Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Attack of the Killer Tree Branch!

This morning while I was out on the dawn-silent streets of my town I crossed paths with a large and unruly tree branch. It was lying in wait in the street-light dappled shadows on the sidewalk, bristling business end of sticks facing me. I ran straight into its stabbing clutches. Hot pokers of pain shot up and down my legs and abdomen as my feet tangled in the woody tripwires and for one sickening, swaying moment I thought I was going to lose it, to take a tumble to the pavement. Feet fumbling, kicking off the grasping fingers, I reached down and grabbed the offending assaulter and flung it aside onto the grass, shouting, "For fuck's sake!" Rhythm reattained I continued onward, but a reminder of my tangle with the tree in the form of sore spots stayed with me until I arrived home.

For all you low-light runners out there: beware of rogue tree branches.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Weekend Warrior

In the past two days I have run 30 miles: 10 Saturday and 20 Sunday. This was a high-mileage week for me, closing with these two long runs back-to-back. I decided to do both on the Lakelands Trail, a rails-to-trails linear state park which extends from Stockbridge to Hamburg. Saturday I was up early and at the trailhead in Stockbridge at 8:00. 10 miles were on tap and I was eager to get them done in the beautiful weather.

Not bad, eh?

Contrast this scene with six weeks ago on the same trail:

Um, yeah. So glad winter is over.

This was not supposed to be a pace run, and I knew I needed to take it easy to be fresh for my 20-miler the following day, but trying to keep my pace down is easier said than done, at least lately. I started off okay, with miles of 9:11 and 9:21. Then I hit this stretch of trail:

Spring thaw + gravel trail = glop.

Which did this to my still brand-spanking-new shoes:

At least now they have "character." I don't look like an insufferable running noobzilla any more.

They looked even worse by the time I was done, trust me. It took quite a bit of water and several rags to get them looking halfway decent again.

After mudbogging my way to a 10:28 mile, I took off and put out the next four in 8:44, 8:46, 8:45, and 8:51. By then I had doubled back and once again hit that nasty stretch, but this time I did not let it slow me down quite as much and I splashed through that mile in 9:41. After an 8:45 for mile 9 it was time to kick it for the final mile, which I did in 7:58, feeling strong the whole way.

Saturday 10-miler: 10.33 miles/1:33:55/9:05 average.

Sunday morning I was out at the other end of the trail in Hamburg for the first of three planned 20-milers. Before I left and during my drive to the trailhead it was raining lightly but steadily. I arrived earlier than my running partner in order to do three miles alone since I would be running 20 and he was only running 17.

On my way out of town I had stopped at the bakery to get some coffee. I read this article in the New York Times the other day and decided to put it to the test. Normally I do not drink coffee before exercise, but I thought, what the hell, why not give it a try? Anything to ease my passage through 20 miles of running.

Well, that coffee espresso-trained itself through my system and by the time I had run 0.75 miles I had to pee worse than I ever have in my entire life (save one time I had an unfortunate accident when I got lost while driving through downtown Amsterdam, New York, on my way back to college...but that is a story for another time, my friends; that story is quite possibly my best story ever. I don't have a lot of stories but that one's a pretty fucking awesome one if I do say so myself). Anyway, the call of nature turned into a bellowing stampede of wildebeests and water buffaloes and zebras, and with a frantic scan of the trail to make sure no one was nearby (no one was; what kind of nutjob goes running in the rain at 9:30 am on a Sunday, anyway?) I pulled over to the side and took care of business right there without any sheltering underbrush whatsoever, not even a tuft of grass, since I was on an elevated railbed with swamp on both sides and it was either use the 18 inches of grassy berm next to the trail or I was going to be getting my feet wet or worse. And then the worst thing of all happened, which I should have known was going to happen anyway, since my GI tract and I have a long and not-so-loving relationship, and coffee makes it even worse. Oh, crap. Literally. Well, not much I could do about that. Shit happens, you know? And when shit happens in the woods when no one's looking, one has to make the best of the situation by using whatever piece of woody debris happens to be laying around to, uh, clean up the scene.

Good thing there was a swamp just down the embankment.

After that I felt so much better. I zipped through my second and third miles in 8:58 and 8:45, stopped back at the parking lot to collect my running partner and my CamelBak full of Gu and Ultima, and we set off for a 17-mile round trip. The rain stopped and I took off my hat around mile 5 and stuffed it into my CamelBak. Around mile 7.5 the paved part of the trail ended and turned back into gravel. We were now passing through the town of Pinckney.

The old Pinckney train depot.

A few miles later we turned back. This sign was affixed to a bridge over a small creek near the turnaround point:

As with many things of this nature, you know they had to put this here because someone actually did jump or dive off this bridge and hurt themselves.

Not long after we came across a box turtle inching its way across the trail. It retreated into its shell when it saw/felt us on the trail, and after picking it up to look at it, my running partner put it into the grass by the side of the trail.

Run free, little turtle! Or...creep free? Well, whatever. The water's that way!

