. Somewhere between "frost nip"and superficial frostbite. A narrow escape, if you will. I have to be more careful. I have to get better gloves or mittens, or at least wear two pairs at once. Winter bit me on my unprepared ass this morning.

At least I'm not Steve, who had the same thing happen to his...well, just read about it. And cringe.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Super 5K 2009

At the start of the race. I'm in my stealth bomber outfit again.

It's only February 2 and already my goal of running at least one race every month this year has been TOTALLY DERAILED. I might as well just give up now.

(kidding)

I got home from work Friday afternoon and crawled into bed, from which I did not stir (minus a couple of bathroom breaks) until 4:00 Saturday afternoon. Doing so meant I also did not make it to the Frozen Blueberry 5K in Montrose, a race in which I would have won my age group (my AG winner ran a 29:19).

There went my one shot at doing a race in January.

Needless to say, I did not have high expectations for the Super 5K in Novi on Sunday. I didn't eat anything (cold medicine doesn't count) from lunch Friday until dinner Saturday1), so my energy reserves were low. My head was still full of snot and I was tired. Nonetheless, I had already registered for the race, so the thought of letting my entry fee go to waste was enough to get me up and out the door by 7:40 am yesterday for the 9:00 start time.

The race was even more crowded than last year's version. Somehow I managed to get an age group award last year with the slowish time of 26:06, and I knew I could better that, but I suspected the increase in numbers and my transition to a new age group might make it more difficult this year. I decided to pay closer attention to my body than usual, not make it do anything it couldn't handle, and see where that led me.

After an extremely slow and crowded start, I settled into what I felt was a smooth groove and let the pavement slide past. I reached mile 1 in 7:36, mile 2 in 7:39, and slowed substantially for mile 3, which was an all-uphill grind (8:15). I crossed the finish mat with a Garmy time of 24:13, which was much better than last year and better than I was expecting considering my physical state. I was breathing hard and coughing spastically from the cold, dry air. I waited around for the awards ceremony, but this year I was not one of the lucky ones. In retrospect, I am not disappointed, because the AG awards this year were the same as they were last year (a wool hat). I don't need two of the same thing (unless they are Smartwool socks or Nike Dri-Fit base layers, in which case, the more the better).

After the race, my running buddy and I headed over to Kensington Metropark to put in some additional mileage. I had 8 miles on my schedule for Sunday, and I was anxious to put in at least some of the miles I was supposed to over the weekend, having totally missed my 6-mile pace run on Saturday. We did an easy 5 miles, and by the end I was seriously dragging. The previous few days were fast catching up with me and I could tell my fuel tank was nearly empty. As soon as I got home I cleaned up and then crawled back into bed for yet another nap.

Mondays are my cross-training days, so today I spent a leisurely half-hour on the recumbent bike reading Us Weekly followed by some core strengthening exercises.

In other news, today, February 2, Groundhog Day, is the day I had surgery two years ago, the surgery that changed my life forever. Happy Anniversary to me! Here's to two of the best years of my life, and many more to come!

Super 5K, February 1, 2009
Chip time: 24:14 (7:48 pace)
7/79 W 35-39
57th woman
287th overall

1: The first thing I put in my stomach after my self-imposed fast was a Lagunitas IPA. It was superb.