By now I was working on mile 15 or so of my run and I was starting to feel it. My knees felt surprisingly good; no unexpected or unwanted twinges or explosions had occurred. I had been taking in Ultima and Gu at regular intervals and so my energy level was high. But...you know, it was mile 15. I was ready for the damn thing to be over. Even so, my pace had been decreasing steadily following our turnaround. Mile 12 was 9:16. By mile 17 I was at 8:37. Whereas until that point my running partner and I had kept up a steady stream of chatter, silence descended, disrupted only by the whap of shoes against pavement and my increasingly hurried breathing. Mile 18: 8:38. Mile 19: 8:26. I heard Garmy beep for mile 19 and knew I only had one more mile to go. Just finish just finish just finish just finish was what I kept repeating to myself. And then it was over. 20 miles. Last mile: 8:20. Well. Clearly I had more left in the tank than I thought. And lo and behold, I ran my 20-miler faster than my 10-miler. So much for taking it easy.

Sunday long run: 20 miles/2:59:33/8:58 average.

Running was followed by carb replacement at nearby Zukey Lake Tavern in the form of one Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale and one Bell's Two-Hearted Ale. Protein intake in the form of turkey burger. Salt and fat from onion rings. Much-needed rest in the form of nap when I returned home.

As it turned out, I could not have timed my run any better. The rain that ended so early in the run returned while we were at lunch and by the time I was on my way home it had become the dreaded "wintry mix." Then it started snowing. Seriously. But for the three hours I was on the trail, it was fine.

This week I am going to experiment with a mini-taper as I prepare to run the Martian Half Marathon next Sunday in Dearborn. My goal for the race is to break 1:50 and I want to have as much zest as possible.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thursday Thoughts: The Squeaky Knee Gets The Grease

  • I work on the lower level (aka "terrace," "basement," or, as I like to call it, "dungeon") of my office building. Our floor contains the mail room. The shipping and receiving folks wheel carts down a long linoleum-covered aisle near my cubicle to the elevators in order to deliver things throughout the building. One cart in particular sounds exactly like the Trojan Rabbit. Exactly. So every time I hear that thing rumbling toward me that's what I think of. "Launcelot, Galahad, and I wait until nightfall, and then leap out of the rabbit, taking the French by surprise!" "Look, if we built this giant wooden badger..."
  • Speaking of things that are squeaky, now I seem to have come down with a raging case of good old runner's knee. At least that's my Official Unofficial Amateur Diagnosis. Because frankly, that sounds better than "I'm so fucked."
  • I did some rearranging of my running clothes and they now take up all four drawers of the built-in bureau in the walk-in closet. I no longer have to lean my full body weight against the one drawer to force it closed, nor are my jackets creating an impenetrable forest hanging from the wire racks, nor are my pants and tights in a disordered jumble on top of a shelf. Everything is neatly arranged in each drawer by clothing type: pants, tights, and shorts; jackets; long-sleeved and short-sleeved shirts; socks, sports bras, and tank tops. Now that the drawers are no longer bursting at the seams, you know what that means, right? TIME TO BUY MORE STUFF TO FILL THE EMPTY SPACE!
  • Wednesday morning I had some business to attend to before work, so I was afforded the rare opportunity of running in the morning without it being completely dark. I woke up at 7:30, and, upon peeking out the front window, observed a typical Michigan March day: gray, dreary beyond belief, and raining. My first thought was, "oh, GREAT." I briefly considered performing some creative schedule-shifting but concluded I was better off doing my 10 miles as planned. I donned my most weather-resistant gear (Asics Storm Shelter pants and jacket) and headed out at 8:00. It drizzled in my face the entire time, plus there was a steady headwind from the southeast which annoyed the heck out of me. I did two loops of my five-miles-in-town route, and it was around mile 6 that my left knee really started acting up. By mile 8 I was hanging on like grim death, but, ever stubborn (stupid?), I refused to cut the run short. I finished my fucking 10 miles, goddammit. Hell yes I did. Wet, tired, and limping badly. I have decided that in order to make it through my weekend of heavy-duty running (10 miles on Saturday, 20 on Sunday) I am not going to run tomorrow at all. As Friday is my normal weekly rest day, I hope that two days of no running will patch me up enough to put in the miles this weekend.
  • I also found a couple of pictures from Climb Detroit that I really like:
Up, up, up, and more up.


iPhone (My Precious) at the ready.

Well, folks, have a great weekend, wherever you are and whatever you may do. I will report on my first 20-mile run once it's over and I have roused myself from my torpor.

"Run away! Run away! Run away!"

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Toes Meet Towpath

(Apologies to Nitmos for totally stealing his blog name as inspiration for my post.)

Sunday morning I was up bright and early before the sun had even risen in order to embark on my long run, which I intended to do on the Towpath Trail, which parallels the old Erie Canal and the Cuyahoga River inside the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Yes, Ohio has a national park. Go visit it! This is Viper's home turf, although I was at the northern end of it.

Some years back I biked a portion of the Towpath, a 40-mile round trip. Sunday's run was to be on a much less grand scale: only 19 miles. I decided to take advantage of my proximity to the trail last weekend and do my run there instead of on the obnoxious hills, uneven pavement, and 45 MPH roads around my parents' house. The lure of a flat, un-automobile-encumbered ramble through the woods and meadows was irresistible.

I put tread to trail at 7:30 am Sunday. My car was one of only three in the parking lot at the Lock 39 trailhead in Valley View. A pair of people headed off down the trail shortly before me, but I caught up to and passed them quickly. From then on it would be miles before I saw anyone else. Only the truly dedicated (or truly nuts) would be out at that hour in those temperatures (about 33 degrees).

In the beginning: Sunrise over the Cuyahoga Valley. 19 miles ahead of me.

The solitude was complete; the ease at which I traveled unmatched. I was wearing my favorite pair of tights and the Jacket of Wonder; my iPod was freshly charged and on all-songs random play; my stride was smooth; my CamelBak strapped around my waist not bothering me at all.

Could there be more perfect circumstances for a run?

Beautifully bleak: March in northeast Ohio.

I stopped here and there to take pictures with My Precious (aka the iPhone) and observe things. I was on the lookout for birds because I am a birdy type. I saw many mallards and Canada geese in the canal and also abundant robins, red-winged blackbirds, chipping and field sparrows, cardinals, downy and yellow-bellied woodpeckers, and great blue herons.

How many great blue herons can you find in this picture1?

I came to an area which had a sign announcing it as bald eagle nesting habitat. I looked to the west and saw a large number of nests high in tall trees which I assumed contained the bald eagle nest. When I was on my return trip there were some people with binoculars and other fancy equipment stationed on the trail in the nesting habitat area. I stopped and asked if they could indeed see the eagle nest. I was then given the binoculars and told at which tree to look. The nest was originally a great blue heron nest into which the eagles had moved, and then the rest of the GBHs in the rookery promptly moved out. Through the binoculars I could see the white head of the eagle poking above the lip of the nest. Even though it wasn't much, it was still thrilling.

Somewhere in that scattering of nests across the river is the bald eagle.

About a mile and a quarter past the Red Lock trailhead I reached 10 miles and turned around to head back. Before I did, I took this picture, which I think best captures the beauty of the trail and the morning:

Time to head back.

Now I would be put to the test. While the out trip was a breezy jaunt, the return would be much less mosey through the countryside and more "just let me finish this damn thing." Since I grappled with ITBS in February, my long runs were aborted, skipped entirely, and just plain all jumbled up. I hadn't run more than 12 miles in a row this entire training cycle. I was very determined to make this one count. My pace up to mile 10 had been between 8:46 and 9:15. When I turned around I kicked it up a notch and peeled off 5 miles in the 8:37-8:45 range.

Then mile 16 hit. Suddenly my step wasn't so spry, my legs not so fresh. I started thinking less about "16 miles in the bag!" and more "dear god, only 3 miles left to go." My right knee, the one which was stricken with ITBS 6 weeks ago, had not given me so much as a twinge the entire time. No, this time it was my left knee which decided to turn pissy on me. I could feel it wanting to do something unpleasant. It was getting stiffer by the meter. I had to stop to wait for cars to pass by the canal visitors' center with about a mile and a half to go, and when I tried to move across the road my knee had completely frozen. I lurched/hobbled my way to the other side, and, upon checking Garmy and seeing I was so close to finishing, ground my teeth together and forced myself to continue. The last mile was a death march. My pace plunged into the 10:00-plus range, and I started glancing obsessively at Garmy, ticking off each tenth of a mile as I ground toward the end.

Finally I reached 19 miles, smashed Garmy's stop button, and slowed to a walk. I had planned my route so I would finish a mile from the parking lot and walk the rest of the way as a cooldown. I was regretting that decision as I walked along, knee aching, hoping for a glimpse of the parking lot in the distance. Finally, finally, I saw the cars in the lot and breathed a sigh of relief. Once I was back in my car, stripped of my various paraphernalia, and munching on my banana, I quickly discovered that operating the clutch pedal in my stick shift car was the most painful part of the day. Each depress and release of that pedal wrenched a groan from my lips. When I got back to my parents' I shuffled up the walk like an 80-year-old, thinking, what on earth have I done? It's better now...but not 100%. Sigh. I'd just like to make it to the starting line in Cleveland in one presumably healthy piece, you know?

My route. I love satellite photos, don't you?

Chock Full O'Numbers: This morning's run was a quick 5 miles around town, 42-odd minutes, an 8:21 pace. It was on the windy side which irritated me greatly. Tomorrow morning I'm running 10, yes, that's ten miles. This upcoming weekend I have 30 miles on deck: 10 on Saturday and 20 on Sunday. My first (of three) 20-milers. I'm 11 weeks into my 18-week training program for Cleveland. According to my Weight Watchers weigh-in, I'm hovering around 155 pounds. I want to get to 150 or less this time around, goddammit. I think I'm not eating enough. On that note, it's time for dinner. Black bean soup, anyone?

Final stats: 19.00 miles; 2:50:21; 8:58/mile. Fastest mile: 8:37, mile 15. Great blue herons sighted: about 12. Head of bald eagle: 1.

1: There are three.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Hitting The High Notes

High note 1: Literally, a big fat high B-flat I dropped in the car on the way here as I was rocking out to "Come scoglio" (Mozart, Cosi fan Tutte). "Come scoglio" was the aria which started it all back in college. I remember those early, rather pathetic attempts I made to sing it...sigh. Oh, reckless, untrained youth!

High note 2: My pace run this morning, which was just perfect in every way. Perfect weather (30-ish degrees, no wind, no precipitation), perfect clothes (Jacket of Wonder and the tights component of the Stealth Bomber outfit), perfect tunes (Animal Collective's "Brotherspot" closed out the run) and most importantly, perfect pace: 8:25/mile for the 9 miles. Hells yeah. That's what I'm talking about. I felt so fucking good I did miles 8 and 9 in 8:18 and 8:13 respectively. Now, string together three of these and I'm on my way to Boston!

High note 3: In a few minutes I am heading off to watch the lovely Natalie Dessay rock a few high E-flats in Bellini's La sonnambula in high-def on the big screen. I just absolutely love going to these Met Opera broadcasts.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Must. Share. Now!

Grizzly Bear. "Cheerleader." Love. It. New album due out May 26.

(from Gorilla vs. Bear.)

Also!

Mason Proper, "Fog." Spookily awesome. More songs need to be written in minor keys.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Roger Maris Revisited

As the Dude once said, "New shit has come to light!"1

No, I didn't kidnap myself.

It has come to my attention that my personal record from Sunday's 5K may be tainted. Remember how I was perplexed over the large discrepancy between my Garmy time and my chip time? Well, it appears that the gap may be due to faulty timing equipment, and the fault is not in my favor.

As a good friend is fond of saying, le sigh.

My commitment to my sport is such that I cannot perpetuate a lie. I have integrity, people! Thus, I have to officially flag my 22:30 as a highly suspect and most likely inaccurate time (sob). I shall append it with an asterisk, and continue to call 22:44 my 5K PR.

Le sigh.

1: The Dude also said, "Careful, man! There's a beverage here!" In his case, it was the ubiquitous White Russian; in my case, it's a Founder's Breakfast Stout.

(Thanks to Emma for confirming my gut instinct, that it was indeed
not "fuck, man, there's a beverage here," but "careful, man, there's a beverage here.")

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Starry Eyed

So...right now, out in front of my house on my street in my little town...

...large trucks, much activity, noise, etc...because a film crew is using MY STREET to film part of a movie!

It's called "Betty Anne Waters" and stars Hilary Swank. The production set up an office in Ann Arbor and they have been filming all over the area for about a month. Today they are filming on my street! My house could be in the movie!

Yesterday when I got home from work there were trucks all over the place and when I walked to yoga class I asked some guy if they were filming tomorrow and he said yes and I promptly called my boss to schedule a vacation day because I am SO staying home to watch what happens!

OK now someone has fired up a generator on my treelawn...man that's noisy...it's 7:30 am, people!

Anyway, it's supposed to be 65 degrees today, too, which means I won't be cold while I sit outside to watch the proceedings.

My BFF poked fun at me but I told her to be quiet because while SOME people live in New York City and every block has a film crew on it, these things just don't happen here. Like, ever. And the fact that this is taking place on my front lawn? Even crazier!

Well, I guess I'm up now...no sleeping with that racket going on. Now, to sneak some pictures from my window...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Racing, Record, Revelry, Runs, and Recognition

Racing and Record: The 2009 Shamrocks and Shenanigans 5K

I ran this race in 2008 and set a new PR of 23:19 doing so. I had no expectations of setting that PR last year (it came as a complete surprise), and I certainly had no expectations of doing it again this year. Sunday gifted us with lovely on-the-verge-of-spring weather: abundant sun, temperatures in the mid-fifties, and a warm breeze that held the promise of more beautiful days to come. I saw some people I know from my Thursday evening group runs, and one of my RF501 teammates from last summer's training session. The field was quite large (about 1700 people) and they even had pace groups. I slid into the "7:00/mile and over" area, thinking I would shoot for a 7:25-7:30 pace. The crowd was big and boisterous and there was an abundance of green everywhere I looked; after all, this was supposed to be a St Patrick's Day race.

The race started, everyone bolted, and I fell into a comfortable yet quick pace. Garmin said I hit mile 1 in 6:55. Uh oh. That's much faster than I am accustomed to running. Well, I thought, I'll just try to hang on to this for as long as I can. The course was two large loops around downtown Ann Arbor including one short but evil hill (William St.) and one long and grinding hill (Main Street northbound). I churned onward, though my legs felt heavy and I was panting heavily, my clue that I've reached my lactate threshold. That final push up the hill to mile 3 was very difficult. A couple more turns around the downtown streets and I was in the homestretch. When I mashed Garmy at the finish it said 22:50, which pleased me, as it was my second fastest 5K ever, but I was also disappointed, since I missed setting a new PR by six seconds. Six lousy seconds! I took my free beer glass at the end of the chute (Labatt Blue—please) and promptly exchanged it for something much better (a Leinenkugel's and two Sierra Nevada pint glasses).

Yesterday evening I hopped online to see if race results were posted. They were. And! AND! People, according to the race results, I didn't run a 22:50, missing a new PR by 6 seconds; I ran a 22:30, setting a new PR by 14 seconds1! OMG!!111!!! I was like, "Aagh! No way! Oh my god!" What is it about this particular race which has now yielded an unexpected PR two years in a row? Could it be...

Revelry

...that Saturday evening I was at the home of a friend for dinner, during which time I consumed two Dogfish Head Aprihops, one Founder's Breakfast Stout, and one Short's Huma Lupa Licious? (what my friend calls "Oompa Loompa Beer" because she can't remember its real name.) Last year I drank even more than that at a St. Patrick's Day party and still got up the next day to set a PR.

I definitely think there's something to beer = better racing.

Runs

What about the rest of the weekend? Saturday morning I went out for nine miles at marathon race pace. My target is 8:30-8:35/mile for Cleveland. Well, Garmy's battery went kaput about half a mile into my run. It was merely wrist decoration for the next 8-plus miles. So I had to (gasp) run on feel. Luckily I had an out-and-back route planned and I knew exactly where the four-mile mark was, so I decided to run a bit past that and turn around for my nine miles. I cruised along, enjoying the lovely weather (mid forties) and country scenery. I reached my turnaround point and headed back. Once I got home I noted the time on the clock, checked Garmy to see what time I had started, and fired up Map My Run to see exactly how far I had gone. 9.29 miles. OK, so, a little farther than I was supposed to, but no big deal. Estimated time to finish: 1:19. Which, lo and behold, was exactly 8:30/mile. Go me. See, I don't need Garmy all the time. I can run on instinct. So there.

Sunday after the 5K I drove up to Kensington Metropark to put in my final miles for the day: one loop plus a little extra of the paved path. I met my running buddy up there and timed my arrival to coincide with the end of his first loop. We set off together under a blazing sun. About four miles in my right IT band started acting up, which made me very angry, since it hadn't bothered me for two weeks and I had just run a speedy 5K without any problems at all. WTF, ITB? I tinkered with my stride and footstrike and used mind control to exert my will over my body ("You will settle down. I will finish this run.") to squeeze out 9 miles in about 1:21 (9:05 average). I had been a Bad Runner for the previous few days, neglecting my IT band exercises, and...well, I guess I know what happens if I do that. Sigh. I guess I'm going to be chained to those stretches and exercises for the rest of my running days.

Recognition

I have been reading the blog (Dirt Dawg's Rambling Diatribe) of another Detroit-area runner for at least a year and a half, and he recently started a running podcast to chronicle his training for the Burning River 100 this coming August. That's 100 as in 100 miles. The funny thing about that race is its initial portions take place near my Cleveland-area hometown, on roads I've been traveling for over 20 years.

Anyway, I first heard about DirtDawg50K on the granddaddy of all running podcasts, Phedippidations. On the fifth installment of his podcast out late last week, DirtDawg bestowed upon me the honor of Blog of the Week. So I'm returning the favor and telling y'all that you should check out his podcast, available in iTunes or from his blog. I for one am extremely intrigued about what kind of training is required to undertake a 100-mile race. That is something I guarantee I will never attempt. I'll just stick with hearing about what it's like for someone else!

1: final race stats: 22:30; 7:14/m average; 6/130 age group; 47th woman; NEW PERSONAL RECORD!*

*Record now clouded in doubt. See this post for details.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

  • The British know what's what, yo. I took on a little side project at work to map British academic research subject categories to our subject codes so we can include these titles in our database. One of the UK subject categories was "Food Technology, Brewing." (Higher-order category: Manufacturing Technology.) They have an entire area of academic research solely for brewing beer! The best I can do is "Food Science and Technology" or maybe "Agricultural Engineering." Come ON, America!
  • Awwwwww...BREAKOUT! Yes, at the age of 35, I have more zits than when I was 15. Every few months...BOOM! Eruption. It's the only way I know my endocrine system is still doing its job. Also, sometimes (but not always) my normally teeny-weeny nonexistent boobs puff up to uncomfortable dimensions which is accompanied by extreme amounts of tenderness. Running during one of these episodes is VERY PAINFUL IN THE CHESTAL REGION.
  • Sunday I am running the Shamrocks and Shenanigans 5K in Ann Arbor. I did this race last year and set a new PR, which I have since eclipsed twice more. I don't really have any expectations for the race. I've been speedier of late (see: last week's 8-mile TEAR at 8:10/mile) so who knows. I'm just doing it for the free beer glasses and the fact that once the race is over around noon, I can go have lunch and a beer (since in Michigan, we have this ridiculous blue law that prohibits alcohol sales before noon on Sundays. WTF people!). Last year I scored a totally sweet Belgian beer goblet which I use strictly for consumption of Lindemans Framboise Lambic, which is one of my top five favorite beers of all time.
  • Running popped up in the Ann Arbor Chronicle this week. Not just any running, the Tuesday evening Running Fit group run in downtown Ann Arbor. Shout out to my peeps!
  • Ryan Adams and Mandy Moore apparently got married recently. I so do not see this lasting for long, but my friend (hi, E!) says: "I give it 2 years (call me crazy, but they're soooo in love!!!)."
  • I drink at least two, sometimes three liters of water a day. Do you know what this means in terms of how often I have to whiz? I'm well-hydrated but well-acquainted with the bathroom. Hello toilet my old friend...I've come to sit on you again...In the bathroom softly peeing...
  • Speaking of whizzing, this has been the week of search term hilarity at work. I had one author suggest "ring whizzing" (it's an organic chemistry term), another suggest "hardwood,"(forestry paper) and then the terms "massive bush of lattice" and "guidelines for erection procedures" popped up in two other papers. I can't help chuckling รก la Beavis and Butthead when I come across these things, as well as authors with names like "Hung Wang" and "Richard Weiner" (I AM NOT KIDDING). It makes things more interesting. That, and I apparently have the sense of humor of an 11-13 year old boy. (Hung Wang...heh heh heh heh.)
  • I have managed to curb my insatiable appetite for Girl Scout cookies. This is only because I ate so many last week I literally became sick of them. The rate of consumption has declined dramatically. Why, I've only had four total today!
  • I have nine miles on the schedule tonight, which will be done in the company of my group run comrades. With daylight stretching past 7:30, I have succumbed to its lure and started running in the afternoons after work. It's so much nicer. It's warmer, lighter (aka NOT DARK), and I can sleep in for an extra hour.
  • Aaaand my water bottle is empty...again. Time for refill #3! (and another trip to the bathroom...)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Update: Stairclimb Results

I just checked the Climb Detroit web site for official results, and I finished 14th out of 189 women in the stairclimb! I also finished 4/54 in the 30-39 age group and 87/377 overall, but who's counting? The top time for women was 9:07...I finished in 10:53. Something to aspire to next year, perhaps?

Up Up And Away

The Renaissance Center. Home of beleaguered General Motors, and 1035 steps to be ascended.

Ah, stairclimbing. A surprisingly humbling activity, to be sure. At 2008's Tackle the Tower I bounded off, full of hubris, thinking, "I'm a distance runner! This will be a piece of cake!"

Ha.

When I joined a team comprised of my co-workers to raise money for the American Lung Association at Climb Detroit, we had it beaten into our heads during practice that THE MOST IMPORTANT THING was to not go out too fast (sound familiar?). Nothing will crush you faster on a stairclimb than starting too quickly. Pick a steady, sustainable pace and STICK WITH IT from the beginning. After experiencing firsthand what happens when one does take off running up stairs, I was determined to not make the same mistake twice.

Yesterday was the big day. I woke up to a steady rain, and wondered if it would taper off in time for me to do some running later or if the stairclimb would end up being my only activity for the day.

O Canada: Windsor, Ontario, as viewed from across the Detroit River. I ran past this spot on both sides during the Detroit Marathon.

The Ren Cen was a zoo, with people milling around everywhere. We were there with plenty of time to spare and so there was a lot of standing around...eating...standing around...more eating...

Munching on multigrain bars from Trader Joe's.

Standing around. No eating, for once.

Around 10:00 am the event got underway. Our team was fast-tracked to the front of the very long line because we were a top fund-raising team. In retrospect this was a huge break for us because if we had gotten trapped at the back of the line we would have been waiting for hours for our turn to go.

I had my three favorite Animal Collective songs queued up on the iPhone, and I didn't expect to hear them all the way through as I estimated I would finish in 13 minutes. They staggered the starts of each climber about 15 seconds apart, and I started fifth on my team. I crossed the chip-timing mat, hit "play" on the iPhone, and let "Brother Sport"1 carry me. I resisted the almost overwhelming temptation to charge up the stairs. I had 70 flights to climb. Let's not blow the wad in the first five flights, shall we?

One foot in front of the other. I settled on a pace which was neither overly slow nor unsustainably fast. I concentrated on staring at my feet. The first time I lifted my head to see where I was, I had ascended 25 floors already. I was breathing hard but not panting. "Brother Sport" ended and "My Girls" started. I was over halfway done. The next time I looked up I was somewhere in the 40s. Head down. I bypassed all of the water stops. I was in the zone, man. Look up, I'm on the 59th floor and there are only 11 to go. Head down, step a little faster. And then, just like that, it was over. I crossed the timing mat, took a bottle of water and my finisher's medal, and hopped on a downward elevator. I didn't even get to hear the end of "My Girls"!

When preliminary results were posted, my unofficial chip time was 10:53. Considering I estimated a 13:00 finishing time, I was pleased with this outcome. I ascended at a rate of 6.4 floors per minute, 95 steps/minute, and 1.5 steps/second. It was a perfect pace. When I finished, I didn't immediately crumple against a wall, exhausted, as I had after completing the Tackle the Tower. I had run (climbed?) a smart race.

As it turned out, the rain did not let up at all for the remainder of the day. I completely wimped out on my long run. My quads and calves were achy and my foot was bothering me. Once I got home from the climb I crawled under my comforter and took a long nap instead. Clearly I need to turn in my hardcore runner card.

I have no idea what I was talking about here. Feel free to suggest captions in the comments. I know some people will have a hard time avoiding the obvious.

1: Live track from here. And can I just say how freaking excited I am to attend their concert in May? Oh yeah.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Rain Rain Go Away

Just woke up, 9:00 am (ahhhhh). Pouring rain. More on the way. No 8 miles in the rain for me, thank you. Will have breakfast and coffee, reassess situation in a few hours. I'll get my miles done today at some point.

Update #1: Break in rain, 11:00 am. Should take advantage while I can. About to undergo experiment in "how does coffee affect my running?"

Update #2: 8.27 miles, 1:10:08, 8:29/mile, no rain. Caffeine seemed to have no effect, either positive or negative. Weather even more dreary now, glad I went out when I did. Have rest of afternoon to relax. But first, stretching!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I'm Back, Baby! YEAH!

Have you ever had one of "those runs," the one where everything clicks and you feel amazing, like you could run forever at a blazing pace without a care in the world?

That's what my run this afternoon was like. I decided last night to grab an extra luxurious hour or so of sleep and instead of getting up at 5:30 to do my 8-mile run today I would hold off until the afternoon, when the temperature was predicted to rise all the way to a balmy 39 degrees. When I got up this morning it was 10 degrees and I knew I had made the right call.

5:15 pm rolled around and it was the forecast 40 degrees, a welcome change from my run Tuesday morning at 7 degrees. I put on my If You Look Good You Feel Good outfit, strapped Garmy to my wrist, jacked up Animal Collective in my ears and headed out the door.

I didn't think of this run as anything special until I was closing in on the one-mile mark, snuck a quick peek at Garmy, and saw to my surprise I was running at an 8:20 pace. OK, well, I thought, let's go with this as long as it lasts. Knee/IT band assessment: no problems whatsoever. Not even the slightest twinge.

Mile 1: 8:21.

I was heading west out of town on a road which offered several options for routes. I chose to follow the path of least resistance, a road which paralleled the railroad tracks, because it was very flat with only a couple of small inclines. I sensed I had a good thing going and I didn't want any hills to ruin my running mojo. Or I should say Mojo, with a capital "M," because this was a capital-letter kind of Run.

Mile 2: 8:15; Mile 3: 8:28; Mile 4: 8:22.

I reached my turnaround point (I was doing an out-and-back route) and let my legs fly freely down the gentle slope I had just ascended. I felt absolutely fantastic. I had not felt this good on a run in months, maybe since some time last summer. My legs reaching, my arms pistoning, my breath deep and steady, posture upright, hips solidly underneath me, shoulders back, chest lifted high, chin up, all elements working in perfect harmony, my body become machine. I let the feeling surge through me and just rode the wave.

Mile 5: 8:11; Mile 6: 8:05

I rejoined the paved road shortly after mile 6 and decided I was going to push myself, move out of my comfort zone, to see what I was capable of. I made the supreme sacrifice of not looking at Garmy; I wanted to run on pure feeling. I quickened my pace. My breathing accelerated with me but I did not break and start panting (my indication that I have reached my lactate threshold). I certainly felt like I was working hard, but I was not exhausting myself. I still felt strong and powerful. I swung through the 90-degree turn over the railroad tracks at the city limits, and, knowing I only had about 3/4 of a mile to go on a totally flat road, turned it up a notch. Now I was really pushing it. Yet, my stride remained steady, my posture firm, my breathing rapid but not uncontrolled. I heard Garmy beep; I had hit 8 miles. I did not stop. I had an extra incentive to get home as fast as possible: my GI issue was rearing its ugly head. I finally stopped Garmy at the foot of my driveway: 8.05 miles. 1 hour and 5 minutes. I knew that was the fastest I had ever run 8 miles.

Mile 7: 7:57; Mile 8: 7:42.

8.05 miles, 1:05:46, 8:10/mile average.

Wow. Just, wow. This was one of the best runs I have ever had, race or training. I can't believe the difference between today and a mere one or two weeks ago when I thought I was finished, done for, a total has-been.

My knee did not give me even the tiniest whisper of trouble. It was as if the past 3 weeks just vanished. Something happened yesterday which I found very intriguing. After work I met up with a co-worker to practice stairclimbing for the big event on Sunday. We quasi-jogged the 100 or so feet between my office building and the building next door where we climb stairs. Within the first few strides I had taken, my knee fired off a couple of warning shots, bursts so painful I almost stumbled and fell, thinking to myself, "Oh my god, is this it, is this the end?" Once we reached the lobby of the building, I sat down in one of the chairs, and as I bent my legs to put my butt in the chair there was an eruption of pain so intense I almost cried out. Then I felt something slide over the outer edge of my kneecap, like a band snapping back into place, and it was one of the oddest and most uncomfortable sensations I've ever experienced. And then it was gone. I pressed my fingers to my knee, probing, lifting it, swinging it gently back and forth. Nothing. We did our four ascents and descents of the stairwell and I felt nothing. I pounded on that knee for 8 miles today: nothing. What on earth happened? Did my IT band somehow miraculously and magically find its groove again? I may never know.

In other news, as of today I am officially a member of the NYC Running Chicks and a Few Dudes relay team for the Green Mountain Relay, which will be held in Vermont in June. My friend and fellow runblogger TK of Pigtails Flying did this race last year and had a great time; she put the screws to me to join her on the team this year and I confess it didn't take much arm-twisting on her part before I caved in and said I would do it. I love road trips, I love adventure, I love New England (that's where I went to college after all—Massachusetts) and best of all, I LOVE RUNNING. Put all four together and I know I will end up with stories to last a lifetime.

I've already decided I am going to "liveblog" the event using the iBlogger app for my iPhone. Hooray for geekdom!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

November Was White...And So Was December, January, February...

This morning it was seven degrees.

Seven.

Despite that, I still did my four miles outside. I'm so thrilled to be back on track after my bout with ITBS that I don't care what the weather is like, I'm running outside. I doubled up on leg coverings (warm tights under warm pants), kept my hands curled into balls inside my gloves, had the Jacket of Wonder zipped up to my chin, and ran hard (4.24 miles in 36:39).

Even so, I am growing weary of winter. The area experienced its first snowfall of note in mid-November and the white stuff has been our near-constant companion ever since. We have also had a few brutally cold days, one of which resulted in my frozen fingers.

I am ready for sun, warmth, and longer days. I want to smell green things coming to life, that fecund, earthy odor of warming soil and uncurling leaves. I want to hear the gentle burbling of the ground thawing. I want to run in shorts! Of course, that will mean my fishbelly white Midwest winter legs will be inflicted upon the world, but SO BE IT.

Sunday we turn our clocks forward for Daylight Savings Time, which means daylight will last into the evenings, but my morning runs will be plunged back into darkness for a while.

I picked up a new song from one of my favorite artists, Say Hi (formerly known as Say Hi To Your Mom; expert purveyors of low-fi fuzz and softly mumbled lyrics), about a month ago, but only recently has it truly begun to speak to me.

Say Hi: November Was White, December Was Grey

The fire it cracks and the flakes snow on
November was white and December was grey
Well someday soon when the spring brings the sun
I'll finally sleep
I'll finally feel better when the winter's gone
I'll feel better when the winter's gone
I'll feel better when the winter's gone oh oh


Speaking of Say Hi, their web site is chock full of free mp3s. Aside from "November..." my other favorites are "Angels and Darlas" and "Northwestern Girls."

Monday, March 2, 2009

When Celebrities Run

Every so often a picture appears of some celebrity out for a run. The effort being put forth can seem sincere or to be simply a photo opportunity. On one hand, you have folks like Ryan Reynolds, who finished the New York City Marathon in a respectable 3:50:22, and William Baldwin, who also ran NYC and finished in a very respectable 3:24:29.

And we've all heard about Katie Holmes' appearance in the 2007 NYC Marathon, which she finished, so let's give props where props are due, but I'm sure all the ladies out there saw the pictures of her running in a flimsy tank top with no support and thought, "girl, get thee a sports bra!" OK, I'm sure all the dudes out there saw those pictures and had an entirely different reaction. We each know what our priorities are.

Now, back to those times when the celebrity is seen running, or should I say "running," because I do not consider what Miley Cyrus is doing here to be running (photos courtesy of my favorite celebrity gossip site, The Superficial):

In the words of one of my favorite TV shows, The Soup: "IT'S MILEY!"

Like, ohmygod!

Bikini top, T-shirt, cutoff jean shorts (ow, chafage!), and the wrongest-looking "running" shoes I've ever seen. Uh-huh. I'm totally sure we're going to see her in a road race in the future. You want to see a teenager who knows how to run, look at Jordan Hasay.

In other news, after I returned to Michigan yesterday from my weekend visit to Cleveland, I decided to take advantage of the late afternoon sunlight and go for a quick run. It was a relatively pleasant 25 degrees and I did about 4.5 miles in 40 minutes. The best part about this run was the entire thing was 100% PAIN-FREE. It felt amazing and awesome and wonderful. I am so happy I seem to have beaten ITBS. I need to keep doing my stretching and foam rolling routine and hopefully it will not come back. My dude-sized shoes seem to be helping as well.

The only twinge I felt was long after I had finished and I was carrying a full laundry basket down to the basement. So, as long as I avoid using the basement stairs, I will be fine. That presents a problem when it comes to doing laundry, however. I don't think doing laundry in the bathtub is a viable option. Maybe I should install a dumbwaiter...?